Saturday, February 26, 2011

Egyptian revolution far from over

The events in Egypt during the last few weeks have been breathtaking to watch. Old leaders do not go gently into that good night, and former president Hosni Mubarak was no exception as he tried to avoid being ousted from power.

However, he finally let go, and the Egyptian people got what they said they wanted. The big question now is whether or not the country will move toward democracy or another form of government.

Right now, the military is in charge. While that may help the country remain stable, I wonder how easy it will be to get power away from it in the long run.

The country remains months away from having any type of election. Frankly, the people appear more interested in partying in their newfound freedom than making tough decisions about the country's future.

Because of this, the military will have plenty of time to become even more entrenched. I may be guilty of stereotyping, but it often seems that when the military gains control of a poor country it is very reluctant to let it go. The Egyptian military had a large say in how the country was run when Mubarak was in power. Now, it may be unstoppable.

If this is the case, the Egyptian people may some day look back at the reign of Mubarak as the good old days. Let us pray this is not the case.

If the country does move toward a representative democracy similar to the United States, it is important that the people there understand that its transformation will not take place overnight.

When studying how different parts of the world view the United States, it appears that many lack an understanding of how much hard work it takes to make our country function.

This is understandable because the information they get about us comes through a media filter. For many, the United States is nothing more than an episode of Baywatch. Sun, surf, and beautiful women are the order of the day in this version of America.

Of course, we know better. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, our country did not just skate through all the growing pains that a new country goes through.

For instance, the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, but approximately 40 years later we were still at war with the British. They burned the presidential mansion in 1814 in one of the most humbling moments of our country's history.

For the Egyptian people, there will be no shortcuts, and they must discipline themselves. While they are enjoying more liberty, they must understand that liberty without discipline often leads to chaos.

Despite our differences here in America, many of us understand that we must discipline ourselves and be willing to pull together for the common good. Of course, not everybody does that, but most of us do.

If the Egyptians become complacent and simply want to wallow in their freedom, it will be short lived. The Middle East is too volatile a place for that approach to succeed for very long.

The bottom line is that the path Egypt takes in the coming months will impact all of the Middle East. While the military has stated it will honor existing treaties with countries like Israel, there are no guarantees this will remain permanent.

Additionally, the seeds of revolution have already spread to other countries in that region. Big changes are under way in Libya. Other countries like Jordan and Iran could be next on the chopping block when it comes to significant unrest.

Iran is the less likely of those two to see genuine change. This is because the leadership will not hesitate to crack skulls if things get too out of hand.

Expect more bloodshed to come.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Easter is April 24, but it is not too early to start thinking about it

The Easter holiday falls late this year and will be observed on April 24. I know that seems like a long time away, but we need to begin focusing on it now.

After all, the focus on Christmas begins weeks in advance, and it is not as significant as Easter. This is not meant as a slap at Christmas. It is a wonderful time of year, and the event it celebrates is critical to Christianity.

However, the Resurrection of Jesus is the most important event of Christianity. More and more people have begun calling this holiday Resurrection Sunday instead of Easter. It certainly seems more fitting. With no Resurrection, everybody could just stay in bed on Sunday mornings because this faith would be a complete fraud. Without the Resurrection of Jesus, He would be another false prophet. I know that sounds blunt, but it is the truth.

So, as the weeks unfold, let us try to focus on its approaching. I know we are all busy people, and our lives move at a breakneck speed. However, if we can make time for a multi-week build up to Christmas, why can't we do the same for Easter?

Obviously, the tone of the two holidays is completely different. Still, there are long-term ways to prepare for Easter. I will not map out a list of suggestions for you all because I think you must follow your own hearts.

The most important point right now is that we begin our preparation. If we do not, it will come and go with such speed it will be nothing more than a blip on the radar.

When we consider the events that led up to the Resurrection (betrayal, rejection, crucifixion, and more), I think we would all agree that this needs to be more than just one day of reflection.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A taste of early spring

This has been a great winter for those who enjoy snow. Most weeks, there has been a chance of snow and more often than not we have gotten some of the white stuff.

There have been flurries, small snows and large snows (by Tennessee standards, anyway). There have been nuisance snows that have only disrupted our lives a little bit. Then, there have been deep snows that have caused a lot of problems especially if a person has been caught far from home.

For instance, I work in Davidson County so I have had my eyes on the skies quite often this season. The Weather Channel's web site has been an invaluable resource during this time. A delayed decision of only a few minutes can mean the difference between a smooth ride home and having to dodge slick spots in the rural areas of Interstate 24.

In the last couple of weeks, I have reached the inescapable conclusion that I am sick of snow. As a child I yearned for it, and as an adult, I have tolerated it. This year, it has provoked angst and gnashing of teeth.

I am confident this will only be a temporary situation. Next winter, if snow is in short supply, I am sure I will become anxious to see it again and will complain if it does not come.

However, for the time being, I am fed up with it.

Fortunately, we have gotten a break from this the last few days. We have had temperatures at or above normal. Because of this, my mind has been wandering to the upcoming spring.

During the day, temperatures will become warm enough to wear shorts while the evenings will remain cool enough so we have to keep an extra blanket on the bed. A perfect weather day is when it is cool enough to wear a sweatshirt while warm enough to wear shorts. It is a perfect blend of what nature has to offer.

Of course, I am not naïve enough to believe that winter has gently slipped into the background. History shows us that March has plenty of teeth when it comes to winter weather.

In recent history, the March Superstorm of 1993 dumped more than 10 inches of snow on us here locally. In an ironic twist, this was on the same weekend that the Coffee County girls' basketball team won the state championship.

Instead of being at the game, I can remember listening to it on the radio. And it was all because of the snow.

My advice is that we not let our guards down because I have a feeling winter still has some tricks up its sleeve. As unpredictable as the season has been, there is no reason to believe that there will not be one more big snowfall dumped on us.

If that happens, that will be a sad day. Of course, there is tremendous irony in my feelings on this. Even after all the snow we have seen, watching it fall from the sky is still one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

Much like a dog sticks his head out the window of a moving car, I cannot stop looking outside when it is snowing.

As it falls, thoughts are not about the hazards the flakes will cause. The flakes seem like small, beautiful works of art. It is art so beautiful that it would be a sin not to appreciate their beauty.

Then, of course, the snow stops falling, and I walk outside and slip and fall. At this point, reality trumps art, and my thoughts go back to spring again.

It is about one month until spring. Let us hope that we have an early one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the day: From the film 'Rushmore'

(Speech to the students of Rushmore Academy): "You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget that. Thank you." – spoken by the character 'Herman Blume' as portrayed by Bill Murray in the film Rushmore.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Brace yourself...It's Valentine's Day

At this moment, less than 48 hours remain until one of the most important days of the year for the men of America.

No, I am not referring to the Super Bowl because that was last Sunday. I am talking about Valentine's Day.

It is the one day of the year that is specifically set aside so men can show the special lady in their lives just how they feel about them. Of course, men should do that every day, but extra emphasis is put on this day.

I know the holiday also applies to women. However, since I am a man, I guess I see this from a man's point of view. After all, men have 364 days to prepare for this day. So, there is no way we can possibly blow this, right?

Well, this is where things get a little tricky. It can become tough to remain creative year after year after year. A traditional box of chocolates and flowers are nice, but deep down, I think all of us understand that ladies want to be swept off their feet.

The timing of Valentine's Day is bad this year because it falls on a Monday. Monday is easily the least romantic day of the week. It is the day most of us trudge back to work or school, and we are exhausted by the time the evening arrives.

Because of this, I know a lot of couples are celebrating the holiday this weekend. This is a good strategy in some ways. It eliminates having to deal with the distractions Mondays can bring. Plus, celebrating this on the weekend provides better opportunities for going out on the town.

However, I have some friendly advice for my fellow men. Even if we celebrate the holiday today, we still must do something really special on Monday.

It does not matter if both parties involved agree that this weekend will be their Valentine's weekend. Trust me; a little extra attention on Monday will be what is remembered most.

For example, celebrating Valentine's Day today instead of on Feb. 14 is kind of like opening Christmas presents on Dec. 22. It is still fun, but it is not the same.

Nope, Feb. 14 is the day. Therefore, it is important that men step it up Monday regardless of what takes place over the weekend.

Now, I understand that this will require a remarkable display of willpower for some. But look at it this way: it has been a dreadful winter with the abundance of snow and cold weather we have had.

We need all the warmth we can get right now. And this includes warming the heart of those closest to you.

Cynics may say that Valentine's Day is just another manufactured holiday meant to separate us from our money. I feel sorry for those people.

I do not necessarily disagree that it is a manufactured holiday, but any day that gets us to focus more on love can not be that bad.

When we read and watch the evening news, it seems the last thing on people's minds right now is love.

In recent weeks, there have been riots in the streets of countries around the world. More and more, we appear to be at each other's throats. While it appears to be part of our human nature to destroy each other, loving each other is also part of who we are.

It is not always easy to love though. It is a lot easier to love those who love us than those who do not.

Still, we have to try. In many ways, it is our last hope. Once love goes, then everything else goes with it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Band on the Run' easily Paul McCartney's best post-Beatles' work

The four men who were the Beatles all made excellent and mediocre music at various points of their solo careers. We cannot fault them for that. Most consider the band the greatest of all time, and it is only logical that there would be a drop off in their output.

In the aftermath of the band's break up, Paul McCartney came stumbling out of the gate. After coming up with gems like 'Get Back' and 'Let It Be' in 1969-70, it seems he lost his muse for a while. Only 'Maybe I’m Amazed,' which appeared on his first solo album McCartney, approached his Beatles' standard in the period from mid-1970 to early-1973. 'My Love' was a big hit, but its lyrics were so sweet that they likely produced cavities for millions of people around the world. Also, 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' was another hit, but it had more style than content. 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' was just plain lightweight.

Considering McCartney's track record, it was only a matter of time before he would break out of it in a big way and that happened with 1973's Band on the Run. A huge critical and commercial success, it is an essential album from that time period.

The album is listed as a 'Paul McCartney and Wings' album, but make no mistake, this is Paul's show all the way. Shortly before traveling to Nigeria where this album was made, two of the members of Wings bailed out. This left McCartney with the additional chores of playing drums and other instruments, and he delivered a remarkable performance.

The title song introduced recurring themes of the album that revolved around independence, freedom, and escape. The song is actually in five parts, and the key phrase – 'if we ever get out of here' -- was something said by George Harrison in a business meeting during the final days of the Beatles, according to Nicolas Schaffner's excellent book The Beatles Forever.

Additionally, the song 'Helen Wheels' chronicled McCartney's first tour of England after the Beatles' split. 'Jet' was another big hit, but the most interesting song on the album may be 'Let Me Roll It.'

In the aftermath of the Beatles' break up, McCartney and John Lennon had jousted several times through song. The most devastating song in this feud was Lennon's powerful 'How Do You Sleep?' from his Imagine album in 1971. In the song, Lennon denounced McCartney for the mediocre music he had been producing and wondered if he had anything of substance left to offer.

'Let Me Roll It' added another chapter to their conversation but with a twist. The musical arrangement was a clear parody of Lennon's 1970 album Plastic Ono Band. Using a sparse arrangement with only keyboards, bass, primitive guitar, and drums, Paul projected his feelings to Lennon. However, instead of attacking Lennon, Paul acknowledged his contribution to his life. The lyrics and overall tone of the song had to have been a relief to Beatles' fans who were tired of all the bickering. It was during this time that the relations between Paul and the others had begun to thaw. It also fed rumors of a possible reunion, which, of course, never came.

Though he has produced some great solo work, Band on the Run remains McCartney's best album. Tug of War and Venus and Mars are both excellent albums, but Band on the Run gets the edge as the best.

McCartney is a legend, and there is no denying that. Band on the Run is a reminder of his greatness.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Titans name Munchak head coach, but is this really change?

Today, the Tennessee Titans officially promoted Mike Munchak from offensive line coach to head coach. His hiring was not a big surprise because his name was one of the first mentioned after the Titans and former head coach Jeff Fisher parted ways.

However, the big question is whether or not he is the right person for the job. When Fisher left, team officials made remarks that sometimes change is needed so everybody involved can have a fresh start. My question is: Is this genuine change?

Munchak had been offensive line coach with the Titans since 1997 and has been with the organization approximately 30 years, going back to his days as a player. Can a person with such deep roots in the organization really be considered an agent of change?

That question will likely be answered by how he handles assembling his staff. If the Titans really want new blood, more changes must take place on the staff. If this does not happen, next season's team will look very similar to what we saw in 2010.

Of course, this will all be answered in the coming weeks.

The Nightly Daily wishes Munchak success and many wins in the future.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Improved political civility begins at the grassroots level

Even casual observers understand that the political rhetoric in our country is often heated and full of cheap shots.

In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona that injured a congresswoman, there have been calls to tone down the noise. Why was this done?

In the hours after the shooting, some thought that the howling that passes for debate these days may have played a role in the crime. Since then, these thoughts have been debunked somewhat when it became apparent that the alleged assassin has mental issues.

Because of this, I think the idea that political rhetoric played any role in this incident is wrong.

However, this should not cause us to pull back from the issue of the nasty political debates we hear. To his credit, President Obama has made impressive statements for both Democrats and Republicans to tone it down.

Has that happened? The results have been mixed so far. At the State of the Union speech last week, some members of both parties sat together as a show of unity.

On the negative side, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee evoked the Holocaust when describing Republican tactics during the recent Obamacare debates. Cohen, who is Jewish, showed insensitivity toward one of the worst crimes in human history just to make a political point. Disturbing.

A question we must ask ourselves is: Where does all this inflammatory debate come from? There has to be a source for all of this, right?

While it is easy to pile on and blame only our leaders for this, all Americans need to look in the mirror when assessing guilt. After all, is not our government a reflection of the people who put them in office?

We get the government we deserve. Whether we like it or not, we must admit that our society lacks civility a lot of the time.

Take it from somebody who worked in the customer service industry for several years, people can be ruthless and rude over minor issues. While I agree that customers have to stand up for themselves against big companies, there is a segment of our country that has a lust for confrontation.

While in that industry, I was called just about every name in the book and was consistently threatened. Does that sound that much different from what we hear in Washington?

Many people do not think twice about getting in the face of others. This frequently happens while driving.

Recently, I had another driver get mad at me for merging too slowly onto the interstate. It was during the middle of the afternoon rush hour in Nashville, and the guy behind me was practically having a seizure because he could not get on the road five seconds sooner.

Sorry fellow drivers, but hitting the interstate going 70 miles per hour during rush hour is not realistic. Grow up and develop some patience.

The lack of civility bleeds over to our entertainment as well. A lot of so-called 'reality' television depends on confrontation. Humiliation and embarrassment are key ingredients in this type of entertainment.

The bottom line is that we need to clean up our act if we really want improvement in how our politicians interact with each other.

Maybe I am a naïve dolt, but I believe the Golden Rule still has a place in our society. It is not always easy to treat others like we want to be treated. However, we must sometimes do things because they are difficult.

By definition, life is not always easy, but we are guilty of taking the easy way out too often when it comes to dealing with others.

Reader, it is up to you how you will handle this. But remember: your children are watching.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time is passing...quickly

Late last week, another classmate that I went to elementary and high school with died. This comes on the heels of a classmate who died last summer. For all I know, there may have been others in between.

If nothing else, it makes me realize that I am not getting any younger. Also, my life is moving fast...really fast. Right now, it is moving with the speed of a runaway locomotive.

So, enjoy life while you can. Life (in this world, anyway) is fleeting.