Sunday, April 6, 2014

The i in Team

One of the benefits of aging is perspective. It isn't always a good thing, though, because it exposes the current time to the past.
In this case, my being a child of the 1960s has given me the perspective of what are called Aging Baby Boomers.  Good for me.

I started to think (dangerous, I know) about the differences in our society between then and now.  We can rule out the obvious ones that even kids could come up with.  The one I focused on is the difference in the way we treat each other.

The 1960s were a time of great social and political turmoil.  There were civil rights issues, protests against the war, and demonstrations demanding women's equality.  Those are all social issues, and to a large extent, have been resolved to the satisfaction of the people involved.

We could say it was a "simpler time," but that is true of any era that we look back on.  Comparatively, the 1930s were simpler, and the decades prior, and so forth.  Society continues to grow in complexity. 

The times in which we live are certainly as complex as any, and not only technologically, although it is the technology that presents the issue I found in my thinking.

I find the biggest difference in society between now and then is the focus on Me.  I know, we've been through the "Me Generation" and all, but this is something different.  What dawned on me is the proliferation of things that have the prefix you, me or i.

YouTube, iPhone, (i-everything), Facebook (a variation of me, concerning your face), Selfies (which, I know were never done with film cameras) and now this Ice Bucket thing, where people challenge other people to pour a bucket of iced water on themselves - all in the name of some charity.  Sure, there is a do-gooder aspect of it, but the bigger angle is me and what I am doing versus what you are doing - which is nothing.

We used to dump our spare change in a bucket, leave "March of Dimes" or fill books of quarters that the local fire house would collect.  Now, we donate a dollar and fill-out a tag with our name on it that gets posted at the Wawa checkout counter; collect money for a charity run or bike-a-thon for illness awareness and wear a t-shirt proclaiming "I DID THIS FOR THAT."  There is no good in anonymity.

Let us not examine the bigger issue of what good the money does for the illness.  Somebody rode a bicycle 75 miles in the name of a deadly disease, and yet, the deadly disease goes on.  It is likely that the disease pays no attention to the amount of money raised to fight it.  In a larger sense, when did throwing money at something ever change it?  The cynic would argue that the corporate end of the disease (the Association or Foundation) that benefits from the money would be ill-served to end the disease, lest its benefactors be out of a job.  The money goes toward propegating the need for the money.  It is a literal death spiral.

You will be sadly disappointed if, at the end of your life, the time and money you have spent and raised for these diseases has been spent and raised in vain - which is the highest probability.  You would be better served - and the victims would be better served - if you gave your time and money directly to them and not to some Association or Foundation who will spend a fraction of your dollars on something that is not closely related to finding a cure or making the victims happier.

You can spread happiness and do good on your own - without Facebook posts, videos, or drawing attention to yourself.

Try it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Birds

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
- Genesis 1:26

Maybe it's that, or maybe it's something else, but I feel a responsibility to the birds.  Dominion, by its definition means sovereignty, and as such, imparts us with a responsibility to the animals the cohabit this Earth with us.

Maybe it's the idea that we are all born to a place, and with some of us, it is impossible to leave that place.  The birds were here first, and as such, they have prominence over those of us who built houses on top of their houses.  We chased them from their place and forced them to live in our place.

Maybe that's too simple.

I have had a bird feeder outside my tiny condo ever since I have lived here, which is now going on its twenty-third year.  The past few winters have been kind to my aviary friends, but this year, not so much.  Snow cover makes it difficult for them to find food, so - to me - and my dominion, I believe that falls on me to find food for them.  It's pretty easy, really.  All I have to do is walk to the grocery store and find bags of food for them. If they had the ability to purchase food, I'm sure they would.  They cannot, so it falls on those of us (me) with dominion.

Whatever the reason, it gives me great pleasure to see the finches, sparrows and the ground-feeding doves feasting on the fruits of my labor.  Maybe I put to fine a point on it, but I think they appreciate it.

Short story:  My previous cat, the late, lamented Kitty, was sick.  I knew he was sick because he didn't move from his spot and didn't touch his food for an entire day.  I wanted to take him to the Veterinarian, but my ex-wife thought that "he'll be fine."  I knew he wasn't "fine,"and told her, "If he could drive himself to the vet, he'd do it. But, he cannot, so it falls on us to do it for him."  I took him, and he was given an antibiotic to cure his problem.  In a couple of days, he was well and I knew that he wouldn't have been any better if we had left him to his own will. It all goes back to the "dominion over animals" part of the thing.  We owe them.

So, here I am, spending good money to feed birds that I do not own nor control.  However, I feel like it makes me a part of the giant circle of life, or whatever thing you want to assign to it.  Suffice it to say, the birds have no control over where they are and are powerless to change it, so it falls on me (or you) to make their lives as pleasant as possible.  It's part of our place here on Earth.

Or, maybe I just like birds.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

(F)uck Dynasty.

Whenever someone complains about bad officiating in sports, I say that the problem with leagues expanding to more teams is that there is a need for more officials.  More officials means more bad ones and that means there will be more bad calls.  The same is true of television.
Back in the 1960s (where I come from) television was confined to three networks, PBS and a few UHF channels that you needed a special antenna to receive.  Now - there are hundreds of channels, all in need of programming in order to fill their 24-hour cycle.  From that was borne such things as so-called "reality" shows and programs that do nothing but follow people around for days at a time, editing their activities down to a half-hour and showing it on television.  From that, we have created television stars where otherwise would have been just regular people doing their jobs.  That is where the problems start.
People like the Kardashian's, those housewives and other such TV-created people find themselves in the limelight where they should really be in the background.  It is the expansion of television that has created so-called stars and forced us to pay attention to their viewpoint.  One could even say that the Internet has forced people like myself to find a forum where I would otherwise be ranting to a select group of people, instead of the World-Wide Web.  Go figure.
The latest sputum from one of these TV stars comes in the form of "Duck Dynasty," a previously harmless program about some hicks who have made a fortune out of manufacturing duck calls.  Sounds like a perfect TV platform, right?  Sure, if you are completely out of pawn shop owners, motorcycle makers, and over-sexed housewives to exploit.  Yeah.  To wit, comments from "Duck Dynasty" star (yeah) Phil Robertson went like this:
“Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers - they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.  Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Apparently, the homosexuals were the only people offended by Mr. Robertson's comments.  Perhaps that is because adulterers, male prostitutes and greedy drunkards do not have a political action group?  Either that, or hate only manifests itself in the form of homosexual love.  I have no idea.
Since that wasn't enough, he continued:
“It seems to me, a vagina - as a man - would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” he said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking, ‘There’s more there! She’s got more to offer.’ I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
Logical?  What's logical about eating pig's feet or goat testicles?  Were we put here to decide what is logical for each other?  People drive vehicles that are meant to be used in warfare.  They smoke cigarettes.  They consume massive quantities of food and alcohol.  Our tastes in music, movies and television vary so much that even programs like "Duck Dynasty" are viewed by 13 million people every week.  What is logical about any of that?
Were we put here to judge the habits of our fellow humans or were we put here to be who we were made to be?  If you believe in God - the God who made your body and made it in His image - can you be intolerant of how others behave?
The anger and outrage that has been directed at those comments leaves me wondering (a) why it is only directed at the homosexual side of the comment and (2) why the anger exists to begin with.

Leave the judgment to God, if that is where you place your faith.  Otherwise, leave people to live their own lives.  Vent your anger where it will do some good - like the obscene number of television programs and how much attention we pay to people who otherwise would be ranting to themselves.
Wouldn't that make the world a better place?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wanderer of the Underworld.

Photo by me. Others available on my Flickr page.

This isn't a music review site.  Mostly, it is a place where I gripe about stuff that gets on my nerves.  Occasionally, I will stumble onto something that makes me happy that I want to share with people.  Having been raised in the 1960s and schooled on music in the 1970s, I trust my instincts, and you should, too.  So, here goes.

Through an interesting chain of events, I became acquainted with a guitarist named Chris Baker.  He had been playing with some mutual friends in bands and jam sessions.  Through Chris, the magic of the Internet and its marketing appeal, I found Amenti Rover.

For an old music-head like myself, it's refreshing to hear young people (real young people, not young people who I consider young) who get ... really GET music, and what emotion, drive and spirit are about when it comes to what I consider music.  Not auto-tune junk or stage antics.  Real music.  Maybe I'm jaded? Or maybe I just know what good music is.  Yeah, that's it.

Chris was kind enough to send me the five tracks from their debut EP, which should be available soon.  For now, you can download the first track from their web site, or at the bandcamp site, here.  As for the others, they have my highest endorsement.  It's great music, played with passion, fun, and love.

"Jezebel" puts me to mind of some of Leslie West's Mountain and the passion that his band had, complete with drive of its main riff and the drops in the chords of the chorus.  Crank it up and disturb your neighbors.  Oh, and go to the site I linked you to and download it.

"Girls of the City" is a fun, blues-influenced rocker whose energy you can pick up from the beginning.  Josh and Lake's driving rhythm section carry another great riff, and Jarrett's vocals let us know how much fun a nice little rock song can be.

"Tired of It" is one of the highlights of their live shows.  The thing about most studio recordings is that they fail to convey the energy of the live performance.  In fact, if I were King of the World, most bands would have their debut CDs recorded at a live show, but I digress.  This song (and the others, in fact) prove that it is possible to convey the energy of a live performance to a studio. It is crisp, powerful and energetic.  All that stuff that's so important to me - and should be important to you, too.

"Changing Sun" is the real throwback tune for me.  It's reminiscent of a time when music was thoughtful.  Not only is it a fantastic song, but, true to its name, it is a changing Sun, with several time-signature and mood shifts, from a happy 6/8, slowing to a more 3/4 feel and finally to a quick 4/4.  It keeps the listener actively engaged - and I do love to be actively engaged.  There is a point (near the end) at which it could become a self-indulgent guitar solo, but they leave us with just enough to make us want to hear it live, where maybe it will realize that end ... just for a little while, at least. (C'mon, Chris)

"Satan Woman" is another highlight of their shows.  It starts off in your face, and doesn't let up.  This tune has all the big-production sound you'd hear from any (egad) mainstream rock tune, yet you don't lose the energy of the live performance.  Have I said how much I value that?

I'm not a professional music reviewer, and I have difficulty transferring my feelings for emotive music to the written word.  I don't have the flowery language that accompanies most reviews ... but, trust me on this  ... this is good.  Do I need to be more descriptive?
Seek-out good music and you will find happiness.  As good as these songs are, there are many others that they did not record that you should hear.

And you can hear them ...
January 3 at The Legendary Dobbs in Philadelphia
January 18 at Hebe Music in Mt. Holly, NJ

Amenti Rover
~ Wanderer of the underworld ~

Jarrett Mead - Voice
Chris Baker - Guitar
Lake Muir - Bass
Josh Merhar - Drums

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Too Much Technology

OK, so that is the commercial for the Galaxy watch-thingy.  The first thing that strikes me about it is that its predecessors are all fictional devices that had no place in actual life.  There is a reason for that.  We never had the technology.  Now that we do, that doesn't give us an excuse to have another device that interrupts our daily lives to inform us of something coming in from the outside.
Seriously, are people willing to pay for this junk?
The second thing is that I can't imagine why anyone would want a device on their wrist that tells them that something in their pocket needs attention.  Isn't that the ultimate in redundancy?  Why would anyone pay for a device that tells them something that they already paid for?  The answer, I guess, is that it's possible.  We can invent devices that tell us what we already know.
Something I would pay for is a device that re-routes my calls to a person on the other end who says, "Anthony is not interested in taking your call."  Where is that device?  Instead, we get things that further interrupt our day.  And, this is progress?
What's next?  A device planted in our ear to let us know that the device on our wrist is buzzing to alert us of something going on in our pocket?  Are our lives so devoid of distractions that we need another one?
Bravo to you, Samsung, for inventing a device to let me know what is going on in the device I already own - but I think if it started buzzing, my first inclination would be to flush it down the toilet.  Would my cellular device be able to track it on its way to the local sewage plant?
That, I would pay for.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tis the Season.

It's "The Holidays."  The time of year when we make excuses for our absence ("It's the holidays, and I'm so busy") It is the time of year when we are supposed to be kinder to our fellow man, "In the spirit of the holiday."  That's the idea.  When it's over, we can go back to being the despicable bastards that we are.  But for now, it's all "love one another" and "kindness" crapola. It's all too phony for me to believe.
The idea springs from The Bible - or we are led to believe.  There are conflicting ideas.  On the one hand, we are told it's a Christian celebration of our savior's birth.  On the other hand, we are told it's the season of Santa and his sack of toys, and that impossible idea that he brings toys to "all the good boys and girls of the world."  You can believe what you wish to believe.  The facts fly in the face of that...
When the Christ-child was born "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). This never could have occurred in Judaea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date.
And, that's how it begins.  If you are to believe that this is the season of His birth, then you must believe in the truth. The idea of Christmas being a Christian celebration of [anything] are fallacy in the highest degree.  There is a mixture of beliefs that can only be perpetrated by modern marketing.  Christmas trees, Christian masses, Santa Claus, the birth of Christ, parades, and gift-giving.  It's apples and oranges.  Whether or not you choose to face it is up to you.
The book "Answers to Questions," compiled by Frederick J. Haskins, says: "The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era."

You have fallen for marketing that is only as old as you. The idea of Christmas and its Pagan ideas goes way beyond what you have lived through. Do some research and find out how silly those beliefs are and how you have given-into the idea of guilt-associated gift-giving.  It's sad, really.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153- 155, I quote: "The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows."
Christmas has become a holiday of spending and marketing, propagated by retailers.  They market it as a time of guilt.  If you do not justify your love for others by purchasing the "perfect gift" for them, then you have failed.  It is the root of the season.  You can call it a Christian holiday or make it into some sort of societal celebration of goodness -  but it is really built around retail marketing and guilt.
The bigger problem is that "the season" has gotten to the point that it now extends beyond Thanksgiving, into October and has become a source of income for our giant retail machine.  What the retail machine has come to realize is that, if they can convince us to rear our children to believe in this nonsense, they can survive through another generation of guilt-associated gift-giving.  And so on, and so on - until we are so deep into it that we have forgotten where it came from.
I'm afraid that point has already passed.  You are too far gone.

Part One

"It's the holiday season" or "It's the holidays" go the pre-packaged responses to things posed to people between now and the end of the year.  I would call them excuses, but others see them as reasons that they cannot either process information or accomplish tasks - other than the requisite shopping.

We (you) burden ourselves with guilt-ridden gift-giving at Christmas.  The advertisements are filled with angst.  "Make this the perfect gift for the ones you care for."  "Tell them how much you love them with [fill-in the name of the item]."
We (you) are supposed to find the ideal item that will express your deepest emotions when you find it, wrap it with paper and place it under a symbol of Pagan seasonal worship at this, the holiest of holy seasons.

It's supposed to be a time of ... oh, I don't know, worship - gratitude - giving - you name it.  What it has become is a season of spending and financial sacrifice to prove that we love others.  Stores are open on Thanksgiving so that we can get a jump on those incredible "Door Buster" savings.  NOTE: I checked the stores on Saturday. Doors are intact.

Jewelry stores advertise rings and other such male-induced guilt-induced love spending.  Even auto-makers get in on the gimmick with so-called sales on cars.  I have yet to see a car with a giant bow on the roof on Christmas morning. I guess I don't live right.