TBT: Fighting Back Against Critical Race Theory

We observed Juneteenth, the new Independence Day for black Americans, here in the United States this week.  The “national” holiday is an extremely regional celebration that dates back to 1866 in Texas.

To state the obvious but controversial:  the only reason we have Juneteenth is because of a summer of racial violence two years ago.  Apparently, our entire political system and culture has to bend over backwards to accommodate a handful of disgruntled race-baiters.

But all of that traces back to Critical Race Theory (CRT), which I described last year as an odious blend of “identity politics, Foucaultean power dynamics, Cultural Marxism, and Nineties-style corporate diversity training.”

Race-baiting isn’t anything new in America, but now it’s taken on a quasi-systematic, pseudo-intellectual, cult-like quality that has major corporations and government entities at all levels cowed.

But appeasement clearly doesn’t work.  Indeed, I’d argue it undermines CRT’s alleged goal of racial reconciliation.

I said as much in 16 June 2021’s “Fighting Back Against Critical Race Theory“:

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TBT^2: Hungry Like the Wolf

Seeing as yesterday was my dog’s birthday, I figured I’d throw back to a piece that I seem to come back to each June, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Tech magazine Gizmodo ran a piece some years ago that poses the question (in its title) “What Happens to Wolves When They’re Raised Like Dogs?

My thinking on dogs has done nearly a 180-degree turn—maybe a 150-degree turn?—over the past few years.  I’ve always liked dogs (so I was already thirty degrees in their favor), but I disliked dog people.  I still would not classify myself in that way, though I do serenade my dog, so maybe I’m just in denial.

Regardless, what chapped me was the way people would use dogs as surrogate children, or would invest huge amounts of their personal identity in their dog.  Again, perhaps I’m in denial, or blind to reality, but as much as I love my dog, I’d like to think I’m not pouring misdirected paternalism into her.

But dogs do provide wonderful companionship, and can be a great deal of fun.  Murphy does something comical or amusing just about every day.  And her adenoidal snoring and “talking” crack me up.  I actually sleep better when Murphy is snoring her brains out—she’s like a living white-noise machine.

Pretty crazy these chunky furballs used to be wolves, eh?

Here’s 24 June 2021’s “TBT: Hungry Like the Wolf“:

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Midweek March Update

Yep, Portly readers:  it’s one of those blog posts:  a general update on the latest with yours portly because I’m out of both ideas and energy.  Sure, I should be writing about the war in the Ukraine or something important like that (instead of silly paintings and piano pieces), but, again—I’m more low-energy than JEB! at the moment.  Or, at the very least, my pantheric intensity has to be focused towards more pressing matters than this humble blog.

Early March is always a time when everything comes to a head at once.  Last week was the final week of third quarter, and was chock-a-block with various school events.  That saw me scrambling around all over campus during my precious planning periods performing various feats of technical wizardry (but all of the standard hedge-mage variety; the really powerful audio/visual spells won’t be cast for another month).  Incredibly, I managed to record all of Péchés d’âge moyen last week (give it a listen if you haven’t already—it’s less then seven minutes to listen to the entire album!).

Naturally, that meant a backlog of grading and comment-writing for report cards, which had to be completed over the weekend.  I’m grateful to Pontiac Dream 39/Always a Kid for Today for his movie review Monday, because that saved me some valuable time Sunday (it’s also an excellent review—you should go read it!).

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TBT: The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

It being a week of romance and lots of artistic endeavors, I decided to look back this Thursday to a post about the great French composer, Hector Berlioz.

Berlioz is the quintessential Romantic:  he wrote the subject of today’s post, the very fun Symphonie Fantastique, to deal with his lovesickness—and he ended up getting the girl because of it!

Another Berlioz heartbreak anecdote:  after his fiancée left him for another man (note, this woman is not the same as the subject of the Symphonie Fantastique), Berlioz plotted her and her new husband’s murder.  He traveled to Nice, where the couple was living, and took along weapons, disguises, and other murder paraphernalia.  When he disembarked from the train, he came to his senses, and abandoned his ill-conceived plot.  Instead, he spent a couple of weeks in Nice composing.

Talk about a whiplash!  I’m a sensitive poet-warrior at times, and I’ve experienced lovesickness, but never to the extent of Berlioz.  Still, I identify with his desire to compose music to get (or to cope with not getting) chicks.

With that, here is 29 January 2021’s “The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’“:

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Monday Morning Movie Review: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

In continuing with my movie reviews of requested films (see last week’s review of 1999’s Bicentennial Man, which I reviewed at the request of Audre Myers), I’m reviewing 2021’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain at the request of my Aunt Marilyn.  She recommended the film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric title character, enthusiastically.

I love Benedict Cumberbatch—one of my favorite current actors—and just about anything about eccentric creative types in Victorian England; needless to say, I loved this film, which details the quite tumultuous, tortured life and mind of Louis Wain, the man responsible for normalizing the keeping of cats as pets.

Viewing the film was a bit tricky at first.  As far as I can tell, it is only on the Amazon Prime Video service.  When I would pull up the movie on there, the only option I could see required an Amazon Prime membership, but my aunt assured me I’d be able to rent it (probably all I had to do was click on that subscription button and I’d be given the option to rent).

It occurred to me that I might still have access to Prime Video through my ex-girlfriend’s account on my Roku; sure enough, I was able to watch the movie—for free!—using those surreptitious means.

Logistical nonsense aside, I should probably review the film, rather than talk about how I had to access it.  All this blogging is going to my head.

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TBT^2: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

One of the many benefits of teaching music is (re)discovering beloved favorite works.  During last week’s round of distance learning, I had to pull out some of the classics.  If we’re going to sit on a Google Meet call, let’s listen to some music, not just talk about it.

I really love programmatic music—instrumental music that tells a story, often accompanied by program notes explaining (usually very briefly) what the listener is supposed to hear in the musical “story.”  Students often like to imagine their own stories when listening to instrumental music, which is great, but I find that programmatic works give students (and myself!) some guideposts to follow.

Fortunately, Ludwig von Beethoven provided some handy ones for us in his Sixth Symphony, quite possibly my favorite symphony, and certainly my favorite of Beethoven’s.  It’s the so-called “Pastoral” symphony, as it depicts a pleasant trip to the country (besides the roiling thunderstorm in the fourth movement).

It’s also unusual in two respects:  instead of the standard four movements of the classical symphony (a fast opening movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a fast fourth movement), Beethoven includes five; and the third, fourth, and fifth movements all flow seamlessly into one another, without the customary pause between each.

It is also long, especially by the standards of the classical symphony (the Romantics, however, would have easily matched Beethoven for runtime), clocking in at nearly forty-five minutes (the typical classical symphony averages around twenty-five-to-thirty minutes, but forty-five would have been the upper limit for the time).  But that length is in service to Beethoven’s vision, and he fully explores every theme in this symphony.

Here is a particularly excellent performance—the one I showed, in part, to my classes last week—by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Bernard Haitnik:

With that, here is 4 February 2021’s “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Memorable Monday: MLK Day 202[2]

In lieu of the usual movie review this week, I’m taking advantage of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to lighten my blogging load slightly.  I’ll have another Midweek Mad Scientist Movie Madness post for $3 and up subscribers on Wednesday, so if you want your weekly fix of filmic schlock, check back then.  An aunt of mine has requested a movie review, and as soon as I figure out how to watch the flick, I’ll be reviewing it one Monday (I’m looking out for you, Aunt Marilyn).

After a week of virtual learning and lots of time alone (well, with Murphy, at least), I’m eager to get out of the house, but I will likely spend today prepping for the abbreviated school week and getting the house in order.  I’m thankful for the day off, but I’d probably appreciate it more—as I did in January 2020—if I were utterly exhausted—as I was in January 2020.  I think slightly less appreciation is a worthwhile trade-off, though!

This post from 2020 delves into some of the complexity of the Reverend Dr. King’s legacy, and warns against excessive idolization of historical figures—even martyrs.  Much of the inspiration from the stories of Christian Saints, for example, derives from their human frailty.  Even the great Saint Augustine, when praying to God for control over his lustful nature, prayed, “Grant me chastity and self-control, but please not yet.”

From the evidence, it appears that King participated in some really debauched, even evil, sexual practices.  The FBI’s suspicions that he may have been are Marxist were probably justified to some extent, even if the FBI treated him shabbily and is a despicable tool of oppression.  If King were alive today, I’d wager he’d be knee-deep in the CRT foolishness that his famous “I Have a Dream” speech explicitly rejects.

Yet from this extremely imperfect vessel came ringing declarations of spiritual equality.  Regardless of our race, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  That is the part of King’s legacy we should celebrate, while remembering he was a deeply flawed individual.

In other words, let us put our faith and trust in Christ, not in men.

With that, here is January 2020’s “MLK Day 2020“:

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Flashback Friday^2: Christmas and its Symbols

Okay, okay—it’s not Christmas.  But, hey, close enough, right?

There will be an actual Christmas post tomorrow morning, though it’s going to be very short.  But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to turn “Flashback Friday” into “Flashback Friday^2,” angering mathematicians and calendar enthusiasts everywhere.

The original post in this “series,” “Christmas and its Symbols,” contains some excellent Christmas wisdom.  So often we hear Christmas denounced as a secretly “pagan” holiday because we hang wreaths, put up trees, and dangle mistletoe.  But as one meme I’ve seen recently put it (to paraphrase), “Yes, I love to display the trophies of my vanquished foes.”

Christianity sure did kick—and continues to kick—some butt.  We could probably do with some more warrior-monks running around with maces and clubs.

For this weekend and beyond, though, Jesus—as He always does—will do.

With that, here is “Flashback Friday: Christmas and its Symbols“:

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TBT^2: Christmas Eve

Well, it’s not exactly Christmas Eve—more like Christmas Eve Eve, which probably has some liturgical significance that my Southern-fried Protestantism doesn’t know or appreciate—but given the way Christmas is falling this year, as well as my own laziness, I thought it’d be worth looking back at this classic Christmas Eve post, with my timeless “Christmas and Its Symbols” post for Flashback Friday tomorrow.

That scheduling also lets me do my beloved “^2” addendum with the titles, adding another layer of Talmudic-esque commentary onto my past scribblings:  the ultimate in authorial self-indulgence.

Of course, the season isn’t about my half-baked musings about Christmas, Christmas Eve, or the rest.  It’s about the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I wrote last year, Christmas Eve seems to perfectly capture the spirit of mystery of that night, “a night full of magic, mysticism, and wonder.”  Christmas Day is a flurry of activity:  opening presents, yelling at parents to wake up, cleaning up piles of wrapping paper.  Christmas Eve, especially Christmas Eve night, has always seemed more mystical, more reflective—the true celebration of Christ’s Birth.

It was also the night my Aunt Cheryl—the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—used to throw her big, bodacious Christmas Eve bash, featuring her incredible lasagna.  So maybe that’s why it fills my heart with a warm, fuzzy feeling (these days, it’d be a welcome dose of heartburn—totally worth it for a thick section of her lasagna).

This year, I think I’ll be spending Christmas Eve with my niece and nephews, waking up at their house Christmas morning for the second year in a row.  That’s always a fun way to spend the season.  Here’s hoping there’s some Christmas Eve Chinese food thrown into the mix.  God Bless General Tso—he was a bloodthirsty dictator, but his chicken is delectable.

With that, here is “TBT: Christmas Eve“:

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