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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Eagles No More

    This day of the year aside, this story is no joke. The Eagles, one year after the death of founder/frontman Glenn Frey, are performing for the Classic East and Classic West music festivals this Summer. Ostensibly, this could pave the way for future tour dates with a replacement on hand, which could mean that this band soon goes the way of the Drifters and the Temptations in having NO original members performing the classic songs(one or both of those groups just announced new tour dates). For those in shock, I will give a reminder that this is the same avenue which is being undertaken by such Classic Rock luminaries as Boston, Foreigner, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and REO Speedwagon. Almost no original members comprise those bands' ranks, to the extent that many even survive to this day.

    More will be written on this matter by people more eloquent than myself, but I'll give my own thoughts: What a small, pitiful move by small, pitiful men. All we ever heard for months after Glenn Frey's death was how the Eagles were finished, and now this. Sounds as though Azoff & Henley just want a big, final payoff before they ride away into the sunset. The thought of the band's legacy seems to have not occurred to these men. By this logic, my long-held(prior to last year) desire for an Emerson, Lake, & Palmer re-union can now take place without either Keith Emerson or Greg Lake. Mind blowing, and not in a good way

    To divulge the ridiculousness, let me frame it thusly: Stephen Stills dies, Crosby & Nash get back together and replace him with Bruno Mars, and continue touring as 'Crosby, Stills, & Nash.' Can you just imagine a concert where Crosby plays, say, "Hero" from the 1992 "Thousand Roads" album, only to be interrupted by Mars and his DJ buddy Mark Ronson jumping up onstage and launching into the song "Uptown Funk"? Crosby & Nash mindlessly shake their bums and point awkwardly at the crowd('Croz Daddy's comin' to ya!') as Neil Young lays down some funky, mechanized guitar tones. Or how about this: The Charlie Daniels Band tries getting away with doing "Devil Went Down to Georgia" at the Georgia State Fair down in Hampton without Daniels--Put Marky Mark in his stead. Disturbing enough? That's the basic scope of Eagles, sans Frey.

    Frankly, I cannot respect the surviving Eagles any longer. The music they did as a band and solo from 1971—2016 will always be timeless and a sound that holds a special place in my heart, but they're all pretty much musically dead to me now. Any future music from them as a band or solo will be encased in that corporatistic, greedy sheen that turns me off to so much of modern pop music. Opportunistic money-grabbers, or pretty much the way Don Felder presented them in his book. They're no better than Elvis Impersonators at this point. Then again, at least the impostors do their routine with heart and soul. This is just a charade designed to keep those money-printing presses oiled and operating.
    Furthermore, I don't have any patience for Eagles band partisans who think this is in any way all right, as opposed to those who have simply accepted the reality of this taking place. How do you justify white-outing the founding member from the picture in the name of money? Are you really this hard-up for good music from this band? As good as the Eagles were(and I do mean WERE), you do hopefully know there are other bands out there. Maybe not as good as the Eagles, but they do exist--I listen to the Doors and Neil Young these days. The Drifters/Temptations route will not do wonders for this band's legacy, something which I'd once thought was important to Azoff/Henley.

    I'd hope one of the other members has the fortitude and presence of mind to sue the other members and Irving Azoff for the wrongful usage of the name, in much the same way Doors drummer John Densmore(curious what he'd make of all this) did when Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger tried to re-form that band in the early 2000's under the name “THE DOORS(of the 21st Century).” This was done an attempt to preserve the legacy of Jim Morrison, who had in 1968 gone as far as to veto the usage of the Krieger-penned song "Light My Fire" in a commercial for Buick('Come on, Buick, Light my fire'). I know Schmit and Walsh generally will do as they're told without much fuss, Meisner's probably too ill and taken up in legal matters these days, and Felder might want in on the whole thing, so perhaps Bernie Leadon could emerge as a hero in all this. Don't know, but perhaps hope springs eternal.

    Finishing this article, since I am sure Azoff and Henley will never give the fans consideration over their money and release archival live concerts, as opposed to putting on aniseptic future concerts as 'Eagles,' I do encourage people to buy the stray live CD's you find on Amazon. Suspicious origins, yes, but at least the money you spend is going to average guy eking out a living as opposed to buying the next Lear Jet for some quarter-billionaire financial iconoclast. And the quality of both sound and performance has been surprisingly good on those I've given a listen, or at least as good as one would expect of something billed as a 'radio performance.' Like with most things, though, the product does warrant some close examination before determining whether or not it is worthwhile. As these re-union concerts will no doubt show, not everything with the 'Eagles' name is worthy.

    “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”—1 Timothy 6:10 NIV

     (PS, this print take was brought to you by Golden Flakes, Mello Yello, and "Real Time with Bill Maher.")

Saturday, March 4, 2017

How Should an Individual Determine His Success?

    (Editor's note: Found this essay and several others while digging through my documents folder on my computer. With a few additions and polishings, here it is for your consideration. A few years old, but still relevant.)

    One of the bigger questions in life is how we judge our successes, whether they be in business, in school, or in personal dealings. It is in my personal opinion that the way to determine success would be to consider both everything I have done, the work I've put into doing them, and the impact that those things have had on other people, places, and things.

    Let's say that your work involves advising a team of scientists and mechanics on the inner workings of a medical device they are trying to build for surgical purposes. For me to do the job well, I would need to extensively research and bring to attention the most accurate and fact-based information I can find on the subject(s) at hand. The information accuracy and success of the device being created is pivotal, as there are literally lives which may depend upon this being produced properly. For me to have given the scientists and mechanics the information needed to make a quality, life-saving product would be something which I would consider a great success on my part.

    Some people like to gauge their successes based on how much money they are taking in, which is great if you are being paid to make a quality product which improves peoples' lives. That said, there are many others who are paid to do things that adversely impact people. For instance, mafia hit-men, prostitutes, lobbyists, Congressmen, trial lawyers, and General Motors' management are all paid handsomely for their efforts, while at the same time turning in a product that hurts, to varying degrees, the people for whom it is intended. As the Bible says, money(to say nothing of what the money is spent on) both corrupts and is the top personification of greed, the biggest root of evil in the world. My aim in making a product is to create something which serves people well. It would be disappointing to me if I turned out something that adversely impacted someone in any way.

    In conclusion, while there are many ways for an individual to determine his own success, I have determined that the best way for me to determine my own success is to consider what I have done and how it has affected people. Several years back, when I was writing a paper for a GED test on how I thought I would be remembered, I said that the way I would be best remembered would be for both my YouTube videos and my (dubious)presence on the political blogosphere, and the sentiment still holds true today. Whether or not that is a good thing is up to others to judge. While it is great to make lots of money, I think that it is better to try to turn out a quality product that helps people, even if it should result in my not being paid more for my efforts.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Life and TImes of Benjamin Franklin

    (Editor's Note: I originally published this 7 years ago, in another place and time. Since America finds itself at a perilous crossroads, it would do one good to look back at the lives of the Founders, who themselves were found at a pivotal point in our country's history. Revised and expanded from the original edition.)

    Benjamin Franklin, who would become one of the first great Americans and inventors, was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachussets. He was the 15th out of 17 children. His father, Josiah, was an immigrant from Northamptonshire, England, and a maker of soap and candles. He was married twice, first to Anne Child, with whom he had 7 children, and lastly to Abiah Folger, Ben's mother, with whom Josiah had 10 children.

    Franklin went to school for a short time, but dropped out and became an apprentice printer to his brother James. James cuffed him each time he made a mistake, and whacked him if he thought Ben was impertinent. While working for his brother, he played jokes, writing columns in the newspaper under an assumed name criticizing Harvard boys and other things, all the time using the pen name "Silence Dogood". When his brother found out he had been tricked, he was very displeased. At a young age, Franklin quit his job and ran away. He had a great interest in reading even before he ran away. He would buy any book that he could afford to buy, and he would also borrow as many books as he could, staying up all night reading the books. Franklin learned how to write by reading books like Addison and Steele's "The Spectator". He would take notes on what he had read and try to rewrite the Books like the authors' version. If he had made any mistakes, he would go back and correct them.

     Ben Franklin's careers started when he became a local printer. In this capacity, he set up the first printing press, moulding type from lead forms. He started his own shop where he printed newspapers, books, and magazines. He won a contract to print all official notices and records for the Pennsylvania Assembly. Franklin was also a community organizer and local businessman. He started the first circulating library in America, along with a volunteer fire company, the first hospital, and the first academy in America. His ability made him a marked man among people. He was appointed Secretary of the Pennsylvania Assembly and later Postmaster of Philadelphia. He was able to stop the money loss on unclaimed mail by printing in his newspaper the names of people who had mail waiting for them. When he was 24, he married Mrs. Deborah Read, with whom he had one child, William. After all that, he developed a simple and accurate way of keeping post office accounts.

    Ben Franklin was still very interested in reading, but he was also an inventor and scientist. He wrote and published the book Poor Richards Almanac. He often scorned his own advice about going to bed early because of his perpetual business. He had long hated the discomfort of homes half-heated by the drafty fireplaces; he therefore invented an iron stove. The back of this stove stood in the fireplace, but its grate extended out into the room. The Governor of Pennsylvania urged Ben to get a patent for his inventions, but he didn't. He wanted the stoves to be made cheaply so that many people could buy them. Another one of his scientific interests, along with his friends, was the force of electricity. Not much was then known about it. When a European scientist found a way to store electricity in jars or tubes, Ben ordered some of the tubes and set up a lab in his house. As he experimented, he suddenly realized that lightning could be a discharge from the clouds. In 1752, he sent an account of his idea to scientists in London, England, and Paris, France.

    To test his newfangled theory, Franklin and his son, William, went out into a meadow during a thunderstorm, flew a kite into the air, and brought an electrical charge down the kite's wet string. He then stored the charge into a jar of water and hooked a wire to the jar. Next, he hooked the wire to a bell, making it ring and proving true his idea of electricity from the sky. Because of all that, he was awarded honorary degrees from Yale, Harvard, and the College of William and Mary. He next invented the lightning rod to protect buildings from lightning bolts. In 1753, he was made Deputy Postmaster for all 13 colonies. At once, he began to visit Post Offices and improve the mail service. He put his bookkeeping system into every Post Office, hired more postal workers, and made them feel that carrying mail was important. Instead of delivering letters from town to town only twice during the winter, he had mail delivered every week.

    When the French and Indian War started, Ben Franklin had aroused Pennsylvanians to their danger. He started volunteer companies of soldiers drilling on the green and had guns placed on the Delaware River to deter French vessels. When the British troops landed in Virginia in 1753, Franklin gave them important aid by hiring wagons to carry supplies. All taxpayers in Pennsylvania were helping to pay for the expensive defense work, with the exception of owners of large tracts of land. To persuade the Penn family to pay their share, Franklin was sent to London. He was in London when he heard about the British victory in the French and Indian War. He returned home, only to find that a new quarrel had broken out between Pennsylvania and the Penn family. In 1765, after he landed in England again, Parliament had passed the Stamp Act, resulting in a fury of protests. When Americans refused to buy the stamps, Franklin was called over to the English House of Commons for questioning. He presented the case so clearly and reasonably that he was influential in convincing England to repeal the Stamp Act.

    For ten years, Benjamin Franklin was America's most important representative in England. He teased the British about their ignorance of America by writing funny, exaggerated stories in newspapers. In Germany and France, he was welcomed not only as a scientist, but also as a champion of liberty. In 1775, one year after the death of his wife Deborah and just after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Franklin returned to Philadelphia. He became the Postmaster of the thirteen colonies, a member of the Second Continental Congress, and was appointed to a Committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, of which he was a signer. Before he left for France in 1776, he lent Congress 4,000 pounds of his own money to be used for various projects.

    From the moment he entered the French capital of Paris, "The Doctor Franklin", as he was called there, was swarmed by admiring visitors, and his simple dignity appealed to everyone. He worked very hard, first securing formal recognition for his country, and then persuading the French of the advantages of an alliance. His wisdom and affectionate understanding of the French people made him a successful diplomat. The Treaty of Alliance was signed on February 6, 1778, and Franklin was the outstanding person at the celebration at the royal palace one month later, on March 20, 1778. King Louis XVI told everyone that France was America's friend and would help fight for America's freedom in the Revolutionary War. Five years later, the war was over, and Ben Franklin, among others, signed the Peace treaty. When he came home in 1785, he brought with him tender farewell messages from the French, as well as a gift from the King.

     In Philadelphia, when Benjamin Franklin landed, a tremendous crowd swamped him. Old and frail as he was, he became President of the Pennsylvania State Assembly and a member of the Constitutional Convention. When members of the convention would disagree, a word from Mr. Franklin would calm them down. When the Constitution was drafted in 1787, Franklin was one of the signers. Over the years, people like George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and other prominent Americans visited Mr. Franklin. They enjoyed his books, the rockers he had made for his armchair, and a chair which would turn into a stepladder for reaching books. Even though he was often too ill to get around, he loved his friends, wrote newspaper articles, and penned his famous autobiography.

    Benjamin Franklin's last public act, as President of the Penn State Society, was to carve his signature onto a memorial to the State Legislature for the 1780 abolition of negro slavery. When he died from pleurisy on April 17, 1790, at the age of 84, the world around knew it had lost one of the first and foremost sons of liberty.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Remembering Lucy Knight of 'ER'

I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do.
You're all right!
The Temptations, "Get Ready," 1966

    There is something to be said for the notion of cinema being life, and the rest being a review of the silver screens. The construction of alternate realities mirroring circumstances and personal aspects surrounding many people does strike deep. When you think about it, your own eyes(to say nothing of your car's wind-shield) are 3D theatrical screens in a way, showing you many views and perspectives of the world. You can truly thank the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, for that.

    I've always been more of a TV series guy than anything else. Some of my favourites include "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Newhart," and "All in the Family." These days, I get into "Better Call Saul," as well as the comedy shows of Bill Maher's and John Oliver's. Stepping into the wayback machine for the purpose of this article, in the year I was 16, I watched old episodes of the TV medical drama "ER," which served as a unique, kaleidoscopic view of society. For a young person like me, that show blew some of my mind's doors off of their hinges. Naturally, I had favourite characters, those being Lucy Knight(Kellie Martin, of "Life Goes on" fame) and Robert "Rocket" Romano(Paul McCrane, of "Fame" fame and last seen in "Atlas Shrugged, Part II"). This month marks 17 years since the airing of the two episodes in which the former, my favourite of the two, was killed off. That was an important moment in my life, in a lot of ways. For some reason, I'm feeling compelled to type this all out right now. So now, kiddies, let's take a journey through the looking glass...

    My father had long been insistent that we watch this show. We had the first season of it on the DVD shelf for years, so it seemed a logical conclusion. As I had gotten myself into hot water over school grades, I decided I might as well acquiesce to 'ER.' The show started off serious, yet engaging. The characters and story lines were easy to get into, sort of like Campbell's soup flavours that way. Lots of interesting side characters came and went, never staying on long enough to engender feelings of attachment.

    The entrance of the Anna Del Amico(Maria Bello) character at the end of the third season added a certain something to the show that was not there before. She was the first one who was, inside and out, decidedly not unattractive--Qualities I'd never seen on the show before. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of average, inoffensive women on the show, but this was new. As I saw one of the patients embarrass himself with...shall we say uncontrolled excitement, the seed was inadvertently planted in my head, puns intended, regarding whether or not she was 'all that.' However, it was all clear from the beginning that she was, like the Tom Petty song, too good to be true. At the beginning of the fifth season, she was out, but someone else was in. Someone who grabbed my attention instantly.

    As Johnny Rivers sang in 1967, "She stepped out of the rainbow, golden hair shinin' like moon-glow." After all, before there was Erin Burnett, among others, there was Lucy Knight: A stand-out face in the crowd running out from the subway terminal to help someone in need. With swiftness and deftitude, her actions helped stabilize a badly injured old man lying across the pavement. She was certainly not lacking in looks, being easily the most attractive lady the show ever had as a cast member. Moreover, she had a good, easy-going, compassionate nature and a desire to help people in any way possible. In these ways, she ably emerged in my mind as a sort of a female ideal--Somebody who typified all those things I grew to like about women.

    But there was something else that jumped out at me, something that rubbed me the wrong way as I was watching. Being new as she was to medical environs, she bumbled and stumbled through both small and large situations and procedures, some serious and some not as much. For me, it was like looking into a mirror. My inner self told me "You know, you two are a LOT alike!" I angrily shot back "NO, I'm NOT!" It was an unavoidable truth, though. For perspective, I wasn't doing well getting Geometric concepts down that year, bumbling and stumbling similar to how she was. I felt like I was watching the female version of myself in a doctor's coat, and to say it wasn't fun would be to understate things.
    By the beginning of Season 6, though, I was finally ready to put all those things behind me and embrace the new girl as someone to like. She had grown as a character--Someone who did good teamwork with Dr John Carter(Noah Wyle) in an effort to track down a dad with a rare blood type, and was actually willing to bang on the acerbic Dr. Romano's door at 3-ish AM for the sake of a dying patient. That's somebody to love. Why wouldn't I try to get past my own personal insecurities and prejudices?

"And fate is setting up the Chessboard, while death rolls out the dice.
Anyone for tennis? Wouldn't that be nice?
Cream, "Anyone for Tennis," 1968

    On the eve of New Year 2011, as I was looking up pictures of the cast for a possible YouTube video(the finished product was recalled--could never get any song I liked to mesh with that show), I unearthed spoilers that would ruin the show for me. The biggest one for me, by far, was learning that Knight was slated to be brutally killed off in the middle of the 6th season, the season I had just started to watch. I had no expectations for the new year, which set the stage even more. Imagine starting out a new year with a sense of foreboding regarding somebody you had just grown to like. It wasn't fun.
    The episode was as bad as I had expected, and plunged me into the depression I now consider my reality. In defense of 'ER,' if it weren't that, it would have been something else, and maybe much worse--My dear friend Tim died 8 months after I saw those episodes. There are ways I could be more sideways, perhaps even dare I say sunk, than I am right now. Just imagine if I'd seen those episodes without benefit of a spoiler! Again, not fun considerations.

    I never begrudged, nor would I ever do such, Kellie Martin for her leaving the show. Given circumstances that were said to be in play at that time(family medical issues, and such of the like), it was clearly the best decision. Those times that I've seen her name in the news, I am very happy with what I see. No, the ones I have the problem with are producers who wrote such a rotten script. Given that she was posthumously accepted as a psych resident, you could have had her going out in a happier way than this. Then again, I don't write scripts for TV shows. There's a reason for that, I guess. All I do is create fictional alter-egos and other characters to act out roles in my own alternate universe. I'd love to be a fiction writer that merges Norman Rockwell-esque sentimentality with Piers Anthony/Alan Dean Foster sci-fi stuff, all written in the style of the rock music biographies I so loved in my teen years.

    Her death started the transformation of 'ER' from serious medical drama to just another carny-like excursion in pointlessness, by the end of its run completely fading into the backdrop of all the other sudsy, soap-operatic piffle that constitutes modern daytime TV. That trend continued with the departure of Carol Hathaway(Julianna Margulies, an acting mainstay on daytime TV) later on in season 6 and the cancer-death of Mark Green(Anthony Edwards, of "Top Gun" fame), and was finally cemented into place with the rather ridiculous, to say nothing of unrealistic, death of Robert "Rocket" Romano. At this point, I cut out of the charade.
    Really, though, it was the introduction of two characters in Season 6, Abby Lockhart(Maura Tierney, of “News Radio” fame) and Luka Kovach(Goran Visnjik), that set in motion all the silliness, and I spotted it off the bat. From Knight's death on out, the producers could have just named every episode of the show "Abby Road," "Dear Abby," or some other stupid variation of the name. While not bad people, the clear intention of these characters was to take the show where it should not have gone, transforming it into "Love Boat" in a doctor's office(Perhaps "Calling Dr. Love" would have been a good name for this show?). Matter of factly, it was only recently that I began to take anything good from my 'ER'-watching experiences, the framed pictures I've had of Knight and Romano on my wall notwithstanding.

    Maybe it was my continued shock over watching her TV death years ago that was at the root of the visceral reaction of horror and pure sadness I had at the murder of Pop singer Christina Grimmie this past Summer. It felt way too real, as well as being a continuation of the theme of wonderful people being taken out too young, before they can make the best impacts on this world. Grimmie, like Lucy Knight, had her whole life ahead of her and endless opportunities to do good things. Both were even close to the same age when they were brutally cut down, and had surviving parents. To paraphrase something I said in a previous posting on Grimmie, they were both somebody's children. Then again, I suppose one should give less weight to Knight, as she was a character in a TV show. Still, the point remains.

    As I type this, I feel like it is 2011 all over again. I'm standing in a dirt-floored Flea Market, and am holding in my hand an old-fangled Mike & the Mechanics cassette tape. I'm still thinking of her a month after watching those episodes. Surreal how trips down memory lane work.

    Coming back to the present day, was watching a short clip from the show a short time ago(How NOT to Present a Patient), and it was everything I remember of her and the show's classic period, with hindsight serving matters even better than wild dreams. While I still regrettably have the anxieties and foibles I saw in myself watching her years ago, I handle it better at 22 than I did at 16. As such, I'm not inclined to knee-jerkishly dislike her for what I see--To the contrary, I can identify, even if watching her in action is still a little uncomfortable. Besides, I'd hope that I can compensate with the better parts of her persona: Good naturedness, a willingness to help, and to go above and beyond to make sure things get done as they should. Of course, whether or not I do is up for others and God to judge, and not myself.

"Presenting a case is like telling good stories: Succinct, focused, and to the point."--Dr. Robert Romano to Lucy Knight, after an botched attempt at presenting a patient

    All right, end of this rant. Some people say I should keep my feelings to myself. I think not.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Inaugural Thoughts

    Something is different about this country. Far different than things were even last week. You can feel it in the air wherever you go--The American Summer is out of reach, replaced by decided dread and a new sense of Winter in America unseen since maybe the ascension of 'doughface' James Buchanan to the Presidency in 1857. Buchanan's Presidency was the final mile marker on the road to the Civil War. Given the recent escalations between the United States and such adversaries as North Korea and Russia, a Trump Presidency could prove the final mile marker on the road to a Nuclear Holocaust, if not the outright precipitator of such. The crisis the country faces in the wake of a Trump installment is more than just of a physical nature, though. What we face moreover is an existential crisis. All of this serves to tear asunder America's moral fabric, with the wholesale vindication of Trump's brand of racially and sexually-tinged politicking. Morality, when lost, doesn't easily return, barring a complete return to Christian principle and a turn from the wayward darkness. I had the idea we deserved a Trump Presidency for a while, but I had hoped it could be avoided(in spite of some of my years-ago puffery of him and his prospects). "Heart of Stone," the Rolling Stones song that introduced him at Inauguration Eve festivities, has it completely right in numerous ways.

Better listen little girl, if you going walking down the street
I ain't got no love, I ain't the kind to meet
'Cause you'll never break, never break, never break, never break
This heart of stone, oh no, no, you'll never break this heart of stone darling

    A few thoughts on the style and substance of Venerable Donald's inaugural address. First, brevity, something of which VD is not known, was probably the biggest, most unsung aspect of his inaugural address. His speeches from the campaign generally went on at least 45 minutes, sometimes all the way to an hour-and-a-half. Gracefulness, an even rarer instance for him, is even present, as he thanks all the former Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents for both their help and their presence at this historic moment. To the substance, the allusion drawn of "this American carnage" was the bracing moment everyone says it was, but even within the campaign-esque tome, he drew many parallels and stated as true many pillars of Conservative orthodoxy. There was even a part of this Conservatively-minded person who began to wonder if maybe he'd gotten Trump wrong.

    It was upon even the shallow reflection that precedes anything of depth in thought that I realized I had not. To the contrary, the other comment he made, one that got scant airplay beyond the first run of the address, about bringing the government's power back to the people was more than somewhat chilling--It created the allusion of a mobocracy, mob rule in America. Considering how given his online army of armchair warriors are to rather detailed threats of violence, the image of our country being ruled by them and the children who are taking after them as we speak is an especially horrid, almost sci-fi worthy consideration. A true harbinger of things to come in America's losing fight for decency and morals.

    However, in the spirit of finding good things to say about VD's inaugural address, I have a couple of points I can reasonably add to the discussion: Unlike his previous campaign patter, the beginning and the end of this speech did not boil down to "I will be so great. So great! Believe me, folks. Believe me." His speech also, in sticking tightly to the script of his previous campaign yells, showcases perhaps the most telling thing of all about our new President: That he is more a reflexive one-trick pony than any sort of a calculating and thought-out fascist who wants to bring back the gulags and the rack. He is a real 'threatener-in-chief,' but, as people are oft to say, also perhaps 'all bark, no bite.' He sees a need to make a show--it is intrinsic to his purported 'brand'--of things, yet, as official records of his lawsuits show, he is more than happy to settle things. One could even call it "The Art of the Deal." Trump certainly does--The book of the same name, to say nothing of the very vague and general concept of deal-making, was a cornerstone of his campaign when he wasn't harassing female reporters from his on-stage perch. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin knows this, he is no dummy. It explains why he has taken a special liking to VD. Putin knows he is a big talker and not much of a deliverer in any great way. They can make deals together, much to Russia's potential benefit.

    Also of note, Saturday Afternoon, the Waffling House's Stool Pigeon, Sean Spicer, went into one of his anti-media riffs in full view of television cameras. While rightfully blasting lazy reporting regarding the spat over the statuette of the late Reverend and Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.(reported to the exclusion of the return of the Winston Churchill statuette, sent away on the advent of Obama's first inaugural), he took it more than over the top with his lambasting of reporting of the crowd sizes at the Trump inaugural ceremonies(sizes corroborated by, among other sources, the President's own Secret Service detail). In essence, open warfare has been declared on the press by the new administration. I suppose I should be glad he didn't go full-bore thug and threaten to eject reporters who asked him questions, with the big caveat being that he, in a break from past tradition, didn't stay for any questioning whatsoever. Transparency in government is dead, if these events are even a small fraction of what they seem.

    Personally, in a way, I hope VD DOESN'T retain a travelling press pool over the next four years. I cannot imagine what people who do on-the-ground reports of him have to put themselves through in order to be labelled by large swaths of the population as biased hacks deserving of a sturdy raping. As much as I really like NBC reporter Katy Tur, I could not bear to watch her or her fellow 'Road Warriors' report on this past campaign, for the simple reason that I cannot bear to see people get shoved through a meat grinder on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis. And to what outcome is all this ultimately undertaken? VD gets elected in large part to specifically spite the vigilant reporting of these fine people. It's an awful reality, a reality which the odious Stool Pigeon has made clear will continue. Are they still news reporters or are they now fighting as soldiers in a war against a newly-installed Lie Regime? Time is already telling, just one day into the first four year term(his prospective 2020 re-election remains to be seen), and what it's saying should right now be paid proper heed.

    Besides, to the extent that media bias is a real thing, as opposed to merely chasing after dollars and ratings, I should imagine that thinking people wouldn't want the charge of 'media bias' to go the way of 'bigotry' into being a charge that signifies utter nothingness. Bigotry is a real thing, but people will pay it no mind as a result of how Liberals characterize anyone who ever had a not adulatory thing to say about either Obama or Hillary Clinton. Unlike with Obama, though, Trump has neither the personal charm nor popularity to convince people that he and his surrogates have got this one down. Fully 40% of America gives Trump favorable ratings(around 54%, the same percentage who voted against him, do not), according to at least two reputable national polls, and those people will apparently believe anything. Roughly the same number, when polled, said they favoured bombing the fictitious city from the children's-oriented movie "Aladdin." Fake news, to say nothing of at best sub-par education systems, presents a real problem, but not in anywhere close to the way that certain specific paid shills make it out to be.

    So now, the question must be posed: What is to become of the media bias charge, post-Trump? Lots of people believe the concept to be true to some extent, but its true sting is about to be lost with the over-saturation just within the first day. Perhaps a few more gullibles can be conned before the fallout begins, and maybe that's the intention. To be fair, any short term gains in these matters may belie long term disaster, so they should neither be content with the current order of things nor act entitled to things continuing as they are. Entitlement is contented greed, and greed is downfall.

    To the average Trump supporter(I distinguish them from the fanatics), I say this: I hope he's as good as you hope he will be. I hope he achieves good things for the nation, even though I may not share your optimism. As the old adage goes, and it has been said numerous times, "time will tell," and it really will. Seriously, who would have ever thought, even a year ago, that I would pine for the Obama years after his leaving office. Pining for the relative grace and dignity with which he and his family held themselves while occupying the Oval Office, for the comparative, yet still not absolute, decency with which he handled opponents of him, his policies, and his view of the world. A Trump presidency should be treated as a grave threat to the wholly Christian principles of decency and morality that bind us all, the Constitution, and the fabric of the republic to which it stands.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Energy Policy, and Why Going All in With Ethanol is Not a Realistic Long-Term Solution

    Some random thoughts occurred to me as I was driving home from my regular Thursday night dinner at Bojangles(I always do the Egg & Cheese biscuit and small Diet Dew, myself), particularly as I passed the new Exxon petrol station. I first considered the new jobs that had just been brought into this very rural area and what a boon to whatever constitutes an economy this must be for them. Somehow, my mind hopscotched over to the matter of the different grades of gasoline used by these petrol stations and, eventually, the sustainability of America's current course regarding energy and reliance upon foreign oil exports. Gave a thought to one of the leading renewable energy solutions, and then came to what seems like should be fairly obvious conclusions regarding its feasibility.

    One of the more prominent 'green energy' solutions that's at the forefront of the renewable energy debate is that of Ethanol, the corn-based fuel which people are looking at as a substitute for foreign-exported Carbon gasoline. Based in plants as it is, it certainly makes for an interesting, quite well renewable source for fuel. By most accounts, it is past time for us to find a new solution to our fuel needs, as the current status quo does not provide a reliable, sustainable path into the future. Just as it is said in the Bible that man cannot live on bread alone, it is also true that the environment cannot survive on carbon gasoline alone, especially as it regards those oils purchased from shady(to put it quite mildly) Arab governments. As we are now living in an age where "bomb the oil" and "take the oil" constitutes key tenants of American foreign policy, continued reliance on foreign exports could result in massive price spikes and stock cratering. It is high time we consider a new course.

    That said, what the green energy people fail to account for regarding mass consumption of Ethanol hides in plain view--The weather. This is an easy one for me, as we here in the Southeastern United States have undergone a severely crop-damaging drought(to say nothing of the wildfires) within the past year. Given that Ethanol is created from corn crops, the supply is easily limitable given any manner of weather confections, including that of a protracted lack of rain. To combat this, the mass market producers of the corn would have to infuse their crops with GMO's and various turbo fertilizers, to say nothing of pesticide usage, things that are already done to a certain extent to ensure that the crops make it to market at their due times. Now, this runs into serious headwinds when you consider how the green energy, clean living people have striven to rid crop and food yield of the dreaded GMO's, pesticides, and turbolizers in favour of more natural-based ways. It would seem that somewhere along the line, serious compromises will need to be made in order to bridge the divides and create a sustainable framework for Ethanol production if this is, in fact, a way for the future.

    Also damaging to the corn crops necessary to produce Ethanol is another unusual-seeming suspect--Heavy rains. "When it rains, it pours," the old adage says, and this is never truer than after a long dry stretch. While the rain does a good service in the middle and longer runs, the short term can oversee some rather dramatic consequences. Sudden infusions of rainwater can flood and drown crops and plants, and flash flooding can uproot and sweep away all the crop yields. Flooding can also render soils otherwise non-conducive to crop/plant growth by sopping up water upwards of a half-foot (perhaps even greater, depending upon precipitation amounts) below the surface. This also ties into one of Ethanol's most pressing drawbacks--That it absorbs water at rapid rates, which makes contamination of fuel product easy and transportation through pipe-lining a difficult matter. And just imagine if one of the pipelines burst, as has been known to happen from time to time. That would make for an environmental disaster certainly without any precedent, at least in the modern era.

    Probably the most controversial consideration that has to be given in these discussions is the matter of our, much bemoaned of late, free trade agreements. Were we to engage in the mining of natural resources(such as those in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) or in the drilling of oil(offshore and onshore) and shale fields, North American trading partners in the US, Mexico, Canada, and also in the Caribbean Isles would need to meet up and consult with each other on these matters as per NAAEC(North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation), a major component of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Given the proximity of the offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico to the Southern continent of America, perhaps a sort of 'SAFTA'(Southern American version of NAFTA, of course, which is not to be confused with the South Asian free trade organisation--Perhaps call it SAFTO?) will need to be assembled to broker fair deals and come to needed consensus on the matters of usage and appropriation of resources.

    The consideration of renewable energy solutions, given the increasingly unsustainable path, is a must for any serious consideration of America's and the world's future. Wind, solar, water, natural gas, offshore drilling of oil, and even Ethanol solutions, among the myriad other proposals, should be given fullest consideration as we collectively approach a moment of reckoning regarding our reliance upon foreign oils. Not even giving thought to the problem risks our standing as an example to other countries in the world, and that's just the least of the problems we could face.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Time Magazine's Year-in-Review: No Longer Timeless

    You knew it was coming, but the reality of it is still no less shocking. No, I'm not talking about the travesty of Donald Trump and his dubious-at-best Cabinet choices–That's a whole other story. No, I was at a Wal-Mart earlier today, and I had a chance to check out the Time Magazine end-of-the-year retrospective, and I saw where they omit mention of Keith Emerson, Glenn Frey, Christina Grimmie, Paul Kantner, Garry Shandling, and Leon Russell(he died at the same time as Leonard Cohen, and yet the latter got a not small mention) in the deaths section. This more than EXEMPLIFIES why I no longer buy that expensive dish rag of a retrospective. They mentioned Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore, and yet several of the far more famous names–household names, even–get passed over. Oh, but Muhammad Ali(In their only solid move, he was placed at the front of the pack and given the bitter-sweet distinction of being the understood biggest death of 2016), David Bowie, the aforementioned Cohen, Prince, Gene Wilder, and such get their mandatory half-dozen/dozen or so paragraphs. What a complete waste!

    More can and will be written by me as it regards the subjects behind the sticking points(Particularly ELP, Frey, and Grimmie), but I'll stick to the matters directly pertaining to Timeless Magazine. The reason I used to buy the Time end-of-year retrospective was because of their exhaustive, thorough reports on the year's news events & deaths. I once scoured the release from the end of the year 2001 when I was really young, and was impressed with all that was covered. Indeed, it even greatly expanded my then-quite limited horizons(Reading about the late former Beatle George Harrison at the very end of that issue planted a seed in my head that changed my life, for better or for worse). All those released last decade were exemplars in solid reporting. Now, it’s all opinion, the reins of the articles long-ago having been passed over to the likes of Ezra Klein talking about 'personal significance,' as opposed to talking strictly about 'life and times,' which is what Timeless used to do. And their reporting on this past election was...a little shoddy, incomplete, and otherwise haphazard, to say the very least.

    The really interesting, perhaps one could even say jarring, paradox about this is that the weekly magazine issuance is actually, with Rolling Stone, one of the only worthwhile things on the non-musical portions of the news-stand. With a healthy mixture of on-the-front-lines reportage and and opinion editorialization, the magazine makes for easy, informative enough reading when I'm de-compressing at a Bojangles or a Burger King. One assumes that different standards are employed in the assemblage of a single issue, weekly magazine as opposed to an end-of-year/looking back piece–Sort of like the difference between assembling a studio album and a compilation record(in some cases, a compilation of re-recorded hit pieces). Key structural differences aside, it would seem that similar principles of reporting should be applied regardless of the nature of the magazine issue. No playing favourites!

    This year, I’ll buy a Time retrospective from 2003 to round out last decade’s selections–Selections from an era when Timeless was actually Timeless. 2001's retrospective, as it ultimately turned out, was the foundational document for a lot of where all I've gone in life, whether in a musical, political, or personal regard. The 2002 edition gave a nice blurb to Who founding member and Bass player John Entwistle after his cocaine-fuelled death earlier in the year. Had he lived long enough to die this year, his memory and earthly contributions would have probably been discarded in much the way fellow rocker and 1944 birth-mate Keith Emerson's was. 2005's retrospective gave the greatest of final send-offs to such giants as Johnny Carson, Pope John Paul II, and Peter Jennings(they missed Bob "Gilligan" Denver, but nobody's perfect and I really don't demand perfection), as well as an able re-capping of Hurricane Katrina. 2008 quite well re-capped the election, my very first as an observer of politics. The others up until the turn of the decade(was it a change of management, or a merger, or what have you?) were quite solid in their own respective ways. For about five years, they've been on that unmistakable glide path towards fully and completely jumping the shark.

    Nowadays, it's all just a bunch of ‘reports’ and selections chosen by agreements made in the meeting of Beltway, Hollywood, and Rockefeller Plaza elitist windbags. The media being the media, they sheepishly go along with it, refusing to even give the time of day to those who didn't make the gilded list. Granted, though, it must be stated that the only group worse than the masked media literati behind these profligate retrospective issues are that certain group of hard-core rock group fans who will go unnamed–That group which seems to get really stuck up and militant when one dares express disagreement with the more-than-slightly unqualified greatness of the band's 'Big 2.' Still, it's a shame to see such a vaunted institution rot away, not to mention all the significant names left off their lists. I miss old-time real reporting(the aforementioned Peter Jennings got several paragraphs etched into the 2005 edition, Ed Bradley in the 2006 edition, Tim Russert in 2008, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt in 2009, and Mike Wallace presumably in 2012's retrospective), the type that actually got just a little into the weeds and informed you.

    Long live Erin Burnett and Jake Tapper!