A Parable

Tonight children, let me tell you a story - an allegory for our times, if you will.

Suppose you were born into one of the great mercantile families. You’d have a last name like Ford or Vanderbilt or Carnegie or maybe even Suzuki or Mitsubishi. You would have received the finest education that money could buy at the most prestigious institutions, and been schooled in the newest technologies and techniques. You would have been mentored by the brightest minds in the field, carefully preparing you to take the reins of your family’s mighty corporation when the time came. After many years of study and preparation, the day finally arrives, and you are ushered to your corner office and given a key to the executive washroom.

At your first board meeting, you are confronted with a problem. It’s just the sort of thing you have been training for, so you are ready with an answer. You propose a multi-part strategy to identify the problem, devise innovative corrective measures, and move the company toward a productive solution.

Naturally, you expect a pat on the back – but the board of directors says, “That’s not how we do it here. You see, we run this company according to guidelines set out by your great great great great grandfather, and that kind of solution is not mentioned in this document.” They even bring out the venerable scrap of parchment, and lay it reverently on the table.

You gently protest - “Um, guys? Things are a bit different today – we need to adapt to the current business environment…”

“But these guidelines have made this company strong and a leader in our industry,” they say.

“Yes,” you say, “but when these guidelines were written we were delivering our product by horse-drawn wagons – today we ship worldwide by air. Back then it took months to get a letter to Europe and today I can call Paris in seconds on my cell phone. Can’t you see that our guidelines might need to be adjusted to fit that business climate?”

“No!’ they scream. “You must never deviate from the letter of the original document! It is the secret of our success!”

“It was, but we aren’t as successful today as we were in 1787,” you tell them. “We must adjust and change in order to progress.”
At this point, half of the men in the boardroom tip over the table and take up positions behind it clutching firearms. Occasionally they throw teabags at you.

Ok, I’m sure you can see where this is going. If you wouldn’t blindly run a business according to principals that are 225 years old, why would you run a country that way?

Since the passage of health care reform the Right has been flogging the idea that the plan is unconstitutional, and a number of state attorneys general are planning on filing lawsuits. Based on the way they venerate the constitution, you’d think that the founding fathers were imbued with some magical power to see the future so that they could devise a system of government that is adequate for every eventuality. It’s almost like they were gods of some sort, and the constitution is a scripture they have left to us – but that would be sacrilegious, right?

The founding fathers didn’t have any special insight on the way history would play out. They were no wiser about elections or appointments or committees or even human nature than we are. They didn’t have any unique skills that empowered them to design a system that would be eternal – in fact, they were humble enough to realize that the document they were writing would need to be adjusted. The method of changing it is built right in – it’s been altered 27 times already (well, it’s more like 25 times since the 21st just undid the 18th, but who's counting?).

The Right’s belief in the infallibility of the founding fathers is simply a form of mysticism, and it makes no more sense than believing in the infallibility of the pope, or that black cats are unlucky, or that the bambino’s curse kept the Red Sox from winning the World Series for 86 years. It’s also a damn convenient belief for the GOP – when the powers of the president ballooned under George W. Bush, you certainly didn’t hear any Republicans complaining about that violating the intentions of the founding fathers.

The health care bill is not the end of America, nor is it the death of liberty, or the beginning of socialism, communism, fascism, or any of the other dire predictions that the Right has been making this week. It’s simply another in a long line of social changes brought about by the Federal Government in spite of the conservative "state’s rights" crowd, and it's happening by the actions of our rightfully elected representatives following legitimate legislative processes. It will be fought tooth and nail, of course, through state referendums and law suits and name calling and protest marches and finally the supreme court will probably have to rule on it… just as the founding fathers designed.

bodhrán warm-up

I just started playing this drum again after many years away from it. In this clip I'm just trying to loosen up my wrist and get my chops back.

Udu Sound Check

This was a test to see if the microphone in my little video recorder would pick up the low tones of the udu. It does, but the quality of the speakers really makes a difference in playback. If you can't hear the deep "duoom" sound then try listening to it with headphones. Kind of cool, but still very different from hearing it in person.

The rhythm I'm playing around with is called chiftetelly - it's a common bellydance beat.


A few radio rants that didn't get aired. Remember, folks - the "Angry Malcontent" is another persona, and his attitudes are not entirely shared by His Sinfulness...

Excuses and Rationalizations

This blog has reached an unprecedented low in content, and yet I refuse to just let it go.

Perhaps once I get my thesis done I will be able to return to regular posting. Yes - that's it... it's my thesis that is causing the problem... not the nagging sensation that this blog outlived its usefulness two years ago, or the suspicion that I haven't said anything truly meaningful or even amusing in a long time.

At any rate, my thesis will need to be finished very soon, as I may be starting a new full-time job in the near future. All must be done on time - family is coming to graduation and I better actually be walking down the aisle or there will be hell to pay.

Double dose of Theraflu to stop this damn cough and I'm off to bed.


The raging stupidity of humanity is reaching epic proportions. I have been thinking about this for years now, and I think I’ve sorted out what our problem is – we’ve domesticated ourselves.

We’ve lost the ability to make the sort of decisions that any wild animal can make without a second thought. For example, if you ask any wild mammal “is hanging out with a 6-ton predator a good idea?” the immediate answer is “no.” If said 6-ton predator has killed members of your species before, the answer is rapidly upgraded to “hell no!” Never the less, we seem to think that chillin' with an Orca like “Tillicum,” the whale who killed a trainer last week at Orlando Sea World, is a good idea, especially if it makes the park’s owners tons of money. I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Tillicum was involved in the deaths of two other humans over the last 20 years – so why was he being used in a show? For that matter, why is he still in captivity? Seems to me he has made his feelings about humans pretty clear, on three occasions now. Any wild animal would have the sense to stay away from Tillicum, and probably all of his kind, but we just aren’t that smart any more.

Another common problem of domesticated animals is the inability to self-regulate their diets. It’s common knowledge, for example, that domesticated horses will eat themselves to death if left with a surplus of food - humans are no different. In the US roughly 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children are currently obese. In a classic show of nonsensical domesticated thinking, we have on one hand, First Lady Michelle Obama rolling out her “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity, which encourages young people to participate in sports, and on the other we have Coca-Cola and McDonalds sponsoring the Olympics. Any wild animal instinctively knows that peak physical performance is not likely to result from gorging on bits of meat you can’t really identify the origin of, yet we apparently believe that if you have Mcnuggets for lunch and wash them down with a Coke, you’ll snowboard just like Shaun White. Perhaps on the X-Box that is true, but certainly not outdoors where gravity has consequences.

In a sense, our situation is far worse than the domestication that we have forced on animals, because at least there are some perks for those species. For example, we tend to protect domesticated species from disease by vaccinating them, we protect them from predators and the elements, and sometimes we even bring them into our homes to live in relative luxury. There are few such perks for the domesticated human, because the force that domesticates us is mindless – it’s simple greed. The continuous quest for the almighty dollar is what puts Orcas in tiny pools where they can nom the occasional trainer, it’s what plops our chubby kids down in front of the TV to watch sports rather than participating in them, and it’s what continues to make us stupid, fat, and lazy.

I believe it’s not too late. You can make choices based on your intelligence and instincts, not on the last commercial you saw. You could go out and try to remember what it means to be a wild animal.

I know you are all sitting there thinking, “The Black Pope is right. I’ll start doing that – right after this show is over…”