RJ's Corner

I Think I Would Be Better Off…

I have freely admitted here that I suffer bouts of depression, especially in the winter months. I just can’t seem to shake that to any significant level anymore. It is just a part of me now.  I was a “thoughtful” kid who dreamed a lot but it was not until I went deaf almost 30 years ago now that depression on any level creeped in

Not being able to hear is depressing on a  constant level but I have managed to deal with that for the most part. It was a good number of years ago that I discovered that my mind just won’t register the sound of musical instruments anymore. The first time I realized that was kind of shocking!  I loved my music in the early years. During college I almost constantly played 33 rpm records on my home built stereo (I couldn’t afford to buy a unit off the shelf). Music just seemed to calm me down and got me through all the studying I did in the late night hours.

IMG_2882.jpgA while ago I just happened to turn on the local PBS channel and came across a bluegrass fest as shown to the right. I marveled at the dexterity of the pickers on the stage even though I couldn’t realize the sounds they were making. It hit me very suddenly that maybe part of my depression is because I am not soothed by music any more. I think the saying that “music calms the savage beast” is very true, especially for me.

Maybe if I could hear I could turn on some music of Dylan, or Simon & Garfunkel, maybe a little Peter, Paul, and Mary, to get me out of my moods I find myself in. Maybe a little modern day bluegrass would sooth me?  Maybe I could be calmed?  I think I would be better off it I could escape into my music once in a while. Maybe my periods of depression wouldn’t be so often or so severe?

I do miss my music, sometimes that fact hits me like a rock as it just did….

 

Critters, Again…

 

Cats and Dogs… Some say they don’t mix but my experiences say otherwise. Over the past 20 years or so we have always had one of each in our family. That is except for the last year since we have not replaced our beloved Beulah who was taken from us by cancer.  We decided she was the last as another would probably outlive us…

Sums It Up…

2016-01-27_08-07-58.png

This editorial cartoon by Bob Gorrell sums it up as far as my feelings are concerned.  It comes down to a quick and bloody death versus a slow and more painful one. Either way the country could be in its last thralls.

Eight years ago I was an enthusiastic voter who financially supported one of the candidates. He won but just couldn’t live up to my expectations. This time around its back to eliminating the worst choice.

About Bernie…

2016-02-06_11-04-19.png“Yes, I feel the Bern, but Sanders can’t possibly win, and even if he did, he’d never be able to pass his agenda through Congress. So we need to be sober and settle for Clintonian caution and triangulation.”

SOURCE:  What neoliberals get right.

In 2008 when I joined the Obama bandwagon I had this underlying suspicion that he was more about hype than substance. That he was saying things he knew would arouse me but was mainly saying them to get elected. He, like Bill Clinton and George Bush before him, didn’t really speak the words from his heart. You can’t say that about Bernie.

Sanders has a long track record of doing what he says. He also has a record of accomplishments that proves him to be a pragmatist that I believe this country seriously needs today. He votes  based on substance, not party. We have way too much “party” in our politics today.

It seems strange that so many of us are disgusted with the way our current political system operates but are just too fearful of voting for alternatives. Until we vote the IN’s out we will never see any significant progress in our way of doing government.

No, Bernie won’t win any beauty contest. He is not the strapping figures of John Kennedy or even Ronald Reagan. If we really want change then we must vote for it and I am coming to believe that Bernie might be the first step in that process.

2016-02-06_10-59-15.pngIt bothers me that Hillary has made millions of dollars making speeches to Wall Street firms and then refuses to release any words she said to them.  It should be absolutely clear to anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention that Bernie has no fans on Wall Street and won’t be asked to give a speech there anytime soon.

I love what Mark Shields said on a recent PBS Newshour. I will try to paraphrase it here:

The mortgage crisis was a terrible thing so we must hunt down those people who perpetrated this fraud and give them billions of dollars.

Bernie and Elizabeth Warren seem to be the only two people in congress who are upset as I and many other are by this logic. Billions were given to pull them out of the troubles they caused and not one person was ever indicted for the trillions it cost the American taxpayer!  I recognize that partisan politics has just become increasingly extreme since the Reagan years. We HAVE to do something to pull it back to some level of sanity if we hope to even exist.

To close out this post, I just want to be able to vote for a person who I know is true to his word and actually believes what he says.  Not a person who says what he thinks will get him elected simply because he/she craves the power of the office. I want to be able to vote for a person with “true” passion for the people.

Right now I am coming to believe that Bernie is the only person currently in this race to meet that objective. Maybe he can’t be elected but we will never know until we try….

I Just Wish I Knew What I Am Supposed To Do..

2016-01-30_11-26-38.pngI just heard the words in the title of this post in the movie “Matrix Reloaded”. I hear some of you probably saying “you watch that type of stuff???”.  I realize the Matrix movies have a bad rap from the conservative community because it is waaaay out there but to me its symbolism is awesome and I do like SciFi movies.

Getting back to the topic, some versions of religions including  quite a few Christian sects believe that God controls everything in the minutest detail, including every breath we take and every thought we have.  I guess that idea is comforting to some but not me. Maybe they are perfectly happy to think of themselves as puppets whose strings are pulled by a deity beyond their understanding. But I think that stand is just laziness on their part. They just don’t want to be responsible for how their lives turn out. They would rather put that in God’s lap.

If the statement “I just wish I knew what I am supposed to do” pushed us into a mode of deep reflection that would be something else. I think one of the things seriously missing in our American culture is determination in finding our path in life. Often times we don’t ask the serious questions until it is almost too late.   I believe that God puts in each of us a passion and reason for existing on this earth.  He leaves it is up to us and those who mentor us uncover what that passion might be and then to do everything necessary to make it happen.

2016-01-30_11-27-01.png I personally think, at least on some levels, my life has been an example of how not to do things. I went to school in a small rural community in the 1950s and 60s where guidance counselors and mentors were for the most part non-existent.  Most of my teachers were fresh out of college and only doing a couple of years at our little school before they went on the the bigger cities for more money. Many, due to the lack of life experiences, were just not able to help me with my life questions. Since my father was a single parent and a very stoic man I got little guidance from him. I was pretty much left on my own with the question of “what am I supposed to do?” and that question is really beyond most kid’s abilities without some wise guidance.  It would be years before I was able to answer the question and by then I didn’t have the courage to change life tracts so dramatically.

Fortunately kids today can at least investigate many different possibilities of life via the Internet and other readily available sources.  That type of info is WAY beyond anything that was available to my generation.

I hope that teachers today, at least many of them, try to help their students address this question early enough in life. We should all discover what God put us on the earth to do…

 

 

Sometimes It’s Embarrassing…

2016-01-30_10-32-11.pngSometimes it’s embarrassing how our country is run, but it sure does beat the alternative. We have an open system of government. We wash all our dirty laundry in the middle of the town square so everyone in the world can see the good, the bad, and the totally ugly of our system. I know many in the rest of the world are shaking their heads with just the thought of the U.S. choosing someone like Trump or Cruz to be the next leader of the free world and I don’t blame them as I am shaking my head too.  I think it just might fall off my shoulders sometime soon. :)

I don’t know just how it happened that this is the way we do business here in America. I think maybe our freedom of the press has something to do with it. Another is the right to protest which both are mandated by the first amendment of our constitution. I realize that among my evangelical friends the first amendment is all about keeping government out of religion but I, and I hope most others don’t see it that way. Two of my primary heroes are Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. I have studied their works throughout my life and therefore recognize that both these guys were more afraid of religion intruding into government than the other way around. :)  I put more weight on the freedom of speech and a free press as being important to our existence.  But I am getting off topic here. I believe that freedom to protest and for the press to say what they think is tantamount to why our democracy is the envy of the world.

There are places like China, Russia, and many of the Middle East countries where everything is kept hidden from public view. The despots and dictators don’t accept and even severely punish anyone who disagrees with them. Without criticism being tolerated they can do anything they want. In Russia and China the communist system puts most of the power in the head of the party. He has almost supreme rule. Some supposedly have elections but since no one is allowed to inspect any of that process its validity is very much questioned.

Our way of doing government is messy indeed.  How can we even allow that small minority of citizens who are avid Trump followers to rant and rave the most ridiculous things? How can we allow ourselves to look so stupid in the public square? That is the question of many who look at our process from beyond our shores. Our system of government is messy indeed but, given all its quirks it is the best in the world.

Thank heavens for the most part sanity has ruled when it comes to how we do government. Let’s hope it continues to do that in this particular election cycle and future ones.

California Biking…

I have been doing some housekeeping in my photo archive this wintry day and ran across these “biker convention” pics that I have yet to publish.  They were taken in the summer of 2009. I think most of these guys are boomer weekend warriors, not the Hell’s Angels variety.

As usual, click on any pic to see a larger slideshow…

Texas GOP Declares: “No More Teaching of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ in Texas Public Schools”

2016-02-06_10-50-13The Texas GOP’s declarative position against critical thinking in public schools, or any schools, for that matter, is now an official part of their political platform. …. (page 20, Republican Party of Texas, 2012).

Yes, challenging beliefs or claims is considered insubordinate, immoral and could lead to rebellion, disobedience or perhaps worse: revolution. For the Republican Party and their followers, thinking is subversive, imagination is a sin and the Republican Party in Texas and elsewhere is working to codify this into public policy. The plutocrats can’t have a working-class citizenry that is asking questions of those in power, be they parents or bosses; instead, the people must be taught the ideology of what is morally acceptable, what rules and regulations to follow. and even more importantly, how to accept and internalize hierarchical authoritarianism. Critical thinking is a direct challenge to the “leaders” and their claims on authority, and any opposition to vertical arrangements is ethically unacceptable to those in power.

Reactionaries have long known that enshrining ignorance and hierarchy in both thought and practice within the school curriculum is essential if the control of young minds is to be accomplished softly and quietly yet profoundly through propaganda and perception management. In the quarters of obedience training, “education” has nothing to do with “schooling” under capitalism.

SOURCE: Texas GOP Declares: “No More Teaching of ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ in Texas Public Schools”.

2016-01-18_09-18-02.pngIs our country about “obedience training” or critical thinking? That seems to be the question at hand at least for the Texas GOP. Should we have a subservient society or one that is educated to ask questions? Many of the leaders in Texas seems to think the former and like so many other things are trying to force that opinion on the rest of us!

If you haven’t figured it out by now I don’t hold Texas politics in much regard. There are just too many nuts that have come from their in recent years. Some became president and some want to get there now.  There is just too much swagger in Texas politics, and even Texas in general, for my liking.

Being a critical thinker I can’t even imagine a country whose citizens are discouraged from asking  questions. Critical thinking is what has made our country great and the lack of it will surely be our downfall. When we fall in line with whatever our leaders tell us we are on our way to becoming something other than the great democracy we have been. Stifling critical thinking is what allowed Hitler such a strangle hold on Germany for so many years. I regrettable think that it is possible for us to turn that way if the Texas GOP has there way! When critical thinking ceases then propaganda becomes “fact” and that is a scary thing!!!

In the near future I will be showing you more details about the critical thinking process in order to illustrate just how insane Texas politics is in this, and in fact most other areas of life.

 

I’m A Car Guy, But…

2016-01-25_15-43-21.pngOne of my default satellite TV channels is Velocity. It is dedicated to almost everything about cars. As I am writing this they had the Barrett-Jackson car auction from Scottsdale Arizona.  All the CEOs and others willing to put out the big bucks are there in person or via the internet. Many 1960s and 70s restored cars are sold for $200,000 and beyond to anxious buyers wanting them for their already massive collections.  It amazes me how much they are willing to fork out!

2016-01-25_15-46-01.pngI turned sixteen years old in 1962 so I was around during what is now the peak popularity years. I learned to drive with a 1963 Chevy and my first new car out of college was a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang very similar to the one recent sold at Barrett-Jackson for $240,000. When I bought mine I think it cost me about $4,0000.

I really enjoyed my Mustang for the three years I had it before I wore it out. It had almost 40,000 miles on it and was on the second set of tires when the transmission started going bonkers but that was par for the day when it came to cars.

So, getting to the point of this post, I am a car guy but I would never go back to those days for a car today. Let’s face it, while the cars were more stylish and more easily identifiable than they are today, they were very unreliable compared to my 2012 Chevy Sonic that I drive now.  Carburetors were constantly clogging up, chokes sticking and a myriad of other problems.  Then there were points, rotor, distributor caps, and spark plugs that were changed everything 20,000 or so. Car maintenance was a never ending thing in the 1960s and 70s along with buying a new car every 3 or 4 years if you wanted reliable transportation.

So, while I enjoy the car shows on Velocity, I personally would never want to go back to those days. The only way I would want my Mustang back is if you put it on a modern-day chassis and drive-train.  The good-old-days just weren’t that good in this  or many other regards.

Answer to religious violence…

2016-01-18_09-56-59.pngThe 21st century will not be a century of secularism, he writes. It will be an age of desecularization and religious conflicts. Part of this is simply demographic. Religious communities produce lots of babies and swell their ranks, while secular communities do not.

Humans also are meaning-seeking animals. We live, as Sacks writes, in a century that “has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.” The secular substitutes for religion — nationalism, racism and political ideology — have all led to disaster. So many flock to religion, sometimes — especially within Islam — to extremist forms.

This is already leading to religious violence. In November 2014, just to take one month, there were 664 jihadi attacks in 14 countries, killing a total of 5,042 people. Since 1984, an estimated 1.5 million Christians have been killed by Islamist militias in Sudan.

Sacks emphasizes that it is not religion itself that causes violence. Rather, religion fosters groupishness, and the downside of groupishness is conflict with people outside the group. Religion can lead to thick moral communities, but in extreme forms it can also lead to what Sacks calls pathological dualism, a mentality that divides the world between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad.

SOURCE:  Answer to religious violence found within religion – San Antonio Express-News.

The source for the words above is David Brooks who is a New York Times columnist and a Friday night regular on the PBS Newshour. He represents the conservative point of view in that weekly dialog. He is an old-time conservative not a screaming one so often seen today.  I love his insight in the article above and most of the thoughts coming from Mr. Brooks.

Indeed, humans are meaning-seeking animals. I certainly know I have struggled with the meaning of my life throughout my years on this earth. Religion is a place that claims to have the answers and therefore many flock to it. The trouble is there are literally thousands of versions of religions that vary widely in their dogma and beliefs.

I must admit that my exposure to religion in the past 30+ years validates his statement that religion fosters groupishness.  Even though it may not be the religions intent to promote exclusivity it almost always does to one degree or another.  To many this exclusiveness becomes the center stage for “us vs. them” battles. They look at those outside their particular faith tradition as somehow being inferior to them.  Is this a consequence of religion or a side result? A little of both I imagine.

I am and will continue to be a follower of Jesus Christ but not a member of any particular religious organization.  I have personally come to believe that Christianity at its core is anything but about  groupishness.  It is about loving each other no matter what label is placed on them by Christians or any other group.  But I do admit that Christianity in many of its versions is as guilty of fostering us vs. them as any of the other forms of organized religion around today.  I have also come to realize that politicizing religion pollutes both institutions….  At least it seems that way to me…

 

 

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