10 Covers II

As I've explained before, I love covers. So here are 10 covers I've come to love in the past year, in no particular order.

California Girls - A, B & the Sea (Katy Perry)

O.N.E. - Ace Reporter (Yeasayer)

I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Amy Millan (Death Cab for Cutie)

Antonia Jane - Bryan Fallon, of The Gaslight Anthem (Lightning Dust)

Beast of Burden - Bruce Springsteen & Alejandro Escovedo (The Rolling Stones)

No One's Gonna Love You - Cee-Lo Green (Band of Horses)

The River - Crooked Fingers (Bruce Springsteen)

Halo / Cannibal Resource - Harper Blynn (Beyonce + Dirty Projectors)

Pursuit of Happiness - Lissie (Kid Cudi)

Young Hearts Run Free - The Swell Season (Candi Staton)


march 16, 2011

in a world of bureaucrats and reporters
every second is documented to death
the poets are gone
the prophets forgotten
“information” is our economy
there is no more work
work is for machines and mexicans 
still we must stay busy
we must press paper into plastic
we cannot sit still
we are not to dream
dreaming leads to understanding
the world must remain opaque
lucidity would tear it down around us
a potemkin world
a plastic world
a million culdesacs 
nothing but fiberglass, plywood, and vynyl siding
still behind the hd touchscreen veneer 
remains dirt, fire, and water
beyond the newsfeed
lie souls, blood, fear, and love
beyond the florescent glow of thousands of streelights
is the darkness of the night sky
beyond your healthcare
death still waits
behind the signal 
is the voice softly whispering


Clarksville, Tennessee: The Sparta of the South

I believe that a city’s “nickname” should reflect more than the poorly conceived “branding” attempts of its public relations department. Cities should choose a nickname which reflects the spirit and the history of the place. Nashville’s nickname “Athens of the South” is a perfect example: the moniker reflects the city’s long history as a center of higher learning in the region. 
Clarksville’s current nickname is ridiculous: Tennessee’s Top Spot. 

The phrase is a “clever” play on Clarksville’s location near the Kentucky border (i.e. the “top” of the state). Unfortunately not only does this nickname fail to reflect anything of the culture, history, or traditions of our city its also just plain wrong: Bristol, Tennessee is located both farther North (actually straddling the state line with Virginia) and higher in altitude. 
Our last nickname “Gateway to the New South” was equally meaningless and uninspiring. How exactly is Clarksville a “gateway”? We don’t have an active train station or a public airport and, at the time, we didn’t even have a marina. The only reason we could be considered a gateway is because we are the first city in Tennessee you run into on I-24; of course that also ignores the fact that many people consider Kentucky a part of the South. 
When I was growing up Clarksville was “the Queen City” or “the Queen of the Cumberland.” That nickname at least had some vague historical basis in our city’s (long forgotten) position as a major port on the Cumberland River. However “Queen City” is relatively uninspiring and might make the occasional person think of makeup-plastered gay men singing Cher. 
Clarksville is in desperate need of a new nickname; a nickname that its citizens and business recruiters can use with pride, and a nickname that reflects our city’s history and traditions. 
Clarksville needs a nickname that actually means something.
This is my suggestion: The Sparta of the South. 

(Yeah, THAT Sparta.)

The reference to ancient Sparta is not only a nice little nod to our neighbors in Nashville, but also reflects our city’s long military history and the important reality that it serves as a home for thousands of veterans and active servicemen in the U.S. Army. 
Clarksville is adjacent to Fort Campbell, a base that is home to both the 101st Airborne Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Many of those soldiers’ families live and work in Clarksville and a great number of them end up retiring in Clarksville.
Clarksville has been home to soldiers and veterans since its founding and its citizens have served in every one of our nation’s wars. Contrary to a common misconception, Clarksville is not named after the great explorer William Clark, but his brother: General George Rogers Clark, a hero of the Revolutionary War. 
Clarksville is a military town, and I for one am extremely proud of that tradition. It’s a point of personal pride that my grandfather, while serving in the National Guard, was stationed at then “Camp” Campbell. Growing up in Clarksville many of my role models, teachers and coaches, were either soldiers or veterans. 
Just as Athens is a name synonymous with eduction, Sparta is a name synonymous with military tradition and valor.
Just as the Spartans bravely defended their countrymen’s freedom at Thermopylae, the 101st Airborne has defended our nation’s freedom on the fields of Normandy, in the hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

(The 101st: Real-Life Nazi Hunters)

That’s why I believe it’s time to change our city’s title once again. Clarksville deserves a nickname that actually means something. And our fellow citizens, both veterans and active military personnel, are deserving of our recognition. 


Walker Percy and Old King Solomon

Walker Percy was in my opinion, not only one of the great Southern authors, but one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. 
He was also a man after my own heart:
"The peculiar predicament of the present-day self surely came to pass as a consequence of the disappointment of the high expectations of the self as it entered the age of science and technology. Dazzled by the overwhelming credentials of science, the beauty and elegance of the scientific method, the triumph of modern medicine over physical ailments, and the technological transformation of the very world itself, the self finds itself in the end disappointed by the failure of science and technique in those very sectors of life which had been its main source of ordinary satisfaction in past ages.

As John Cheever said, the main emotion of the adult Northeastern American who has had all the advantages of wealth, education, and culture is disappointment.

Work is disappointing. In spite of all the talk about making work more creative and self-fulfilling, most people hate their jobs, and with good reason. Most work in modern technological societies is intolerably dull and repetitive.

Marriage and family life are disappointing. Even among defenders of traditional family values, e.g., Christians and Jews, a certain dreariness must be inferred, if only from the average time of TV viewing. Dreary as TV is, it is evidently not as dreary as Mom talking to Dad or the kids talking to either.

School is disappointing. If science is exciting and art is exhilarating, the schools and universities have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of rendering both dull. As every scientist and poet knows, one discovers both vocations in spite of, not because of, school. It takes years to recover from the stupor of being taught Shakespeare in English Lit and Wheatstone's bridge in Physics.

Politics is disappointing. Most young people turn their backs on politics, not because of the lack of excitement of politics as it is practiced, but because of the shallowness, venality, and image-making as these are perceived through the media--one of the technology's greatest achievements.

The churches are disappointing, even for most believers. If Christ brings us new life, it is all the more remarkable that the church, the bearer of this good news, should be among the most dispirited institutions of the age. The alternatives to the institutional churches are even more grossly disappointing, from TV evangelists with their blown-dry hairdos to California cults led by prosperous gurus ignored in India but embraced in La Jolla.

Social life is disappointing. The very franticness of attempts to reestablish community and festival, by partying, by groups, by club, by touristy Mardi Gras, is the best evidence of the loss of true community and festival and of the loneliness of self, stranded as it is as an unspeakable consciousness in a world from which it perceives itself as somehow estranged, stranded even within its own body, with which it sees no clear connection.

But there remains the one unquestioned benefit of science: the longer and healthier life made possible by modern medicine, the shorter work-hours made possible by technology, hence what is perceived as the one certain reward of dreary life of home and the marketplace: recreation.

Recreation and good physical health appear to be the only ambivalent benefits of the technological revolution."
— Walker Percy (Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book)
I believe Percy is echoing the voice of King Solomon, who wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes over two millennia before Percy was even born:
Vanity of vanities... vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

The earth abides. The sun also rises. All rivers run to the sea. From ashes into ashes again, from dust into dust.
There is nothing new under the sun.
All men are born fey.

So let us embrace our mortality, and take pleasure in our work, in our food and drink, and in our companions.
What will be dust tomorrow, is alive today.

That fleeting moment that is the space between the ashes is all the more beautiful because it is so short. 


This Blog

I want to get this out there for anyone who reads this blog: I am not looking for readers/followers, at least not in the traditional sense.

To me this blog is a place for to write down the ideas and questions that for some reason I feel that by writing about I can better understand.  I have always felt a personal need to examine the deeper questions of life, politics, faith, and culture. Sometimes an idea just hits me so hard that I have to write it down. When I was younger I used notebooks, sometimes I still do.

However, no man is an island and, in my opinion, the process of personal growth requires not only introspection but active dialogue with people with more extensive or different life experiences. I believe that through those interactions, through others' eyes, we can come to better know ourselves. I see this as a small reflection, as through a mirror darkly, of the way in which only when we finally come to "know" God will we truly know who we are. He created us and he knows us in ways we can't even comprehend in this life.

Yet God "saw that it was not good for us to be alone." He made us as social animals and as individuals with distinct personality and strengths. To quote the Koran, "[God] created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another."

So I keep this blog open to the public and occasional message or post links to specific posts only so that I can provide the people whose opinions and beliefs I genuinely care about some insight into my thoughts on that post's subject. 

Of course, not every post here is deep. Sometimes I post lists or just music, for the same reason (althought without the deeper importance) of my more cerebral entries.