Monday, October 24, 2005

The New Vagabond

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

Bob Dylan (It's All Over Now, Baby Blue)

Bob Dylan started out as a folk singer. It was a way for him to pay the bills. For millions of folk music fans, he was supposed to carry the torch passed on from Woody Guthrie, who was on his deathbed in the mid 60's as Dylan came of age. But Dylan wanted to break out of the mold of the folk singer and wanted to explore new musical avenues. He started experimenting with electrical instruments. His folk music fans were outraged. They felt betrayed that Dylan was turning his back on the folk singing traditions of Guthrie. Dylan tried to appease his folk fans by mixing accoustic and electric instruments. He tried to be apologetic and asked for their understanding and support. It didn't matter. Wherever he went they booed when he broke out the electric instruments. Finally, Dylan had enough. After playing an entire concert with accoustic and electric instruments to a chorus of booes, Dylan ended the show by playing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," the final stanza of which is quoted above. To get the full effect of the significance of the song, go back and read the verse again. When he finished the song he walked off the stage. Every album he made after that used electric instruments, and he never apologized again.

All of that has nothing to do with the following. I just think it's a great story that few people have ever heard.

The Indigent Blogger has invited me to be a contributor at Vagabondia. All I can say is thanks, and that he obviously knows talent when he sees it. I'm not sure what my new role is going to be, but I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts on his blog as well as continuing The Deep Freeze.

The Indigent Blogger has always impressed me with his knowledge and research skills. Anybody I have ever seen try to go toe to toe with him in a political argument quickly finds themselves burried under a mountain of facts and references. While I don't pretend to be nearly as smart as he is in laying out a detailed argument, I think I excel at putting life and society into a perspective few people see. I guess you could say I try to be the Bob Dylan of the blogosphere. In that way I think I will compliment him well on Vagabondia. So please visit Vagabondia and bookmark it as part of your daily reading. And keep tuning in here since I plan to continue The Deep Freeze.

Hey IB, how much does this gig pay?

Weekly Prayer

Today, Father, I thank you for the life of my Grandmother, Anita, who passed away this morning. Bingo Gram, as we affectionately called her, was a special person. I thank you that she is now at peace and in your arms.

She lived a difficult life, Father, as you know. The last third of her life was riddled with medical problems that caused her much suffering. Finally, her pain is over. For that I am thankful.

I thank you for the opportunity I had to know her for the first 31 years of my life. I thank you that she was there to see me graduate from highschool and college. I thank you that she was there when I got married. And I thank you that she was alive to meet my son and her great grandson, Nathan. These past ten months were particularly difficult for her. I know that Nathan was one of the few things that gave her joy in her heart. For that I am thankful.

I need your strength, Father. I need to hold myself together to be there for my family. I know my mother is taking this particularly hard. They were very close. Please be with my family and give them the peace I have of knowing that Bingo Gram is in a better place. I know she is with you because I know she loved your son, Jesus. I can remember going to her house a child and playing on her organ. She used to play us songs like "Jesus loves me" and other hymns from church. Although circumstances in her life made it too difficult for her to attend church in her later years, I know she loved you. I could see Christ in her heart every day. And for that I am thankful.

Father, I pray that Sarah and I could be shining examples of your love and peace this week as we mourn her loss and celebrate her life. Let our family members see you in our hearts. Help them see that it is only through you that we can achieve eternal life and salvation. Use us to convey the good news of Christ.

Finally, Father, thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven. It is only through your holy grace that we can escape death and achieve everlasting life. It is a gift we do not deserve. I thank you and pray for all of this in the name of your Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

No More Bling Bling

Like most Americans, I enjoy watching sports. They serve as a healthy diversion from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. They provide an opportunity to forget your cares for a few hours. True fans like myself like to watch what goes on off of the playing field as much as what happens on the playing field. Sometimes the off field events are just as interesting as the games. Often we find sports serves as a microcosm of life and society. This week provided one of those examples.
David Stern, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) has instituted a dress code that all of the players have to follow when appearing in off court public events sanctioned by the league. No more headbands in press conferences. No more getting off the team bus with your baseball cap turned sideways. No more wearing retro jerseys while sitting on the bench. No more taking pre-game warmups with your headphones on. Players are expected to dress business casual which means slacks, sports jacket, no more gold chains, no sun glasses indoors, and no headgear. NBA now stands for No Bling Anymore.

The sports radio talk shows have been buzzing all week over this new policy. Many people are defending the policy saying Stern is just trying to improve the image of the league to increase revenue. Others say the policy is racist because it elevates white culture over black culture.

Anyone who says the policy was racially motivated is wrong. David Stern and the NBA are not in the social engineering business. They aren't even in the basketball business. They are in the money making business. This policy is all about money. A few years ago the NBA was on top of the sports world. Stars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley filled the seats with their spectacular play. But what made them appeal to the average American was their personalities. Off the court they seemed like nice guys. They wore suits before and after the game. They had smiles that made corporations line up to sign them to endorse their products. They didn't have tattoos, or piercings, or gold chains, or cornrows. These guys knew that in order to be successful they needed to appeal to white corporate America.

In the past several years since these players all retired, the image of the NBA has suffered. A new generation of players have moved in. Basically, Generation X has taken over. They want to show off their individuality. They have the Gen X attitude of "judge me on my results, not how I look and act." For Baby Boomers like David Stern, NBA owners, and other boomer fans who are now at the peak of their income earning potential, this is hard to accept. As a result, ticket sales have suffered. Television ratings for the past few NBA Championship series have been abysmal. As Commissioner, Stern had to do something. He realizes if his product is going to survive, he has to appeal to corporate America which controls the money.

The division created by this policy illustrates the problems created by multiculturalism. African American players see this as an attack on their culture which encourages individuality and self expression. When will people understand that different cultures can never be considered equal in a world where cultural differences are celebrated. By saying your culture is special, you are by definition saying certain aspects of your culture are better than other cultures. What people find harder to accept is the flipside of that argument. If there are superior characteristics to your culture, there must also be inferior characteristics to your culture. When these characteristics are pointed out, people tend to act with outrage and indignation. This is what we see acting out in the NBA this week.

Frankly, I agree with the policy. My company makes me adhere to a dress code. They have an image they want to portray. They demand their employees show a minimum amount of decorum and professionalism. I have no problem with that because everybody is subject to the same rules. The NBA is a corporation. The players are the employees. As CEO, Stern has every right to dictate the image his employees should portray to their customers, the fans. I lost interest in the NBA years ago after my favorite player, Michael Jordan, retired (the second time, not the first or third). Before that I watched the NBA on a regular basis. Now I see the league as a bunch of spoiled thugs with chips on their shoulders who make way too much money for playing a game. That's my perception, my paradigm. Maybe if the league can change my perception I will once again find myself watching games and buying their products. I hope they succeed. It seems like the time between the Super Bowl and opening day in baseball keeps getting longer every year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Disturbing Trends

My fellow Americans, I have stumbled onto a new cause for global warming. Compare these two charts. For reference, the first chart depicts global temperatures. Take a look. Note how the global temperatures are rising with a sharp rise in the past 20 years.


Now take a look at this chart that shows the rate of violent crime against males and females:


Notice how the crime rate has been steadily falling over the past 20 years in exact step with the rise in global warming. Clearly this demonstrates that peace and good will toward man is causing global warming. From this we can deduce that violent crime must significantly reduce green house gas emissions which are warming our planet.

Now that we know this, we must act. Go out and punch somebody today. Stabbing or shooting would be better. The crime trends suggest punching males may be more effective than punching females since the rate in male victim crime has fallen more significantly. We must hurry if we are going to save our planet. It may already be too late.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Rural Party

I think it's time we do away with the current two party system of Republicans and Democrats and divide the country on our true basis: that of Rural America and Urban America.

When you think about it, the division has been there since the beginning of our country. When they ratified the constitution, the larger states wanted representation in Congress to be based on population while the smaller states wanted equal representation regardless of population. The Civil War was a battle between the urban industrialized northern states and the rural agricultural southern states. Today we are split up between the red and blue states with red being rural and blue being urban. When it comes down to it, all of the differences between the two parties come down to the difference between urban and rural.

Urban people live in densely populated areas. They are exposed to more cultures and ethnicities and they have to tolerate them in order to keep the peace. They enforce political correctness in order to do so. Rural America tends to not be as socially diverse. As such they don't care as much about political correctness. Urban America incorrectly views this as being insensitive toward other cultures. In fact Rural American is not intolerant of other cultures, they just aren't exposed to them as much through no fault of their own, so they don't obsess over political correctness like Urban America does. And why should they? Where they live there is no need to.

Urban people are perceived to be more pro-environment than Rural America. Look at where they live. If I lived on the fifth floor of a highrise in Manhattan constantly bombarded with the noise of the street below and had to walk 20 blocks to Central Park in order to see a tree and escape the smell of car exhaust, I would probably think the planet was being destroyed too. But Rural America is quite beautiful, and the people who live there work to keep it that way. While they don't travel to protest Congress, the White House, the UN, or the G8 Summits, they care for and respect the environment on a daily basis. Rivers and streams in Rural America are full of fish and wildlife. Would you eat anything you pulled out of the Hudson River? If you could take a 10 minute drive and be in pristine wilderness that had not been touched since it was created, would you feel a sense of urgency to shut down the local factory that employed 50% of your town?

Rural America believes religion should have a prominent position in any community. Drive through any small town in the midwest or the south and you will see churches at the center of town. They believe the church community is the best way to help their fellow man. In Urban America, churches are viewed as exclusive and intolerant toward other religions. Organizations that accentuate differences must not be encouraged in order to keep the peace.

Rural America doesn't have many resources. Small towns may have three or four policeman total. They may have a small volunteer fire department and one courthouse at the county seat. Problems are often handled in house. Parents take an active role in the PTA, Cub Scouts, and other activities pertaining to raising children. There is very little dependence on government. There is an understanding among neighbors that everyone must respect and help each other. In Urban America, there are too many people to help them all. People develop hardened hearts toward their fellow man. Nobody expects their fellow man to come to their rescue so they turn toward the government to solve their problems. It becomes the job of the government to set up soup kitchens and homeless shelters. It's the government's job to make sure you have affordable housing and healthcare. They expect government to run the schools effectively. They depend on the government to make sure daycare costs don't get out of control.

The differences go on and on. If anyone can think of any others, please post them in the comments. It's time we stop using the political buzzwords "Republican" and "Democrat". Everyone throw out their voter registration cards and let's start the Rural and Urban Parties and call a spade a spade.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Treading Water

I'm in a serious funk this month. These past few weeks have been crazy for me. I have been on the road it seems for two weeks straight. I spent six hours in the Cincinnati airport yesterday waiting for my plane to take off. Same old story with US Air. "Ground delay in Philadelphia." Story of my life. My plane finally landed in Philly at 9:30 last night. I carried my luggage on the plane so in 30 minutes I was in my car and on my way home. Night time road construction on the Blue Route made the normal 30 minute trip take an hour. I just wanted to get home, even if it was already too late to kiss Nathan goodnight. I pulled in the driveway and hit the garage door opener. There in my space was the collection of junk my wife dragged up from the basement to sell in the yard sale that got rained out last weekend. Guess I'll be parking in the driveway. Great.

I walked in the door to the dimly lit kitchen. There was the dog waiting at the door to greet me. She looked like she just woke up from a nap on the couch. Her eyes looked sleepy as she stretched and let out a yawn. Little did she know she was less than a day away from going to the kennel (or "puppy camp" as we like to call it.) The wife and Nathan were upstairs in bed, one of them fast asleep, the other waiting up for me. I tried to sneak in to see the kid, but he heard the door open and sat up in his crib. His tired eyes peaked at me through the bars on the crib. I think I startled him. He let out a whimper, so I quietly closed the door having only poked my head in. I listened to see if he would go back to sleep. Silence. Music to a parent's ears.

It was good to be home, even if it is just for a day. Tonight we go to the Foo Fighters concert at the Wachovia Center, then we get an 8 AM flight tomorrow morning for Nashville to go to a wedding in my wife's family. A plane ride on two hours of sleep with a one year old. On top of it all, the wedding is scheduled to take place right in the middle of the Penn State - Michigan game.

I do manage to have some fun on the road. I can't stand sitting in my hotel room, which is why I don't blog much when I travel. I prefer to spend time with the friends and co-workers I rarely see. Sometimes I just drive around the local areas to get a flavor for what life is like there. It always reminds this boy how much he loves Pennsylvania. Sometimes when I'm on the road I just go to the bar and watch the game on TV or something. Anything to get out of the hotel room.

I have just about completely fallen out of the news cycle these past few weeks. I don't catch the news much when I'm travelling. I might buy a USA Today in the airport to read on the plane. I can stomach the sports and money section, but after that the whole newspaper is pretty much garbage. There are so many pictures I feel like I am reading a newspaper for people with ADD. Many hotels only have CNN for news channels. A few minutes of listening to their pundits attack Bush is about all I can take.

Falling out of the news cycle has made me feel apathetic. I don't care anymore. I get the impression a lot of America feels the same way. Nobody is talking politics in the bars, restaurants, and airports I visit. I get the impression people are disgusted with the mud slinging coming from both sides. The two political parties have reached a stalemate. Politicians don't seem to want to tackle big problems anymore. It seems they just want to get elected so they can get their name on a big school, building, or bridge in their district before they start collecting their big pension and using the contacts they make while in office to get rich. Nothing major seems to be getting done. Everyone seems content to maintain the status quo. We're treading water.

Truthfully, I don't even care. I'm just focused on trying to make it in the world. I will still be involved in politics and supporting policies that try to keep government out of my life. In the end that's all I really want. Don't do me any favors. Don't ask me for anything, and I won't ask you for anything. Just leave me alone. But unless it directly effects me, I don't care. Don't bother me. I promise to take all responsibility for anything that happens to me and not point the finger if my house floods and George W. Bush doesn't personally fly the helicopter in to save me. Listen to me. I'm 31 years old and already becoming a grumpy old man.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

WE'RE BACK!!!

Hail to the Lion, Loyal and True Hail Alma Mater, with her White and Blue
Penn State Forever, Mother of Men (and women)
Fight for Her Honor, FIGHT! And Victory Again!!!

Penn State had an impressive 44-14 win over #18 Minnesota today. The game wasn't even as close as the score. This moves Penn State to 5-0 (2-0 Big Ten) and they will surely crack the Top 25 in the new poll tomorrow after almost a three year absence. For a man who has been a Penn State fan ever since he was old enough to hold a football, went to school at Penn State, attented evey home game of the undefeated 1994 season (we were so robbed!), and bleeds Blue and White if you cut him open...all is right with the world tonight.

Next week we play Ohio State. That will be our first real test of the season. I have my ticket. Tune in to ESPN at 8 PM and look for me in the sea of 109,000 people.