Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Rock Show

A couple years ago, Bob and Kathy Zoeller took us up to Madison, WI to see Trans Siberian Orchestra in concert. While I never would have thought of going on my own, or even taking Lisa, it was certainly an enjoyable experience. They had excellent musicians, a small, well-amplified string section, and quite the light show. Their electric violinist even managed to play all sorts of fast passages while running around the floor of the amphitheater. This song gets some rotation on rock radio at Christmas time, for good reason. It rocks. This is their version of "Carol of the Bells".

Friday, December 12, 2008

Republicans Must Love Economic Collapse

That's all I can figure. I mean, I'm no fan of handing out free money to the Big 3 Auto Makers, but the simple logic that, as we are in a bit of a death spiral right now as it is, it might not be a good idea to shut down not just big auto manufacturers, but their suppliers as well as the folks who market and sell their cars to the public seems pretty solid to me.

Yet, the Republicans just think it's so awful that the UAW won't pauperize their workers, to the point of being unable to afford the very cars they are helping to produce (even Henry Ford understood that wasn't such a hot idea), they refuse to hand out a shiny thin dime to Detroit. And . . . markets in Asia tanked.

Screw 'em. I realize that whole TARP thing wasn't meant for Detroit, but at this point, handing out free money to the banks isn't helping a whole hell of a lot, so why not do something with it until we get some frigging grown-ups in Washington, after the first of the year? Give 'em more than they asked for. Give 'em enough not only to pay their bills and their workers, but maybe to do all that retooling and redyeing and whatever else they need to do to make cars people will buy. Do it even if some idiot who calls himself an economist says it's a bad idea.

At this point, we need to do stuff. I'm no fan of giveaways like this; I'm less of a fan of my children telling stories of the Great Depression of the early 21st century to my grandchildren.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dwarfs, Buses, Boxes - A Story Meme

I've been . . . TAGGED!

Here's the story so far:

The bus was more crowded than usual. It was bitterly cold outside, and I hadn't prepared for it. I noticed that a fair number of the riders were dressed curiously. As I glanced around, I stretched my feet and kicked up against a large, heavy cardboard box laying under the seat in front of me. (Splotchy)

I couldn't believe my eyes. Surreptitiously, I tried to establish, without giving it away, if anyone else had seen what I had. For ten years I had been looking for that box. What looked like an ordinary cardboard box to most contained something most precious. Only by the small golden "P" was I able to identify what I was looking at. (Freida Bee)

How the box got here, or how I happened to be on this bus with it now--these questions were immaterial. I just had to get that box. The bus slowed to a stop, so I steadied myself. Just as I was about to make a grab for the box, however, it moved. Someone else was picking it up to take it away! I had to stop her! (Dguzman)

What? This couldn't be happening--to get this close and watch some quick-footed little dwarf just up and snatch it away from! I got up and just as I did the sweaty hillbilly in front of me stood up and stepped into the aisle. Moving like a bad mime imitating a man in a box he extended his arms and stretched, looking up at the ceiling as he did so. The dwarf with the box--I couldn't be sure if it was a man or a woman, but something about her seemed feminine--slipped out the front door and off the bus. I took a deep breath and slumped back down into my seat.(Bubs)

"Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" I mumbled under my breath. I leaned my head against the cold window and watched the dwarf threading her way through the crowd. She held the box tightly to her chest as she leaned into the wind and rushed forward. The small gold P on the box flashed teasingly between the coats and legs of the passersby. I bit my lower lip, trying not to cry. I had a brief flashback to the last time I'd seen that box. Agnes and I had just enjoyed a concert at Crew Hall. We ducked into her father's book shop for some tea. As we shrugged off our wraps, we heard her father arguing animatedly in French with someone in the back room. Agnes laughed and waved her hand dismissively at me when I looked at her questioningly. "Eetz nussing!" she whispered. "Eetz, mon pere and mon oncle! Zay are deescussing an order." Just then Agnes's father jerked open the door to the back room and hurried out. His face was ruddy with anger and he was carrying the box with the small. gold P. A second later, Agnes's uncle followed. He opened his mouth to say something, but seeing Agnes and me staring at him, closed it again with a snap. His large mustache quivered. The bus pulled away from the curb, jerking me out of my reverie. I shook my head to clear my thoughts and searched the crowd on the sidewalk for the dwarf. There she was! Keeping my eyes glued to her, I stood again and yanked the bell cord. I'd get off at the next stop and see if I could catch up to her. The bus pulled up to the curb a couple of blocks away. I could still see the dwarf as she hurried in and out of the crowd. I lurched to the front of the bus and ran down the steps, still not taking my eyes off the dwarf and the gold P on the box. (DCup)

The hillbilly stretched again once his feet hit the pavement, his arms blocking my view of the dwarf and the box. Overwhelmed by the odor of a three-day drunk, I skittered around him as fast as I could. There she was! She seemed to be moving toward a store front? No! An alley! She ducked down the alley, the box clasped to her small frame. I hurried past couples holding hands, individuals talking to thin air, and turned down the alley, only to be confronted by two daunting challenges. A man vomiting, and a whole series of doors, any of which could have been the escape route of the little lady with the box.(Geoffrey)

Take it away, Erudite Redneck!

From Heated To Unacceptable

We who do this blogging thing, particularly those of us who engage in issues of public import, do it because we care passionately about the kind of country in which we live. We are opinionated, sometimes to the point of getting huffy. Debates and discussions can get heated rather quickly. Sometimes, feelings get hurt. Yet, I think when all is said and done, each of us recognize that there are lines that are not to be crossed, out of a sense of deference, social acceptability, and just common decency.

Yesterday, over at Marshall Art's, that line was crossed. No wait, it was friggin' obliterated in a short comment, now removed. I was glad to see that Marshall used common sense and took the comment down, but it was far too late for Dan.

I think we should all take a deep breath and realize that, even the most diametrically opposed persons who engage in argument are human beings, and as heated as we become, we should respect certain boundaries as to what is and is not acceptable behavior. The person who did this particular bit of vulgar nastiness is, sad to say, unrepentant. He says he is done with us, and damns both Dan and me, which given the circumstances is kind of odd. Of course, he has said he won't engage me before, yet continues to do so, unsolicited, so I wonder how long before he touts his genius IQ at me, only to go all weird and vulgar and beyond the pale with me. My own preference would be to do something more than just point out the person who did this, and speak in generalities about his offense. Too bad we can't shun, or something similar, this guy.

It takes a certain kind of vile mind to come up with what he wrote. It takes a mind with little consideration for the feelings of others, or respect for the delicacies and limits of public debate to take those thoughts and make them public.

Kudos to Marshall Art for removing the offensive and offending remarks. Sympathies to Dan for having to endure this kind of horrific treatment from one of so little Christian virtue he sees nothing at all wrong with what he did. As for Mark?

God may love you. God may even forgive you. Me? I would devoutly wish that you cease writing on blogs, and prayerfully consider the hurt you have done. When you are ready to apologize and make amends to Dan, publicly, then maybe you can be let out in public again. Until then, I have only one sentence for you, and it will be short so even your genius IQ can grasp it:

You are one sick, horrible motherfucker.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"You could hear a pin drop . . ."

From my hometown paper:
The holiday spirit was in the air Friday and Saturday for the back-to-back performances of the Valley Chorus’s “Festival of Carols,” a concert held in memory of the man who founded the group 53 years ago, Art Rae.
“We lost our founder in February of this year, and it was really something I wanted to do in a special way to recognize his gift to our area of organizing this group in 1955,” said Valley Chorus Director Clara Belle DeLill, who sang under Rae’s direction as a teenager.


The 130-member chorus opened the concert with an original cantata penned by Joseph Martin, the composer of last year’s acclaimed concert “Voices of Christmas.” His cantata consisted of 20 traditional Christmas carols intertwined with new melodies and was accented by a contemporary nativity narration written by his wife Pamela and performed by retired Waverly English teacher Dan Safford.
“I loved hearing Dan Safford do the narrative because he has a way of bringing out what is in every sentence,” said DeLill, who was initially inspired by Safford’s colorful recital of Shakespeare as a senior student in his English class. “During both of the performances you could hear a pin drop when he spoke, people were so attentive to what he was saying.”(emphasis added)

In case anyone was wondering, that's my Dad.

Governor Potty Mouth Arrested (UPDATE)

Ah, to be from Illinois! Another governor is doing a perp walk. Along with being blatantly corrupt, being detested by every politician, Republican or Democrat, in the state, and monumentally unfit for office, it seems Blagojevich has a limited vocabulary in re our new President, the former junior Senator from the Prairie State. You see, Obama didn't want to play by Blago's rules - known colloquially as "pay-for-play" (isn't it nice that we in Illinois actually have a term for how corrupt our state's practices are?), and and made his displeasure known in no uncertain terms:
In his private conversations, Blagojevich indignantly referred to Barack Obama as a “motherfucker” and repeatedly cussed him out because Obama refused to engage in the pay-to-play scheme. Blagojevich complained about giving this “motherfucker [Obama] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.”

It seems to me that, should he be convicted, our governor might just come to have a different perspective when someone says, "Fuck him".

For the record, I did not vote for Blagojevich either time he stood for the office of governor. I feel vindicated, because I knew that we were moving from a former governor who was corrupt before he took office to one who would continue to be corrupt while in office in Springfield.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall, whose Talking Points Memo site has more on the whole arrest and charges against our Alleged Governor, offers the following aside that is a kind of a two-fer:
A few of you have written in to ask whether this is a case of Siegelman redux -- that is, something akin to the case of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, a Democratic governor sandbagged by Republican partisans in the US Attorney's office.

Short answer: Don't bet on it.

Fitzgerald may be a Republican, but before he is that, he is a prosecutor. He went after George Ryan and Scooter Libby, and he got both convicted. Besides that, from the moment he took office, people all over Illinois understood what kind of person Blagojevich was. Even before that, really, which is why I did not vote for him in '02 or '06. He has run the state in to the ground; our legislative, specifically budgetary, process is frozen because the two men who, along with Blago' set the rules for the way it is supposed to run, the Speaker of the State House of Representatives and the State Senate President, not only do not trust the governor, they detest him. Maybe if he's gone, things might actually get done in Springfield now.

So, I agree with Marshall here. This isn't some politically-motivated railroading of a Democratic politician by a Republican federal prosecutor. This is a corrupt politician finally having his dirty laundry aired for all the world to see.

Should Fitz run for office, whatever office, even though he is a Republican, I would not only vote for him. I would campaign for him.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday Music

A few years back my youngest sister gave me a Loreena McKennitt Christmas EP, and I fell in love with her voice. While not my normal fare for everyday listening, it certainly is nice for certain occasions. While not all my selections are Christmas songs, this first is called "A Midwinter Night's Dream"

This is a musical setting of the Yeats' poem "The Two Trees"

Finally, this is "The Mystic's Dream" recorded live at the Alhambra in Spain.

"We cannot look to the Bible as a marriage manual"

With a generous hat-tip to a source to remain anonymous, I was pointed toward this article in Newsweek magazine on gay marriage. It neatly sums up a far more nuanced approach toward the use of Scripture in public debate. Rather than simply toss out this or that verse from Leviticus or Romans and then say, in essence, "God hates fags", we are given a nice tour of serious thought, scholarly refelction, and an understanding that
"Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two.

In other words, the conflation of a civil contract with a religious covenant has led to more confusion rather than less, more heat than light.

The article is long, but I urge anyone interested in the topic to read it in its entirety.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Transcendence Of Impermanence

I heard a submission in NPR's "This I Believe" series this morning, from Iranian-born writer Dalia Sofer. It neatly summarizes much of what I, too, believe is at the heart of our lives.

Too often we Christians cling to something and make it the permanent focus of our lives, believing, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that throughout the many changes through which we live and move, that it is always there, a Rock of Ages to which we can cling for comfort. Even faith itself becomes such an idol, that thing which just "is" for us. Ms. Sofer's essay reminds us, I think, that real meaning, real value, real love are precious precisely because they are all transitory. Our most precious possessions are left behind. Those we love, and who love us, will pass away, some day to be no more than a fading image on a piece of paper, even their names forgotten by those whose very existence is rooted in our own.

Even our land, our culture, our language - it, too, will fade away, lost in the mists of time. It is a challenge, when facing these the only real ultimate realities, to hold on to anything. Yet, hold on we do, we must, because such is all we are granted in our three-score-plus-ten year walk across this planet.

From Ms. Sofer:
[D]espite the only certitude I have — the knowledge that I will die — I find pleasure and love, if not meaning. Often, this happens when an experience evokes an unbroken joy — a ray of light beaming into a warm room on a winter morning, the uninterrupted presence of someone I love next to me, and things, less concrete — a memory, a song, a word.

In his Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus likens our absurd existence to the fate of the Greek mythological figure, whose task was to push a rock up a mountain, watch it roll down, only to begin again, fully aware of the futility of his condition. Camus concludes that "the struggle itself toward summits is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Like Sisyphus, I get up every morning, grab a cup of coffee, and sit at my desk. I stare at the lines from the poem "Tobacco Shop" by Fernando Pessoa, pasted on my wall. Pessoa writes:
But the Tobacco Shop owner has come to the door and stands there.
I look at him, straining my half-turned neck,
Straining my half-blind soul.
He'll die and so will I.
He'll leave his signboard, I'll leave poems.
A little later the street will die where his signboard hung,
And so will the language my poems were written in.

I begin writing and I think, "Yes, dear Fernando, but so what? My lines exist for now, not even, mind you, in my original language, which has not yet vanished, but no doubt will in my bloodline." And if I were not overly concerned with the hazards of smoking, I would light up a cigarette.

I believe that even the most fleeting moment of ecstasy is more important than an eternity of bliss.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More