Sunday, June 19, 2005

24 Hours

24 Hours

It has been said that a lie, left unanswered, becomes true in 24 hours. A story whispered to a friend in private grows legs and learns to run before the truth has learned to crawl. Stories may have elements of truth - they may even be completely true when first uttered. But, because we are such poor storytellers, we tend to forget, we tend to fabricate and sometimes we tend to cover ourselves to the point that by the time the story has gone full circle - it is anything but true. We’ve probably all sat in a classroom in grade school where the teacher illustrated this point by lining up about ten kids and whispering something in the first person’s ear with the instruction to tell the next person “exactly” what was just said. By the time, it gets to the tenth child and it is repeated out loud, it is anything but what the teacher first told the first student.

Some people have become so accustomed to passing on what they believe to be true, that they don’t even think of the damage they may do to someone else. This damage is further compounded when it involves an online forum or discussion group where the only relationship one has with their counterparts is through their computers. Accusations left unanswered are soon assumed to be true and since no one is online all of the time, the potential for even reading a response may be slim to none.

Other people believe that the insulation the impersonal medium of compu-conversation gives them, they are free to say and do whatever they please with little more than bravado and what little they actually know, or believe they know about something.

Such is the case recently when for the second time on the dental lab forum, another person referred to me as an anti-Semite. This person went on to accuse me of hating Mormons and generally being an all around lousy bum for having differing beliefs than this person who so eloquently stormed into my email box and cussed me up one side and down the other with suggestions of physical impossibilities. The first time this happened a new member of the forum wrote and just simply asked if I was the same guy that was kicked off the IDF for being an anti-Semite. This second person evidently noticed I didn’t respond to the first guy and so assumed the accusation must be true enough to repeat the slander. I would only offer this challenge - show me any of my writings that could or would show I am an anti-Semite! You won’t find a word of it! Prove your case or else be silent! (and also for the record, I was never kicked off anything - I left the IDF on my own and can return at any time I choose.)

I responded to the first person privately and it should have been more than adequate to clarify my position. The second guy however, may not get it, even though I also responded to him privately. But a lie left unanswered…

So for the record and to say it publicly, I am not an anti-Semite. I have never been an anti-Semite. Nor have I had a strange conversion from anti-Semitism to fundamentalism. I have nothing to do with anti-Semites except in the opportunity to reason with them for the purpose of changing their confused minds. I have no respect for these people’s beliefs and in fact have utter contempt for their way of believing. I have had these people in my home and at the point where they began to spew their nonsense and disgusting filthy diatribe against the Jewish people - I have physically thrown them out of my house and told them not to come back as they are not welcome.

I am a Christian. I take that title to have real meaning. I do not pour into that title what I wish it to mean, I take from the title what its implied and real meaning suggests - a follower of Jesus Christ the King of the Jews. You see - Christianity IS Jewish. It is the fruition of Judaism’s Messiah that was prophesied of long before the coming of Christ. My respect for and love for the Jewish people comes from a sound understanding of who these people are and how much they mean to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who sent His Son to teach us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. His Son who sent His followers FIRST to the Jews and then to the rest of the world to proclaim the good news of His salvation.

Those people who followed madmen like Hitler and Stalin, or who deny the reality of the holocaust or wish to claim the Jewish people are less than human, deserve nothing less than to be exposed for what they are - sick, low minded, disgusting individuals who cannot think for themselves and instead have succumbed to a form of group-think that will and should lead to their destruction.

I know that making any type of defense leaves open the possibility for misunderstanding and even once repeated enough may even give legs to a whole new version of the “truth”. It is virtually impossible to clear up the damage that a lie or untrue accusation makes upon an individual. This blog today does what little it may do to help in this regard and I would encourage anyone who wishes to discuss their concerns or questions to comment here.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

If This- Then That!

If This- Then That!

Black/White, Yes/No, 1/0, Good/Bad, Lightness/Darkness, Right/Wrong, On/Off, If this- Then that!

What is it about human nature that wants to avoid absolutes? Why do we go so far out of our way to avoid them? When we are looking for something solid to hold on to - solid ground to stand upon, why do we always desire another option when the facts seem too harsh to accept?
Every day our lives are filled with choices. Some of those choices are between two polar opposites, while others seem to be choices between the lesser of two evils. It is interesting however that we all too often don’t like the absolute choice we are confronted with and instead of accepting the reality of a given situation, we struggle to find a choice “less confrontational” or less demanding.

May I suggest it’s sometimes because we don’t want to be thought of as the bad guy in a conflict? It’s hard to take a stand for something. You are putting your credibility on the line. People depend on you and you don’t wish to be found wrong. Our pride gets involved and before you know it, we are searching for an out - a way around a tough decision.

Immanuel Kant gave us an understanding of situational ethics - where we are confronted by certain situations that seem to have no absolute right way of dealing with a given problem. Kant himself is a study in opposites even if only you look at his name. Immanuel - which means “God with us” and Kant which has become synonymous with the belief you “Can’t know God as He (or It) is impersonal”. Even though Kant said he knew he couldn’t know, Kant - can’t know that without knowing he can‘t know. He wrestled with the fact that he believed God was unreachable, yet he had to reach God to know God is unreachable. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand Kant really couldn’t know without knowing, reach without reaching or speak without speaking.

In the latest and hopefully last episode of extra-planetary Buddhism, Obiwon Kenobe tells the young Jedi Knight Skywalker that “only the Sith believe in absolutes”. Does anyone see the problem with that statement? We are expected to believe there is a more enlightened path than absolutes. A less extreme choice, a choice of compromises and less demanding decisions that lead to harm to no one. Yet, when you think about it, the very statement that “only this is true” is an absolute statement. It is exclusive by its very nature. “Only the Sith believe in absolutes” is an absolute statement. Yet we as an audience are asked to just go along with the flow and not question this little insertion of fuzzy thinking. We are to let ourselves be taken up by the force and moved along to the mindset the authors of this space aged fantasy desire for us to adopt. Ultimately, when given the hard choice to kill once and for all his old friend Skywalker, Kenobe instead chooses to walk away and leave him for dead on the banks of a lava flow. The choice to end it now was too hard - too harsh - too much against the Jedi way. In fact, this choice was ultimately his undoing. Skywalker lives and becomes an even more powerful evil that wreaks havoc on all that follows.

What choices do you have to make today? Which ones will return some day to bite you? Which choice will carry with it a lifetime of results? Let me suggest the choice to avoid absolute choices will do more damage, will cause more confusion and will bring about more despair than if you just make the hard choice you know instinctively is the right choice. Your choices have consequences. Your choices today will affect you, your family and your business for many years to come.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hiding Under the Covers

As I sit down to write there is a commercial playing on the radio for a Honda dealer with a music track specifically written to sound like the Beach Boys singing, “Help me Honda, help help me Honda, gotta get a new car.”

Now, its one thing to use Led Zeppelin to sell Cadillacs or The Beatles to sell sneakers or any number of original artists who have seen the popularity of their music wane and then squeeze out a few more bucks by selling the use of their recordings for commercial purposes. But it’s entirely different when producers bring in sound-a-likes to sing similar words - usually with enough differences in vocal inflections - to be an obvious and poorly done “cover”. It’s just too much like Muzak. Its only one-step above Karaoke!

I haven’t heard Muzak in a long time. In the 70s and 80s, it was used in offices and laboratories to promote a “more professional atmosphere” and a “more productive work environment”. I always wondered how that was - it always made me want to vomit, not work harder! The producers would hire third-rate amateurs to sing or play popular music so poorly, we welcomed the fact that it was played quietly enough to barely be audible. Why not just keep the professionals to play the music and leave the amateurs to do special music at churches and weddings? For the record - I am an amateur - and even I don’t want to play music at churches or weddings. Been there - done that - no thanks!

There were always certain taboos in live music. Either you played covers so well that you couldn’t tell the difference from the original artist - note for note - or else you so re-interpreted the music, you were able to make it your own. Any effort to do otherwise is an embarrassment if you are trying to a good job on someone else‘s material. The latter being the more preferable way, as "top 40" bands were always ridiculed for lack of originality. Whenever I hear someone do a Beatle song - I am embarrassed for them. Especially when their egos let them take a “Beatle bow” at the end of the song. Then I think they get the ridicule they deserve. Even the Beatles eventually didn’t do their songs live - why don’t amateur musician understand that?

I can see where doing a commercial has constraints where “good enough” is good enough considering budgets and studio time and available talent to sell a Yugo or a Civic. That is why we have Country Music - good enough is good enough. You figure cost verses return and before you know it, you have kids dressed up to sound like the Beach Boys and standing on a car platform at the grand opening. It’s not something I would cross the street to see.

On the other hand, I remember a band back in my home town, whose stated goal was to have as much fun as they could get away with. Reputations be damned. They were all excellent musicians, had the “chops” to play just about anything and did so without much in the way of practice. 634-5789, Mustang Sally, I Had Too Much To Dream, I Feel Good, Dancing In The Street, as well as about every song you heard growing up. In the case of “Dancing in the Street” they could play it like Martha and the Vandellas or they could play it like Van Halen and sound convincingly enough to make you enjoy their music either way. They never did a Beatles set. One night at the Red Dog Saloon they came back from break, dressed only in fright wigs, hefty bags and tights and did a whole set of Alice Cooper songs. It was a hilarious - spur of the moment - tour van haze induced madness. Alice Cooper deserved to have his work covered - especially by hefty bagged imposters. The Dive Kings as they were called then - had way too much fun… and so did all of us who went to hear them or spent the lost weekends at the parties they had after they got paid. The night they opened for John Cougar was a trip, they took all of the money they made and rented out half of one "party floor" at a big hotel downtown - only to find out the police had rented the other half for a dance and some sort of service recognition banquet - but that is another story. The goal of the Dive Kings was to have fun, not work too hard and get paid easy money. If that was their business plan - they were a success. It didn’t matter to them that they be taken as serious musicians - the last thing they wanted was to be serious. They just wanted to have fun.

It all boils down to this - The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Clapton all just did what they did - either being original or re-interpreting their music in a way that no one had thought of and making it their own. It took guts and determination and talent. Guts mostly though. They had to walk out on a stage and do “their own” songs. Originality carries a price tag. Either you end up with your ego handed to you at the door or else you are indeed a success. The middle ground is a no man’s land and you may as well be doing commercials for used cars.

When it comes to the internet and forums in general, one of the all too often repeated problems is the bad habit of reposting. Or in other words - excessive long quotes as a proof text for one side or the other in an argument. At least with proof texting with quotes - it is to make a point about something. Its not terribly original but it is to make a point. That in a way is akin to playing cover songs for fun and profit. To spend most of your time only contributing reposted news articles - without any originality to your message - is simply akin to selling used cars. Something not worth crossing the street to witness.

Be original. Commit to your vision. Take no prisoners. Have fun.

But most of all - “Don’t let anybody tell you, there isn’t going to be a judgment day”

Someone - or someone - will indeed judge your actions no matter what you do, that is inescapable - so make the most of your efforts.