Thursday, January 26, 2012

Who Do You Trust?

As a society, we don't trust anyone or anything anymore.  This is painfully obvious right now, since we are knee deep in campaign season, with both sides throwing out numbers and claims about themselves and each other.  My feelings about the sitting POTUS are known, but even I am taking most of the claims that the republican candidates are throwing against him, specifically job numbers and money numbers, with a grain of salt, simply because at the bottom of all those claims is always a mess of fine print about adjusted for inflation or other such adjustment.  The same fine print comes at the bottom of Obama's claims as well.  Other recent events throw up the trust issue.  The Occupy movement was based on a distrust of corporations, and situations around the protests were made worse by the protester's distrust of police and other authority figures as well as some police's distrust of the protesters.  The actions of some people in various churches, everything from the child abuse and coverups within the Catholic church to the very unChristian protests at funerals to the wandering away from Biblical teachings of some pastors, churches, and denominations, have all made it very difficult for many people out there to even trust the Church as a whole.
This culture of distrust reaches into the area of faith as well, beyond just the congregations and the buildings.  I was having a discussion with a coworker recently about faith, and he tossed out the familiar canard that the Bible was written down by men, and man makes mistakes and changes in everything we touch.  It's familiar because I've thought that myself in the past, and see it frequently now.  While that is a specific argument, the belief that we just can't trust anyone or anything has definitely been passed onto our vision of God.  Society thinks that they just cannot trust that there is a God, that He passed down mankind's history in the Bible, that He protected those words through the centuries, neither can they trust that He loves us and that He sent Jesus, His Son, to take the punishment for our sins. 
None of this is new.  The Old Testament is full of stories of people, even faithful, believing people, who didn't trust God to come through, and those people always caused more problems.  Abram didn't trust God to provide the child He promised, so he and Sarai took their own route.  One of the prophets with Elisha decided that the stew God ordered them to make wasn't good enough, so he added his own ingredients, which ruined the stew.  The rich young men who Jesus told to sell all their possessions evidently didn't trust God enough to take care of them.  (Note to class warfare/Bible teaches socialism type folks, there's no call to poverty in the Bible.  Many great, faithful men in the Bible were very wealthy.  The question is always if it's God's plan for one to be materially wealthy)
We have all got to work to bring trust back into society.  Not just because it's better to be able to trust people, but because trust is one of the cornerstones of faith.  Like all the other issues in our world, it didn't break overnight, nor is it going to get fixed overnight.  Like ripples in a pond, by doing our own part in instilling trust in those around us, especially our children, but others we are around as well, it is possible to rebuild those broken foundations.  It's not just a matter of being trustworthy ourselves, although that is important.  One of the biggest pieces in the puzzle is teaching others that yes, by trusting people, sometimes you get hurt and burned.  It happens.  But that isn't enough reason to completely lock trust out of our lives.  It seems that in listening to people, that most of the distrust we see comes from having trust broken at some point in life, possibly by an absentee parent, an abuser, a divorce, or any other of a number of situations.  Sometimes, we may even feel that we get burned by trusting in God, however, typically we learn through hindsight that it was a matter of us not listening, not a matter of God breaking our trust.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stop The MCP! I mean SOPA/PIPA!

I'll use the internet blackout day as an excuse for not putting this up last night.  SOPA/PIPA are bills currently in the U.S. Congress that are intended to clamp down on piracy of music, movies, and bootleg designer merchandise over the internet.  However, the bills offer the federal government the ability to shut down websites with little or no due process.  It is also very vague about who can be targeted for shut down, meaning legitimate file sharing sites that people happen to put copyrighted material up on could be completely shut down.  This alone puts a huge dent in much of the push to the cloud that so much of the internet is moving to.  Of course, like any government mandated action, it's going to cost tons of money, on the part of businesses that have to monitor their services and on the part of the government to enforce these rules.  If this runs up the cost of doing business on the internet, then as we have seen in the past with numerous production plants, refineries and other businesses that have packed up and left the U.S. due to overbearing environmental, labor, and tax laws, then the business done on the internet will drop. 
This is sadly nothing more than another huge power grab by the federal government.  Why these bills even made it to the floor is evidence that we desperately need to clean house in Washington.  To top it off, nothing in these bills is really going to have any affect on the proposed target, intellectual property piracy.  It's still going to happen. 
Which brings me to another point that hasn't come up much in this debate.  The mainstream movie and music industry is not adapting to the modern landscape.  They are still trying to hold onto a business model that doesn't hold water in the new digital age.  For example, people get dinged on Youtube for using copyrighted music in their video, even though many of those videos pull up ads for the artist that is being used, offering the opportunity to buy the music, as well as increasing exposure for the artist, which is difficult to quantify, but as the old saying goes, there's no such thing as bad press.  Having a million listens on a streaming site shows record companies that people like your music, increasing the odds of keeping that record deal or giving the execs a reason to support tours, TV appearances ect.  What is really amazing is that so many non mainstream artists, from musicians to film makers and others have quickly adapted to the internet, often times using many of those targeted file sharing sites to legally distribute their material, and make money through other means, such as licensing, advertisements on the artist's website, and merchandising.  Big Entertainment, instead of adapting (or maybe generating higher quality product that people are more willing to pay for), is trying to use their money to work the legal system, creating laws that work in their favor.  (Don't believe me about the money?  As soon as Obama announced his plans to not sign the bills, numerous Hollywood sources declared they will not be contributing to O's reelection campaign.  I imagine following the money and checking the bills sponsors will show some large campaign contributions from many of those same sources.)  Much of the Federal government is going along with the plan  because 1) as was mentioned, Big Hollywood generates a whole lot of cash for our representatives and 2) as was also mentioned, the proposed solution offers Big Government more power over a notoriously unregulated source of information, organization, protest, and education.
I'm really starting to sound like I should be sitting in a park with a V for Vendetta mask on, but this is a serious issue.  Pirating intellectual property is a bad thing, but there are already laws in place to fight it.  These bills are poorly thought out, overreaching, empowering the wrong people, and last but certainly not least, not what our government needs to be focusing on and getting done. 

Prime source for information and updates as these progress The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Finally, a music review!

I love music.  Some people may not call everything I listen to music, but that's okay.  One of the things that was planned for this blog was to interject some album reviews now and again.  However, being cheap and broke, I rely heavily on free (legal) sources of music, which are not always the most current releases, or often are samplers, which give you numerous bands to discover but are rather difficult to write a review on.  One short EP came across my exploration a short while back, and after sitting down to listen to the whole thing, I realized this is good stuff, it's new, and it's free.  So, with no further ado, it gives me great pleasure to introduce many of you to the band Eternal Emperor, via their album Sudwarts.

Eternal Emperor jumped to the top of my list of favorite symphonic black metal bands as soon as I finished listening to these three tracks.  The orchestral parts are very well done, and the metal parts are equally excellent.  It's hard not to swoon along a bit as the music rises and crescendos.  One of the things that makes this such an enveloping listen is the high quality production.  Black metal bands have a nasty habit of thinking that lousy production makes them sound more brutal.  Eternal Emperor have obviously transcended this idea, with the vocals, guitars, drums, strings, and other instruments each coming forward and receding back into the tapestry at the right time.
By all accounts, Eternal Emperor is a Christian band, but the lyrical focus of this album is a celebration of the first successful trek to the South Pole.  Certainly a different choice, and there's nothing wrong with that.  The title track unfortunately is in German, so I can't comment on the lyrics there, but "Keeper of the Southern Gateway" is a very allegorical vision of that expedition to the bottom of the world.  The final track "Icebound" is an instrumental, keeping with the excellent layered black metal of the first two tracks.  Even if one doesn't like or even know what black metal is, I think it's worth 15 minutes of your life to give this a listen.  Maybe even thirty minutes to hear it twice.  There is just a lot to hear, a lot of swells and sways to the songs that can move a person the way many of those great classical pieces we know from commercials or background music in movies do, even to people who can't stand classical music.  

Right now the band website only offers a download of this EP, and a promise of a new full length album this year, titled "Antarctica" as of right now.  Like most underground bands, often times the music has to be put on the back burner until resources and time come available.  Personally, I hope both do come available for this band, and we hear more from them soon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Back in the Saddle, Now Where Did the Horse Go?

Okay, one of the new year objectives is to get this happy little thing going again, but there is just nothing impressive enough rolling through my head to kick off such a resolution.  Therefore, this week's post is simply an announcement that yes, I'm still going to be spewing forth my ideas and opinions here this year, hopefully at least once a week, preferably more, but we'll just take one step at a time.  It's not a lack of content, just a lack of refined content.  I suppose that's a holdover from the old days of newspapers and books when each word needed to be chosen carefully because space was sparse and valuable, compared to now when it's so easy to spit out a few words and post it to the world.  Coming into this year, we have an election year with a less than impressive menu to choose from, problems that will not be solved regardless of who gets the GOP nom or the presidency, social and moral ills becoming more and more acceptable, even by some of the groups and organizations that are supposed to standing against such things, churches falling apart and to the wayside, communities (physical and social) expanding and collapsing on themselves, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. With all this gasoline being poured on the fires, inspiration is out there, just waiting to be plucked up.  So, consider this post a warning.  I'm coming back, and don't plan on keeping things pretty.  None of us can afford that.

On a more lighthearted note, my lovely wife has picked up on Kristie Alley's 100 Days of Dance campaign, and having a blast with it, along with our daughters.  As of this writing, three of the thirteen videos featured on the website are theirs. If that has changed by the time any of you folks see this, the collection can be found here.  Check them out, and keep their fifteen minutes of fame going.