A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Everyone be thankful for all of your many blessings. Here's a special Turkey Day present from me to you:

Oddly enough, I saw this entire episode about three nights ago. I hadn't seen WKRP in Cincinnati in at least twenty years and the Turkey Drop was the first one I catch. Beautiful. Brilliant. Hilarious. The show holds up pretty well, though the late '70s and early '80s clothing and hair is amusing. And the DJs are still spinning 45s-- actual vinyl. Only about 30 years ago and the state of the art was vinyl.

Reflect and appreciate all that you have. Eat lots of food. Watch football.

Life is good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Hate Meme

I made a somewhat... pointed? provocative?... I dunno the right word, but I commented on BP's blog the other day about the evil of hatred, in particular the rising visceral hatred of much of the Left towards George W. Bush. It wasn't innocent-- I knew that BP and most of his readers hated Bush and I knew most of their reasons-- and I admit I was curious to see the response.

Well, here it is.

I think BP has rather vividly made my point for me-- hatred is bad, end of story. Because if you hate something, there can be no forgiveness, no redemption, no acknowledgment that the hated entity has any redeeming values or is capable of anything good.

"And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate the beauty and truth of Paul's writings in Corinthians. And if the greatest is love, the worst must be it's opposite, hate. Just as the warmth and joy and peace of love spreads from those who share it, so to does the anger, bitterness and inner turmoil of hate spread from those who embrace it.

Hate stresses the body-- it makes stomachs churn and muscles tighten up in the fight/flee response. It raises blood pressures and makes us more susceptible to taking paranoid feelings and perspectives as legitimate.

Hate clouds judgment, leading BP to lump such things as "I hate Bush because he has diluted and distorted the Constitution to benefit a single Political Party", which is a legitimately bad thing that Bush has done, with such things as "I hate Bush because he says 'nuculer'", which is rather petty and irrelevant.

Hate spreads. Anger, bitterness, short-tempers, snippy responses, over-reactions, paranoia, assuming the worst. All symptoms of hatred and all very contagious. The old saying is "All it takes is a few bad apples to spoil the whole barrel," right? Well, think about the various "bad apples" that you've known in your life and then think about how much of that negative energy comes from hating-- hating their job, hating their life, hating people that aren't like them, hating people that disagreed with them and hating themselves. And think about how coercive and insidious all that negative hateful energy was on you and others.

Pretty soon reasonable, intelligent and generally affable folks like BP are so caught up in their hatred of George Bush that their ill-will for the man starts to bleed into anything and everything he is connected to-- most or all Republicans become evil, the media becomes "Teh Mighty Wurlitzer of Right Wing Media", and things that anyone who supports or likes Bush says or does can are automatically assumed to be wrong, misguided or "canards".

Now, I don't believe that all of BP's vehemence at the Right is a product of hatred of George Bush-- clearly there's plenty of hatred of Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and a variety of others. Nor do I mean to imply that folks on the Right hate any less and I do believe that much of the hate that Bush inspires is a direct result of his embrace of Karl Rove's dirty tricks, negative attacks and policies to marginalize the middle.

I also don't mean to pick on BP, who I still find to be an intelligent, rational and generally affable fellow, but I think the vehemence of his response to my rather mild rejoinder to be wary of casting stones while living in a glass house is a pretty vivid illustration of why I think hatred is bad. It blows things out of proportion. WAAAAYYY out of proportion oftentimes.

Getting back to an earlier point-- hate precludes redemption and forgiveness. Case in point:
In short, Nick, the "Hate comes from both sides" is useless here until someone from the Right repudiates and excommunicates Newt, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Pat Robertson from our public discourse. In reality, the premiers of the Republican Party have been using 'Civility' to distort and disrupt any objections from their counterparts while using terms of disparagement and denigration to turn Democrats into Demons for the last twenty five years.
In other words, the other guy is worse AND he started it so I am justified in my own hatreds, biases and disdain of the opinions of those that disagree with me. I ain't changing 'til he does. Which is, quite frankly, pretty lame.

"An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind." --Gandhi

There is a disturbing culture of fear, bias and hatred in our country these days. Much of it is due to George Bush, his appointees and his advisers and I understand why many hate him and his policies. But hating doesn't help-- it only feeds the beast.

Hating never helps.

Herein ends the sermon.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Never Misunderestimate the Backlash

People often seem to take a twisted pleasure in taking an overstated position and completely embracing a similarly overstated opposition to that position. I suppose it's part of human nature to want to "one up" the other guy. Or something.

Anyway, case in point is the global warming issue. Some of the proponents of radical change are SUPER HUGELY SERIOUSLY AND MOST DEFINITELY CERTAIN THAT WE MUST CHANGE NOW OR BE IN BIG BIG BIG TROUBLE MISTER! Regardless of the economic, societal and political consequences of those radical changes. A rational response to this might be to try and weigh the consequences of climate change vs. the consequences of preventing/fixing climate change.

Alternatively you can ridicule those who disagree with you and advocate the use of cars with bad gas mileage, leaving your lights on for no purpose and generally being a complete A-hole simply because you can be. Which is basically cutting off your nose to spite your face.

In other words stupid. And the growing concern I have over the polarization of politics, culture, the media, education and just about everything else. The spectrum of positions and ideas on a particular issue seems to be disappearing in far too many cases, replaced by knee-jerk reactions and extreme intractability.

Doubt global warming if you want and question the extreme measures advocated by some global warming alarmists (I certainly do), but don't do things that promote global warming just to be a jerk. What harm is there to turning off unneeded lights? What downside is there to using packaging that is more environmentally friendly? Why not keep your thermostat set a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter? Why not provide incentives to industry to be more fuel efficient and less polluting?

Honestly, the middle-ground isn't such a bad place. Compromise is not a dirty word, nor does it mean those that broker it have no conviction or backbone.

Extreme measures nearly inevitably bring about extreme reactions. And quite frankly extremism may be the most dangerous thing in the world right now-- because it seems to be clouding the judgments of nearly everyone.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Must Reading

Tuesday Morning Quarterback is my favorite online column-- by a wide margin. Gregg Easterbrook not only provides some fascinating analysis of football related topics-- like his contention that football teams punt way too much and would do better if they went for it on 4th down more often-- he also tosses in a variety of science tidbits, cheerleaders, and an occasional deflating of pompous politicians and celebrity types (The entry just below The Football Gods Were Torn). All with a wicked sense of humor and a clear perspective on just what is, and isn't, important in this crazy world we live in.

Check him out even if you don't like football. If you do like football then don't miss him. Every Tuesday on espn.com's Page 2.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Genius of Parker and Stone

South Park is a fabulous show. It mixes deep irony, parody, bathroom humor, scathing criticisms, cultural phenomenons, religion, politics, and just about everything else into a concoction that is nearly always brilliant, often hilarious, frequently poignant and always thought provoking. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are this generations Shakespeare.

Hyperbole? Maybe a little, but honestly the claim is not that over the top. Shakespeare pushed the entertainment envelope of his time-- South Park most certainly does that. Old Bill offered up scathing criticisms of his times and of the world's prominent figures. South Park: check and check. Deep at their core, Shakespeare's works resonant with basic human desires, beliefs and motivations. South Park does this as well.

Differences? Sure-- Bill paid attention to meter and verse creating lyrical language the likes of which has never been equaled. Parker and Stone... don't. They do use animation to great effect, something which Shakespeare certainly did not do since the concept was inconceivable in his day and age. But... in some ways animation allows Stone and Parker to explore subjects in as beautiful a fashion as Shakespeare's poetry. The recent Imaginationland trilogy, for example, really was a captivating and profound way to look at the effects of terrorism and fear on our psyches. And what other format but animation could allow a show to actually go inside of our imaginations?

Now, some might say that calling Stone and Parker this generation's Shakespeare simply illustrates how crass and rude our society is compared to Renaissance England and there is some truth to that view. On the other hand, we are lightyears beyond Shakespeare's time when it comes to equality, quality of living, individual freedom, science, technology and on and on. Shakespeare reflected back his times and also highlighted the shortcomings and absurdities of those times. Parker and Stone do precisely the same thing.

Of course, not all of Parker and Stone's creations are brilliant and thought-provoking and deeply irreverent and full of richly developed irony and scathing cultural and political commentary. But an awful lot of them are. And the exact same thing can be said of Shakespeare's body of work-- it isn't all Macbeth and Hamlet and a Midsummer Night's Dream.

Or maybe I'm off my nut. But I do know that South Park is the best thing on television by a far sight and that they've managed to maintain that level of excellence for 11 years now.

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The Ron Paul Freedom Express Gains Steam

Ron Paul is bringing together an unlikely coalition of Libertarians, non-fundamentalist Conservatives, anti-war Republicans, strict Constitutionalists, and-- as Mojo informed me-- a few nutbags like Mel Gibson's dad. And, amazingly enough, it is working.

Will it matter next November? I dunno. Probably not-- but in an age of discontent when news, rumor and opinion travel faster than they ever have before... who knows? Maybe.

I do know that Ron Paul is speaking for an awful lot of people who feel like nobody in the Republican or Democratic establishment knows, nor cares, what they believe in and wish for their country. To some degree, I think Paul's success is a reflection of the Democrats "Anybody but Bush" strategy-- people are looking at Bush and agreeing that they do not wish to continue the status quo, but they are also looking at the proposed alternatives and thinking, "Yeah, but not them either."

Don't underestimate the power of positivity-- politics has been all about the negatives for many years, but the last time somebody captured the other side it went pretty well for him.

Is it morning again in America?



My beloved Green Bay Packers are 8-1. I am happy.

I also apologize for the misgivings and second-guessings I tossed out two years ago regarding the hiring of Mike McCarthy to be the Packers' head coach. The dude is money and he does not appear to be at all ready to rest on his laurels. Which is music to my ears.

While the Pack is by no means on a level with the Patriots or Colts-- those two are head, shoulders and probably waists above the rest of the league-- I do think they are in the top 5 teams in the league. Not too shabby for the youngest team in the NFL with a 2nd year head coach and only one real name player on the squad.

Go Pack, Go!

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