The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, June 8, 2019
History ... Politics ... Society ...

Not long ago, I was discussing the political situation in Europe with a small group of politically progressive people from my Zen group. We were lamenting the rise of nationalism in Britain and elsewhere, and we noted that the Euro Union project seemed doomed at this point. The dream of a “United States of Europe” had passed, and Europe is now separating into what it has been for most of the years since the end of the Roman Empire, an amalgamation of geographically small nations (with the exception of Russia, of course; but then again, the question of whether Russia should be considered part of Europe has always been confounding – in some ways it is, in a lot of ways it isn’t). One member of the group, one of the most progressive of the bunch, commented that perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing – perhaps smaller nations are better than a big empire-like state.

Smaller national boundaries arguably allow for preservation of localism and cultural uniqueness, and give citizens a greater sense of belonging and political empowerment. Supposedly more and more Europeans have been complaining about cumbersome mandates and inflexible policies issued by a distant bureaucratic elite in Brussels. And it might also be argued that smaller nations can’t do as much harm to the world economically and politically, since they would be roughly equal in terms of economic and military capacity.

Of course, throughout history this has not turned out to always be true; for many years, Germany has been a “powerhouse” in Europe despite not having any special geographic advantage, and has been able to reek havoc more than once in world history. And smaller but powerful states can form  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:04 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
History ... Religion ...

Last month was April, when the Christian celebration of Easter and the Jewish commemoration of Passover occur. On Good Friday, which was also the first evening of Passover, I was thinking about Jesus. If you know me or have read what I’ve said on this site about Jesus, you know that I subscribe to the view embraced by a number of important scholars that Jesus was an innovative, apocalyptic First Century Jew who gained a following based upon his belief that he had discovered God’s plan to redeem the tribes of Israel from the foreign domination and oppression that it had been living under for many centuries (during Jesus’ life, under the Roman Emperor Augustus).

According to Jesus, God was looking for a Jew who would inspire the commoners around him (and maybe even some of the Gentiles in the area) to live a highly ethical life involving the sharing of resources and equality; in return God would sweep away the Romans and even the corrupt upper-class Jews who were collaborating with them (including the Temple establishment, in which the Sauducees were prominent but even the Pharisees were represented). Once the oppressors were gone, God would appoint an earthly representative, a “Son of Man”, who would possess heavenly powers along with the authority to justly rule the good people who had earned their place. Jesus probably had an idea as to who could be appointed to the “Son of Man” role once the Kingdom had arrived — namely, himself.

I wondered that Friday evening, how did this fit in with the messianic expectations of the Jews, how did this relate to the Passover story of freedom from Egyptian oppression and slavery? OK, under Jesus’s plan, the Jews of Palestine would be set free from Roman oppression and taxation (and also from an overbearing and corrupt Temple establishment, the subject of Jesus’s demonstration outside the Temple against the coin traders). But Jesus’s theory was unlike the Exodus under Moses, as it did not involve the Jews rallying around a human leader as to start a secular nation, harking back to the kingships of Saul, David and Solomon. Under the messianic wishes of most Jews at the time, especially the rural traditionalist Jews, a day would come when they would once more rule themselves  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:03 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Nature ... Photo ...

I don’t see many big moths like this around my place, not too often. But when you do see them, you never know where they will be. They sometimes find a place to land and just stay there for a while, motionless. I suppose that a moth would want to find a place where a bird couldn’t easily find it. For whatever reason, this moth figured that it was safe on the door frame under the porch. It stayed there for an hour or so, then it was gone. I hope that it had a good month or however long it lasted. Glad that we crossed paths.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:02 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Outer Space ... Spirituality ...

I don’t keep up with movies, but when something really interesting comes along (interesting to me, anyway), I eventually read enough about it to inspire me to see it. So, when the movie Interstellar came out in 2014, I didn’t rush to the theaters, although I did read a few articles about it. On the surface, Interstellar is a sci-fi tale about a near-future earth where climate change has pushed our modern industrial-scientific civilization to the verge of collapse, where the whole human race could go extinct. Why? Because the planet can no longer produce enough food and maintain the kind of atmosphere that we need. The clock is ticking to figure out how to find a new home for humankind, somewhere out there amidst the stars — out there in the “interstellar void”.

But how would we even get off the earth anymore? In the movie, our technology infrastructure is slowly collapsing; however, there is still just enough left to secretly re-create what NASA and the Soviet space program were doing during the last few decades of the 20th century. Also, there is some research going on about harnessing and manipulating gravity as a whole new way of moving millions or even billions of people out of our solar system – i.e., of opening up the interstellar realm for the future of humankind!

OK, so far so good, it’s an adequate backdrop for an interesting story; but there is a problem, in that the space technology of the late 20th century can get you into orbit, maybe even out to the moon and beyond to the planets; but it clearly cannot cross the huge void between our planet and even the closest neighboring star system. And as to manipulating gravity as a force, we’re not even close yet to understanding how Einsteinian relativity, our best description of gravity and time-space, resolves itself with quantum physics. For that, a “deus ex machina” is needed, something extraordinary  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:15 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Personal Reflections ... Science ... Zen ...

I’ve been trying to grok the “Bell’s Spaceship Paradox” lately. Unless you REALLY know your special and general relativity, that one can really get your head spinning !! It’s a mental experiment meant to show that your intuition can be confounded by space-time relativity in more ways than you thought.

PART ONE — THE PARADOX

Bell’s Spaceship Paradox starts off with two spaceships that have equivalent weight and configuration. They will blast off and accelerate away from you, the observer, in your “frame at rest”. You have a ruler, which you use to measure the lengths of the ships and the distance between them just before they leave. Each ship has the same kind of rocket firing, and feels exactly the same force for the same length of time.

Oh, and the rockets are moving longitudinally away from you along the same line, one in front of the other. They are not side-by-side, they are moving in line. This is an important detail that isn’t always made clear in the layman’s explanations of this problem that you find on the web. Anyway, you have to imagine that the thrust from the lead rocket somehow does not affect the rocket behind it. Well, we can imagine some futuristic arrangement where that might be possible.

These rockets can go really, really fast, approaching the speed of light. And you know that weird things happen at that point. Basically, the two ships start out  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:46 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Music ...

My brother plays drums in a rock cover band, and sometimes he tells me about what his band goes thru when they try to learn a new song and get it ready for a show. To me, it seems a lot more complicated than I would have thought. To the casual observer, you have the song in your mind and you just pick up guitars and sticks and imitate it. Since I’ve gone to some of my brother’s shows, I guess that I qualify as a casual observer.

Like my brother, I’m still a rock fan, so I still listen on the radio to the local FM rock stations (what few of them are left). The most serious station that I can pick up is WDHA-FM. (I realize that the internet can bring you any station in the world, but to an old guy like me that seems to be cheating; and then there’s Sirius, but buying your FM radio just doesn’t seem right to me — hey, the commercials seem like part of the experience).

So I’ve been listening to WDHA for over 20 years now. Since WNEW-FM died in 1999, DHA has been the standard for defining what rock is and isn’t. However, in recent years, I’ve come to disagree with some of their trends. In a nutshell, the style of music that they play has been inching towards rap and hip-hop, a white version thereof. At first they slipped in some hybridized tunes with rap-scat elements, by bands such as Linkin Park and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. But after a while, the standards of “hard rock” started changing,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:59 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

OK, it’s still pretty early to talk about the 2020 Presidential candidate selection process and the general election. However, it’s no longer “too early”. Most of the Democratic candidates have declared their intent, and all that remains is for Joe Biden to make it official. On the Republican side — of course, Trump owns the show, the Muller report obviously isn’t going to stop him. It will be interesting to see if anyone dares to challenge him, maybe John Kasich will take up the quixotic mantle, dream the impossible dream? It would at least make the GOP primary process somewhat interesting. And then there’s already Bill Weld, so at least someone is going to go down fighting the Trump Goliath. And the 3rd party field is off to a good start with Howard Schultz (early polls indicate that Schultz might bleed more votes from the Democratic challenger than from Trump).

On the Democratic side, there is a plethora of potential candidates at this point; I believe that the latest count is up to 16, and Joe will make 17, However, it all really sums up to a digital choice: Bernie (or younger reasonable facsimile) or Joe (or younger reasonable facsimile).

The argument for Joe and the pragmatists — Here are some thoughts from a recent Wall St Journal article from Ted Van Dyk, a Democratic party activist since the 1980s. According to Van Dyk, many say that the Democrats need to offer “just the opposite” of Trump . . . not only in terms of policy, but in terms of governing style.

The first is continuing public disenchantment with political, media, financial and cultural establishments. It is this disenchantment that brought Mr. Trump to the White House in the first place and, additionally, almost brought Sen. Bernie Sanders, not even a Democrat, the Democratic presidential nomination.

In Mr. Trump’s case, voters knew he was boorish, narcissistic, a business and financial freewheeler, a womanizer, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:05 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Photo ...

It’s 5 o’clock and the workday is over, time to go home. Essex County Courthouse, Newark, New Jersey.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:24 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Web Site/Blog ...

I’ve been away for a while. Away from my blog, that is. I got a little behind on things in mid-January and kept putting off a new post, even though I’ve had a variety of ideas to share. By early February, the blog turned into the equivalent of a friend that you were supposed to keep up with but got behind on, and then you get even more behind because you felt bad about getting so far behind. It sort of feeds on itself. But finally, you crank up your resolve and decide to fix the situation.

This behavior is fairly typical of introverts, and I almost define the term! Here is a quote about it:

And when someone who an introvert has categorized as a “true friend” seems to be in danger of falling into “acquaintance” territory, the introvert can begin to have gnawing feelings of guilt, even shame, at the idea of “abandoning” the friend . . . guilt is accompanied by anxiety, the fear that the person in question has taken the extended silence of the introvert as evidence of how lightly their friendship was regarded . . . in an effort to avoid the awkwardness that a long-delayed communication can create, the introvert may choose to let the friendship die the long, slow death of silence, instead.

Yea, that is kind-of what has happened to me and my old friend, this blog. But maybe  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:45 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Music ...

Not too long ago I posted some thoughts about the “Civil War song”, the theme song from Ken Burns’ monumental 1990 documentary on the Civil War. The name of that song is “Ashokan Farewell”, a violin “fiddle” tune which sounds as though it belonged to rural America in the 1800s. It turns out however, that “Farewell” was written in 1982 by folk musician Jay Ungar, intended as a theme for his music festivals in update New York.

Well, I just came across another war movie theme song that likewise fits the historical setting, even though it was put together only a few years ago. And like “Ashokan Farewell”, it has a rich, deeply evocative feel to it, a song that rubs emotional balm into your soul after glimpsing the raw and horrible realities of modern warfare, of watching people’s bodies and lives being wantonly destroyed.

I next need to tell you three things — 1.) the song in question 2.) the movie in question, and 3.) the war in question. OK — the song: I’m Dreaming of Home (Hymne des Fraternises); the movie — Joyeux Noel (2005); and the war — World War 1, 1914 in France. Joyeux Noel is  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:31 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
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