Jan 4/12

Wow! What a contest last night in Iowa! Looks like no-one's giving anything away this year - and so much the better, because this election really matters.

One point to discuss is why a Canadian or someone from another country would be so interested in the Iowa Caucuses (and now, New Hampshire and so on). Well, I began to explain in my Dec 30 post about Ron Paul: it comes down to American leadership.

American leadership started with the Revolutionary War. In modern history, the Americans were the first known rebels to stand up to a superpower (England, of course) and win. Not long later came the French Revolution, several in South America, and so on. Fidel Castro was another who you could argue read George Washington's playbook. (Hard to believe, in a way.)

Post revolution, the Americans spread other innovations. Their Constitution became a model for any nation to study. Their economy, although fierce, was the envy of the world. Henry Ford pioneered modern automobile manufacturing. The United States pushed the Allies to victory in two World Wars. After World War Two, they helped both Germany and Japan back to prosperity. Then they led the free world against Communism during the Cold War. At the same time, they pioneered in the development of the integrated circuit and the personal computer.

It makes sense, therefore, that people all over the world look to the Americans for solutions.

Today, the developed world's problems seem more subtle than a war or technology, but maybe even more serious. Several industrial countries - including possibly the US, depending on who you believe - are at risk of bankruptcy. Not to mention, all the social problems: providing adequate education and health care, retirement funding, job creation, and even energy management.

The Americans face all those problems - bigtime. Other countries are watching how they cope, hoping the US will come up with solutions that everyone else can use. People know the Americans are daring enough to try just about anything that might make sense. They know the Americans aren't afraid to fail; they'll just try something else next. It's that "pick yourself up" kind of attitude that makes Americans unique: they seem able to afford failure in a way that other cultures can't.

Here's a man who took a loss last night. He needs a comeback in New Hampshire. Ron Paul is my candidate, but I think Newt Gingrich is a compelling character. I may not wish him a win in New Hampshire, but I wish him well.

Wikipedia was a source for this article: here and here.

Newt Gingrich Home

Jan 5/12

Here Comes the Sun!

After a wild two-day storm up from the tropics - in which the temp shot to around 10 degrees! - the sun has returned. It's 6 degrees now, should reach 10 again today, and then we're back to clouds and showers for four more days, with nightly lows still above freezing.

In most of Canada people report a condition called the "February blahs" in which they're just depressed from months of winter. We don't get that as much on the west coast, since spring can actually start by early February - certainly, by late February. However, we do get longer runs of grey days than many parts of Canada. The reason, of course, is that even though it might be minus 20 degrees there, it's still sunny. You don't get much cloud when it's really cold. Here, on the other hand, we can have days on end that are foggy, grey, and plus 5. It's nice, once you get used to it.

Spring is an exciting time anywhere, but here it can be incredible. One morning you wake up - even in mid February - to explosive sun. By noon people are walking around in their T-shirts. The birds are singing and kids are heading downtown just to walk around. The dandelions might bloom. You hear lawn mowers in the afternoon. The day still ends early, usually with a pink sunset. Later, in the dark, you can watch the stars while a soft breeze taunts you with the smell of fresh-cut grass.

Speaking of spring, and the sun, here's George Harrison, who of course wrote Here Comes the Sun. I've long been a fan of George's. He's been re-examined by the rest of the world, who've concluded he merited much more attention. Over shadowed by John and Paul, George followed his own direction, even while with the Beatles. Here Comes the Sun is an example: it's arguably the most original - and recognizable - Beatles song. It appeals to the widest audience, including, of course, children. In the fifty or so years since its writing, no other writer has even tried to copy from it.

George, let's bring you into the sun on this marvelous day, and thank you for the hours I've spent by myself either singing Here Comes the Sun, or else listening to it on an old record player.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

George Harrison Home

Jan 7/12

Re: Fringe Candidate

I've heard the idea that Ron Paul is a "fringe" candidate.

"Fringe" can mean being off in one's own world; pursuing a different life from the rest of society; having a set of beliefs not compatible with common people.

Now, the question:

How can following the Constitution, running balanced budgets, returning to the gold standard, and ending foreign occupations, be "fringe"?

To someone who wants to be honest and real about the Founding Fathers' intentions, such policies are essential - the opposite of fringe.

While we're at it, how can someone who came in at 4% less than the winner be a fringe candidate? 4% less than the winner - that's downright mainstream.

The only resolution to the confusion must be that by "fringe", they mean Fringe, the great TV show on the Fox network. It's a primetime show - not a "fringe" one.

The TV show Fringe focuses on the agents' need to assimilate new realities and new possibilities. Well, I think that's exactly what Americans now have the opportunity to do. They need to follow the facts rather than what "most people have always believed". When they do, I think they'll vote for Ron Paul.

Here's Agent Phillip Broyles (Director, Fringe Division), played expertly by Lance Reddick. He's tough, but flexible; he adapts to new realities. He's exactly how Americans need to be now.

Looking good, Broyles!

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Director Phillip Broyles Home

Jan 8/12

I'd sell my soul for you, babe,
For money to burn with you...."

-Billy Idol, Rebel Yell

The injection of a rebel yell into a new wave song is fascinating, and speaks to a level of education probably not equalled by many of those who listened. It didn't matter, of course; people loved the song. Like many great songs, its literal meaning was vague, but the idea it conveyed was unmistakable: to follow your true desires, you have to be a rebel. Other people wouldn't approve if they could tell you no.

Billy Idol always suggested rebellion, without directly saying his "cause". Essentially, it was the same protest that all young people relate to: against power. In the video Dancin' With Myself, Idol presents a post-apocalyptic scenario: anarchy in the heart of a city.

Billy Idol's timing was perfect, because the parents of the early 80s had already lost much of their power - not to their children, but because of economics. With high unemployment and inflation at the start of the decade, the "older generation" lacked the confidence it had enjoyed the decades previous. The economy did improve (depending on which numbers you look at), but the middle class continued to shrink - to this day. With both parents working - often divorced anyway - the teenager more and more often came home to an empty house and a microwave dinner. With no adult around, the after-school teen could put on the record and really be "dancing with himself (or, of course, herself)".

Dancin' with Myself, I'd argue, is Idol's catchiest song (see its interesting history here). Apparently it only reached number 2 in the US, but I find that hard to believe. In '83 and '84, you heard it everywhere. It was one of the defining songs of the early 80s, merging dance with new wave. (Not all new wave was dance; arguably, most of it wasn't. See a coming article about that.) Dancin' With Myself conveyed the new reality of the 80s urban society: Every person for themselves. Even surrounded by people, you're really alone.

One day in '84, I was listening to two young Yank sailors talking about Billy Idol. "Well, he's different," one commented. I could tell he was a fan.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Billy Idol Home

Jan 9/12


Reading the Harry Potter books to my kids, Luna was a favourite of mine the moment I met her. Eccentric, intelligent, and content to be so, she validates being that way. Of course, she catches a little flak for it once in a while, but really she doesn't care.

There are several kinds of truth; I visited the topic in my post of Dec 13. Even since then, my thoughts on that concept have refined. I realize now that perhaps the "real" truth doesn't even matter to most people - all that matters is what other people think. To them, that is reality; the objective truth is irrelevant.

Putting the concept to an example, suppose there is a murder. Let's say that person Y really did it, but everyone thinks person X did. People's opinion is enough: "I've always known person X...I always knew he'd do something like this...." Therefore, person X is convicted and hanged - by consensus.

Thank God our judiciary isn't ruled by popular opinion. However, everyday life is. People who "don't fit in" are marginalized - like Remus Lupin or even Snape. Lupin identified with "normal" wizards and wanted to be among them, so being sidelined hurt him. Snape accepted that he was different and didn't try to fit in. Neither does Luna.

I notice that Harry himself identifies with normal wizards. Even when he is marginalized (by circumstance, rather than by behaviour), he hopes to one day return to mainstream. However, when he needs help, or just moral support, he's happy to receive it from Luna.

A question begs to be asked: does Rowling herself lean more to the individualist, or to the "normal" person? Looking at her success as an author of a highly original series of novels, you'd think she must be an individualist. However, there is a strong vein of sympathy in the Harry Potter books towards normalcy - even, ironically, among wizards. To me, Rowling makes an undeniable suggestion that if someone isn't "normal", they're damaged somehow.

Is it true, J.K.? Perhaps I'm just reading too much into your wonderful books, which I've been privileged and delighted to read to my children.

By the way: I'd say we're a "half-blood" family: one eccentric parent, and one who's normal.

Luna Lovegood Home