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Archive for November, 2012

They will have time enough, in those endless aeons, to attempt all things, and to gather all knowledge.  They will not be like gods, because no gods imagined by our minds have ever possessed the powers they will command.  But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the universe when it was young.
  —  Arthur C. Clarke
From his book: “Profiles of the Future
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Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.
  —  Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
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Two weeks later, a new semester began at Lincoln High.
In the band rehearsal room, the members of C Band were waiting for their leader — were waiting for their destinies as musicians to unfold.
Helmholtz stepped onto the podium, and rattled his baton against his music stand.  “The Voices of Spring,” he said.  “Everybody hear that?  The Voices of Spring?”
There were rustling sounds as the musicians put the music on their stands.  In the pregnant silence that followed their readiness, Helmholtz glanced at Jim Donnini, who sat on the last seat of the worst trumpet section of the worst band in school.
His trumpet, John Philip Sousa’s trumpet, George M. Helmholtz’s trumpet, had been repaired.
“Think of it this way,” said Helmholtz.  “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came into it.  It can be done.  You can do it.”
A small cry of despair came from Jim Donnini.  It was meant to be private, but it pierced every ear with its poignancy.
“How?” said Jim.
“Love yourself,” said Helmholtz, “and make your instrument sing about it.  A-one, a-two, a-three.”  Down came his baton.
  —   Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book: “Welcome to the Monkey House
From the short story: “The Kid Nobody Could Handle
[Loving yourself is where it always begins.  We are each given our own instrument.  What is your instrument?  —  KMAB]
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There is an old story about a gathering for a funeral.  The mourners have come out of a sense of obligation rather than through any fondness for the departed.  The minister sensing a feeling in the air asks, “Would anyone like to say a few words about our brother Fred?
There is an embarrassed silence as people look at their feet or stare fixedly into the middle distance so as not to catch the minister’s eye.
Feeling awkward about the situation and feeling that someone should say something, the minister asks again, “Would anyone care to say a few words about Fred?
Again, there is silence, no-one prepared to venture even a word.  As the silence drags out the sense of awkwardness continues, people furtively glancing around to see if anyone will speak.  Eventually, a man, a contemporary of Fred, feels compelled to speak up: “His brother was worse”.
[The Latin phrase translates roughly as: “Say nothing but good of the dead.”   In “normal” usage, this would mean the recently deceased.  I don’t know anyone who has recently passed away.  I stumbled across the Latin phrase and researching it’s origin on the internet turned up several pages with similar stories.  The faith of the “minister” and the name of the deceased varied, but the story was the essentially the same…   In any case, the story made me smile.  —  KMAB]
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In truth, our cause is your own; it is the cause of liberty and of justice; it is based upon your own principles, which we have learned from yourselves; for we have gloried to count your [George] Washington and your [Thomas] Jefferson our great teachers; we have read their communications to us with veneration; we have practised their precepts with success.  And the result is manifest.  The wildness of the forest has given place to comfortable dwellings and cultivated fields, stocked with the various domestic animals.  Mental culture, industrious habits, and domestic enjoyments, have succeeded the rudeness of the savage state.
We have learned your religion also.  We have read your Sacred books. Hundreds of our people have embraced their doctrines, practised the virtues they teach, cherished the hopes they awaken, …we speak to the representatives of a Christian country; the friends of justice; the patrons of the oppressed.  And our hopes revive, and our prospects brighten, as we indulge the thought.  On your sentence, our fate is suspended; prosperity or desolation depends on your word.  To you, therefore, we look!  Before your august assembly we present ourselves, in the attitude of deprecation, and of entreaty.  On your kindness, on your humanity, on your compassion, on your benevolence, we rest our hopes.
—  John Ross,
From: “Letter from John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Indians, in Answer to Inquires from a Friend Regarding the Cherokee Affairs with the United States (Washington, D.C., 1836)”
[This quote is from a letter which Chief John Ross wrote to the U.S. Congress disputing a “treaty” which allowed the U.S. Army to forcibly displace the Cherokee nation from Georgia to Oklahoma.  This trek has come to be known as: “The Trail of Tears“.  Although the above portion of the letter was taken from my journal, a more complete transcript can be found here and you can find lots more information about history at History Matters.
I believe I originally read the quote in the book, “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee“, where the quote was described as: “Cherokee Memorial to the United States Congress, December 29, 1835”.
It is estimated that 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee died en route from Georgia to Oklahoma.   The Cherokee were only one of the five Indian nations forcibly relocated.  —  KMAB]
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This week, I watched two movies – one old (on DVD) and one new (at the theater).  The old one was Die Hard #4: (officially) “Live Free Or Die Hard” (2007).  The new one was “Lincoln” (2012).
DH4 is the latest Bruce Willis super-cop fights terrorist bad-guys movie.  Basically, it follows the tried and true genre which DH1 (1988) created: lots of action, people in danger, lots of gunfire, lots of explosions (even fake explosions) and, of course, the indestructible “John McClane” (Willis).  Now, some will dispute my assertion that DH1 “created” the genre – leaning towards “Lethal Weapon” (1987) as the start of the genre.  I’d say you have a valid argument, but to me, LW is more of buddy cop movie, than the lone cop against the whole terrorist gang.  Now the interesting thing is that DH4 is not strictly a lone cop movie any more (okay, DH3 wasn’t either).  McClane gains an unwilling partner, but it’s still basically Willis against the whole gang.
DH4 is much better than DH2 and DH3, mostly because it has moments of humor which make it a much more entertaining movie.  It’s not simply a string of explosions and shoot-em-ups (but it is mostly that, so you get your monies worth of bang).  Anyway, I admit to watching this movie and DH1 every couple of years and they are both terrific.  Actually, all four are very good films and well worth watching repeatedly if you enjoy this genre (and I do).  So, highly recommended!
The second film, “Lincoln“, I went to see with my oldest daughter, Rebecca.  She lives away from home, now, so I don’t get to spend as much time with Rebecca as I would like and usually when we are together, we’re talking politics.  I think we were both looking forward to seeing this movie because of our mutual interest in history and politics.  The movie is about the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in Congress just before the end of the American Civil War.  Now in all honesty, despite Abraham Lincoln being one of my favorite Presidents, I knew almost nothing about the passage of this Amendment.  This is the Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States.
The movie is a fairly typical Steven Spielberg direction / production – in other words – excellent!  The music, the pacing, the color, the imagery, the attention to period detail are all superb.  It seems highly probable to me that “Lincoln“, Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) will all be getting Oscar nominations and probably win.  I haven’t seen many great roles this year (or that many movies), but Day-Lewis is a lock (in my book) for the Best Actor nomination and award.
I found the vitriol in the House of Representatives to be amusing and interesting and certainly shed new insight into politics in our own life and times.  I also enjoyed the moments of humor, like when an exasperated cabinet member shouts, “Please, not another one of your stories!
If there are any criticisms of the movie, it’s that the movie ends predictably with the Amendments passage and with Lincoln’s assassination.  I guess there’s not much to be done about that though, as the movie is based on actual history and the Amendment did pass and the President was killed.  I guess Lincoln could have become a vampire slayer or something…  Nah!  Nobody would believe that.  (Or pay to go see it.)
In conclusion, this is one of the most enjoyable / educational movies I’ve seen in some time.  I walked away with even more respect for Abraham Lincoln.  Highly recommended!!
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When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?
  —  Sydney J. Harris
[I usually try to avoid being crude, but sometimes I can’t help myself…  —  KMAB]
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