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Sunday, June 19, 2011

What Women Want - The Morning Coffee Ritual

by Tom King (c) 2011

If your wife is not a morning person and has a profound need for coffee before she can function, count yourself fortunate. A recent discussion among the men of the banjo hangout site I visit every day, revealed that at least half of the guys brought coffee to their wives every day. Many of them described in intricate detail, the method of preparation and additives their spouses preferred.  Many also brought a simple breakfast along with coffee.

These men consider themselves fortunate.  They have discovered one thing their wives want (coffee), they know when they want it (first thing in the morning) and they can easily anticipate their wife's desire for it.

Guys who find something like bringing coffee in the morning that pleases their sweetie pie, tend to stick to the job like glue. After all, it's probably one of the few things that he's figured out that makes his woman consistently happy with him.

The great mystery with women is "What do they want?" We men have a very difficult time figuring that out.
The great frustration women have with men is that women always have to tell them what to do, as men seem to have great difficulty figuring it out on their own.

Since, near as I can tell after 57 years of close study, what women really want is for men to know what they want without actually asking them stupid questions and even when they don't know what they want, they want us to know what they want and to give it to them in a timely manner.

Actually, I still don't think I understand what I just said, even though I think it's pretty close to right. All I know is that she's no good in the morning till she's had her coffee and since I'm a morning person and don't like coffee, I've learned to make coffee just the way she likes it. I figure it's one of the few things I can do to make her happy that I actually know how to do and know when to do it so that it anticipates her need for caffeine.

When you figure out a thing like that, a man claims the job for your own and don't let nobody else have it. That way you can always say, "But I bring you coffee every morning, dear." when she complains about whatever it was that you did wrong most recently. Apparently, I'm not the only guy that has figured that out.

My advice to women, if you'd like your man to know what you want, is to tell him what you like for breakfast. If you don't like coffee, tea works just as well. Just keep it simple and you can pretty much count on getting it every morning till the old geezer is too old to totter into the kitchen and he'll still try to find a way to get it to you.  At least with a steady breakfast order, you start your hubbie out with at least one success.

Heck, he'll probably brag about being the only one who knows how to make coffee the way you really like it.  


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Musical Heresy

Are The Purists Full of It?
by Tom King (c) 2011

I need to just start going to the Banjo and Flatpicker Hangouts everyday, sign up for the free banjo and then leave. I keep checking in on the forums and getting in the middle of arguments about musical orthodoxy. It seems that any discipline undertaken by human beings, whether politics, religion, science, art, sports, music or gardening, has the potential to divide into hidebound orthodoxies and cat fights among aficionados.

I'm not sure what that says about human beings - maybe that if we can't find something to fight about, we'll make up something. Every type of music there is has its snobs. Even old-time banjo music which is a rough-folksie music form if there ever was one has its purists.

To quote Rodney King (no relation), "Why can't we all just get along?".  Oh, well, I'll probably keep cruising the forums because I like the people there and there's a lot of fun to be had. And I can hardly resist puncturing the occasional purist, just to watch 'em pop!

Me, I find I like the original innovators of music rather more than the imitators. I think most people are more likely to prefer specific songs rather than specific artists. I find few artists that produce music I like 100% of the time. Two of my favorite songs are by Crash Test Dummies and Lyle Lovett, but I would not call myself a fan of either artist. I was listing favorite songs for a bio request for a profile piece that's being done on me. If was odd how few of my favorite songs were by artists that are represented by more than one CD or record in my collection.

That's one of the things I love about festivals - the opportunity to discover new songs I like. I ran across "She's In Love With the Boy" at the Kerrville Folk Festival - not by Trisha Yearwood, but by the author, Jon Ims. I liked his version better. It's more heart, less Nashville. I'm afraid if I'd pursued musicology instead of communications, I'd have been run out of the musicology business as a heretic.

I think, for instance, that Bob Dylan had some good songs in him, but wasn't the genius people gave him credit for being. Leonard Cohen's a heck of a poet, but way too full of himself to stand to listen to - which is why I'd rather hear someone else do his songs.  Earl Scruggs on the other hand is a decent, generous man and musician and it makes me smile to watch him play, especially when he's working with others. He makes them forget themselves and be better musicians. And then there's John Denver who tried so hard to be the second coming of Frank Sinatra toward the end of his career and always wound up still being a country boy and something of an innocent. His duet "Perhaps Love" with Placido Domingo was a brilliant contrast between the razor perfect, but overblown opera singer and the gentle country tenor. Willy Nelson did a duet once  with Joni Mitchell on "Cool Water" that blew me completely away. Of course, Willy always makes other singers sound better for some weird reason.

Great music is subjective - what appeals to you. I heard a two year old sing "Jesus Loves Me" once that was uttely beautiful - a combination of a perfect voice and a child's heart. I believe perfect music is, to a great extent, only what is perfect to you. What touches you, makes you laugh, cry or rejoice comes from the music, the lyrics, the time, the place, the performer and even your own experience and background. I've heard performances that "experts" told me were perfect examples of some musical discipline or other (classical, rock, big band, the blues, bluegrass and even folk). I found many of those so-called "perfect" performances to be tedious, dull or just plain irritating. At the same time, I've heard such genre twisting, heretical renditions of songs such as would send the purists screaming into the night and ran straight out to buy the record.  God bless every man, woman and child who sings or plays from the heart and doesn't give a blowfly's proboscis what the critics think.

If it weren't for such musical heretics, the world would be a poorer place indeed.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King - Tyler, TX

Saturday, June 04, 2011

So, Where Was God?

A story over on one of my favorite weblogs, "The Art of Manliness" told of a man named Don who died in the Joplin torndo while sheltering his wife's body with his own. People who knew Don described him as a brave, kind and selfless man from his high school days.

In response there were many who praised him for his selflessness and quoted scripture and simply said, "God bless him."  But, of course, there was the inevitable "Where was God?" post and the list of horrible things that happen in this world that God is supposed to prevent from happening if He really is God and the usual, "Have you actually seen God? No you haven't!"*

So, where was God during the Joplin tornado?  I believe He was right beside people like Don. Just because you may not understand why God does as He does, that doesn't mean God doesn't know what He's doing and isn't right there beside us when bad things are happening.

God simply doesn't view death like we do. We see death as the end of life. God, I suspect, sees death as merely a gateway to the life He had intended for us to have all along.

Christ told us that "Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for another." I think that reaching the point where we actually believe that is the whole point of living our lives in a world like this. This world in which evil is not forbidden or even very much interfered with by God, eventually brings each of us to the point where we can make the ultimate choice one way or another.

What is that choice? In this world every man (and woman) is given the ability to determine for ourselves what we will do next. We are told we are made in God's image and this is one way that we are like Him. Without the ability to choose, we would not be able to create. We would simply do everything by preprogrammed instinct or as a reaction to outside environmental factors. All the abuses mentioned by the gentleman who posted his reaction on Art of Manliness - everything from Auschwitz to priestly pedophilia, go along with people having free choice. If you can choose to do great good, you can also choose to do great evil. Can't have one without the other.

I think the purpose of this world, then, is to bring us to the point where we know enough to make an informed choice as to who we will serve - ourselves or others (and, the fact is, choosing to serve God IS choosing to serve others - there's that whole Golden Rule business that comes with it).

Don chose to put his wife's safety ahead of his own. Our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq choose to lay down their lives every day for the greater good. Firefighters, cops, teachers and billions of others choose to place the needs of others ahead of their own. These are the sort of folk who will be the inhabitants of heaven and the Earth made new. I don't think it would be safe to grant them eternal life without their having witnessed first-hand the consequences of choosing "vigilant selfishness" as a lifestyle. The horrors of this life make either heroes or villians out of us - same horrors but different kinds of people coming out the other side. Ironically, it seems that only when a man chooses to serve others, is he truly free himself. He is able, then to set sail and choose the direction of his own life's voyage without being blown about by circumstance. When he chooses himself above all, he becomes like a survivor on a life raft, blown about by every wind and wave that comes along.

The life of service is free. You choose based on principles you set for yourself and upon your own reasoning, despite the events that might otherwise shape your life. You shape your life, with God's help of course, but it is your ultimate choice to do justly and to love mercy. You are not forced to live that way. God never interferes with that choice. You can walk away at any time.

The life devoted to self on the other hand is, as B.F. Skinner described it, without free will at all, but simply the consequence of the random series of events that happen to you. Life shapes you. You spend life reacting, not acting whatever you might believe. You shake your fists in anger at every misfortune and trial and challenge because those trials and tribulations have no meaning or purpose. They are only miseries to be endured, not challenges to be overcome. The self-centered man is a boat without a tiller in a raging sea. Skinner believed free will was an illusion and for those who choose themselves above all, I believe that is entirely true.

Me, I'd rather choose for myself than have my choices dictated by random chance, accidental evolution or the often malicious actions of others. Ironically, it is in making the choice to serve God and my fellow man that true freedom is given back to me. My will, having passed through His hands, is given back to me scraped clean of the barnacles we tend to pick up in this old world.

It makes sense. I don't think you could make principled, free and loving people any other way than to let them see the consequences of doing it their own way. Perhaps there was no other way for God to create finite creatures like us and safely give us the ability to choose. Maybe this nasty old world is boot camp for those who would be immortal - kind of like BUDS training for Navy SEALs. BUDS training is miserable and painful, but without it, you'd never become a SEAL.

Just my observation - a different view of a wicked old world. Accept it, Reject it. Embrace it or ridicule.

It really is your choice after all.


* And yes I've seen plenty of evidence of God's existence with my own eyes. That was the deal I made with Him when I joined up - show me!
He did so - rather convincingly.