Aug 13 2009

A Contrast of Two Lives

Category: characteramuzikman @ 10:10 pm

Wednesday July 26, 2009: Ed Thomas, football coach of Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, Iowa, is shot and killed by a mentally disturbed former student.

Thursday, June 27, 2009: Pop star Michael Jackson dies of an apparent cardiac arrest, possibly brought on by a drug overdose.

Could there be two lives more unalike, more disassociated, and more stark in contrast.  And yet, they were brought together for at least a moment, by a shared sordid and sensational means of death and accompanying national headline.

The death of Coach Thomas has already been forgotten by most. His death would have been anonymous had it not been for the headline-grabbing manner in which he was killed.  I also happen to believe the story would have rekindled gun-control debate in the press for a longer period of time had Michael Jackson’s death not pushed it from the front page the following day.

The reason everyone knows about the death of Michael Jackson is obvious – he was arguably one of the most famous celebrities on the planet.  The manner in which he died is yet to be determined, though there is already sinister speculation and allegations of a drug overdose.  And with celebrities, especially this one, there will always be reasons their death remains in the news long after they are laid to rest.

Much can be said about the lives of these two men.  Both were very influential within their sphere of influence, one in a town of 1,900 people, one on a world stage.  Both deaths had a profound impact on those who knew them.  Both met with what we would all agree is an untimely death.  Both apparently died at the hands of another, though the full truth about Michael Jackson may never really be known. But there are some very important differences to note and as I do so I intend no disrespect to the memory of either man.

While Michael Jackson enjoyed an amazing level of popularity and success as an artist that few ever obtain, he paid dearly for his celebrity in private life.  With great fame and fortune come equally great pressures as ones personal life is exposed in the public spotlight. Most celebrities struggle constantly with keeping a degree of privacy and normalcy in their lives.  Rumors of personal eccentricities from quirky to criminal followed Michael everywhere.  Serious charges of pedophilia left him forever tainted in the public eye.  And whether or not Michael was a pedophile his penchant for surrounding himself with young boys would hardly be considered normal.  Michael was also obviously uncomfortable in his own skin.  Repeated plastic surgeries throughout his life are not symptomatic of someone who has a healthy self-image.

We mourn the loss of Michael Jackson largely because of nostalgia.  His music was so popular and inextricably linked to a season of our lives.  When the music maker dies it also somehow brings an end to that part of our lives associated with that music.  When I was a young boy I remember crying very hard upon hearing a news broadcast announcing the death of Walt Disney.  I had never met the man, but I had certainly been to Disneyland and understood all things Disney would never be quite the same again.

We mourn the loss of a great artist.  We mourn also the passing of that season in our own lives.  We are sad we’ll never hear or see this great talent again. But for the most part, much like it was for me with Walt Disney, we mourn the memory, we do not mourn the loss of Michael Jackson, the man.  A man whose life was sadly warped and twisted by forces beyond the control of the tender, gentle soul he seemed to be.

In stark contrast is the life of Coach Ed Thomas. No one achieves fame or fortune by being a high school football coach in a very small Iowa town.  Apparently he was a very successful coach (including 2 state titles and 4 team alums who are now in the NFL) and as such received more lucrative and higher-profile college coaching offers but turned them all down.  I think it is safe to say he had other priorities that were entirely unrelated to fame or fortune. A year earlier when a tornado ripped through the middle of their small town it was Coach Thomas who stood as a pillar of strength, galvanizing their community to rebuild as they buried their dead.  Such deeds never seem to garner great publicity but it is clear what this man meant to his community.  Phrases like “he was the rock this community was built on” and descriptions such as “our icon” give testimony about the sort of man that was Ed Thomas. (click here to read more about the life and death of Coach Ed Thomas)

2,500 people attended the funeral of Coach Thomas.  That is 131% of Parkersburg’s population.  (If the same percentage of L.A.’s population had come to Michael Jackson’s funeral the attendance would have been almost 13 million)

Two lives entirely unrelated but for their deaths.  Two lives about as different as two lives can be.  But what is the significant difference to me?  i think I can best sum it up this way:

I might point to Michael Jackson and tell my son, “When you grow up I want you to sing like he did.”


I will point to Ed Thomas and tell my son, “When you grow up, I want you to be the kind of man he was.”

Aug 13 2009

Bon Appétit

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:19 am

Good things come to those who wait.

Aug 13 2009

Are YOU a bird brain?

Category: scienceharmonicminer @ 9:54 am

It appears that calling someone a bird brain may not be such an insult after all

New research suggests birds are smarter than apes.

Scientists studied whether animals look at the physical world in the same way as humans and apes do.

In the study, the animals had to extract food from a horizontal tube by avoiding two holes cut into it where the food could fall out.

Researcher Professor Russell Gray says the animals were then given a similar puzzle – the only difference being it was a table with holes cut into it instead of a tube.

He says the crows not only learnt to do it very well, it appears they understood what was going on.

Gray says it is a common assumption humans are closely related to apes, and the finding that birds are actually smarter may come as a surprise.

Aug 13 2009

“Commitment to Diversity” now a requirement?

Category: diversity,freedom,Group-think,higher educationharmonicminer @ 9:37 am

Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Grand Valley State University: Music Department Axes Political Litmus Test

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) has promised to remove “demonstrated commitment to the principles of diversity” from the stated job requirements for prospective faculty seeking appointment to GVSU’s Department of Music. The department will restate its requirements in terms of relevant experience, not vaguely worded personal commitments regarding a controversial political issue. The change, which came after FIRE asked GVSU to restore freedom of conscience on its campus, is a fresh reminder to public universities that they cannot require prospective faculty to demonstrate personal commitment to “the principles of diversity,” any more than they can require a commitment to “patriotism,” “objectivism,” or “communalism.”

This is exactly right, of course.

Yet, even with this result at GVSU, a great many college and universities insist on clauses like this in job announcements, contracts, evaluative mechanisms, syllabi, etc. Diversity is the new green mud. When all the other monkeys in the cage are rubbing themselves with green mud, you’d better start scooping it up yourself.  Monkeys caught not wearing green mud will be disciplined.

Since diversity is so thoroughly associated with the Left, such clauses amount to a demand that all viable candidates must be Leftists, or pretend to be.

Aug 13 2009

Moral courage

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:06 am

Budd Schulberg’s heroism

Imagine if one of America’s foremost writers had once been privy to a shadowy plot by Hitler’s Germany to take control of the motion picture industry through its labor organizations and force writers to clear scripts with Nazi censors, and then he courageously stepped forward to blow the whistle on the whole operation.

Wouldn’t it be bizarre if, when this man died, instead of being celebrated for such heroism, he was criticized and even attacked by colleagues for revealing the identities of those who were behind the intrigue?

This strange scenario isn’t far from what unfolded in the media last week when novelist and screenwriter Budd Schulberg died. The only difference is that Schulberg, once a communist, blew the whistle on Stalin’s murderous Soviet regime and the Communist Party it controlled in America.

Read it all. Exit question for recent college grads: just who WAS Stalin, anyway?

h/t: powerline