Sunday, May 29, 2016

I'm Not Sure What to Think about This

We shall see.

Quote of the Week

When I was about twelve, I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody's noticed. Either I'm a genius or I'm mad, which is it? "No," I said, "I can't be mad because nobody's put me away; therefore I'm a genius." Genius is a form of madness and we're all that way. But I used to be coy about it, like me guitar playing. But if there's such a thing as genius — I am one. And if there isn't, I don't care.- John Lennon, 1970.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Predominant Mood

C. Murphy/Sloan

So many stories I could tell
I had the world under my spell
Does this even ring a bell?

I wonder because
Don’t you know who I was?
Interest in me dissipated
All my methods antiquated
I’ve been cast away
Lost and friendless today

I made a name for myself
When one could do such a thing
A reputation that’s held
Together by string

And so I chose to cherish those
Who think there’s some purity
To fading into obscurity

What works on paper
Has the tendency to ride on vapor
Sometimes what’s not to love
But then other times what’s to like?

I’m unable to tell if I know who I am
A modest success, a shill, or a sham
I’m not afraid of what I’ve made of
But my trajectory
Has me fading into obscurity

You kids’ll have to fend for yourselves
Because your mother’s gone and asked for the elves
Who used to do all the work around here
Well they’re not gonna do it anymore

You kids can kiss your mother goodbye
And I’ll give you twenty minutes to cry
She used to do all the work around here
But she’s not gonna do it anymore

And you’re getting to old to be cared for by me

And for that matter
This cake is baked but I much prefer the batter
Perhaps in part because it had so much potential
To be delicious and still be influential

I’m undecided
If the evidence that I have provided
Explains what I mean
It’s too late now ’cause I can’t see or be seen

And I know you don’t shrug through my tears
So I’m not gonna shed ’em anymore
Out of favor with the flavor of the week’s where I’ll be
And fading into obscurity

An outsider but in good company
Oh yeah
I’m fading into obscurity

I’m undecided

Saturday Video

There's a destination a little up the road
From the habitations and the towns we know
A place we saw the lights turn low
Jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flow

Pulling out jives and jamboree handouts
Two turntables and a microphone
Bottles and cans and just clap your hands and just clap your hands

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

Take me home in my elevator bones!
That was a good drum break

Pick yourself up off the side of the road
With your elevator bones and your whip-flash tones
Members only, hyponotizers
Move through the room like ambulance drivers
Shine your shoes with your microphone blues
Hirsutes with your parachute flutes
Passing the dutchie from coast to coast
Let the man Gary Wilson rock the most

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

What about those who swing both ways: AC-DC's

Two turntables and a microphone
Two turntables and a microphone

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

Oh, dear me. Make Out City is a two-horse town
That's beautiful, Dad
Get my microphone

Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone
Where it's at
I got two turntables and a microphone

I got plastic on my mind
Telephone plastic baby

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There She Goes

There she goes
There she goes again
Racing through my brain
And I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

There she blows (there she blows again)
There she blows again (there she blows again)
Pulsing through my vein (there she blows again)
And I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

There she goes
There she goes again
She calls my name
Pulls my train
No one else could heal my pain
But I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

There she goes
There she goes again
Chasing down my lane
And I just can't contain
This feeling that remains

There she goes (there she goes again)
There she goes (there she goes again)
There she goes (there she goes again)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016: Making Sense of Where We Are as a Nation

Anyone who knows me well recognizes that I don't like being caught flat-footed. After a trip, I frantically unpack and put everything back exactly where it was before I left. I recently read somewhere that my behavior is symptomatic of someone who wants to assert control over unfamiliar surroundings. No one panics more than me when I momentarily lose my cell phone, or my wallet, or my keys. Most of the time, such items are easily found, and yet in the process of locating them I'm convinced they are gone forever, never to return.

This is why I am often reminded of the biblical Parable of the Lost Coin.

Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”

Jesus speaks here beyond the literal, specially about the concept of redemption. And by this he means the radical notion that it is never too late to turn away from sin. There is no hierarchy in Heaven over who arrived first or last. This speaks contrary to the way we are conditioned to think and the games we play in the course of our lifetime. We learn to flaunt our credentials, our history of good works, and the sacrifices it took to reach them. We rationalize what we do by saying that such things are simply the way of the world, that they are necessary evils, and they cannot be evaded.

In life, we expect to be treated differently if we've reached some high achievement, made lots of money, or accumulated some combination of the two. In political parties, workplaces, and especially in churches, seniority means that those who have been in good stead longer have more say and more control. These people who occupy the favored seats have the right to guide and lead in the way they choose. To many, Jesus' ministry is an egalitarian one, where the first person to speak is held in the same high esteem as the one who has spoken ten thousand times before.

Backing up one verse from where we started out, the meaning of the parable is made clear.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The upcoming Presidential election showcases two of the least religious candidates in American history. Hillary Clinton rarely mentions her suburban Illinois Methodist upbringing, a past that at least instilled the candidate with a strong sense of social justice. On the other side, Donald Trump could almost be considered areligious, a fact that until this moment was a sure violation of Republican orthodoxy. Assuming the point is raised during the campaign, Trump can avoid even discussing religion, specifically Christianity on the stump unless placed on the defensive.

This would be unheard of not that long ago. GOP candidates have consistently and conspicuously put public displays of faith before voters for a very long time. Courting Evangelical conservative voters, according to the conventional wisdom, panders to the base. It is a move of either cynicism or desperation that many such voters have seemingly placed victory above rhetoric this go round. Clinton is not especially strong on the issue and is unlikely to force the issue. Neither candidate is likely to have a Pastor Wright problem this cycle.

Every election is a barometer of how we have changed as a nation. Only the once-in-a-decade census shows the macro trends that began small, yet grew steadily over time. 2016 might well the first sign that we as a country have moved towards a new Post-Christian reality. Here on the East Coast, organized religion has been dying for a long time. The Midwest and the South continue to uphold long-standing religious traditions and have the highest rate of church attendance, but disenfranchised and thoroughly disgusted voices can be heard from those places as well. In time, I expect that more and more Americans will fall away from church or some sort of religious observance.

Members of Generation X and the Millennials that followed them have consistently shown little to no interest in religion. Within these two subgroups, what remains are a mere sliver of what once existed, a minority group of leaders and activists. These are the sort of people who take their convictions and leadings very seriously, often wishing that others adopted this same kind of passion.

Extremely motivated believers are not enough. Church was designed for mass participation, specifically set up as a place where any and all are truly welcome. It makes me very sad to see these traditions slowly withering away. From now on, I inhabit a space dominated by baby boomers. They may be the last generation, in all seriousness, who wish to carry the mantle.

So how does one find these lost souls, these coins in search of a finder? Many Evangelicals have recognized and observed the distressingly slow decline for years. Many now seek to perpetuate and plant their chosen faith in developing parts of the world. The continent of Africa is a particularly favored target. Asia and South America are next. To some observers, this is merely another form of colonialism, presented with a slightly different backswing. These deeds and the cheerful enthusiasm in which they are undertaken makes even other religious people a mite uneasy.

The Roman Empire successfully spread Christianity across the civilized world, even as its borders eventually grew too large and unwieldy to defend. Today, some people of faith are completely in favor of outsourcing a precious commodity to the third world, their eye on conserving the old ways, keeping Christianity alive, thriving, and intact.

I personally am highly conflicted about the process, as I most certainly do not want my own faith, Quakerism, to die out. Neither do I wish to supplant the ideas of the conqueror upon the conquered, even though that very same process made me who I am today. Assuming I am speaking to those who live in the so-called First World, the same process made you who you are today, as well.

Speaking of American politics, let me put it another way. When I fear that our own treasured Democratic values themselves are truly under threat, not presented in a spirit of reactionary fear-mongering, then I will sound the alarm for a five-alarm fire. Until then, everything is not lost, but time is of the essence. We need to act and come together. Our causes are linked by necessity.

Members of liberal and progressive faith traditions are not nearly as ambitious as our Evangelical and ideologically conservative brothers and sisters. Many of the former are divided among themselves as to know how to best grow the faith in the parts of the world where we first came to be. But in truth, the extreme skepticism and even hostility towards organized religion has in large part caused this problem. Sixty years ago, a sitting U.S. President could state, without pandering to voters, that he was a Christian and a Democrat, and nothing more.

The last Democratic President to make the same distinction was Jimmy Carter, whose rise to prominence came about four decades ago. Since then, the liberal electorate and the powers that be have skillfully talked out of both sides of its mouth on the subject of religion, much to its detriment. It has equivocated by way of a mealy-mouthed, on-one-hand-but-on-another-hand ambivalence that is always careful to offend no one, but offers no real path forward.

And it's this attitude, among others, which must change if Christianity in its current form is to even survive the next few decades. Faith is undone and perverted by people, not by the concepts and precepts themselves. The Left is reaping what it has sown by disassociating itself from Christianity, and sometimes even a higher power. The Right has dug its own grave by selectively picking the verses, moral lessons, and self-serving emphasis it most agrees with, implying that the entire faith itself has no greater context aside from the narrow interpretation of some. Both are wrong. Neither is correct.

If all else fails, I suggest buying a one-way ticket to some simpler place, some far away hamlet. A person might be heard and understood there, not talked over on the cable television news program of one's choice. The next six months are going to be bitter and nasty, and the vitriol ginned up by both sides will likely persist well past November. If ever the world needed religion, let it be today. The message remains, but we must stop resisting, thinking that we are somehow in control of our own destiny. Election years are always proof to me that despite on-message delivery and focus groups, one can never prepare for the unexpected.  

Quote of the Week

"...Of no one marrying, or going home, or getting a job in a town a thousand miles away, or doing any of the traitorous things friends do after college."- Donna Tartt, The Secret Life

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Saturday Video

We like the breeze flow straight out of our lids
Them they got moved by these hard-rock Brooklyn kids
Us floor rush when the DJ's booming classics
You, dig the crew on the fattest hip-hop records
He touch the kinks and sinks into the sounds
She frequents the fattest joints caught underground
Our funk zooms like you hit the Mary Jane
They flock to booms man boogie had to change
Who freaks the clips with mad amount percussion
Where kinky hair goes to unthought-of dimensions
Why's it so fly cause hip-hop kept some drama
When Butterfly rocked his light blue-suede Pumas
What by the cut we push it off the corner
How was the buzz entire hip hop era
Was fresh and fat since they started saying audi
Cause funks made fat from right beneath my hoodie
The poobah of the styles like Miles and shit
Like sixties funky worms with waves and perms
Just sendin' chunky rhythms right down ya block
We be to rap what key be to lock

I'm cool like dat
I'm cool, I'm cool

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Video (A Day Early)

For Donald Trump

I bet you fall in bed too easily
With the beautiful girls who are shyly brave
And you sell yourself as a man to save
But all the money in the world is not enough

I bet you've long since passed understanding
What it takes to be satisfied
You're like a vine that keeps climbing higher
But all the money in the world is not enough
And all the bridges blown away keep floating up

It's cold
And rough

And I kept standing six-feet-one
Instead of five-feet-two
And I loved my life
And I hated you

It's cold out there
And rough

And I kept standing six-feet-one
Instead of five-feet-two
And I loved my life
And I hated you

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Quote of the Week

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.-H.L. Mencken