Friday, October 24, 2014

Can we?

With a sinking approval rating in the low 40's, American political candidates of the Democratic persuasion are asking that the President NOT campaign for them in their local elections. I don't know how unprecedented that is, but I'm sure that in my lifetime there were probably those who also said "Thanks, but no thanks" to support from lame duck presidents, like Jimmy Carter. But I digress.

Conservative hacks are saying that Obama could go down in the annals of U.S. History as possibly the worst president to date. And while I don't know if that is true, his popularity in the waning years of his presidency is wilting. And are we surprised?

I, for one, am not.

Now, before you start labeling me, you must know that I affix no party affiliation to my person. I am an independent thinker. Like many Americans, I am sickened by the greed and corruption of our government. I am distrustful of most politicians. And I agree that change is sorely needed.

That's what Obama promised back in 2008, remember?

But what clout did he really carry to bring about such radical change? How was this one-term Senator from the Midwest going to shake-up the beltway establishment and spark a revolution? I said it all throughout his campaign, though I was mostly talking to the dog and to my girls, "he's got no real political muscle, no clout to get this done."

He ran (and won, I might add) on a bunch of empty promises. So we have a highly disputed national health care. Has it really helped anyone? I'm still uninsured. But again, I digress.

We're still embroiled in the Middle East mess with no real sign of ever getting untangled and bringing our battle-weary troops home.

And now we're faced with a possible worldwide epidemic...a multinational plague called Ebola. And the powers that be in Washington can't put some common-sense travel restrictions in place. How about we ban inbound flights from the affected countries? Not saying, "don't send workers," but how about we quarantine them on a remote island for 20 days until they are deemed "all clear?" Heck, the DC incompetence cannot even protect health workers by disseminating quick and accurate FAQ's...just ask Texas Presbyterian Hospital.

No wonder the president's approval rating is at it's all-time low. He doesn't seem to stand for anything, certainly not the radical change he promised. Heck, he can't even use some common-sense judgment to protect our borders.

I'm glad that he finally burst through the glass ceiling for Black Americans. I am. We have our first black president. It's now in the history books. Let's move on.

Can we return some common sense to DC? Can we maybe get a middle-of-the-road candidate who is neither Democrat or Republican, but has some political clout to push through a common-sense agenda? Is that a pie-in-the-sky dream? Or is this country going to devolve into a second-world nation bent on revolution/civil war. I'm not being melodramatic, either. The two-party system has polarized this country to a degree where degenerates on both sides are hurling vitriolic word bombs at each other and nearly coming to blows. If this keeps up, don't be surprised when State's start succession debates in their legislative chambers. Heck, we have states now, like Florida and California, who want to split apart at the seams.

All I'm asking is that we don't get swept up in some media frenzy next time. Keep your wits about you and don't buy the hype. Elect someone with some real substance; someone who can get something accomplished other than the stalemate we usually get from Capitol Hill. I guess what I'm saying is, "Wake up, America!" and "Let's go!" *rah, rah, sis-boom-bah*

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jameis Lynched in the Media

I thought I was done arguing about the validity of the claims against FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston, but the media has the public worked up into such a frenzy that no amount of “justice” is going to satisfy the lynchmob.

Articles that have run in the New York Times and USA Today, with all of their “investigative integrity” and shameless editorializing, are keeping this story in the national headlines. My own family is now turning against me believing that I’ve been so tainted by my allegiance to Florida State that I can’t see the obvious and egregious nature of Jameis’ crimes.

While the whole world speculates about the FSU cover-up and the media hypocritically blames the University of a greed-fueled sell-out, I decided I’d weigh in and play the “what if” game, too.


…the video from Potbelly’s showed a drunken, underage woman leaving their establishment under her own volition and entering a cab with three football players?

…the Chris Casher video, now deleted from his iPhone, in fact, showed a horny college co-ed giving oral pleasure to the college qb of her own freewill?

…a hasty and thorough investigation of this alleged incident brought to light that the victim was indeed not a victim at all, but a regretful, hungover college co-ed who decided to cry “Rape!” after the consensual act?

…that investigation led FSU to forego a Title IX inquiry and also led the State Attorney to the same conclusion as was reached in 2013?

But no one wants to err on the side of a "repeat (repeat, repeat)" offender, right? I mean, after all, he DID steal $34 worth of crab legs!

No one seems to care that while the alleged victim’s name is blotted out of released legal reports and omitted from daily news stories, Mr. Winston’s name is smeared from here to China. No one wants to err on the side of the Heisman-winning, two-sport athlete and student. No one is speculating that he is innocent.

Because this is such a high profile athlete at a premier university, there MUST BE a cover-up.

And EVEN IF there was a botched investigation, that only damns the cops who botched it. Their ineptitude doesn’t immediately spell cover-up, nor does it prove the alleged perp got away with anything. Last I checked, the Law still presumes innocence until proven guilt. But not the Almighty American Media…because if it sells papers and increases readership, then morality and legality be damned!

Yet, those same “moralistic” media outlets would be crying foul from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court if THEIR rights were infringed in any way. And just how hypocritical do you have to be Gannett News Service, to accuse a government institution of higher learning (i.e. non-profit) that they are blinded by greed, when that’s what fuels your entire, for-profit industry?

Journalistic integrity, as well as objectivity, flew the coop a LONG TIME AGO! Any monkey flipping between CNN and Fox News can see that. The news media now panders to public opinion like Pavlov’s Dog. “Look it’s trending on social media…IT’S DEFINITELY NEWS!!!!”

As I said, my own family, and many in Nole Nation, has been suckered in by all the media hype surrounding this story. No new facts have emerged, but Winston is guilty as EVER and the university obviously put football revenue above student safety and its own integrity. Why? Because the New York Times and USA Today say so!

My sister alluded to her daughter who is now in college and asked how I would feel if one of my daughters was in this situation. Let me just say, as a dad and an uncle, I’d be ready to do physical harm to ANY guy that laid a hand on ANY of my girls—daughters or nieces! I’d want to thrash them into an unrecognizable form, no doubt. But I asked her, in response, what if it was her son and she were 200% sure of his innocence?

Jameis Winston has a family back in Alabama who I’m sure cringe every time they turn on ESPN or go online. And like his family back home, his Tallahassee family is just as sure of his innocence. Why? Because we see him interact with fans and the public all the time. We see him on the baseball diamond ham it up behind unwitting reporters. We see him on the sidelines of Doak Campbell playing cheerleader to his backup who started during Winston’s suspension. He was suspended from the baseball team for the crab leg incident, by the way. We also see him stop for photos with young kids, go to class and practice every day undaunted by the media firestorm around him.

All the rest of the world sees is the strawman strung up in the public square by an overzealous media. The South is no stranger to public lynchings, I might add.

Which brings me to the race issue that no one is talking about…how many black men in the South get away with raping white college coeds? I would argue that there are a lot more prison cells inhabited by wrongly accused African-Americans than there are white men. Back in the not-so-distant past, this would have been grounds for a real-life lynching in Tallahassee.

But the media would have us all believe that the white establishment is rising to defend a black student accused of raping a white girl in a town with deeply Southern roots. The number of black men who have hung from the moss-draped trees in the rolling hills of North Florida is too nauseating to count. And don’t believe that the good-ol-boy system of justice doesn’t still prevail down here. It does. It permeates every level of the justice system, from college police departments to State Attorneys offices. So to report that this kid was shown favoritism in a small Southern town just because he plays football is beyond ludicrous. But what would a white reporter from a New York paper know about that?

Furthermore, there is the issue of character, to which my brother-in-law alluded earlier today. Why on Earth would FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher put his neck out there, placing his own multi-million dollar job on the line? Because he’s convinced that the kid is innocent. He knows more of the facts probably than most of us do. There’s no skeletons in Fishers closet, either. He’s as clean as they come. And he knows his kids. To accuse him of being part of this city-wide conspiracy is to call his character into question, as a coach, a man and a father. I happen to believe he knows more about this kid than I do. I also happen to respect him, so I’m gonna err on the side of the facts that I see before me. I'm not blinded by allegiance to my alma mater, I just believe in due process and vetting all the facts.

The media lynchmob will be onto another subject once a real crime is committed and covered up, but there’s no smoking gun in Tallahassee. It’s simply a case of he said-she said and we should leave it in the hands of the courts before we go stringing anyone up or ruining their future. Since when do we get to lynch a person based on popular opinion and media bias? All those high-horse media hacks, including ESPN’s Finebaum, need to get over themselves and quit their ridiculous hypocrisy. This has gotten SO OLD!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Finding the REAL Jesus

It seems to me that Christianity has been molding it's God, and likewise Savior, into a mere reflection of human beings for centuries. The more we can give Him human foibles and mortal characteristics, the easier it is for us to relate, to even visualize the Divine as something more casual, tangible and familiar. We've all but removed any of the mystery surrounding the Supreme Being.

That's why I was so particularly intrigued by the article "What Did Jesus Do?" published in the May 2010 edition of The New Yorker (and recently shared by a friend on Facebook). It focuses a lot on Mark's gospel, long held the oldest original source material for the New Testament. In Mark's narrative, whoever the author, a very human Jesus emerges. But his story, told in retrospect some 30-odd years after Jesus' death, was told in light of the Pauline teachings that had spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. And let's not forget that the canon itself wasn't formalized until sometime in the fourth century. That is, there was no Bible being shared or read amongst the earliest Christ followers. It is also imperative to remember the times in which those earliest Christians were living. Their world had just fallen apart. The Roman war had decimated the Jewish Temple, causing the first great diaspora. Jesus warnings about the end being near and the Temple being destroyed were fully realized for them.

Adam Gopnik, who penned The New Yorker article, reminds us:
So the long history of the early Church councils that tried to make the tales into a theology is, in a way, a history of coming out of the movie confused, and turning to someone else to ask what just happened. This is the subject of Philip Jenkins’s “Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years” (HarperOne; $26.99). Jenkins explains what was at stake in the seemingly wacky wars over the Arian heresy—the question of whether Jesus the Son shared an essence with God the Father or merely a substance—which consumed the Western world through the second and third centuries...People argued that way because they were part of social institutions—cities, schools, clans, networks—in which words are banners and pennants: who pledged to whom was inseparable from who said what in what words.
He argues that it was more about who would run the Church than it was about setting the historical record straight. Gopnik goes on to remind us further:

If one thing seems clear from all the scholarship, though, it’s that Paul’s divine Christ came first, and Jesus the wise rabbi came later. 
That's a point that seems to be lost on many literalist Christians who take every word of the Bible as, well, gospel. Even the early church's understanding of what Mark wrote about Jesus was colored by the radical teachings of Paul already becoming well-known in the Greco-Roman world. And it was the Roman Empire that eventually codified Christian theology and spread it across the known world.

The point is, what do we really know about Jesus, the actual first century mystic who lived like a homeless person amongst his small band of followers? Funny to me the backlash over a movie producer who wants to portray a very Middle Eastern-looking Jesus in an upcoming film. Why? Because we want a very Anglo Jesus, even a laid back, surfer looking dude like my mom had proudly displayed on our living room wall. Because that's easier for us to digest. Easier to relate to as mere mortals. Let's paint this Messiah in OUR image, so we can take ownership of Him.

I believe that's what the earliest Christians did. I believe that's what the Roman Church did. And we still do it today. Call it human nature, I guess. But the REAL Jesus is somewhere in between the pages of the Gospels. He's hidden in the mystery that is God, behind a shroud of darkness that cannot be unveiled by mere scholarship, intuition or finite understanding. Why can't we just embrace the mystery of his being and choose to all get along? If we cling to His reported message, "Love others as yourself," we can't go wrong.

I encourage you to read the entire article (here) with an open mind.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Radio is a JOKE!

Radio stations in the U.S. are a joke! Following the stale formulas of the 1950's, radio is holding on by a thread in this country. They are competing with iPods, internet radio and a whole host of other means by which fans enjoy their favorite music artists. Radio conglomerates don't seem to care. You'll have to pry those daypart clocks, rotation formulas and also-ran morning shows from their cold, dead fingers!!

I had the radio on in the car this morning for a full TWO minutes before I turned it off in disgust.

The most disturbing part is the clock that they all adhere to, going to a 5-minute commercial break (or longer) at the same exact time, every hour...ALL of them! It's worse than watching late night cable tv, what with their formulaic infomercials playing every 12 minutes at the same time on nearly every station. This morning, I happened to tune in just as they were all going to commercial break. You know, because the radio gods in the 1950's decided that listeners would remain tuned in if you took commercial breaks at A, B, C and D every hour like clockwork. We are all trained monkeys, aren't we? So, I turned from one preset station to the next only to be yelled at by an obnoxious local car dealer, promo'd out the wazoo and generally over-saturated with over-hyped pitchmen on every stop along the dial. Would it kill them to maybe stagger their commercial breaks? Especially when one conglomerate owns 80% of the local market share?!

The second most disturbing part about American radio--and this goes back to the trained monkeys that they believe us all to be--is the "play it over-and-over-and-over" mentality of the 15 program directors that run 100% of stations in this country (and 15 may be an inflated number, but I'm just guessing...there may be as few as 4). The rotation formula has irritated me since I was a kid and my sister's couldn't get enough Madonna or Whitney or Michael, so the stations decided to play the same 5 songs every 20 minutes. It's maddening. And that formula, which has been around since before the Beatles or Rolling Stones, is still being employed today! I cannot tell you how sick I got of hearing Pharell's "Happy" earlier this year, as the teeny-bopper stations played it in heavy rotation. And just like the yelling car salesman, I'd hear his voice on 2 or 3 stations at a time if I scanned my radio dial. If kids want to hear Pharell 15 times in an hour, let them put on some headphones and cue up their iPod or Pandora!!!

And in the morning time, when I'm on my first cup of coffee, fighting traffic to get my kids to school, and totally irritated with idiot drivers, the last thing I want to hear is incessant chatter. How about some damn music? I mean, this whole medium came about to keep folks entertained. It morphed into a 24-hour juke box, but now it's just a joke. Morning shows are the worst!!! Even the guys I grew up on, Bob & Tom out of Indianapolis, are still on the morning radio dial all over the country. And their show has devolved into them laughing at their own stupid jokes, talking over each other and basically following the same rough outline they started with in the early 80's! I don't want to hear old guys snorting, laughing and trying to out-gag each other. I just wanna hear music...and not the same 5 songs every 20 minutes, interrupted only by yelling car salesmen and endless promos. Is that too much to ask?

No wonder people are tuning out in droves. My only option is the CD player in my car so I've reverted to burning CDs from my MP3 archives on my computer. I keep a stash of the homemade compilations (like my old mix-tapes) in the car at ALL times! I hate what radio is today and how little it has changed in my lifetime. I'm shocked that advertisers still throw money at this dying medium. People have tuned out. And even when they are listening, trained monkeys that they are, it has become the background music to their lives. They aren't really paying attention anymore. It's like Muzak on the elevator to them. So do advertisers really think they are getting any bang for their buck? I don't think so. But radio seems to never want to change. They don't want to really compete in the changing landscape of electronic entertainment. Radio in this country is a joke.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Beatles, the Summer of Love and Me

I was conceived sometime near the end of 1967 after the infamous "summer of love" and the release of two preeminent Beatles albums.

Two of their best albums, musically and artistically, in my humble opinion.

The release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably one of the bands brightest and most creative LP's, kicked off the summer of love on June 1, 1967, followed by the worldwide, satellite premier of "All You Need Is Love." That song became my sister's favorite Beatles song while we lived on Race Street in Princeton, Indiana. In fact, some of my earliest memories from that house so long ago are of sitting in the front living room near the stereo, listening to Dad's copy of Magical Mystery Tour, my favorite Beatles album of all-time, and the Sesame Street collection on 45. The former was released as a double-EP soundtrack in London to accompany the Beatles movie of the same title at the end of '67. I was yet a zygote in my mother's belly.

My father was completing his first semester at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Mom was in beauty school, preparing to embark on a short-lived career as a hairdresser. My arrival in 1968, brought their aspirations and whatever career goals they had in mind to an abrupt halt. They married in March of that year and embarked on family life, Dad joining the National Guard on the very day his draft number was called. Bullet dodged.

Was I a lingering effect of the summer of love? I don't know, but that hippie subculture was certainly prevalent in the era to which I was born. And the Beatles were the official soundtrack to that era, my Dad owning several of their Capital releases on vinyl, including Meet the Beatles, Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour. Needless to say, my sister and I about wore out the grooves on those old LP's, which were lost somewhere between Tallahassee and Indianapolis in the late 1980's. Sadly.

Ironically enough, the Beatles graced the cover
of LIFE Magazine the day after I was born.

My favorite of those, opened with the anthemic title track, "ROOLLLL UUUPP!" and I was hooked. I loved the psychedelic flavor to tracks like "Strawberry Fields" and "I Am the Walrus." The haunting organ-bathed tune by Harrison, titled "Blue Jay Way" was one of my favorites. Throughout, I loved their use of orchestration, of horns and cellos especially. The album, as well as the movie booklet that accompanied it, had a dreamy feel to it and I was always intrigued to see the actual film (Note: I just watched it this month for the first time). I can sing along with every tune. "Your Mother Should Know" sort of harkens back to the big band tunes of Benny Goodman, leading his orchestra on clarinet (and is similar to McCartney's "When I'm 64"). I really liked that one and "Baby You're a Rich Man" because they were so different from the tunes on earlier Beatles albums. I should also note my Dad's 8-track copy of the Beatles early years, which we wore out in the old family truckster, so I was familiar with most of their early hits. Their 1967 albums were a serious departure from the bubble-gum pop/rock of the early 60's and I quite enjoyed it.

I've been on this Beatles kick, focusing a lot on George Harrison, my new favorite Beatle, for a couple of weeks now. Not exactly sure what prompted it, maybe just a sense of nostalgia and wanting to revel in some of my earliest childhood memories. We have some old home movies shot at that house on Race Street when I was 4 or 5. They are much of the reason I still remember so much about that old house, but music, almost as much as smell, triggers my memory bank, and the Beatles certainly take me back to a happy, simpler, more innocent period of my life.

To whatever degree I owe a debt of gratitude to the "summer of love," I am thankful for the music it spawned (or vice-versa) and for my existence in the world. I think George would be proud of me for my self-awareness and gratitude. :)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Catholic Guilt

My youngest siblings didn't grow up in the same way that I did. They didn't experience, or at least they don't remember, Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, Priests, Incense...well, you get the picture. My parents were pretty well done with the Catholic Church by the time my brother and sister came along in '78 and '79. So they didn't grow up with the idea of "original sin" being burnt into their subconscious by habit-wearing, prune-faced old ladies and men adorned in meekly-ornamented vestments.

I was thinking about this the other morning while listening to a classical music station on the radio. No need to delve into how my crazy mind works, but suffice to say my thoughts drifted to the Dark Ages and the control the Catholic Church held over the Western World.

At any rate, I was remembering how Catholic guilt was placed upon me at an early age. I didn't have a grasp of the Scriptures, I only knew the basic tenets of the Christian faith, as expressed to me in Sunday School and at Mass. I knew that because of my inherent badness, thanks to Adam and "original sin," I deserved to be punished. But my mere punishment wouldn't appease God at all. No, he had to send his Son to die. So, in effect, I KILLED GOD!

I was reminded of this constantly, through lectures, sermons, Scripture readings and icons. The constant icon in every Catholic Church I'd ever been in was the crucifix. In fact, every Catholic home in which I ate, played or visited had a crucifix proudly displayed somewhere. You couldn't get away from the constant reminder that YOU...YOU KILLED CHRIST!!!

Now, some believe that all Catholics are anti-Semites who firmly hold to the notion that Jews killed Jesus. This is not true. I, for one, knew that I ALONE was the reason for his death. I had the blood of the Savior on my hands.

Talk about guilt.

No wonder I had such a struggle with my conscience on a daily basis. That notion about Catholic guilt is more than just a nun's tale. It's real. I carried the haunting vision of that near naked man, cast in bronze, impaled on a wooden cross always. I couldn't escape it. Whether I was in the classroom at Immaculate Heart of Mary, in my friend's living room or at a Doyle family dinner, I was always sitting in view of the hallowed eyes cast down under the shadow of a thorny crown. And it was ALL MY FAULT!

I'm convinced nowadays that the church has effectively used that ploy to keep the masses under control for ages. It certainly worked on an adolescent boy in Indiana. And history has shown that it worked in the Dark Ages and still today. How many youth around the world carry that same albatross around their neck in the form of a rosary? How many of them walk under the shroud of Catholic guilt everyday, knowing that they aren't good enough, worthy enough or saintly enough?

And is that a good thing?

You be the judge.