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Archive for October, 2009

UPDATE: Parts two and three of the series.  Treads similar ground but definitely worth a listen, just about 5 minutes each.

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While the title may lead you to believe this is a baseball post, it is not.  I will leave those inane ramblings about “the nations pastime” to Elijah.

Instead. this post is to direct your attention to a 3-part series that just begun last night on NPR by Ina Jaffe about California’s three-strike law.  It’s a thought-provoking, and I think, an even-handed approach to the topic.  Three Strikes (if you don’t know, or don’t want to follow the earlier link) is a law that basically states that if you’ve been previously convicted of two crimes, then if you are convicted of a third act your minimum sentence will be 25-years to life.  It is a law that was designed to keep repeat offenders off the streets… and it certainly does that.  The critique is that there are many cases where the three crimes are petty and certainly not violent.  The NPR segment documents an instance where a mother, intent on giving “tough love” to her son, pressed charges against him for stealing some of her jewelry which became his first two strikes, only to see him get a third strike and go off to jail for 25 years.

I personally find this a tricky situation.  I definitely want to see criminals go to jail, but I also think it should apply more towards violent crimes then smaller ones.  But I also see logic in what Mike Reynolds, the citizen behind the original initiative for the law, who says:

All they have to do is stop doing crime.  That’s all we ask. And they’ll never be charged under three strikes. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

It does make sense.  It’s not really an oppressive law, we all have the ability to avoid it.  And the fact of the matter is that we all have the choice to be criminals or not and three opportunites to decide if that is what you want to do with your life seems enough.  Do some people have tougher lives or situations that make that choice seemingly harder than others?  Yes.  Does that mean the law is unfair?  No.  The question I think is compelling is whether it is just or not.

The Department of Justice estimated that the average sentence for a convicted rapist is 11.8 years, and actual time served amounts to around 5.4 years.  Does it seem just that a person who stole items from a retailer on three occasions could get 25 years, whereas someone who only once had been convicted of rape serves just over 5?  It doesn’t seem just to me, but I think that is a reflection of our poor sentencing on rape crimes rather than injustice in the three strikes law.  Three strikes is a merciless statute in the midst of a system that is riddled with arbitrary guidelines and favorable sentences for celebrities and such… so maybe we need more merciless statutes.  The NPR segment pointed out that prosecutors have the ability to decide on some cases whether a crime should be classified as eligible for a third strike.  But that just leaves it up to the whim of the individual prosecutor, which again shows the subjective nature of our system.  Perhaps if we had less ability to be flexible it would make for more just sentencing, but at the expense of mercy.

But what about mercy, and forgiveness and things of that spiritual realm?  Is there room in our legal system for that?  How can our faiths play out in that way?  My short short answer would be that I don’t think mercy and forgiveness are implicitly tied to lack of punishment or consequences.  Christ forgave the sinner on the cross next to him… the man still ended up crucified and dead though.  And in this world my view would be that we have a compassionate-less legal system where punishment is measured out despite whether the victims or others desire mercy to be given.  The task then would be to make sure our laws are just, and not leave that up to the sentencing process.

I look forward to the rest of the series, and invite you to check it out and chime in with your thoughts.

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In my lifetime I have been blessed with the opportunity to know or at least to be exposed to various people that have a magic in them that necessitate a portion of my devotion – my heroes.  Among them are people like my father, who taught me the meaning of selflessness, hard work, and patience, my grandfather, who taught me what it truly means to be a servant of God, Sgt Grumbles, who has impacted the way I relate to God, myself, others and to art more than any other single person, and people that I don’t know personally – people like Bob Dylan, John Gardner and Elliott Smith.  Among those people at the top of my list of heroes, Daniel Smith stands out as the most inspiring and influential.

Daniel Smith is truly a unique character.  It’s difficult to be indifferent toward him, that is to say he is a polarizing person.  There’s a quality to his personality and the way he expresses himself that will either turn you on or turn you off, but will never leave you indifferent.  The process and product of his imagination are not something I can easily express in one post.  In 2006 a documentary was released, “Danielson, a Family Movie (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here)” documenting the progress of Daniel Smith’s artistic expression since the  founding of the “Danielson Famile,” a band literally consisting of Daniel and his siblings.  Daniel was an art student at Rutgers and his professors insisted that the visual and performing arts were to be kept in their respective galleries and conservatories.  Daniel wouldn’t have it, and since 1994 he hasn’t had it.  He’s continued to press forward even after fifteen years of mediocre (at best) success.  The sincerity and devotion with which he creates is what captures me most.

I could go on and on about Daniel and the opportunities I’ve had to meet him/see him perform, but I’d rather introduce you to the man.  And if you’ve already been introduced you ought to watch anyway.  This video, which was posted on the Danielson site yesterday, is a great summation of much of what Daniel Smith stands for.  Take a look:

WV Project Series 2009: Danielson from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

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Hey there sports fans.  As you may know I am a football fan (both of the em!).  And in American football my team is the Houston Texans, currently 3-3 and in 3rd place in the AFC South.  If not for near misses at Arizona and against the Jags we could be sitting pretty just behind Peyton and Indy.  Our passing game has really started to fire since RB Steve Slaton is struggling.  QB Matt Schaub has passed for a league leading 14 touchdowns, 4 of which have gone to #80, Andre Johnson.  The guy is a stud and will be an elite receiver the rest of his career… and it’s in his honor that I post this video so you can see what a stud he is.  Enjoy.

Here’s hoping for a great rest of the season.

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I’ve hinted at this in an earlier post, but I’ve never made the explicit jump into economics.  Whether a particular American likes it or not, America is primarily possesses a maket-based economy.  The consumer plays a vital role in the market-based economy.  For example, in such a way as to keep a business “ethical,” the consumer has the option of not purchasing via boycott.  This will either put the “unethical” party out of business or pressure them to change their practice.  I mention these extremely basic principles to eventually point to one of my favorite topics: Major League Baseball.

Now, where I would criticize capitalism is that it is very common that once the public is aware of “unethical” behavior, say, on a corporate level, the damage has been done.  If Walmart moves into town and is doing something unethical, it is very likely that the public will not be informed of this until the small businesses have already been obliterated – if the public finds out at all.  And even if the public found out before the “damage was done,” so to speak, they may not desire to fork over the extra cash to pay for something domestic and/or from a small business when cheap imported goods are so readily available.  The same will go for the agricultural industry.  Thanks to shoving innumerable cows into inhumane stalls that are far too small for their bodies and injecting cows with hormones while feeding them God-knows-what, the impoverished family is much closer to affording beef.  There are more humane/ethical options with regard to purchasing/eating beef (though some might thing there are no grounds for consuming meat at all), but those aren’t exactly options when the steroid beef is but a small fraction of the price.  I believe there is a solution to this problem, but I’m not going to get into that now.  Instead, I will let my mention of “steroid” two sentences ago segue into my main point regarding baseball.

After the 2000 season, Alex Rodriguez, a free agent, signed to the Texas Rangers for a record $252 million 10 year contract.  Eventually he was traded to the New York Yankees and was eventually signed to the Yanks for $275 million (2008-2018).  I did the math just now, and accounting for leap years (2008, 2012, 2016) A-Rod makes $.79 a second.  Every second, awake or asleep, playing baseball or cheating on his wife (now ex-wife), etc., the man makes $.79.  “That’s despicable!” some might cry out.  But this is where my love affair with capitalism actually takes place.

You see, the consumer may find out the salaries of these athletes before they even set foot on the field.  Whatever is unethical about the salaries of athletes is already quite visible to the consumer.  The consumer can choose to boycott baseball.  I may consider it the best sport in the world, but I’m not talking about food, shelter, or clothing.  I’m talking about recreation.  Though I would consider recreation essential to living, baseball itself is not.  Who’s to say they shouldn’t be making so much?  WE pay their paychecks! As I’ve said before, we can choose to turn off the television.  We can choose not to buy their products.  It’s not as if taxes are being distributed from the federal government to these players.  We, in our greed, are in fact jealous at A-Rod makes more in a day than the average American will make in a year (in under three hours he makes more than the average person will make in a year, globally).  In this way capitalism shows, at least in baseball, that the sickness is not in the system itself, but the people in the system – even and maybe even especially the consumer – are responsible for this sickness.

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The Invisible Man As Art

As Elijah has chided reminded me… he is doing much more posting on CAI these days than your humble author.  I wholeheartedly apologize, and blame my work schedule, grad school, and my beautiful, adorable, precious, amazing, stunning and perfect little daughter.

Apology done, now may I direct you to some brilliant pictures by Chinese artist, Liu Bolin, who is making a statement against the suppression of art in China.  The time and effort to produce these would seem to be quite extensive, and the resulting images are very unique and interesting.  Take a look.

real-invisible-man9

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Suddenly everyone is a Los Angeles fan.  I’m talking baseball, of course.

The Los Angeles Angels took the American League West division and faced-off against the wild card Boston Red Sox.

The wild card, for those who don’t know, is an opportunity for the number two teams in both the American and National Leagues to enter the playoffs.  This is supposedly justified by the fact that there are teams in competitive divisions (like the AL East featuring the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays – though the Yankees and the Red Sox are the only two “competitive” teams in the AL East as if evident from the six wild card slots that the Red Sox have garnered since its introduction into MLB in 1994) that will not get 1st place, but will end the regular season with better records than other division clinchers in the same league (see my previous baseball post).

Well, in a very non-Boston Red Sox playoff appearance, the Red Sox were swept by the Angels.  Historically Boston has consistently dominated the Angels in the playoffs.  Last season the Angels went to the playoffs as the winningest team in baseball and were defeated in the first round (in four games) by the AL East champion Red Sox (the Red Sox went on to lose the ALCS against the Rays).  But this season the Angels accomplished a clean sweep and will face the New York Yankees, the best team in baseball history and the winningest team of the 2009 season (103 wins) for the American League Championship Series – the most coveted Pennant.  From the looks of it the Angels will not pull through, but I’ll be rooting for them over the Yanks.

Now onto the National League…

Out of the four division championship series three have been divided by a sweep (four division championship series = eight teams: AL East, Central, West, wild card; NL East Central West, wild card).  The Yankees swept the Twins (as I predicted: “the Twins…move on to an immediate elimination during the first round of the playoffs…have no chance…going up against the Yanks in the first round…“), the Angels swept the Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the St Louis Cardinals.  Currently the Philadelphia Phillies are leading 2-1 in the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies.  The winner of that game will go on to play the Dodgers for the NLCS.  [UPDATE: Phillies win NLDS and move on to face the Dodgers for the NLCS.]

The Dodgers spent a significant portion of this season with more wins than any other team.  But in standard Dodger fashion they lost momentum after the All-Star break.  By the end of the season their record was 3rd in the MLB (1st: NYY, 2nd LAA).  Still, they took their division and will most likely take the NLCS.

If the Angels can win the ALCS (unlikely, but you never know when it’s Angels vs Yankees…) and the Dodgers can win the ALCS, the World Series will pit the Los Angeles Angels against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a first for Los Angeles.  How exciting it is to have that as a possibility this late in the season!  Deep down inside every Angeleno wants to see the two teams play one another in the World Series.  Sure, they play interleague “Freeway Series” during the season, but that feud pales in comparison to the rivalry that would develop during a World Series.  And with this possibility I find that many of my once-indifferent friends (there are many people that are indifferent toward baseball…) are suddenly the biggest Dodgers/Angels fans.  I don’t necessarily blame them, but do you know what I am?  I’m a Detroit Tigers fan.

PS. If by some odd chance there was an Angels/Dodgers World Series, my allegiance would be with the Angels 100%.

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Because everyone and their mother seems to be writing about the President Obama-Nobel Peace Prize “scandal,” I thought I’d post something more creative today.  Of course, this isn’t my creativity, but the creativity of a Swedish initiative funded by Volkswagon called “Rolig Hets Teorin,” or “The Fun Theory.”  Their main goal is to demonstrate that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.”

This sense of simplicity + creativity = “Piano Stairs”

There is another video with a creative project (“The World’s Deepest Bin”) on the website and a third (“Bottle Bank Arcade Machine”) is currently listed as “coming soon,” so make sure you take a look.

Thanks to Geekologie for pointing this out.

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