Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Deep Breath

Marc Barnes, who pens a fine blog called BadCatholic, has left me sheepish. He posted about a snow day. Just a snow day. And praised it. (Snow When It is White)

Looking at my posts over the last couple of months, I’ve speculated about actors, bashed Coloradoan rappers, evaluated common curse words, praised my favorite rock band… and all throughout mined my own opinions. As well a blogger should.

But you know what? I think based on the blogs I’ve been reading, we bloggers complain too much. Marc's on to something. I’m taking a deep breath. And I’m going to tell you how wonderful my life is.

I’m sitting in a brown armchair, and I’m melting into the cushions. My father’s in a chair next to me, reading the Wall Street Journal. He spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, and four years after getting out received his PhD in theology. He teaches now at the University of Great Falls.

My little brother is playing Journey on the piano, somewhere in the distance. And I must say he’s rocking it. He, my other brothers, and I cruised iTunes today, using the gift cards our parents gave us. I used mine last night, and stayed up till midnight with my new songs from House of Heroes, The Classic Crime, The Beatles, The Almost, and more delightful rock bands.

I look out my window. The skies are painted with white clouds, split by patches of lazy blue. Under them sleeps a hillside with half-melted snow. A quiet little Montana city sprawls some hundreds of yards away.

In a week and a half I’m taking a plane to Kansas City, and from thence to Benedictine College, at one of the best Catholic schools in the country. I’m living the life millions of people would love to have. I don’t want to lord that over anybody, but I cannot deny. This feels good.

I won’t ignore reality, and the reality is that this world is ridden with evil, and that this world is not my home. There is a deeper reality. And the more we ignore it the more we're going to hurt. Abortion. Adultery. Bad entertainment. Drugs. Wars. Hunger. They're all symptoms, and I think they're going to get worse.

But sitting here, in a good home, with a good family, with a good feeling… I can’t help but think everything’s gonna be alright. There’s going to be a storm in this country, and if things keep up it’s going to hurt. But it won’t last. Nothing that bad can last. There will be sunlight through the clouds. I can’t tell you where precisely it will come, but I’m certain. We cannot imagine the things God can do for us. We have barely begun to see what He is. He'll come through, in a way that will blow everyone away. I think I believe that.

Have a wonderful day. Take a deep breath, and make it good and long. And do what you must.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What If You Were _________?

This first part is for men. Scroll down if you want the part for women. There's one question for each. For men, a lesson first. If you don’t know what I mean by “The Old Spice Guy”, he's the actor in a commerical for Old Spice commercial that was a national sensation. Millions of YouTube views. Physically, he's what millions of guys would love to be. Big chest, arm muscles, manly beard, and a towel around his waist. And so on. I won't post a picture because the commercial has him shirtless, and that might bother some readers.

To the question…  what if one of you woke up as this guy? Seriously. Think about it. You go to bed as your same old self, whether it be fat, skinny, or riddled with acne, or whatever… and then you wake up, look in the mirror, look at yourself- and you’re him. The biggest stud on the block. Quite possibly the universal block. It doesn’t change as your day goes on, and eventually you accept your body has changed into this astounding, muscular freight train. You get the voice and everything else, too, but no changes in memory or personality or anything like that.

What would you do? You want it to stay? You want it to go? You gonna go ask out that special brunette who you’ve been crushing on for three years without breathing a word? Go out to the nightclubs and explode onto the party scene? Try a career in acting?

This next part is the question for women. If you are a woman or girl reading this post... what if you woke up tomorrow to find you looked like Megan Fox? She’s an actress who’s popular, as near as I can figure, for physical appearance- a lot like the Old Spice Guy. She's attractive, in that glamorous, eye-popping Hollywood way. And now so are you. What would you do that day? As for men with the Old Spice Guy, you’d have Megan’s appearance and voice, not any personality traits.

Whether you hail from Venus or Mars, I’m not trying to be a creeper with this question. In fact, I think the question’s a goldmine for philosophical and moral insights. What would other people do? What would they want to do? What would the best way to use the new appearance? Is it even desirable to have as compared to your old body?

Comment, if you have an answer and feel like sharing it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

According To Plato, You Might Be A Sissy

Not comforting news, is it? That’s a powerful accusation, considering this man’s reputation. One of the several enlightening events of my first semester in college has been reading The Republic. I haven’t read anything else from Plato, so everything I will say here I say based on what he says in that one book. So perhaps I should fix the title, and switch The Republic for Plato. But when it comes to catchy titles, poetic license is indispensable, so let’s leave that alone and get to the point.

Plato talks some in The Republic about music and poetry. In the midst of describing the perfect city, Plato describes how to educate the residents. Note that this education, for Plato, was for the select residents he meant to defend his ideal city and keep it ideal. Also note that what he called music, we call media. Music for Plato, if he was alive today, would be not only our music, but also our movies, Internet games, and anything else that reaches people. Gymnastics is all athletic pursuits. While he’s talking about these, he mentions a danger.

“But if he keeps at it (listening to music) unrelentingly and is beguiled by the music, after a time his spirit is melted and dissolved until it vanishes, and the very sinews of his soul are cut out and he becomes a “feeble warrior””.

Too much music makes us weaklings.

The first thing I did after reading that was to look at my tummy. I have a rather round tummy, I’m afraid to say. I haven’t played serious sports in more than a year, and I’ve been living soft ever since. Naturally, then, Plato raises some pertinent questions for me. I’ve been listening to music way too much; I’m on YouTube right now listening to a catchy rap.

Not anymore. I just clicked out of it, and now I’m thinking. I’m hardly the only one who likes to do this. We Americans love music. We’ve wound it so deep in our culture and ourselves… well, I suppose all cultures do. Nevertheless, I observe…

Our most famous musicians are more famous than our soldiers in war. I can’t think of any man who ever earned a Medal Honor, and of Purple Heart winners I can only name John Kerry. And that only because of, interestingly enough, a political satire song.

What I can name in abundance are the most popular musicians and singers and bands right now: Black Eyed Peas, Zac Brown Band, Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance, Lady GaGa, Avenged Sevenfold and enough more to fill an orchestra. Pun intended.

I know more words to “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey than to my country’s national anthem. There are many, many people here who don’t know their national anthem at all.

Pop stars have to be protected in case the masses try to mob them, out of some mindless, crazed attraction to the pop stars’ fame, and their persona, and the songs that walk with them. Like a moth to a flame. A thousand moths to a flame.

I see danger here. Do you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One of The Greatest Rock Bands Of Our Time

You read that right. My favorite rock band is one of the greatest rock bands out there right now. I am not sarcastic or trying for any vague, complicated metaphor. I speak directly and I blaze with confidence.

Say hello to House of Heroes. They’re an alternative rock band from Columbus, Ohio, currently signed with Gotee Records. No, you’ve never heard of them. Their genre… oh… let me tell it this way. Take the vocal harmonies from Queen. Throw them in with those magical melodies the Beatles had. Shake well, and throw in pop/punk from Relient K and Jimmy Eat World, rock from Weezer, and lightly sprinkle with Tom Petty and Muse. Bake to perfection. 
That is what I’m talking about, and if you’re licking your chops right now, you won’t be disappointed. 

They found out with this 2008 album, The End Is Not The End, that all four of them can sing. United they did things to their music that made them soar over everything I’ve ever heard. And the songwriting! I could write pages on just the songwriting. Add to how that works with the music, and how amazing the music itself is… I could write a whole book. The themes span love, heroism, redemption, remorse, and a host of others, with references to World War Two and wars in general. It’s the talk about the wars that give it an extra layer. There’s such a story in the music. Listen all the way through the album; you’ll find hints of it in the lyrics, since it’s not a concept album, but you’ll hear in it in the music. I can’t say exactly how. Each song begins and ends like how chapters in novels begin and end; just the right tone, just the right place. It leaves me spellbound every time. This is a sonical odyssey.

Suburba (that's how they spell the title) came out just a few months ago: August 2010.  And the vocals only got better. And the songwriting ventured into new territory. With the classic rock came a focus on youth and suburban America. And my, oh my, does it take your breath away. Gorgeous renditions in “Relentless” the first track, of a boy running wild in the suburbs; “God Save The Foolish Kings”, a gang preparing for a fight and looking for purpose; “Disappear”, a dark, driving reflection on mortality… you have to listen all the way through the album here. Even though, for this and the last album, any track will have you hooked on its own.

Oh! This barely scratches the surface of what I could tell you about this band. But I am a college student, and finals near; I’ve already taken too much time to tell you this much. Let me leave you with a music video for the band’s top single from The End Is Not The End: “In The Valley Of The Dying Sun”.