rabbit trails

The comfort of a friend with whom you can spend hours with talking, debating, and recounting life can yield many spurs in a conversation.

For instance, have you ever tried to stay on the topic of, say, the crumbs left in the butter dish only to be lead off on the trail of what chemicals make up margarine?  Or, while watching the clouds in the sky your mind wanders to the creatures that the puffy shapes look.  This, of course, leads you to conclude that you need more dog food, and speaking of, where did our favorite sweater go that the dog chewed last Christmas…

While some people may believe that it is a sign of ignorance and stupidity to allow yourself to wander from one thought to another, I believe that is freeing.

I am beginning to think that real life, REAL life, is in the details of our meticulous minds.  What was Einstein really thinking of when he came up with the theory of relativity?  What inspired Mozart and Beethoven to think the melodies that they did?

Take all of the purely wonderful inventions/ thoughts from across time, and I am sure that most of them were products of mistakes, unintelligible thought processes, or driven by flitting inspiration of something simple and ordinary.

What will fill you with inspiration?  What abstract thought will you wrap your head around and push to the next limit?  When will you make the time to think?

Posted in Reflecting Pool | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Under the Banner of Heaven

Reviewed on Goodreads.com

Under the Banner of HeavenJon Krakauer’s 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven is a synthesis of two things — a raw look at the history of Mormonism; and a glaring expose on the 1984 double murder in Provo, Utah carried out by Mormon Fundamentalists.

The thing that Krakauer does best is converts the over-abundant dialogue he gathered through interviews with the individuals involved in the events into a narrative detailing and exploring the overall story in a way that captivates the reader and holds their attention through much of the book. Add to that his extraordinary ability to weave together historical events with his crime-scene narrative and you have a recipe for a highly interesting and entertaining read.

Continue reading

Posted in Critic's Lens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Note on Salvation

IGNIS by Grace Lazzeri The following ramblings are my personal thoughts which were sent to a friend/mentor on some common spiritual themes we had discussed recently. Please read, enjoy, and be encouraged.

Continue reading

Posted in The Higher Path, Wesism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stealing the Sheets

Untitled by HK ZamaniThis morning my wife and I had a bit of… an issue. As is often the case, the debate as to which individual in the marriage has territorial rights and claims to a given amount of bed coverings is a hot topic. How those divisions of blankets exist and at what times they are allowed to be violated is a key obstacle in the way of a healthy and happy marriage.

To say that we fought about it is an overstatement. We merely talked, and it was ultimately left open-ended, as there was obviously no conclusion to be had.

I must admit that I am usually the perpetrator of the sheet stealing. For some reason, I have no concept of how many of the coverings I’m actually taking during the night. And the case could be made that I’m not really in a cognizant state of realization when the theft occurs. But, on this particular night, I was the victim. The tables were turned.

Continue reading

Posted in Reflecting Pool, Trail Partner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ONE thought…

Fight or flight. One chance. Survival of the fittest. IF you want it done right, do it yourself. Nature vs. Nurture. Army of One.

The solidarity of one’s life is as evident now in the days of technology as they were in the Middle Ages or even at the time that Adam and Eve strolled this earth. Why do we struggle so much to help each other- not through hand outs and hand ups as per usual society means of assistance, but by coming along side of each other and REALLY helping one another. How can we come together to support a few unknown celebrities win a contest (dancing, Superbowl, etc) and celebrate their successes and woeful life moments in plain view of each other, but struggle to let our true selves be seen by the ones that we love?

What would life look like if we did share our struggles, joys, and true selves. What if we stopped trying to figure out what ‘normal’ is by labeling everyone else as abnormal (through mental illness, social disorders, physical imperfections, skin color, cultural backgrounds, etc.). How would your life change if you even were your true self through and through even with one other person- or, even yourself?

Posted in Reflecting Pool, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shifting Focus

Starry Night (Tilt Shift) by Vincent Van GoghWhilst sitting with two close friends last week at my dining room table, I had a sudden revelation about the self and how an individual deals with it. As my friend is talking about his sister and brother-in-law and the troubles in their lives, I realized with some clarity that it’s incredibly easy to talk of others and their problems, but nigh impossible to talk about yourself and your own. This is definitely not a slam against my friend; he’s a genuinely respectful person, and his story was just a story. But it makes me question the nature of humanity as it pertains to the self.

An individual is very apt to see the speck in another person’s eye, but inept at seeing the log in their own. Jesus warned us about and against this very clearly. The question I have is “Why?” Is it that the individual intent of criticism is only engaging in matters which he can see (others around him) while he goes unawares of himself? Or is it that he is actively shifting focus away from himself in an effort to not deal with his own shortcomings and struggles as a person?

This is obviously subjective, and can only be applicable on a person-by-person basis. But I believe it underlines a broader question wherein humanity is shown as selfish by nature; do we naturally act in a selfish way? And, if so, what does it take to not do so?

There are plenty of people that instinctively respond selflessly in situations, both crisis-type and routine. My wife and father-in-law are two of them. How do these people get to that point, past the natural tendencies and to a routinely selfless state? Is it taught? The example of my wife and her father may suggest so. Is there a certain amount of outside intervention that needs to occur first? Can we bring it about ourselves? Is God needed for it to occur at all?

Whatever, whoever, and however it’s brought about, it’s also apparent to me that it’s not consistently applied. As my wife can attest if she was pressed to, even she struggles with focusing attention on shortcomings at times. No one ever seems to be able to focus on problems of the self at all times. And maybe rightly so. They could be called narcissistic otherwise, no?

My thought has evolved:  are people that eager not to improve themselves by focusing attention (even the minutest of attention) on their own issues so much so that they’d rather talk about those of others? This leaves me with a bad impression of humanity as well as myself specifically. And it leaves me with little hope for the future.

This topic will most definitely be returned to at a later time…

Posted in Bird Walking, Reflecting Pool, Trail Partner | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: How the States Got Their Shapes

Reviewed on Goodreads.com

How the States Got Their ShapesI had hoped for an in-depth history of the American states’ borders when I first learned about the book How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein. I should have known that a mere 300 pages could not provide the realization of that hope, nor could the author given his credentials. Indeed, a mere glance at Stein’s bio on the back page would indicate that he’s not the one equipped to deliver such a lofty goal as he is very clearly a writer for the stage and nothing more.

It’s apparent the further you read that Stein is not a historian. Nor is he really scholarly. Nor did he have any previous knowledge about the topics of geography, detailed American history, surveying principles and practices, or, dare I say it, formatting a book about any of those topics.

And with this last quibble is where I place most of my contention with said book. I can overlook in my critique Stein’s apparent lack of understanding about the multi-faceted subjectivism of the perspectives of history. That topic is not Mainstream Approved just yet. But what I cannot overlook is his disorganized approach at attempting to compile a history of the states’ borders.

Where he fails miserably is the choice to alphabetize the compilation of information by state name. Thus, we begin with Alabama and end with Wyoming. Of course, this poses an obvious problem as almost all states share common borders with other states; the information on a border would essentially need to be repeated in multiple sections. And it’s apparent that his choice to alphabetize by state led the author to make an even tougher choice during his writing:  whether to treat each state “bio” as independent and risk the repetitiveness of mulling over the same stories, the same backgrounds, the same treaties and negotiations and surveyor errors countless times in the same book; or choose to provoke a certain level of anticipation and suspense by describing only a small portion of the really juicy border disputes and controversies on one state and then merely saving the rest for the adjacent state tens of pages later. Stein appears to have decided to herald back to the very bygone political leader’s choices he has written about by “Compromising” where he placed the boundaries of his work.

At times Stein clearly chooses to reveal it all in a selected state’s bio. But at others, he splices the information between two or more states. The former results in abundantly wealthy sections towards the front of the book… and not so lengthy sections towards the tail end, which makes reading the last 100 pages or so rather dry and quick. The latter results in decentralized information being given on any event or instance, and the need to reference multiple states to get the full story is vital to the reader’s understanding.

One must wonder if a better organization could exist. Perhaps a chronological approach rather than alphabetized. This would have resulted in less overlap between state histories as well as finding information about an event all at one location. By beginning at the first events (such as the boundary disputes between Massachusetts Bay Colony and its neighbors New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut) and ending with the most recent (like the 1990’s resolution of who exactly owns Ellis Island? New York or New Jersey?). But this seemed to be too ambitious for someone like Stein. And, perhaps, rightly so as it would have taken a scholar to truly delve into the subject in this way, thus revealing that Stein is, in fact, not a scholar.

So from the outset, Stein destines himself to under-representing the topic at hand and condemns himself to a level of quality fit for the History Channel… which is not a compliment. Indeed, Stein’s book was even turned into a History Channel series with the same name, and the several episodes I’ve seen were very representative of Stein’s overall caliber with the 300 pages he managed to write:  compromised, underwhelming, and unscholarly. In other words, par for the course in terms of the History Channel; sub par in terms of actual geographical and historical works go. Sounds about right for Mr. Stein’s credentials.

But surely he accomplishes something, right? It took me much searching and pondering to give positive criticism about this book. What I’ve concluded is that for the lay-reader that is searching to get a trivial and very rudimentary understanding of the subject, How the States Got Their Shapes would be a great introductory read. “A good place to start” (my motto for Wikipedia), should extend to this book. But Wikipedia seems to even do this better than Stein, which sums up all 306 pages rather succinctly. It certainly inspires the reader to investigate further the various treaties and negotiations and agreements of our history as they pertain to the state boundaries. But, even here, one must question why they would spend $15 on a paperback book when Wikipedia exists for free.

I can only recommend this book to two types of people:  junior and senior high schoolers looking to start a journey down the road of geography or state-making; and the typical geographically ignorant American who’s looking to become a little less ignorant about the country they live in. All the rest need not apply.

Posted in Critic's Lens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Government Contractors and the Perpetuation of War

F-35 JSFLockheed Martin has been working on its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet since October 26th, 2001. Like Bell Boeing’s V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor personnel aircraft, the F-35 has had a long and infamous development phase over the past 12 years. Its first flight was in 2006, and it has been seeing consistent training sorties with both the US and Canadian Air Force’s for a few years now (I’ve personally see the F-35 flying out of Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah).

Continue reading

Posted in Envisage, The Dismal Science, The Four Pillars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Among the Thugs

Reviewed on Goodreads.com

amongthethugsWhat it lacks for in real application of the scientific method, Among the Thugs more than makes up for in raw exposure. This is not just an expose on football hooliganism in England; it’s a full-fledged, first-hand intelligence report on mob mentality in one of the most brutal eras in the history of crowd violence. Bill Buford is quite literally punished for getting so close to the facts, but his sacrifices are far worth it to the reader

Delving into the scene of British hooliganism at the height of the movement in 1980’s England, Buford follows several hardcore supporter’s groups around Europe and through the English countryside to detail his every experience. His tenacity for remembering explicitly the events he witnessed lends much credence for the type of journalist he is. Buford’s writing style teeter-totter’s between the objectively, matter-of-factly, stereotypical bystander of journalism and the immensely human, down-to-earth, lager-drinking lad that he’s set upon to portray. What’s most revealing about his writing is how often he consciously, yet hesitantly he strays across the line of objective witness to the maddening crowd itself. So much so that he, himself, engages in the very activity he denounces overall. But be this fact very far from a criticism; Buford manages to very intimately illustrate how anyone can so easily fall into the mindless ways of the mob. This amount of humanism is what makes the book so appealing.

Climaxing at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and finally wrapping up his years-long observations with the subsequent European Cup tournament, Buford questions many of the established thoughts and theories about mob mentality. His unique perspective as a member of the press(yet accepted by the thugs he’s writing about) in the midst of the mob provides a different way of looking at this phenomenon compared to those “social scientists” that came long before him.

Many types of readers should be interested in this book:  the soccer fan; the sociologist; the economist; the libertarian philosopher; the aspiring journalist; the renaissance man; the general reader at large. Among the Thugs should stand as both a pillar of applied social science, a “required reading” item for anyone studying the subject; as well as a memorial stone for football supporter’s around the world for what once was, and what never to become again.

Posted in Critic's Lens | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Implosion Site

If there’s a term for writer’s block in which one feels internally compelled (but not forced) to write, yet has no immediate topic or subject or motive to write about, then I currently embody that term.

Since I published Non-Punctual Self-Assessment, I’ve felt the need to get things off my chest through writing. Some ideas have been roughly hashed out both in my mind and in a draft form somewhere, but none have had either the full effort of clear thought to “put pen to paper”, or a true inspiration to flesh out some of the more established ideas. This leaves me in a rather odd predicament; one I’ve felt before but have never known how to deal with.

Others may identify with how I’m feeling. It starts with a slow leak of combustible gases through the ventilation ducts, seeping into an enclosed room. Slowly these gases build with no where to escape, no draft way to allow a controlled bleeding of elements. As pressure starts accumulating in the space, the room, as if it had a sense of feeling, becomes aware of the need for its contents to be released. It wants its door opened to allow the elements it’s holding to burst forth. Or, short of that, at least a self-immolation started by a sudden and mysterious spark from its innards, sending forth an implosion of light and fire.

But it never comes. Eventually, the pressure builds so severely that it forces its way out by making for itself a crack in the corner of the room, or by blowing out the years of grime in the keyhole and escaping through the minutest of crevices. Slowly the pressure dissipates to a more comfortable level, the outward ventilation equaling the incoming pressure. But it never goes away; the source never turns off. The flow continues, only being mitigated in the slightest relief.

This sensation ebbs and flows. At times it’s so great that it almost convinces you of realization, almost divinely moving your fingers to type or your hand to grasp the pen. At others it’s just a tension, ever present, ever there.

What’s needed is an inception; the origin of an idea that is just enough to carry those gases and make them ignite. Like the filament of a light bulb illuminating; and, with that finite event, sets loose the flow of creativity. The filament, in a split second, inflaming a roomful with illumination via a chain reaction of gaseous particles catching alight and burning exponentially hotter and brighter. The walls literally breathing with the zest, the utter exertion of power, the primal spirit of creativity as it is unleashed. The zealous fortitude exuding from the space, knocking down anything that’s not buried in bed rock or riveted to the foundation. The potential-turned-kinetic manifesting itself in a dizzying array of color, form, texture, vibrancy, ambiance, emotion, and a hundred other things as they all take their places on the pages, on the screen, on the whiteness that is the canvas for a writer.

At those times of ebbing and gentle flowing, I yearn for that fire inside to be kindled and set free. In whatever form, I don’t care. The inner tension and angst suffers me. The realization of the probability of not actively living up to the potential I have becomes present during those times, and it takes my whole being to prevent it from overtaking me fully.

It’s this weird limbo state of existence that I feel now. And it’s this very piece of creativity that is the keyhole for the gases to exhaust. My soul is left with no other choice but to apathetically… no, contently reside and allow nature to take its course, knowing that at some future point the catalyst will swing and mingle on a sub-atomic level with the eagerness that is my desire to create.

I know what characters like King David or Saul of Tarsus or the Messiah himself felt like when they yearned after God’s heart, eager to serve, eager to have their potential released upon the world, wanting God to be their catalyst. Perhaps He will be mine as well.

Posted in Bird Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments