Sunday, July 20, 2014

I've fallen in love with Lindsey Stirling

No, not like that!  I mean her music!

I've come back from a week in the mountains, staying in the abode of my best friend/filmmaking partner and using the time away from things to work on my book.  I definitely needed it after being absorbed in work and projects and whatnot for... wow, the better part of a year now.  Sometimes you just need to break loose from your routine and find inspiration from new surroundings.  I got a lot of work done!

I was also introduced to a few neat surprises, courtesy of "Weird" Ed.  Because of him I've finally at long last watched The LEGO Movie, and it's now one of my favorite movies ever!  On my way through Asheville I just had to stop at the Target there and buy the cheapest LEGO set that's out which has Emmet and Wyldstyle minifigs.  They are now sitting next to my monitor as I work.  Can't beat LEGO minifigs for inspiration :-)  I also got caught up on Game of Thrones: we went through Season 3, now I just need to find Season 4.  I've read all of the books and Ed's watched all the seasons, it was odd to watch it like that with each of us knowing what was coming from different directions.  When it came time for "the Red Wedding", I knew it was getting close and when it finally happened, Ed said that my mouth was hanging wide open for a solid ten minutes!  Sheeesssh that was harsh to read about, but to see it happen on-screen...

I'm also caught up on the Marvel cinematic universe, having now seen Thor: The Dark World.  And 'course there was "Weird Al" Yankovic's new album Mandatory Fun.  Which the more I listen to it, the more I'm increasingly convinced that this may be his best album since Bad Hair Day.  There is one song on Mandatory Fun that I wasn't sure about at first, but even that is growing on me.  My favorite song/video from the album is probably "Foil": Weird Al's parody of "Royals" by Lorde.

If this really is Weird Al's last studio album, he is pulling out all the stops with Mandatory Fun, even releasing a new music video each day for eight days (the final one comes out tomorrow).

A new Weird Al anything is reason to rejoice.  But there is something else that I brought back with me from my trip, and I'm counting it as one of the most delightful discoveries I've ever made so far as music goes.

I had never heard of Lindsey Stirling until this past week, when Ed introduced me to her music.  Stirling had been a contestant on America's Got Talent and was told that she wasn't right for the show with her "dancing violinist" act.  I don't know what the heck they were smoking but Lindsey Stirling is unbelievably beautiful as a musician and dancer... and after watching some of her videos and listening to her while we were riding around the area I just had to have more.  So I bought both of her albums - her self-titled debut and Shatter Me, released three months ago - at the same Target as I was headed home.

I've been listening to them like crazy since.  And watching many more of her videos (Lindsey has like a billion subscribers on YouTube so I'm coming late to the party a bit :-) like this Star Wars medley.  I never thought I would have fallen so madly in love with violin music... but here I am, and I have!

So if you haven't already, you really should look up Lindsey Stirling on YouTube and check out her work and if you're like me you'll be enchanted into wanting more.  If you don't believe me, here is the video for "Beyond the Veil" from Shatter Me:

And then the in-every-possible-way beautiful video for "Shatter Me", also with Lzzy Hale:

So I came back refreshed, re-invigorated, a lot accomplished on my book, and with the most amazing new music that I can remember finding in a very long time. I'm feeling inspired and firing on all cylinders again!

I give Lindsey Stirling my highest recommendation.  If she ever comes to town for a concert I'm absolutely going to be there first day to buy tickets!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic's new album MANDATORY FUN is out today!

I've only been able to listen to two tracks from it so far (am waiting to listen to the rest with a friend later this evening) but Mandatory Fun is already down as one of my favorite "Weird Al" Yankovic albums of recent years!

"Tacky" ought to be a hit with anyone who's had  Pharrel Williams' "Happy" stuck in their head (which is too many of us), while "Word Crimes" - a spoof of "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke - is without a doubt going to get a lot of play in English classrooms from elementary school through college.

Looking forward to enjoying the rest of the album!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A note to readers

Dear readers,

I am REALLY getting fed up with some technical issues that are keeping abusive comments from being deleted.

As of now I am making certain posts become drafts. This will hide them from public viewing until these issues are resolved and I can delete the comments again.

I hate to take such a drastic step but at this point there is no choice. I wish I had thought of it earlier.

The posts will return as soon as possible.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iraq: I hate to say "I told you so", but...

I'm going to take time out from working on the book and professional obligations to say something that does not come out of any sense of pride or gloating.  There is nothing at all to crow about regarding this.

That said, it has been a long-time contention of this blogger that our getting involved with Iraq was a mistake of unimaginably severe proportions.  For as long as this blog has been active I have written on many, many occasions (like here and here and here and here) that the United States should never have set out to topple Saddam Hussein from power.  And why is that?

Because as evil as Saddam was, he was the only thing keeping Iraq from imploding and making the situation worse than it already was.  My line of thinking was that Iraq is (or was) like Yugoslavia under Tito: a strong ruler who keeps all those otherwise-warring factions in line, under penalty of death and destruction.  When Tito died it was just a matter of time before Yugoslavia came apart at the seams and began eating each other alive.

Iraq, divided between Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, as well as what used to be populations of Christians and Jews (before they had to flee) was like that.  It was held together by a strongman figure.  That strongman being Saddam Hussein.  Without that strongman, Iraq as a stable presence in the Middle East was not possible.

That is the biggest reason why the United States should never have become involved with Iraq, why we never should have made it our mission to remove Saddam Hussein.  History argued against such a thing.  No, worse: history raged against such a thing.

But at the time we had a president and an administration that wasn't very keen on history, were they?

And now we've got a president who, whether he wanted to or not, inherited the responsibilities that came with that mistake.

What responsibilities?  Only the ones that came with removing Saddam Hussein from the equation.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Worldly politics far more so.

The United States removed Saddam Hussein from being the strongman in Iraq.  And when it did, it was the United States itself that became the strongman.  We bought it.  We owned it.  We paid for it with the blood of thousands of soldiers, marines and other service personnel.  We committed ourselves to Iraq.  When we took out Saddam Hussein, we effectively became the power that Saddam Hussein was.  Albeit we saw ourselves as the more benevolent.

We thought that same benevolence would transform Iraq into a bastion of democracy in the Mid-East.  We thought that doing so would absolve ourselves of any future responsibility.  We thought that all of our sacrifices had been worth it.

The past several days have proven that they were not.  And that in all likelihood they will not.

We should have never gone into Iraq to begin with.  We should have not left Iraq, ever.

The two most recent Presidents of the United States have together perpetrated the most massive affront to wisdom, to humanitarianism, and to responsibility in the entire history of this country.

What we are seeing now in Iraq, with the takeover of that country by ISIS and now the threat of civil war, would in every likelihood not be happening had the United States veered completely away from involving itself more than eleven years ago.

We are witnessing what could only be described as the beginning of a caliphate which may stretch from Syria through Iraq into Iran and beyond.  A stable Iraq was the bulwark against that happening.  The United States these past several years was the bulwark against it.

We never should have gone into Iraq.  But we did.  And when we did, we could not afford to leave Iraq.

This is a call that I made more than ten years ago.  I have no reason to celebrate it.  This is an instance where I absolutely hate it that I was right.

What we are seeing in Iraq today is going to only get worse.  A lot of people are going to die.  People who don't have to.

If anyone wonders why I don't write as much about politics as I used to, I can only say this: that I'm thoroughly disgusted with the ways and means of this world, if this is the best that our "wisdom" can accomplish.