Flying

The latest tune in the Stallion Cornell songbook: Flying.

I wrote this song about three years ago, not long after my youngest son, Stalliondo, was born. I came up with the tune as a way to singsong his name in the first line, and I decided I liked the melody and wanted to write a song around it.

Gary Larson, the creator of The Far Side, once said something like he wanted to write a normal comic strip like everyone else, but if he tried, Charlie Brown’s head would explode, Nancy would have an extra arm, Garfield would become an incontinent vampire, or something truly bizarre would end up happening. That’s kind of what happens when I wrote songs, too – I try to write something accessible, and then I start crooning about mustard or some such.

That’s one of the reasons I really dig this tune.

I had the idea to write a really bizarre sort of parody song a la Dead or Color Your Dreams, but it actually came out far more heartfelt and interesting. I like the atmosphere of the piece – it’s otherworldly, even when it’s performed with a single guitar and a solo vocal. And it’s strange, but not ridiculous or silly. It’s even a little bit sad. I don’t know where it stands in terms of quality when ranked up against my other songs, but it’s certainly one of my own personal favorites.

The recording, once again, is in GarageBand. I’m getting the hang of it, although I’m not sure I have the time, patience, or talent to make more than a rough demo of anything. I think there’s probably too much echo in the recording to emphasize the otherworldliness, among other problems. That’s actually me playing a real acoustic guitar in the thing, but that’s hard to do and keep a solid rhythm with GarageBand’s incessant metronome. So, especially near the end, the rhythm gets out of whack.

Enjoy.

Spam

I come to this site often in the hope that one of the 7.3 zillion comments awaiting moderation is actually from a human being. Instead, I get at least 50 spam messages a day, and I don’t know how to make them stop.

Most of them are long, tedious lists of links to free viagra, online gambling, or porn sites, but several of them try to pretend to be positive comments.

“Excellent work! Nice design!” says one. Then it has a link to a site titled “Maxporn.” Do they think I’ll be so flattered by the praise that I won’t notice Maxwell’s porn link? Yes, I know “Maxporn” is probably short for “maximum porn,” but I’m pretending it’s a place where a single nerd named Max posts naughty pictures of himself.

A guy named “comprar Tamiflu” posts no such links – he just finds an ancient post on Global Warming and then posts, “I searched for arguer and I found your blog. I really like it. Keep going – well done!” Thanks for the encouragement, comprar Tamiflu! Many people find my blog by searching for arguer. I’m still not going to approve your comment.

The goal, I’m assuming, is to get one comment through the filter, which would make the spammer an approved commenter and allow them to actually show up on the page in the future, instead of clogging up my comment moderation folder. Not going to happen anytime soon, spammers.

Then there’s the really strange, cryptic spam. I’ve been getting a whole lot of messages with a variation on a theme – here’s the most recent, from some guy named “Lagoeteve:”

“upportive, they difficulties to be taught that filing lawsuits is not the placement to be during piracy. As contrasted with, it’s to jolly-boat something use than piracy. Like concord of use. It’s all in all a straws easier to ride mad as a march hare iTunes than to search the Internet with jeopardy of malware and then crappy eminence, but if people are expected to antidote as regards loads and lie hard against ages, it’s not bounteous to work. They one would sooner a squat together indubitably people become eloquent with software and Entanglement sites that pan it ridiculously tranquilly to corsair, and up the quality. If that happens, then there disposition be no stopping piracy. But they’re too sharp and horrified of losing. Risks purloin to be french bewitch‚e!”

I’ve gotten about thirty messages like this, each with subtle, incomprehensible variations. “Crappy eminence” is sometimes replaced by “crappy sublimity,” and instead of squatting, one message has them “chap prevailing,” along with other nonsensical replacements. No links.

Why? Honestly, why?

I know that there’s not one Spam Master out there churning out this hud, and that all of it is computer generated, but, honestly, what do they hope that crap sublimation will accomplish? Is it just fun to clutter up other people’s websites? What am I missing here?

At least with Languatron, you can applaud the human effort he puts into saying absolutely nothing.

Languatron, BTW, has gone underground again. Having recently left Frakheads.com in a huff, he now posts exclusively at his own board – languatron.freeforums.org – where he boasts of astonishing sales figures and literary awards for his print-on-demand pamphlets that cost somewhere near $20 for 98 pages of homemade, analog spam. He and I are are part of a dying breed – actual human beings writing actual words that don’t make a lick of sense. We signal to be taught that filing lawsuits is not the locating to invoke call to a delay piracy. A substitute alternatively, it’s to review something in the most prompt stretch than piracy. Like still of use. It’s overwhelmingly a whopping numbers easier to contemn iTunes than to search the Internet with peril of malware and then crappy sublimity, but if people are expected to camaraderie loads and something off on repayment as a replacement for ages, it’s not affluent to work.

Bad Lovin’

My latest musical opus was recorded entirely with GarageBand software. I quite like it – I’m a pedestrian musician at best, and the ability to loop in real guitar licks and drum beats is a whole lotta fun. I’m not entirely enamored with the final recording – the instrument levels at the bridge gets really wonky for some reason, and I don’t have the patience to fix it – but I really like my “guitar solo,” if you know what I mean.

As for the song itself, the main line has been kicking around for at least a decade, ever since my brother-in-law first asked me, “How did you get so wrong?” I’ve just never known what to do with it. I’ve long wanted to record a straight-ahead rock and roll tune, and this may be the closest I’ve ever come to doing such.

Don’t look for any thematic content therein – I’m not even sure what “bad lovin'” is. (Perhaps I need to see a diagram or something.)

For Mrs. Cornell’s sake, I should also note that it’s not autobiographical.

Enjoy.

Huck Finn, Mormons, and Racial Messiness

Postponing dicussion of Stallionic Axiom #3 – it’s coming, but I’m more interested in this ludicrous decision to publish a version of Huckleberry Finn without the N word.

However, I’m always reluctant to write anything about race, because, frankly, I’m not particularly enamored with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ record on the subject. I have spent a great deal of time defending the Church’s exclusion of black members from leadership prior to 1978, and my arguments have fallen flat with others and, frankly, with me.

The facts are very complicated and messy, and it’s taken me quite a long time to sort them out and reconcile a blemished ecclesiastical history with the bedrock principle that “God is no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10:34) or, in Book of Mormon language, God “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free… all are alike unto God.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

After the Church reversed its policy excluding black leaders a little over thirty years ago, several church leaders dusted off this scripture and made it the centerpiece of several very good sermons on the subject. I particularly like Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s sermon, which contained this startlingly candid admission of error.

“Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

– Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike Unto God,” August 18, 1978

Fine. So why do so many members of the Church feel it necessary to defend some of the more racist nonsense that these people were spouting prior to the 1978 revelation? Those who honestly and open-heartedly examine the life of Brigham Young will come to the conclusion that he was a mighty man called by God to lead the Church and do a great work.

But anyone who believes he was infallible is missing the boat.

Indeed, pretty much all of the racism that wormed its way into Church policy can be traced back to Brigham, who gave more credence to popular 19th century theories about the ancestry of the African people than he should have. It certainly doesn’t come from Joseph Smith, who received the fundamental revelations that form the spiritual foundation for the Church as it existed then and today. That scripture quoted above from 2 Nephi, for instance, has been around for over 180 years. Joseph Smith himself ordained several black men to the priesthood. When asked about “the situation of the negro,” as was the language of the time, here was Joseph Smith’s reply:

“They came into the world slaves mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine of many of those they brush and wait on.”

- History of the Church, Volume 5, page 216.

That’s not to say that Joseph Smith was Martin Luther King, but the view expressed in the preceding paragraph is remarkably enlightened for that time period. I doubt even Abraham Lincoln, who firmly believed that blacks were inferior to whites, would have been nearly as egalitarian.

The idea that the African people descended from Cain and were a cursed race did not originate with the LDS Church. It was a popular 19th Century justification for slavery, and while Brigham Young certainly believed it, there is no scriptural justification for using that idea to exclude black members from Church leadership. Indeed, the idea was not codified as church policy until long after Brigham Young’s death.

David O. McKay, president of the Church from 1950 to 1970, made this very clear when he stated,

“There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”

David O McKay, 1954

The idea of “scriptural precedent” disturbs me somewhat. Critics of the church seize on volatile statements in the Book of Mormon that talk about a curse being placed on the Lamanites which included a “skin of darkness,” but the irony is that the Lamanites are believed to be ancestors of Native Americans, not people of African descent. Indeed, Church leaders, both then and now, consider Native Americans to be part of the House of Israel and heirs to a magnificent destiny. No one has ever tried to use those inflammatory passages in the Book of Mormon to justify keeping the priesthood from Native Americans, even though these passages are far more explicit and defamatory than the cryptic verses used to link Africans to Cain.

President McKay repeatedly stated that the priesthood ban was a policy, not a doctrine, although it would take a revelation to reverse it. My question, as well as everybody else’s question, is if it’s just a policy, then why would it take a revelation to reverse it? And why didn’t the revelation come to President McKay, who reportedly prayed very ardently to receive such?

There’s no definitive answer. I believe, however, that since President McKay was, like many of his generation, a believer in segregation, he had difficulty imagining a colorblind world. It took someone willing to fully accept the idea that “all are alike unto God,” and all the ramifications of that to open the door for the revelation. I don’t think that someone arrived on the scene until Spencer Kimball became President of the Church in 1974.

This is a fine line for many people to walk, because many believe that a church guided by revelation wouldn’t be capable of making a mistake like this, given how much damage and pain this mistake has caused over the years. But the reality is that the Lord has always guided his people line upon line, precept upon precept, according to their capacity to receive. (Isaiah 28:10) There has never been a time when the Lord’s people have been infallible, or a time when they have been led by infallible leaders. Joseph Smith himself said, “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.”

Given that there was no revelation excluding black men from the priesthood, we ought not to feel the need to defend a policy that, viewed with the benefit of hindsight, clearly originated as the result of the fallibility of man, not God.

I didn’t say another word about Huck Finn, dag nab it. Maybe next time.

Stallionic Axiom #2: Electric Boogaloo

I’m trying to keep this blog moving here in the New Year, and I want to make that happen by presenting Stallionic Axiom #2. The problem is that Stallionic Axiom #2, along with all subsequent Stallionic Axioms, are boring as all git out. So allow me to try to liven up the proceedings.

Here is Stallionic Axiom #2, as originally intended:

Neither party has any interest in balancing the federal budget.

Here it is in sexed-up, 2011 language:

Both parties blow milkshake squirts out of their rear ends when it comes to handling your cash.

Most of what people say about the budget is crap, anyway. You hear all the TERRIFYING stories from Glenn Beck and the like, panicking about the size of the budget in astronomical numbers of dollars.

“OOOHHH! TRILLIONS! You stack a TRILLION dollars in a pile and you can circle the moon and back!”

And if my aunt had testicles, she might be my uncle. Big rip. See, the United States produces about 14 to 15 trillion bucks in gross domestic product every year. That’s 14 trips to the moon and back, with some left over to stick into some sexy asteroid’s belt. It’s impressive, but I don’t see anybody stacking oodles of pictures of George Washington up to the jet stream.

It’s a completely irrelevant, alarmist illustration.

A trillion dollars of debt is a lot of money, but if you make 14 trillion a year, it ain’t that big a deal. $50,000 isn’t that much money in the grand scheme of things, but if you have $50,000 in credit card debt and you only make 40 grand per annum, you’re deeply screwed.

Our debt is becoming a problem, though, because we’re about to have as much debt as we make every year. This won’t be the first time, however – after World War II, we had much, much smaller debt in terms of DOLLARS – not enough to circle the moon – but we owed about 150% of what our country made every year. Japan is in deep kimchi – to mix Asian metaphors – because their debt is approaching twice their GDP.

Of course, my personal debt, all of which is tied up in a 15-year mortgage, is just a little more than twice my annual income, and I consider myself fortunate. I can manage the debt quite easily, considering I collect a paycheck, which is, admittedly, a bit of a struggle at the moment.

So most of the alarmist crap you’re hearing about the debt is, as advertised, alarmist crap. But that doesn’t mean heaping on huge piles of debt is a good idea.

But here’s the thing, couched in Stallionic Axiom #2A:

You cannot mathematically balance the budget without handling entitlement spending.

What’s entitlement spending? It’s Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – money that, contractually, you’re entitled to under certain conditions. That money goes out the door regardless of what Congressman or Senator Whatzinhoojit decide to spend. It’s driven by demographics, not democracy.

And the demographics are downright ugly.

This past year, entitlement spending ate up virtually 100% of all the money the government collected in tax revenue. So everything either party is talking about cutting was borrowed money to begin with.

Here are the plans, in a nutshell.

Democrats: LA LA LA LA LA. I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Everything’s fine. Look! I’m an ostrich! There’s the sand! But don’t even THINK about touching Social Security and Medicare, or we’ll savage you like we savaged Newt in ’94 or Bush Jr. ten years after that. If you have to cut, cut defense, but don’t cut it much, because our Demo prez has just increased our commitment in Afghanistan.

Besides, just jack up taxes and that will fix it.

It’s crappy, right? None of that makes any sense, especially the jacking up of taxes, which slows the economic activity necessary to fund these programs. (Remember Stallionic Axiom #1, folks. Higher taxes doesn’t necessarily mean more money for Uncle Sam.)

So, yes, the Dem’s solution is just a big pile of grizzled carp kidneys. So let’s look at the Republican solution.

Republicans: LA LA LA LA LA. I CAN’T HEAR YOU. Everything’s fine. Look! I’m an ostrich! There’s the sand! I pretended to hear you a few times, but it cost us too much politically, so we’re shutting up now. And don’t touch defense, and slash taxes s’more.

Besides, we’re going to get all the savings we need by eliminating EARMARKS, which constitute less than one half of one percent of the budget. But even that money won’t be saved, because all eliminating earmarks does is give the authority of how to spend to Obama rather than to Congress. So we’ll just shut up and let him spend how he pleases.

See? The GOP is just as crappy, if not more so! How do you squeeze out massive savings by playing smoke and mirrors with less than one percent of your total expenditures?

Of course, there’s also the Tea Party Solution.

Tea Partiers: Where does it say the words “Social Security” in Article One, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution? Nowhere, that’s where! So end it tomorrow! Throw Grandma to the wolves!

Soylent Green is people!

Thankfully, this kind of stupidity only carried the day here in my home state of Utah with the election of Mike Lee. But even he’s backing off as he realizes just how asinine that is.

So what’s the answer?

Well, with Social Security, the solution is relatively simple. Due to a structural flaw in how benefits are calculated, your children and grandchildren are slated to have more purchasing power with their benefits than current retirees have. If we simply adjust benefits for inflation alone, Social Security becomes sustainable indefinitely, with only minor tweaking around the edges.

Why haven’t we done this? Well, because Democrats have found it’s more useful to pound Republicans than solve the problem, and Republicans are more interested in private accounts than long-term solvency.

Don’t get me wrong – private accounts aren’t necessarily a bad idea, but they don’t solve the problem, and focusing on them is like wetting yourself in a rainstorm – it may make you feel nice and warm, but nobody else notices.

Solving the Medicare problem, which is actually much more pressing given that Medicare will be insolvent in less than a decade, is a lot tricker, and it requires adherence to the as-yet-unrevealed Stallionic Axiom #3, which will probably be scatologically enhanced for your enjoyment.