Archive for July, 2007

Middle East Peace in Our Time?

Oh, what the heck, we’ve tried nearly ever other tactic in the Middle East for peace, why not pump $20 Billion in arms into the place.  It will either lead to peace or help ignite World War III.

Notice the Newspeak: “US touts new Mideast Aid Package”  Aid Package?  I guess it’s an aid package if you happen to be a U.S. arms manufacturer.   It is just hard to believe that we have sunk so far in order to prop up our own crumbing economy.  Certainly noone wants a policy of appeasement reminiscent of pre-WWII Europe, but do we have a particularly good track record of sending in massive arm shipments to an unstable region (think Iran-Iraq war)?

But I guess my knowledge about the Middle East has not evolved much* since hearing the Treatise on Middle East Peace offered by Paul, the guy who used to paint our house, when I was 7:

“…Those people is crazy – they’ve been killing each other since long before you and I got here and they’ll be doing it long after we is dead…”**

And doing it all the more efficiently thanks to an extra $20 billion in U.S. “Aid.”

Notes:
* And I was a Middle Eastern “Cryto-Linguist” for 5 years in the USAF (though I still have no idea what that job title meant).
** Paul died in 1994 so he apears to have been correct so far. 

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Talent + Adversity = Excellence

I was watching a Chuck Berry Concert on TV the other evening – Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll! commemorating Chuck’s 60th Birthday in 1987. 

I am certainly no Music Historian, but to my limited experience it seems that Chuck single-handedly gave birth to Rock and Roll – or at the very least influenced it so profoundly that it would not exist in the same form without him. 

Watching and thinking about Chuck Berry and many much less known and appreciated Black artists of the 20th century set my mind to wondering: “What set them apart?” “Where did they come from?” “What recipe or cookbook could I use to create my own Chuck Berry?”

Lead Belly,  Ray Charles, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry – exactly how had some of the historically most oppressed people in the U.S. – Southern Blacks – transformed themselves into its most supreme talents and recreated American art and culture in their own image?

So I tried to come up with a formula for creating such a cultural phenomena:

Raw Talent + Adversity = (potential) Excellence

And I liked this simple, perfect formula/storyline – only one problem, some of these artists had not necessarily been directly oppressed but certainly were Middle Class children of those who had been oppressed.  So I tried another formula:

Raw Talent + Some Adversity + {Enough Economic Comforts To Support Arts} = (chance at) Excellence

No quite as compact perhaps but probably a little better model of reality.  Certainly the converse of the original formula is true:

Talent – Adversity = Mediocrity

For example:

John  Lennon – Climb to the Top = Julien Lennon

So here is my formula:

Child + Some Level of Creature Comforts & Leisure to think about Arts and Sciences + Adversity = next Cultural Phenom

So my plan is simple, move my family to San Dimas, CA, allow my son to fail a history exam, and then he can fulfill the prophecy foretold in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Sounds “most righteous dude.”

Marriage and Matters of the Heart

I leave home from time to time and I’m always surprised by the intense renewed appreciation both for and from my spouse upon my return home.

Eventually this appreciation turns to familiarity and then turns to something that borders on contempt and then things finally return to their pre-trip levels of normalcy.  So imagine a typical return home as a romantic sine wave with its peaks, its valleys, and then its leveling off.

But this time, rather than just go along for the rollercoaster ride, I wanted to keenly observe this phenomena, track its progression, and study its lifecycle.  And along the way I came up with a few questions:

  • Is it at all possible to reshape this standard relationship curve by changing the set of inputs?
  • Just exactly how do we transform ourselves from interested, considerate, and near euphoric mates into a bunch of belching, farting, and complaining troglodytes?
  • Exactly how do we ever get to the point where we treat our spouses with less consideration and respect than we show any other human?

And the answers gleaned thus far…

  • For the record, regardless of actions, its does not seem possible to change this cycle – (euphoric and erotic) love fades – spouses grow up  – they get real jobs with real responsibilities – they have kids whose lives have their own special sets of demands – and that is life.
  • We go from being on our best behavior and trying very hard to impress at the beginning of a relationship to our worst behavior and frankly not trying very hard (if trying at all) as the relationship progresses.
  • We seem to be hardest on our spouses because we expect more of them than of any other human being (including ourselves).  Where could these expectations possibly come from?  Most likely the messages transmitted from all forms of media – movies, books, magazines, internet, etc. all portraying some idiolized fantasy realm populated by perfect mates (a Stepford Spouse who is 1/3 Saint, 1/3 Genius, and 1/3 Porn Star).  We need to realize, regardless of media portrayal to the contrary, that our spouses are ordinary humans like ourselves and set our expectations accordingly.

This all sounds like pretty terrible stuff doesn’t it?  But it is not, these examples are but the most negative and most extreme.  Along with these negatives, you get many positives:  comfort, commitment,  and all of those other tenets laid out in the marriage vows.  Of course, you don’t get these things for free – you definitely have to be willing to work for them – and especially try to minimize the many negatives mentioned here.

And it apparently doesn’t hurt to go away and give your spouse a break every so often either.  So here’s to looking forward to the next trip – and appreciative homecoming.

Now, where was I?

A Ham Sandwich even a Grand Jury could not Indict

It seems that a panel of public citizens in New Orleans, i.e. a grand jury, has finally stopped a bit of prosecutorial zealotry not seen since the exploits of Durham’s Mike Nifong. 

For even though a prosecutor can usually “persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich,” they were somehow unable to convince a grand jury that a Doctor and 2 Nurses who gave pain medicine to their dying patients during the aftermath of Katrina had murdered their patients with “lethal cocktails.”

Wow, it requires some pretty twisted logic to label murderers of the very health care workers who stayed at their posts and cared for their patients in the most extreme of circumstances.  All this while they were abandoned by all levels of government in the outside world.

Now maybe the prosecuters can go after the real criminals – from the workers who abandoned their posts during the storm to the ineffectual bureaucrats who all effectively fiddled while Rome flooded.   

Please be Nice to Your Brother When he Goes to War

One of the more heartbreaking images from Yahoo’s “Portrait of the Fallen (a display at Arlington during July, 2006)” is this one:

Arlington National Cemetary Display

which includes the regretful letter of a sister to her dead brother.  Let’s hope Dennis is at a place where he can still get his sister’s message and they will get a chance to make up yet.