Monday, January 12, 2015

Confession

I have been having a love affair. Sshhhh!

His name is Johann. He's German. He's a composer. When I listen to his music, I can't creatively write at all, but I can edit complex text like a boss. If I want to write creatively to music, I have to listen to someone more romantic and emotive--like Frederic or Claude--but Johann and I, we are partners in bringing my logical left brain to the fore. Maybe it's the harpsichord.

I knew about this guy for a long time, but you know how sometimes you have to revisit something to really and truly learn to cherish it? I caught up with him through some music books written for low voices (that's me!), and I've been his devotee ever since. Johann doesn't know I'm alive (he's kind of dead to the world), but I sometimes pull out his fugues and pound them out on the organ setting of my electric piano just to show my devotion. Other times, I sing his sacred music to myself when the kids are at school. Just now, I've been listening to some of his concertos and thinking fondly of him.

Okay, I must admit I'm also seeing Frederic and Claude on the side. Also a guy named Leroy Anderson. There are others, too, some more jazzy, some with a more classical mein, some who are more free-spirited and winsome, some who are part of that exciting group you would label as Latin lovers--they're just so flirtatious and saucy, how can I resist? Whatever. Call me names if you want, but I regret nothing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Resistance to the Invitation of The Cult of Personality

One of my daughters told me about an experience she had a while ago. She was at a get-together with some of her friends, and they were all sitting around watching YouTube videos and laughing. The conversation came around to a discussion of The Hunger Games, where Gale and Peeta were compared for their relative merits as Katniss's romantic interest.

During the conversation, which heavily favored Gale, one of the girls got upset. When my daughter and the others asked what was wrong, this girl confessed that she felt like the rest were attacking her because they knew she liked Peeta. Confused, my daughter asked her how they were attacking her, as they had only been discussing the characters of the book and hadn't said anything personal about the people in the group. The girl said that because she favored Peeta and the others didn't, she felt like it was a personal attack on her.

The party broke up soon thereafter. I mean, how can you argue with a logical temper tantrum like that?

I've always been fascinated with why people identify so much with an idea or person or group of people that they can confuse their own identity with that of the adored one. I'm sure you've seen it: people who are such fans of a celebrity or group that they brook no criticism of him/her/it whatsoever and are likely to launch into a personal attack on you should you dare to criticize that person or group. I believe these symptoms can generally classify a sufferer as being a member of The Cult of Personality (whichever personality it happens to be).

It's tempting to join the cult sometimes, though. You get so fired up about something you believe in, and then when you find someone with authority or someone who is more culturally visible than you are who exemplifies what it is you value, you might want to allow yourself to identify so closely with them that you take criticism of them as criticism of yourself. You see it all the time in politics and religion, for instance. And it's become an epidemic in social media. Just try publicly stating an opinion on just about anything at all and see who gets seriously offended with you and feels him/herself to have been personally attacked by you for having stated your obtuse and obviously wrong opinion.

I've been close to being in the cult myself a time or two, but upon reflection, I realized that the temptation stems from fear. You choose something in which or in whom you believe, and the fact that someone might try to poke holes in your choice would possibly uncover your (perceived) lack of intelligence or your inability to make good choices. We want to hold onto our good feelings about our opinions, even to the point of lashing out if someone disagrees with us. It's one thing to honestly discuss a difference of opinions; it's entirely another if someone else's different opinion threatens your very identity. If your identity and sense of self are threatened, then you have allowed the fear of being wrong (and, therefore, somehow proving that you are a bad or stupid person) to overwhelm your ability to exist as an individual with thoughts and opinions that may or may not need upgrading as you gain new information.

The girl in my story is very young and is therefore entitled to be silly. We were all silly at that age, to one degree or another. We still are mostly silly as adults. But one of the best things I think any person determined to grow can do is to learn not to be afraid to gain new information, process its value, and then make decisions to change or not change her opinions based on that information. You will feel a lot more free when you can divorce your personal worth from how others view the ideas and people you admire.

Just musing. Really. It's nice to have a thought in my head once in a while. I probably just wanted to prove that it happens occasionally.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bunny Lane by Adam Kalkin

I've mentioned it before, but if I had been smarter during my brief college stint, I would have majored in architecture instead of starting down the whole psychology path. I had forgotten my first childhood passion, although I guess you could call psychology a passion from my teen years. The truth is, dwellings fascinate me. I'm not interested in building office buildings or skyscrapers, but pushing the boundaries on how homes can be constructed and lived in is something for which I'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to get a thorough education. I don't just want to look at pretty pictures, either. I want to know how to build these dwellings myself.

Years ago, I saw a magazine article about this fantastic house. I fell in love with it immediately, but eventually, I forgot the name of the architect and what the house was called. But I've found it again! It's called Bunny Lane, and it was created by artist/architect Adam Kalkin.

What Kalkin did was to surround an original white clapboard farmhouse on Bunny Lane with an airport hangar. At the other end of the hangar, Kalkin built square, stacked cinder block cubes to create more rooms. In the middle of the hangar, he placed a large, comfortable seating arrangement. Quirky rolling doors on the sides of the hangar allow it to be opened to the breezes in good weather.

I adore the fact that the traditional farmhouse is encased in this modern behemoth. It looks so cozy and warm inside the large space. And yet, you step out the door and enjoy hundreds of square feet more of modern/industrial living space. The whole thing makes me giddy.

View the Architectural Digest video tour of Bunny Lane here.

Read an article and look at pictures of Bunny Lane here.

Alternative building materials excite me. Shipping containers are one of those building materials that, I think, have finally come into their own. A DIY enthusiast could conceivably build a home for thousands less than the cost of timber-frame construction for the same square footage. Plus, storage containers are so incredibly sturdy that they would last generations (provided they are protected against rust, of course).

Anyway, I was so excited about finding Bunny Lane that I had to share.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lingering in the Depths of Chopin

I hit the music jackpot at the thrift store yesterday. Elannah needed some jeans, so we started the shopping trip at the thrift store because if I can spend less than retail and still keep the girl happy, I am good with that.

I headed to the book section while she sorted through the racks. There's always the chance that some life-changing book is sitting on the shelf waiting for me to take it home, and I wasn't disappointed this time. An entire bottom shelf had been devoted to music books (the pickings are usually slim to none), so I plopped myself right down on the carpet and started sorting. Pretty soon, I had a tall stack picked out: two thick jazz piano books, an album of easy classics that I thought Sophia would enjoy, several thinner piano books, and the rest of the series of cello+piano books that I didn't have--all in extremely good condition.

When Elannah came looking for me, having found a great pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I showed her my treasures. I must have been waxing rhapsodic because she laughed and said, "Mom, are you going to cry?" I very nearly was. The entire stack cost me $16, which was less than the retail price of just one of the jazz books alone, but the best part was having new music.

I enjoy playing jazz, and I spent far too much time yesterday going through the three or four jazz books I'd picked up. But the life-changer was the book of Chopin. I didn't already have any of the pieces included in the book I bought yesterday, so when I pulled out that book towards evening, I was enchanted. I played through the entire thing in between ferrying children to varying destinations from 3 in the afternoon until 8:30 at night. We ate a little late because I was being completely irresponsible with my piano playing.

This morning, after I'd taken Sian to the bus stop, I glanced at the piano and was so tempted that I sat down to play Chopin before 7 a.m. rather than going back to bed. I played with the headphones on (this is the reason an electric piano is sometimes very desirable) until both Gabrielle and Husband had left for school and work respectively, and then I took the headphones off and played quietly into the room.

Little Gary was sitting on the couch.

"Mom, that music makes me want to cry," he said.

Welcome to the world of Chopin, Son. It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Libertarians Are the Only People Who Want to Take over the World in Order to Leave You Alone

I have found that my political views are far more radical than that of those around me, so that's one more reason that I keep my mouth shut, literally and figuratively speaking, when it comes to general discussions, my blog (for the most part) and on Facebook (on which I have not posted one political comment in months because I don't post anything anymore).

I think you could pretty much call me a small "l" libertarian. You could also call me a classical liberal, which is vastly different than the current sort of liberal--in fact, there is a 180 degree difference. I am conservative in the sense that I believe in the values and traditions that support and sustain strong nuclear families in a civil society, but I don't completely identify with Conservatives, who seem to worship the military and love the idea of being the country that spreads democracy. There are so many things wrong with worshiping the military and wanting to spread a demonically tyrannical system of government to those who never asked for it that I can't even begin to list them in this post. We were formed as a Constitutional Republic, not as a democracy, though most of us seem to have forgotten that critical tidbit of history. Democracy is evil. You have probably heard before that a democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner, and that's exactly what pure democracy is. (And before anyone accuses me of hating military people, I have friends who are or have been military, and many of them are not at all pleased with the way the military is used. There's a difference between despising the people, which I do not, and despising the system, which I heartily do.)

In a nutshell, a good start to getting back to being free is forcing the federal government to get out of everything except what the American Constitution assigns to it, even if the Constitution is not a perfect document. However, I'm leaning more heavily these days toward anarcho-libertarianism simply because all governments of men will eventually end up bloated and tyrannical. No one should be able to violently encroach on anyone else's property or person, including any government (we can discuss the nuances of "violently" in this context at another time). Government produces nothing and can only be a parasite on the people. Even a "good" government must be a parasite on the people because that is the nature of government. Government attracts the sociopaths. Eventually, the sociopaths control the government, and they create a system whereby the power-hungry sociopaths cannot be ousted even as they fool the teeming masses into thinking they have a say in who is and is not leading. Once the sociopaths control everything, they take everything they can and lead the people into decadent decay and ruin unless the non-sociopathic people foment a rebellion and succeed in a revolution, after which the process starts all over again. Give me one good example of any civilization or society wherein this has not eventually happened--aside from the City of Enoch-- and I'll change my viewpoint.

Just call me Ron Swanson. I'm almost that adorably ridiculous.

And having said that, I also acknowledge that my views are not perfect and I'm always refining them as I gain new information and insight. But by now, I'm thoroughly convinced that, all things being equal, the natural tendency of human beings in a society is consistently toward passiveness, decadence, and eventual destruction. Government by imperfect human beings over imperfect human beings always hastens that ruin.

I have no fool-proof solutions, either, so don't be thinking that I think I know what should be done. No earthly type or style of government will ever remain just and true over the long run. I don't even think we could maintain a sort of anarchic system where everyone agrees not to harm anyone else's person or property for more than a few years or decades. Well, we couldn't maintain such a system until the glorious Millenium, of course, which will be a very interesting contrast to what's going on now.

Since I find all news is now biased, I completely ignore mainstream news outlets (I NEVER watch televised newscasts these days) and focus on some of my favorite alternative news sites where at least I can get a bias that feels less government propaganda and more independent. I love lewrockwell.com for their thoughtful collection of insightful essays. I also really enjoy Joel Skousen's World Affairs Brief. Each week, Skousen (who is a nephew of W. Cleon Skousen (one of my favorite authors) and a seasoned political analyst) puts out a newsletter covering some of the top national and global stories and discussing their impact on our freedoms. I so much look forward to reading that newsletter that it's like getting a new Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. The anticipation is heady.

Also good are the Mises.org/blog for good, solid Austrian economics and zerohedge.com.

There are other sites: drudgereport.com and breitbart.com are both good. I read others, as well, but this is a good start.

Now you know. Let's just leave it at that. If you have a question about where I stand, you can generally assume I'm going to take the position that government intervention slows down progress, always costs more than it's worth, and will inevitably erode our freedoms and liberties. If you disagree with me, let's celebrate the fact that at least we can disagree with each other because we are free-thinking adults and have the right to our opinions. Just don't try to force me to think your way. I guarantee that I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Five Nights at Freddy's: a Noble Fail

We've been having an argument with our son, Joseph, who is 10. He and one of his friends, who is a similarly-aged girl growing up in this neighborhood full of boys and who, as a result, is a bit of a tomboy, want to buy a computer game. They want to buy the game on Husband's account with Joseph's friend's money. The idea is either that the friend a) will be given access to Husband's Steam account so she can play the game at her house, or b) will come to our house to play it. Why this girl can't use her money to buy the game at her house on her computer has not been satisfactorily explained.

The name of the game is "Five Nights at Freddy's," which tells the tale of the gamer being assigned as a night security guard in a children's restaurant for five nights. Inside the restaurant, the gamer must avoid the animatronics, which come alive and view the gamer as a damaged animatronic and will attempt to fix him by putting him back into an animatronic costume. Unfortunately, the fix is deadly for a human. The game is incredibly stressful. Though there is no blood and gore, there is a lot of the thriller factor, which is sufficient to induce nightmares in, say, a certain seven-year-old boy who also lives in this house.

I know about this game thanks to Gabrielle, who is currently taking (and excelling in) a college-level game design class. I cannot thank her enough for introducing it to my boys. Thanks, Gabrielle. Thanks so much.

Anyway, Husband KO'd the plan right off for obvious reasons. I heard the conversation even though I was in another room, so I knew the score (ha ha! See what I did there?). Later, Joseph came to me with the same arguments while Husband was at work.

I told him he was talking to the wrong parent, because not only am I completely immune to the desire to play video games, I have absolutely zero desire for Joseph to have any more access to games than he already does. Besides, I told him, I had overheard his original argument to his dad, and I opposed the game for all the same reasons. Then I called him out for coming to me when he already had an answer from his other parent.

Today, frustrated by our close-mindedness, Joseph wrote up a little persuasive essay, printed it out, and slid it under the door while I was briefly using the bathroom (because why should the bathroom be the one place I can be alone for a moment or two?). I'm not persuaded, but I was pretty impressed with his writing skills and his desire to lay out what, to him, is a logical, rational argument in his favor.

Here is the text of his essay, unedited (though my editing fingers did itch just a little):

Five Nights at Freddy's
 I have many reasons that have many things to back them up, so just hear me out. You may say "It will give you nightmares!" Which leads to my first reason, many therapists say that the best way to get rid of fears is to confront them, so you want me so every time I think of it I get really scared? No.
You may think that "you will get even more scared if you play it too much." Don't worry I have more reasons to back this one up. It's a human urge to do what we are told not to, if you say "Don't do this!" than [editor's note: argh!] we want to do just that. It's actually proven that no smoking signs make you want to smoke more. If you constantly guard us and protect us from doing that then we will get overwhelmed with want that we will be grumpy. If we learn that it IS scary.
If WE get it with out OWN money then we have the right to play it, scary or not. I may be going on and on and on but we can both agree that I have good reasons. I hope you can agree, if not I will write another. (ha ha just kidding) only not really. Please agree THE END 
Well, kudos for trying, son. The answer's still no. Hopefully, telling you "no" will not overwhelm you with the grumpiness of want and force you to take up smoking near no-smoking signs, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. Plus, you're frequently grumpy enough that I think I've already got the practice I need to deal with it.

 


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Say Hello to My Inner Mad Scientist

My mother sent over a box of apples from her tree. These apples are perfect for eating out of hand or baking into a pie.

Mmmmm, pie. I still love pie with a fervent depth of passion.

So perhaps there will be a pie for dessert tonight--that is, there might be if by this evening I haven't decided that I'm too tired to be bothered whipping up a pie crust, the making of which remains my biggest cooking pet peeve of all time. Ugh, I hate making pie crusts. I have literally thrown a temper tantrum making pie crusts. It's sad but true. Husband doesn't throw temper tantrums whilst whipping up pie crusts, so maybe I'll hand that duty over to him and I'll be happy to peel, core, and slice the apples and mix the filling.

What I'm also hoping to whip up is some high-dose liposomal Vitamin C in the next little while. I have the ultrasonic cleaner, thanks to the in-laws, who got a good tip from Husband about what I wanted for my birthday, and they bought it even though it seemed like an incredibly odd gift. I ordered the sunflower lecithin yesterday (thanks to a gift card from one of my awesome brothers), and it will arrive tomorrow. The freeze-dried, powdered acerola cherries (a birthday gift from Sian) will take a little longer to ship, and this is where my patience will be put to the test.

At this point, I usually launch into some long lecture about the benefits of whatever experiment I'm trying now. This time, however, I'll leave it up to you to do the research. Suffice to say, I feel my family needs this desperately, and I'm very interested to see what happens.

(Well, "interested" is a bit of an understatement. Picture a mad scientist rubbing her hands together and cackling in nerdy glee. That's more like it.)