The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

SO, WHO VOTED FOR NIXON?

It was Sunday, November 10, 1968 and earlier that week, Richard Milhaus Nixon had been elected President of the United States, crushing his Democrat opponent, incumbent Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.  I was feeling celebratory and for my postlude at church I played the Toccata from Charles Marie Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony – an impressive piece which sounds far more difficult than it actually is.  Here is a performance given by James Kennerley, an outstanding young British organist played appropriately on the console at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

 

As an organist, I was used to finishing my final piece, gathering up my music from the music stand and leaving church to find only a small handful of people remaining who had taken the time and had the interest to listen to it.    On this particular Sunday, one of the faithful was a woman who was still praying, tears falling from her eyes.  I knew her.  One of her sons was in my children’s choir.

I walked down the center aisle of the nave, genuflected and joined her on the kneeler on which she was praying.  I turned to her, put my arm around her shoulder and asked her, “Betty, are you all right?”

Betty, through her sobbing, said, “I just don’t understand it.  I voted for Humphrey.  My neighbors all voted for Humphrey.  My relatives all voted for Humphrey.  So, who voted for Nixon?”

Hyde Park in Chicago was a very liberal neighborhood.  And Betty, a white woman who had married a black man in the 1950’s, long before this was either generally accepted not to mention chic, was typical in her mind-set.  She, and many others of my neighbors all exemplified that marvelous statement that William F. Buckley made when he said, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” 

As a young person, many of my friends and neighbors were surprised to find that I was supporting Nixon in that election.  And they were always willing to debate me with the intent of changing my mind and bringing me over to their side.  They failed in that endeavor – but after the many debates in which I engaged, while I could tell that they had a sense of frustration as I would rebut their arguments, we still remained friends, there was no acrimony on either side and we left with the same feeling of respect for each other that we had before we argued our respective positions.  That sense of open and sincere discussion seems to be something that we’ve lost.  And that’s a tragedy.

I must confess to a little confusion that those who identify as “liberals” are so upset that Donald J. Trump will be the United States’ forty-fifth president.  These are the same people who believe that every child, irrespective of performance, should receive a sticker or a trophy.  These are the people who believe that you shouldn’t keep score because it might fatally impair the psyche of those who come out on the short end of the stick.  Remarkably, now that the game is over and we know the result, they want to change the rules under which the game was played to affect the outcome so that their losing team wins.  That’s the sort of behavior that I’ve observed among two-year olds who are throwing a hissy fit so that they can get their way.  And if we deem that sort of behavior unacceptable in toddlers, how much more should we consider it untenable in people who are actually determining the nation’s future in voting in our elections?

One of the arguments advanced in the recent riots over Trump’s victory and the “Not My President” signs is that Hillary Clinton won (barely) the popular vote and should, therefore, be our next president.  That, of course, begins the debate with the assumption that the Electoral College is antiquated, should have been abolished eons ago and we should disregard the Constitution.

Although there are many valid reasons why I believe we should retain the Electoral College, the fact is that under our current system, it exists.  To put it in the way in which many who are Pro-Abortion explain and support the decision in Roe v. Wade, “It’s the law of the land.”

This argument for a popular vote to determine the outcome of presidential elections further makes an unprovable assumption.  That the popular vote, as recorded, would have been the same popular vote the candidates would have received if it, rather than the Electoral College’s vote, determined the winner.  Both the losing Clinton and successful Trump campaigns developed their strategies based on the rules that governed the election – to secure 270 or more electoral votes.  If our system called for the election of the next president based on the popular vote, both campaigns would have run their campaigns differently, camping out in all the large population states. virtually ignoring the rest of the country.  Incidentally, that is the exact reason that the Founders established the Electoral College – so that small states would have a voice in our elections.

If we were to go back in time and rewrite history, (a favorite exercise of those on the left) we would have to crown different World Series winners by determining the victor as that team which got the most hits during the series rather than the most runs.  We would have different Super Bowl victors if we determined the best performance based on which team gained the most yards rather than put up the most points.

I do understand how shocked those on the left were as the results rolled in on election night.  I myself was startled at the outcome – and had made a sojourn to my local liquor store to buy a very large bottle of my favorite Scotch to drown my sorrow as I awaited the announcement that Hillary Clinton was going to be our next president.

It took me forty-six years of voting before I ever cast a ballot for someone who actually won his race for the House of Representatives.  So I had a lot of sucking up and disappointment in many, many elections.  But I never felt either the urge or need  to go out and express my displeasure by lighting trash cans on fire or vandalizing parked cars. My father had a simple piece of advice for handling the disappointments which he knew would come my way in life.  “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  But I suspect the left’s concern and need to find safe spaces may merely be in its infancy.

Despite the firm predictions that the Dems would regain the Senate and pick up twenty or so seats in the House, (not to mention installing one of their own in the White House), those predictions from such moral and mental geniuses as Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, did not come to pass.  For the first time in eighty-eight years we now have a Republican president, a Republican controlled House and a Republican dominated Senate.  And that is good for the American people.

Members of both parties have hidden behind the excuse that nothing gets done because of “divided government.”  That excuse no longer is available.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle and President-elect Trump will be judged by what they accomplish – or fail to accomplish.  I’m betting my money that Trump’s rhetoric is not merely a bunch of words – but are born from a sincere and earnest, heartfelt love of this nation and a belief that we can and should be doing better for all our citizens.  We will see.

But if I am correct and if Donald Trump is half as talented and driven as I believe him to be, the liberal left may be in for bigger headaches two years from now.  In the mid-term election, they will be defending twenty-five Senate seats, twelve of which are in deep red states.  If they think their position now is tenuous, they may be looking at a Republican Senate super majority two years hence.  But, as this is America, there is reason for them to be optimistic.

Instead of concocting excuses for their failed results at the ballot boxes across the nation, they can choose to, “Deal with it – and learn from it.”  Whether they do that or not is any body’s guess.  But in the real world, we don’t hand out stickers or trophies to the loser.  Instead, they generally wind up sporting a black eye.

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THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS

What is a celebration without good music?  It’s rather like having an exquisitely prepared punch bowl, filled to the brim with a delightful sparkling beverage and no ladle to serve it.

The following piece, “O, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” though not one of the traditional carols, is the inspiring and most famous composition of American, R. Fisher Boyce.  Though it is less than one hundred years old, perhaps you will add it to your play list and help it become one of your family’s traditional Christmas tunes.

Here it is performed in a jubilant, “revivalist style” arrangement by the consummate all male soprano group, Chanticleer.

A CONCISE ANALYSIS OF THE 2014 ELECTION RESULTS

 

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

– Abraham Lincoln

THE TRUTH ABOUT ZOMBIES

There has been a lot of fascination lately with zombies.  Apparently, the most viewed show on television is “The Walking Dead,” a series devoted to man’s battle against these creatures.  Personally, I can’t get into the show as I accidentally had a brief glance at the opening scene of one episode two weeks ago which began with a number of people kneeling before a trough who were hit on the head with a pipe and whose throats were then slit, their blood pouring out.  This would, in my view, have been something that was in bad taste at any time – and in view of the videos that ISIS so proudly posted on YouTube is simply revolting.  But that’s just my opinion.

While the practice of voodoo has been with mankind long before African slaves were exported to the Caribbean, most Americans knew little about it nor cared much about it and its sister cults until the late 1950’s.  The Kingston Trio which had formed, primarily to perform calypso music, had been thrust into the limelight when their song “Tom Dooley” was an outstanding billboard success in 1958.

When Capitol Records approached them with a boatload of money and told them that they were now “folk singers” – a genre that was becoming increasingly popular – the three young men agreed.  However, keeping with their original motif, the following year they recorded, “Zombie Jamboree,”  a song originally entitled, “Jumbie Jamboree” and attributed to Jamaican, Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr.  While I was first introduced to this song by them, I do prefer Harry Belafonte’s version which follows:

 

 

“Zombie Jamboree” came and went without having any major impact on our interest in its subject matter.  Until fairly recently.  The interest in zombies has exploded to the point that movies and television programs draw a wide viewership when they portray the living dead and mankind’s ability – or inability – to deal with them.  There seems to be a consensus that the way to stop a threatening zombie is either by shooting it in the head or applying an ax to that same body part with a great deal of force and vigor.

I wonder if that methodology was researched using taxpayer funds.  After all, last year our government gave a grant in the amount of $307,000 to inquire into the behavior of sea monkeys, $50,000 of which was allocated to study synchronized swimming by these tiny shrimp; another $856,00 to study how mountain lions adapted to being on treadmills; and $387,000 to determine whether rabbits who were given Swedish massages benefited from that therapy.  So why not a couple of million or so to determine the best way to defeat our zombie foes, if and when they should actually come into being?

I would attribute the intense interest in zombies to Ebola and stories about other possibly terminal diseases which seem to be erupting throughout parts of the world.  The general theme of how a person is transformed into a zombie usually centers around some new and horrible germ, virus or perhaps manmade chemical weapon.  Of those alternatives, I would give most credence to the third of them.  But the explosion in interest in zombies precedes these events by at least a number of years.

Perhaps my greatest hesitancy for believing in zombies is that they are supposed to be dead, mindless creatures – feasting exclusively on living humans.  In the first place, if they are truly mindless, why wouldn’t they just eat each other?  And have they never heard of Moo Shu or pizza?

On the other hand, if there is evidence that these creatures exist, there is probably no greater proof than that many of them will be voting on Tuesday – with or without state issued ID cards.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROCK ‘N ROLL?

It’s been about two and one half years since I began this blog.  As someone new to the whole blogosphere I unfamiliar even with the basics.  How to write text and have it appear – how to respond to comments – all that stuff.  I learned through trial and error and made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way.

Months went by, I had settled into a regular routing of posting, I knew how to respond to comments and I was began to feel comfortable with my writing.  And then one day I noticed something on my home page which I had overlooked.  It was a statement from Word Press that “You have 55 comments in your spam queue.”  That was interesting as I was unaware I had a spam queue – or anyone would bother to send material to it where it would take its last breath.

So I went to my spam queue and began reviewing the comments which Word Press had diverted.  Several of them were obviously ads for a service which would improve the overall appearance of the blog and which promised greater visibility by helping to select key words that google would pick up.  Several were in foreign languages and I have no idea their subject matter.  So I deleted them all and went about my business.

As more readers left comments, I noticed that the number of spam comments was rapidly overtaking the number of actual comments and would soon surpass them.  That day came and went and now the “spam” comments, received and deleted, is about four times the number of real comments.

But there is something interesting in the more recent comments – other than that about twenty per day are regularly appearing.  That is the subject matter of these comments – which predominantly come in two varieties.

The first advertise a variety of porn sites where, should one have an interest, a person presumably can view a variety of “Eurasian shemales” and things of that sort.

The second of these advertise sites where drugs, (mostly pain medications but ED drugs are also a common theme), can be obtained.

For all his genius, Jefferson messed up.  He spoke of our right to, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but omitted “privacy.”  It’s only fair to admit that he could certainly not have foreseen how the world would change a few centuries after his time.  But golly, it would have been nice if he had been that prescient and slipped it in, right after that liberty word.

But wait a minute.  Isn’t it essential to liberty to be free from spying (which implies intimidation) – whether that is from government or from fellow humans?  We’ve always had nosey neighbors and peeping Toms.  We’ve simply enhanced the tools of their trade and speeded up the process, enabling them to be even more intrusive.  And now, more than ever, we’ve gotten government in the game – in fact leading the charge.

I realize that the reason for the particular spam comments I’m receiving is that I’ve touched on drug companies and their products and written a few posts on human sexuality.  Obviously, that is sufficient to drive people through the google algorithm and allow them to send out their stuff.  So, as convenient as google is for doing useful research, it too has its downside, as my inbox will attest.

But as annoyed as I am by all this, I am most offended that from the original ‘60’s mantra, ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll,” someone had the nerve to turn off the music.

WHAT AMERICA CAN LEARN FROM A CHINESE ORCHESTRA

There is too much anger in today’s America.  Too much anger, far too much envy and not nearly enough music.  If we took more time to listen to music we would have less time to argue our ideological positions and perhaps in listening to music we would learn to listen to each other.

We are a disparate people.  We come from different countries and cultures, we are of different races and we hold different beliefs about God or His absence.  Some of us are better looking than others and some have more money than others.  Some of us are generous and others are stingy.  Some of us are gifted athletically and others of us would rather spectate.  And some of us have had the generous benefit of having music in our lives and learned to be grateful for that blessing.  I know that music has helped me to learn to listen – not merely to the notes but to those who make the music sing.

The music which is familiar to us in the West is based on a simple diatonic scale  – far less complex than the pentatonic scale used in Oriental cultures.  That is the reason that if we listen to Chinese or Japanese music it sounds discordant to the untrained Western ear.

What is really remarkable is the number of Oriental musicians who have received training in western musicology and have become virtuosi of their respective instruments.  In order for them to achieve this they had to put aside the music with which they grew up and change their thinking and their hearing.  That is no small achievement – requiring one step beyond what we in the West must do.

Many motivational speakers use athletic examples to convey the concept of co-operation to those who have come to their seminars.  But an even better example, although not as familiar to most of us, is an orchestra.  There are no referees to make bad calls; no time outs available and no intentional fouls.  The musicians must work together in harmony, every note that they play determining whether the performance will be a successful interpretation of the score.  And at the end of the performance, the credit or criticism will fall on one person – their leader, the conductor.

An orchestra is both an example of personal involvement and humility.  Eliminate the violins or the French horns and the piece has become something less than what the composer intended.  Yet no instrument alone conveys the beauty that was written.  It is only their working together in harmony that leaves the performer and the audience with an enriching experience.

Music like the visual arts is in some respects a very personal experience.  The beauty that Van Gogh conveyed in his painting “The Starry Night” may evoke different feelings from different people who view the work.  And so it is with music.

The Intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” always stirs me to think of being inside a warm and cozy home, the fireplace calmly burning as I look through the window, watching the snow blanketing the landscape and weighing heavily on the branches of the pine trees.

This performance was given by the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan and was conducted by their first music director, Lim Kek-tjiang.  Should you question the statement that “Music hath power to sooth the savage breast” note the smile on Lim’s face as he leads his orchestra in the main harmonic theme of the piece – about one and a half minutes into the performance.  That is the power of music.

We are fortunate to live in a land of such great abundance.  And yet there are so many of us who cry they don’t have enough.  As Auntie Mame put it, “Life’s a banquet – and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  Perhaps that’s because too many of us don’t take the time either to smell the roses – or to stop and listen to the music.

CULTURAL BARBARISM

As I was driving Gracie back from the dog park this morning I was listening to the Guarneri String Quartet perform Dvorak’s Op. 96 No. 12 best known as “The American” string quartet.  It happens to be one of those pieces I would take with me were I to be marooned on a desert island, so I was enjoying the experience.

As we waited for the light to change, a late model pickup truck pulled alongside us.  I couldn’t tell you who the “rap artist” was, but the driver had cranked this cacophony up to maximum overdrive.  I am not sure whether this particular piece qualified as “Gangsta Rap” or was an example of the genre in its purer form, “Crap Rap.”  I do know that I rolled up my windows, closed the sun roof and could still feel the beat from the woofers pounding at me.  When the light turned, I purposely waited a few seconds to allow the other vehicle to move down the street ahead of me so that I could escape this noise and go back to enjoying the string quartet.

While I realize that there is no accounting for taste – or lack of it – I can’t help wonder what sort of effect listening to a steady diet of rap with its mostly demeaning lyrics must do to an individual’s psyche.  Or perhaps the psyche is already predisposed to wanting to listen to this type of stuff and is merely finding an expression for its own ideas and feelings.

When we returned home I enjoyed my coffee and some yogurt and Gracie enjoyed her morning treats.  I sat in the back yard watching Charlie the mockingbird, who is a regular visitor, perch on the wall, waiting for his morning treat.  So I went in to the pantry and set out his raw oatmeal which he seems to enjoy more than traditional bird seed.

He and Gracie have reached a sort of détente.  She isn’t quite sure why I tolerate his presence and I suspect he wonders why I tolerate having such a massive canine in the house – but other than staring at each other they have come to an understanding.  Would that humans could do as well in the way of interpersonal relations.  And I went back to thinking about the fourth movement of the Dvorak, my favorite movement in the quartet.

After some time re-playing the music in my mind I decided it was time to start the day as it was already 7:30.  So we went upstairs and I turned the news on the television.  As it happened two stories caught my attention.

The first was that a new video game, “Grand Theft Auto V” had been released and attained sales of $800 Million in a 24 hour period of time.  After I did a little checking I was able to discover that it sells for $60 a copy – so over 13 million people purchased this game.

The game, of course, extols those who have mastered the art of car theft and it does so in an extremely violent manner.  Perhaps that explains, at least in part, why a car is stolen in this country every 44 seconds – and less than 12% of those who are responsible are ever apprehended.

The second item which aired a bit later in the morning was that the Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis apparently enjoyed playing video games – sometimes for as long as 15 hours at a time.

As you may recall, on Monday the media leaped all over the shooting.  Virtually every station first reported that the weapon that Mr. Alexis had used was an assault rifle – and most pointed out that it was the same weapon used in Newtown.  They were wrong.  Not only were they incorrect with their “facts,” which seems to be a secondary concern for most of our news sources, but they are wrong as to their underlying assumptions as to the cause of these mass murders.  They insist on citing guns as the cause rather than looking at the persons who are standing behind them and pulling the trigger.

Mr. Alexis was a mentally disturbed man who needed help.  He didn’t get it and as a result 12 innocent people died.  Whether or not his absorption in playing video games contributed to his condition is anyone’s guess.  But I think a reasonable assumption is that it might well have aggravated his mental problems.  Perhaps banning violent video games will be the next thing on the agenda for our liberal friends, though I doubt it.  It doesn’t fall within the purview of their agenda.

Mom used to say, “You are what you eat.”  The same is probably true of how our minds are fed – whether that is with positive or negative nourishment.  So to start your day right, I’ve attached the Dvorak for your enjoyment.  Be well.

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