Check out my other blog

Hello to those who follow me here despite my infrequent posts. I want to invite you to check out and follow my other blog, Off The Record: A Vinyl Podcast. If you like music and conversing about said music, this may be of interest to you. You can follow the podcast at…



A Double Edged Sword

Let me preface all of this by saying I love the fact that I’m Polish. I’m proud of it. I enjoy acknowledging the many achievements of famous Polish people such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Marie Curie (born Maria Salome Skłodowska), and Frédéric Chopin (born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin) much to the chagrin of those who actually believe the numerous insults hurled at Polish intellect. However, I would also argue that it is this same pride in one’s nationality that causes just as many, if not more at times, problems and strife in the world.

While everyone has a right and should carry a measure of pride in their heritage, we all know those that take it too far. We all know that person who consistently regards themselves as better than other purely based on their nationality for no other reason than they are that nationality. Rarely do they base this belief on any accepted fact because frankly there is no accepted fact that makes one nationality or culture inherently or generally better than another. Yet people and even whole families do this. There is a huge difference between carrying yourself with pride and being too prideful. Many people take themselves and their heritage too seriously and it creates problems. Eventually a person, a family, a group starts to believe their own hype to a degree that they encroach upon someone else’s life / lives.

The examples of this are numerous with the two that come to mind quickly, the Alsace-Lorraine border and the Polish-German border. Borders change due to many social, economic, and political reasons which can at times also lead to war. However, at the root of all that is the simple notion that one group thinks they are better and/or more deserving than the other for no justifiable reason. The social, economic, political, and military clashes between groups (with rare exception such as Hitler’s megalomania) are really just giant pissing contests on a grand and sometimes destructive scale. In the end, nothing is really accomplished. To take the Alsace-Lorraine and Polish-German borders as examples again, both of those areas have undergone centuries of political and/or military fighting with numerous border changes back an forth. Each country gaining and and losing land over the years. And what is the end result? Today both of those regions are inhabited by people who are basically half French, half German or half Polish and half German living side by side in relative, comparative peace. I’m sure there are still some that hold grudges but we no longer have the border wars of years past in those regions. The people living there on each side of the border are more alike than they are different. And it only took centuries of fighting to achieve that. Imagine all the lives and money that could have been saved if they just skipped the middle man. All that fighting and conflict did was arrive at an arbitrary, invisible, border that attempts to separate people but ultimately fails to do so. French marries German, German marries Polish, the cultures meld. The wars between, ultimately useless acts of bravado, testosterone, and pride that serve no purpose.

As I said in the previous paragraph, those people that live in these areas ultimately wind up being more similar than different. Why? Because nationalities are really false man made concepts. Some of you may be put off by that statement and it’s true none the less. While nationalities may indeed have different customs, languages, etc, those customs are usually borrowed from a neighboring culture or nationality and evolve into something slightly or drastically different. Languages evolved by taking vocabulary and syntax from others. Unless you come from a culture that existed in total isolation from others, your customs, language, art, pretty much everything is not unique. Biologically we are all the same. There is no difference between you and the person who lives across the street, the person who lives in a bordering country, or the person who lives half way around the world from you. You are exactly the same species.

To put it another way, nationalities are just as fake and made up as dog breeds with the exception that 1) we are not inbred (well, with the exception of some Royal families and pockets within certain nations) and 2) dogs don’t seem to dislike or feel superior to other dogs soley because they are a different breed. You may not like that analogy and too bad, it fits. Breeds are fake. There is nothing “pure” about them unless you consider inbreeding a form of pureness. And just as a Gold Retriever can successfully mate with a Poodle, someone from North America can reproduce with someone from the Middle East, A Jewish person can have children with someone from Japan, a Scandinavian can have children with someone from Africa.

There is also a high degree of hypocrisy in people who are overly prideful of their nationality. There is an immunity many feel of their nationality. It is most evident in of all things, jokes. My aim is not to debate whether ethnic jokes are acceptable. That is an topic in and of itself that would fill pages. The point I’m making is something I’ve seen time and time again. A person of certain nationality, say Italian, will sit and tell all sorts of ethnic jokes but the moment someone tries to tell them an Italian joke, it’s off limits. Somehow, they feel they can make fun of any culture or nationality but no one can make fun of their own. And I’m not picking on Italians. I’ve seen Polish, Irish, etc all do the same. They carry a level of superiority that is both hypocritical and undeserved. But they never see it and they get angry when challenged about it. For the record, I enjoy a good Polish joke. The key word being “good”.

At the end of the day we are all the same. We are all Homo sapiens sapiens. Unfortunately, most people become blind to that. Most see the external, superficial differences that have evolved over the centuries and use that as a means to act superior to one another.

So while I champion your right to be proud of your heritage and the positive accomplishments of your culture, I also ask everyone to stop being assholes and taking yourselves too seriously. Stop being overly prideful and extolling your superiority just because you belong to a certain country or have a certain heritage. It’s ugly, it’s counter productive, and you only contribute to the ills of the world.

A Brief History Of Deception (Political Debates Are A Joke)

They should also be insulting to anyone with half a brain. Seriously, if anyone watches the debates and thinks they have any value, outside of highlighting how bad the candidates are (which we already know), should have their head examined. The debates were not always this bad. It was not that long ago that the debates had at lease some substance. I’m not saying they were pure and that the candidates were altruistic. At the same time they were far better than what we have today.

Many agree that the last great political debates were the 1984 Reagan / Mondale presidential debates. First, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of Ronald Reagan, nor do I care for Walter Mondale. One does not need to like a person to  give credit where credit is due. It is no exception with these two candidates. As you can see in the following clip, their debate starkly contrasts what we see today. Again, I’m not saying they are being truthful and quite frankly I’m sure they lied just as much as any politician today. Regardless, these debates differ greatly. Reagan and Mondale are congenial, they actually answer the question posed to them rather than talk around it or attack their opponent, they disagree with each other without resorting to insults, and most important, they sound INTELLIGENT. Yes, the sets look like a public access cable show, the broadcasts lack the animated graphics that distract today’s viewers like a shiny fishing lure tying to hook the public, and there is no Wolf Blitzer with some useless holographic bar chart trying to extrapolate some useless statistic. And to me, someone who actually cares about the issues rather than be distracted from them, that’s a plus.

So when did it start to go south? Well, not long after the 1984 debate so it seems. The League of Women Voters(LWV) sponsored the debates from 1976 to 1984 and on October 2, 1988, that organization unanimously voted to remove themselves from sponsoring the debates. I’m not going to make the assertion that the League of Women Voters made the debates great. They are a political organization and like any other, they have their own biases and agenda that I’m sure impacted the debates in some way. Whether that impact was good or bad, I don’t know. However, there is something very telling about why they stopped sponsoring the debates. Their press release announcing their resignation also condemned the demands made by the candidates campaign parties. Then LWV President Nancy Neuman was quoted as saying the debate format would “perpetrate a fraud on the American voter” and the organization did not want to “become an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” Obviously they realized something many did not and obviously no one wanted to listen to them.

Since 1988 debates were run by the Commission on Political Debates(CPD) and have seen nothing but a steady decline in their caliber over that time. The committee’s inception actually started in 1986 when the Democratic and Republican National Committee’s ratified and agreement for both parties to take over the debates. In 1987 the chairs of the RNC an DNC incorporated the CPD, and officially took over the debates in 1988. How no one saw and/or challenged this as a conflict of interest is beyond me. The CPD does nothing but create a conflict of interest where upon the candidates control everything about the debates to benefit them and keep the general public in the dark. This is a prime example of how Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same worthless coin and in bed with/for each other rather than for the people. That is an argument for another time.

Every four years the candidates meet to decide on a contract that dictates everything about the debates from who can participate, to what soft questions can be asked, to when the debates occur. These details are not known to the general public. However, we still see some telling things from the debates. Aside from the obviously soft questions we commonly see, the debates have become a strict two player game. The CPD pretty much guarantees a third party candidate will never participate in a presidential debate. We saw this in 1996 with Ross Perot despite the fact 75% of eligible voters supported his inclusion. We saw this again in 2000. Not only was Ralph Nader not allowed to debate, he was refused from entering an auxiliary viewing room despite having a ticket to be there. In reality, the CPD actually threatened to arrest him even though he had a ticket. Also in 1996, one debate was cancelled and the CPD scheduled the remaining two debates the night of baseball playoff games resulting in them being the least viewed debates to date. So much for having informed voters.

The primary debates are even more of a travesty. Being run by each party’s respective National Committee, they are all designed to be generally soft on the candidates. I was actually surprised that some of the questions on Fox New’s recent debate targeted some of the candidates weaknesses. Overall though, the debate was still pretty soft. And despite this, candidates still manage to show sound unintelligent and unqualified to be this close to running for President. The debates have devolved to a point where we have this…

The current debate structure has no intelligent value. As I said before, it only serves to show how bad our choices are which is something we already know. They only serve to propagate a fictitious two party system, parties that are more in bed with each than they are for the American people. And listening to the mindless dreck and rhetoric they spew only makes one less intelligent with each word that leaves each candidates mouth.

However, If you want politicians who give vague answers, talk around questions, or not answer them at all; If you want candidates that sound like they didn’t graduate high school; if you want candidates that interrupt and insult each other acting like they are five years old; if you want a president that is a misogynist; if you like flash graphics and useless post debate breakdowns by Fox, CNN, etc, then I guess the debates are your cup of tea.

Troy Hurtubise: A Small Tribute

For those uninitiated to the likes of Troy Hurtubise, all I can say is… shame on you. You owe it to yourself to see his documentary “Project Grizzly”. Never has there been such an anomaly of a man. One cannot watch him and not both laugh and feel awkward. He is the juxtaposition of comedy and arrogance. When I watch him, I’m a perplexed. I can never tell if he is being genuine or if he is constantly in character, like a Disney employee without Disneyland. He is either a comic genius or the King of Tools. Either way, he is entertaining.

Top 5 Songs I Hate (#1 Rosanna- Toto)

And now the long awaited conclusion to the Top 5 list no one is following. The number one, without a doubt, song I hate the SCTV Dancersmost… Rosanna by Toto. I’m quite unsure what this song is supposed to be. I believe Toto intended it to be a rock song but it ended up sounding like an 80’s show tune that should have never been written. The distorted guitars are completely out of place. The singing, while actually well done, harken back to the Oakridge Boys with the low end harmony. The combination of the finger snaps, bright horns, pre-Seinfeldian bass slapping, and punchy piano playing immediately makes me think of show dancers dressed in white gloves and flashy vests with no shirts as would have been seen on SCTV. At least the song doesn’t have a cheesy synth solo. OH WAIT, it does! Of course it does. Nothing goes along with distorted guitars, piano, horns, and multi-harmony singing than a cheesy solo on a synthesizer. And to end the song, an outro that does not fit with the rest of the song what so ever. Well done Toto, well done.