Friday, October 29, 2010

Midnight approaches for current political campaign

The clock is about to strike midnight regarding Tuesday's election, and the event is being hyped as the most eagerly anticipated midterm election since 1994.

Sixteen years ago the 'Republican Revolution' took place as voters expressed their uncertainty about the direction our nation was going under President Bill Clinton and Congress.

The Republican's 'Contract with America' was one of most effective marketing gimmicks in recent political history, and many decided to buy into it.

The result was that Republicans made sizable gains in Congress. Will that happen again on Tuesday? The answer will come soon.

Voters have a big decision. Are they satisfied with the direction the federal government is heading or not? It is not as straightforward a question as it would seem.

Those who are satisfied with the status quo will quickly point out that the Obama administration inherited a mess when he took office.

There is no denying that, and his supporters defend the president by stating that two years simply has not been enough time to correct everything that is wrong. Keeping Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will help the president deal with our nation's issues.

On the other hand, opponents are tired of being patient. National unemployment has been at 9.5 percent or higher for 14 consecutive months. This is the first time since the Great Depression that this has taken place.

Additionally, many feel the White House and Congress have been indifferent toward the wishes of the public on issues like healthcare reform. Reform, of course, was passed, but not in a form that satisfied either side.

Despite this, the biggest question to be answered Tuesday is: Does anybody really care? Voter apathy is the biggest opponent our nation faces when it comes to our government.

People are quick to complain about the problems in government whether it is on the local, state, or federal level. However, do all the complainers hold up their end of the bargain? Do citizens do a good job of being dedicated gatekeepers of our government? The answer has to be 'no.'

Many people can not be bothered to vote much less show interest in the daily functioning of government. People clamor for 'change' but often do not know what kind of change they want.

Many would agree that our federal government is too bloated and inefficient. Many would agree that sizable cuts need to be made. However, how many would still support the cuts if it required them to make personal sacrifices?

We are seeing this play out in Europe now. Countries like France and England have come to the point where they simply do not have the revenue to continue providing services as they have. Especially in France, the protests have been loud.

Will we react the same way here if real change comes? I do not know, but at this point, I am not optimistic that real change will come. It does not matter whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge.

The rhetoric between the two parties is different, but in actions, they seem like shades of gray to me.

However, don't blame the politicians because it is our fault. We are reaping what our apathy has brought us.

As much as I hope for a large voter turnout on Tuesday, my past experience teaches me that most of you reading this will not vote. Pessimism and cynicism have choked off my idealism when it comes to this matter.

I simply do not believe the public has the backbone to produce a high voter turnout on Tuesday.

Sorry if that makes you mad, but truth can taste bitter sometime. Prove me wrong.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote of the day

"There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." -- Joshua 1:5, The Holy Bible (KJV)

Monday, October 25, 2010

'The Band' remains as vital as ever after 41 years

Four decades later, it is easy to underestimate The Band's impact when they had their breakthrough in 1968. At that time, rock and roll remained drenched in psychedelia, and free-form expressionistic jamming was the style of choice. Bands with silly names like the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Vanilla Fudge were on the scene.

Looking back, it seems obvious that the time was ripe for a breath of fresh air. The Band, whose very name was a reaction to the times, arrived on the scene that year with their debut album Music from Big Pink. Instead of the jamming that was popular, The Band emphasized ensemble work and their expertise on their debut record produced songs like 'The Weight.'

To those paying attention, The Band was not a new band. They performed for years under names like The Crackers and The Hawks. They eventually began playing with Bob Dylan, and their best collaborations with him occurred in 1967. They worked with Dylan as he recuperated from a motorcycle accident, and that collaboration was eventually released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.

However, The Band released its best album in late 1969. This self-titled album would haunt them in some respects because it provided a remarkably high standard for the rest of their career. The fullness and richness of these recordings grow stronger with each listening.

The best song ever written about dignity is 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.' Written by guitarist Robbie Robertson, he showed that a Canadian could provide keen insight about American life during the Civil War. In fact, the whole album has an Americana feel that is unique. The fact that four of the groups five members were from Canada makes it all the more unique.

"Virgil Kane is the name, and I rode on the Danville train," sings drummer Levon Helm as the song begins. The song contains haunting imagery as vivid as any Matthew Brady photo, and it conveys the despair of lives that are in shambles. This song produces images that are cold and stark.

'Up on Cripple Creek' is funky and made the Top 30 on the singles chart. 'Rag Mama Rag' is fiddle driven and embraces the joys of sharing your sleeping bag with somebody special. 'King Harvest (Has Surely Come)' paints a picture of a late afternoon sunset in summertime.

Though Robertson was principle songwriter, he sings none of the songs. Rarely has a group been blessed with so many excellent vocalists. Helm, bassist Rick Danko, and pianist/organist Richard Manuel share the vocal chores. Manuel's sweet swinging on 'Whispering Pines' is worth the price of the album alone.

Following this album, they continued touring and churning out albums until the late 70s. However, they decided to call it quits and their farewell concert is one of the best rock and roll movies ever. Called The Last Waltz, it was a concert of epic proportions in which most of their contemporaries performed.

After a few years, four of them (minus Robertson) reformed and toured. Kind of like a boxer who can not stop returning to the ring, they played on and on and on. However, that should not take away any of the luster of their career.

Resource material: The Rolling Stone Album Guide; The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's a texting world

Like most people, I enjoy the convenience that advances in technology have provided for us in our everyday lives.

For example, microwave ovens greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare a meal. Advancements regarding what personal computers can do definitely brings a lot of versatility to our lives.

Of course, cell phones may lead the pack when it comes to helping organize our lives. Our lives are hectic, and one unexpected event can cause our schedules to spin wildly out of control.

Twenty years ago, we would have been out of luck because contacting people on the run was quite inconvenient. Now, all we have to do is pull our cell phone out of our pocket and a quick call puts everything back on track.

Cell phones also provide other conveniences. Depending on the device a person owns, e-mail can be checked, the Internet can be surfed, and music can be downloaded. We have come a long way in only a couple of decades.

The number one accessory people use on cell phones is text messaging. Text messaging allows people to type out brief messages on their phone and sends them to the recipient.

Personally, I do not use text messaging that much. I only use it when I am absolutely sure the person I need to reach is unreachable by making a call. The primary reason I do this is because text messaging frustrates me. I tend to be too precise when I write so I can not make myself use the abbreviations and slang that many use when sending a text.

Maybe it is a generational thing because younger people do a lot better job than me when it comes to sending text messages fast.

The Nielsen company recently released the results of an eye-opening study that tracked the text messaging habits of people. Teens from age 13-17 now send 3,339 texts per month. Teen females send 4,050 texts per month while males send an average of 2,539.

These amounts tower over other age groups. For example, the 18-24 age group sends 1,630 messages a month.

Breaking down the totals for the teen group, these findings show that teens send approximately six text messages per waking hour.

That is a lot of messages. To paraphrase the actor Slim Pickens in the film Blazing Saddles: What in the Wide, Wide World of Sports is going on here?

I understand that text messaging is useful for young people to update their parents on what they are doing. Also, the novelty of the technology plays a role in why they text so much.

But more than 3,300 texts per month? It has been 30 years since I was a teen so maybe I am out of touch. However, I can not imagine why there would be a need to communicate so much with others.

Thank goodness the wireless companies provide unlimited text messaging packages. If they did not, I can only imagine how often teens would accumulate overages when it comes to their texting habits.

However, the teens reflect what is going on in our society as a whole. When it comes to cell phones and other data producing devices, it is easy for us all to be consumed by the technology.

For example, how many times have we ridden in an elevator and the people there had their faces buried in a phone? I have experienced that a lot.

So, instead of people making eye contact and saying a casual 'hello,' we ignore each other because we have to send a text message or e-mail at that particular moment.

The convenience of technology is nice, but the world is becoming that much more impersonal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bob Seger's 'Live Bullet' one of the most notable live albums of all time

As I have written before, I am not a big fan of live albums. Most of them re-hash an artist's big hits and rarely break new ground. Additionally, with all the techno-wizardry that goes on in post production these days, many live albums are not totally live.
However, when looking back at the last 40 or 50 years of popular music, there are a few that stand out. One such album is Live Bullet by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. In one mesmerizing performance, Seger went from regional journeyman to national star.
By the mid-70s, it appeared that Seger was running out of chances to make the big time. Though a fan favorite in the Midwest, he had not been able to break out nationally. He had a Top 20 hit with 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' in 1969, but he was unable to sustain it. Most of his following albums barely dented the Top 200.
Live Bullet changed this. Recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Seger was playing at home to his people. The crowd and Seger fed off each other. His passion fueled the audience, and their response drove Seger to greater heights.
The album begins with a funky version of Tina Turner's 'Nutbush City Limits,' which allowed the artist and crowd to generate a nice lather. Then, the Silver Bullet Band launched into a medley of 'Travelin' Man' and 'Beautiful Loser.' Seger's growling vocals, and the instrumental break that links the songs defines 'urgency.' It was as if all involved understood that they were in the middle of something special. And they delivered.
Perhaps the most well-known song from the set is 'Turn the Page.' Still a radio staple, it is a ballad about the challenges of life on the road. It is clearly autographical as Seger sings with weariness about his journey. It is a great performance, but likely, it could not have happened without the 10-year struggle he had gone through to reach this point.
Other highlights include a rocking re-make of Van Morrison's 'I've Been Working' and a thunderous 'Katmandu.' Additionally, the set includes 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' and 'Get Out of Denver.' 'Get Out of Denver' is likely one of the better Seger songs most people have not heard. Built on a Chuck Berry riff, it is delivered at a frantic pace and deals with the need to get out of town quickly.
There are some missteps. 'Heavy Music' is too long, and 'Jody Girl' seems to have been included just to give the band a chance to catch its breath.
However, those are minor issues. Thirty-five years after being released, it sounds as vital as ever. In the United States, it has sold more than five million copies and many more internationally. Seger followed this album with the remarkable Night Moves, and it planted him as a musical force that was here to stay.
He records at a much more leisurely pace these days. That is a shame, but at least we have a ton of good tunes to listen to.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

High unemployment is issue that could doom Democrats next month

We are only a few weeks away from next month's election, and both Democrats and Republicans are already sweating what should be an exciting sprint to the finish line.

There is a lot at stake. For President Barack Obama, he has had the luxury of having both the U.S. House and Senate controlled by Democratic majorities for the first two years of his presidency.

Because of this, he has been able to pass healthcare reform and other legislation that he promised to voters when he ran for president in 2008. Republicans, on the other hand, have had to sit on their hands and brood while watching this happen.

However, a few factors have made Democrats vulnerable in the election. Most significantly, the economy remains sluggish, and unemployment is still high.

Though many experts have stated the recession ended last year, it has been difficult to convince the skeptical public of that. Unemployment remains unacceptably high. The national unemployment rate for September was 9.6 percent, and the rate remains above 10 percent in several states.

Many economists have pointed out that unemployment usually is a lagging indicator when it comes to determining our economic health.

This makes sense. Typically, businesses want to be absolutely certain that the economy is strengthening before taking on the considerable cost of hiring more people. Because of this, unemployment rates can remain high even after a recession has ended.

The real frustration that a lot of the public is feeling is that the unemployment rate has remained at an extraordinarily high level for a prolonged time.

We all got used to unemployment levels down around five percent before the economy tanked. Like many things before the bubble burst, we are not going to see unemployment levels that low for a long time.

With this frustration building, Democrats find themselves facing an election with a whole lot of angry voters.

All voters can see at this point is the figure of 9.6 percent. They have no patience for explanations of how there have been improvements when it comes to hiring in the private sector.

For example, 64,000 jobs in the private sector were added in September. Though that amount should be described as ‘tepid,’ it is the ninth consecutive month in which the private sector added jobs.

However, for unemployment these days, there is a step back for every step forward. Though the private sector added jobs, the public sector lost 159,000 jobs in September. Most of these losses were cuts by local and state governments trying to balance their budgets and temporary U.S. census workers getting laid off.

On top of this, the unemployment rate does not take into consideration those who are 'under-employed.' Under-employed people are those who have had to take jobs of less than 40 hours.

In many cases, this is done because a person is running out of unemployment benefits and has to grab low-paying, part-time jobs just to keep some money coming in. Estimates vary, but some experts put the under-employment rate at 16 to 17 percent.

Additionally, there are people who have run out of unemployment benefits and have simply given up looking for a job. They slip through the cracks of the unemployment rate as well.

The bottom line is incumbents have a lot of explaining to do, and it will be interesting to see just how mad voters are next month.

Frankly, at this point, I do not have a lot of confidence in either the Democrats or Republicans. Their main focus seems to be maintaining power instead of working together.

How about a third party?

I am starting to warm to the idea.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

'The Apostle' a movie well worth seeing

A week or so ago, I finally got around to seeing The Apostle starring Robert Duvall. It was first rate, and I highly recommend it.

Duvall plays a well-respected preacher who loses control and commits a crime of passion. He flees and the film deals with him rebuilding his life as law enforcement closes in on him.

The film has an excellent supporting cast. I thought Billy Bob Thornton was especially good even though he was only in a few scenes. Farrah Fawcett, June Carter Cash, and Miranda Richardson are also in it.

For those wishing to read a longer review, click here.

Some of the movie's scenes were so realistic that I thought I was watching a documentary instead of a work of fiction.

Watching this is a good way to spend two hours.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tennessee an appropriate 2-4 as first half of season ends

Entering the season, most people understood that the Tennessee Volunteers would have an uneven season based on its youth and lack of depth. Six games into the season, the Vols have been the walking definition of 'inconsistent' and have a 2-4 record.

Saturday's loss at Georgia was another example of this. After coming within one play of upsetting LSU the previous week, Tennessee laid a huge egg against the Bulldogs. The Vols barely had a pulse in losing 41-14. I hate to write this, but at times, the team played like it had no heart whatsoever. It was reminiscent of their performance in the second half of the Oregon game only this time it lasted the whole game.

The Volunteers have reached the middle of their schedule, and mercifully, have this Saturday off. If nothing else, the break will let the team rest. The Volunteers have to find some way to get better in order to qualify for a bowl.

Actually, that is a stretch. Tennessee does not look close to being a bowl team at this point so maybe the goal should be lower. Tennessee is one of only two major football programs to have never lost eight games in a season (Ohio State is the other). Maybe the focus should be on winning three of the remaining six games to keep that fact alive.

The next game is against Alabama. The Tide showed that they were mortal by losing to South Carolina. Can Tennessee beat them? I doubt it. In fact, the most drama on October 23 will be seeing how many Tennessee fans sold their tickets to Alabama fans. In 2008, it was disgraceful to see how many Tide fans found their way into Neyland Stadium.

Consider this a personal plea: Tennessee fans, please do not sell your tickets to Alabama fans if you are not attending the game. The team deserves more than to walk on the field and see 25,000 'Bama fans there. If necessary, take less money and sell your tickets to a Tennessee fan who has never seen the Volunteers play Alabama in person. Do the right thing.

The game following Alabama is a road trip to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are soaring after beating Alabama, and they will likely be a double-digit favorite to beat Tennessee. A loss here drops the Vols to 2-6.

Entering November, Tennessee has to find a way to win three out of four. The schedule lightens so it is doable, but will the Vols find the consistency to do it? The November games are at Memphis, vs. Ole Miss, vs. Kentucky, and at Vanderbilt. Of the four, the Kentucky game looks the most challenging. The Wildcats took Auburn down to the final play before losing on Saturday. They have not beaten Tennessee since 1984, and this could be the year they break their losing streak. If they do not beat us this year, then they never will.

Ole Miss is inconsistent. Will they play like the team that lost to Jacksonville State or the team that bounced Kentucky? Memphis is bad so a win looks probable there. Vanderbilt is about even with Tennessee when it comes to talent, but in recent years, Tennessee has played better in Nashville against the Commodores than it Knoxville.

The bottom line is that it will not be easy to get to five wins. It can be done, but the Vols have to turn it up a notch.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

U.S. skeletons rattle again

Despite the problems the United States has, I believe most people reading this are grateful to live in our country. We enjoy a level of freedom that a lot of people do not enjoy around the world.

Still, we have our struggles.

Our federal government is too large and inefficient. The government also probes our personal lives in ways that make us feel uncomfortable. However, I think most would agree that life could be a whole lot worse.

Of course, this does not mean that our government does not have skeletons in its closet. A vivid reminder of that occurred last week.

Last week, federal officials apologized for medical experiments performed more than 60 years ago that were both shocking and ghastly.

From 1946-48, the U.S. government participated in a medical study that deliberately infected hundreds of mentally ill patients and prisoners in Guatemala. The clinical trial that involved the U.S. Public Health Service and was co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Pan American Health Sanitary Bureau and the Guatemalan government, exposed almost 700 people to such sexually transmitted diseases as syphilis and gonorrhea.

In a joint statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stated: "We are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices."

Wow. If news like this does not send a cold chill down a person's spine, then I do not know what will.

Incredibly, there have been similar experiments that have been exposed in the past. For example, President Bill Clinton apologized in 1997 for studies that saw American citizens treated like the people in Guatemala.

Known as the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male," the study started in 1932 and followed the conditions of 400 black men who contracted syphilis. The men were not treated and were only told that they suffered from "bad blood."

"To determine the natural course of syphilis, the researchers withheld from the infected men what was then the standard treatment -- mercury and arsenic compounds," the New York Times reported in 1997. "Then, in 1947, when penicillin was found to be an effective treatment for syphilis, it too was withheld.

"Federal researchers eventually went so far as to get local physicians to promise not to provide antibiotics to individuals in the study,” according to the Times.

These examples of medical studies gone wild should provoke us to consider a lot of issues.

First of all, a lot of time has passed since these studies took place. Therefore, it is impossible to hold those accountable who directed these studies. However, these experiments should help us understand why some mistrust the government.

When people rebuke minority groups who claim the system is racist, we should understand that this mistrust is rooted in situations like this. Remember, these studies picked on people that the government should have been protecting. The government exploited these people and now must suffer the scorn of public opinion.

Additionally, examples like this should remind us that we must remain vigilant when keeping an eye on our federal government. We are in an election season and negativity continues to run rampant in our country.

It is not like people need much of a reason to be cynical toward the government. When we hear of stories like this, it is like heaping coal on a blazing fire.

The bottom line is that situations like these should make us shake our head with disbelief.

Now, all we can do is make sure this never happens again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Is 'Blood on the Tracks' Bob Dylan's greatest album?

There is no disputing that Blood on the Tracks deserves to be in the discussion regarding what Bob Dylan's best album is. The big question is whether or not it is the best.

Answering this question is a tricky proposition. Dylan has gone through so many stylistic changes in his career that it seems almost unfair to compare certain albums. For example, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan is a whole lot different album than Blonde on Blonde. Both are undeniably great, but it is difficult to compare the two because of their differences.

To reduce this to a cliché, comparing Dylan's music in 1962 to his music in 1966 is like comparing apples to oranges. Each phase of his career represents his development as an artist to the point that he was not the same artist when each phase ended. Dylan is unique in this respect because his career has been so long. As he has grown as a man and an artist, we have seen him change into a 'new Bob Dylan' in each phase.

Therefore, it really is a waste of time and effort when trying to determine which of his albums is the greatest. When it comes to Blood on the Tracks, all we have to do is accept that it is great as we absorb ourselves in it.

When it was released in 1975, it arrived at a time when the leaders of the great musical era of the Sixties were withering on the vine. Dylan had begun the Seventies with a thud with Self-Portrait. In the years that followed, he made excellent but sometimes erratic music (the fragmented New Morning comes to mind). When Blood on the Tracks arrived, it arrived with a jolt.

The album deals with love on lots of different levels. Many believe the inspiration and passion that comes through on the album was because of problems in his marriage. I have always been a little hesitant when people try to pin intimate songs like these to specific events in an artist's life. However, there is no denying that there is both joy and weariness in these songs. Both are common traits when studying what love is and what it is not.

The album begins with the remarkable 'Tangled Up in Blue.' The universal appeal of this song is that it deals with the past, present, and future of love. We all reach a point in our lives where we reflect on past relationships. When we do this, we look at where love has taken us and how it helped bring us to our current point in life. In Dylan's presentation of this, he walks us through the singer's experiences, which had taken him all over the world. Dylan closes the song simply by singing that he is going down the road 'heading for another joint.' In one form or another, we all do the same.

The volcanic 'Idiot Wind' is about romantic failure that borders on the apocalyptic when it comes to its imagery. It is similar to 'Like a Rolling Stone' in that the listener can revel somewhat in the attack on the other party. The venom in which Dylan delivers his vocals drags the listener through the song with uncommon passion. It is hard for the listener not to think of times in their own lives when events were out of control and emotions have been reduced to a howl or scream. The song is great but not for the faint of heart.

'You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go' follows 'Idiot Wind,' and it is an excellent example of sequencing songs. As full of rage as 'Idiot Wind' is, 'You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go' is light and breezy like a pleasant afternoon during springtime. It presents love at its most naïve and playful. It represents the honeymoon phase that most relationships go through and provides a much needed breath of fresh air after the intensity of 'Idiot Wind.'

'Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts' is a long love story drenched in imagery from the Wild West. 'Simple Twist of Fate' is a song of regret. 'You're a Big Girl Now' offers more of the same.

However, one of the most interesting songs considered for Blood on the Tracks is one that did not make the final cut. 'Up to Me' is a remarkable ballad that was eventually released on Biograph in 1985. According to Cameron Crowe's liner notes for Biograph, it was written as a companion piece for 'Shelter from the Storm' that appeared on Blood on the Tracks.

Crowe wrote: "The song also toys with his (Dylan's) own inscrutable persona. 'If we never meet again, baby, remember me,' he sings in the final verse, 'How my lone guitar played sweet for you, that old time melody. And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you free. No one else could play that tune. You know it was up to me.'"

Commented Dylan: "I don't think of myself as Bob Dylan. It's like Rimbaud said, 'I is another.'"

As good as Blood on the Tracks is, the inclusion of 'Up to Me' would have taken it to another level. It cried out to be the closing track on the album but turned out to be a lost opportunity. Then again, 'Up to Me' was one of the major reasons Biograph was such a fantastic boxed set.

If nothing else, Blood on the Tracks is a mature record. The songs deal with love in a three-dimensional way. Dylan was in his mid-30s when it was released, and by this age, most of us have seen the pros and cons of what love can bring.

Dylan brought this home in perhaps the most literate way ever presented in rock and roll. The album can best be described as an eruption of emotion and talent. He has not produced another album quite like it, but given the subject matter, it would be tough for any artist to repeat this twice.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Life is a whirlwind

When describing life, one of the most common clichés used is that most people experience many seasons to their lives.

Going back to the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament and moving forward, it is an analogy that writers have repeatedly used to describe the ups and downs of life.

For every season of prosperity and beauty, there will be a season of drought and despair. This is a fact that can be counted on as surely as the falling of leaves in autumn. It is one of the inarguable facts of life. I guess this analogy is a little more than a cliché then, right?

For people paying attention the last couple of weeks, we know that there have been unspeakable crimes and deaths that have taken place in our community. They are usually the types of crimes that we read about taking place in big cities instead of a small, lovely town like Manchester.

I will not recount the events. They are already burned into our souls so there is no need to endure these facts one more time. All that will be said is that those who passed away are greatly loved, and the family members who remain are just as loved.

We understand that no place is protected when an evil whirlwind blows through a community. Sometimes the power of the whirlwind is so strong that all people can do is lift their hands to shield their eyes. And pray.

Among the frustrating aspects of an event like this is the feeling that those impacted (directly or indirectly) have to just sit there and take it. The fury of the moment takes place and lots of people have to deal with the aftermath.

However, there is good news. People do not have to just sit there and take it. And from what I have observed, the people involved in this situation have not sat there and taken it.

This is because for every evil whirlwind that passes through there is a good whirlwind as well. It is a whirlwind filled with love, compassion, and togetherness. The power of those three things becomes a lot more obvious during times like these.

It makes me wonder why we do not spend more time investing in them when times are good. I guess we believe we always will have tomorrow to get around to that, but of course, tomorrow does not always come.

If nothing else, events like this demonstrate that we will all face the end of our physical lives some day. Why don't people put as much thought into that as they do other parts of their lives? I don't know.

Most folks spend a lot of time planning for retirement. They save their dollars so they can live a lifestyle that will suit their needs. Physical fitness is a big part of this retirement preparation as well.

Still, I do not believe people spend a lot of time contemplating death. We can save all the money we want and work out until our feet ache, but there is no guarantee we will sail past retirement age.

The bottom line is a whirlwind could blow through our lives with no notice. When that happens, all the best intentions that people have about preparing for the afterlife are pretty much out the door.

Most people reading this are likely doing so on Saturday morning or afternoon. I hate to be Captain Bringdown when it comes to your weekend, but time does not wait.

Decisions need to be made.

What are you going to do? Trusting Jesus as your Savior would be a good start.