Saturday, August 12, 2017

Be Better...

...than what we are now.

I watched a clip of Jeff Daniels in the opening scene of The Newsroom the other day. It made a deep impression upon me. In the clip a college sophomore asks a panel, of which Daniels' character is a part, to describe what they think makes America great. The other two members of the panel respond "Diversity and Opportunity," and "Freedom and freedom and let's keep it that way." 

Then Daniels' character goes off.

I won't try to quote the entire monologue here because it's quite long and Daniels' delivery is amazing. Pull up the clip on Youtube. It will be just over eight minutes long. I know. That's a long Youtube clip, but it's worth the time to watch the full scene. The scene is amazing. Enough so that I want to start watching the show that it came from.

Basically, the gist of the monologue is that America isn't great. We used to be great.

That idea really struck me. Part of what disturbed me about Trump's rather unsettling presidential campaign was his rallying cry of, "Make America great again!" My knee-jerk reaction to hearing that for the first time was, "What do you mean, 'again?' We ARE great." However, the more I think on it, the more I realize that America is not great, just as Daniels says in the Newsroom clip. What I found disturbing about Trump's campaign slogan was that I don't want any part of an America that he would consider great. But that's another subject entirely.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that America is resting on its laurels. As a country we're like the 40-year-old former jock whose highest point in life was throwing a game-winning touchdown in high school. And now all he does is relive his glory days.

The story of the United States is quite amazing. We went from being an English colony to being the country that was a world-leader. In less than 200 years. That's pretty incredible. The United States was where everyone wanted to live.

A book I once read had a thought about leadership that went more or less like this: "When you hold your light up for others to follow it reveals your own weaknesses and failings." This revelation gives the true leader a chance to improve. Seeing what's wrong is the first step to correcting the problem. 

The U.S., for all of our vaunted declarations of "Freedom" and "Justice for all" has had problems with slavery and inequality. Problems that are ongoing. It sometimes seems that a lot of us don't want to share our freedom and justice. 

As the Newsroom clip points out the U.S. isn't great. Especially in those areas that are easily quantified and compared with others. You know, literacy, math skills, infant mortality. While we are lacking in many, many areas, I feel and hope that America can be great again.

If we are to become great again, it will be in the same manner we did so before. Our people. We need people to become great by being honestly and truly good people. People who work hard. Care for others. Make decisions because they are the right thing to do, no because it gives them the greatest advantage. 

America can be great. To do so will require us to become great. We need to be better than we are. 

Time to start working on that.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why do I Identify with The Waitress?

This is an honest question. I haven't quite figured it out yet. 

Last summer I watched the Tonys. I was excited to see if Hamilton was going to run away with each award. Let's be honest. Hamilton is something of a cultural phenomenon and it deserved every award it received. I was hoping that Sara Bareilles would win an award for her work on The Waitress. I bought Sara's albums of songs from the production, performed by Sara herself. I had a strong reaction to the song "She Used to Be Mine." When I finally got around to listening to the original cast album I didn't like it. It wasn't Sara. I finally gave it another chance.

It's amazing. 

I think that in any year where Hamilton wasn't winning every award, The Waitress would have won at least a couple of awards. Jessie Mueller does an amazing job at portraying the title character. All the characters feel real and authentic. 

Here's the crux of my title question. Why do I identify with a musical about a woman in an abusive marriage and is pregnant with a baby she doesn't want?

She feels trapped in her life, like she isn't in control of what happens to her. It seems as though life will never get better. I know that feeling well. I don't feel it so much anymore, but I did for quite a while.

She doesn't feel like she's allowed to dream. She doesn't dare hope for a better life. That was my life for so long. I felt I had to be practical. That I couldn't pursue anything that I wanted to do. Decisions had to be based on what would be best for my life. Nothing frivolous. Sometimes I feel myself sliding back into that mindset and I have to fight to remember that I'm allowed to dream and pursue those dreams to the best of my ability. 

At one point in the play Jenna asks another character if he's happy. He replies that he's "Happy enough." Jenna finds that interesting, but she wants to be more than "happy enough." She wants to be happy. So much of my life is dictated by what I know I don't like. And I'm glad that I know what I don't like. However, I also feel that life can't be lived by the process of elimination. I need to find what I like. And go for it.

Hmmm, maybe it does make sense for me to identify with The Waitress. 

Good to know.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Ongoing Project...

I've  had to transfer my iTunes collection to new computers several times. It's an annoying process. If only because the transfer never brings along the ratings I've given to the songs. 

I use the ratings as follows:

Five Stars are my absolute favorite songs. These are the songs that I never skip when they come on. Also, I tend to have an emotional connection to them. Some examples include You Matter to Me by Sara Bareilles, Oasis by A Great Big World, and Vivre A En Crever from Mozart: L'Opera Rock.

Four Stars are the songs I really enjoy and rarely skip. Usually only when I'm really not in the mood for a particular song. These are the songs, along with the Five Star Songs, that are in regular rotation on my iPod. Some examples include Tennessee Line by Daughtry, Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks, and Turn to Stone by Ingrid Michaelson.

Three Stars are the songs that I like, but I don't want to listen to on a regular basis. This is the bulk of my collection. 

Two Stars are generally Holiday or Religious songs. I like them, but I want them to have their own rating. 

One Stars are waiting to be deleted from iTunes. That simple. I just don't really enjoy listening to them.

I'm currently working on listening to each song in my collection. This way I can make sure each song has the appropriate rating. Also part of the project will be to delete duplicate songs that have been included in multiple albums. 

If I find any albums that include fewer than half of the tracks on the album I change the songs' album to a generic one that includes all the "albumless" songs of a genre into one collection. I'm getting close to having listened to each song. I'll then work on the eradication of duplicates. Then I'll go through and give each song another listen. The difficult part is that I have somewhere around eight thousand songs. So it will take a while. Luckily I'm able to listen for two to three hours each day while at work. That helps.

It's a fun project. For me anyway. Any surprise I'm working on a degree in Library Science?