Friday, June 23, 2017

Melting Pot

This weeks topic was suggested by Ramana. Melting pots.  Merriam Webster defines a melting pot as a place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole. 

That sounds great, but does it really work? For years we in the USA were cited as a shining example of a successful melting pot. 
For decades ethnic peo[les flocked to America for work, landing in geographic locations that matched their existing job skills. In other words they went where they were needed, some eventually staying and some  going back to their original homeland when the available jobs plateaued. Those that remained  essentially assimilated into the culture here, while still maintaining their own national identities. That is why there are pockets of ethnic groups in cities all over the USA. States reflect the ethnicity of the early immigrants. And of course the American Southwest shows the Mexican influence that has existed since most of the Southwest was part of Mexico.

After several generations assimilation is complete - Italians become Italian-Americans, Poles become Polish Americans and so on. But do old ethnic rivalries remain in the new American's minds? Are new rivalries created? How are they created?

One obvious problem these days is the terrorism of radical segments of Islam. Suddenly, so-called Christians that lived in peace with Muslims suggest - in fact scream - that the Muslim faith is one of violence and hatred. And Mexicans have been vilified by POTUS 45 from his campaign and even still. Mexicans steal jobs from American workers and are responsible for the decline and fall of the once enormous middle class if one is to believe POTUS 45 and his followers.

Has the lid been put on the melting pot? Is he recipe so complete that there is no more room at the Inn? Or is this a temporary situation brought on by the current political climate?  

Having spent decades in California and Texas I have known and lived/worked with many Mexicans, both legal and illegals. You would be hard pressed to find a harder working, more conservative group of people. Yet they are feared by the right wing political pundits as they are assumed to be (the legal ones anyway) left wing voters. Interesting.

The fear of Muslim immigrants is easier to understand. They are easy to identify ethnically and remember what we did to Japanese Americans in WWII.  Muslim immigrants/refugees are fleeing horrible conditions and as we have seen in  Europe there has been a significant amount of terrorism linked to their communities, although a concerning number of terror events are from second generation folks, so a significant percentage of Americans are for a ban on Muslim immigration even beyond the temporary ban called for by POTUS 45.

So here we are - the once great melting pot that has suddenly boiled over and has had a lid slammed on it. And what does that do to our national identity throughout the world? Is the extreme  nationalism touted by Steve Bannon and POTUS 45 damaging the perception of the USA around the world? Clearly Bannon hopes so - he is after all trying to tear down the system. One can only hope cooler heads will prevail, but we are still a melting pot of sorts and hopefully that will not change. Otherwise France may want to repossess the Statue of Liberty.

Please check my cohorts on their blogs to see what they have to say - RamanaMaria, Pravin and Ashok.






Thursday, June 15, 2017

Angels and demons


 
Image result for Angel and Devil ConscienceThis weeks topic - angels and demons - was suggested by Pravin, Besides being an excellent prequel to Dan Brown's terrific novel The DaVinci Code, angels and demons make a good metaphor for the notion of choices in life. Choices both good and bad, the important notion being the choice is ours to  make. It's that pesky free will thing. We get to make our own choices.  Some might go so far as to say we  have to make our own choices and others might say their god makes the choice. Those folks lay it all of on god. Anything good is the will of god, anything bad is their bad choice. With free will comes responsibility - and in  theory we make thoughtful decisions based on the available information. At least in a perfect world we do. Sometimes. Of course the minefield of life certainly keeps us on our toes - until we manage to blow those toes off with a misstep.Dang – life can be complicated can’t it?  Oh well – it would be boring otherwise IMHO. What fun would that be? The eternal struggle of our conscience = do this – no, do that  - and so on. And now you know where my saying “Life’s a bitch, Then you die” comes from. The ongoing WWE tussle in my brain literally wears me out sometimes. Not often, mind you, but certainly on occasion. It is my contention we live our lives largely by habit – not having to ponder every decision, simply keeps us functioning and allows us to ponder those things which require pondering. Chicken or fish for dinner, white or red. Lager or stout. Glenlivet or Macallan - or a nice blend like Johnnie Walker Blue.
Now about that  conscience thing. The part of us that helps us distinguish between right and wrong - the repository of that set of principles/values hat guide our moral judgments. We all have one. Its that thing that, hopefully as the late Christopher Hitchens said helps us make the right decision when nobody is looking.  Some conscience comes from a religious view, some from a secular viewpoint.
One of the growing fights these days is the battle between globalists and the national populist movements being waged  politically. In many folks the conscience has not yet advanced beyond national borders. While his weeks blog is not intended to address that issue, merely point out its existence, one sill cannot but hope more folks come around to a global vision IMHO. The planet grows smaller every day and is it really such a leap to go from the US B9ill of Rights to "Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.  Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination."  How does our conscience help shape our consciousness?? Alas, I am  afraid that is the cliffhanger for this weeks topic (at least foe me).
As you may have noticed, I am typically of  late the only LBC blogger posting from a western state of mind. This weeks comments from my cohorts should be interesting.  Ramana, Pravin, Maria and  Ashok.

See ya next week, same bat time; same bat channel. RIP Adam West.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Creationism vs evolution.

Its line in the sand time. Science  or religion. God or nature. Or is it that simple? While briefly researching the Creation side of the equation I was surprised by the number of competing Creation theories out there. They all share the notion that God created man and the universe, but they vary in the details  on how it was accomplished. (mainly the timeframe).

What we generally accept as the theory of evolution comes from Charles Darwin and involves natural selection - sometimes called survival of the fittest.  Darwin proposed what has become the most famous/infamous notion - common ancestry - that drives the discussion/debate/argument.  Surely you have heard the "man comes from the ape" discussion at least once and heard it severely critiqued by fundamentalist  Christians. That is NOT part of the equation - simply what we these days call fake news. Man and chimps/apes share 98% common genetic makeup. Oh - and 50% of our genetic makeup is the same as a banana. Watch out for offended vegans denying  the banana comes from man argument that just might occur. It might also explain this -



Gotta keep your sense of humor in these matters - and that's a cool song from my perhaps misspent youth.

If pressed on the matter I have to admit that I see evolution as a legitimate mechanism an intelligent creator might use to further his/her agenda. I especially see the fact that evolution creates imperfect things and that fits with the model an  intelligent designer  that creates beings as imperfect as humans and demands absolute fealty - even though those beings were given free will to think and act on their own. I am not so unsure of the existence of  an intelligent designer to  categorically state there is none. I simply do not know nor do I possess a degree of faith - as do several friends - to categorically state there is an intelligent designer. Call it God if you choose. People that know me understand my stance on God is best summed up by U2. If you are new to me simply click on the U2 link.

Back to the topic at hand. Given a choice, I fall on the evolution side of the equation. There is simply an overwhelming amount of  scientific evidence - commonly called facts - to convince me. The earth and humanity are older than 6,000 years. And, even the old earth creationists do not convince me they are correct. I'll stick with inquisitive guys like Neil deGrasse Tyson who are constantly searching for answers. I am confident the answers will be found eventually. If my faithful friends are correct, though, it is not likely to happen in my lifetime so I'd better get used to some heat.

I also realize this is a topic better suited to a more detailed discussion than this little weekly blog allows. Anyone wishing to have  more detailed discussion with me on this issue is free to contact me.

This week's topic was my idea.  To see where my cohorts stand on the issue please check their blogs at the following links - RamanaPravinMaria and Ashok.







Thursday, June 1, 2017

Language

Language - the spin starts here. In a world where up means down, black is white and spin is massive, we are expected to understand things being communicated to us. The following definition seems to fit - "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way". There are some 6500 spoken languages, many with as few as 1000 speakers.  Then there are other languages - those used to program  computers for example. The world of languages is large and diverse.

Various areas may speak the same language - lets use English as an example. Britain, Scotland, Canada, the USA, Ireland, Australia an New Zealand all speak English but there are substantial differences in how the language is spoken in each country.  And consider the different  dialects available in each country.

Once, years ago, I was driving across the country whilst moving from Northern California to Connecticut. I needed  to make a gas stop in West Virginia. I grabbed my Diners Club card and asked the attendant if they accepted Diners Club at the station. He replied we take Donners Club. I was baffled - was this a local card? I checked the door and saw the Diner Club sticker and held my card up to the guy and said "Diners?" - He replied yep - Donners.  I quickly filled my tank and headed off to the next stop - my old friend Stuart's place in New Jersey. Luckily Stu and I had been friends since we were 11 or so and he spent  summers visiting his cousins - our neighbors. So I could speak fluent  Joisey and Stu was fluent in Ca hippy speak. After Stuart's place the next stop was our future home - New England (Rocky Hill, Connecticut). Of course each state in New England has a different dialect.

One of the best things associated with being an avid reader is the discovery of a real wordsmith - an author who can really evoke emotions and feelings in his/her work. Most of my regular readers know I am a huge mystery buff and find the observations on the human condition in that genre equally as valid if not more so than so-called real literature. I have read very few authors as adept and skillful as Dana Stabenow in her Kate Shugak mystery series set in Alaska. Playwrites and screenwriters can see the success or failure of their scripts rise nd fall on their use of language.

Spoken language is even more interesting to me. A speaker's voice can  set a tone almost immediately.



Listen to the difference in the voice of the actor who played Darth Vader (David Prowse)  and the actor who\voiced Darth Vader (James Earl Jones).



In politics often the person who can best manipulate language and put the best spin on a topic and even win the election - against all odds. Just ask POTUS 45.

Verbal language skills are often showcased in debate. Skilled debaters are fun to watch. They employ a number of tactics to control their topic. I was good at increasing the volume of my words and could intimidate many of the other team. In one class I apologized for the tactics at the end of the quarter, Several classmates were livid and claimed the entire class a waste. The professor asked them how it was a waste of time when in every debate he consciously put me on the side of the topic he knew I opposed in real life yet my team constantly one. The nature of the exercise dawned on them and all was well. Listen to the late William F. Buckley in debate some time. Just enter his name in the YouTube search window and pick one.

And last but not least there is the language of music. Music has been called the universal language. There is a song for every emotion. Here are a few examples - just click on the link to hear the song that fits the emotion (try Excited)

Happy
Lonely
Love
Excited
Mellow
-

Effective use and understanding language can go a long  way to your leading a happy, productive life.
Our topic this week was suggested by Ramana. Check our other bloggers and see how they tackled the subject.

RamanaPravinMaria and Ashok

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Does Time Run Out?

Does time run out? Pravin asks that question of us with this weeks LBC topic. So what is time? Here is what DR. Neil  deGrasse Tyson says -



That is Dr. Tyson's definition. Merriam Webster says : 1) a :  the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues :  duration  b:  a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future - Like Steve Miller sang, "Time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future"'

Tyson says "We are prisoners in the present locked in eternal transition between our past and our future."  Time is constant, it is our measurement (reckoning) of time that allows the notion of time running out. 

As I queried last month when the topic was simply Time,  Since we cannot bring back the past is  time really anything more than the present? Is  the future  real before it becomes the present? The short answer is no to both questions in my opinion. But in reference to the period of reckoning,  time can run out. It is like starting a discussion with a disclaimer like "For the sake of this discussion, the sky is orange with green stars" or a stadium's unique set of ground rules in baseball.  

Then there are the Spanish scientists who believe time is literally running out and will simply cease to exist. Granted - they are thinking it will happen in billions of years but it certainly does make one stop and think. You can read about that here.

In the meantime, you might as well enjoy the present in any way you see fit. Me? I'll probably listen to the occasional song about time - 


Be  sure to check my cohorts blogs to see what they have to say about this week's topic- RamanaPravinMaria and Ashok.



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sunrise or Sunset




This week's topic was my idea.  Sunrise or sunset. Start the day or end the day. What is your preference?  

Honestly, it is a tough question - a fresh cup of coffee and depending upon the season, a warm jacket makes almost any sunrise special.  I have been to the spot this shot was taken - it is one of my favorite places in the world - Monterey Bay in California. It is one of the many reasons I miss northern California - the best place I have ever lived.

The only negative about loving a sunrise is the early hour you need to get up to view that sunrise - unless of course, you are young enough to have been out all night and just happen to catch a sunrise that way. In my youth, I confess that happened on occasion. And on several of those occasions I had be to work by 8:00 AM - those were long days and much coffee was consumed.  

Sunsets are equally as lovely and typically much easier to view unless you work the night shift. Here is a shot of San Francisco at sunset - 
another of my favorite places and yes - another reason I miss California. I am not sure where the photographer was when this shot was taken - perhaps on a bay cruise or across the bay in Berkeley or Emeryville. I used to hang out at a great seafood restaurant in Berkeley called Spangers.  I have been away for so long it is now part of a large chain. But it did not have this view - even before several drinks. The seafood and sourdough bread were compensation for the missing view.

Ultimately I ll go with the sunrise as my preferred choice. It is the start of a new day, a new experience is about to happen. You have a chance to make it a great day. Give it a shot. and whatever happens, a nice glass of wine at sunset is a proper way to end the daylight portion of any day. Hmm - a cold beer is better on a hot summers day though. 

Be sure to check my cohorts blogs to see what they have to say about this week's topic- RamanaPavinMaria and Ashok.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

History

History. A straightforward topic. Could not be any easier - unless you are looking for the truth. Then, perhaps things are not so straightforward.



Let's take Native American history for example. When told from a white man perspective, do you think it reads the same as from a Native American perspective? History is history, is it not?  We conquered them in battle and then we gave them land to build their "new" lives on. Such benevolent conquerors.

But we devastated their culture, took away their real lands and lied on most if not every treaty we made with the Native Americans.  Is that the same history from both sides of the equation? Bear in indthat history is typically written/recorded by the winners.

Consider next the enormous economic and industrial expansion that is the hallmark of the U.S.A.. Consider the industrialists here in the US that were known as Robber Barons - people that would do anything to get rich. Here is a list of some -

The people here are listed as  Robber Barons or in the various sources,

  • Surely there are some recognizable names there. Their businesses provided much of the growth that helped make the U.S.A.the wealthy giant we are today, but their business practices would in many cases be illegal, immoral or both. But that is rarely discussed because of how their history was written.
Times were different back then. It was the time of colonial expansion around the world. AT one time or another world powers included Spain, Portugal, Holland and of course England.  The landscape is much different these days.

Now, more than ever, alternative histories that attempt to tell the whole story are appearing. Gain the full historical perspective on any given time/event. Not surprisingly there is some resistance in certain quarters. Be sure to check multiple sources just as you should for news about current events. Remember - if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it - or at least repeat its errors. 

One final thought - it is not my intent to question every historical record - I am merely suggesting that you exercise caution and use good sense when studying history..  Now please excuse me while I research aligator canons..

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Now more than ever alternative histories oare appearing. Histories that tell a full story - offering both sides of events. Now you can read the whole story and gain the perspective of both sides in the story. Of course, that is a source of severe consternation for some, and simply righting a wrong to others. It is up to you to decide where you fall in that equation.