Friday, December 31, 2010

No Friday 80s Flashback for December 31, 2011

No Friday 80s Flashback for today. But that doesn't mean you have to go without 80s tunes as you celebrate the new year. Pick your favorite from the 80s Flashback Archives!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Myth of Santa?

Is Santa Claus a myth?

Santa is indeed a myth. But only in the original and not the corrupted, modern sense of the word. To those of us who know better, myth ≠ untrue. Myth is the truest, most important thing in the world. Myth describes events that never happened, and yet are happening to us still. Myth tells us about individuals who could never have existed, and yet reach out to us even today.

Endeavor to live a mythic life!

Friday 80s Flashback for December 24, 2010

[Winter Holidays: Week 4] -- Welcome to the fourth and final installment of the Winter Holidays-themed 80s flashbacks. Yes, I took time out my own busy Christmas Eve to bring you a brief respite from your holiday preparations. And what a collection we have today!

Read and hear more after the jump.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Reason for the Season?

Winter Solstice Buddha Painting by Cherie Glasco


Oh, we're knee deep in the holiday season now, aren't we? Hanukkah has passed. The Winter Solstice is upon us, and Christmas and Kwanzaa are coming up this weekend. Of course, it wouldn't be December without claims that there is a War on Christmas (history), debates over whether to use "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," arguments over the holiday's Pagan/Heathen roots (and even calls to return to the holiday's pagan roots), atheist appeals to reason, astronomical explanations for the Winter Solstice, crying over "Xmas" as crossing Christ out of Christmas, and all sorts of other nonsense.

Are you feeling the holiday warmth now?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for December 17, 2010

[Winter Holidays: Week 3] -- Oh, we're counting down the days now, aren't we? One week from Christmas Eve. If you're like me, you're caught in the midst of preparing for the Solstice and the upcoming full moon, and you're behind on Christmas cards and shopping. Maybe it's time for a break. Hey, flashbacks make for great breaks! What flashbacks do I have for your sonic stockings this week? Well, read and hear more after the jump.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for December 10, 2010

[Winter Holidays: Week 2] -- Well, that week pretty much flew by and we're right back at another Friday, ready for some 80s tunes. As I put the finishing touches on this week's holiday offerings, there are flurries dancing about on a breeze just beyond my window. The snow, and the fact that I did a bit of gift shopping and then adjusted the tree, certainly puts me in the Seasons Greetings kind of mood. What marvelous stocking stuffers have I for you this week? Well, read and hear more after the jump.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

War on Christmas, or War on Diversity?

Marci A. Hamilton argues that "War on Christmas" rhetoric is actually a war on diversity. And you know what? I think she has a valid argument! The money moment comes in the sixth paragraph:
Given the prevalence of Christmas in the culture, why do people feel insulted by the judicial decisions holding that the courthouse can’t have a crèche, or the school choir can’t sing only Christian music at the public school annual holiday concert?I suppose it is because there was a time when no one challenged them. Culturally, we came to expect such displays, and it feels like we have a right, but also, emotionally, it is scary to have them removed from our universe. For a Christian, and perhaps other believers, they were a comfort. At base, many apparently feel that if the government can’t support our Christian celebration, then we are losing control and power over the most important values in the culture. But these responses lack historical perspective.
From that point on, Ms. Hamilton obliges the reader with a very necessary, albeit brief, summary of the historical facts. I don't know if the folks who most need to read this piece will even see it, but it's handy to have in your hip pocket if you ever find yourself dealing with, say, Mr. O'Reilly and his associates at Fox News (or one of their fans).

Read The War on Diversity over at Patheos.com.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for December 3, 2010

[Winter Holidays: Week 1] -- Ah, December. Remember when the holiday season waited until after Thanksgiving before it truly kicked into gear? No? Well, that's no surprise. I can barely recall that either. But at least here, on Prophet or Madman, no one can be accused of jumping the holiday gun (or, hopefully, the shark). And now that we are finally in the most wonderful time of the year, it's safe to break into songs about winter, snow, Christmas, Santa, etc. And because so much wonderful holiday music came out of the 80s, we're going to stretch this theme to cover four weeks. That's right. Today's Flashback is the first of a four part series!

Read and hear more after the jump.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Theory of Hipster Relativity

Dustin Glick weighs in with the astonishingly accurate Theory of Hipster Relativity


http://www.dustinland.com/dlands/dland.hipster.jpg

Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade

"'The Norsemen were not just warriors, they were farmers, artists, shipbuilders, and innovators,' said Ingmar Jansson, a professor of archaeology at Stockholm University in Sweden. 'More than anything, they were excellent traders who connected peoples from Baghdad to Scandinavia to the mainland of North America.'"

Read the full article at National Geographic: Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade

LEGOs and Dreams

Over on Facebook, a friend posted his shock over the price of Star Wars LEGOs. He asked, "Are LEGOs mined in Africa or something?" To which I replied:

"LEGOs are expensive because they are made from the crushed dreams of cubicle dwellers. While plentiful, the dreams are rather difficult to distill properly."


Photos of LEGO Cubicles (Via: TrendHunter and thinkgeek)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for November 19, 2010

[Second Acts] -- Themes for the Flashback are strange and often take on a life of their own. Consider this week's theme of "Second Acts." For my purposes, I define a Second Act as the result of an individual artist, or an entire band, that decided to go in a new direction. I was specifically looking at artists that joined or formed a new band, or bands that shifted format/direction due to personnel changes. I didn't care so much whether the change was a conscious choice, or if the artist was forced to change simply to continue recording. I also don't care whether the change was ultimately judged as boon or bane to the artist's career. Now, the idea of Second Acts was not my original choice for today, but it has been on my list of TBD themes, so it has been on my mind. The issue, you see, is that when I write the Flashback, I try to hew closely to my trio formula: provide (1) background, (2) my recollections, and (3) a video link for each one of -- say it with me now -- three different 80s tunes that reflect the chosen theme. However, when I turned my attention to Second Acts in the 80s, I was stuck after making only two selections. Of course, there are countless examples of what I call the Second Act, but I cannot just simply pull a third option from the proverbial hat. I need to have some kind of connection to the song, otherwise I'm simply parroting what other music bloggers have said about it. And I just could not come up with a viable third tune. That is, I could not make that final selection until this morning. A more accurate assessment might be to say that the song presented itself to me.

Read and hear more after the jump.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Memory is a Funny Thing

My lunchtime excursion today took me through a residential area where I had to wait for a small construction vehicle to clear the road. As I sat there, my car the last in a row of similarly waiting cars, I just watched the wind blow leaves across the street and sidewalk. Somehow that sight reminded me of elementary school, specifically the elementary school library. I almost felt as though I were sitting in that library again. I'm not sure why that is -- it's not as though I can recall a library trip that had me sitting close enough to the windows that I could watch a similar scene. But we are in Autumn, and I did spend a fair bit of my time window-gazing in my youth, and the street across from the school did feature a row of homes.

Memory is a funny thing.

Image courtesy of the web. 

Photo by Suzanne Tucker

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for November 12, 2010

[In the Spirit] -- Due to this being tech week at Montgomery Theater ("Half and Half" opens this weekend), and the fact that I am leaving Friday afternoon to attend a conference, I'm rather short on time to compile a Flashback. So, please forgive me if my recollections are shorter than usual. Now, the conference I am attending is for interfaith ministers, so I thought I might take the flashback in a spiritual direction. But don't worry: I'm not pulling hymns from the 1580s.

Read and hear more after the jump.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for November 5, 2010

[Politics Schmolotics] -- Here in the US, we recently endured a mid-term election season. Across the pond, Great Britain is observing Guy Fawkes Day. So this seems like a good time to have a politically minded set of Flashbacks. Now, I have heard arguments that the best protest songs were written and recorded in the 60s and 70s. That might be true, but the 80s did not lack for politically charged passion or activist rhetoric.

Read and hear more after the jump.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Post Mid-Term Election Thought

I've posted this elsewhere, but I figure I should archive it on my own blog.

Take a good look at the election results and get ready to evaluate what the "new" Congress does over the next two years. You might even go back to the mid-term elections of 1982, 1994, and 2006 for comparison.

But none of that really matters. (Here comes the material I've posted elsewhere, such as my Facebook page).

The names on the office door might change now and then, but the US is still run by corporations and lobbyists. And in the final analysis, there is no Red/Blue, or Republican/Democrat, division. All of those labels are the public face of government, or the entertainment if you will. The only real work done in government, and it's the same work that has been going on for DECADES, is the behind-closed-doors dance our representatives do with big business and lobbyists to (a) get elected or (b) stay elected. That leaves very little time to deal with real issues let alone seek pragmatic solutions for them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Quotable | Patriot (Mid-Term Election 2010 Edition)

A Patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.
-- Edward Abbey, author, essayist, and environmental advocate (1927-1989)


I posted this quote at the height of the 2008 election season. I bring it back now on the eve of the 2010 mid-term elections because it is still relevant. I am not, however, advocating a form of "tea party" patriotism. I use this as a warning that the "government" is not a monolithic entity. It is comprised of
  • elected persons who are members of both major political parties
  • candidates who are trying to become elected for the first time
  • candidates who are trying to keep (or regain) political office
  • lobbyists who work for, and against, parties and candidates
  • think tanks who examine citizens' behavior and then attempt to mold it toward a certain purpose (without letting those same citizens know they are being subtly manipulated)
  • members of the media who try to tell us what the government is doing, and sometimes chastise elected officials and candidates, even as they try to court favors and money from those very same officials (or promises from up-and-coming candidates)
  • individual citizens who vote -- and voting is done directly at the polls as well as indirectly with every dollar a person spends or choice they make.
  So, what exactly is Abbey's patriot defending against? Well, in a word: "us."


Friday, October 29, 2010

Chart: Visual History of Halloween


[Click for larger image; go to visual.ly to embed it on our own site.]

Friday 80s Flashback for October 29, 2010

[Halloween] -- Welcome to a very special holiday edition of the Friday 80s Flashback. Now, as far as I'm concerned, Halloween songs typically fall somewhere between being (1) Oh-so-obviously Halloweenesque, and (2) Stealthily Halloweenish. That is true regardless of the decade. Right off the bat (no pun intended there), we have to agree that Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is squarely in the first camp. And you have to understand, that I'm not going to feature it in today's Flashback. Yes, "Thriller" was huge for radio and MTV, and everyone wanted to learn the Thriller dance in 1983. Hell, that dance continues to inspire popular culture. But it's not featured today because it's just too obvious a choice. Moving on the other end of the spectrum, we have stealthily Halloweenish songs like "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive" (1982) by Men At Work. This song is a clever riff on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde." It also features that wonderful stock science fiction character who has made numerous appearances in Halloween/horror flicks, particularly of the b-grade variety. You know him, you love him, he is The Mad Scientist!

Now that I have provided a longer-than-usual intro, you are probably waiting not-so-patiently for me to unveil the actual Flashback choices, right? Well, please know that I needed to provide that info so you can understand that, for your Halloween listening today, I offer one song from the obvious camp and two that hue a little closer to the stealth end of the spectrum. And maybe, just maybe if you're very good, there will be a bonus track.

Read and hear more after the jump.

Friday Pet Blogging: Simon (We Still Miss You)

It's hard to believe seven years have passed since we lost Simon. Today I present the photo collage I posted in 2004 to mark the one year anniversary of his untimely death.





Thank you, Simon, for 7+ wonderful years: 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

We love you and miss you

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for October 22, 2010

[Jazz/Fusion] -- We're going in a slightly different direction with the Friday 80s Flashback this week. I want to take a look at how the 80s represent a pivotal decade not only for pop and rock music, but also for jazz. Remember, before rock n' roll gained popularity and took over the airwaves, jazz was considered popular music -- it was the "pop" music of three decades, the 20s through the 40s. During that time, a wide variety of genres and subgenres were spawned as jazz grew and evolved, often incorporating (or fusing) elements from other forms of entertainment together within a jazz structure. This was very evident in the 60s and 70s as elements of rock were combined with jazz improvisations to develop the genre known as jazz-rock fusion (or "jazz fusion" or just "fusion" for short). Rock rhythms, electric instruments, and loud amplification went from being snubbed by jazz traditionalists to forging a whole new musical idiom for jazz's greatest innovators. Now, we know that new technology and changing tastes in the 80s made stars of folks who could barely play instruments (think of Trio and Duran Duran), but what did it do for folks who were considered exceptional musicians?

Read and hear more after the jump.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Pet Blogging (on Saturday) | Similar But Different

Is it OK to submit a Friday Pet Blogging entry on Saturday (er, Caturday)? Well, it has to be OK because I'm going that route.

This week, we have a morning shot of our boys, Otis and Milo, staking their claims on our bed as I prepare to go to work. What is strange here is that Milo, who is typically rather reserved, is freely sprawled out while his usually rambunctious brother, Otis, assumes a more conservative pose. In fact, I had to wait for Milo to stop moving before I could even attempt to capture a photo with my Palm Pre!

So Similar, So Different



And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  3. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  4. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for October 15, 2010


[Hair Metal] -- The 80s spawned a very strange creature: The Hair Metal genre. Possibly the result of controlled efforts to crossbreed Heavy Metal (for its energy and intensity) with Pop Rock (for its relative safety and accessibility), Hair Metal was responsible for a boat load of record sales. Of course, not nearly as noteworthy is the fact that this genre also drove up the sales figures for hairspray, spandex, and bandannas. Most bands in this category are considered one-and-done deals, and many of them certainly qualify. But a majority of Hair bands actually got started in the mid to late 70s before finding some measure of success in the 80s. And some of those guys continued to release albums far after their glory days had passed in the haze of spent smoke machines. Read and hear more after the jump.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quotable | Superman's Mask

An essential characteristic of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero, and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When he wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic that Superman stands alone. Superman did not become Superman, Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears, the glasses, the business suit, that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race. Sort of like Beatrix Kiddo and Mrs. Tommy Plympton." 

-- Bill (“Snake Charmer”), from the two-part action thriller, KILL BILL


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Unfrozen Caveman Candidate

When political ads start appearing on TV, doesn't it seem like they are all variations on this theme:
Ladies and gentlemen of the constituency, I'm just a caveman. I fell on some ice and later got thawed out by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes the honking horns of your traffic make me want to get out of my BMW.. and run off into the hills, or wherever.. Sometimes when I get a message on my smart-phone, I wonder: 'Did little demons get inside and type it?' I don't know! My primitive mind can't grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know - when a man like my opponent is in office, BAAAAAD things happen. When a caveman like me is in office, only GOOOOD things happen. So vote for me. Thank you."

With apologies to the genius of Jack Handey and Phil Hartman (1948 – 1998) who brought us the brilliant Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer sketches on SNL.

By the way, we miss you, Phil.

Bizarro: The Mr. T Party Candidate

Bizarro nails it again (comic from 10/12/2010):

Monday, October 11, 2010

Muppet Jesus

In a December 2008 comic, the first panel of which is shown below, PVP nailed the idea that the Muppets are a commentary on the human condition. I have no nothing further to say about the comic. It speaks for itself.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Pet Blogging | Milo on the Couch

I just looked at my archives, and my last Friday Pet Blogging post was on January 26 ... of 2008! I've heard of sabbaticals, but that's a bit ridiculous. I would blame Facebook (as I have in the past), but I don't think I was using Facebook that early in 2008.

Anyway ...

It's time to get back into the swing of Friday Pet Blogging. We'll ease back into it with this comfy capture of Milo sprawled out on our couch.


My wife thought he looked just like a teenager flopped out on there. What she meant was: He looks like a bum!



And one by one, the pet blogging posts steal my sanity ...

More Pet Blogging
  1. See the Friday Ark, featuring a compilation of today's pet blogging posts, over at The Modulator.
  2. Carnival of the Cats, coming at you every Sunday.
  3. And one of the funniest/cutest/obsessivest (OK, I know that's not a word!) sites for cat photos, StuffOnMyCat.com is a must see. Take it from them: Stuff + Cats = Awesome!
  4. And for a funny and saccharin sweet photo collection of cat, kitty, and other critters that have been tagged with LOL, go see I Can Has a Cheezeburger? Really, these are good.

Friday 80s Flashback for October 8, 2010

[Making Movies] -- The theme for today's flashback is songs from the movies. But not just any old song from any old movie. We're talking iconic scenes from iconic films; we're talking scenes whose impact was possible largely in part to the right song being played at the right time. Now, one could argue that 80s movies were nothing more than vehicles to push hit singles onto a public hungry for music (uh, that hasn't changed much). And looking back over the releases from that decade, that argument probably holds true for most of them. But there are some rather sparkling examples where the stars aligned and magic happened.And we're going to celebrate them today.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Pancake Goes RRAAAAWRRR!

Check out the coolest pancakes ever. Starting with with the 3D Dinosaur Bones Pancake.

3D Dinosaur Pancake

Get Out The Dilithium Crystals!

You're familiar with Haynes Manuals, right? They're only known for publishing the very best illustrated guides for repairing (or exploring the guts of) cars, motorcycles and bicycles, as well as a series covering historic aircraft. Maybe you have to be into DIY stuff to have heard of them. Or, maybe, you have to be interested in technical communication (that's my camp).

Well, now they have boldly gone where no (serious) technical DIY manual has ever gone: Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise! The startrek.com staff interviewed editor Derek Smith about this latest addition to the Hayes library: Inside the Haynes Enterprise Manual



I can finally build my own warp engine! (No, not really)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Living Myths

Living myths are not mistaken notions, and they do not spring from books. They are not to be judged as true or false but as effective or ineffective, maturative or pathogenic. They are rather like enzymes, products of the body in which they work; or in homogeneous social groups, products of a body social. They are not invented but occur, and are recognized by seers, and poets, to be then cultivated and employed as catalysts of spiritual (i.e., psychological) well-being." 

-- Joseph Campbell,(2003). The Flight of the Wild Gander, 3rd Edition. San Francisco: New World Library



Joseph Campbell's accomplishments are quite extensive. But if he had achieved only the re-introduction of living myths into our dialogue, I would say he had done the world a huge service.
"Community Circle - Labyrinth Surround"     © 2005  Peter W. Michel

Friday, October 01, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for October 1, 2010

[Unrequited but Upbeat Edition] -- The theme for today's flashback is upbeat songs about unrequited love. Every generation has them, but the 80s seemed to spawn some singularly interesting instances of happy beats with potentially depressing lyrical content.

1938: The Things We Miss

Note: This is a post I started in May of 2008 but never finished. I found it this morning when I was looking for a draft of my next Friday 80s Flashback. It is one of several posts just sitting in an electronic abyss. Over the next week or two, I will try to complete as many as I can.



On a Saturday morning in May of 2008, I arose early to drive my Forester to the Subaru dealer. It's a pretty short drive; the dealership is just beyond my town's borders. I typically take advantage of their shuttle service -- I drop off the car, they take me back home, they call me with details regarding my vehicle's service, and finally they pick me up after they finish the job -- But the shuttle is not available on weekends.

No worries. As I mentioned, it's a short drive. So I figured walking back and forth wouldn't be all that difficult. Besides, I lucked out with a glorious, Spring day. Perfect for walking. So, after I dropped off the car, I made my way home from the dealership.

My pace was slow, almost meandering. I had the whole day before me with no need to race home. I listened to birds. I took in the gentle breeze. I paid attention to homes and yards that would normally fall away in my peripheral vision as I focused on the road ahead.

And then I came to a full stop when I saw this in the concrete walk (also available on my Flickr page):


To be completely accurate, I would have to post the image upside down. But that's not the point.

I was completely enamored with this small token in concrete. What did that symbol mean? What happened in 1938? How are the symbol and this date connected? It took all my self-control to not walk up to the house connected to this walk, knock on the door, and ask if anyone there knew what the message of their front walk was. After all, it was kind of early for someone to receive such questions from a complete stranger.

I might never know concretely the message of  this sidewalk. But here is something I do know: I had been driving past this parchment-in-pavement for several years and never once had any inkling that it was there, that it was waiting for a brief moment of discovery.

What else am I missing -- are we all missing -- as we rush about in our machines with our to-lists, schedules, and agendas?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Under Reconstruction

Please pardon the dust and such. I am trying out a new logo and reworking the layout here. So the ride is bound to be a bit bumpy and confusing for a short while.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for September 24, 2010 [Uplifting Edition]

I already posted the Angry Edition this morning, but I wanted to end on a more positive note by providing a set of "uplifting" flashback songs. Fortunately, the 80s are rife with upbeat songs that speak to the power of potential. Read about them, and hear them, after the break!

Friday 80s Flashback for September 24, 2010 [Angry Edition]

I'm doing two rounds of flashbacks today. The first round features "angry" songs. There are so many to choose, but I'm just putting up three. I had to really do some digging because one song I wanted to include just isn't to be found on the web. Maybe next time.

Autumn Equinox

On Wednesday evening, I conducted a brief solo ritual to honor the passing of Summer and welcome the new season to come. I offered an apple pastry as well as milk and honey to the land spirits. I raised the horn to the Alfar and the Disr. I thanked Sunna for the blessings of Summer, gave thanks for bounty, and asked Ullr and Skadi to guard us well in the coming winter months. Due to rain showers, there was no view of the Harvest Moon for me. But I was blessed with a wonderful light(ning) show -- Hail Thor!
Altar for Solo Winter Finding Ritual

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for September 17, 2010

Another Friday, another round of Friday 80s Flashbacks. Today we have two hard-rocking bands (one long-lived, the other not so much) and a vanguard of the New Wave British Invasion. Click to read, and hear, more.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Real "Never Forget"

It is all well and good to remember 9-11 and say, "Never again!" But we must also find and use our resolve for tolerance, understanding, and cooperation. These are our tools for building a future where 9-11 is remembered but never repeated.

They Crashed the Planes and Changed the Rules (Redux)

[This is a reworking of a blog entry originally posted on September 11, 2008]
"They crashed the planes and changed the rules." -- GrooveLily, Live Through This (Are We There Yet?), Are We There Yet?. QMR, 2003
Nine years ago the world changed. You may take that as an overstatement, or, conversely, as overly simple. But wherever you lived at the time, a shift in perspective occurred. That shift was all the more dramatic and palpable if you were a U.S. citizen. I don't want to dwell on the attacks themselves. But I do want to take some time to recall what happened in the wake of that dreadful event. Forget -- if you can, even if for only for a moment -- just forget how you feel about the war in Iraq, conspiracy theories, and Republican versus Democrat (or any other "them versus us" political division). Recall, instead, the great communal sense that slowly seeped into our national fiber even as the weight of sorrow and shock seemed all too powerful and crushing. Remember neighbor comforting neighbor, even in cases where those neighbors had not known each other very well prior to that morning. Remember the outpouring of support and sympathy from around the world. And remember that shared conviction that, although we would never forget the tragedy, we would recover ... grow stronger ... and become ever more connected as a nation.

Are we there yet?

Now, I know many terrible and stupid things also occurred in the wake of 9-11. To suggest otherwise would be naive. And I would never suggest that we should simply gloss over the darker side of our all too human nature. It is my belief, however, that we can recover even from the damage we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. So the cases of post-911 ignorance and bigotry are not the focus of my post today. They would only serve to drag us back down to the things I asked you forget in my second paragraph. And what is my focus? What's the point of one more 9-11 post on a blog? Well, I wanted to provide something a little different on this solemn anniversary. You see, in my opinion, Americans were offered a choice nine years ago. We had a chance to abandon partisan politics and all the other petty things that keep us from truly working together. We saw a glimpse of the society we could have, one that celebrated differences instead of drawing lines. A nation of people united by a common desire to be their very best, and give their very best. That desire trumped pain, loss, and even differences in ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, etc. Are we there yet?

The short and sad answer is, "No." When I visited this line of thought in 2008, our nation was in the midst of a difficult election season and it seemed that every day featured a new example of just how far we have fallen from that vision of post 9-11 unity.

Two years later and the candidates have changed, but the unravelling continues.

There are angry arguments about who is a true patriot, who is "American enough," and who deserves to be in this country. Although these are not new arguments, I have a hard time imagining the Founding Fathers spewing the kind of venom that Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News exchange with Olbermann, Maddow, and MSNBC. And speaking of venom, have you had your fill of the hate-filled rhetoric and fear-mongering that seems to be regularly hurled between members of differing faith tribes? I know I have.

But here is some good news: The door that opened in the aftermath of 9-11 has not yet closed. We can still achieve a truly united, yet beautifully diverse, nation. A nation not necessarily blessed by this, that, or the other god, but blessed by its citizens and their actions. Can we get there? You tell me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for September 10, 2010

Oooh. Friday 80s Flashback posts for two weeks in a row! I might yet make this blogging thing a habit. Videos and stories after the jump.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Paycheck

If your paycheck is your primary motivation, you should look elsewhere. No paycheck can compensate you for a meaningless work like, and you'll live happily on less if you are genuinely enthusiastic about what you do." -- Urbanska, Wanda. "Paths to Simplicity." Experience Life June 2010: 74-76. Isn't it interesting that I read this today, just one day after concluding the worst few weeks I have ever experienced at the day job?

man dead in cubicle bunker
Colorblind/Stone/Getty Images
Another one bites the dust.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday 80s Flashback for September 3, 2010

Facebook has made me a lazy blogger. Case in point: For several months now, I have been posting video links as "Friday 80s Flashbacks" ... but only on my Facebook page. I think it is high time I share those gems here as well, don't you?

Let's get started!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pakistan Needs Your Help

The recent flooding in Pakistan is, by accounts, the worst that country has experienced in 80 years. Over 15 million people -- some accounts estimate as much as 20 million -- have been affected. The full effect of this disaster may not be felt or even tallied till much later. And yet, by August 12, donations to help Pakistan's relief efforts were merely one-quarter of the Haiti response (ReliefWeb.int). I'm sure there are many reasons for the huge gap in responses. One that I've read often is "donor fatigue." That makes perfect sense. There are many organizations that clamor after us for funding on a regular basis, and then we've had what seems to be one major catastrophe after another (Tsunami, Haiti earthquake, Pakistan flooding, etc.). The BBC's Ros Atkins muses over several other possible explanations. But I don't care about the reasons. I only care about changing this situation. Pakistan needs our help. No, forget that. PEOPLE in Pakistan need our help. We're talking about the average folks over there -- forget for just a moment about the government of Pakistan, and their military, or whatever you have in your head because of the war on terror. Think instead of the folks who are just trying to get buy and make do for their families. People like you and me in many respects. These are people who have lost everything and need help just to survive another day. The need clean water, shelter, medication, and a whole host of other things that many of us are quite possibly taking for granted.
http://www.tonic.com/image/87110-595-pakistan-floodjpg.jpg [photo from tonic.com]
The best way to help them right now is by monetary donations. Later, we might be able to help with clothes drives and campaigns to collect other necessities, but right now relief efforts are hampered by a lack of funding. Here are some ways you can change that.
  • Text "swat" to 50555 -- this sends a $10 donation to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees that will go toward providing tents, food, clothing, and clean water. (Reply with "yes" to confirm the gift.)
  • Text FLOODS to 864233 -- this helps get relief DIRECTLY to the CHILDREN of Pakistan by sending a $10 donation to UNICEF.
  • UNICEF -- If you are nervous about texting to donate money, use the form on this page, or use the info to call or print a snail mail form, to send your donation to UNICEF
  • Yahoo News -- has a list of suggestions for donating money.
  • Tonic -- also has an extensive compilation of ways to donate and help.
There is no concert event. There is no Bob Geldof or other celebrity taking charge and calling our attention to help. But that's OK. We are strong enough, we are caring enough, and we have it in us to help. No matter how small the donation. Please, do your part today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pick My New Phone -- The Choice!

I really wanted a cool title for this post. I considered "I Kissed A Phone" (too cutesy), "The Smartphone Has Landed" (too audacious?), "Smartphone Accomplished!" (too Iraq War), and "What (Phone) Have I Got In My Pocket?" (too Tolkien). In the end, I just went with something that should tie this post in with the previous ones in this thread. Anyway... Anyone out there remember I was looking to upgrade my smartphone and that I narrowed my options down to two devices? I haven't mentioned anything here since June 17, but if you follow me on twitter, you might have caught a reference or two as to what phone I finally selected. It's funny, but my choice ultimately came down to two things: Cost and availability. On the cost factor, the Droid Incredible was going to cost me about 4x as much as the Palm Pre Plus. Concerning availability, as of June 22 the Incredible was backordered into mid- to late July. Now, my favorite time to test drive a new phone is when I travel because I can really put a device through its paces and see if it will work for me. As things stood, I was going to be driving to Boston on July 2 and staying for a few days, so I definitely wanted to pickup a new phone before my departure. Hello Palm Pre Plus. I'm working on a full review of my experience with this device, both on my Boston trip and day-to-day since then. I'm nowhere near ready to post it, but at least now you know what I've got in my pocket.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Absolutely Messianic Superman?

This is the cover illustration for the Absolute Edition of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN which ships in October (click to embiggen):
It's a great piece of work by Frank Quitely. But what is the message this image is trying to convey? Well, isn't it obvous? Absolute Superman = Messianic Figure!
For your convenience, I am providing a key quote from the Gospel According to Superman:
Kal-El answered,
"I am the American way
and the truth and the life.
No one comes to Justice
except through me."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quotable | Worse?

Things couldn't get much worse!"
[Creature ROARS behind him]
"The universe just loves proving me wrong, doesn't it?"
-- Sokka (from Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pick My New Phone (Is There an App for That?) -- Update!

Hello Prophet or Madman-philes (all two or three of you who read this blog)! As you know, I'm looking to upgrade my smartphone. Several folks have provided feedback here on the blog, by twitter, on my Facebook wall, and by email. Thanks to that input, and a little trip to the local Verizon store, I have narrowed my options to two devices.
  • Palm Pre Plus: My last three or four phones have been Palm devices. They easily sync with Mac OS X (contacts, schedule, photos, memos, etc.). The Palm Pre Plus has been rated as having the best OS out there. It can be used as a mobile WiFi hotspot for up to five devices. It has a great touchscreen as well as a slide-out keyboard (with actual keys). Speaking of the keyboard, I am pretty much used to its layout because it is so similar to the Centro. And, with Verizon's current pricing, I can get this smartphone for free.
  • HTC Droid Incredible: The name really says it all as this is an incredible device. All the pros of the Droid OS, but none of the reported problems of the Motorola Droid. It cannot be used as a WiFi hotspot, but it can be tethered to your laptop for internet connectivity. The camera is great and it has an LED flash! Now, this device is fairly pricey, and I have to wait if I want it (most locations had about a three week wait to get the device as of a week ago), but I do get a discount on it (thanks to my "new every two" feature with Verizon).
At this point, I still have to perform my own tests to see which device is better at all the tasks I need it to do. But if I am looking for something to keep me for the next two years while I wait for Verizon to get the iPhone, it seems I should lean toward the Palm Pre Plus. It's available now, has WiFi capability (included with the data package), and the price is right. As long as it handles webmail, music, Twitter, and Facebook like a champ, my decision should be pretty much made, right? Thoughts, comments, suggestions?

Monday, May 31, 2010

An Anthem for Memorial Day

The video in this post features Josh Groban performing an operatic version of one of my favorite tunes: "Anthem." The song comes from the 1980s musical, CHESS, by Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson. Although the show is very much about the board game of chess, it is even more about the politics of relationships ... and nations.
In the storyline, "Anthem" is performed by a Russian chess player -- a champion -- on the occasion of his defection from the U.S.S.R., but there is nothing in it to make it specific of any particular nation. I, therefore, find it very inspirational and appropriate for Memorial Day. For it is the love of our nation that our veterans served in the armed forces. It is for the love of this land that so many soldiers laid down their lives.
Check out the lyrics:
No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born
And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant
We who don't care
And you wonder will I leave her -- but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now
How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pick My New Phone! (Is There an App for That?)

Three months ago, I put it off. And I was prepared to put it off for another month. But the time has come to make a decision.
I'm due for an upgrade and I need a new smartphone.
Now, I am a Mac user, so one would think this is a decision easily made and acted upon. I should get an iPhone, right? Well, let me tell you, I would certainly like to have an iPhone. There are, however, a few issues. First, I am on Verizon. Why is that an issue? Uh, because I am unwilling to switch to AT&T. Sorry, folks, I'm actually happy with the service on Verizon. AT&T is by far the lesser network in my area and I kind of like a phone to, well, you know, make phone calls.
Second, it seems rather unlikely that Apple will strike a deal with Verizon. I was following the rumors, waiting and hoping for the iPhone to be available on my network. But I'm convinced it won't happen ... for quite a while.
Third, and possibly the biggest issue, I have been using Palm products for several years now. My current device is a Centro (I have been through the Palm V, Palm m500, Treo 650, Treo 700p). All my primary contacts -- and a host of other data in the form of memos, scheduling, etc. -- is in Palm's proprietary format. C'mon! Don't judge me! These Palm devices sync very well with the Mac platform, OK?
Here is my Centro!
Now, you may well ask, "Why do you need a new smartphone?" Great question! And the answer is ... I don't really need a new smartphone. But I am up for contract renewal, which means a discount on a new device, and I do want one. Or, rather, I want a phone that is better on the web than my Centro (that Blazer browser is so 2005).
So my question all of you (er, well, anyone reading my blog; so that's all two of you) is this:
What device should I get?
I'm serious. I need some help in choosing my new smartphone. And it will ideally have the following features:
  • Sync well with Mac OS X
  • Decent web browser
  • Good audio quality
  • Support for Twitter (preferably via Tweetdeck) and Facebook
  • Full keyboard (virtual or practical, I'm not picky just yet)
  • Video playback
  • iTunes integration
  • Ability to import my Palm data
I'm not really all that interested in BlackBerry devices, so I guess the choice is between Android and Palm. Or, maybe Palm is not really part of the discussion. The Palm Pre and Palm Pixi look good, but the new Web OS doesn't seem to support my old Palm data very well and syncing with Mac is an issue. Not that Android is much better in the Mac sync department. Bottom line: I'll have some serious adjustment no matter which direction I go. I just want to ensure I make the best choice given my criteria.
So, have at it! Make a pitch for which device I should get and why. I appreciate any and all help in this matter.
Which droid is the droid I'm looking for, Ben Kenobi?
Oh, look. Palm made phones for Weebles!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Towel Day 2010!

It seems somehow fitting that my next post after writing Forty-Two is for Towel Day. May 25 is Towel Day, an annual celebration of the life and work of Douglas Adams, the man behind H2G2 (among other stories). You can get great background on the day and the man at http://towelday.org/ or scifimafia.com. Then surf over to asitecalledfred.com to read a lovely compilation of tributes. I should also point out that ThinkGeek is having a fun photo contest with cool geeky prizes -- just tweet a photo of yourself, with the #towelday tag, to @thinkgeek. By the by, today is also Geek Pride Day (in honor of the first Star Wars film, which was released on this day in 1977. The Daily Caller sums up the basic rights and responsibilities of geekdom. It's not the only place you'll find the writeup, but I happen to like their title for it. So, my hoopy froods, don't panic and always keep your towel handy. Who knows, maybe the Force will be with you as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forty-Two

Forty-two (42), as I am sure many of you know, is the "the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything." This week, I shall turn 42. (In fact, I could very well be 42 by the time you read this. No matter, I tend to draw out the celebration of my Born On date even while I decline to provide the specific day). In recognition of this auspicious occasion, I will not have a party, nor will I seek presents. But I do have a request. If you choose to participate in celebrating my Born On date, I ask that you donate time or money to your favorite charity or not-for-profit organization. If you do not have a favorite, I happily suggest a few of my own (in addition to the causes listed in the right hand column):
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society -- My father-in-law would have celebrated another birthday on Monday (4/26) -- if he had not succumbed to cancer in March 2005. My own father was diagnosed with a recurrence of Myelodysplasia syndrome (MDS) in November 2009. He is currently recuperating after a successful mini transplant. So, yeah, I'm all for funding cancer research and treatment.
  • Cleveland Clinic -- My father had his bone marrow transplants performed here. They have an excellent medical staff and wonderful family support programs.
  • Philabundance -- The Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization. Working to end hunger and malnutrition since 1984.
  • KidsPeace -- Top notch (and kind of local, for me) facility helping children and their families. Founded and headquartered in PA in 1882, they have services in "Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia."
  • School of Sacred Ministries -- Independent divinity school that offers a 27-month program of spiritual training with ordination as an Interfaith Minister upon conclusion. I was ordained here, I continue to work with them, and they can always use money to continue their programs and further the cause of interfaith dialog.
  • Montgomery Theater -- A small professional theater in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Montgomery Theater is my home-away-from-home. Like many not-for-profit enterprises operating in the arts, they are in a budget crunch. Donations can help pay actor salaries or utility bills, or keep the education programs running.
Thank you in advance!

Friday, April 02, 2010

30 days of Advocacy against Witch-Hunts in Africa

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance would like to request you to support an annual 30 day advocacy campaign against witch-hunts in Africa from March 29 through April 27, 2010. For more information on the campaign, a list of hunting incidents that have occurred just this year, and a collection of advocacy links, go to the Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=274505543709 Sign up, sign the petition, and spread the word.

Monday, March 08, 2010

In Memory of a Life, Five Years after Death

Note: Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of my father-in-law's passing (3-7-2005). On 3/8/2005, I wrote a blog entry to pay my (virtual) respects to the man (Death is the Opposite of Time). So, five years later, I repost that entire entry as a tribute to the man who raised my wife.

We give death metaphors. We cloak it in meaning and make up stories about what will happen to us, but we don't really know. When a person dies, we cannot see beyond the corpse. We speculate on reincarnation or talk in terms of eternity. But death is opaque to us, a mystery. In its realm, time ceases to have meaning. All laws of physics become irrelevant. Death is the opposite of time.

What dies? Is anything actually destroyed? Certainly not the body, which falls into its constituent parts of water and chemicals. That is mere transformation, not destruction. What of the mind? Does it cease to function, or does it make a transition to another existence? We don't know for sure, and few can come up with anything conclusive.

What dies? Nothing of the person dies in the sense that the constituent parts are totally blasted from all existence. What dies is merely the identity, the identification of a collection of parts that we call a person. Each one of us is a role, like some shaman wearing layers of robes with innumerable fetishes of meaning. Only the clothes and decoration fall. What dies is only our human meaning. There is still someone naked underneath. Once we understand who that someone is, death no longer bothers us. Nor does time.

-- Deng Ming-Dao (from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations)

"Death is the opposite of time." I came across Ming-Dao's words as my weekend meditation, just a day or two after I posted Metamorphose and Ego Death (A Beginning). I originally wanted to post the entire passage -- as well as my own commentary -- as a continuation of the thoughts I started in that February 15 post. And maybe I will do that on another day, a different day. Today, however, I post them simply because my wife just phoned to tell me that death has touched our family. Her father died last night, at 11:35pm. My wife drove to Bethlehem late last night. Mom had previously called to let us know that Dad had been taken to the hospital because of complications and intense pain. This was something of a surprise because he had been doing pretty well with his treatments. Within a matter of a few hours, Mom called again and told us that Dad was going "into the Intensive Care Unit and would be on life support." This call came at about 11pm last night. My wife packed, phoned her sister in CA to update her, and on the road to the hospital within 40-odd minutes. That means he was already gone before she even left our house. But she kind of had a feeling that this would be the case. Dad had cancer; diagnosed last year. There was a long process (too long in my opinion) to arrive at this conclusion, but it was not wholly unexpected. About seven years ago, he had had surgery to remove a small tumor (prostate? colon? memory is fuzzy right now). That surgery was successful -- well, he had some leg pain as a result of the procedures -- but as far as we knew, he was cancer-free. As far as anyone knew at that time, he was cancer free. And I say "at that time" not because I want to cast doubt on his doctor's handiwork, but because we really don't know how or when the "new" cancer started. Maybe his current condition resulted from some residual presence of that first tumor. Or perhaps he was simply primed because his body had already been compromised. Like I said, it's all speculation. But this time around, the diagnosis of last year, it was sarcoma. A tumor had developed in his abdomen, and had even grown some kind of "shield" of tissue around itself. And this tumor was fairly well advanced: it was into the blood vessels that ran down his right leg, and it had all but destroyed his right kidney's ureter. But even in the midst of this, there was also cause for hopefulness. Doctors know more about cancer now than they did a decade ago, and are learning more all the time. And there are more procedures, or combinations of therapies available. I won't go into the whole thing, but my father-in-law eventually was able to get scheduled for chemo treatments. And he seemed to be doing well. Of course, some days were better than others. And he was often fatigued as a result of the cancer and his treatments. But he was not confined to the hospital, or even his home. He came to our house to see the new concrete steps and walkway. We visited him -- in his house -- for a Superbowl party. And he was going out with his family every now and then. He even went to a basketball game this past weekend! My wife believes that he knew his time was coming. It's the little things that seem to confirm this. His desire to go out and see that Lehigh basketball game. His insistence that my mother-in-law access the lock-box, to be certain she had the will. The fact that his next chemo had not yet been scheduled. It's strange to think that he is no longer here. He was not a young man, but he was still vibrant in his own way. He had an immense curiosity about and interest in the world around him. Although he had a severe hearing problem, he was still a keen observer of human behavior, no doubt something he had honed as a psychologist and counselor. And he was my wife's financial advisor, taking a very active role in setting up and helping her maintain her retirement funds -- so much so that she has much more money socked away than I do, and my salary has always outpaced hers. The only closing I can think to write borrows from a message I penned in memory of a theater member who passed away over the weekend. It seems weird to be writing these messages so closely together, but I guess that is the way things go. And I don't think either man would mind the bit of shared material. I would like to think that if they met, they would get along famously. So here goes... My father-in-law has left this world and its cares behind. And while we do rejoice that he is free from the ravages of cancer, we acknowledge that his departure marks a time of sadness for those left behind. The tears we shed are shed for us alone, shed for those who loved the man and will miss him. The tears are not for him because this is not the end of his life. Death is the opposite of time, as I've already quoted Ming-Dao, and it is also the opposite of birth. But it is not the opposite of life. Birth and Death bookend a life as we know it here on earth. So his journey may have transitioned to a new stage, but it is only at the beginning of that stage. John Lennon once said, more or less, "I imagine that death is like getting out of one car and getting into another." Well, I hope there are many miles and plenty of great sights in my father-in-law's next vehicle. May we meet again someday and exchange stories of our adventures. Goodbye for now Dad ... I love you.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

RIP Brad Graham; and thanks for coining "blogosphere"

I had no idea a theater publicist had coined the term, "blogosphere." Nor did I know the man behind this term was himself a blogger who didn't even like the word "blog." Read Jeff Jarvis' piece (linked below), or wait till this evening when the audio is posted and listen to it. Too bad it is nearly as brief as Graham's own life (he died at age 41).


Brad L. Graham [Photo: St. Louis Today]

NPR NPR: The Man Is Gone, But Long Live The Blogosphere by Jeff Jarvis January 6, 2010 Most bloggers I know don’t much like the word "blog", and they have even less affection for "blogosphere." Blech. Wikipedia says credit — or blame — for coining "blogosphere" goes to Brad Graham, a theater publicist and blogger in St. Louis who died this week at the age of 41. Look him up on Google and you’ll see: "Blogosphere" is his legacy. But thank goodness, Graham was joking when he first said it... [read more]

More on Brad Graham: