Monday, February 22, 2016

Understanding The Donald

I have been a political animal for my whole life - thanks Dad.  I have seen a lot, and while I make no claim to being a genius, I am amazed that people in the media who should know (or be able to know) why Donald Trump has hit such a chord with the American public have so badly missed it.

So, folks, here it is, in simple terms that the folks who live both outside the top 1% income bracket and outside the northeast corridor can understand, but which the media apparently cannot.

People are tired of being pissed on and told that it's raining.

They have been pissed on by NAFTA, by GATT, by Open Borders, and by every third-world country with the presence of mind to grease the right political palms in Washington, DC and get a deal for themselves to maximize both their own growth and the political war chests of those who do their bidding.  All of that crap served one purpose and one purpose only - to maximize the wealth of the very top level of society at the expense of the rest.  I mean, how many abandoned factories does one have to see to realize that this has happened??? Of course, the media rarely ventures out into the hinterlands to actually see any factories - abandoned or otherwise.

No hard feelings against those countries, and those immigrants.  They saw an opportunity to better their situation and they took it.  Those hard feelings (maybe hatred is a better word) are now being manifested against The Bushes, The Clintons, and everyone else of that ilk.  Those hard feelings include their sycophants in the media, BTW.  Those being, of course, the same sycophants who can's see why the masses haven't fallen in love with Jeb Bush, or Hillary Clinton.

P.S.  This post is written about Donald Trump, but the same reasoning applies to Bernie Sanders,  the Democratic equivalent of Trump, who is striking the same chord on the other side of the aisle.

How Did We Get Here

Some time ago, I went out to take The Dog on her nightly walk around the neighborhood. It was late September, and a perfect, warm, clear North Carolina evening. I rounded the corner, and headed up the street. A few steps later my ears were treated to the most pleasant sound - back-door neighbor, sitting on his screened in porch in the dark, softly strumming his guitar. The chords made a nice tune - though not one I could recognize - so I walked quietly and slowly, stopping to let The Dog sniff the ground profusely. It was all so perfectly pleasant that I began to think about it and reflect on the difference between hearing Honest-To-God music, played live by a human being, and hearing a recording thereof. All that reflection got me to thinking....


How did we get to the point where we were willing to accept a cheap, mass produced reproduction of music instead of the real thing?  I could see the utility of recordings in some circumstances.  For example, were it not for that technology vast numbers of people would never get the chance to be exposed to Beethoven.  Recorded music (on any medium) allows us to experience a breadth of music few could ever even come close to experiencing live.  But how did it get so far afield of that?  Why were we ever willing to abandon the pleasure of a few friends or family playing (on guitar, mandolin, piano, accordion, concertina, saxophone or fiddle just to name some instruments from my personal, very limited, experience) and/or singing a tune?  Was it just easier?  Or was it that the professionals we heard on the radio or recordings were so much better technically that they made our home-grown music seem inadequate?

Whatever the reason, we are here now.  But the game is not over yet.  We, as a culture, having made the  jump from listening to real music to listening to a recording of real music (important semantic distinction between music as it is being played and a recording thereof), we now seem to be ready to accept LIVE music which is so post-processed that it is essentially a digital construct and not a human product in any realistic sense - think autotune.

Now I recognize that there are those who actually appreciate and prefer the synthetic version of music (and other things as well) to the real, human-made live honest-to-God version, and, if that is a well informed decision, i.e. they have been well exposed to both versions and have chosen one over the other, then I have to respect that.  Truth be known, I like Velveeta more than Cheddar.  But I am saddened that so many people willing accept "post-processed" entertainment.  Saddened, that is, but not surprised at all because that is all they have ever had the opportunity to hear and learn to love.

I have always had a certain distaste for the term "developing a taste for", as it carries with it a certain level of condescension, but in this case I think it to be exactly the right term - no condescension intended.  I cannot condescend without condescending upon myself (if that is a real term), for I have been there, and learned from my own prejudices.  You see, once upon a time I hated - h a t e d - old time Country & Western music.  I was a lifelong hatred that I held until one day, out of the blue, my friend invited me to a Nanci Griffith concert.  I had never even heard of Nanci Griffith, but, upon seeing her live, I fell in love with her music - hard.  Within a day or two, my friend had "burned" me a couple of cassettes, and I could not listen to them enough.  Hell, I still listen to them (though Cassette players are hard to find nowadays), along with other CD's and MP3's I have purchased over the years. Nanci's country sound was the gateway drug to classic country, bluegrass, old time music, etc.  I still love it and still listen to this day.  I am notoriously bad at having to learn the same lesson over and over again, but that one lesson I took to heart.

Writ Large...

Music was, however, only the inspiration for this diatribe, not the sole expression of the phenomenon being addressed.  The phenomenon, though focused mainly in the entertainment industry, exists in many facets of our society, and is in fact nothing new.  In earlier times (damn that makes me sound old) they were the exception to the rule though.  For instance, I remember occasionally eating TV Dinners, but home cooked - often home grown - food was the rule.  Now it seems most everything is synthetic, from clothing to foodstuffs to music to relationships.  How many films are produced that are not CGI'ed to death?  How many images are not polished and spiffed up by photoshop or some other such package? What is real?

The argument could be made that it is all real, but is it?  Does it not warp our sense of reality when a beautiful woman - more beautiful than any human has a right to be - is still not good enough for a magazine cover?  Does it not warp our sense of how the world works when it's not good enough to show a car being driven at (or beyond) the limit in a film, but rather to have she big screen insanity which we are fed of late?


Is there hope that somehow someday things will be appreciated for what they are in the purest natural sense, and not as synthetics?  Thank God it is happening in other areas of life, witnessed by everything from local beers to local fresh food.  On a personal note, I took my daughter to a live Shakespeare performance and she was floored. Loved every minute of it, and can't wait to go again.  Sure it was The Bard, but it was the live theater performance with real people that was the real selling point.  I figure if a tween who lives on a steady diet of pop music and anime can fall in love with The Real Thing, then pretty much anyone can.  If the horse is thirsty, and you lead him to water, you don't need to make him drink - he'll drink on his own.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Looking Forward

Throughout my life, I have noticed the phenomenon wherein people who are deeply involved in something personally or professionally begin to lose perspecitve on their pursuit, ant take things in an extreme direction to the point where outside observers - even interested sympathetic ones - are puzzxled or disgusted at the behaviors of the "true believers".  I have seen this phenomenon in ever field from animal breeding to zoning and development ordinance writing, and being the type of person who has little compunction about pointing out the emperors lack of clothes have oft found myself recieving the wrath of those "true believers".  It turns out that Aesop was only partially right in his fable.  In real life, when someone points out the emperor's lack of clothing, the naked one doesn't get embarrased - he lashes out at the one who had the temerity speak the truth.

Watching the ongoing, intemittent, saga of the attempted reconciliation of the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth  (SSPX) and the rest of the Catholic Church one can see that phenomenon coming to light on both parties to the process.

On the side of "The Vatican" there is a sincere and concerted attempt by the Holy Father to move things forward.  Witness by His Holiness in the letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum wherein he said "Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity".  Yet there are also, within the curia, a lot of those "true believers" I mentioned above.  In this case the object of their obsession is their irrational love and  dedication to Vatican II - or rather their own personal interpretation of what Vatican II meant.  To this group, any mention or even slight implication that anything related to or attributed to "Their Council" was less than perfect, right, and God's Will will bring upon the offendor scorn, critcism, banishment, imprisonment, excommunication, artillery fire, aerial bombardment, and whatever else they can conjure up.  To one for whom The Church was "born" in 1964 and the previous 19 centuries were merely some sort of ecclesiatical gestation period any suggestion that anything significant happened "in utero" is an anethema.  To this batch of "true believers" the SSPX is the embodiment of all they deplore.

On the side of the SSPX, things are not quite as bad.  Not because of the strength of the beliefs but because the focus of that belief - certain aspects of Vatican II - are relatively small and discrete items.  By and large the SSPX loves The Church completely.  They have certain problems with the happenings - many of the happenings - of the last 50 years, but they love The Church.  The problem the SSPX faces is that there is a core of "true believers" who seem to let their focus on the problems of the last 50 years spill over into their assessment of everything that has happened in those same years. Their logic is as follows: Vatican II was in some way diabolical.  Everything that happened after Vatican II is tainted in some way by it. Therefore, everything that came after Vatican II is in some way diabolical.  Having lived through the turmoil of the past 5 decades I know that it has been terrible for The Church in so many ways, but at the same time throughout it all there have been legions of good, holy priests trying to keep the faith in a situation where it isn't easy to do.  To this group even the most positive statements by the most faithful orthodox Bishop are subjected to a fusillade of snark and disdain - as seen in some of the comments here.  I know there is a difference between the comments of a random person on a blog and the comments of someone in the curia, but that is beside the point.  Be they an outsider, pewsitter, priest, bishop, or cardinal the attitude is the same.

Unless and until the people in charge of how things proceed sit down together and cast aside all of the extra junk which has been layered unnecessarily on top of the few - but important - real differences, this reconciliation will never be consummated and will remain bogged down in the mire which has been heaped upon the core of the problem over the past 50 years.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thinking About the Unthinkable

As the days pass, I am finding myself increasingly distraught over the prospects for the political future of our nation, and the absolute irrationality and irresponsibility of those both sides of the arguments over dept, taxes, spending, etc. I read this column this morning and it is so far the only intelligent thing I have read which offers some prospect - even an unpleasant one - of addressing the core issues at hand.

Thinking About the Unthinkable

I was livid in 2011 when the "debt deal" was struck because I saw it for what it was - a highly political maneuver to avoid responsibility.  The fact is - and every rational adult knows this - that we either need to shrink the government drastically to meet our tax revenues, or raise revenues drastically to fund the level of government we have.  The argument can be made for either course - though I much prefer the former. There is, however, no rational or intellectually honest case to be made for the status quo of taxing like the former and spending like the latter.

So, I believe that the time has come for the Republicans in Congress to go "all in" and just say no. No more borrowing - not one dime - until the core issues are addressed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Requiescat In Pacem, Vincenzo

He was a Good, kind man. 

He was as loving as he was brilliant and funny.

He was tough as steel when he needed to be, but understanding and kind when I needed him to be.

He Was My Dad.

And I miss him more than I ever knew I could miss anything or anyone.

Arrivaderci, My Friend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Casino Capitalists Playing With Fire

The always impressive Pat Buchanan has summed up perfectly the horrendous funk of a situation we as a culture and as a nation have allowed to develop.  A system where "wealth creation" is largely detached from productive work.

Casino Capitalists Playing With Fire

As Jacob McCandles so rightly said: "You decided alone.  Now live it alone"..

God Help Us.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Old Pickup Trucks

I Love Old Pickup Trucks. In fact, I have a great fondness for old vehicles in general, but there is something unique and special about old pickup trucks. The stark, simple functionality of them appeals to me. In fact in the same way, I find that old horse-drawn farm wagons - the pickup's direct ancestor - have the same effect. I suppose it is that are really the essential vehicle for hauling around a man's goods and produce. And if you look closely, their evolution over the past 100 or so years draws a pretty good parallel with our evolution as a society. In fact, even in the past 60 years the size, complexity and overall fanciness of the vehicles has grown incredibly. Especially the size! A 1946 Ford Pickup was positively tiny compared with even a regular-cab new Ford F-150. Leaving out entirely, of course, the fact that there are now crew-cab versions as well as larger heavier duty models. I suppose we just have so much more stuff to haul around - not to mention fatter asses - that we need bigger vehicles to do the job. Oh, and bigger egos too!  But I digress.

The thing is, that while so many of my generational peers love old pickups, they love them in a different way.  While I like them to be the way they were, be used the way they were meant to be, and enjoy them for that, pretty much everyone else sees them as a vehicle (no pun intended) to creating their own preferred ego (and falling testosterone) driven ideas.  It is nearly impossible to find one that has not been made into some sort of hot rod.  Bigger motors, bigger wheels and tires, loud exhausts, souped up motors, and interiors partially (or wholly) transplanted from some late model sedan. All in some baby-boomer youth obsessed attempt to produce - decades after the fact - an ideal representation of their teenage dreams.  Yet in the very process of producing their "ideal truck" they are in fact destroying the essential beauty of what was there before.

It occurred to me this morning the similarities between this and the evolution and changes and conflict within the Church over the same time period.  The traditionalists want the Catholic Church and her liturgy to be exactly the same as it was in 1946 - they are loathe to take the truck out of the museum or garage lest something happen and it would "never be the same".  The modernists want to take the 1946 Model, strip it to the bone, and transplant everything on their wish list into it until it is nearly unrecognizable, yet are never really satisfied with the finished product, and so are always willing and ready to "do it over" when they see a cool trick that some other "hotrodder" has come up with.  This updating process must take place every few years or the truck will begin to look "dated".

I prefer the same approach to the liturgy as I do with old pickup trucks.  Keep them the way they are, yes.  But keeping them essentially the way they are does not mean that you should not use modern lubricants (to make the parts work better or last longer) or modern tires (instead of old blowout-prone designs), or even newer better paint when it becomes time to repaint.  These things do not change the essence of the truck, they merely enhance its functionality.  And so keep the Mass the way it was, but don't be afraid of a few changes every now and then, as long as the essence of the Mass is the same.  Let the readings be in the vernacular, for example, but not the prayers themselves.  Add new saints as needed, but don't wipe out the whole calendar.  Add more and diverse readings, but only where it will enhance the mass.  In other words, to the casual observer the Mass and the pickup truck should both look the same. If they don't, they are ruined.