Tuesday, August 04, 2015

On Changing Musical Perspectives

I was watching Chicago Live in Japan 1993 last night with my daughter. I used to dig that set. Heck I used to eat, sleep, and breathe Chicago's music. I don't know if I've been spoiled or what but for some reason it just wasn't grabbing me like it used to. I got to thinking about it and for a large chunk of my life I've listened to a substantial share of Chicago and related music and back when I was younger it was almost exclusively Chicago at the expense of a lot of other bands. I lacked perspective. It's almost like a deaf person getting their hearing back for the first time. Back when I loved absolutely everything the band touched and believed they could do no wrong I didn't listen to anything else or didn't listen to enough of anything else to have any sense of musical perspective. It wasn't until I started opening my ears outside my comfort zone that my ears grew a bit more discerning and objective.

I listen to Toto Live in Poland and I not only hear the music... I feel it. I listen to stuff like Nathan East's latest solo album, or Steve Hackett's "Out of the Tunnel's Mouth", or The Weather Report's "Heavy Weather" and I'm WoWed! and then I go back and try to listen to Chicago... and I just don't feel it the way I once used to. Bill Champlin's vocal chemistry with Peter Cetera was the reason I became a fan of Chicago-- It wasn't Peter's voice alone and it wasn't Bill's voice alone it's the way their voices came together so perfectly. When Bill was fired back in 2009 my enjoyment of the band took a serious hit even though I will concede towards the end of his tenure in the band Bill was oversinging the hell out of everything and it generally didn't sound that good any more. He was still a link to that golden vocal chemistry of the early 80s. Once that link was gone along with it was a substantial chunk of my enjoyment of Chicago.

My father and I went to see Chicago live in Latham, NY in 1993 and 1994. It was a 3 hour drive each way. I was a teenager (16 and 17 respectively) but those were the first 2 times I saw Chicago live and even though I saw them another 7 times or so after that, those first 2 concerts I look back at the most fondly because of who I shared those experiences with. I know I'll always have THAT. And for that reason I know that even after Chicago eventually bids their final adieu (although coming up on their 50th anniversary, God only knows when that will happen) I'll still have those special memories of seeing them live with my Dad... Those long drives on the Northway (the stretch of I-87 North of Albany, NY) to and from Latham. I'll always hold those memories very close in my heart.

So last night when I tried to share that experience with my daughter... albeit on video instead of live, the odd thing was, it was almost jarring to me. This music which once gave me so much enjoyment and such a staple of my life, that was a constant at times in my life when nothing else was, that was my security blanket, that was what I clung to when times were tough because for better or worse it always reminded me that when I was muddling through some of life's muckier mires that times had been better in the past and that they would get better once again... But now some of this music which has been such a staple of my life has started falling flat with me. The love of this music that I wanted to pass along to my children, I really can't, with that same level of conviction because my heart's not in it the way it once was.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stirring up a hornet's nest

Apparently Candace Cameraon Bure has unleashed a firestorm of criticism for certain comments she made in her recent book; Balancing It All:My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose.

The passage in particular that these ladies are referencing is:
My husband is a natural-born leader. I quickly learned that I had to find a way of honoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his desire to have the final decision on just about everything. I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.
Maybe because I'm a conservative male I'm missing something but I read this a testament of what SHE does to make HER marriage work. She wrote a book. The book can be purchased for money... or not. To my knowledge no women in America are being forced at gunpoint or threat of incarceration to read this book. Contrary to what at least one of the panelists in the clip above is insinuating, Ms. Bure is not FORCING her view of her particular role in her marriage on ANYONE. She did NOT say:
And maybe this is just me being a brain-dead conservative male again... but I thought the feminist movement wasn't JUST about empowering women, equal pay for equal work and all that... I thought it was also about women having that choice... It wasn't about women entering the work force... it was about women finally having that as an option.  Some women are career minded and choose to enter the work force and remain in it after having kids.  Some women, CHOOSE to stay at home after having kids, it's a different role.  It's not inherently bad or unequal... it's what works for those particular women.

Maybe it's just me but most of the arguing on this issue seems to be between women.  There aren't many knuckle-dragging neanderthal men who still believe a woman's place is barefoot and in the kitchen with an infant suckling at each breast left in this country... not saying they don't exist, just that such men are an ever-shrinking minority.

Most of the guys I know (and if any of you disagree with me, feel free to tell me so) are focused on the marriage/relationship they're in and making it work.  We love and respect the women we're with and consider them to be partners.  We learn our roles in our respective relationships and those roles tend to evolve with our marriages and relationships.  Because we love and respect the women in our lives we support them in whatever decision they choose to make... if they want to stay at home with the kids, that's great, we'll figure out a way to make it work.  If they want to go back to work after having kids, that's great too, we'll work together and make that happen.  We respect our women to support them in the life path they choose and we're willing to work with them as partners in following their path as they work with us in following ours.

To the ladies who continue to make an issue of this...  What works for you might not work for others.  Make your own way, your own choices and respect other women enough to let them do the same.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Global Warming

Since even before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth there was discussion of Earth entering a period of Global Warming.  Climate scientists were making claims about how man's adverse effect on the environment was driving the planet down a road to imminent demise... But it wasn't/isn't too late to change course...

I'm not saying I agree or don't agree about global warming.  And if the Earth is warming, I'm not certain of the extent to which we, as humans, can be blamed.  I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm not trying to deny it... I'm putting another idea out there...  Isn't it possible that it's still too early to tell whether or not we're entering a dangerous period of global warming, let alone determine how much we, as humans, are contributing to that warming?

Maybe the Earth is warming, and maybe we as humans are at least partially responsible for it.  But maybe we're not.

The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years.  Humans have been inhabiting the Earth for about 200,000 years.  Not to make anyone feel insignificant, but that means we've been inhabiting the planet for less than half of percent of the planet's entire existence.

Using a very liberal consideration of the origins of the science of climatology there was a Chinese scientist, Shen Kuo, in the 11th century that inferred that climates shift over a very large span of time.  Using Shen Kuo's climatological's inferences as an origin point, the science of Climatology has only existed as a science for about 900-950 years.  That works out to less than half a percent of the amount of time humans have inhabited the Earth.

Humans have inhabited the planet for less than half a percent of the Earth's existence, and using generously liberal estimates climatology has only existed as a science for less than half of a percentage of the amount of time that humans have inhabited the Earth.

Given the insignificant amount of time that we've inhabited the Earth and the even more insignificant amount of time that humans have been studying climatology, I submit there's a bit of hubris... a human conceit if you will when it comes to the Sciences in general, and in recent years this has been particularly true of climatology.

I'll concede that our climatologists (and for that matter our paleo-climatologists) have been learning about the climate at exponential rates over the past few decades.  We know far more about climate now than we did even as recently as 10 or 15 years ago.  But that being said, the Earth was around for literally BILLIONS of years before we were and I wouldn't be surprised if its around for billions of years after we're extinct.

Remember during the Cold War when there were all the fears of a Nuclear holocaust wiping out the planet...  Well such an event WOULD very likely have wiped out humankind and would also have had a substantial impact on the environment in the short term (and the amount of time it would have taken the radiation from fall-out to wear off would have been a drop in the bucket on a macro scale of the overall planetary lifespan) but, while we as humans would have been done as a species had such an event occurred, the plant would eventually have recovered and eventually all traces of our existence would have disappeared.

To put it into further perspective, let's say the Earth is a living organism, that would basically make us its "cells."  And while cells can have an adverse effect on the body as a whole, I submit our impact on the climate is more akin to a scraped knee than it is to cancer.  Yes we have the capacity to cause visible and real damage, but in the grand scheme of things that damage is largely superficial.  The damage doesn't run deep... we aren't significant enough to cause any macro-level long term damage.

I'd further contend these changes in lifestyle, economy, and general culture we're making to "go green" have minimal impact at best and are completely insignificant at worst.  I bring this up because, unfortunately, the politics of environmentalism and climatology tend to lose any sense of real perspective and often get blown out of proportion.

We as humans have also historically had a bad habit of acting on impulse and generally forgetting or ignoring the "law of unintended consequences."  That is to say, we tend to unleash a greater wrath upon ourselves through the unanticipated and unintended consequences of the actions we take to repair or fix things (including the environment) than we did in messing things up in the first place.  We act on what we THINK we know, and then we get more data and find out that the opposite of what we "knew" is true.

Science isn't about questions and answers, it's ever evolving.  Science is about the new questions we end up having to ask once we get the answers to the questions we initially asked.  Science is questions answered with more questions.  It's the evolution of not just learning what we didn't know before, but also about learning about what we didn't even realize that we didn't know before (or as our former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld worded it, the "known and unknown unknowns").

So let's shed the intellectual human conceit, regain a bit of perspective and start discussing this issue a bit more rationally.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Maybe we're not as different as we think we are...

Maybe we're not as different as we think we are.

I'd even go so far as to say we have more in common than any of us even realize any more.  We live in a culture of increased comfort, increased choices, and increased convenience.  While these are all benefits they all have come at some rather hefty opportunity costs-- the largest of these I'd argue are increased divisiveness and seclusion.  The technology that has brought the world closer to us is also the world that is de-humanizing our neighbors, its driving wedges between us.

Think about it...  Before cable there were 3 major networks, PBS, and a handful of "superstations" (WPIX and WWOR out of NYC and WGN out of Chicago for example) broadcasting out of major urban areas.  Most people who owned TVs, if they were lucky, got maybe 10-12 channels.  Many only got the 3 major networks and a nearby PBS affiliate... 4 channels.  That means the chances that we and our neighbors were watching the same show on any given night was substantially greater than it is today.  That created a commonality of experience and that commonality of experience was a uniting force of sorts.  Who cares if our neighbor's politics differed from ours, we both watched M*A*S*H* the night before or maybe we both caught that Dallas season finale cliff-hanger.  It was something to discuss that wasn't politics, it was something that brought people together... rather than tore them apart.  A "commonality of experience" serves to humanize others in our eyes... it's a lot harder to actively dislike someone (no matter how different that person's politics might be from ours) when we have other things in common with that person.  This commonality of experience made for a substantially less divisive culture.

I grew up going on long road trips with my parents.  We'd listen to the radio together, we'd talk, we'd play "car games"... We interacted with each other.  Yeah sometimes I'd pop on headphones and listen to music, sometimes I'd get lost in a book for awhile... but that wouldn't occupy an entire trip.  It would be a brief distraction (there is such a thing as "too much togetherness" after all).

Today many cars have DVD players on the seat backs so the kids in the back seat can watch TV or DVDs to keep them distracted...  So Dad's driving and listening to the radio, Mom is checking her texts on her cell phone, the kids are in the backseat with headphones on watching a movie (or possibly even 2 separate movies)... What aren't they doing?  Communicating with each other.  Dad doesn't have to stop and get out of the car to actually interact with someone else to ask for directions because his Garmin or TomTom is there guiding the way the whole trip.  These conveniences that distract us, also serve to isolate us.  In our isolation our fellow humans-- friends and family included lose a bit of that humanity to us.  Over time we've started to shed our social graces that made us considerably more civil with one another.  When we aren't even communicating properly with our own families, how can we be expected to communicate civilly and respectfully with the strangers we come into contact with on a daily basis?

These new technologies aren't the cause of divide, they are merely enablers.  We live in a culture of excess.  We've long forgotten how to keep things small or simple...  everything is to the extreme.  So, while these new technologies in moderation provide wonderful new conveniences in excess they drive wedges between us, our friends, and our neighbors.  They isolate us from one another and they've caused us to, over time, forget our civility towards one another.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fatherhood again

I'm going to be a Dad again... I've known this for awhile.  For whatever reason it's only started to become real to me over the course of the final trimester of my wife's pregnancy.  Over the first two trimesters it all seemed more abstract or possibly surreal.

They say each pregnancy is different and while our experiences with our daughter the first time around will serve as guidelines, I've also heard from other parents of two (or more) that we may as well forget what we learned the first time around as much of that will not end up being true with our son.

With our daughter we were surprised.  We didn't find out until the day she was born that we were having a little girl.  We had narrowed the possible names down to 2 possible boy names and 2 possible girl names.  This time around we opted to find out.  In August we learned we're having a boy.  We've got a name picked out (with 2 possible back-ups just in case we don't think our name fits him).  Our daughter has already started referring to him as "Alex" so I'm pretty sure we're having a little Alexander.

For some reason I feel more nervous this time around.  I'm experiencing the difference between "unknown unknowns" (with my daughter) and "known unknowns" (with my son).  One would think that knowing how much my life is about to change (having been through it before) would make things easier but for some reason I think it's given me a worse case of nerves.  I think it's due to the reality of how much my life changed when my daughter was born far exceeding my imagination.

As the father of a little girl, I've felt like not just a parent but a protector and a benchmark.  I try to treat my wife how I would want my daughter's eventual husband/partner to treat her.  I want to be a positive male presence in her life.  
I know I'm not supposed to, but with a son I take the "benchmark" portion more seriously.  I am the man my son will likely try to emulate.  I'm no longer merely the benchmark for some stranger my daughter probably hasn't even met yet and likely won't meet for several years, I'm going to be the example that will guide my son's behavior.

I'm also wary of how my relationship with my son will change my relationship with my daughter.  I've got a great relationship with my little "Daddy's Girl."  I don't want that to change...  Any opportunity my wife has given us for daddy/daughter time I've taken her up on and treasured every moment.  My wife & I have both said we're going to give each other plenty of opportunities for one on one time with both of our kids.  I don't want to deprive my son of the same one on one time that his sister has enjoyed over the past 3 and a half years, but at the same time I don't want to short change my daughter.  She's had me wrapped around her little finger from the moment she was born and while she knows she's about to have a baby brother, I seriously doubt she fully understands the implications.  I want to make this as smooth a transition for her as possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Bridesmaid Should Never Upstage the Bride (or Yet another reason Romney Lost)

The reason bridesmaid dresses are so ugly is to make the bride appear that much more beautiful by comparison.  A bridesmaid should never be more attractive than the bride in any given wedding.

In my life I've witnessed five elections that were lost, at least in part, due to the vice presidential candidate upstaging his/her running mate.

1)  In 1984 former vice-president Walter "Fritz" Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.  Ferraro was a better spoken and more dynamic candidate than Mondale.  

2)  In 1996 Bob Dole chose Jack Kemp as his running mate.  Kemp and Dole had actually run against each other in the 1988 Republican primary (with then VP, George H.W. Bush soundly defeating them both).  Kemp was a more dynamic speaker than Dole, he was charismatic where Dole was a bit wooden.  He had a Reagan-esque passion in everything he did that Dole seemed to lack.  Going up against a very popular and charismatic (not to mention pre-Lewinskygate) Bill Clinton, this pairing was a recipe for disaster.

3)  Don't ask me how it happened but in 2004, the rather wooden Lurch-esque John Forbes Kerry won the Democratic nomination for president.  I was baffled throughout that whole election cycle.  Prior to the Iowa caucus it seemed Howard Dean was the shoo-in for the nomination.  There was a strong grass-roots campaign for him leading into that caucus (arguably that grassroots campaign was the template that Obama used to catapult himself to the presidency and succeed where Dean had failed).  Before the whole Rielle Hunter mess, John Edwards was EASILY a more attractive candidate than John Kerry.  He was better spoken and he inspired a Kennedy-esque youthful enthusiasm among his supporters that I don't think Kerry was capable of doing even on his best days.  Kerry choosing Edwards was a huge mistake.  His own running mate actually made him a less attractive candidate than he might otherwise have been.

4) Sarah Palin... need I say more.  This case was a little different than the previous three...  Sarah Palin most definitely upstaged John McCain but for all the wrong reasons.  That VP pick caused some of his lukewarm supporters to question his decision making abilities and inevitably jump ship.  Sarah Palin was and is a decent and charismatic speaker... but public speaking and charisma alone can't make a president.  She was supremely ill-suited to the job and I'd argue her VP run cost her her job as governor of Alaska as well.  When she was governor people were coming out of the woodwork suing her... Some of the lawsuits may have been legitimate, but many were not.  Those lawsuits were inevitably too great a distraction (not to mention financial burden) for her to continue effectively executing the office she'd been elected to hold.  Incidentally, shortly after she resigned, many of the suits against her were dropped and/or dismissed.

5)  Paul Ryan is a more articulate speaker than Mitt Romney.  He is a Jack Kemp acolyte and shared with Kemp (and Reagan) a courage of conviction that Mitt Romney lacked.  Given his background he was far more in touch with the middle class than Romney, and in an election following a huge bailout of banks and the auto industry where the perception (rightly or wrongly) of many voters was that America had been screwed over by the wealthy who (thanks to their golden parachutes) were laughing all the way to the bank Paul Ryan should have strengthened the Romney ticket, but due to some of his gaffes, Ryan instead just made Romney appear that much more out of touch (by comparison).  I liked Romney in 2008, he ran from the middle, as the moderate that he actually IS not the neo-con far-right tea partier he had so desperately tried to pander to in the primaries.  Maybe Paul Ryan would have complemented a more moderate 2008 Romney.  Instead, Ryan's courage of conviction created a perception (some would argue, he shined the spotlight on) a 2012 Romney's lack of conviction.

All this being said, this is no harbinger of future elections.  I'm only in my mid 30s and five presidential candidates have made this mistake in my relatively short (thus far) lifespan.  That tells me this is a mistake that presidential candidates are yet to truly learn from.

I'm no fan of Joe Biden, but I can't argue that he was/is a brilliant choice for Obama.  There's no way he could or would outshine Obama and he makes a great "bulldog"-- he goes after the opposition and says things that there's no way Obama could ever get away with saying without being completely eviscerated by the opposition.  Democrats may hate me for this but I see him as somewhat Agnew-esque in that respect.  And I don't think Agnew-esque Alliteration would sound out of place coming from Biden.  It's only a matter of time before he refers to the GOP as "nattering nabobs of negativity" in much the same way Agnew referred to the press under Nixon's watch.

If the Republicans get nothing else from the 2008 and 2012 election, they should use Obama's VP selection of Biden as a clinic on finding the RIGHT running mate for the selected nominee (whomever that ends up being).  Given how much the Latin-Americans broke for Obama, I forsee Nevada governor Brian Sandoval, Florida senator Marco Rubio, or New Mexico governor Susana Martinez as players in the 2016 presidential race.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Legacy of the Little Shadow

I've got a strong bond with my father.  In that regard I was quite spoiled growing up.  Being between twelve and eighteen years younger than my five older siblings I had a bit of a monopoly on him as I was growing up.  When you throw in that he was the principal of my grade school (Kindergarten-fifth grade) and he retired at age 55 at the same time that I "graduated" from fifth grade.

From middle school through my high school graduation it was Dad, not Mom (although she did join us from time to time) taking me to doctor, dental, and orthodontic appointments.

He's told me stories over the years of how, when he was a boy, visiting his extended family in Connecticut he'd follow his Uncle Charlie around everywhere he went to the extent that Uncle Charlie nicknamed him his Little Shadow.  Much like my father had been to his uncle, I was my father's "little shadow" when he would be out running errands.

Now, as a father myself, I see the same dynamic taking shape with my daughter and I.  While I know many of the errands I run would likely go much faster without her, I've come to quite enjoy having her with me despite this.  It's our time to bond, much like my father with Uncle Charlie, and me with him.

Sami and I will go to Dominick's on the weekends to visit "The Cheese Table" where she throws away her normal finicky eating habits and becomes a rather adventurous little cheese connoisseur.  She's tried everything from Stilton to Wensleydale, Manchego to Limburger, Brie to Habanero Jack.  When she's particularly good on our outings I treat her to unscheduled stops at PetSmart to see the kittens, fish, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils, and parakeets, or to McDonald's for a yogurt parfait, or to the Fox Valley Mall so she can ride the carousel in the food court.

It's got to the point where, even if I'm driving past a place I know I need to stop on my way home from work, I'll go home first to pick up Samantha so I can bring her with me.  I hope that someday she looks back on our outings together with the same fondness that I look back on my outings with my own father when I was growing up.