Monday, February 7, 2011

A New Day, A New Look

Obviously, I've changed the look of the blog. We'll see how long it lasts.

In an effort of full disclosure, you should know that my original thoughts to write down today were not about changes. But as soon as I opened the page, I thought "eh, what the heck".

Changes. They happen. Often. Daily, in fact. Like writing in free verse as opposed to my usual pedantic self who prefers well thought full sentences. Some changes don't last long.

But here's one I'd like to see -- real singers singing the national anthem at sporting events. My tirade does not begin with Christina's massacre of yesterday -- she is just the most recent catalyst. And I will give her that singing on such a large stage can be intimidating and you can get lost if you aren't thinking. But I cannot excuse her inadvertent changing of keys or bending every vowel into a multi syllable phrase or screaming the words in such a harsh manner that dogs began to howl. I have had it with "celebrities" turning the national anthem into a show-off piece. I am tired of hearing it mangled by amateurs and professionals alike. I plead for people to respect the piece.

And when I say "respect the piece" I'm not questioning the performer's loyalty to the country, but their sanity, for they must, like too many others, have been thinking, "sure, anyone can sing the Star Spangled Banner -- it's easy -- I've been singing it my whole life." Here's a news flash -- the national anthem of the United States of America is a difficult piece of music for anyone to sing, let alone sing well. The range is wide, the words are a bit clumsy in our uneducated mouths, and, since it is sung by everyone at the ballpark and the arena, we think we know it when we don't.

If you are asked to sing at an event, you must practice. If you were asked to sing a Verdi aria or a Sondheim showstopper at a ballpark, you'd probably spend a great deal of time practicing and perfecting your performance. But the national anthem seems to get shorted.

Please do not take offense. I have heard many performances that were well rehearsed and well performed. During the 2010 baseball post-season at AT&T Park, Huey Lewis and The News performed and were absolutely wonderful (in four part harmony, no less). So were the surviving members of The Grateful Dead, Tony Bennett and a twelve-year-old trumpet player (sorry, I don't have his name, but he was great -- he performed at one of the games not at AT&T, either Philadelphia or Texas).

But too often, and for me, once is too often, the national anthem is strangled by vocal soloists, choirs, bands and instrumentalists. This past year, I heard a guy on a synthesizer play something that nearly sounded like the anthem.

If the point is to honor America, as the stadium announcer would have us believe, then sing the anthem honorably. It is good enough as written to be a show piece. If performed well, it will display your abilities and talents. You don't have to sound as good as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but sing it well, as written. There are no recording executives in the audience, so stop singing like you are trying to impress one.

And for pity's sake, if you are in charge of finding the talent to sing at the biggest sporting event in America, GET A REALLY GOOD SINGER! I am told that Christina has a good voice and can sing well -- I've never heard her do so. I've seen her on late-night talk shows and the like, and each time she has some excuse about not being in the best voice or whatever. I will admit that I have not listened to her records, so my judgement may not be fair, but I don't care for what I have heard over the years.

With all the pomp and bravado of the Super Bowl, why is low point the singing of the national anthem? The performance of "God Bless America" just beforehand was great. Maybe that singer and choir could have done the anthem, too? But, no, they had to have some huge celebrity do it.

Second news flash -- Celebrity does not equal Quality.

But enough ragging on Christina. She feels pretty lousy about flubbing the words. And, unfortunately, her performance will probably not further her career.

So here's the lesson -- if you are not 110% sure that you can perform the national anthem well, graciously decline the invitation. Karma will reward you. Otherwise, Karma will give you your just rewards.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nerds Unite -- Today Is The Answer!

Today is October 10, 2010. Many believe that three 10s in a row is lucky (see various gambling games). There were several weddings today. Births and birthdays were celebrated.

But for those who understand binary code, today is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything.

101010 in binary is 42 in base 10.

For those who do not understand, please refer to Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Update on Unemployed In-laws

For those of you who are either not related to me or who are related to me but have been living under a rock, my two brothers-in-law have both found employment. The paralegal is now employed and making himself indispensable at a small law firm in Texas and the delivery driver is now with his former employer's competition.

Good things come to those who wait? Maybe. But more accurately, the prayers of the faithful are answered.

Congratulations to both!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Wounds Are Still Open

While I was driving to work, I heard Maria of NPR's "Latino USA" comment that the wounds of September 11 are still open. She went on to interview several Muslims who are trying to champion the cause of peace and to take back their religion that has "been hijacked by extremists".

I think there are two reasons why these wounds are still open. The first is controversial -- we keep talking about it. I am not saying that the lives lost are no longer of value or that we should forget this national tragedy, but we need to stop using the events of that day as some kind of crutch -- everything wrong is NOT a direct result of the twin towers being attacked.

That's crazy talk. Would we be mired in a war in the desert if the attacks hadn't happened? Actually, we might. The genesis might have been different, but the result may have been the same. Would the economy have crumbled if the World Trade Center had not collapsed? It probably would have. The nation was living on borrowed money and borrowed time. The stock market was insanely inflated, the housing market was worse, and the Prophet of God specifically warned the people to get out of debt some five years earlier. Would Congress and the Presidency be so incredibly factioned if America had not been attacked on its own soil? Be reasonable -- Congress has been growing more factioned every year -- this is just the natural, although regrettable, progression of politics. The pendulum will swing back. And it will swing back not because of any outside influence or attack or achievement. It will swing back because that is what pendulums do.

So shut up already about September 11 and the attacks that occurred. And, yes, I am wearing a fire proof suit in preparation for the flaming that such a statement will produce. But hear me out -- the events of that day were absolutely awful and terrible (and, yes, I meant to use both words for their dissimilar meanings). But we have to move on. We cannot let the insanity rule our lives, or, more apt to my point, become the catalyst or whipping boy for all of our decisions. We are big boys and girls. Maybe even a little more mature since those events occurred. But stop blaming them for all of your problems. Even those who lost family members on that day (or in the subsequent days of battle) must move on with their lives. Otherwise, their grief and pain will consume them and they will waste the precious gift that life really is. They will waste the sacrifices of our soldiers and fire fighters and police and so many others. It is time to stop being consumed by the horrors. Honor the dead, say a prayer of thanksgiving, lay a plaque and set up a scholarship fund for the fire fighter's children? Absolutely. But stop using September 11 as the scapegoat for every other bad day that follows.

The second reason is even more controversial -- we cannot heal the wounds until we forgive those we feel are guilty (and that may include ourselves). As a nation we have turned to hatred as opposed to forgiveness. The sentiment on September 12 was "let's nuke that desert nation into glass". Now we have those who wish to burn the Qu'ran and those who wish to build a Mosque at Ground Zero (or at least nearby) and those who scream "you are insensitive" and others who scream "you are to blame" and many others who scream just to be heard.

The wounds will never close while we continue to poke at them. Every article calling Muslims "evil" and every story about suicide bombers rams another pitchfork into those wounds and twists. Not all Christians want to burn the texts sacred to Islam. Not all Muslims want to kill you in an attempt to acquire 71 vestal virgins (or crystal clear raisins, depending on your translation skills). And even those who do hate and do wish another person or group dead are still worthy of our forgiveness.

I call on the nation and the people of the whole world (many of whom unfortunately do not read this blog) to put aside your hatred and forgive each other. Genuinely forgive those misguided men who drove airplanes into the buildings of NY or the field in PA. Forgive those leaders who sent their militaries to battle each other. Give up the hatred you feel for even those who live in caves and reportedly wish you dead. Be smart and do not trust them with your life, but forgive them and trust that God and the Universe will reward all according to their intentions and their actions.

It has been nine years. For many, that is only yesterday. For some, they have never known a world in which those events had not been part of our history. It is like those of us born after 1941 -- the attack on Pearl Harbor has always been a reality. We have never known a time when that had not happened. So it is with those who are just coming to understand the world around them -- September 11, 2001 has always been a reality.

And maybe it will take until our generation is long gone that we as a people will give up the hatred. Maybe the only cure to these festering wounds is death.

I hope that doesn't have to be the case. I pray that we can be at peace again. I would like to hope for a better future than the one staring at us through the smoke. I would like to leave this world knowing that my son and his cousins and friends will be able to enjoy life and not be harrowed up by the sins of their fathers.

But I know that will not happen as long as we don't let the wounds heal. Put the bandage over it and leave it alone. Eventually, there will be only a scar left -- a quiet reminder of what we should not forget, but for which we have no lingering reason to brag or curse.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unemployment and Education

I found out today that another sibling's household income has been significantly reduced -- her husband lost his job. Given his experience in his field of choice (delivery services), he should be able to bounce back. But it brought back to my mind an old argument I've had with friends and college roommates.

Is an education necessary for employment and happiness? I will table the happiness discussion for another posting as I have more to say than can be said quickly today (I once started to write a book on happiness -- I didn't get very far, but the concept for such a book is still in the back of my head).

It is true that not all jobs require advanced degrees -- some don't require any education at all. And all of those jobs can be careers -- even be turned into relatively lucrative careers, given the right circumstances, choices, etc. And it is also true that an advanced degree does not guarantee one a job, especially lately.

But even with the current economics raging in our ears, I still believe that the more education one receives, the better are his chances of success in this life and its associated rat race.

So are all degrees and specialties created equal? Sadly, the answer is no. The tax accountant has a better chance of employment than the actor. This is not to say that any one profession or any one degree is better than another. But the sad truth is that in the halls of commerce, finance, and economics, an education dealing with the harder sciences will most likely yield more opportunities for monetary stability than an education in the arts or soft sciences.

While this world is run on a market system (free or otherwise), an education dealing with some aspect of that system puts a person in line to make money. It is the ultimate in "if you can't beat them, join them." When we switch to a different system, new rules will need to be applied (although an education will fare well in most systems known).

My brother-in-law should be fine, though, given that his skill set is in an area dealing with the transportation of goods -- which is essential to the marketplace. Another brother-in-law had to change his skill set. He was an artist. Now he is trained as a paralegal. And while at the moment he is still unemployed (again, the economy not picking up the pieces yet), his prospects are better today than they were when he was a starving artist.

Is it better to be a starving paralegal than a starving artist? Both men are still hungry! And yet, how many operas can you name where the paralegal starved to death? Dying artists abound. Dying lawyers -- not so many, unless they were murdered (it's an occupational hazard).

And lastly, does anything I say hold any weight at all, given that my chosen profession is mandated by the government? Well, yes, because I CHOSE to be an accountant. I could have spent my university years in the pursuit of an arts degree or a political science degree -- I had great aspirations in both areas. But I am a pragmatist. There were more trumpet players looking for jobs than there were jobs available. The halls of Washington were strewn with poli-sci grads looking to clerk for this congressman or another, only to be out of a job the following November. I decided to leave such uncertainty to my younger and more idealistic associates. I decided to follow a more conservative path to wealth.

Does that make me a coward? A sellout? One who sacrificed his dreams at the alter of commerce? I don't know. Maybe it does. But, believe it or not, I am happy with the decisions I've made, and not just because I have a good job.

Invariably when this conversation is raised, there will be those who point to examples of wealthy businessmen who did not graduate at all, let alone get an advanced degree. I will humbly acknowledge that such examples exist and will glibly point out that most of those individuals are either geniuses or very lucky or both. Often they are both. If the time ever comes that I am blessed with great amounts of wealth, it will be because I was in the right place at the right time and able to take advantage of the right opportunity. And for every Microsoft or Google uneducated genius there are thousands, if not millions, of geniuses who will never be known as their companies just didn't make it.

Here's the point of this rambling -- if you are at the beginning of the decision making process (i.e. just about to graduate from high school or just entered college), think seriously about where your dreams will lead. It may not now be the most important thing to you to make gobs of money -- but do not make a decision about your future lightly. And do not get me wrong -- I love the arts and have had some training in them. The world would be an empty place without them. And there are those who do succeed financially as artists. Maybe you will be one of those. But if you have talents in the sciences or mathematics, do not be too swift to lay those aside for the glory of the limelights. And even if you do decide to become an artist, take an accounting class, just so you will be able to count the millions you will make.

Then again, you can always just call me.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Last Post Deleted

To those of you who saw my last post entitled "What to do when Mom gets old" I want you to know that after venting here I realized that my post was not truly indicative of how I felt about my mother, her age, my age, my role in life, etc.

So I deleted it to hopefully avoid any misunderstandings.

Judging from the number of comments attached to that post (none), it may be that either no one saw it or everyone was embarrassed about it. Regardless, it is now gone and can be forgotten.

My true feelings about my mother are much more tender than what I wrote. I must say that of late I have been feeling rather foul. Maybe it's a mid-life crisis. Maybe I need a vacation. Maybe I need a hug. Maybe I just need my father to gently tell me to "snap out of it".

I really miss him. He would have been 72 today. Happy Birthday Dad.

Monday, February 1, 2010


In this case, we are talking about electronic SPAM. The ham-like product enjoyed so much in Hawaii is fine with me and I consumed my fair share as a Boy Scout, usually chopped into Mac & Cheese.

But I'm tired of being asked if I want any of my anatomy enhanced. And I find it extremely disturbing that I'll get both male and female anatomy enhancement offers on the same day.

Until recently, my blog seemed to be immune from SPAM, but there were two comments left recently that linked to what appeared to be disreputable sites. I deleted the comments and have included a word verification requirement when leaving comments. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it would appear to be a necessary evil.

More to post later -- sorry for not writing for so long -- very busy year for too many wrong reasons.