Spoon - Transference

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Transference, similar to their last two releases, is a utility album.  There's not a sonically offensive or intruding song through the course of Spoon - Transference the CD, while at the same time there's regrettably no "Hey Jude" begging the masses to sing along.

Still, any track here would offer a welcome twist to whatever might precede it in an iPod shuffle, whether working out or riding a train.  Yet, the entirety is just as listenable while writing performance reviews.  That qualifies as fairly remarkable stuff. 

Part of the appeal of Spoon is that the soundscape is relatively sparse.  The songs are built on fairly simplistic drums, while the bass is free to wander around, alternately melodically pulling the song or driving it home.  Cymbals and guitars are rarely allowed to ring out, and this leaves a lot of space for keyboard bits or Britt Daniel's layered and filtered vocals to adorn the chassis.  "Who Makes Your Money," a song that grew on me, is probably the best example of the formula here.

"The Mystery Zone" feels like a song that become a sprawling album closer, but it's located at #3 in the sequence.  Daniel's lyrics are often obtuse, but this one seems mostly about the tentativeness of stepping outside of the the safe and the known.

Another highlight is "I Saw the Light," which breaks into an instrumental romp halfway through the song, a fine musical journey that speaks volumes that virtuoso musicians aren't required to make great music... especially when holding to a solid groove.

At times, Transference feels almost like a single piece of music.  This is due as much to the consistent snap, crackle, and groove of the rhythm section as it is to barely a beat's silence between most songs.

The only song that doesn't fit the mold is "Goodnight Laura," a rather astonishing departure from the overall sound not because it's bad, but rather because it showcases Daniel's pop sensibility were he to seek a more commercial direction.  It's also far more direct in it's lyrical prose than the remainder of the set.

All that said, this CD feels a little bit of a disappointment.  Some may say it's not as melodic as their previous efforts, or that some of the abrupt changes or stops in the music is off-putting, but after 15 listens, it holds well and is an enjoyable listen.  That said, "Gimme Fiction" or "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" are better starting points for the uninitiated.

Recommended Songs: "The Mystery Zone," "Written in Reverse," "I Saw the Light"

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

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The Book of Fate

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I enjoy reading.  For a lot of reasons.  It's insightful.  Educational.  Fun. Rewarding.  Revelatory. Instructive. 

And, sometimes, it's not.

I'm not afraid of buying a book based on its cover.  Of course, when I mention "the cover" that includes the back cover as well.  Plot summaries are obviously helpful.  I don't know that I would purchase a book based on the cover picture alone.  That would be a weakness that I reserve for CDs alone.

I was in need of "filler," a pleasant diversion from other things, to be easily digested in a fairly short amount of time.  You know, like a warm, soft and buttery croissantcroissant lightly covered with honey, a very short term commitment with no expectation of abating hunger.  Basically, it was time to read a book.  It was to be an entertaining book that did not reach beyond its stature as "disposable fiction."  That doesn't mean that I didn't want to get anything out of it, though.  A croissant is still a croissant.  And as such, there should be at least one "aha" moment, that point where the reader feels edified for having learned just a little something more about life... or how to live it.

Thus motivated, I purchased The Book of Fate.  The book is about the personal assistant to an ex-President, Wes, who suddenly discovers a political cover-up that surrounds an assassination attempt that ended his employer's Presidency at1690300601 one term and that also resulted in his own facial disfigurement.   Standard cloak and dagger stuff, with a touch of melancholy.

Per the back cover basics, it clearly appeared to qualify as a croissant, suitably baked and prepared to serve.  It also hinted at the fluff and butter ((I'm reserving the honey for later) in the form of "disturbing secrets buried in Freemason history" and a "two hundred year old code invented by Thomas Jefferson that conceals secrets worth dying for."  Hey, I've seen National Treasure.  I know this stuff is real. 

The fact is that I've been able to tour a fair number of Masonic lodges and Shriner temples, and I've always been a little curious about the history of it.  But... not enough to join the club or read a "tells all" book.  No butter or honey there.

The author, Brad Metzler, in his comments at the conclusion of the book, indicates he spent 3 years researching freemasonry.  As much revelatory exposition as I uncovered in its pages, I suspect that I could have gained significantly more insight prodding Mr. Google for perhaps 15 minutes.  The back cover was clearly drafted by someone sensitive to reader interest polling or a publisher's handbook of fishing hooks.  The topical allusion was a strike-out compared to other authors like James Rollins or Dan Brown, who by research provide a reasonable measure of background information before launching into wild beyond of their imaginations. After all, the best fiction has some basis in fact.

A better result came from the author's research into the relationship between the President and his aides and the manner by which the daily grind is ground.  Comments regarding an unspoken system of understanding and carrying out the President's desires in social situations were, by the author's admission, based on insights provided by those that have lived in that world.  Closely related was Wes' consistently cynical point of view about the inherent but necessary falsehoods behind every Presidential appearance - the practiced smile, the rehearsed and calculated tone of sincerity in speeches, the seeming conviction of the double clasped handshake ... that kind of thing.  These were observations that made the book worth reading, if to no particular advantage.

The plot, however, suffered.  There was nothing about the characters that suggested that the reader should really care for any of them, and even the bad guys weren't so despicable that their eventually comeuppance held anything satisfying.  Other than Wes, the characters played roles instead of well defined people.  And as for Wes, well, the disadvantaged deserve sympathy, but it doesn't mean they're automatically likable.

The plot had an interesting leverage point, that being the ability of a member from each major intelligence agency to "independently" corroborate national threats amongst themselves to generate a personal profit.  But... it might have been better suited to another story that involved, oh, a 007 who is burned by bad intel and traces it backwards.  Or a use of that power towards more impactful political or military ambitions rather than profit.  Or something... besides a retired President and his handler.  At 5 and a fraction pages per chapter, the book was certainly built as a page turner, but the content didn't measure up.

In short, it was filler.

On to the honey, or lack thereof.  The front cover projects a dark image of a person in theThe Apotheosis foreground of the painting on the ceiling of the Capitol rotunda, namely "The Apotheosis."  This picture depicts George Washington ascending to the heavens as a God.  It's not quite the "We were founded as a Christian nation" centerpiece that some might expect in our nation's capital.  As it turns out, there's not a single scene in the book set in the Capitol.  But combine the possibilities of that picture with the hints of Freemasonry whoknowswhat, and the cover promised far more than it delivered.

Maybe I'll go look for a doughnut.

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A Book Store Lament


You probably know the feeling.  You're in the mood to read... something.  You may or may not have the time to read, but it's just time to do it anyway. You enter a book store, walk past all the books the publishers pay for you to see, and find that particular section that calls to you on a particular occasion.   

The hunt. For some, this is a joyous time.  For others, it's a favored means of passing the time.  Personally, I don't read a lot of books, but I do enjoy browsing the shelves.  But, there's a foreboding sadness to it as well, if you're paying attention. 

Visit a Border's or Barnes and Noble, and you may notice that the (overpriced) music section is no longer there.   For the book lover, that's great news, as there's even more room for the books!  For now.  But realize, too, that Kindle and her many descendents will gradually assimilate all the bits and bytes currently bundled as ink on paper.

Environmentalists should rejoice at this as bookworms across the nation join the mythical Green house.  Fewer trees will be killed, fewer polluting logging trucks will haul them, less energy and water will be needed to process pulp, gas will be saved transporting the paper, fewer chemicals will be needed in printing, even more gas will be saved trucking the books to warehouses, less energy will be needed lighting the warehouses and fueling their forklifts, less gas (are we a solar nation yet?)will be needed trucking the books to a retail outlet, less energy will be needed to heat and light the booksellers, and, finally, less gas will be wasted on your travel to the store. 

Instead, press "Enter" while browsing on your eco-friendly laptop, hook up the USB cable to your reader of choice, and you're done.  Your fingertips can meet your needs more readily than your car, and you're saving the earth to boot.  So what if we become unexercised blobs dependent on technology?Walle passenger  (See Wall-E... Seriously, you should.)

And people wonder why I lament the passing of CDs.

Record stores are dying.  First there was the Big Box pressure of Best Buy and others who offered CDs at more reasonable prices than listed retail.  Amazon.com probably didn't help as virtually any rare find, manufactured domestically or around the world, could be clicked into a package and delivered to the doorstep.  Add in the iTunes phenomena and an American Idolized fascination with our most extroverted karaoke singers, and popular demand changes from albums to singles. Mix in a sense of entitlement by the youth population for finding and sharing music online for free, and the economic model is irreversibly challenged for the good ol' record shop.

I went to Best Buy to purchase my first CD of the new year (to be reviewed shortly), as I couldn't pass up a $9.99 price tag.  Why didn't I favor an independent music store in the area?  I live in the northern Atlanta suburbs.  There are a few used CD stores, but there's literally not one independent store worth supporting.

Notably, my local Best Buy appears to have reduced their CD rack space by 10%.  I'm not surprised.  Sure, there's a likelihood that they'll bulk up prior to Thanksgiving for the seasonal surge, but they get a better return on other products in their floor plan.  Ask a college kid, and they'll tell you: No one buys CDs anymore

Just wait until today's music buying generation becomes the mainstay of tomorrow's book buying generation.  You best go to your favorite bookseller now, while you still can.  Enjoy the many spines in their splendor, the artwork on the covers, the titles or subjects that you would not otherwise have comei spy at Borders across to find something that unexpectedly piques your interest. 

Savor the aroma of the java you purchased from the symbiotic Starbucks, grab a seat by the vacant "music download station" and enjoy the tactile feel of opening hardcovers to read inside the dust jackets.  And as you read through a book or magazine on their bench without buying it, ask yourself, are books really so different from CDs?


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Left to Right, Part 2

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Blogging isn't something I necessarily make myself do, but it's something of which I always have to be mindful, both in frequency and content.  CD Reviews... easy.  Activity related items... easy.  Opinion? Eh.  Politics? Meh.  Life observations? Sigh.

At its best, the intent to write something keeps me thinking about what I observe, do, feel, care, or otherwise think about the "whatever" of life.  I occasionally collect stray thoughts for later use, and I frequently take pictures of something mundane with a general notion that it might be useful later. Thus, we arrive at...

Exhibit A:  Hopefully without getting too personal, here's my bed.

Ah, a made bed!

Exhibit B: The following morning.

The unmade bed. Ugh.

Eh, okay.  So what's the context?  

Possible themes emerging from these pictures might include such notions as entropy, keeping up appearances, exposing the true face of reality, blah blah blah.  Or, they may just make clear that "this guy is pretty much out of blogging ideas."  *pauses to consider this...but continues on*

But, if you sleep with someone, you may have a hint as to what this about.  The left side of the bed is my side.  My wife sleeps on the right.  We must respect each others' sides, because if it's smaller than a king size bed, I'd prefer to sleep on the floor.  And have.

Exhibit A represents the perfect world.  Aside from the bed being made, there is balance.  Just look at the bedspread.  In marital terms, you might consider this 50/50, give and take, ying and yang, compromise, sharing.  I could launch on those themes.

But, it's still not clear from the unmade bed in Exhibit B as to what I'm getting at, so I'll continue on with, you guessed it, Exhibit C:

My side, the exposed left side, the very side to which I'm entitled while respecting my wife's right to the right side, is in a state of un-bliss.  If you will please refer again to Exhibit B, you will see that my wife stole the covers.  Again.

And this is why I bothered to take the pictures.  Ah, the possible themes!  A successful marriage requires an attitude of giving 100%! Or, possibly, "it's okay honey, it's one of those quirks I love about you." Or, ramping it up a bit, the bedspread shift is a metaphor for fighting those battles you can win and living with those you can't.  Or, I could risk riling my wife and those of her ilk by relating it to the injustice to the meek by their oppressors.  And so on.

But, instead, and in a progression of sorts from my previous post, I'll simply default here to the pedestrian observation that with each waking day, the covers have moved from left to right.

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From Left to Right

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"It's all relative."  And relative things are difficult. For example, take hot and cold.  At what temperature does something move from being cold to being hot?  Certainly there is a fairly generous cushion given to either side of what is comfortable to us, say 75 °F.  But that doesn't provide a set definition.  It's relative.

In thermodynamics, all related calculations for processes involving temperatures are done in terms of heat.  Something cold would be regarded as having less heat.  But using "heat" is arbitrary in itself.  These things could also have been worked out in terms of cold.  Something hot would just indicate the absence of cold.

And thus I began searching for definitions of liberal and conservative.  As it turns out, most online dictionaries are aggravating in that they use the word being defined to provide its meaning.  However, I found one with fairly specific definitions for liberal:

From dictionary.com:

1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
2. (often initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.
7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners.
8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.
9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor.
10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation.
11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule.
12. of, pertaining to, or based on the liberal arts.
13. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.
14. a person of liberal principles or views, esp. in politics or religion.

Generously, synonyms are provided: progressive, broad-minded, unprejudiced, beneficent, charitable, openhanded, munificent, unstinting, lavish.

It seems by definition, liberals have claimed the available human virtues.  Turn them upside down, and conservatives are a sorry lot. 

Well conservatives, here you are:

1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate.
3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit.
4. (often initial capital letter) of or pertaining to the Conservative party.
5. (initial capital letter) of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Conservative Jews or Conservative Judaism.
6. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative.
7. Mathematics. (of a vector or vector function) having curl equal to zero; irrotational; lamellar.
8. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc.

No synonyms are even offered, and the above doesn't speak to any particular related virtue.  "Old fuddy duddy" might summarize the lot.  I can't help but think responsibility, self-discipline, loyalty, honesty and faith might have been included.  I would suspect that the definition of each had different authors.

There has been a general saying that people become more conservative as they age.  I have no doubt that the ample "older" liberals could and would cite themselves as proof to the contrary. 

In theory, the idea goes that youth, having nothing to lose and a full unencumbered life ahead of them, are idealistic about the way things should be and are hopeful of making things just that way. As they get older, obligations and responsibilities engender a wisdom in accepting that things are the way they are for what often turns out to be good reasons.

Winston Churchill speaking to Congress, Dec. 26th, 1941

There's a quote sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill (seen speaking to Congress in 1941 in the picture above):

If you aren't liberal when you're young, you don't have a heart. If you aren't conservative when you are old, you don't have a brain.

Extrapolated, the young have no brains and the old have no hearts.  Hmm.  Where is the middle ground?

The political terms The Left and The Right (one source indicates) referred to the seating arrangements in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791, with the moderate royalist Feuillants on the right side of the chamber and the radical Montagnards on the left.  You can imagine the dividing aisle, providing a clear path between the two.

And it is from that aisle that a savvy politician is told to lead.   Assuming that a President has a definitive stand on every issue, "governing from the middle" would necessarily include 1) not governing to their own beliefs or 2) not governing consistently with whichever side supported their advancement.  Fiscal conservatism and social liberalism are mutually exclusive, as are their opposites.  And that's why the aisle remains empty.

President Obama may be that rare individual who governs strictly to his beliefs, which are decidedly Left.  If that works well, then those of us who moved right may have to rethink our foundations as we tax our way to prosperity.  And if his policies fail, we have to pray for a champion for conservatism, because the Republicans have proven themselves incapable of making a difference.

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It's About Time

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I've had the same clock since I was about 16.  There's nothing particularly excellent about it, but it's become something that's been with me so long (29 years) that it's difficult to send to the scrap heap, especially as it mostly works.  It tried to find its way to the grave about 10 years ago, but I decided to fix it instead.  That was back in the days when Radio Shack sold electronic parts, and a little soldering did the job.

GE Clock

It's an electric clock, but it has mechanical parts as well, with a belt drive that flips the numbers and dials on each side for setting the alarm and tuning the radio station.  It's also proven helpful when the power goes out momentarily, because the time remains roughly accurate whereas every other clock in the house resets to midnight and blinks.  And blinks.  At this point, it's really become more of a groovy retro clock, much cooler than my wife's nondescript and blaring red LED digital clock.

Lately, the old fella started acting up again, the light intermittently going off, or on, as it so chooses.  It mostly chooses to remain dark when I most need to see it, such as at night when I wake and want to see how much longer I can sleep before the alarm sounds. I'll probably break down and break it down again, but I'm in no rush.


Because for 29 years, I've had to wake without a snooze alarm!  In an evolutionary turn, I've developed an internal alarm that after 10 or so minutes (usually) prods me (yes, the jolting variety), letting me know that I had best get up lest I re-enter the beckoning deep slumber.  It works, but it isn't pleasant.

So, I've gone to the dark side.  Digital.  It's not retro and it's not cool.  But it has advantages for these modern times. I don't have to remember toSony Clock set the alarm each night, I don't have to turn a knob almost  a full revolution to adjust the alarm setting (or twice if I turn it too far), I'm not limited to 10 minute increments for the alarm, and I don't have to be as mindful of waking myself after I've been woken.  It even has a battery so that it retains the current time when the power goes out.  And, as the picture depicts, I can at least cite one reference to having gone "green."

It's a big change for me.  But wait!  There's more!

Sometime in the early 1990's, my watch stopped.  It ticked me off more than it ticked, because I had just changed the battery several months earlier.  I never wore the watch again.  Suddenly, I had "Time for Livin'."

That's the name of a song by the 60's pop group, The Association ("Wendy," "Cherish," "Never My Love" - go ahead, look them up and give your iPod a touch of that innocent AM radio nostalgia).  Anyway, part of the lyric is as follows:

I kicked off my shoes, and felt the good earth beneath my feet. 

I loosened my tie, and felt what it feels like to breathe

I found the secret to life

I took some time for living

I took off my watch, and found I had all the time in the world.

As it turns out, the time is everywhere.  Look around. Car radios, wall clocks, computers, cell phones.  And if those should fail, I have an innate sense that is (usually) accurate to within 15 minutes.

Last Spring, my wife and I were in Las Vegas at Benihana, enjoying those welcome and unpredictable conversations that come with dining with strangers.  There was a jewelry convention in town, and three gentlemen were exhibitors for two watch companies - one of whom was the President of a family owned Swiss company whose brand I don't recall.  They each showed us the watches they were wearing, ranging from $5k to $12k. 

They keenly observed that neither my wife nor I were wearing watches (and we noticed that the other couple at our table were also without), but they didn't seemingly hold it against us.  The most interesting aspect was that the owner was lamenting the state of the industry, and he was resolute that his son grow to follow his interests and avoid the watch industry at all costs.  I didn't offer my services, but I should have, even with a naked wrist.

I haven't really missed wearing a watch, but a coworker is an enthusiast, and I gradually started paying attention to the watches that people wear, those that do, anyway.

Well, in keeping with the times, I surrendered.  In a reversal from the clock "upgrade," however, I opted away from the digital, and went with an automatic (self-winding) watch. Watch front As compared with my new clock, it's really rather a pain.  I still have to wind it periodically, it doesn't keep perfect time, and adjusting it for month, date, moon phase (have you hugged your lycanthrope lately?), and additional time zone of choice (because, um, I might need to know), places me firmly into the category of "occasional tinkerer."

But, it does seem an appropriate return to equilibrium for the loss of my retro clock.  I mean, look.  It has cool gears.  And a spiffy see-through backing.  Groovy.

watch back

Click this link for those with a mechanical interest.

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The Death Penalty


I don't go in search of topics.  Life comes full speed, and topics come with it.  The Death Penalty.  Sure, why not?

According to a NY Times article, the American Law Institute recently quit their work as an advocate and framer of judicial arguments for capital Death Penaltypunishment. One less organization, no big deal, right?   That doesn't appear to be the case.  It is a big deal, for those both pro and con on the issue.

The Institute, made up of over 4,000 judges, lawyers, and law professionals, apparently leaves a void to resist judicial activism and other inputs against the death penalty.  Why did they quit?

In summary, it sounds like they got worn out by some credible observations of shortcomings related to: racial disparities, expenses of trial proceedings, bottom rung defense attorneys, erroneous convictions, and political poisoning - the last of which, if TV dramas are correct, would probably relate to prosecutors who want to be perceived as "tough on crime" for later political purposes.  There are abundant sites, such as AmnestyUSA which advocate abolishing the death penalty due to these and other issues.  I won't belabor them.

Those are arguments for those against.  There are also reasons why people would favor the death penalty, including:

1.  Costs - this may not win an argument as the length of duration between sentencing and execution is considerable, added to the legal defense costs.  But, however the price tag is tallied, the significant costs of housing, feeding, and otherwise providing for murderers resonates with those who view it as an unproductive and avoidable use of tax money.

2. Safety - As stridently put by John McAdams, a Marquette professor:

If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.

3. Retribution - This is really a non-factor.  Those related to the victim don't have much input to this.  Nor does the victim.  But there remains an intuitive response from those less involved that "an eye for an eye" remains an equitable and appropriate component of justice.

4.  Closure - I don't want to imagine being related to or otherwise being close to a murder victim, but if I were to do this for just a moment, I think I would feel appreciably better knowing that the possibility of parole and subsequent murders is nil.  Case closed.  Let the healing begin.

5.  Deterrence - to persuade others that the cost is not worth the benefit.   Here's an interesting fact:  In 2009, there were 52 people executed in the U.S.   Deterrence cannot be considered a factor as the death penalty is so infrequently enforced, exacerbated by the number of years between the crime and the execution.

In could be said that the arguments against capital punishment relate to the rights of the murderer, whereas the arguments in favor represent the justice due to the victims (extrapolated from the deceased to loved ones to society at large).  Each side tends to diminish the weighting of the moral oughtness of the arguments offered by those who oppose.  Which is more important?  Rights of the accused, or victim?

The best answer would be both, but from those with constituencies on the web, there does not seem to be a middle ground.

As a Christian, I have to test my underpinnings on where I stand on this issue. 

The biblical "eye for an eye" verses are found in the Old Testament (or Pentateuch), that portion of the Bible where many Christians cringe at the rough God that establishes laws and prescribes very un-loving punishments.  Christians who are against the death penalty point towards numerous offenses of lesser significance than the taking of a life which resulted in a sentence of stoning.  They also would argue that this was a primitive means of deterring certain behaviors that was intended for and limited to a nomadic people who did not benefit from a system of justice, suitable detention facilities, or behavior counseling. 

We move forward to the New Testament, where a faith based on grace requires those transgressed against to forgive, just as they have been forgiven ("for the penalty of sin is death" - Romans 6:23).  Additionally, there are now the societal means of accommodating criminals, during which it is possible that murders may themselves come to faith in Christ - as some have.

The death penalty does not compete with the act of forgiving.  A person can forgive another a hurt, while still allowing the societal harm to be remedied by civil law.

The major point of contention is within the 10 Commandments.  "Thou shalt not kill." - Exodus 20:13.  Taken literally, it would seem to well support those who oppose the Death Penalty.  It would also oppose killing for food (plant or animal), squishing a spider or the use of herbicides, etc. 

Clearly, this regards murder.  Is it wrong to murder?  Yes.  Is it wrong to kill someone who murdered another?  No. 

Capital punishment is not murder.  As scripture indicates, God ordained governments to implement civil laws (Romans 13), and Christians are bound to obey those laws unless they conflict with a biblical moral law. 

A person executed is not done so by the victim or those close to the victim.  It is done by the institution provided to protect and redress the society from the crime committed.  Any argument to equate capital punishment with murder simply doesn't hold true.  As a Christian, I can accept the death penalty as a valid means of punishment.  Christians can also choose to oppose the death penalty (and many do), but they will find it difficult to argue that it is inconsistent with biblical teaching.  The Rough God of back then remains the same Rough God from whose wrath all Christians are saved.

It's pretty clear in the broad strokes, but it's also obvious that "the system" doesn't work perfectly.  I do have some suggestions, of course.  Instead of selectively pursuing the death penalty, it should be the default sentence when the below are proven to be true.

1.  If the murder was clearly done with malice aforethought, execute.

3. If there were additional means of cruelty (rape, torture, abduction, etc.) prior to the murder, execute. 

Additionally, an appeal should be heard within two years of the first sentencing.

If the murder was "in the heat of the moment" from a personal dispute, don't execute.  But no TV either, a fate worse than death.

Changing tacts a bit, capital punishment is a pro-life position.  It affirms the value and sanctity of life by prescribing a merited penalty for those who take the life of another. Interestingly, the numbers of executions are surprisingly few:  52 in 2009, 37 in 2008, 42 in 2007...

Meanwhile, there were 820,151 recorded abortions in 2005 alone.   It's an interesting societal irony that many opposed to the death penalty are at peace with killing the innocent, yet they point towards persons like myself who take the opposite view on both points as if the two are not logically sustainable.

But if the NY Times scribe is to be believed, the Death Penalty will wither and die.


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It's a Wonderful Life

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And, sometimes, it's good to be reminded of that.

New Year's Day brings with it resolutions for many.  I'm certain that I've had some in the past, and my fuzzy memory is sufficient to suggest that I didn't follow through with any of them.  I chose not to choose a new one, which is a choice in itself.  Big deal.

Free will is a mixed blessing.  No one would like to be an automaton; our ability to choose in many ways defines what it is to be human.  And if we had to defend our ability to choose, we would likely point towards the better choices we've made and not bother to mention the ones that maybe didn't work out so well. 

As I've posted before, the truth is that we do the thing that we most want to do at the moment of choosing, inclusive of all obligations, implications, consequences, etc. that surround the choice.  I've found that a New Year's resolution just doesn't hold much sway when tested against a credible Willie Dixonhistory of not doing what is now intended.

That's enough to give you the blues.

Willie Dixon wrote many great blues songs, one of which, "I Live the Life I Love," reads, in part:

I may lay a hundred on a bet this time

tomorrow night I can't cover your dime

Next week I could be over the hill

I'm just trying to tell you people how I feel


You see me rockin' as I pass you by

Don't talk about me cause I could be high

Just forgive me if you will

I live the life I love and I love the life I live

The last line of the song should ring true for most people, regardless of the virtues of their choices.  We choose to do what we most want to do.  Or, we each make our bed, and we lie in it.

The Christmas season brought many people through our home - fans of my wife's art, coworkers, family, college friends and even some friends who made the mistake of getting their edukashuns elsewhere.  Good times.

Usually, the last evening before returning to work in January is filled with the blues and the blahs of going about the mundane preparations needed before the alarm clock resumes its intrusion on my rest.

This year, despite the absence of a resolution, I fought back against the sordid history of matching socks, finding keys, and setting the alarm.  How, you ask?

Take heed, ye mind numbed robots. Rudolf, Frosty, The Little Drummer Boy, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story...  Like the retail universe, the cable companies also program the trappings of the season by positioning these in the weeks prior to Christmas.  Bah Humbug!  Live freely!  Make your own choices!

We watched It's a Wonderful Life on January 3rd.  Yes, that's after Christmas.  Tremble as the very firmament beneath ye shakes. 

Great movies are not just enjoyable to watch.  They make you pause and think.  I was reminded not only of why I consider this my favorite movie but the consistent result that comes from watching it.  There's a lot of good out there to be appreciated, and the reason for the season plays a part in that.  I live the life I love, and I love the wonderful life I live. 

It's a Wonderful Life

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