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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Congratulations President Obama

Transcript of President Obama's victory speech in Chicago. Source: Federal News Service

Editor's Note: NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.
(Cheers, applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Chanting.) Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. (Cheers, applause.)

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. 

(Cheers, applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

(Cheers, applause.) I want to thank every American who participated in this election. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you voted for the very first time — (cheers) — or waited in line for a very long time — (cheers) — by the way, we have to fix that. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone — (cheers, applause) — whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference. 

(Cheers, applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. (Cheers, applause.) We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. (Cheers, applause.) In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

(Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden. 

(Cheers, applause.)

And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation's first lady.

(Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia — (cheers, applause) — before our very eyes, you're growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now, one dog's probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics — (cheers, applause) — the best — the best ever — (cheers, applause) — some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

(Cheers, applause.) 

But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. (Cheers, applause.) And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way — (cheers, applause) — to every hill, to every valley. (Cheers, applause.) You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you've put in. 

(Cheers, applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or — or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.
You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. (Cheers, applause.)
You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who's working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. 

(Cheers, applause.)

That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won't change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter — (cheers, applause) — the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers — (cheers, applause) — a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation — (scattered cheers, applause) — with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. (Cheers, applause.)

We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this — this world has ever known — (cheers, applause) — but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.
We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag — (cheers, applause) — to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner — (cheers, applause) — to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That's the — (cheers, applause) — that's the future we hope for.
(Cheers, applause.) That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go — forward. (Cheers, applause.) That's where we need to go. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.
But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. (Cheers, applause.) A long campaign is now over. 

(Cheers, applause.) 

And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. 

(Cheers, applause.)

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. (Cheers, applause.) You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together — reducing our deficit, reforming out tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do. 

(Cheers, applause.)

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us; it's about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) That's the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared — (cheers, applause) — that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. 

(Cheers, applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I've seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. (Cheers, applause.) I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. 

(Cheers, applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. (Cheers, applause.) I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president. (Cheers, applause.)

And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got your back, Mr. President!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. (Cheers, applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you're willing to try.  (Cheers, applause.)

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And together, with your help and God's grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.) 

Thank you, America. (Cheers, applause.) God bless you. God bless these United States. (Cheers, applause.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aleph, by Paul Coehlo - My Review

I'm not at all clear on what to think about this book, but I know I don't like it.

It seems as though Aleph is a memoir and yet, it has a fantastic injection of what can be best described as, 'paranormal.'

I'm thinking... 'abnormal.'

Doubtless, Coelho is an accomplished writer, but I wonder how much of this book is flight of fancy, and how much is 'real.'  Perhaps my skepticism comes from the notions such as one put forth by Joan Rivers in a comedy routine she performed some years back.  She wickedly posited, "Why is it that aliens always appear to rednecks?... 'I saw it, I saw it! I was skinning raaaabbits!'..."   While I am paraphrasing her, I'm certain my rendition of Rivers' joke accurately conveys the spirit of her query. 

I also vaguely recall the comedian, Eddie Murphy once noted that, when people refer back to past lives, they invariably had some kind of royalty, celebrity or status attached.  I tend to agree; there were far more,'uninteresting' lives to be lived, and yet, as Murphy rightly pointed out, few - if any - reincarnation adherents ever recollect being,'the royal a**-wiper."  In short, the odds simply don't support their claims.

Maybe it wasn't Eddie Murphy at all who said it, and maybe what I have just written is just some fantastic confabulation I am resurrecting as a means of lending support to my skepticism about those who claim to having lived past lives.  Maybe it was something I heard in a past life or something like that.

Well, Coelho claims to have been a Dominican Monk during the Spanish Inquisition.  His, is a pretty interesting story and yet, the famous 'bullshit' meter that Hemingway once referred to is zinging away for me - in the red zone.  Oh hell, who am I kidding, it is pegged. 

I suppose my difficulty with, "Aleph" is trying to figure out whether this is fiction, or some altered reality.  Hey, I'm an 'inquiring mind'- I need to know, because I like fiction. Go figure.

I am not an ardent fan of crystals, or navel gazing.  Thus, I am a little bit miffed that some kind of bait-and-switch might be going on here by an author who is exploiting his fame to pull a fast one.  Moreover, if this is fantasy fiction, then it ought to be labelled as such - to keep skeptical nincompoops like me from wandering in and getting flummoxed by unwritten rules of the 'other' dimension. 

I guess all I am asking here is, how about a caveat - kind of like Dante's famous warning posted at the gates of hell - at the proverbial door?  What I mean, is if an aging writer is going to get into one of his psychologically damaged groupie's pants, this is one a hell of a story to put together in order to accomplish that end - especially when all he claims to have done is fondle her breast when they were both naked.  hmmm... He doesn't strike me as the, 'I never inhaled'- type.

If this story actually rings true, I have a few questions like; How do you prove this?  or, Where is there something that might corroborate such  fantastic claim?  or, Why do you, Paul Coelho, get to be a famous writer in this life, and a Dominican Monk from the past who had a chance to save someone's life, but forsook such an opportunity and were still rewarded the opportunity to 'come back' and become a famous writer who gets to cop a feel from the very same groupie whom you condemned to burn at the stake in your past life - this time around?  Talk about misogyny!

If you ask me - and nobody from either world has - it seems to me that the reincarnation gate-keeper kind of messed up; weren't you supposed to come back as a bug, or a slug or something like that?  What happened to good old-fashioned karma?

Now symbolically speaking; is anyone else kind of upset that this poor young  female re-incarnate was burned at the inquisition is also left to suffer being left hot, and unfulfilled for a second time in this life by an aloof, brooding man?  Is that what carries over from one dimension to another?  Well, Coelho the lover sure leaves them smoking.  Please pardon the pun. Sorry, I couldn't resist.  Perhaps more troubling is that, once a groupie, always a groupie... In other words, its not that some people never learn, they are doomed to repeat the same karmic mistakes ad infinitum.  That sucks.

You see how this goes?  This story has me all twitterpated because it violates my sense of justice.  It flies in the face of how the universe ought to be.  At this rate, George Dubya Bush is going to come back as Mitt Romney - or some such silliness like that.  Horrors.

The more I think about it, the more discouraged I become, because if Coelho's story carries even a shred of credibility, it means that those of us with the shitty seats in this life have nothing to look forward to in the next.  Major bummer here folks. Major... Here's hoping male pattern baldness isn't repetitive across dimensions of time and space.

On second thought, maybe this fantastic story serves as a potent reminder that ordinarily rational beings - famous people included - can still believe in a vengeful, wrath-stricken, angry sky god who can simultaneously be compassionate while encouraging his followers to strap on bombs and kill non-believers whom this omnipotent being, in his infinite wisdom, also created. 

The more I think about it, the more I think William of Ockham's call for simplification makes more sense than ever. 

The writing in this book deserves a, "B-" and the story deserves a, "D" - on balance this is a solid 0.5 star book, so I'm rounding up 

**This review, of course, comes with a caveat emptor of my own; I am most likely the guy who was, in his past life, the royal a**-wiper, and this review is little more than karmic sour grapes.  Well, at least I'm not a groupie.

Because of this book, I have created another category; "Navel-Gazer deja-Hooey."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The River Cottage Bread Handbook - My Review

The River Cottage Bread Handbook is aptly named. It offers a quick, entertaining delivery of useful information on the essentials of bread making which has become a favorite pastime of mine.

As a reference book, it's not as wordy or philosophical like Peter Reinhart's, Brother Juniper's Bread book, one of my all-time favorites - but its not meant to be. It is a resource to be perused over and over again. It is not as detailed as Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, and it doesn't need to be. That makes it even better because it is utilitarian; less is more. Even so, Daniel Stevens is anything but boring. His book is a witty and enjoyable read that can be taken up in a couple of sittings. But be forewarned; the information will take longer to settle in; it is a great guide for those who want to learn by doing. It is a hands-on learner's kind of book.

The 'How-to' build a back-yard read oven section is weak - mostly because this guy is a bread maker and not an oven builder. If you want a good reference book on bread ovens, try The Bread Builders.

This is a fine book to have in any bread maker's arsenal along with Peter Reinhart's bread books and Jim Lahey's My Bread plus a couple of others. Its a great little book well worth the fifteen bucks it is selling for online.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson - My Review

I saw Walter Isaacson on the Charlie Rose Show, and bought the book with reservations since I had previously read his biography of Einstein where I found the author's concern with minutiae annoying and his writing style lack-luster at times.  This didn't happen so much with Steve Jobs' Biography. 

I recall Isaacson stating rather early in the book that he might be accused of writing something apologetic and perhaps maybe even stand accused of being under the spell of one of the most influential people in contemporary history's 'reality distortion machine.' The biography seemed fair enough, but I think it may have come too early.  It is enjoyable and even has some enduring life lessons, but in the end, I think Walter Isaacson soft-peddled more than he needed to.

Consequently, I wonder how much of Jobs' biography is influenced by Walter Isaacson's world view and vice-versa. 

Personally, I think Isaacson didn't reveal anything more than what was already floating in the ether about Steve Jobs, the man.  Moreover, it seems the juiciest tidbits offered up by the author came in his varied interviews when he was touring the talk shows to hype the book.  While my knowledge of Steve Jobs was next to nothing before I read the book, my perspective of him post-Isaacson, is that of a rather emotionally labile, petulant, brilliant man who was given to extremes of self consumption, willfulness that not only attested to his creative genius, but contributed to at least three life-changing disasters - one with the gravest consequences of all for him because it quite likely killed him.

Because only three significant disasters were written of by Issacson, it becomes a matter of reading between the lines. I am left with the feeling that the author purposefully gives his readership bones so that they can sort of build the final character according to their personal likes.  To that end, this biography seems a bit skewed.  That is why I give this book 3 stars out of a possible 5; it is likeable enough but seems lacking in substance.  

I don't know how, or why other people read biographies, but my reasons focus on understanding people and how they influenced their respective worlds.  As a result, I tend to look for examples "what-to-do's" and "what-not-to-do's" as I read.  While I remain convinced that few if any biographies ever accomplish what they boldly set out to do; convey a complete, unbiased vetting of what makes up a person's life, it seems even harder to summarize a book - even less so, a life - in merely one sentence, but here goes; being bold and determined in your decisions is a double edged razor that has the potential to cut in your favor but it can also cost you your life.
In biographies, sometimes it's not what you say.  It's how you say it.  Additionally, sometimes it's about what you don't say or perhaps, that you elect not to say it.  Finishing up with this book leaves me with those niggling questions.  Unfortunately, I don't think I really know much more about Steve Jobs than I did in the past.  I do know however, more about the history of Apple, and that was worth paying for.

Perhaps that is what Isaacson should have framed his book as; a history of Apple's rise, fall and rise again - rather than a biography about Steve Jobs.  Apple was, after all, what defined Steve Jobs and is, in large part, what will reflect his legacy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Fred Factor - My Review

This is a very short book whose premise is simple; be considerate and be willing to offer a helping hand without expecting anything more than feeling good about the fact that you want to be helpful.

Rather than telling you what this book is, I can tell you what it is not: this book isn't an epic tale; it isn't Faulkner or Hemingway; it isn't the recipe for curing all the world's ills; it certainly isn't a prescription on how to become a hero.

It is simply a collection of stories about admirable behaviors by garden-variety, every-day ordinary people who do simple yet extraordinary things.

Arguably, some of Mark Sanborn's stories are schmaltzy at times, and perhaps that is why some critics are prone to be dismissive of his message. I think it is a matter of how we view the world. Consequently, offering help without expectation of a tangible pay-off and how a person feels about being of service is simply reflective on a person's mindset. Optimists see it different from pessimists, and altruists see it different from their opposites. Despite whatever myriad antipodal interpretations of the world that could possibly exist, our perspectives help to define us as people. To be certain, there is an inherent reward to be had by each. It has to do with whether we are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

For people inclined to do something for others without any external rewards; this is book you will enjoy. For those of you who are expecting recognition payment or some other kind of remuneration; pass this one by.

Sanborn's story-telling carries in it a folksy, home-spun tone and it accomplishes its goal by pointing out that whether we decide to do something for someone has to do with who we are and where our philosophy about what is in it for us.

I have seen reviews of Fred Factor that, when they run in the negative, they do so because they consider that being a Fred-type person is little more than a set-up to be used and exploited. I do not share that conclusion; there is nothing wrong with being helpful or kind. This book really seems to be speaking to the notion that when people are motivated by intrinsic factors, they tend to be happier. This book is a touchstone and serves as a reminder for me that it costs nothing to be kind. Because of that, I am glad I read it.

On this anniversary of President' Kennedy's assassination, I am reminded of his January 20, 1961 inaugural address to the nation when he spoke the famous phrase, "...ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country..." and it strikes me how being of service was once considered as something to be admired. Even more compelling is how it seems to have gone out of vogue. How apropos to have finished reading this book and its underlying message today.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just a Little - Leigh Nash

I know I've, been gone, for a long, long while
I've been singing songs, when all I want, is to see you smile
About the time, I get there, I forget, why I'm gone

I wonder, why, just a little, I'm always wanting something more
Life is a riddle, I wish I had the answer for
Love breaks your heart, to teach you to be strong
I die, just a little, so I can live a little bit more

Why your eyes?   You can't have rainbows, without rain
In the morning light, I'll be holding you, again
Don't forget, our music, won't disappear, because there's no end

I wonder, why, just a little, I'm always wanting something more
Life is a riddle, I wish I had the answer for
I break your heart, to teach you to be strong
I die, just a little, so I can live a little bit more

I will sing to you, when the road sings me to sleep
Maybe you stay with me, and I will give you songs, you can keep

I wonder, why, just a little, I'm always wanting something more
Life is a riddle, I wish I had the answer for
You break my heart, to teach me to be strong
I die, just a little, so I can live a little bit more

...why, just a little, I'm always wanting something more
Life is a riddle, I wish I had the answer for
Love breaks your heart, to teach you to be strong
I die, just a little, so I can live a little bit more

Happy Birthday Kristin     ;O)  
I love you more.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Somewhere Different Now - Girleyman

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” 

Steven Paul Jobs
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

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