Friday, January 26, 2007

The Living Dead

Michael S. Rozeff is one of my favorite contemporary libertarian writers and thinkers and his current essay, (The Living Dead) published today, seemed to hit the nail on the head for me with what I've been struggling to give voice to of late concerning the society I live in. I here reprint an exerpt that I think summarizes my feelings in a way that I wish I had the ability to say as eloquently myself. Thank God for others who can say what we can't yet articulate but know deeply in our soul.

"A hundred or more years ago, when philosophers declared God dead; when science shook faith; when socialism postulated new ideals; when the U.S. pursued national power; Americans turned away from the beliefs, ethics, and practices that had brought them bounty. And now, after many years, we can see clearly, if we would or could, that we made a wrong turn. That wrong turn cannot be dismissed, as the young and naïve are wont to do, by pointing to the reduced time it takes to travel from Los Angeles to Toronto or to the breaking of color barriers. These things or others like them in even more bounteous quantity would have occurred had we stayed on and extended the proper ethical course of a limited and just government that minded its own business at home and abroad. That wrong turn is measured by such things as near-continuous warfare, broken lives and families, a dependent and dumbed-down population, static standards of living, ever-deteriorating money, humongous debts, greater cruelty, greater indifference to suffering, a greater use of violence, less liberty, less freedom of choice, increasing authoritarianism and militarism, greater welfare, more crime, less justice, less innovation, less civility, deteriorating art and culture, and less civilization.

The ethical underpinnings, however slight, that girded the myth of the U.S. as a beneficial international power have dissolved. The mistaken ideals that launched the U.S. into World War I and further overseas misadventures have proven empty and false. The ill-considered ideas that entangled the U.S. in the international machinations of the world order of states have backfired.

Domestically and internationally, the machinery of state surrealistically clanks on, but it is hopelessly clogged up. Its rhythm lacks measure and cadence in its chaos of nervous exhaustion. It goes through the motions, incanting the tired slogans and spells of its once-powerful magic. The bizarre atmosphere dispensed by the strange and unbelievable practices of the American Empire contains no life-giving oxygen. It suffocates whatever it envelops with a poisonous gas of laws, pressures, and regulations. Morally and ethically dead, dispersing ever-more utterly outlandish emanations, the machinery of state deals death upon whatever it touches.

Having gutted the ethical foundations of life, we have instituted policies of death. More and more we come face to face with our own madness. Today, people constantly refer to things as "crazy." Yet they do not fully realize what they are saying, how deep this craziness goes, or why it is so prevalent.

Political modernity in America is irrational and senseless. The domestic political machine is geared to produce truly incredible wares that did not exist 50 years ago: thousand-mile walls at borders, denuded travelers at airports, 57 varieties of higher-priced and less efficient fuels, know-nothing graduates, asset seizures, uncaring doctors, dirty hospitals, inflating abortions, inflating money, political correctness, money and speech-controlled political campaigns, jigsawed political districts, food and pesticide bans, deteriorating infrastructure, dependency, irresponsibility, clogged courts, women soldiers, grade school sex education, rampaging prosecutors, thought crimes, asbestos insanity, protected insects and swamps, broken families, murderers freed and drug users imprisoned, class action lawsuits, eavesdropping, wiretapping, books of labor laws, unopenable bottle closures, arbitrary environmental regulations, moon bases, and destruction of the rule of law. Aren’t all these products of our society simply madness?

But, you say, I exaggerate. Are we not healthier, wealthier, and wiser? Where’s the chaos? All is in order, is it not? Appearances deceive. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was suave and urbane. The American inmates are indeed under control, but they are gobbling anti-depressants and other such drugs at a very high rate. Houses are bigger than ever, but meanwhile so are debts and millions of two-earner families run to stay even. Where is the wisdom? Certainly not in Washington or state capitols.

We have only the appearance of a lawful social order. Rigidity combined with outlandish bureaucratic regulation made good by blind obedience are not law but its absence. Chaotic and mad results signify a lack of stable guiding laws of life, not their presence.

The absence of law means an absence of a moral and ethical basis for the products of the American political machine. Those who think there is and defend this insane machine delude themselves as they attempt to delude others. I challenge anyone to show that American political life does anything except constantly flout the Ten Commandments, which are what should be the true source of law, justice, and order. Instead, madness, which is a variety of death that disregards truth and reality, spreads like an infection.

Madness has its own cleverness and intelligence, mind you. It feigns sanity. It accuses the sane of being mad; it makes the sane wonder if they are the ones who have lost their minds. The demon vampire promises everlasting life."

The full text can be found here:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Faces are back!

The Faces

I just obtained the four-disc collection, that was recently released, of one of my all time favorite bands: the Faces. This comprehensive survey of one rock's finest bands was assembled by their former keyboardist Ian McLagan who was able to choose the songs from a wide range of formerly unreleased material. In fact the only thing he left out was their cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis" which, strangely enough, was one of my favorite songs by them. Oh well, I still have it on vinyl.

I never realized how many other people were worshipers of this immortal group until I read the beautiful 60-page book that accompanies the CD collection. It contains quotes from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Slash, Gaz Coombes of Supergrass, Paul Westerberg and, of course, Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes (a band that sounds so much like the Faces that I don't know whether to scream at the blatant rip-off or weep tears of joy that somebody is still reverently keeping that heavenly rock & roll sound alive).

Tweedy's comments especially hit home for me: "The Faces' importance as punk prototypes cannot be questioned; they never appeared to take anything too seriously. Cutting all potential pathos with a wink and a healthy shot of rubbing alcohol--pinky raised, no less. Like the ne'er-do-well that can't even keep a straight face while his clothes are being tossed out on the lawn. Always falling apart and having a great time at it. I love 'em and doubt seriously if we could have had a Sex Pistols much less a Replacements without them."

Listening to this collection takes me back to a time when the world I lived in was a much more fun and easy going place to inhabit. These drunken, skinny louts were out to have a good time and the devil-may-care attitude in their performances brings this home loud and clear. They were also very skilled musicians, who took their art seriously but that art just happened to be rock & roll and as such required an irreverence and lack of pretension that makes them the giants that they are. Thank God for the Faces! They made noise like no one else.

I count myself as very fortunate to have seen them live when I was 15, on the last tour the band ever took in 1975, and to top it all off I had a backstage pass! I'll never forget the moment when my friend David Simon and I were peering into a garbage can full of Heineken's on ice, during the after show party, when Rod Stewart walked up with Ron Wood and said to us "Go ahead, have a few mates!" It was always a party with those guys.

Just in case you youngsters don't know very much about this band they were: Ron Wood (guitar), Ian McLagan (keyboards), Kenney Jones (drums), Ronnie Lane (bass) and Rod Stewart (vocals). A band for the ages.

Oh, and I highly reccomend this CD collection, which is titled "Faces: Five Guys Walk Into A Bar....."

I wanted to grow up to be just like Woody.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blue Monday

Sunrise over Seagrove Beach

According to a news story I read today this is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year and has been given a name: Blue Monday. The article goes on to state that the reason for this particular day being the most depressing 24-hours of the year is: "Unpaid Christmas bills, nasty weather, and failed New Year's resolutions combine to make January 22 the gloomiest in the calendar."

Well I'm sorry to be so contrary, yet again, dear readers but I don't seem to be suffering from any of those maladies at the present moment. On the first count, I have no unpaid Christmas bills because I am way too cheap and miserly to incur them in the first place. If you got a Christmas card from me count yourself lucky!

As for the second element of gloom, I am fortunate to live in the beautiful state of Florida where the winter weather is some of the most pleasant and sublime in all the world. To know that this is true only requires that I go down to my local Wal-Mart parking lot and count all of the cars with licence plates hailing from Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Apparently there are some other folks that have figured out that you needn't be miserable in January if you know how to steer your car towards Dixie.

Finally, I've never been one to go and burden myself with a lot of silly New Year's resolutions. When I see the need for a change in the way I live or how I relate to others then I decide to make it when it needs to be done. Of course, I often need a little prodding, just ask my wife, but wholesale changes should be made as the need arises.

I never have understood this "I'll quit smoking after New Year's" or "I plan on joining a fitness club after I finish gorging myself at this holiday revel. Burp." This has always seemed ridiculous to me and I rarely have seen anyone follow through with these type of resolutions. They always seem to have the seeds of their own destruction built right in when they're formulated in such a manner. I would suggest that one never make promises to oneself while nursing a hangover.

So let me conclude with a heartfelt thank goodness for the 24-hour news cycle and the wonderfully silly stories that keep it full. I hope y'all have a Happy and Bright Blue Monday! Cheers!

Sunset on Western Lake

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Heavenly Skies

My wife likes to get up early and witness something that I rarely ever get to see----the sunrise. She also does this while running, something that many of you know that I only do when being chased by wildlife or ghastly ghouls whilst dreaming. We recently bought a nifty digital camera so that she can now take pictures of the dawn's early light for me to experience later as I become semi-conscious in the awakening steam of freshly brewed coffee.

It's well before I'm awake!

This morning there was excitement about the shots she had taken of the dazzling display put on by Mother Nature here along the Emerald Coast of Florida. I must say that Cecil B. DeMille couldn't have asked for more heavenly looking shafts of light descending from the early morning stratus clouds that delicately hovered above the Gulf of Mexico.

Heavenly light bathes the neighborhood.

During breakfast we decided to call Larry, my former neighbor in Cedar Valley, to see how he was coping with the -20 degree readings that they've been experiencing in that neck of the woods. When I phoned, at 7:15 AM Mountain Time, the thermometer at his place read -17! He said that it had been a three-dog night but he only had two on hand to keep him warm.

Later in the morning I received an email from Larry with a picture of the sunrise over the Markagunt Plateau. It was a perfect bookend to the day break shots that Connie had taken here in Florida. All in all a beautiful universe to live in regardless of the temperature and number of dogs needed to stay warm.

The sunrise from Larry's porch.

The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.

Nahum 1:3

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Good cemetery pictures from last year

Ever since I was a kid I've been drawn to the quiet beauty of cemeteries. Whenever I pass by one that looks interesting I like to stop and check out the headstones, making note of the family names along with dates of birth and death. I also like to examine the different types of stone used in grave markers and mausoleums.

Recently I've begun organizing my collection of photos of cemeteries into a file and wanted to share some shots of a few recent visits to the old bone orchard.

Some of my favorite cemeteries are in Los Angeles (Hollywood Memorial being one of my favorites), New York City (Queens and Brooklyn especially), New England and the entire state of Nevada (with spooky boot hills galore). The Deep South is also a great place to find them though the stone doesn't hold up so well with all of the rain and humidity, but the draping Spanish moss really lends a somberly romantic tone when you're in the mood to take a stroll among the dead.

Here in the South ancestor worship is still a sacred institution, so I like to do my part by going to say hey to all those who came before and bid them a fond "good day".

Abandoned rural cemetary, Gainer, FL

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, LA

Springdale, Utah

Point Washington, FL

World's best cemetery soundtrack