Monday, January 30, 2012

The Creative Mind

I am an artist. Most of my friends know this. Most of my friends also happen to be artists of one sort or another. An intriguing arrangement...

Anyways, I know that sometimes I must struggle with the gift/curse of being said artist. My work doesn't come out the way I wished, for example. Or I don't finish it on time. Or I am overly proud of it and a critic brings me back down to earth again. Or, I put so much time and effort into the art that my family suffers from my absence. The last part is the portion I am posting about here today.

I must give a shout out to my friend Donna for finding this incredible article about the artist and the need for grappling with both his art and the humanity around him. It is an insightful look into the creative mind and the joys and sorrows contained therein.

Pay special attention to the passage about our creations being our "children," to a degree. A great analogy for the creative act of God, whether that was the author's intent or not. Wonderfully penetrating insight.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homeschooler Humor

I found this absolutely hilarious and so annoyingly true. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ready, aim...

So a couple nights ago, my wife heard gunfire from the street and heard and saw the tail end of a car drive off into the middle of the night. And yesterday, our front yard and driveway were swarming with police and detectives who informed us that our neighbor's house across the street had been on the unlucky end of a large caliber bullet, which came within feet of killing one of the occupants of said house.

Incredible. And I was foolish enough to think that I had found a relatively safe neighborhood for my family to live in. I guess it goes to prove that no where is really safe.

My wife, being the good woman that she is, took the kids down to the neighbor's house to visit and maybe help to soothe some rattled nerves. And there were rattled nerves enough to soothe. Apparently the bullet had penetrated three separate walls and, as I said, came within about two feet of killing the poor woman's husband. Thank God that had not been the case.

I hope the police catch the perpetrator, even though the hope of that is slim now. You never really realize just how confidence-inspiring a good cop can be until they are helping you catch someone else or protecting you. They really are a great bunch, and my hat is off to the work that they do. It can really be a thankless job. I am here to thank them.

An Apology

Last week, a post went up on this blog entitled "Unfriend," and it went on to detail a decision I made to disengage from one of my friends because of certain beliefs and behaviors he had been displaying towards me and others.

I was made to realize my mistake in so doing over the course of the week, in that I failed in my Christian duty to take the matter directly to him first before I took it to the entire world here. While I believe my issue with his actions was just, my manner of bringing attention to it was not, and I must apologize sincerely for that action. If the man against whom the post was directed is reading this, I ask you in humility to accept these apologies of mine.

The fault is with me in this matter. If I am to remain true to my own principles laid out here on this blog, all people must "be aware," including me. I am still growing and learning here as I hope everyone who reads this blog also is, and part of growing and learning is knowing when you are wrong.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Campaign

And there you have it, everybody! Barack Obama's opening salvo in the battle to retain his job.

The State of the Union address has once again proven its usefulness not as a genuine, penetrating look at the true condition of the country, but as a mega-platform for rolling out agenda items and uttering platitudes. The 2012 State of the Union address was the same as its predecessors, except this one had more than its fair share (pun intended) of the campaign appeal, considering the election year we find ourselves in. It is an unhealthy political concept that so many presidents spend the last year of their first terms MIA from their job, in order to campaign for that same job.

Putting the smaller contention aside for the moment that no president should have two consecutive terms for precisely this reason, I have one much bigger issue to bring to my reader's attention. The issue was more than made plain by the Obama's before the speech even started. That issue was the guest sitting next to Mrs. Obama in the audience, the one and only secretary to Mr. Warren Buffett. This was the same secretary that was upheld as a symbol of economic "unfairness" because of the difference in tax rates between her and her employer. The presence of that secretary made it clear that not only was Obama uninterested in the honesty of his presentation, but that he was also unconcerned about a sense of seriousness in his speech. In the end, nothing he proposed in the speech was serious. And very little was honest.

It seemed that every accomplishment the president put forth to bolster his record had a corresponding glaring caveat. He spoke of the growing number of jobs, but failed to mention that many of these were temporary, only pushing through the busy retail seasons and not counting the jobs lost concurrently in other areas. He spoke of a falling unemployment rate, only to fail again to mention that many working people have simply stopped looking for work and are no longer counted. He expounded on the promise of and his support for clean energy jobs, and remained silent on the fact that those clean energy companies are failing not for lack of money but for lack of a competitive product.

His lack of seriousness concerning his record is truly breathtaking, not so much for what he did say as for what he left out. But more breathtaking is the blatant dishonesty of many of his accusations.

He cast banks and lending companies as the villains and the American people as the victims of the 2008 financial crisis, whereas in reality the public has been told by their own government that mortgaged housing is their right, not something to work toward responsibly. The government also shares the blame for its soft mandate to lending companies to loosen credit to those with bad financial records.

This is only one example of his dishonesty. It is evident also where he speaks of the health care overhaul as merely reforming a private sector business. Wrong. The overhaul specifically mandates that the government not only expand its own medical programs to cover some people, but also subsidize low income Americans' medical plans to ensure low cost.

Obama essentially accomplished three things with the speech. The first thing is that he lavishly portrayed himself as the hero of the working class, the savior of the nation, the messiah to a broken country and a broken system. He would have our nation "built to last," (again, failing to explain how the nation has survived for almost two hundred and fifty years without him.)

The second thing is that he permanently pitted himself against the Congress in an unsubtle effort to diminish its check on his power. There are a startling number of solutions he proposes that he plainly states he will accomplish by presidential fiat, as well as smirking about his end run around Congress concerning recess appointments. This is a man clearly interested in a kind of vaguely limited dictatorial power where a "do-nothing Congress" will simply be bypassed whenever it collides with his wishes.

And the third thing the speech accomplished is it gives even more evidence of Obama's unwavering belief that the government is more entitled to a citizen's work and his possessions than the citizen himself is. Obama cannot give up on the idea of a country that guarantees outcomes, rather than the mere opportunity to attempt an outcome. Every solution he proposed comes from government, as if the government actually is the one that creates jobs. To invert a famous saying of Ronald Reagan, Obama sincerely believes that we are a government that happens to have a people, not a people with a government.

Every proposal he put forward in the speech was a new tax burden to pay for yet another federal agency. He spoke about cutting budgets and streamlining departments, but the total effect would be minuscule compared to the enormity of the money problem the government faces. As I contended earlier, the man is not serious.

In the end, it boils down to this: President Obama wants to raise taxes, consolidate his own power, direct and regulate the economy according to his own whims, play the market with taxpayer money, and most importantly of all, get reelected.

As a campaign appeal it was pretty blatant. And, I hope, mixed with some desperation. I would like the president to know one thing above all else, and that is this: someone else might actually be better at the job than he is. He refused to speak of the true nature of the economy last night, because the truth is actually quite bad. I find it hard to be convinced that we have turned a corner, when I am still seeing people being laid off left and right around me and as I watch the unrelenting surge in the price of every consumer good.

Don't yank us around anymore, Mr. Obama. You, in fact, are the problem, not the solution. I don't know who I am voting for come this November, but it will most certainly not be you. When the only solutions you can think of are more of the same bad policies and attitudes, you loudly proclaim yourself a failure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Union Address

I am in the middle of watching the State of the Union address, and we will discuss it tomorrow. I am singularly unimpressed so far.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I had never heard of the term "permaculture" before a couple days ago, but now it has possessed my mind in a way not many things have recently. I was craving to own my own land by the end of this article. It would seem that farming has truly entered the 21st century. I just hadn't been told...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Good Olde Norman

This is a beautiful piece written to honor my favorite artist of (pretty much) all time. I love Norman Rockwell's paintings precisely because they depict the relatively mundane. What about you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Iowa and the Cows

I have followed the GOP candidate vetting process closely since it began, and we now have the Iowa caucuses and very nearly have the New Hampshire primaries out of the way. It is fitting that the first caucuses in the nation for the GOP should be held in Iowa. It is fitting not because Iowa is a very grand state, or because it is packed with intelligentsia, because it boasts the largest cities in the nation, has the most political savvy, or makes the best cheese. It is none of those things.

Why, then, do I think it fitting? Why should the presidential candidate picking process begin in the somewhat insignificant state of Iowa?

My answer is because it is a state of farmers.

I have had the privilege of not only knowing and meeting many farmers in my lifetime, but to have called some of those farmers my extended family. I know farmers who raise goats, others that produce dairy products, still others that run "everything" farms. I used to live down the street from a farmer who grew his own feed corn and raised cattle, and the smell of manure was omnipresent on summer days.

All these farmers may have had different areas of expertise and different pursuits, but they shared some commonalities. The one I usually noticed first was strength. I wouldn't have dared arm wrestle any of them, even a farmer I know who is closing in on eighty years old, for fear of being made to look the fool. They are wiry, strong, and really really tough. Their arms are knotty and powerful, and their hands are rough with hard labor and honest work.

Another commonality I noticed was the way they talk. It seemed the truer the farmer (the closer to the land he was) the less talkative he got. Speech was slow and careful, sometimes awkward like a silent hermit allowed to speak after twenty years, but hardly uneloquent. It seemed the more in tune with nature and its rhythms they became, the less there was to say.

But I think the greatest similarity amongst all farmers I have spoken to is their sense of peace. They have all seemed more internally serene than people of other professions, as well as more accepting of problems and challenges. They tackle life with vigor and react to life with ease. Their solutions to issues may be makeshift and inelegant sometimes, but they work. Farmers plan well ahead, but do not worry about next month, only about the next day.

In a nutshell, every farmer I have ever met has been (no pun intended) grounded. They are solid, dependable, no-nonsense people who care little for intrigues and affairs. They want food to put on the table and a roof over their heads, and when they can scratch these things out of the ground they live on then they are happy.

What has this got to do with the GOP caucuses, you ask? Well, it is my firm belief that Iowa insists that it not be forgotten by politicians in Washington. Politicians would do well to shake more farmers' hands, and if they can be made to do so in order to win a party nomination so much the better.

I find it amusing that the "intelligentsia" of this country live on both coasts, but very few venture into middle America. I have heard middle America referred to as "flyover country", those big fields where food happens but that nobody cares about. It is because the ruling class of this country has by and large abandoned trying to understand what working the land is really like. Most politicians are not familiarly acquainted with dirt and how good a part of creation it is.

Farmers are not stupid people. Their work is noble and life-giving, the fruit of their labor rewarding in a way that is unintelligible to someone unfamiliar with the way of the land. Farming is the beginning of all other professions and ways of life, in that we cannot survive without food. Why, then, do politicians and the high placed many times hold that profession in such disdain?

If then Iowa is the true beginning of the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, it is a good beginning. Farmers should help to ground the high and mighty on any occasion they can get. As I said, politicians should shake as many farmers' hands as possible, if they can endure the crushing grip of a farmer handshake.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Another Double Standard

Kudos to my friend Emily for finding this article and bringing it to my attention. It is a different look at the Penn State scandal, seen without the polarizing filters of vengeance and hatred. I will warn anyone who wants to read it that this is an article about a sexual pervert, and although without being obscene, the author does have to go into some detail. It is disturbing material, but a very good and enlightening piece.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Morality Boogers

I have two sons. The younger boy is a year and a half and has only begun forming semi-coherent verbalizations in order to get what he wants. The older one is an entirely different story. He has discovered that speech is a powerful weapon, one of causing both joy and extraordinary annoyance in his parents. (I love him, to be sure, don't get me wrong, but the power of speech can be and is regularly abused by three-year-olds.)

Anyways, the older boy has recently begun a ritual that begins as soon as I get home, and continues pretty much until he goes to bed. It goes something like this:

ME: Hi, Ethan!
THE BOY (otherwise known as Ethan): Hi, Daddy!
ME: How're you dooooing?
ETHAN: How're you dooooing? Ha ha ha!
ME: Okay...! So, I need something to eat.
ETHAN: Okay, Daddy.


ETHAN: Daddy, what're you doing?
ME: I'm making myself a sandwich.


ETHAN: Daddy, what're you doing?
ME: I'm walking towards the table with my sandwich.
ETHAN: Daddy, what're you doing?
ME: I'm sitting down.
ETHAN: Daddy, what're you doing?
ME: Buying stock in earplugs. What are you doing?
ETHAN: Daddy, what're you doing?

This routine continues for as long as it holds his interest, which means from the moment I come through the door to the moment I close his bedroom door and say goodnight. It can be at times amusing, at other times hair-ripping-out-of-head obnoxious. But the fact remains that his need to know my status at all times is a powerful urge in his inner being. I don't know where he learned the phrase, but he learned it and has put it to majorly good use (in his mind, anyways.)

His pestering got me to thinking, however. I probably overthink at least one thing a day but this was probably a helpful overthink. My son's insistent demands to know what I was doing every minute made me think that in a way that is how we should live our lives. Every second, every minute, every hour counts. How often do we cruise through the day thinking of how awesome tomorrow is going to be and yet wanting to just make it through the current day?

I got to bemusedly sit through work today wondering how the heck I would answer my son if he was sitting next to me the whole time saying, "Daddy, what're you doing?" What would I have told him? "Well, son, I am staring off into space while the next piece of product goes down the assembly line, at which point I will stand up, put a new piece in and then sit down and stare off into space again." Could I honestly tell him that I was engaging my mind and improving my soul? Or would I have to tell him that I was just going through the motions with a switched-off brain?

I would hope it was the former, but I can't honestly say it was. I was working hard doing what I was supposed to do, but I was switched off, cruising. I see now with my son's help that cruising through the day is to a certain degree immoral. Every moment should be infused with something good, not a bland void. My three-year-old, snotty, overly-talkative (and ridiculously cute) son made me see that. I owe my kid a debt of gratitude for being a reminder to me of what really is important. So thank you, my little morality booger, for opening my eyes. I mean seriously, my son sometimes refuses to eat because he thinks he will miss something important. That's how hard he lives his little life.

And speaking of kids, I am way too full of kiddie fish sticks right now for my own good. I think now would be a good time to go to bed. Good night.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Whose Democracy?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
On December 6th, 2011, the Associated Press put out a story about Hillary Clinton's comments concerning the first elections in Egypt after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. The story suggested that the United States leadership considered the elections in Egypt to be fair, especially in juxtaposition to the concurrent Russian parliamentary elections. However, Clinton warned in the story that democracies need to hold as unviolable the human rights of their citizenry, in particular their women, and that certain parties who had won majorities in Egypt were a potential roadblock to the establishment of a just democracy.

While this may look like a well-reasoned response to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nour, both of which are demonstrably hardcore "Islamists," the reality is that the problems with her statement are manifold. In fact, Clinton's reprimand and warning is not only deceptive and naive, but also almost entirely laughable. Forgive me if it seems like I call anything dealing with the revolution in Egypt laughable; quite frankly, I see nothing to laugh about with anything going on in that country at the moment. I do, however, feel compelled to laugh when I hear something as ridiculous as Mrs. Clinton's statements.

The reasons for my bitter mirth all spring from the same error, and Mrs. Clinton carries the consequences of her error in several different directions and so must my answers tend as well. I will start from the error and move towards its consequences.

The problem with her statement lies in her profound misunderstanding of the term "democracy" which she is so fond of throwing around especially in regards to the Arabs and their so-called "spring." A democracy is, as I have always been taught, direct rule by the people by majority vote, where every single person receives representation by the mere fact of their having one vote to cast and one voice to add to the discussion. (The ancient Greek philosophers characterized a democracy as the least good form of government and the closest kind of society to anarchy, but that discussion is for a different time.)

Now, I say she misunderstands democracy not necessarily because she doesn't understand the definition I gave above. Her misunderstanding is made clear in the assumptions she draws from democratic elections.

The first example of unclear thinking that she offers is that she immediately jumps to talking about the universal rights of man and how democracies and transitions to democracies must respect them, especially the rights of women snd free religious expression. Huh? I fail to find in the definition of a democracy the charge that "all democracies must respect human rights to be true democracies." Ironically, a purely democratic government is not terribly interested in human rights, it is only interested in what the majority of the people want.

This first erroneous assumption leads directly into the second, which is that the majority of people always desire what is good. This is historically provable to be untrue. An angry mob does not usually display sound judgment or moral rectitude in its actions, but hey, the mob's will is the will of the majority of its members.

Mrs. Clinton's second mistake translates very neatly into her third, which is that all democracies must conform to our American revolutionary ideas in order to be just and true. This means in effect that if a democracy emerges overseas in the Arab world and the majority of the people elect a party that is hostile to the United States' policies, that democracy is suddenly null and void.

Her thought process suddenly becomes a ridiculous oxymoron. The Egyptians can have their democracy, as long as the majority of people in said democracy elect to follow policies that conform to American ideas.

The icing on this idiotic cake is the Secretary of State's naive idea that just because the Egyptians desire free and fair elections, that they also desire a state which tolerates other religious groups besides Islam and that women will be treated fairly and justly. This is in fact a fantasy of alarming proportions. Nations governed by Sharia law have historically been at odds with Western ideals, and Egypt is no different. In fact, the elections suggest that Egyptians (at least Egyptian men) desire the establishment of Islamic law as the law of their land judging by the votes they freely and democratically cast.

Hillary Clinton in effect would give America the option of voting for its mores and its way of life, and effectively deny any other democracy the right to do the same. It is peculiar that a staunch feminist and renowned liberal like Mrs. Clinton would show such little tolerance to another, when all that she and her party will preach about is tolerance and fairness.

Henry Ford, the premiere supplier of affordable transportation back in his day, once famously said that you could have his Model T in any color, so long as it was black. The same is true with America's leadership, both the current and the previous administrations. Mrs. Clinton and the rest of us must erase from our minds the idea that freedom and democracy is something we grant to other nations as something that is uniquely American branded and conditional. To persist in such a way of thinking is not only unpatriotic, but is the allowance of a "soft" tyranny of the United States over the rest of the world.