A Musical About Obama?

There are t-shirts, bobble heads and books galore written about our new president. They’ve even come out with a Chia Obama. But hold on to your hats, kids, because now, for the first time ever, it’s…


Yes, “Obama on My Mind” a “farcical comedy” about life on the Obama campaign trail, makes its US Premiere tonight at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. At least this one, being dubbed a farcical comedy, seems to be a bit closer to the truth.

Has anyone besides me picked up on the similarities between Obama and Spaceballs? I think the only thing they haven’t covered yet is “Obama the Flamethrower.”

Just When You Thought the Madness Was Subsiding

The Nobel Peace Prize started its march toward ridiculousness in 1994 with an award going to terrorist Yasser Arafat; and while there have been some deserving winners since then, the zany group of Norwegians are looking more and more delusional every year.

This year takes the cake like none other. When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore two years ago “for his efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change” they may have been duped like so many others buying into the climate change hysteria but at least Gore was successful in his efforts, however misguided they may have been. But considering that Nobel Prize nominations close on February 1st, just 12 days after Obama was inaugurated, one wonders what he accomplish in so short a time other than gaining the worship and adulation of millions?

But instead of complaining about this idiocy I’ve decided I’m going to do something about it. Today I announce the creation of the Sound Politics Peace Prize. Nominations will close next Friday at 5pm. They can be someone famous or someone whose selfless deeds are known only to a handful of people.

Capitalism in Action

Young capitalist Jimmy Winkelmann saw through the irony of thousands of couch potatoes sporting North Face gear, calling them all “sheep”, and decided to start his own company, the South Butt, to poke fun at them. Now the North Face is telling Winkelmann to cease and desist and threatening to sue for trademark infringement. Winkelmann is being represented by attorney Albert Watkins for “a really good bottle of burgundy”.

What’s ironic about this case and what the North Face doesn’t realize (or maybe they do and are just blinded by their own impressions of righteousness) is that, by threatening to sue Winkelmann, they’ve unleashed a firestorm of positive media coverage for the boy.
Good luck to you, Jimmy. I’m running over to TheSouthButtWeb.com right now and purchasing my own South Butt t-shirt.

Media As a Cause of Violence

Leisure time helps promote the advent of entertainment media. I am reminded of the quote “idle hands make the devil’s work” when I think of this. I don’t believe that media violence causes real world violence but I think it can help to further perpetuate it.  If I were wanting to commit a crime, for instance, I would devour true crime shows and novels, scour the internet for facts and accounts of that type of crime, and then analyze them to make sure that I would not make the same mistakes. If one were to just watch every episode of Columbo, he would greatly improve his chances of pulling off a murder without a hitch. Of course, he must have murderous intentions to begin with but mass media only helps him to carry these intentions out.

And I think the same is true with misguided youth or even those not old enough yet to understand the ramifications of their actions.  Could it be that little boy who shot Kayla Rolland had no idea that by shooting her he was taking a human life?  Perhaps he had seen too many TV shows or played too many violent video games only to see that the victim returned in the following episode or that he could just press the reset button. Now, as I said before, I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of either of those two media but certainly some of the blame could rest on them. The real problem is that too many of us, both young and old, have become desensitized to the world because we can see such amazing things just by turning on the TV.  Who, twenty years ago, would have thought to choke down a pig liver shake?  Now one can watch it every week on Fear Factor.  And of course there are shows like Jerry Springer that glorify dysfunctionality all in the name of ratings.

Still, I think that mass media, like any invention is not good or evil in itself and used properly can have a great effect on positive change. I have a few good friends in Europe that I know I wouldn’t have kept in touch with had I not had email, but then again, perhaps some of the people right next door may be just the friends I need. And that fact does make me a little sad about today’s society and I think helps to explain some of the violence.

Neighborhoods used to be great places. People would move in across the street and immediately you would bring them a fresh apple pie then invite them over for a cup of sugar anytime they needed it. Now everyone has been sequestered into their e-communities and have become suspicious of the outside world. I must admit that as an adult I have a certain uneasiness toward going next door or even to the person sitting next to me in the collegium as I write this and saying hello. I have this feeling that they may ask what I’m doing. Why am I talking to them? Do they know me? No, but am I such a bad guy? Why don’t you get to know me? Perhaps we have something in common. No, I better not take that chance because my next-door neighbor could be a rapist or he might have some weird fetish. I think it’s better if I just get on the internet and find someone exactly like me. That way I won’t be challenged to open my mind toward other cultures and the next time someone gets shot in the ghetto I can just ignore it because I didn’t know him. Plus he was black so he probably deserved it and even if he didn’t it happens all the time so who cares. It’s just another story for the evening news. I’ve seen it before.

The Homogenization of Radio

Having a radio station that only plays one type of music does target a specific audience and that makes it easier to sell to, which is what radio is all about but then again it doesn’t encourage a broad mind.  I like to listen to a variety of stations: NPR, The Point (80’s), The Buzz (talk radio featuring Tom Lykis), KING (Classical), and C89.5.  This last station is one of my favorites.  It broadcasts out of Nathan Hale High School and is completely independent.  They get all their money from the Seattle Public School District and listener support.  They also are cutting edge.  I really like European techno and C89.5, even though they debut music about a year after it comes out in Europe, is usually the first to play that song in Seattle, if not the U.S.  When C89.5 isn’t playing techno they usually play R&B and they often do so one song right after the other, mixing their playlists.  When this happens I turn the dial (usually to The Point).  Commercials on these different stations are usually different because the stations target different audiences. Usually I just tune out though. That’s one thing that’s different about radio compared to TV.  When you get into a TV show you are more likely to watch the commercials because you want to see what happens on the TV show you’re watching.  When you’re listening to the radio the song is not interrupted by a commercial and so when a commercial does come on you can tune out.  It’s hard to approach the problem of homogenization for me because my tastes are diverse and I have an open mind.  If I hear something I like I listen to it, be it Jazz, Techno, or sometimes even Rap.  I guess stations should play a somewhat diverse line up but if it gets too diverse then it’s pointless.  It doesn’t make any sense to play some Hank Williams Jr. after playing some Snoop Dogg.

The Loss of Spirituality

In a society constantly bombarded by images of sex, fame, fortune and violence it can be very easy for someone to lose sight of the things that really matter in life; the things that bring about true, eternal happiness.

In youth we are cavalier, impressionable, possibly a bit shallow and, let’s face it, stupid. We are prone to doing things that make us cool or popular; things that give us an oftentimes unhealthy rush. It is a childish existence we lead during our adolescent lives and those who fail to break free of these activities are prone to a “Peter Pan” syndrome, one much worse than that of the past. The symptoms of today’s post-collegiate child are no longer just innocent horseplay and a propensity to find a woman to do his laundry or a man to pay her bills. They’re much worse now with the introduction of shows like South Park and celebs like Britney Spears, which are targeted at prepubescent boys and girls but are better designed for a mature audience. With these stimuli, our youth, left unchecked, become complacent to sex. It becomes a topic thrown around as loosely as yesterday’s baseball scores.

And then, of course, there is the violence. Both TV and print media, driven by the almighty dollar, market this atrocious “news” as part of the modern sensationalist zeitgeist plaguing our society. But they are not the worst, for in all fairness, they are only broadcasting what others have created. It is the creation of a new stream of Reality TV, combined with other, now commonplace, entertainment like WWF and Hollywood blockbusters featuring ruthless terrorism and serial murder.

All of this then relates to fortune. Sex and violence sells and the profits beget nothing more than sex, violence and fame. The final piece to this puzzle of non-spirituality is the new ambiguity created by things like automatic bill paying, chatrooms and telecommuting. We shut ourselves in our private spaces and hardly venture out for the light of day, leaving us with a false sense of accountability for our actions. We sit in front of our computers and TV screens, entertaining fantasies and visions of grandeur.

So what is our escape? How do we remove ourselves from this downward spiral of debauchery and self indulgence? We break the mold of post-modern artificiality and make a return to a more natural way of life and traditional values. We begin anew, dedicated to the restoration of truth, peace and enlightenment.

In order to make a real effort in reaching this goal we must educate our youth not just in the traditional way but also in a the subjects of values and spirituality. It means taking interest in them as people and showing, too, that we are people. It means turning off the TV and the computer, the idle chatter and the empty promises. Love can not be found in a box and caring can not be found from a modem. Spirituality and the way to happiness can really only be found in the simple things in life, those that carry no price tags. The true happiness that comes from spirituality comes from smelling a rose, beholding a sunset, hearing the laughter of a child or feeling the warmth of someone who loves you and whom you love, truly, as well. These things may scream cliché but they are the foundations of a good life for years to come. And even if we can’t rid ourselves of many of the modern conveniences that make our lives easier and sometimes more enjoyable in certain ways, we should at least pause from time to time and reflect on what these current habits lead us toward.

Musical Copyright Infringement and Napster

As I write this I’m listening to music I downloaded off the internet.  And I don’t feel bad about it at all!  First of all, most of the music I download you can’t buy in stores: things like Smurfs Techno, the Mary Tyler Moore theme, odd national anthems, hard-to-come-by Bosnian techno.  Second, the music I download that you can buy in stores doesn’t necessarily affect my CD purchase.  Just last week I bought some CDs from Columbia House.  Its standard offer is buy one, get two free, plus shipping.  In the end it comes out being about $8 per CD.  This is a decent price and I’d probably buy a lot more from Columbia House if they had a wider selection.  I also like to buy CDs second-hand.  This is what the oligopolistic record companies don’t understand.  No one wants to spend $19 on a CD that may have one or two good songs.  That’s why things like iTunes are a step in the right direction because it allows one to buy only the songs one likes.

One thing that people bring up when discussing this topic, and it’s a very valid point, is that before the advent of the internet people made bootleg tapes all the time.  It is rather hypocritical of bands like Metallica, which achieved their success from so many of their fans sharing music, to turn around and sue Napster.  I guess this is just another indication of how power corrupts and once one achieves it they forget where they came from, even a group as “anti-establishment” as Metallica.

So I’m going to keep downloading music.  I really don’t think the FBI is going to come knocking on my door because of the 300 some TV Theme files I have on my laptop.  If there’s a CD I like I’ll buy it, even if it is $19.  Sometimes that’s a decent price if it’s a really good CD (like the Kill Bill Soundtrack I just bought).

Basher 52

Captains T.O. Hantford, Scott O'Grady, and Bob...
Captains T.O. Hantford, Scott O’Grady, and Bob Wright at a press conference after O’Grady’s rescue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On June 2, 1995, the 29-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady was shot down by an antiaircraft missile while he was helping to enforce the NATO no-fly zone over Bosnia. With the aircraft exploding around him, O’Grady grabbed his ejection handle and pulled. Five miles up and traveling at 350 miles per hour, O’Grady had escaped certain death, but death would have many more chances during the next six days and nights that O’Grady eluded the Bosnian Serbs who relentlessly hunted him. At times his pursuers stood five feet from his hiding places, guns at the ready, listening for the slightest sound, but he did not let this phase him in any way that could give away his position. He survived on leaves, ants, and his faith in God. When this adventure was over he was hailed by America as a hero. He appeared on talk shows, made speeches, and visited the White House, but through all this he remained the same selfless person he had always been. On this second anniversary of the downing of O’Grady’s F-16 I am taking a look back at his experience and attitude toward life and reflecting on why I call him my hero. Reading his book and hearing him speak always fills me with pride for my country and reverence for him. The most noble attribute I admire in him is his faith in God. During his parachute decent the winds were blowing hard, in the “wrong” direction. He was in danger of landing in an open field or on the highway where being captured by the Bosnian Serbs would have been inevitable. He tried desperately to steer his way toward the forest but his attempts were futile, so he just relaxed and prayed. He writes in the fifth chapter of his book, Return to Honor, “At the end the wind did indeed take mercy–or maybe someone greater had a hand at my back.” After dangling past two miles’ worth of terrain over the course of his drop, he landed just fifty yards beyond the road. Better yet, he wasn’t stuck in a tree or exposed in some farmer’s backyard. He’d skimmed into a small, empty clearing of foot-high grass with woods all around. I believe it was this faith and trust in God that got him down on the ground safely and through the next six days he would spend behind enemy lines.

The second attribute I admire in O’Grady is his sense of humor and good spirits. All throughout his experience he always looked for the bright side of things. During several television interviews, reporters often asked what eating bugs was like. My favorite answer he gave was that the ants did not provide nourishment as much as they did excitement.  “They were hard to catch,” he exclaimed. He went on to say that he was glad to be the hunter and not the hunted. He also said that every time he was not caught by the Serbs it was a small victory for him and made him want to jump for joy. Looking for the silver lining in life makes getting through the roughest moments that much easier, and O’Grady had the roughest of them all.

When O’Grady arrived back at Aviono AFB in Italy he was called a hero. At this he made a speech in which he thanked his heroes, the “men and woman of the Marine Corps and US Navy.” I would like to thank him for being a hero to me as well as millions of other people.