Monday, September 2, 2013

The Syria Problem -- Some Thoughts

Some thoughts on President Obama's request for a very limited US military strike with the sole purpose of disinclining Assad and others from using banned "weapons on mass destruction"...

For a couple of generations -- really all the way back to the end of WWII -- the world has looked to America for leadership and influence in international affairs. This is in a sense only natural, since following WWII the United States was not only the one remaining undamaged major industrial power, but the one nation in the world that had justly earned a reputation for a good measure of fairness and unselfish motivation in its dealing with other nations. (Yes, I know, this is not what is being taught today in many schools. None-the-less it is true - and perhaps a worthwhile subject for a future TnT blog entry)

Human beings desire to be led. That appears to be our nature. We, on the whole, want, even need, to have someone set the course and the standards.


Part of this could be called "weakness," but only part. In truth lif
e is too complex for each person or even group of people to deal with all of its intricacies. We thus look for someone else we trust to weigh in, and, as needed, act, on important matters.

That is one of the flaws of Obama's philosophy and actions. He puts himself forward as a 'seeing' leader but then, in case after case, proves himself not to be one. His self confidence is such that he is willing to confidently speak 'off the cuff' but he shows little actual pre-thought and even less willingness to follow through.

As this has become almost universally seen (even by those who will not for a number of reasons say it) the world has found itself without a leader. Not meaning just Obama himself, but the United States of America.

The ramification of this are enormous. All of Europe and Japan pretty much disarmed following WWII. They did so with confidence because the US was there to keep them feeling safe. That is no longer so. What will be the ramifications of this if these nations see the need to rearm? What new alliances will they form for self-protection? This today is not known and it appears not even publicly thought about.

Even teenagers know the need for having 'a rep.' Back in the `60s the Beach Boys sang 
"My buddies and me are getting real well known. Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone." ("I Get Around") Today the US is seen as a joke.

Yes, we still have a strong military (although it is showing signs of rot with PC issues being more important than fighting ability among the leadership) But what good is a strong military if out and out victory is not allowed because of political philosophy? 'Bad' nations are like city punks. Once the local cops stopping 'kicking asses' the punks know they can fool the courts and social workers -- and get away with anything they want over and over and over again.


That is the world as it is today. It started with Vietnam where American politicians limited the military's ability to win (President Johnson, for example, had to personally approve every strategic bombing target - and this for politial purposes) and since then it has gotten much worse.

Can anyone imagine, for example, the German or Japanese people doing what the Iraqis did during our post-invasion "occupation" -- rioting in the streets, breaking into and stealing from the national institutions? They'd have known that they'd have been shot on the spot and thus they'd never, for all their initial hatred for the occupation forces, have tried it.

Today no nation -- no national despot --  is in fear of anything or anyone outside their own borders. And so what we see happening in Syria is happening. As it did in Libya. As it is in Egypt. And in.. in... in...

No cruise missile attack or other half-hearted measure can change that.


That is where we are today. Obama just being the brightly-colored sugar frosting on the sad sagging cake.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What in Hell is Going On?

As many of us look on in horror we see one almost unbelievable story after another of inexplicable violence in towns and cities across America. The murder, late last week, of Chris Lane for example. Or last night's brutal murder of 89 year old WWII vet Delbert Belton.

Neither killing can be explained by anything we have come to see as the typcial "justification" for murders -- the type that made for good, traditional, television crime shows. Neither was a crime of passion -- the result of a love triangle. Neither was an unlawful expedient for getting wealth such as a bank robbery or even a common mugging.

What in heaven's name (or, more fittingly, our own) is going on?

Sociologists will no doubt soon be (maybe already are?) being interviewed on TV, giving their own long, often convoluted, explanations for what is going on.  My own explanation is not very convoluted at all. Here it is...

In some parts of society - especially academia - everything has long been seen as being governed by the forces of "power" and "victimhood." 

Some years ago I had a discussion with a very bright college student who insisted -- based on what she had been taught -- that prejudice and racial hate can only
, by definition, go one way: From those in power to their victims. That "victimized" peoples are guilty of nothing at all if they hate the empowered. But interestingly, when she and I looked at various  hate-related words in the dictionary - something that she, to her credit, was very willing to do - we saw that no such distinction existed. She was, quite honestly, surprised by this. So, I suppose, would have been her teachers.

The current administration acts as if its actions, too, are based on the above misunderstanding. And that such an understanding colors all its decisions.

Thus when a "white" person does a misdeed he is judged wicked and fully deserving of punishment - he is, after all, one of the "empowered.". (Note that if the perpetrator does not exactly fit the "white" model a new part of the "empowered class" may be created for him - a "white Hispanic" for example.)

But if someone judged to be in the "victim" class commits a bad -- even a murderous -- deed (something "frowned upon," as Jesse Jackson said of the killing of Chris Lane)  it is explainable, and thus at least in part excusable, due to the perpetrator's said "victimhood."


It is worth noting that within the above scheme a person's having their home and/or neighborhood repeatedly violated by criminals is not judged to be "victimhood." I have yet to see this addressed much less explained.

As citizens in any supposed classification -- "empowered" or "victim" -- see this pattern of condemnation and acceptance of violence, they absorb the lessons and act accordingly. This is, IMO, why we are seeing an increase in meaningless interracial crime during the Obama era. And as programs based on these viewpoints -- be they lessening enforcement of drug laws (or changing such laws), forced "diversity", etc. -- are put into place, the increase of interracial tensions will get worse and worse until either the political climate is changed (such as occurred under Mayor Giuliani in N.Y.C.) or there comes to be outright "war" between increasingly hostile groups. Scary stuff this!

The media does not write about the above largely because they do not see it -- they have themselves internalized the power/victim argument.

The police as a body do see what is happening - and in many cases reject the "empowered vs. victim" argument. But they are being forbidden by the politicians to act upon what they see. "Profiling," "stop and frisk" laws and the like have been made illegal. Thus all the mechanisms for a peaceful resolution under the law are one by one being taken away. If that fully occurs what options will remain?


What is presently occurring in the Middle East -- the open strife between groups each struggling for power (and in some cases basic survival) -- may on the surface appear to be something completely different from what we see occurring in America, but it is not.. The left's distorted thinking about classes -- the "empowered" versus the "victimized" -- has over the last several years been applied there. The "empowered" have been disempowered, their leaders removed, jailed or killed, and the representatives of the perceived "victim" classes put in their place. The violence and strife we are now seeing throughout the region is the result. How it will end is anybody's guess (apart from the many hundreds of thousands already killed -- their days of "guessing" having come to a close).

 
Are we ready now for a "Question of the Day"? 

Are Western cities and nations next?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Laughter. Tears. Curtain."

"Laughter. Tears. Curtain." That pithy and  powerful summary of life was put into the mouth of famed nineteenth century actor Richard Temple in the 1999 film "Topsy-Turvy." The words resonate because they are, in the outline of so, so many lives, true.

We -- if we are lucky -- come into life with laughter. Indeed that is one of the reasons that children are such a joy.

Adults laugh too of course, but the chortle of a child is something different. It is a laugh that comes naturally due to the simple joy of life itself, not as an outpouring that follows a perhaps sardonic punchline. (That type of laughter comes later.) And it is to be around that totally innocent, childish, type of laughter that most people -- even those who were not that 'into' children in their earlier lives -- want grandchildren.  To hold close that innocence, that pure joy, that optimism of what life can, and we commonly think, ought to be.

Tears come later. But sadly, in many cases, not much later.  The skinned knee. The dissatisfied parent or teacher. The realization that not all our wishes will be as easily fulfilled as in a fairy-tale. That pumpkins will forever stay pumpkins and mice, mice.

And then comes, yes, the curtain. Followed by an empty theater.

Perhaps it is the reality of the later that is the hardest blow of all. The realization that no matter how good a play we put on, how fine our performance, the audience will, before they have even left their isle of seats, be thinking and speaking about something else. "Feel like going out for a drink?"

How we personally deal with the above sad truths will, to a great extent, determine the quality of our own lives.


Wrote wise King Solomon: "He has made everything beautiful in its time."  "He has set eternity in the human heart."

There is nothing sardonic in those words. No punchline. No laughter to cover over or defer pain. Instead there is a simple acceptance that what is, is.

This is not a lesson that, should we learn it early, we will have learned once and then forever remember. It is a lesson that we must learn over and over again.  When we get a "B-" on a paper we were confident would receive an "A." When we receive a supporting roll in a school play, not the lead role we had set our heart upon. When the office promotion goes to someone else. When our children choose a path set by their own heart, not ours.

No one studies violin in hope of one day being the orchestra's 2nd violinist. We all see ourselves, instead, in the first chair. Or better yet, center stage, taking bows, our name out front, on the marquee, up in lights. But few of us will actually reach such heights. Most, even if we truly give our best, will sit in the 2nd chair, or a 3rd.

Should knowing this take away our laughter? If, again, we look to wise king Solomon than the answer to that is "no."

"What do workers gain from their toil?" Solomon asks. And then he answers: "Know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God."

In our secular world many do not personify fate's arrows as the doings of a personal god. Many of us do not see ourselves as an eternal soul on a god quest. We are just, in our own eyes, what we are; living the life that has somehow come before us.

Interestingly Solomon, for all his confidence in this being a god-directed universe, at least allows for such a post-modern point of view. For in the context of all the above he observes "Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

Yes... "Laughter. Tears. Curtain."

When we decide to go see a show, or leave on a vacation, or plan any activity whatever, we know that activity will one day come to an end. And yet we make such plans. We go to shows. We look forward to vacations. We enjoy them. As indeed we should.

Would it makes sense to go to a show and before the curtain even rises, or in the middle of the third and final act, to lose interest in what is happening on the stage because we know that it will soon end? Would not such be madness?

Should a young violin student give less than their all to their musical studies because in truth most violinists wind up playing "second fiddle"?

Should we never board a plane for that dream vacation because we know that one day -- a day likely already marked on the calender -- we will have to check out of that glorious hotel and leave the silver beaches behind?

Would that not, too, be madness? Is it not better by far for us to enjoy the laughter. To accept the tears. And yes, the curtain? 


To again quote wise Solomon, we should "eat... drink... enjoy the good for all the days of our life" knowing that, in Solomon's thoughtfully chosen words, it is "our portion."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Forced Diversity - Another "Cabrini-Green" in the Making

Among the several hidden initiatives in the Obama Administration's goal to bring "fundamental change" to America are plans, already being implemented, to use Federal power and Federal money to require greater "diversity" in each and every American community. 
According an article posted on Fox News HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, while speaking at the NAACP convention last month, spoke of a new policy called "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing." This policy, according to Fox, requires HUD "to gather data on segregation and discrimination in every single neighborhood and try to remedy it."

Remedy it how? Not by new laws passed by the people's representatives in congress, but by the bureaucratic tools long used by HUD -- those of influencing zoning laws, housing finance policy and infrastructure planning.
Basically by telling state and local officials 'if you want our help and cooperation you must...' -And, if past HUD activities are any guide, along with the carrot will come a powerful stick.

Is it true, as Secretary Donovan reportedly said, that " no matter how hard a child or her parents work, the life chances of that child, even her lifespan, is determined by the zip code she grows up in"?  And if a Federal bureaucracy decides that is so -- and if their collected data, in their judgment, points to "segregation and discrimination," in a given "zip code," is it then the Federal government's job to move that child and their family to another zip code?

Obviously the application of such a policy would be a very "fundamental change" in the way American communities come to exist, change and grow. A change that would potentially effect the lives of every American no matter where he or she lives. And if such a change is even being considered -- much less put in place -- is this not something that needs to be discussed openly in the public square?

If the arguments used to support such an initiative are sound they will stand scrutiny. If they are flawed the thoughts and experience of the many may bring that to light. In any case, in a nation whose foundation has been described as "government by the people and for the people" such discussion should be nothing less than a requirement.

The idea of having the Federal Government force "integration" (the word of choice before "diversity" came into favor) is nothing new.  I personally became aware of it when I was still a teenager in the 1960s. That was the period when The Diversifiers (to coin a phrase) were still pushing "pubic housing" as the answer.  -Often large apartment buildings, or groups of such, designed to house "underprivileged" inhabitants whose rent was to be subsidized by public monies according to a formula based on income and family size.

Some public housing -- built with much ballyhoo -- was in the communities where these "underprivileged" people already resided. Decrepit slum housing was torn down and replaced with new, custom designed for the purpose, structures.  Supporters of this approach to improving poor people's living conditions promised great things, all done under the rubric of "urban renewal." Other such housing was being built in the heart of other, already established, communities.

My own mother -- a very vocal supporter of many such initiatives -- explained this one to me so: "People only live in slums because they have no choice and have never experienced the pleasure of having a nice home. If given nice homes they will take pride in them and care for them. Slums will disappear."

My father expressed a somewhat different point of view. He said:  "Places become slums because the people in them don't care how they live. Many are lazy. Give them nice homes and in a few years they will have become a slum."

My mother and others like her were ever the optimists - that was clear even to me as a youth.  But what was my dad and others who thought as he did? Were they pessimists or were they realists? Time would answer that question.


By the time I had reached my twenties subsidized public housing -- often referred to as "the projects" -- had been built in many cities. Paradises these were not. What they typically were were high-rise, crime ridden, slums with halls that stank of urine.

By the 1970s the push for "public housing"in the form of large, publicly funded, building projects was largely over. By the 1990s many such "projects" had become nothing but urban blight. 

Maybe the greatest example of this -- both in its scope and the promises that had been attached to it -- was Chicago's' Cabrini-Green housing development. Indeed, if one wished to answer whose POV had proven correct -- my Mom's or my dad's -- one could simply look at the history and sad fate of the Cabrini-Green public housing development which had been, by 2011, entirely demolished.

Today the great public housing initiatives of the fifties and sixties are largely dead -- killed by what we now know to be their own folly.  Some individuals can and do change -- but the lifestyle choices people have chosen and lived by is reflected all about them -- in the very qualities of the communities in which they live. In some cases those are communities of large, gracious mansions, in others of neat clapboard-sided houses, and in others in filthy, crime-filled, urine-stinking, slums.

Note that I say "choices" -- for there is the rub. It is a sad fact of life that all mankind do not have the same "choices."  We don't, for instance, get to choose our parents. We don't, when children, get to choose the values that we are taught such an appreciation (or the lack of same) for education, or for making decisions with the long view in mind and not just the gratification of momentary pleasure.

But none-the-less it is true that the communities in which we live reflect the aggregate of such choices.

Walk or drive down any given street and you will be seeing a pastiche of the choices the inhabitants have made -- of the lives that have lived there. By parents, yes, and sadly, by their children -- especially by their teenage children.


Today -- 2013 -- the "public housing" initiative has been long passed -- ended by all the sad realities mentioned above. But the idealistic desires that created public housing still exists. As does the living spirit of people like my mom. -People desirous, not only to "see the good in people" but equally, to refuse to see the bad -- either in people or in ideas.



Does the Obama Administration's quietly administered plans to use Federal power and Federal money to force "diversity" onto every American community promise good or ill? Is race, as suggested by that initiative, the true determinant of where and how people live in today's America? Or are choices made by individuals and communities of peoples the main determining factor? And perhaps most important of all -- will people who have consistently exhibited one set of values suddenly choose to live by a different set of values just because the government has placed them in a new home -- in a community whose underlying values may be very different from their own?

In a truly free society with a government "by the people and for the people" we should at least be able to have this discussion out loud and in public. After all, you can always decide to dynamite a Cabrini-Green when you discover that the thinking behind it's creation was flawed. But what do you do when the spirit that created such a place has been forced into every town, village and city in the land?

"Forced Diversity - Another "Cabrini-Green" in the Making" was originally written for, and published by American Thinker. It is reposted here with permission.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Like Schools of Little Fishies

Today we get to see everything.

It wasn't always that way. Until the advent of the camera and the technology called rotogravure the average person never got to see things much beyond their own town or city -- much less views and visions from distant and obscure places on the earth (or beyond).

TV changed all that. Starting in the 1950s the average Joe got to see everything. Well, everything he was allowed to see. Taboos were then still common. TV was a "family medium."  So yes, we saw "everything," but not everything.

Oddly, of all the things I got to see growing up in the early age of TV perhaps the most amazing of them -- the one that most grabbed my imagination -- were the images from under the sea. Not the big scary creatures -- the sharks or the octopuses. No, but the little fishies. The swarms of them. The ones like me.


There would be Jacques Cousteau -- surrounded by miles and miles of open sea with all its wonders -- and there would be the "kids" -- doing what?  Doing nothing. Going nowhere. In a crowd. Surrounded by other fishies just like themselves. Swimming all together in one direction. Directed by?  Of that I was never sure.

And then came the final blow. What was this called,  this crowd of seemingly mindless, fish? It was called a "school."  How fitting!

"Swim for your lives!" I wanted to shout. "Get away!"  "Go! Go! There is so much to see!"  But they wouldn't go. There they'd stay, going nowhere. All together. In a crowd. In their school.

To this day that vision -- of all the little fishies swimming together -- resonates with me and makes me wonder.  What is there about being in a crowd that has such appeal. Is it the supposed safety?

That's the reason the TV announcer gave.  Together, in a school, the fish had the protection of numbers. They, he assured the listener with an authoritative tone, would not be nearly as easy to 'pick off' as a single fish would be if it were off on its own.

That, it seemed to me, was quite a price to pay for "safety."

But what about from the little fishies' perspective? Could he not swim where he wanted within the confines of the group. Up. Down. Left. Right. Was this not freedom enough?

Obviously the fish thought so. For there they stayed. Led by who knew what. The current? Unseen leaders? The crowd?

As I grew older that vision of the fish has stayed with me. Especially as I watched the currents of society and the way it, just like the current of the sea, led people here and there, all together, as if they, too, were in a school.

The crazes of interests. The odd currents that made people, all together, go here and there following this craziness and that. Sometimes calmly. Other times in a near panic.

Examples of this a rife. Here's a doozy:

If one listens to the televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F, Kennedy one will hear one reference after another to places called "Quemoy" and "Matsu." -Little Islands off the coast of mainland China.

These little islands were of such interest back then that the U.S. and China almost went to war over them.  To war!  Could you today, fifty odd years later, even find them on a map?

War?  Over that?  Yup. It almost happened.  And all the little fishes were swimming there together.

Then there are the little crazies. The fixations that oddly, suddenly, catch the interest of the school. 

Remember, back in the 1970s, all the talk about whether or not people should eat red M&Ms? On and on it went. On TV. In the newspapers. In magazines. At the hairdressers. At the barbershop.

It all started with a little Russian study that said that something called "red dye #2" -- a food coloring used in things like frankfurter casings -- could, if eaten in large quantities, lead to cancer. OMG!  Get rid of it!  "Fire! Fire!" yelled the crowd.  And then someone noticed that among the colors of the popular chocolate candy called "M&Ms" were.... gasp! ...red ones.

A near panic ensued. Newspaper articles. TV commentary.  All of which was quieted only when M&M Mars, the company that made the candy, stopped making and selling the red ones. That lasted for nearly a decade. (Today the red ones are back)


Want to know something funny?  There never was any "red dye #2" in M&Ms, but no one it seems had bothered to ask. 

The whole silly scare was for nothing. 


Today the kids are still in school.  Yes, the literal ones of course, but the figurative, fishy, ones as well. Odd fixations -- "crazies" -- still excite the crowds and get them swimming willy nilly, hither and yon..



How can you tell if something is "a crazy?"  Here are the tools I use: 

If a subject suddenly become the focus of intense interest that was not something you commonly thought about before -- not even a little -- it is probably "a crazy."

If the so-called "talking heads" are chattering about it endlessly it's likely "a crazy."

And if the Hollywood types are making it into a cause then you can be pretty damn sure.

Of course following these things -- swimming along with "the school -- may be just fine. After all, almost everyone does it.

Maybe the real crazy ones are people like me. People who prefer to swim out on their own.

After all, Jacques Cousteau seemed to think so. And who am I to argue with Jacques?









 

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Matters More – Personalities or Ideas?

We humans tend to think mostly about people. About their personalities. What they are like, what they do and what they have done. Are they 'this' or are they 'that?'  Ideas? These we think about less often.

I suppose this is entirely natural.  After all, from our very earliest days our lot in life -- even our very survival -- depends on other people and whether or not they seem to "care."


Does our mother respond to our cries with food and comfort? Is our father there for us with support in times of youthful crisis? Is our first grade teacher nice or is he or she a meany? Does our little-league coach care about how we feel after we strike out in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and the score tied two to two?


The media encourages us to keep thinking about the world in just such a childish fashion all the way up through adulthood into old age. “Does President so and so ‘care’ about the middle class?” “Which senatorial candidate will ‘care’ more about us now that we are getting old?”


From the above we might come to think -- indeed, as many have come to think -- that ideas are not very important. That what our future depends upon more is the personalities of our leaders.


During our present national crisis -- a time when our dreams for ourselves and our children seem to be slipping away -- such youthful thinking is not serving us well at all.  Are the failures of the Obama Administration's programs, for example, more a reflection of shortcoming in the man himself and his appointees as people? Or are they actually a reflection of the application of bad ideas that would be doomed to failure no matter who stood behind them?


The above questions matter. Indeed they matter greatly. After all, changing people is relatively easy -- we get the chance to do that via elections every 2, 4 or 6 years depending on the office. But ideas -- especially when ignored or when they've been just thoughtlessly accepted -- hang on and on and on. Sometimes for generations.


Does it really matter whether President Obama (or for that matter 2012 presidential candidate Romney) likes dogs? Or plays golf?


Does our nation's future hinge in any way on whether First Lady Michelle Obama wears her hair in bangs? Or whether she prefers her family to eat freshly picked greens rather than fried potatos? 


If one listens to the press coverage -- or for that matter the conversation around the office water cooler -- one might actually think so.


Why is our nation's economy frozen and on hold? Does our economy coming back to life depend on President Obama "caring" more about the middle class? 


The answer to the latter is "no" and to the former on a change in our thinking -- on something that Americans have allowed themselves to forget: That the wealth of our nation has always been created by, and depended upon, free individuals striving to fulfill their own dreams.


In its place -- and now hanging on with increasingly petrifying results -- has come the idea that our nation's wealth depends primarily upon the government's actions and a citizen's prosperity upon government largess. False ideas. Ones repeatedly proved false in all of modern history.
And note: Ideas that are equally false no matter what the personality of the person in high office.


Why is the world seemingly an increasingly insecure place? Why must American diplomats go into virtual hiding, entire embassies close down, and American citizens limit their travel simply because a number of malcontents in other lands offer threats?

Is the prime cause the weakness of a single person -- his dislike (and possibly fear) of conflict?  Or is it the replacement of one historically proven set of ideas about the just use of force by a nation with another set of ideas that condemn and limit the same?

Is the increasing division between various groups of Americans -- the sad reversal of a trend towards increasing unity that has accompanied all our nation's storied history -- primarily the result of one man's personal biases, narrow thinking and prejudice? Or is it more due to the fact that our nation as a whole has largely forgotten one of the founding ideas of our republic -- one expressed in the very motto of our nation and placed on our Seal -- "E pluribus unum" -- "Out of many, one"?

One of the things that has historically separated Americans from other peoples is this:  Our historical preference for thinking -- for being guided, and seeing our nation guided, by ideas. -Ideas that have been tested and that have proven their worth over the centuries.

Our nation, more than any other, came into existence because of an idea, or rather, a group of ideas. Ideas centered on freedom and upon the individual’s right to chart their own course.

For America to again work and prosper ideas must once again start to matter -- to dominate the national discourse.  They must again matter more than ease. More than convenience. More than safety. More than personalities. Yes, they must matter more even than you and me.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Problems, Problems, Problems All Day Long"

"Problems, problems, problems all day long
Will my problems work out right or wrong?"

When the Everly Brothers sang those words in 1958 they were naturally singing about the problems of adolescent youth. As a later verse lays it out "They're all on account-a my lovin' you like I do-o-o-o-o." But for all that their words were pretty close to a universal truth.  At any time, at any place, at any age, mankind is beset with "problems." What's odd is our proclivity more to sing about them then to actually look at them honestly and to seriously seek solutions.

But is that fair to say?  Don't we look for solutions?

In truth, no, we generally do not.  What we generally do is at best look for easy and quick answers that either promise an easy but in the end unsatisfactory "solution," or, as likely, simply cast blame and responsibility away from ourselves.

In this day and age when a thousands voices are just a few mouse clicks away that fact may seem particularly hard to understand. But having more choices doesn't in any way change the fundamental fact the we  generally don't want to have to actually make a choice at all. Easy answers are so much, well, "easier."

And looking for actual resolution to complex problems may require more than merely hearing someone else's answer -- be they presented in the form of  simple "common sense" solutions or in the form of a diatribe demanding "fundamental change." -This because what we typically choose to listen to is most often someone telling us -- perhaps just in more convincing terms -- what we are already convinced is so. People that offer us confirmation, not growth.

AM radio rants are an example of this -- be they expressing the common viewpoints of the left or, more likely in recent years, of the right.  But if we personally find such rantings unappealing lets not fool ourselves that the more erudite presentation we hear on NPR, for all their soothing sense and logic, or for that matter read in the columns and editorials of the N.Y. Times, is really anything different. Different in style, yes. Different in tone, yes. Different in objectivity? Not at all.  Rush Limbaugh, Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman have far more in common than we'd likely wish to believe, no matter which one's words may comfort us.

The above is a painful realization and one that is difficult to reach and truly accept. It means  that we - gasp! - are actually somewhat on our own. That we are required to think for ourselves -- to hear and actually weigh evidence -- and not just listen and nod our heads.  More than that it means we may wind up shaking our heads "no" when everyone around us -- everyone that matters to us -- is together nodding "yes."

In the weeks and months to come some of these TnT blog posting will be addressing common "problems," both personal and societal.

This blogger makes no claim to anything  approaching omniscience. Far from it. But I do promise to dig a little deeper, and remain a bit more objective, than that stuff we are offered daily on AM radio or read in the N.Y. Times.

As so well put in another set of lyrics, these from a half a generation later...

"You were still in school
When you had that fool
Who really messed your mind.
And after that you turned your back
On treating people kind.

You better stop, look around."

And that we will.

That much at least I can promise. :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Social Creatures

Very few animals like to be alone.  Yes, there are exceptions. The snail for instance. But such exceptions are rare. Thus we find the "school of fish." A "pride of lions." The "height of Giraffes." A "troop of monkeys."

People too are social creatures. Few of us truly want to be alone. In fact loneness is often (but not universally) seen as a harbinger of trouble.

It is our nature to congregate -- just as it is for the gnat. We do it automatically. And that is usually so even for those of us who deny we do it at all! Why is that?


Some of the reasons -- those that are innate -- may be in truth not reasons at all. It is just what we are. But other reasons are perfectly fathomable.  For one we simply need each other. Few human beings can care for all their needs -- not even in many cases the most basic of them -- on their own.

Hungry? Where are you going to get food? Even the most basic food stuffs don't (well, with a few delightful exceptions) "grow on trees."  Even bread and water -- often seen as the most basic food stuffs -- would often be unavailable to us if we were totally alone and isolated.  Someone has to grow the wheat (or rye if your family comes from where my family comes from).  Someone needs to grind that grain into flour. Someone has to provide the yeast or other leavening. Someone has to build the oven and do the baking. Can you do all those things? I cannot.

Water we might find on our own, but will it be drinkable?

And then again we might prefer beer or wine.

Yes, we humans typically need each other just to survive.  But there is much more to life than mere survival, and for these activities social interactions are even more critical.

Human beings tend to congregate according to kind.  The very naturalness of this tendency for like to be with like is today often hidden by those who wish it otherwise, be it for good purpose or (as often), ill.

For one thing if we wish to communicate with someone by means other than pointing and grunts we need to speak the same language.  Is it really unreasonable -- or the demonstration of some terrible anti-social nature -- that immigrants to the United States look to live with others that speak their own language? Not at all!

For those of us raised in a home where we heard American English from birth it may be hard to fully appreciate the challenge faced in daily life by someone who has not. And even if that person makes the effort to venture forth into the American English speaking world on a daily basis -- for school or work -- is it not completely understandable that they would find great comfort having time with others with whom communication -- yes, and shared customs -- are automatic, unstressed and natural?

That is in part why members of the British Raj (The British ruling class in India) had "English Only" clubs -- places where they could be completely comfortable, speaking their own language, sharing their own customs. Today, of course, such an understanding is beat down - made invisible. Those "English Only" clubs are seen and said to be signs of mere prejudice and hate. Odd, is it not, how social needs -- the need to be with one's own kind -- can be respected for some, and denied and disparaged for others?

But there are other ways and reasons why humans often prefer to congregate with their own. Shared interests
is one.  "Car nuts" like to talk about cars endlessly. Knitting circles get together, at least in part, because their members like to knit. Square dancers dance. Religious persons pray. Etc. Etc.  There is absolutely nothing wrong, or even hard to understand, about any of that, is there?

Young mothers prefer to congregate with other young mothers. Partly that is to share knowledge, but only partly.

If little Kyle is up all night with an ear ache his mother may know perfectly well what needs to be done for him. But her non-parent workmates may have no understanding at all -- not even a glimmering! -- of what she went through the night before, nor why it is she is struggling so through that next day while at the office.  Is it a wonder that young mothers want to be with others who share their daily trials?

Other people come to consider themselves "loners."  And some may actually be such, social needs, like everything else in nature, falling within a range with a few as statistical "outliers." But more often "loneness" is simply a sign that a person has not yet found others of their 'kind' -- others who share their interests and proclivities.  If a child experiences that type of loneness -- and the resulting lonliness -- then they will either come to see themselves as defective ("what is wrong with me?") or, as likely, take a defensive posture ("There is nothing wrong with me! What's wrong with you?")

Frankly I was such a child. Lost in my own little world. Quite content there, but certainly odd appearing to others.

My mom, years later, related to me a story of once, when I was still a toddler, leaving me with a neighbor. She said she had dropped me off on the neighbor's little 'stoop', calling in "I'm leaving Donny!"  Then, quite some time later, when she returned, she found that the neighbor had either not heard her or forgotten - but there I was, quite content on the 'stoop,' examining a leaf, a caterpillar or some such.

To my mom's grief the neighbor, after that, started spreading the story that little Donny, who never wondered off, must be "retarded." I suppose the final evidence on that is yet to fully come in. But in my case that became meaningless with the passing of time. For once I discovered where my interests actually lie -- in the arts, literature and the world of ideas -- and once I found a friend, and then later friends, who shared those interests -- I started 'wondering off' aplenty.

We might think that loneliness is a particular problem in small towns and communities. Oddly cities can add to people's loneness (and loneliness) far more than small towns.

In a small community only the true outliers are left without a sense of belonging. But in cities, where the bustling throng have to each recede into themselves to preserve even a smattering of self, many can be and are left to feel the emptiness of loneness. We can sometimes help here by displaying a touch of empathy and understanding, drawing such out, looking for common ground and common interests.

But perhaps the greatest hope for 'loners' who do not really want to be alone is the internet. For here communities of shared interest can be found, and the feeling of "belonging" that comes with such, for almost anyone with any -- even the most obscure -- of interests.

Yes, humans are social animals. As such we can reach the "height of Giraffes" and maybe even have the "pride of lions."  Or, in many cases, we can just allow ourselves to be what we comfortably are - a "gaggle of geese."



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Magical Times, Magical Places, Magical Foods, Magical Friends

I don't normally write a blog on Sunday. Man, God said, should have one day in seven for rest. Meaning, I assume, golf, tennis, bike riding, movie watching, having an extra beer, or whatever floats your (perhaps literal) boat.

But this morning, while soaking in the wafting scent of fresh espresso and at the same time opening the wrapper of a particularly delicious appearing almond and apricot biscotti, I knew there was something -- magical in its mundanity - that I just had to write about. The four things mentioned in the title above.

This morning's blog, then, is in one sense totally personal. But in another it is absolutely universal.  Take out my illustrations and replace them with your own and something equally magical will exist. -For each of us, as we go through life, experiences things that are in truth magical. Magical Times. Magical places. Magical foods and  magical friends.

Here, then, are some of mine...


Magical Times. 


Meeting, falling in love with and then marrying Jan. That would have to top my list!


Jan, just turning 18, as she looked when we met.
Seeing this photo still makes my heart go aflutter.

At a party my parents held to introduce my new bride to the family.



Early marital bliss.




The birth of our beloved son, Aaron. 




Seeing he and Jan together. 


















Watching him grow into the wonderful man he has become.

Dreaming of what?  Likely someday flying!

 
And then doing so! May all his dreams come true.
My guy with his old man as we are today.



Aaron introduced Jan and me to Sou not too long after they met. We almost immediately started thinking (and yes, saying to one-another) "wouldn't she be the most wonderful Daughter in Law!" 

And then she became just that! A beloved daughter!



Aaron and Sou, Sou's parents, and Jan and I
Two of my most favorite people. Spending time with them is truly magical.





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Places

 

We all have magical places. Here are a few of mine...


No one who has been there could exclude Disney World from their list of "magical places.". -Especially if going there was a dream of youth as it was for me. (Well, Disneyland actually.)

And how much more magical to get to share those visits with a child of your own!

Here are some photos I took during some of our earliest visits there...


The Castle! Oh, the Castle!




When I saw the Monorail on TV I thought "Wow! How cool!
Seeing the real thing was way cooler.
Go Disney!


Young Aaron and his friend Carla ride in a "Tea Cup."
What fun!





A penthouse in the Bellagio, Las Vegas. 

For me a trip to Las Vegas was never, frankly, a dream. Aaron and Sou were determined to let me know what I was missing. So they booked us in here... OMG!


The Ballagio - It's fountains as seen by night



The living room in a Bellagio penthouse suite.  Me, stay here?
Aaron and Sou said "certainly!"





 










Our bedroom in the same


...And my lady's bath. (Mine had a built in steam room instead of a jet spa)
"La la la la la"

















 


The Principality of  San Marino.  It stands out on its own in the middle of Italy.

We reached San Marino by simply following back roads that appeared to go in its general direction. We were riding a Ducati "Monster" motorcycle kindly loaned us by the company, the hosts of our visit.

Truly this was for me a trip of dreams. Jan and I, in Italy, on a Ducati.  What could have been more magical?


Glorious, glorious San Marino!


And then there is to me what is the most magical place on earth... Our home and property in Peterborough NH.




Our place in mid-Winter



 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is kind'a lovely too.

 
The view through the master bedroom's "glass wall"
on a particularly lovely Winter Morn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Great Room as seen from the loft above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
And my personal sanctuary -- the Library Loft
(seen here as it neared completion)

 

Magical Foods

 

Okay, I'm no lover of caviar or foie gras. Plain, ordinary food well prepared is what I most enjoy. Give me, for instance, a well prepared pizza and a good beer. Or a particularly tender, big, juicy steak cooked rare.  Umm!



Sitting in a small, restaurant in Catalica, Italy.
So, this is what real Italian pizza tastes like!
..
Or I can just bake up a pizza (or two) at home....





Good whiskey and/or an occasional mixed drink such as these Americanos... 



No I don't drink often, but when I do I like it smooth and sip it slowly. Ah!




Magical Friends

Magical times, magical places, magical foods -- share them with a magical friend and they'll be even better!


Two of the best friends of my youth -- Andy Bonime (left) and Al Karp (right)
This was all of our first time in a recording studio - May 1964
In Andy's long career in music and film he has seen many more.





Here's Al today - still driving cool cars and rockin'!
And my best friend of all - Jan! She's still rockin' too!


















The real wonder is that any one of us could likely create an album much like this. We each have our own magical world. Filled with magic times, magic places, magical foods and magical friends.

Thanks for allowing me to share some of mine!