Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What to make of the muslim cartoons and the rioting fallout...

There are three points of note about the whole mess:

1) When someone paid with federal tax money in the form of an "artistic" grant plops a crucifix into a jar of urine and calls it "art"... or if someone graffitis a swatstika on a jewish synagogue... you get appropriate righteous indignation and condemnation as a response. When a newspaper in Denmark publishes a mildly profane cartoon five months ago about Islam... you get riots, bombings, burnings, and calls for holy jihad.

2) Two wrongs don't make a right. Just because you can insult someone or enflame their passions doesn't mean you necessarily should do so, especially given the current situation in the world right now.

3) I'm not one to read the rag known as the L.A. Times, but this week there was an interesting article that put things in historical perspective. Below is in excerpt of note:

"Whatever the religious sensitivities involved, reactions such as these may strike you as threateningly — even viciously — irrational. That's because they are, and there's a reason.

"Back in the High Middle Ages, the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — reached one of those fundamental forks in the historical road. For centuries, a series of Islamic scholars had preserved the works of Aristotle that one day would lay the foundations for the secular logic and science that have made the modern world possible. Their "rediscovery" by medieval scholars provoked a crisis. They recognized that reason was a powerful tool, but were fearful that using it would undermine faith, which was the basis for authority in all three communities.

"What to do — or, more precisely, how to think?

"Three intellectual giants rose to the challenge. Two of them — the philosopher and jurist Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes, and the great rabbi and physician Moses Maimonides — actually were contemporaries, both born in the Spanish city of Cordova. Tradition has it they even met and befriended each other while on the run from the Almohads, Islamic fundamentalists from the Maghreb, who had captured Andalusia and destroyed its storied culture of tolerance. The third was Thomas Aquinas — of whom his admiring coreligionists one day would say, "He led reason captive into the house of faith." Recall that this was an age in which the literate West, not unlike today's Islamists, still regarded theology as "the queen of the sciences."

"Averroes' exposition of Aristotle was so widely admired and influential that when Aquinas took it up a century or so later at the University of Paris he referred to Aristotle simply as "the philosopher" and to Averroes as "the commentator." But while Maimonides and, later, Aquinas — who also read and admired the philosopher rabbi — held that there exists a single truth and that faith, properly understood, never can conflict with reason, Averroes took the other fork. He held that there were two truths — that of revelation and that of the natural world. There was no need to reconcile them because they were separate and distinct.

"It was a form of intellectual suicide and cut off much of the Islamic world from the centuries of scientific and political progress that followed."

Recovery from NAMM...

My head felt like one big bloated sinus. Was on the tail end stretch of a bad cold last week. Finally got past the runny nose, sore throat and sneezing stages. Then I was in the "someone please stick a pin in my head and burst this balloon in my head" stage.

NAMM was interesting. And hectic, as usual. Not as busy as it normally is, though. They've been cracking down for the last couple years on not letting people in without proper badges and matching IDs. Plus, the Sundance Film Festival was on the same weekend this year, and there's usually a cross-over of music people from the film industry who had to flip a coin as to which event to attend.

This was the first NAMM show in recent memory that was Sinbad-free. (Inside joke... Sinbad, the comedian, is ALWAYS showing his mug at NAMM every year with his entourage in tow). I did see Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (guitar player extraordinaire from Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan fame) at the Gibson and Fender display rooms. Quite a few notables were out and about, though I didn't get much time to seek them out: George Duke, Dick Dale, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, T.M. Stevens, Bootsy Collins, Ronnie Wood, Terry Bozzio, Nikki Stix, Kelly Clarkson (why???), BT, and many others.

In Exhibit Hall "E" (the downstairs section where you find all the strange, new instruments and technologies, up-start companies, and small international entities) I blinked my eyes a few times when I came across one company displaying their florescent orange flying-V ukelele (...yes... you read that correctly).

The last 3 months in 3 minutes flat...

So… it’s been awhile since I last made any major posts in here. Let’s see if we can sum things up a bit:

* Well, the Chatsworth/Simi Valley brushfires in late September thru early October burned thru 24,000 acres. Luckily, no one was killed, and only a few homes were damaged or destroyed. The smoke and ash were extremely thick where I work, and we were closed for two days, but all was well, otherwise.

* In mid-October we had an actual thunderstorm along the southern California coast. What’s the big deal about that? Well, oddly enough, although I’m used to thunder and lightning having grown up in Philly, it’s actually a rare event over here. Sure, we get rain… but thunder (for whatever reason) doesn’t make its voice heard much in this region. It brought back fond memories.

* My nephew, Vinny (the bass player from the now defunct band, The Writ), ended up working for us in the warehouse for a few weeks at my place of business. Things got really hectic at the office, and he needed cash. It worked out well. I’m sure we’ll call on him again when things get crazy again.

* One of the guys from my bible study group died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Shocked everybody. Granted he was in his 60s, but he was fit and healthy. What made it even more shocking was the fact that his daughter’s husband had just died 40 days earlier after battling brain cancer. His son-in-law was in his 20s, and left behind his wife and a 1-year-old son. Everyone was devastated at the double tragedy for that family.

* My Dad (who just turned 80, by the way) and my oldest brother Ray (who just turned 50, by the way) came out to visit me. It was the second time my Dad has flown out in the last few years, and it was the fourth trip for my brother. It was a great 4-day visit, and I was happy to see their faces again. We went to the President Reagan Library & Museum while they were here, and had the chance to see the new Air Force One exhibit (damn, that Boeing 707 wingspan is huge!). I'll probably be visiting family and friends back east later this year.

* By mid-November, the Santa Ana winds kicked up (they usually do this time of year), and started another brushfire – this time a lot closer to where I live! My place wasn’t in harm’s way, but one of my colleagues from work lives just a few blocks from the edge of that blaze. He and his wife were a bit frantic that first morning, but thankfully the firefighters did another excellent job in containing the fires. Once again, no one was harmed and no property was damaged.

* I went to the Farscape convention for only one of the three days in Burbank @ the Hilton, and had the chance (although briefly) to meet up with some good friends from on-line. Saw actress Gigi Edgely up close (damn, she’s so cute!... even though I tend to like brown-eyed brunettes).

* My neighbor and good friend of 11 years moved up north. I’ll miss her.

* My nephew and I went to an L.A. Kings hockey game at the Staples Center (first time there). They certainly don’t give you much room to sit, let alone move, in the upper level. The game was good (Kings 4 – Coyotes 1), but way too many ticky-tack penalties were called (18 total) throughout the game. It’s a trend this entire season throughout the league, and it’s starting to make the game boring if the refs don’t let up.

* I spent waaaaaaay too much money for Christmas gifts this year, but hey… it’s Christmas, right? Besides… I got a pay raise and a nice Christmas bonus.

* Over the course of the last several months I saw a handful of films (either in the theaters or on DVD). “Sin City” is visually stunning in somewhat the same way that “Sky Captain” was. Both were done as a mix of live action and computer generation - the former in graphic novel black and white, the latter in Buck Rogers-esque sepia-tone. “Sin City” is quite violent and the dialogue is at times very lame, while “Sky Captain” was dry and boring. The extras on the DVDs definitely add to the experience, and I’d give both films 5 wine bottles out of 5 for stunningly unique eye candy, but only 2 bottles out of 5 for storyline and dialogue.

* “Wicker Park” was a bit predictable, and “Garden State” was okay in parts, but neither rose above 3 wine bottle level.

* The latest “Cube” flick is out on DVD, called “Cube Zero” and it’s a prequel to the successful independent sci-fi franchise. For those who are unfamiliar, I’d highly suggest renting all three films: “Cube”, “Cube 2: Hypercube” and “Cube Zero” (in that order). Granted, some of the various death scenes are violent in their ingeniousness, and the dialogue gets a bit stilted at parts. But it’s a unique concept that's perfect for those who like “Pi” and “Momento”. For the whole Cube series, definitely 4 wine bottles out of 5.

* I also checked out “The Chronicles of Narnia” during the holidays, and it is wonderful! The young actress who plays the lead role is fabulous. For those of you who liked the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, this is right up your alley. It’s less epic and more fairytale, but then that’s the direction that C.S. Lewis took with his novels back in the ‘50s. He and Tolkien were good friends and encouraged each other to continue with their fantastic literary universes. It's another film worthy of 4 wine bottles out of 5, with more films in the series to come.

* I’ve seen three other movies worth mentioning: “Broken Flowers”, “The Jacket” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” I want to re-watch “Broken Flowers” again (now that it’s out of DVD) before commenting on it. I’ll also give a brief write-up of the other two films later.

* I’ve been extremely busy with work since mid-October. Exhaustingly so! We’ve been short-staffed as well, which doesn’t help.

* And, I haven’t touched my new guitar in, like, two months!!! It sits there on it’s guitar stand right by my TV and it mocks me every time I sit down on the couch. I feel guilty for neglecting her. I haven’t even named her yet. But things at work continue to be crazy

*... especially with the annual NAMM Trade Show at the Anaheim Convention Center (Jan. 19-22). Imagine anything and everything ever manufactured for making and performing music in one place at one time. It’s like the largest music mall in the whole world, and it fills up practically the entire convention center: Guitars, keyboards, pianos, drums, cymbals, violins, saxophones, trumpets, microphones, mixing boards, lighting, rigging, recording equipment, amps, monitors, speakers, sound systems, sheet music, strings, straps, stands, sticks, cables, cords, computers, sound cards, software, hardware, samplers, sample libraries, virtual instruments, promotional items, clothing… it’s endless. With various famous, non-famous, and infamous musicians signing autographs and performing songs. And businesses making contacts, signing contracts, making deals, introducing new products, pressing the flesh with dealers and retailers. It’s insane. And I was there during the weekend smack-dab in the middle of a 12-day straight work stretch.

Well… that’s more than 3 minutes of reading, but that’s my life these last 3 months (give or take). All that’s missing is a beautiful woman (and a slightly higher pay check to pay off my Christmas debt). (Hah!)

‘Til next time...