The Writer’s Block of Life.

They say you should always practice what you are good at. I’m good at writing, or at least I tell myself I am.  When it comes to the concept of practice and applying said practice to writing, I just don’t do it. Instead I content myself to do fabulous life fulfilling routines like working at Menards and Trinity.  You know you are going places when you are working part-time.

Let’s talk brass tax – pure honesty; I’m lazy.  I’m not lazy… when it comes to working, though I’m close to it.  Rather, I’m lazy when it comes to being a productive in any department.  That rare productivity that manifests itself in me consists of playing Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’m actually kind of bad at that too and it’s because I’m too lazy to really learn the game, even though I’m investing alot of hours into it.   I do this instead of being responsible and going to sleeping and getting up early in the morning to catch the worm.  No, I catch that really late night insect with my owl eyes.  Responsibility? What’s that? Yep, age definitely doesn’t make one mature. (That’s me.)

So I’ve essentially turned into one of those “Do as I say, not what I do” sort of people. Especially when it comes to practicing something I tell myself I really like – writing.  Then there is of course some other tidbits that also applies to:

  • My tendency to not communicate well. That happens when you are lazy. It isn’t deliberate, but it is most certainly due to my lack of effort.
  • I’m a perfectionist. I didn’t even know I was. Apparently, I’m the kind that is too lazy to complete things if I ever start them because they must be perfect. Convenient excuse that is.
  • I’m content to do the same things, barely get them done, but not get any better at them a.k.a practice.
  • I keep telling myself I need to write every day. I keep finding other things to do instead of writing every day. I can’t hone my craft if I’m not willing to invest the time in it. Again I’m lazy. How many excuses can one man, I mean boy, have? Way too many and its even worse when I’m only really accountable to myself.  That just made me realize how low my standards are for myself. I can feel the self-esteem flowing through me.

Maybe, I really do have a lack of discipline. There are so many things, well at least a few, I could do if I bothered to invest the time and effort into them. Somehow I lack that motivation. It is as if I have writer’s block, but its my overall life.

So how do you overcome this kind of “writer’s block”? Beats me apparently, because I still can’t motivate myself enough even though I tell myself at work everyday, “Do something productive when you get home.”  I get home and I do nothing productive.

By the way, what I am doing right now instead of sleeping? Playing Star Wars and feeding my bad habits. Seriously, I lack discipline though Menards doesn’t lack my 9 AM arrival on its schedule.

The Left and Right: Principled Ideological Differences?

Sometimes, you have mini epiphanies come to you out of nowhere. It’s happened to me at work, but I never have time to write it down there. This time however, I was shaving when my “epiphany” occurred. Can I really call it that? Perhaps.

Today when we think of the “right” and the “left”, most of us think of two differing ideologies that are clashing with each other on both a cultural and political scale. I suppose that’s true.  You can also be a libertarian like me and look at both sides Ideology as inherently statist, but that just isn’t relevant to this point/idea that cropped up in my rather unfocused mind. (I really am rather jealous of those who can focus their thoughts into concise points and articulate them like talking heads who know exactly what they are talking about.)

Notice alot of the issues that have popped up since the early 2000s, both culturally and politically. When you mention the word “big government” concerning an issue to someone who is supposedly a progressive or on the left on whatever the issue might be, what happens?

  • You are assumed to be a conservative.  (But I’m a libertarian!)
  • They advocate in favor of whatever action big government is participating in concerning the subject.
  • Their position on the action big government is taking becomes more valid in their mind.

Most liberals I know define their support or opposition of big government based on the concept that conservatives define it by.  So notice the trend. Depending on whatever position conservatives advocate, liberals will advocate the opposite even if that is not necessarily their position on the subject. This applies vice versa as well.   It’s almost as if a kind of “partyspeak” exists.  People tow a certain party line.

When it came to the subject of the Patriot act, note the opposition that was there when it was enacted and notice it now.  Apply that same line of thought to the issue of drone strikes. Apply it to the whole Monsanto debate.  Apply it to the War on Drugs. Apply it to recent censorship and internet piracy debates.  Keep applying it to much of the political dialogue over the last decade. Notice anything?

Liberals and Conservatives aren’t necessarily opposed to big government or in direct support of it. They are all of course opposed to whatever the other side supports.  Do you know any liberal or conservative who is actually in support of unrestricted Drone Strikes? Indefinite detainment of American citizens? Invading or participating in more foreign conflicts? Internet censorship?

I suppose the assumptions we make about either side somewhat become a self-fulfilling reality even though the specific boxes and categories we try to put people in really don’t fit as well as they should.  Could some of these attempts to categorize people and make very widespread assumptions about said people result from our Western drive to categorize, organize, and make every kind of distinction we can? Even if it is, I’m not sure if we can shed those presuppositions and our thought process that may be one of the factors in what drives party line ideology today.

I believe our very time-saving and “immediate” cultural attitude and behavior may be somewhat at fault here. We however must make the effort to not be lazy and avoid the time consumption convenience  of assuming either side or whatever the ideology may be is always wrong.   If an idea is valid, it doesn’t matter who proposes the idea.  Guilt by association just doesn’t seem to be the proper mindset if one actually wishes to examine and  filter ideas through as many individual perceptions on a subject to determine the validity of said ideas.

My Life Motto: Live as if People Matter.

“Live as if people matter,” was one of platforms that  Thomas Chalmers urged his congregation and community to take into account for their lives.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about this statement almost every day. 

What I’ve realized is how hard it really is to attain and practice in my daily life. While selfishness may be a behavior and attitude that plagues our society at large, it certainly plagues me as well. 

I think about how I spend my time. Do I spend every waking second, “living as if people matter?”  No, not that much if I’m going to be honest with myself. In my free time, I hang out with friends, play online games, hit up Half-Times on Tuesday, and whatever else suits my fancy. 

Sure, I’m tired after work, but isn’t everyone else? I guess I can’t make that excuse. If I wanted to use my time productively, I would invest my time in other people’s lives.  Instead the temptation is to throw money their way and keep my time to myself, but that may be the pinnacle of my selfish nature.  Will I give the man a fish, or will I teach him how to fish? I can guess what takes more time.

One thing I’ve realized I can do is apply this motto, “Live as if people matter” to my time that is not free. When I’m at work this will be a tough, exhausting, and difficult attitude to maintain – specifically with my retail job – but I must persevere nonetheless. It may involve going out of my way, staying later, throwing up the 40 LB bags of birdseed, and even alot of other people’s job for them, but I must persevere in it regardless. 

Will I be a doormat to some degree? Perhaps. Will people know that the doormat is there to help them because it legitimately cares? Absolutely. I’ve certainly used Christ as a doormat and he’s forgiven me, so I must do the same. 

Abortions and demographics

Abortions. You as conservatives like those. In fact, if you see someone you know has a very opposing ideology – Demand Abortion! Yea, I said that.  Note everything I just said and what I’m about to say is deliberately facetious. In fact, I feel kind of bad, but making the prior statement is important because of ideological spectrum. This is of course coming from a libertarian who is just pointing out basic demographics.

Have any of us considered the population demographics that occur when a particular group of people have children and and another don’t?  Look at Europe.  In fact look at the U.S. and the current Hispanic population. If your a conservative, the best way to win the abortion debate “politically”  is to simply have less ideological opponents (neo-progressive liberals.) that are actually alive and thus able to vote.

Usually parents  are the most influential factor in shaping the worldview of their offspring.  Shocking right? Now in order for that to happen, they actually have to keep those children, not kill them a few months into pregnancy.  Oh, and they need to actually invest in their education and not send them off to the public schools where they will become good little progressives instead of being infused with a worldview their parents would rather prefer.

So, who usually tends to have abortions?  People who vote liberal. (Or don’t vote at all.)  Who doesn’t? Usually anyone who is a self-described conservative. Well, what does this mean?!?! It means that in a few generations, there won’t be any liberals left, or at least no-one who espouses their particular ideology that focuses so heavily on abortion and all the other “stuff” that conservatives so vehemently disagree with.   So here’s a rather nasty thought; encourage all of your liberal friends to have abortions. Tons of em.  Just emphasize the “no kids” part and remember to keep your own kids out of the public school system.

Eventually there won’t be any liberals left. It might take a while, but the game is always won  in the long-run right? I’m sure liberals must have already realized this to some degree if Europe is any indication. Perhaps not.

The Oasis: The Unappreciated Gem.

When you hear the words, “The Oasis” mentioned in certain circles, you can see the look of disdain already emanating from faces. Commonly raised points include: You can’t swear, can’t hate mosh, and can’t smoke near the building. Oh, the horror! The things they don’t permit at a Youth Center! Well actually concerning that last complaint you can usually smoke at a reasonable difference from the building and no one actually says anything. Obviously, Joyce, the owner of The Oasis,  just wants to be a killjoy when she sets Oasis policy. Question; Have any of you who have criticized Joyce actually talked to her? You may find out that she isn’t a strict and harsh  nun who frowns deeply upon words like, “fun” but actually cares deeply about the nearby community, hence the reason why The Oasis even exists in the first place.

For all of its supposed faults, there are many important things about The Oasis that should stand out. First, The Oasis is an actual youth center in Lake County that is not tax-payer funded. Let me repeat that. The Oasis is an actual youth center in Lake County that is not tax-payer funded. I’m almost tempted to repeat that a third time for obvious emphasis. In fact, The Oasis is completely funded by donations from the local community and the events that it hosts. What does this mean?

No hate moshing!

When the Oasis raises donations it does so by promoting its mission which is the youth of the area. It is for this reason that The Oasis is and will always primarily remain a youth center, rather than just another music venue with stringent rules regarding moshing and crowdsurfing.  Shockingly, parents want their pre-teens and teens to be able to go to Oasis and not get hate-moshed by over eager dancers. Apparently the whole, “You’re gonna get hit if your not moving at a show,” doesn’t apply in parents minds when their 12 year olds are there.  Yea, none of us saw that coming! The fact that the Oasis has so many shows is because its crew (Jon, Ryan, James, ect.) and Joyce actually want to promote the non-existent and devoid music scene we have here.  No, being a self-proclaimed world class DJ doesn’t count toward musical creativity and ingenuity for our music scene.

The Oasis allows for parents to send their kids to a supervised place – yes I shuddered as well as a teen when I heard the word “supervise” – where they won’t be “hanging out” at their friend’s house which is obvious code for sneaking/doing something their parents don’t approve of.  How else do you think some of us saw a certain scene from the Titanic in our early teen years?  (Pro-tip: Hanging out at one’s friends house always occurs when their parents are assured to be occupied and out of the house.  Kid’s, especially teens are actually quite smart.) As much as we all did, and still do despise supervision, this is one of the main features – dare I say purposes – of The Oasis.   Kids can go there and generally not get into trouble that will make them stare at the floor while their parents squirm and ponder upon disciplinary measures that will hopefully work.

In fact, with this recent teacher’s strike in the Grayslake area, The Oasis will most likely become a main supervised place for kids to go and hangout.  Unfortunately, not many other Community’s have a place like The Oasis, so please appreciate it for the rarity that it truly is.  I wish Fox Lake had a place like it instead of a series of parking lots, poor excuse for a lakefront park, and decaying buildings where the local highschoolers go to smoke weed and try out new drugs.  Well, I’ll admit that our library isn’t too bad.

The point to my possibly incoherent ramble is that we should appreciate the Oasis for what it truly is – a youth center – and then also appreciate its secondary accomplishment; being a music venue.  In today’s scene with the lack of venues that will even hold anything slightly metal and book most unknown local bands, beggars can’t be choosers. Before you bash a place, think about the main reason that place exists.  One of the reasons we can’t have nice things a.k.a. “shows” almost anywhere is because certain people can’t have respect for the local venues. Often we end up losing those venues and the so-called “hardcore” scene that exists in Lake County is banished to the dark dimly lit corridors of “basement shows”.  So please, enjoy the venue for what it is – not what you want it to be.

Media Coverage, Violence, and Our Response: Sandy Hook, Dec. 15

In the wake of reflecting  upon what happened only two weeks ago, the Sandy Hook tragedy, something has has really stood out to me: What should have been a day of national mourning seemed to turn into a media circus and yet another match in the firestorm of angry debate that is the the national conversation on gun control.  The Huffington Post should immediately feel immense amounts of shame for abandoning grief, support, and mourning in a convenient substitution for advancing its own ideology regarding gun control.  In fact, the most important words of wisdom on how to react to this shooting came from the President himself, so I must give credit to where credit is due.  Just perhaps, he isn’t the heinous villain that some people make him out to be.

Can you see it?

In just a few hours after the shooting occurred, reporters pounced and shoved mics and questions into the faces of young children anyone whose attention they could grab.  Apparently ratings have become much  more important than giving those who just went through what may be the most terrifying moment of their lives a chance to rest, recuperate, and mourn. Yes, the juicy tidbits that people say just after the moment of an event may not be as eye-catching as words said by them a week later, but respect should come first nevertheless. This isn’t the same as getting audio clips from players after a sports game and the coverage should have reflected that, but obviously it didn’t.     A keen photographer managed to snap what is probably the most emotionally invoking photograph of that day.  I suppose there is some truth in that old sang, “A picture says a thousand words.”

Not only was the media coverage appalling in the lack of respect and privacy it had for the victims of the families and children in the school, but there was an incredible amount of misinformed and flat out false information. Seriously, what has happened to journalism? Ratings yet again pre-determined that any information, no matter if it was verified or not, would be reported immediately. It didn’t take much time to mistakenly run with the story that Adam’s brother, Ryan, had been the shooter.  Hours later after Ryan posted on facebook that he wasn’t the shooter and had no involvement with it, the media finally connected the dots, as the shooter they knew was dead so it couldn’t have been Ryan. However, the damage had been done and his photo and facebook profile had already been tossed around all over the web. Another casualty of rash and mistaken journalism? I’d say yes.

While it is important for us to know about Sandy Hook, the incredible amount of media coverage and attention we see to acts of violence in the U.S.should tell us one thing; we have an obsession for violence. While the the harsh truth of violence needs to be broadcast for us to truly realize the condition our culture is in, it doesn’t need to be glorified and its perpetrators given a national platform to revel in their newly attained infamy. Yes, there is a distinct and stark difference.

Many of us are convinced that the world is somehow more violent than it was 25 years ago. Perhaps it is to some degree, but the nature of violence has never changed.  What has changed is that the digital media and advent of online coverage has however brought it that much closer, more immediate, and more vivid on our HD screens than ever before.  An obsession with ratings and money has made it standard that “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” is an immediate call to attention for every smart phone distracted viewer.  How have people reacted to this new and ever more realistic depiction of violence on their big screen and smartphones? That question has many possible answers.

In only a  few months or more from now, Sandy Hook will probably be largely forgotten by the media and by us. We will have yet again ignored the root of the problem that contributed toward this shooting: Our culture, our broken families and communities, our selfishness, and the fruition of our flawed worldviews. We can’t keep telling each other that right and wrong are merely each one’s version of right and wrong. Ideas have consequences  and in this case horrible consequences.  All these factors have not just produced boys like Adam Lanza, but have contributed toward what he became; an individual that would slaughter a child.  Unfortunately it will be his name that will be remembered in feigned infamy, not his 26 victims. Its only a matter of time before this shooting is reduced down to a Daniel Tosh  joke for us to enjoy.

I fear we may have all however missed the root of the problem when we see tragedies like this. Our culture isn’t just obsessed with guns, it’s obsessed with violence, gore, and everything under the sun that will make you cringe.  If we ever want to alter this endless waltz, we must address the root of the issue, not the weapon used to horrendous means. Someone with murder in their heart will use any method and means to commit murder. It is for this reason we must address their heart if we ever wish to curb these continued manifestations of violence that are becoming seemingly commonplace on the news and facebook feeds of our phones.  Instead of focusing so much attention on the acts themselves, we must focus our attention on communities and families that are not preventing these acts from ever even being considered. In fact, we must keep asking ourselves this question; “How could we have missed this?” How could we have not seen what was turning Lanza into someone would could even imagine doing something like this?

We need to start paying attention. The distraught single mother whose kids are out of control needs the help of community around her, and most specifically the church in her area, The homeless man desperate to eat needs the care of the community, lest he turn to other means to survive. The depressed teenager with no hope, a broken family, and no friends needs Christians to do what we have been commanded to do; show the love of Christ in not just words, but our actions.  We must always question our priorities and how we spend our time. Would Christ spend his time this way?

Legislating what is best for everyone – the consequences be damned!

There has been a question on a mind that has been bugging me as of late; Do we actually care about people, or do we just say and/or pretend that we do?  A nasty fact of life is that the world is filled with people who are hurting with a lot of that pain being caused by the communities around them. A fellow acquaintance and “left-wing” Christian on a forum I follow made this startling assertion:

Unfortunately, you sometimes have to force people to do what is best for both society and themselves.

I hate to say it, but a lot of us have this idea at our base that lends to the direct and indirect advocacy of this pain.  Ideas like this have consequences  Often there are good intentions behind this idea, but the consequences always seem to be devastating upon the less fortunate in society. How does this idea translate into society? “Gulp.” The greater good for society apparently, whatever that actually is. (Hitler had some interesting ideas about the greater good. Very nasty and deadly ones.) Granted, the author of this statement doesn’t intend for this notion to be used to oppress people, but this idea does precisely that when followed to it’s logical conclusion. I can only feel somewhat guilty as a Christian that I have not done enough to do my part in countering this idea in popular culture today.

Huh? Let me formulate my thoughts a bit further.   Unfortunately this is an idea that must be constantly refined and the imposition of the idea closely examined in every circumstance . This idea is the very nature of law. We assume that society functions best when what is best for society and members of society is established through law;  more specifically through the force behind the laws determining exactly what that is “best.” Scary eh?

Well how do we address the extreme implementation of  what is  “best”  in a completely post-modern society?  Just in the 20th century we have seen the above quote used to justify the murder and oppression of tens of millions of people.  We have seen the poor trampled underfoot and the miscarriage of justice become commonplace.  This is of course what happens when the extreme of this idea becomes an idea of sensibility in people’s minds.  (Notice this idea in both current political parties?) The question is: how do we balance this idea correctly, fairly, and reasonably? Note the subjective nature of those 3 previous adverbs in society.  Therein may be our deepest problem.  

By what standard do we determine what is correct, fair, and reasonable? If not a Biblical standard, then what do we appeal to?  Tyrants and dictators have used these three words to oppress people and to justify that oppression for as long as we can remember.  Are we going down a similar path in America? Most Americans would insist that they do indeed care about their fellow American, but do they really?   If we implement ideas that are good and beneficial for society by the force of law, do we run the risk of oppressing those who disagree? Is the legislation of any idea into society always the best approach to solve the many problems we encounter on a daily basis?

We’ve made many, MANY laws in this country. On January 1st of 2010, we introduced on state and federal levels over 40,000 laws on the books and 40,000+ more laws in 2012. Granted PoltiFact disagrees with these numbers for 2012, but even in the lower thousands, the number is still astonishingly high. Just think about having to be aware of a few thousand new laws and the time and effort that would demand. (Note that I couldn’t find a conclusive figure regarding the amount of laws passed in 2011, though it appears to be around 30k. Also something to point out is that not all of these laws come into affect the next year, but over the course of several years.)

So how in the hell are we ever supposed to be consciously aware of every law out there? It’s impossible, but as any judge will tell you, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”   Well, that’s rather unfortunate for the poor single mother who can’t afford a lawyer, but at least whatever law she may have violated had good intentions ins mind, right? Just how easy is it to be “ignorant” of all these laws, just for the ones implemented in 2010?  The publisher at amelia.com had an insight as to the what we face on a daily basis in regards to ignorance of the law: I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169¬† 8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

I have been a numbers man all my life and the realization that modern society requires me to know the Laws I am potentially exposed to, made me try to quantify the time needed to familiarize myself superficially with 40,627 new laws if I would spend 2 minutes per newly introduced law. It would take 81,254 minutes or 1,354 hours or 169  8-hour workdays to know my rights and plights pertaining to these 40,000 plus laws.

The task of becoming familiar with laws that can reign all hell and possibly prison bars upon our lives is very intimidating. When you drive down the street and see someone pulled over – Round Lake Beach anyone- do we consider just how many possible traffic violations they could have committed? You’d be shocked by the amount of well-intentioned traffic laws that exist in Illinois.

I myself have been a victim of “unknown” traffic violations. Prepare for a story/small rant. A few months back I got a ticket for Scott’s law. I’d never heard of it before. Neither did anyone I know or my Aunt who is actually a police officer in Algonquin.  Scott’s Law has a minimum fine of 100$ to a maximum of 10,000$ plus the possibility of a license suspension. When I looked up the law online, I was scared out of my mind.  I managed to plead the violation to a lesser violation in court, because having Scott’s Law on your record is like having a bulls-eye painted on your car for every cop in Illinois to target.  Just imagine a single mom in the Round Lake area or some minimum wage worker getting hit with just a 1000$ fine for a violation of Scott’s Law. Yes, justice really does favor the rich. I was lucky in that I only had to fork over 150.00$ for a lawyer, plus the fine which ended up being only 75$ but totaled over 300$ because of the 200$ in court fees that our state charges. Yea, let me repeat that, 200$ in court fees. No wonder they always try to make you show up in court for a ticket!

This is yet another example of laws with good intentions being used to essentially squeeze more money out of people who are barely making ends meet. It won’t stop here. Expect the amount of “good-intentioned” laws to skyrocket.  The fact that I live in Illinois simply means that people will vote in the same politicians who will in turn keep churning out new laws to “solve” the problems we face just in this state on a daily basis. To make matters worse we encourage politicians to be “lawmakers.”

What have our good intentioned laws bought us? Over two million Americans in prison and growing. Let’s think about that for a moment. Two million Americans in prison. Prison Song anyone? That’s a guaranteed two million broken families. Did we actually bother to think about the impact of the drug laws that were supposed to stabilize society? Look at Chicago as to what the war on drugs has wrought upon the families there.  Isn’t it obvious what happens to the teenager with a jailed father who has literally no one around him to keep him accountable, to make him stay in school , and to discipline him for the small things before they escalate into prison term offenses?  The war on drugs has done far more harm to the African American community in this country then racism ever has. But hey, those laws were for the good of society right? Those people doing drugs obviously don’t know what’s good for them, so we need to force them to do what is good for them by passing more laws!  Did we ever think what happens to the people we’ve thrown in jail after they are finally released? Good luck getting a job!

I look at communities around me that face some very real problems; distraught and broken families, failing schools, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, ect.  Instead of truly going out of our way to actually help them, we either throw money at the problem -which usually never ends up going to them- and/or pass a few laws to try and discourage whatever element we think is contributing to the problems.  We’ve been recycling this process of dealing with issues despite the fact that it has not worked.  How about we change the way we address these problems? Pro-tip: You can’t solve the above issues through legislation. You can only solve them through revitalizing and restoring communities. As Christians we should be fully aware that this is what the Gospel was intended to do! The Gospel is what brings hope to the broken and repairs the damage to the families in our communities. Even the secular humanist is aware that addressing the problems this country faces starts in each of our homes and our surrounding communities. Should we not be even more aware of our callings as commanded by Scripture rather then by man’s selfish attempts to do what he or she thinks is good?

The Church needs to get back to what it used to do; strengthen and build up communities. We have a responsibility to the shattered communities around us. We have a responsibility to the broken families, the single mothers, and the children turning to gangs in a desperate attempt to find community. We have a responsibility to show that Christ cares about the broken, the downtrodden, and those in the worst of situations.  The early church cared for the babies left to die, the poor in the streets, and the unjustly oppressed. Are we doing the same? Are we advocating for abortion laws in Washington and forgetting about the single teenage mother with no income?

Are we proclaiming the Gospel through our actions or just through our words and to each other in our own little Sunday morning bubble? Our lifestyle and what we do with our time should clearly communicate what the Gospel is all about.  Let us take a stand on the issues of abortion and homosexuality -as the church rightfully should-  but let us not forget that there is much more to God’s Word.  We can talk all we want about Christ’s love, but we must actually demonstrate and show His love in our communities, our time, and our finances every day of our lives.  Let us escape from our own little bubbles and start to become apart of the many different societal bubbles around us so that the truth of the Gospel is displayed for all to see.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.”

Dead Years is actually dead on – This Or The Apocalypse

Lately, I’ve seen some rather mixed reviews of  This Or The Apocalypse‘s new album, Dead Years. Some of them have been over-the-top.  To be honest, I can understand where both the negative and positive reflections about the album are coming from. No, I’m not a fanboy, but I really have dug this band for three main reasons: (1) Their live performance, (2) Haunt What’s Left, (3) the devotion they have to what they do. It’s a real shame that it’s almost impossible nowadays to maintain a living from making and playing music, but that’s a sacrifice TOTA seem willing to make.

First off, there is something that I’ll throw out there; Haunt What’s Left is one of my favorite albums of all time, for various reasons. So that leads me to ask this question, “How do you really follow an album like that?

I’m not sure that TOTA can necessarily “follow” Haunt What”s Left, and it appears that they realized that. Dead Years is that realization. Before we start ripping apart the album and critiquing every last detail our ears can pick up and our eyes can see, lets reflect on this thought; “We should enjoy an album for what it is, not what we wanted it to be or what it “should” be.”

Dead Years didn’t fulfill every last craving, aspiration, or expectation I had for it.  (Albums rarely do that.) There were some shortcomings, but there were also some successes.  In fact, this album is a lot stronger then some of our rather snobbish members of the metal-community give it credit it for. I’m sorry but Veil Of Maya is that way,  Born Of Osiris is the other way, and I’m not quite sure as to which way Killswitch Engage is. Remember, what I said about enjoying an album for what it is? Oh, Metalsucks isway down that way.   This is overall a very good album.

Of course, I do have some “complaints.”  The cleans in Dead Years seemed to have degraded a bit with the exception of Gaunt And Fierce which has probably the strongest chorus, both in catchiness and execution, that TOTA has ever made. Two songs in particular that are on the subpar side with cleans are You Own No One But You and In Wolves, which is a shame considering how good the songs are. The songs also seem to have a bit less of a well-executed technical nature that Haunt What’s Left and Monuments were filled with. (Note that I don’t really know what I’m talking about in comparison to someone who actually plays music. I know this for a fact, so let me just throw out my fallibility there.)  They are however still there in enough abundance in songs like Hell Praiser, Americans, and Hate The Ones You Love being evidence of TOTA’s bottomless technical talent.

Let me expound on that “technical talent” for a short bit. TOTA, in my mind, distinguish themselves with their technical riffage specifically because of where it is placed in their songs, how is is composed, and that fact that you can’t specifically see those riffs coming. I love that. Being techincal just because you can bores me; I’d prefer for technical “riffage” to have an actual purpose, but I digress.  Dead Years throws out riffs that match up with something The Human Abstract would produce on a regular basis. Monuments has proven this aspect of their technical ability to the fullest, so a lack of technical ability would be a damnable lie.

I mention this because I don’t want TOTA to be labeled as one of those “chug bass-drop and break-down bands” mixed with some metal riffs style band that seem to dominate most metal today associated musically with anything “core.”  There are certainly more breakdowns and bass-drops on this album, but this actually reflects the general lyrical theme of the album instead of said breakdowns and bass-drops just being thrown in there so that kids have an easier time in knowing when to do spin-kicks in the pit. In fact the element TOTA seem to have added to this album is the kind of “bounce” feel that Texas In July so successfully brings to the table.

Notice this album is well… a lot angrier than their previous two. Not only did the more “chuggy” nature of the album reflect that, but the grittiness of the screaming in this album manages to perfectly demonstrate that. Is it impressive when vocals actually relay the meaning and feelings of a particular lyric? I won’t lie, I’ve always been a big fan of Ricky’s particular vocal style, because let’s be honest; screaming has alot more of an impact when you can actually understand some of it. (Though I’m still very partial toward Matt Heafy’s screaming in Ascendancy. It is just so raw and powerful.)  The grittiness of his vocals in particular coincide well with the overall theme of the album; frustration with lack of attention and care for the problems plaguing society. It is actually nice to see an album with lyrics about something other then breakups, bitches,  killing people, and all the other entertaining possible lyrical choices out there. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying the albums content about the societal problems that exist and the struggles people face. To make things even better, TOTA doesn’t pull a Greenday where they advocate us to be progressive statists  or encourage anti-government sentiment depending on if the current president fits their ideological stances.

Anyone notice there  were actually a few Fbombs thrown in to some of these songs to further emphasize the frustrations TOTA is presenting? I should admit right now that swearing in music usually seems to degrade my enjoyment of it. Now, I’m not some 23 year old Christian miser with an Uncle Jimbo attitude of “You damn kids!” when it comes to swearing. I’m just keen on two factors regarding swearing; context and appropriate timing.  Meet those two factors and then by all means; swear away! Again all I would suggest is that swearing in any context have an appropriate and emphatic purpose rather then just a commonly used adjective that makes all the older people around grimace at the younger generation. This surprises even me, but  I think TOTA may have made perfect usage of profanity to emphasize the lyrics of this album.  (We’ve obviously seen the other extreme end of swearing in bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria. *Shudder*)

One last thing I’d like to point out about Dead Years is the last song on the album; Hard Branch To Snap. It was a perfect song to conclude the album and falls in line with the excellent concluding song, Revenant, on Haunt What’s Left. So, remember don’t hate TOTA; appreciate the incredible strength of the vocals that make this band stand out in an overcrowded metal scene. Give this album a chance, no matter if you’ve heard TOTA before or are a long time fan; it will grow on you with each listen.

I won’t provide a download link for the album out of respect for This Or The Apocalypse. I would encourage all those who enjoy what they hear to support the band directly through their merch store.

Underoath ends on a high note.

“You’re getting old” reads the title of an episode from the 15th season of South Park.  This title really hits home as I’ve just seen the facebook feeds informing me that Underoath will be breaking up next year.  As Underoath mentions in their post, “all good things must come to an end,” and the 15 year existence of Underoath is quite a long time.  I’m again reminded that nothing last forever, even our favorite bands.

One of my friends mentioned that over time, music will have less of an importance in my life, and he was right. Nothing will replace Underoath, but the good memories will always be there. From their first album with its black metal feel to their change into alternative metal and then their highlight post-hardcore album, Define The Great Line, Underoath continued to change and refine their sound with each album. Disambiguation was just the highlight of how experimental and heavy they could sound, specifically without the vocals of Aaron Gillespie.

Underoath does makes me feel old to an extent. I”ll be hitting 24 this month, and it makes me realize that 16 was almost 9 years ago. Lately I get that feeling that music will become less and less important as other things take priority in my life, most likely widening my skillset so that my resume is more appealing. When I think about the members in Underoath, I realize that their families have rightfully become their priority. Perhaps you can only tour so long before you realize there are other things you want to do with your life.  There’s so much that could be said about Underoath, but no words can really describe how I feel about them. I am instead forced to allow their music to do that for me.

Nonetheless, their influence will be felt on metal and post-hardcore for ages to come. It’s hard to be original and to still progress and change one’s sound with every album, but Underoath has managed to do just that. I will really miss their live performance and energy that distinguished them from the rest.  Hopefully, the tickets for their final tour through this area are affordable.  If there’s one thing I can say to sum up Underoath, it is this; Titans they have become in their own created genre and Titans they will always remain.  

 

These youtube videos remind me of just how diverse their development has been over the years: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aZus_-1MFI]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCwNG1YqhEU] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOdfV1EjUgg&feature=related] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEMegwcNihc] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgF_FFBpfbk][youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVPooKsLxII&feature=related][youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrG3nXvFeJ8&feature=related]

The god(s) of a society’s law.

Legislation is always a dangerous thing, because you never are always aware as to what is the foundation for legislation. What is the driving idea? There is a common misconception that law is neutral, but law by its very nature can never be neutral; there is always a moral reason/idea behind any law.

Before we even begin to formulate moral reasons for a law we must always examine the “god” behind the idea for that law. What standard and source of authority are we appealing to in order to assert the justification of that law for society? Only once we ask this question will we begin to somewhat predict and understand the impact a law will have upon the ethics of our society.

R. J. Rushdoony summed it up well;

“Behind every system of law there is a god. To find the god in any system, locate the source of law in that system. If the source of law is the individual, then the individual is the god of that system. If the source of law is the people, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, then these things are the gods of those systems. If our source of law is a court, then the court is our god. If there is no higher law beyond man, then man is his own god, or else his creatures, the institutions he has made, have become his gods. When you choose your authority, you choose your god, and where you look for your law, there is your god.”

Who or what is your god? Ideas have consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be horrible though the best of intentions were the base for those ideas.