Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A strange year

Thinking back over 2009, I've found it to have been a rather odd year. I wouldn't call it a great year, nor was it horrible.

I speak personally, not broadly or globally, by the way. Why I have been blessed not to have been directly negatively affected by the miserable economy, something of a malaise has seemingly set in, especially here in Michigan. Even though things have been mostly good in my personal life, it's been hard to ignore the shared social dysthymia. The negativity seems to rub off to some degree. There's a good in that. I've been able to remain thankful for the blessings I have by the constant reminder that people around me have things much worse.

One celebrity death really bothered me. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych passed away back in April. I can count on one hand the celebrity deaths that have really shook me and affected me deeply. For whatever reason, his was one. It was a low point in the year.

Our family has had numerous personal challenges. But we've enjoyed some triumphs as well. Those, perhaps, are too personal to share in detail. Ultimately I believe those things have drawn me closer to my wife and daughter and certainly to God. At least it would seem that way.

An old friend of mine nearly died several times. Waiting for a friend -- the mother of young children -- to either get better or die is quite hard on the system. One does not even need to be particularly close to be jolted by something like that. Thankfully she appears to be making a full recovery and should be home with her family soon.

I tried as best as I could to unplug from the larger world this year. I don't really read the hard news, I don't watch TV, I don't follow domestic or international politics. I'm paying as little attention as possible to things like Michael Jackson's death and Tiger Woods' personal troubles. You could say that I've buried my head in the sand. I'd say that I've tried to reduce stress and give up fretting about things over which I have no control. That approach has been quite liberating.

2009 has been a year of seeking to know more about God. I think I started the year considering the possibility that either He does not exist or that He doesn't exist in the way or form which I have always understood him to exist. That feeling seemed to pass, helped along by reading about the conversion of a former world-renown atheist who is now a theist. By fall I had not only gotten past these little feelings of doubt, but I went hard the other way. I've been thirsting for knowledge about who God is, not as much in an experiential way but more in an intellectual way.

More to come... (maybe)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The great setup

Trash culture. I hate it! I do my level best to ignore it. We don't have cable and I don't look at tabloid internet sites. But you'd have to live up in the mountains in Tibet to avoid the Tiger Woods story. I don't know the details about his affairs and I certainly don't care to know them. If it were up to me, I wouldn't know anything at all about his personally life.

The world we live in, though, is not my ideal society. We feast on the misery of others. We build them up to great heights by paying attention to the details of what they wear on the red carpet and what their babies look like. We load their bank vaults by going to see their movies and watch them play their games. We make them American royalty but commit regicide as soon as they make a mistake.

This is exactly what we are seeing with Tiger Woods. Before he was even eligible to turn pro, we anointed him the next Jack Nicklaus. Corporations, with money from us consumers, made him a millionaire many times over with endorsement and advertisement money. Would they have paid him if you didn't buy their products? No. All that wealth is really a gift from you to him.

But now he has sinned -- multiple times. And the finger-wagging, name-calling, and judgment has begun. A man who was two weeks ago a hero -- practically a national treasure -- is now a pariah. Women especially seem to be tearing him to shreds over his (inexcusable) infidelity. It's interesting that JFK, RFK and Bill Clinton are still seen as heroes despite their identical moral failings, but that's another story for another time.

The moral outrage over Tiger's philandering is particularly galling to me. Is that because I don't think he was wrong? No. Am I galled because I don't think affairs with multiple women isn't serious? No. I'm peeved because: a) the moral outrage seems disproportionately high; b) the people most loudly calling for his head fail to recognize Tiger has done really what our society has, in many ways, said is acceptable. People scoff at the notion of traditional values. Marital fidelity is one of those cornerstone moral principles that is fluid and situational. We crucify Tiger woods for cheating but say nothing about the 50% or so married average Joes and Janes that do exactly this. Worse yet, we encourage divorce for those that are "unhappy," whatever that might mean.

Even more to the root of the matter, we have created an amoral sexually charged culture that encourages sexual behavior outside of marriage. If it doesn't matter if are married before you have sex with each other, why should it matter if you have sex with someone while married to another? What's really the difference? It's just a pleasure activity, after all, right?

Men are taught to be hyper-sexual, less so by their male peers, than advertisers and corporations who stand to make fortunes by selling us beer by showing us guys partying with young, beautiful bikini-clad girls. Why do we expect men to behave in dignified ways when we promise them all the sex they can get if they wear the right aftershave?

Our society is sex, sex, sex. Porn is now "mainstream" and "normalized." But if you have sex when we tell you not to, you deserve our wrath. We dangle it in front of our young mens' faces and tell them not to have it.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would de-sexualize as much of the media as possible and give people books to read instead of TV to watch. Perhaps that would break the cycle of making kings for the purpose of later pulling down their kingdoms.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wolverines developing a seige mentality

I know it's a pretty tiny sample size, but I get a lot of sense of what is happening among U of M fans -- the true blue bloods, not so much the Walverines -- talking to my U of M fan/season tix holder co-worker. He knows a lot of people in/around Schembechler Hall. He's become quite the fan of mgoblog and likes to relay to me stuff said/written there.

I've noticed lately that he wants to talk about the Rather Hall fight. He's repeatedly said Winston shouldn't have been able to "walk from jail onto the practice field," and, by comparison praises Rich Rod for dumping Milano (the kid that beat the crap out of Steve Kampfer) and Justin Feagin.

His new thing is to constantly bitch about Rosenberg and the Free Press. He goes on and on about how the Freep never bothered talking to "victims" of the Rather Hall fight and only talked to parents. He complains about Rosenberg's "hatchet job" on Rich Rod and the whole extra practice crap. UM's not getting a fair shake in the media, especially Rich Rod, as far as he is concerned. He says this is the general consensus.

The hardcores are circling the wagons. They're getting defensive about the way MSU is covered vs the way UM is covered. The local media is now "out to get them" (my words.)

But when I gently suggest to him this has been the way MSU has been treated for 30+ years, he likes to pin that back on Perles, Ferguson and all the division that has been in the program. He doesn't seem to want to consider that the media made more out of the negatives and less out of the positives.

This is an interesting time to watch UM football (the program, not the games.) You can almost smell the fear and paranoia.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are biofuels really the answer?

I'm all for alternative, non-petroleum-based fuel sources. I look happily forward to a future fueled by wind, solar, geothermal and hydrogen.

While biofuels have their advantages, they might be making the supposed "global warming" problem worse. The reason is simple: massive deforestation is taking place to meet the explosive demand for land for biofuel crops.

This is not a newly recognized problem. Environmentalists have been watching this happen for several years now and have tried to point this out, but no one seems to want to hear about it.

Here's just one article on the subject.