Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Patriots (part 4) - Pearl Harbor - 75 years ago

USS Arizona/wikipeida.com
75 years ago...

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

So began President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech to a joint session of congress, asking for a declaration of war, the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
[reference: Pearl Harbor Speech: Day of Infamy ]

And below is a scene from the the movie, aptly titled, Pearl Harbor (2001) :




So began the United States involvement in World War Two on the fronts: the Atlantic and the Pacific.
[reference: World War Two ]

FDR's speech expresses America's will to triumph grounded in faith of God's help as well as faith in the military and we, the people.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

The scene below shows the determination of FDR following Pearl Harbor and his push for a plan to strike back at the heart of Japan:



That plan came to fruition in April of 1942 as the Doolittle Raid. It was led by Jimmy Doolittle, which became known as Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.  The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese.
[reference: Jimmy H. Doolittle ]

And three years later came total victory over Japan, known as V.J. Day. And the moment was captured in this iconic picture:

Kissing the War Good-bye/wikipedia.com

But 75 years ago, FDR and the  men and women who served, home and abroad, were determined to win and prevailed during those dark days.

They all were patriots.

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Previous posts in series:

Patriots (part 1) - Taps (2016)

Patriots (part 2) - D-Day Courage  (2016)

Patriots (part 3) - Signers of the Declaration (2016)


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photos: USS Arizona/wikipeida.com
             Kissing the War Good-bye/wikipedia.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pop Culture (part 3) - It's Gonna Be All Right

John Lennon/everystockphoto.com

Angry men! 

That could sum up the White Working Class during the 2016 election cycle.

And the Harvard Business Review has an excellent article about this constituency that felt disenfranchised for years:

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class (November 10, 2016)

And in the spirit of the age, some have felt drawn to this popular song from the musical, Les Miserables (2012).

A song of angry men


Based on the Victor Hugo novel, the setting for the musical is during troubling times in France.

1789–1832

The novel spanned the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the rise and fall of Napoleon, the Bourbon Restoration, to the July Monarchy. [ reference: France in the Long Nineteenth Century ]

And during the July Monarchy, the workers revolted against their abysmal conditions.  The scene in the video clip above reflects this protest.

Then in...

2016

This theme was picked up by some Trump supporters. Especially, after half of his supporters were described as a basket of deplorables:  Les Deplorables (September 16, 2016)

America has known turbulent times.  Just look back to the last century ...

The 1960s 

The unpopular Vietnam War sparked many protests and riots. The decade witnessed the assassination of many leaders: President John F Kennedy (1963), civil rights leader the Reverend Martin Luther King (1968), presidential candidate Senator Robert F Kennedy (1968). [ reference: America's Best Timeline (1960 - 1969 ) ]

Angry men...angry peoples... Even a call for....

Revolution?

And the Beatles, one of the icons of the era, had their take on the angry men of the time. It was even called  Revolution (1968) .

They put out this song answering the question about the Vietnam War. All the protests. All the riots. And their response in the lyrics is a surprising call for reason.

Let's take a closer look at them.




The entire lyrics can be found here: Beatles - Revolution Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Here's my comments on some of the meanings of the words.

* Point 1

You say you want a revolution
...
You tell me that it's evolution
...
We all want to change the world

 Revolution and evolution can be a good thing.
(Something we've heard a lot about in the past few election cycles.)
Hope and Change
Good intentions, right? 
Change the world for the better

* Counter Point 1

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
....

Violent protests, riots, vandalism, looting?
Allegedly sparked by grievances, real or imagined.
Especially when a group doesn't get their way ...
Like an election?

Destruction? 
Count me out!


* Point 2

You say you got a real solution
...
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
...
We're doing what we can

Of course, we want solutions to our vexing problems.
Social, economic, judicial, educational,...you name it.

What's the plan? 
How do we fix it?
Of course it will take effort, time, and money.
We'll do what we can.

* Counter Point 2

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
...

Hate is not the answer.
So often those who protest against hate 
seem to be the most hateful, don't you think?

It's calling out all the poverty pimps, fakers, charlatans
shaking us down for money 
Those who came to do good 
and did very well (for themselves) indeed.

* Point 3

You say you'll change the constitution
...
We all want to change your head

Yes, there's been a call to change the rules.
For example, abolishing the Electoral College, 
requiring an amendment to our Constitution.

And changing minds in the body politic.

* Counter Point 3

You tell me it's the institution
...
You better free you mind instead

Some claim our institutions are broken
Infected with white privilege.
The opposition is labeled as
 racist, homo-phobic, sexist...

yada, yada, yada

Those preaching tolerance
lecture those who disagree

Consider freeing your mind instead.

Like being truly open minded yourself.

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Chairman Mao was China's dictator in the 1960s.
He brought about the Cultural Revolution 
as well as the deaths millions of his own people.
[ reference: Mao Tse-Tung ]

Oppression, suppression, death...
No, not this.

* Conclusion

Don't you know it's gonna be
All right...

In spite of all the turmoil, heated rhetoric, protests...
There's an optimism in these lyrics.

Even a faith expressed in a Higher Power.

After this election and the comings years...

It's Gonna Be All Right.

Yes,

It's Gonna Be All Right!


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photo: John Lennon/everystockphoto.com

Saturday, October 29, 2016

ELM (part 6) - The Boys Going West

Verdun/wikipedia.com

World War One

That Great War was 100 years ago.

I had a grandfather who fought in that war. And the last veteran of that war, Florence Green,  passed away in 2012. As I write this blog, we will pass the 98th anniversary of the end of the war on November 11, 1918.  [reference: World War I History ]

But Great Britain and its Commonwealth was one of the allies hardest hit during World War One. Over 900,000+ killed in action. More than twice as many as the 450,000+ lost in World War Two.

And this short film gives a summary of this loss:


The grief of such great losses gave rise to an increased interest in  Spiritism after the Great War. A desire for family to contact their lost loved ones. And many mediums took advantage of this grief. Prophets for profit.

Yet many intelligent people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes creator, were convinced that they could contact their departed loved ones, who had moved on to another plane of existence. Much like the modern wonder of the wireless radio could transmit messages across great distances in the real world.

At this time (1920s), Scientific American concluded Spiritism warranted a serious, scientific investigation. And one of its judges included the Great Harry Houdini. As a stage magician, Houdini knew the tricks of the flimflam artists and could reproduce the psychic phenomena that manifested in seances. (Fodder for another blog.)

There is a book written about this: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher.

In the beginning of the book, The Witch of Lime Street, a phrase jumped out at me. One used by Sir Oliver Lodge. He disliked the barbarous word death. He preferred to see death as an emigration.

The boys going west

That rang a bell.

I recalled English writer and professor J.R.R Tolkien had fought in World War One. And witnessed much of the horror as well as the loss of many of his friends. And that experience made its way into his trilogy:

Lord of the Rings

[reference: Battle of the Somme: the 'animal horror' that inspired JRR Tolkien ]

And at the end of the tale, many of the characters, the Elves, Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, sailed into the West, to the Undying Lands. [reference: Undying Lands ]

And during  The Return of the King (2003) the song, Into the West , was performed during the closing credits.



Into the West ...

The Undying Lands. Life after death. Hope after the devastation of war. Whether the epic battles in fantasies, such as Lord of the Rings. Or the World Wars of reality.

The Boys Going West ...

And war leaves a mark and makes its way into literature. Such as this sixth post in...

 English, Literature, and Musings.

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Picture from: Verdun/wikipedia.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cats (part 1) - Halloween and Cats

Butte and a Pumpkin/everystockphoto.com
Black cats and pumpkins.

Common images for decorations. It seems the two, Halloween and cats, were made for each other.

As a kid, I had enjoyed Halloween. Dressing up. Going to parties. Back in more innocent days when my friends and I roamed the neighborhood. Free candy at every door. It doesn't get much better than this.

Then I got older.

I heard too many stories of cruel things done to cats, especially on Halloween. But I can't really say anything bad happened in our neighborhood. But I locked up kitty anyway. Just to be on the safe side.

But what's a cat's perspective on this human holiday?

We may have some idea. This cool tuxedo cat, Henri, shares his dim view of Halloween.



One wise cat, that Henri. As well as an internet star of short, existential films.

And if you are watching this, it's on the internet. And the secret is out.

The internet is made of cats! 



That what it says in this video. And if it's on the internet, it must be true, right? ;)

And so begins a new thread.

Cats.

It could prove to be a most interesting and amusing one. For there's no shortage of cat videos. Or cats.

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Other articles:

How Cats Evolved to Win the internet - New York Times (2016)

Cat Video Gallery: Henri Le Chat Noir 

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photo: Butte and a Pumpkin/everystockphoto.com



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Civics (part 1) - The Electoral College

wikipedia/electoral college

Lately, there's been a lot talk about college. 

The electoral college, that is. And for good reason. As they cast the votes that really count when electing the President of the United States.

Nothing new about this. It's been in the US Constitution from the get-go.  Article II, Section I, Clause 3 to be exact. [reference: Electoral College ]

And below is an elementary lesson on civics on how our government works:


Why the electoral college?

After one of the first  Brexits, 240 years ago in 1776, the American colonies had their suspicions of rulers holding absolute power over them. Such as monarchs like King George III.

And rightly so.  As historian and moralist, Lord Acton, is credited to offer his opinion:

Power corrupts;
absolute power 
corrupts absolutely.
[reference: The Phrase Finder]

So the Constitution was designed with checks and balances for our leaders. And that included a check for the chief executive. That is evident as the founders did not trust a popular vote to elect the president.

For 230 years, there has been many debates on this system as it has its flaws as seen below:


What's the solution? 

A popular vote seems to remedy the downside of the electoral college. But the system does have an upside in protecting the interests of the country as a whole.

Consider a popular vote for president.

The candidates would concentrate only on the big cities.  New York City. Los Angeles. Denver. Seattle. Atlanta. Houston, Chicago. ... Those populations will largely will determine the elections.

Screw fly-over country. And the needs and concerns of the more rural areas will be overlooked for the denizens of big cities. And those differences can be poles apart.

Consider the electoral college.

As it is, fly-over country has more weight than the more populated states.  Such as pointed out in Adam Ruins Everything, an electoral vote per capita in Wyoming is worth three times more than an electoral vote in California.

Having lived in California, I understand the feeling that my vote didn't count much. At least for president. We were totally written off as in the tank for the Democrats. And seen a waste of time and money to court our votes. Except candidates saw California as their cash cow and stopped by regularly to milk the billionaire donors for their campaigns...in swing states.

Currently, I reside in Wyoming. More muscle for my vote, right? But we're mostly written off as in the tank for the Republicans. And we are ignored anyway. Only 3 electoral votes at stake. Who cares about us?

Time for a change?

That would require amending the Constitution. It's been done before.  Some 27 times (the first 10 being the Bill of Rights).  But the process is not easy to do. [reference: The Constitutional Amendment Process]

But that's the way it is. Under this Constitution. And it's worked remarkably well since 1787.

So begins another thread.

Civics. 

And this election cycle, vote your conscious. For there is more at stake than the electors we elect at the Electoral College.

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Similar posts on this topic:

ZAMM (part 7) - Yes or No - Gotcha! (2012)

PC Watch (part 2) - The South Park Offense (2013)

Timeless Truths (part 6) - Magna Carta - 800 years and still going strong (2015)


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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Faith (part 1) - Star Trek and Christianity

star trek/wikipedia.com

Star Trek.

 The original series, premiered September 9, 1966, 50 years ago.
[reference: Star Trek, imdb.com]


So ....

Happy 50th 

Many celebrations were/are planned this year to mark this anniversary of such an iconic SciFi series. Not to mention its many spin offs. And movies.  As well as how it's left its mark on culture and our vision of the future.

Yet through this SciFi series, we find

Faith - in unexpected places

So on that note, begins another thread.

Fifty years ago, American culture had reflected some traditional Judeo-Christian values. And one of Star Trek's 1968 episodes, season 2, episode 25, so boldly echoed that, entitled...

Bread and Circuses

Historically, the term Bread and Circuses was coined to refer to a mob control tactic used in the 1st century Roman Empire. To keep the poor working class from rioting, Emperor Augustus instituted a program of state bribery, which kept the plebeians fed and entertained - mostly for free. [reference: The Roman Empire - in the First Century: Plebeians]

In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise investigates the disappearance of a merchant ship on a planet, which is the 20th century version of the Roman Empire. There, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find the missing ship's Captain Merik as a government pawn.

In the scene below, Spock and McCoy are forced to fight in Roman-like game - which is a small reminder of the original gladiator games and how brutal life was back then, especially for slaves:

But there are rebels, who love peace, and resist the tyranny. They are sun worshipers, who worshiped a different deity than their overlords.

After making their escape, the team discovers the identity of the sun worshipers as Son worshipers. As in they worship not the sun up in the sky, but the Son of God.


And the late Chuck Colson makes a great commentary in his Two-Minute Warning about this classic Star Trek episode and its lesson on history and our society:


Truly this SciFi testifies to the power of Christianity, which 1st Century Romans made this complaint concerning the ministry of St. Paul:

These that have turned the world upside down
are come hither also ...
Act 17:6 (KJV)


 Whether in the belly of the beast of the Roman Empire or a SciFi series set in outer space, Faith can be found in unexpected places.

Bonus:

For another Judeo-Christian reference in the Original series, check out...
   Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character 



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Related post:

Proverbs (part 2) - Live Long and Prosper  (2013)

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photo: star trek/wikipedia.com

Sunday, August 28, 2016

poetry (part 3) - Success

North Ridge/everystockphoto.com

Success

We want it. Especially its fruits. But it costs us. And it's not guaranteed.

Recently, we had a international exhibition of that. The Olympics  in Rio earlier this month.

Hard work. Not giving up. Going for the gold.

As ABC sports used to hype:  The thrill of victory. And the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. [reference: ABC Wide World of Sports Intro 1981 ]

Also striving for success applies to other challenges in life. And Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) is still an inspiration in following your dreams and doing what you love. In spite of rejection, setbacks, failures:



Forty years ago, as a youngster, I wrote a poem about this theme when I was just starting out in life.


Success

Don't be afraid to fail
Or your dreams you'll cease to strive
Heed not the mockings of those
Who really are not alive 

Look not to the side for direction
To the lamb-skinned wolves nearby
Who say that they do speak the truth
But devour with a lie 

Look above for your direction
To the star in the sky
And don't be afraid to fail
And be not afraid to try!

© S. K. Smith, winter of 1976

40 years later?

Still trying. Still striving. And still working on being not so afraid.


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Previous Posts in this series: 

Poetry (part 1) - Snow (2016) 

Poetry (part 2) - The Fool's Prayer (2016)  


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