Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Musical Trip Down Memory Lane

Recently, I acquired a used MP3 player to use while driving, so I don’t have to lug around dozens of CDs any longer, nor worry about changing them in traffic.

In preparation for loading it up with music, I ripped all my CDs to my computer’s Windows Media Player, cherry picking the songs I wanted from each CD, in order to save space.

As I pulled out CDs from my car and from every nook and cranny in the house, I realized there were several missing, no doubt having “found” their way into my son’s collection, which I intend to remedy at the soonest opportunity. I also realized that I had a long way to go to replace all the vinyl records I owned when I switched over to CDs years ago.

Working with what I had, I realized that I had a fairly eclectic mix of genres, though it does lean heavily to classic rock. As I ripped the CDs, I listened to some of the songs as the computer uploaded them, some of which I’d not listened to in years

At my age, I am now free to admit my like for various types “uncool” music that I couldn’t have openly admitted twenty years ago: stuff from my parents’ generation, some country and folk music, and classical music.

Other songs brought back strong memories of where I was and what I was doing the first heard them. I particularly have an affinity for ballads that tell a story, as they’re a nice change from the typical songs about love that are ubiquitous to nearly all genres of music.

A small sampling of some of the “uncool” music I listened to and my thoughts about each songs:

Fanfare for the Common Man — Aaron Copland

I’ve been a fan of Copland’s music since I was privileged to play the lead trumpet part for this piece in high school. Fanfare For the Common Man, along with 18 other fanfares written by other composers, was written upon request in 1942 to be “stirring and significant contributions to the war effort….”. Copland’s Fanfare is the only one to have stood the test of time, and when I hear this, I can easily visualize the Normandy landings on D-Day as, in Winston Churchill’s words, “the new world, with all its power and might, stepped forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? — Tom Jones

I know that some people consider Jones little more than a faintly sleazy lounge lizard singer, but Jones in his earlier career, sticking to the ballads which best show off his not inconsiderable talent, is well worth listening to. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime, a Depression-era ballad, is an excellent example of Jones’ sheer vocal power and emotional range.

Originally written in 1931 at the height of the Depression, about a man, who was apparently a WWI veteran, telling about his fall from economic security. The words are uncomfortably relevant again now in the current severe economic downturn.

Once I built a railroad, made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime

Once I built a tower, to the sun
Bricks, rivet, and lime
Once I built a tower, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime

Once in cocky suits
Gee, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodle-dom

Half a million boots, they went
Slogging through Hell
And I, I was a kid with a drum

Say, don’t you remember
They called me Al
It was Al all the time

Say, don’t you remember
I’m your pal
Buddy, can you spare a dime

It Was a Very Good Year — Frank Sinatra

Though another singer with a reputation as a lounge singer, I have to admit I’ve liked this song, recorded some time during my elementary school years, since I was a kid.

I’d not listened to this song in many, many years until I uploaded the CD to my computer the other night. As I listened to this song, the words hit me like a punch to the gut. Though I’d not noticed it before, this is a song about an aging libertine wistfully remembering his libertine life as he remembered the women he’d been with over the years.

Though I’m not quite at the point of being “in the autumn of the year” yet, now that I’ve hit fifty, the words have suddenly become uncomfortably relevant to me. And I have to admit hearing this song again with new ears gave me a lump in my throat — this is my life and is my future.

When I was seventeen
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for small town girls
And soft summer nights
Wed hide from the lights
On the village green
When I was seventeen

When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for city girls
Who lived up the stair
With all that perfumed hair
And it came undone
When I was twenty-one

When I was thirty-five
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls
Of independent means
We’d ride in limousines
Their chauffeurs would drive
When I was thirty-five

But now the days grow short
I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine
from fine old kegs
from the brim to the dregs
It poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hypocrisy: The True Amorality

While idly browsing the net today, I came upon a most interesting post that expressed similar ideas to my own about the recent flurry of public moral hypocrisy we’ve seen lately on the news. What caught my interest about this post was that it came from the other side of the aisle from my own thoughts; that of the social conservative.

What follows below are my comments on this post. To better understand my comments, ead the original article first:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And That's the Way It Was

Last night, I came home to find out that veteran newsman Walter Cronkite had died at the age of 92. Chosen several times over as “the most trusted man in America” in viewer opinion polls, Cronkite’s long and distinguished career extending from before World War II into the 21st century.

Morley Safer, a longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent, called Cronkite “the father of television news.”

“The trust that viewers placed in him was based on the recognition of his fairness, honesty and strict objectivity … and of course his long experience as a shoe-leather reporter covering everything from local politics to World War II and its aftermath in the Soviet Union,” Safer said. “He was a giant of journalism and privately one of the funniest, happiest men I’ve ever known.”

As the anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, he brought the news of countless world-changing events to millions of Americans, from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Iranian hostage crisis. He ended each evening’s broadcast with his signature statement: “And that’s the way it is.”

From the perspective of a five year old in 1963, I well remember Cronkite choking up as he delivered the report of President John F. Kennedy’s death.


Walter Cronkite reports the death of JFK
November 22, 1963

His 1968 editorial declaring the United States was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam was seen by some as a turning point in U.S. opinion of the war. He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Cronkite was also an fervent supporter of America’s space program and was on hand to report every milestone in the high-coverage sixties from the first suborbital flight to the first moon landing to covering John Glenn’s return to space in 1998. His enthusiasm was evident when he exclaimed “Look at those pictures, wow!” as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface.

“He had a passion for human space exploration, an enthusiasm that was contagious, and the trust of his audience. He will be missed,” Neil Armstrong said.

I, like millions of others, grew up with Walter Cronkite bringing us the news, He was a nightly constant from my earliest memories to the time my son was born. His death is but another part of my childhood gone forever.

And that’s the way it was.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hypocrisy and Human Nature

With all the recent outings of politicians engaged in extramarital sex, my favorite liberal news site, Alternet, has been doing a flurry of articles relating to this subject. In a recent article, Relax: Adultery Is Not That Big Of a Deal by Samara O'Shea, she explores the idea:

I'm not justifying infidelity. But it certainly isn't going to shake the nation's moral foundation or destroy the institution of marriage.

My response follows below:

Monogamy is not natural for human beings, male or female. Yet, considering the strict sanctions against adultery that have existed for centuries, people still do it.

We must ask ourselves, what was the original point in mandating monogamous marriage in the first place?


No, guess again. In ancient times, when hunter-gatherers settled into agricultural societies, the ideas of private property and inheritance were established. To reliably name heirs, a man had to know which children were actually his. To do this, the sexuality of women had to be tightly controlled. Thus, formal monogamous marriage was established, with polygyny for the rich(and where the women were still monogamous, even the men weren't). This is also why women have been traditionally punished more harshly than men for adultery and why virginity was required for brides.

It had nothing to do with love, as marriage was mainly a practical arrangement until around the beginning of the 18th century.

Religion put its stamp of approval on this, which gave it the force of law in societies where religion was the law. The pronouncement of "God said it" was to ensure compliance to what went against basic human nature.

Yet people have committed adultery all through the centuries, as it's almost impossible to completely thwart human nature.

We see adultery more in the news now, as the original valid reasons for monogamy no longer exist:

Marriage is no longer primarily about reproduction, DNA tests prove paternity, non-marital children enjoy the same rights as marital children, women are no longer legally dependent on men for their survival, etc.

However, cultural sensibilities have not caught up to current practical realities, especially considering that few people know the real reasons why monogamy was mandated in the first place.

It's time our society stopped insisting that every marriage be a monogamous one in "one size fits all" style. Only then will the hypocrisy end, as human nature will surely not change.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Manipulation 101

While browsing the main Yahoo page this morning, I noticed a particular link: 6 Ways to Train Your Boyfriend. Irritated about this obvious bit of sexism, I clicked on the link, thinking it might be ranty blogging fodder.

And it was. While it was written in a tongue-in-cheek style, she was deadly serious about using these manipulative techniques.

The author of this article compares men to lower animals and insists that we can be trained as such in order to always do a woman's bidding. She quotes another author:

"Males are card-carrying members of the animal kingdom, and they exhibit a lot of the same behaviors as many other mammals," says Amy Sutherland, author of "What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers." "So they're likely to respond to some of the same training techniques."

She follows with six tips from animal training experts, with input on how to use each technique on a man.

Here are her six relationship dilemmas, with her suggestions for women on how to manipulate their men:

1. He's Allergic to Chores

She suggests treating him like a chimpanzee by "indulging his playfulness".

For chimps:

"When we need the chimps to perform a task, we get on their level and play with them for 5 or 10 minutes," says Eugene Cussons. " Once they've had some fun, they're more willing to heed commands because they instinctively know it's their turn to return the favor."

For men:

"Indulge him with a few minutes of acting goofy," says Anthony Riche, PhD, author of "Finally! How to Stop Dating Losers Forever." Then tell him you'll finish playing with him later, as long as he takes out the trash or does whatever else you need him to do."

Yeah, we're just big, dumb, silly kids that way. *rolls eyes heavenward*

2. He Lacks Social Graces

Her suggestion is to treat him like a dog, by "ignoring the bad and rewarding the good."

For dogs:

"Trainers reward the dog when it behaves and ignore any actions they don't like," says Sutherland. Since dogs crave affection, they slowly begin to avoid bad habits and opt for good ones."

For men:

"Men don't want to be treated like children, and if you correct him, he'll feel like you're mothering him," says Patricia Covalt, PhD
"Instead, ignore him when he's being obnoxious, and give him some PDA (think a kiss or a tap on the bottom) when he's acting sweet. Since guys, like dogs, aim to please, he'll instinctively begin to avoid the behavior that makes you freeze him out."

I guess she thinks it's more respectful to treat a man like a dog, I'm guessing. She goes on to say

Timing is crucial. Be sure to reward him at the exact moment he engages in a positive behavior; otherwise, he won't be able to make the appropriate connection.

Yeah, we're dumb that way. Like dogs, we don't understand words. Sheesh.

3. He Bolts When You Argue

She suggests to treat him like a horse by "keeping a cool head".

For horses:

Beneath the powerful stallion exterior lies a skittish animal. "That's why they generally respond well to a calming voice and touch from trainers," says Patricia Barlow-Irick

For men

Like horses, men seem to be hardwired to want to bolt at the first sound of irritation. So even if he's been working your last nerve, try to approach him in a cool, collected manner. Place your hand on his as you speak. Not only does this buffer the blow of your words, but it also mimics the comforting way a trainer strokes a horse's mane to calm the animal down.

I'm surprised she didn't suggest the woman say, "Easy, boy!" while doing this. I suppose it never occurred to this woman the reason many men remove themselves from arguments is to avoid saying something in the heat of anger that we might regret saying later.

4. He Stands His Ground

In other words, he has an opinion of his own.

She suggests you treat a man like a cougar by "using proper body language"

For cougars

"Instead of trying to submit or dominate a cougar, trainers try to form a cooperative relationship," says Sutherland. They walk tall with squared-off shoulders. This stance ensures that the trainers don't look like prey but they're not threatening either."

For men

"The best way to stay on equal ground is to stand with good posture, your head up, and an open frame so he sees you as being on the same level as he is. This way, he'll be more apt to want to talk things through with you," says Wood.

Good luck with that. If I'm convinced of my opinion, all the good posture in the world won't change that. You'd have to come up with a reasonable argument to have a chance of that.

5. He Won't Drag Himself Off the Couch

She suggests to treat him like a lion by "approaching him at the right time".

For lions:

Lions are, in a word, lazy. According to trainers, they sleep for up to 20 hours a day and only move when they see it as beneficial to themselves. "That's why we make use of the animal's active time instead of trying to force it into doing something it doesn't want to when it's chilling."

For men:

"You have to gauge when he's in a productive mood and then pounce to get him to do what you want. Motivate him by making it worth his while. When you feel like you haven't been able to have a heart-to-heart but he's in a coma in front of the TV, try plying him with his favorite snack. If his cravings for the food outweigh his interest in the TV, he'll eventually cave."

Yeah, we're incapable of getting our own snacks and returning to watching TV, you know.

6. He's Not Romantic

She suggests to treat him like an elephant by "taking baby steps".

For the elephant

These mammals can learn a variety of tasks but only on an incremental timeline.

For the man

He's not hardwired to plan out the little details. So if you can't remember the last time he put together a romantic night for you both, you'll have to show him the way.

Again, we're dumb that way. We can't get the big picture; we have to be led every step of the way.

So, there you have it. Men are not rational human beings worthy of respectful, honest, or direct communication. Instead, we're nothing more than an amalgam of chimpanzees, dogs, horses, cougars, lions, and elephants -- we're just big, dumb animals who must be manipulated as such.

I can just see the fur flying if there was an article advising men to treat women in a similar manner.

If any woman tried to "handle" me by manipulating me by viewing me as a trainable animal, her ass would be at the curb so fast her head would spin. To get respect, you have to give it and I guarantee that treating a man like a big dumb animal isn't the way to do it.

I much prefer women who are honest and direct when communicating their needs to me. Of course, that won't guarantee that I'll always dance to her tune, but it does generate respect from me, along with the lust, and sometimes, love.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Elephant in the Living Room

A recent article on Alternet, For Many, Marriage is Sexless, Boring, and Oppressive:Time to Rethink the Institution? by Amanda Marcotte, asks the question:

Marriage is failing many, many people. Why do we still idealize it?

My response to this article follows below:

Formalized marriage and monogamy began for practical reasons, unrelated to any religious notions of "sanctity". Once ancient hunter-gatherers settled into agricultural societies and ideas of private property and inheritance came about, socially sanctioned monogamous marriage began as a way to control women's sexuality so men would know which children were actually theirs. Polygynous marriage existed for the very rich, but the women in such marriages were still monogamous, though men were not. It is because of this original reason that women are punished more severely for infidelity than are men, as men couldn't be sure of who their children were unless women's sexuality was tightly controlled.

Religious insistence on monogamy was soon added, as it gave the force of law to a practical idea in societies where religious leaders were the law. "God said it" leaves no room for debate.

People did not marry primarily for love until around the 18th century. It was strictly a practical arrangement, a vehicle for joining powerful families for the rich, along with inheritance reasons, and to have a socially sanctioned partner to have children with and work together for survival for the poor. Love, if it happened, was icing on the cake, not the reason to get married in the first place.

People lived shorter lives then, so "until death do us part", did not include decades of the "empty-nest syndrome". Most people were lucky to live long enough to see the youngest child to adulthood. Life itself was harder and more survival oriented, thus people did not worry overmuch about love or personal fulfillment then.

Still, infidelity occurred all throughout history for both sexes, despite sanctions against it, as it's very difficult to overcome basic human nature. It's always been a big scandal for women, but not so much for men until the 19th century or so. The feminist movement no doubt influenced the increasing disapproval of male infidelity, rather than freeing women to male norms.

Today, we marry for love, life isn't strictly about survival, DNA tests prove paternity, overpopulation discourages large families, we live longer lives, women can support themselves, and the abolishment of legal distictions between marital and nonmarital children have removed much of the valid reasons for legal marriage and monogamy. Thus, marriage as it's currently understood has become maladaptive for modern needs. It's no wonder we're seeing what we're seeing.

In light of this, marriage needs to be redefined if it is to survive in a workable form(s) and adjusted to reflect the realities of modern life and human nature. One of the first steps would be to cease mandating monogamy.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Advertising Rant

I've not picked on the advertising industry in awhile, so here goes.

I've been hearing different ads lately that talk about "that guy". "That guy" is usually a bumbling, figure of universal scorn; someone who isn't quite all man, somehow. Naturally, use of the product being advertised will save the men from the shame of being "that guy".

For instance, there's a radio spot for STP oil treatment with Richard Petty telling us not to be "that guy". In this instance, "that guy" doesn't know a thing about cars, barely knows how to raise the hood of the car, calls parts of the engine "doohickeys" and "thingamajigs", and so on. You get the picture.

The next buzz word I'm hearing, though not limited exclusively to the realm of actual commercials is "rebrand". From what I can gather from context, "rebrand" means to change one's image, usually used in the context of changing a corporate image.

The mental images I take away from this, however, are skittish already-branded cows running awy from psychotic cowboys holding red-hot branding irons who want to brand them again.

Another trend I've noticed is a fascination with Tuscany region of Italy. Restaurants all over have popped up with Tuscan style dishes of various kinds, I see travel agency ads promoting trips there, I see ads promoting Tuscan style home decorating, and so on.

What's the sudden appeal of Tuscany, I wonder? Twenty years ago, I never saw references to this part of Italy. I imagine it's a temporary thing until the next foreign flavor of the month takes its place, as Tuscany has apparently supplanted the chipotle mania of a few years ago.

/rant over