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gregdotfarrelldot

First blog post

Over the web, over the last many years, I have written under different pseudonyms. This is the first time I have tried to attribute something to myself without a false name. I have not quite yet figured out how to manage time of editing, subjects, or what is really appropriate or a good fit for WordPress.

I hope to take some time now that I am done with school to write some poems. I often like to review and critique things. I hope that I can spread the breadth of what I write about more thoroughly as time progresses.

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The Future of Business and What Can Lead Us to Greater Innovation: Part I

(Picture Caption: A probable Cayman Islands resort.)

Citizens once made a deal with the economic masters of their times: I will give up my agrarian lifestyle for a job in the city. We gave up farming, trades, and personal territory for industrialization, a better way of life, a better standard of living. Unfortunately, as we look at America nearly two hundred years on, we find ourselves in a reverse, deplorable situation. As wealth inequality in America and around the world grows bigger and bigger, and we trade money around the world in a global, interconnected marketplace, many of us seem to be losing representation within it. With the advent of the internet we have begun to leave people out of the money in general. As the money supply grows in derivative investments, trades, and fake money like bitcoin around the world, our Federal Reserve is losing its grasp on accounting for our finance. The US Government bank controls merely a third of our money supply, interconnected money flows around the globe, and outside the boundaries of our government’s banks.

The world economy is an unconquerable beast in a globalized economy, something else entirely than what we grew up with in America, during the boom times post-WWII. If money supply originated in cash and barter, checks and credit, then we now seem to be so deep into internet investment possibilities, that no one can monitor money effectively, or control it anymore. Companies and wealthy individuals may hold money offshore in taxshelters, or markets in Europe, China, and Asia. Tech companies especially are storing massive profits away from the US Federal Government in a massive tax evasion scheme, while using our infrastructure and markets as they well please. Participants in the American company are participating less, while the global standard of living rises, and the positive outcomes of global investment increase.

We may not even have a way of accounting for annual GDP measurement anymore because of internet transactions, leading newspapers like the New York Times have said as much. We cannot account for where money may be stored around the world at any time, or where it is going. Money has become an unreadable labyrinth; we cannot contain its number or its presence across the globe. The Fed can no longer change supply or buy Government assets, or sell them, or utilize interest rate changes effectively anymore. The Fed was proven a lame duck in the recession, and a global economy has shown that money will flood anywhere, regardless of borders.

With faster internet speed, the change has been extreme: mobile phones, the iPhone, two thirds of the world’s money could be anywhere at any time. The economy is unhinged, world finance a wild west. If money can multiply supply and value with bank loans transferred in ledgers from bank to bank, or in theory, credit, then internet loans could portend unruly money exchanges. A dollar can enter another bankbook and become more money, so how will the internet and online transactions, world funds, and accounts affect that? America now routinely shows annual GDP growth of around 2% every year, but some wonder if the number is justifiable? What about offshore accounts, untaxed profits? The verity of Gross Domestic Product account like we have had since the financial crisis in 2008, even 2016’s 1.6%, in view of an enormous bull market, makes one truly question if we have all the facts accounted for, when it comes to money and how the internet impacts economy.

In the midst of globalism’s biggest issues, there is also the shrinking source of jobs for workers in the West, such as the United States and United Kingdom. Developing nations are bringing competition from unregulated wages to developed industry workers, and have completely transformed the system of Unions and worker representation had been fought for near the beginning of industrialization and only became the norm around the beginning of the 20th century. As others nations suck from global wealth, it starts to feel like Democracy’ economic gains aren’t permanent. Money is spreading from emerging nations like China, as they invest their currency in dollars and stable democracies. That nation state continues to rebuild itself with rail infrastructure for transporting goods all over Asia and Europe. Second world competition is feasting on first world economies, and people on the homefront, especially those cities midwestern America that were pitted out by globalism, begin to wonder what the answers are, anymore. How do we get a stable job, a stable income, build families, if globalism is going to take away opportunities?

We begin to see the globe as being in a time of unaccountable world finance, a myserious loss of money sourcing, profits, investment, and an overall mystery to where this money is going. If derivatives investments in the financial crisis of 2008 proved you that companies were not infallible to accounting for risk, when giant firms put capital into risky trades, then the presence of money and its mystery increasingly seems like an oncoming bubble. People without the opportunities they thought they once had are beginning to wonder where Wall Street will take the country. Millions of dollars are being sequestered to the rich and powerful. World currency lands in real estate, pricing lower and middle classes out of first time homes and rent in cities near the best employment opportunities. The great recession and stagnant recovery proved society is divided and stratified. Government, in the midst of Citizen’s United works increasingly for lobbyists and little considers the rights of a majority of citizens. Technocracy and plutocracy start to seem like a real threat to the middle class, as the upper class leverages technological power in trade, global investment and loans. Algorithm investment houses will automate trades, technology will get better, and the winners become more assured.

The global economy has led to unsure times, there is not enough accountability over money. A phone purchase funnels to an island, mansion, or tax shelter. Financial institutions are wary of risk and bubble assets, their hubris and ignorance having taught hard lessons. But the economy does not grow, jobs do not come, underemployment increases, automatic tracking systems discourage resumes. The economy is becoming more and more focused on producing wealth for a more and more focused segment since 2008.

Old-world, physical economic structures like coalmines, factories, material production, and retailer, as well as truck drivers in general, are sunsetting to automation. In a technological world, citizens are trusting less and less of the high and mighty structures of global finance held above them. As tech gets better, trust will erode. Not enough people understand what the upper class is doing, uneducation seems to be a real crisis. Trust has eroded for Wall Street. As a basic institution of capital investment, few will understand that its purpose is to not lose money. Nobody sees the benefit of a global economy, few can see the tremendous gains of this technocratic economy. The election of Trump raises warning signs that we have lost our way in seeing clear the benefits of commerce anymore. But most of all, these gains must equals jobs, incomes, and spreading of wealth and standard of living from higher to lower class. It must be so, or economic freedom and business could be threatened by a similar pushback of ignorance that has victimized markets throughout history.

What could have been a time of persecution in 2008, became an era of excuses. Our current era of low demand triggered by automation and internet sales, stagnates growth, activity and production from the dinosaur economic model pre-2000. The recovery in many ways has not kept up with the kind of knowledge it takes to make a cyber economy grow, and it has not kept up with expectations or doubts. Almost total financial obliteration accompanied the recent crisis, we could have had a second depression. Fear and negative histrionics threatened to undo our return from the bottom, and to this day hurt our politics by creating a partisan discourse. Political umbrage, circling of the class wagons, overall distrust, when one domino falls, you be sure more are to come. But we cannot break out of this cycle collectively. Keynes studying the Great Depression discovered that negative emotions about the economy hurt recovery and success. Policies of austerity are also a negative for growth and adjustment out of a maelstrom, especially recovery from one. With internet commerce, interactivity, and innovation added in, the economy has massively transformed in brief amounts of time since the crisis. One could argue politics have not kept up or caught up. New online retail threatens industries, jobs, these new interconnected marketplaces are the future and they are here. If only our politics could keep pace with the rapid expansion of markets and the tech economy and boom.

 

The Future of Business and What Can Lead Us to Greater Innovation: Part II

The wealth inequality that has grown since the great recession can be solved by rebuilding the bridge from lower to upper class on a large scale. We must reconstruct the ladder that was cut off after 2008, when entry-level jobs began to go away and firms began to ask for more from fewer workers. Training programs were cut, especially on the corporate level. Yet cities continue to grow sky high and price out more and more residents. Low-income housing is becoming more and more important, and the opportunities of white-collar work still have not bounced back to pre-recession levels. A healthy class structure and equality can combine with the innovation that is spreading its wings in tech and everywhere else in the rubble of a long stagnant recovery. Higher wages and a higher minimum wage can spread the winnings from the top to the bottom more effectively than government welfare ever could. American democracy might suffer without a stronger lower class, and this stronger lower class is what will lead to great growth in the middle class. After all, the middle class is the engine that drives the American economy. Throughout the 20th century, this was so in our greatest boom times. Such a class of consumers spreads wealth by consuming the largest mass of packaged real estate and home products. The middle class creates societal unity.

An hourglass economy is not what anyone wants, for it is rife with corruption and possible violence. If the middle class were to die, the lack of fairness and innumerable workers’ productivity lost would create a cliff of innovation. Innovation gave us our success in the past. If a light rail train brings consumers to work and increases productivity, then a middle class can create economic freedom, perhaps even efficiency. Industry interests fighting against solar panels is an apt example of destruction of liberty, progress, and economic efficiency. We cannot fight against the future to hold onto the past. The world’s environment needs progress and opportunity, world business needs the same.

A burgeoning new economic world cannot afford to hide in the dark and obfuscate itself. The winnings from tech in Silicon Valley should be spread throughout all of the country. The rural, innermost parts of America should be strengthened by upper-class taxation. Enforced participation in local economies by the biggest businesses will create equality. We have to rebuild for all, every consumer and every class requires it. In a low demand era, forsaken by policies of austerity, not hiring the long-term unemployed is a cruel disaster. Denying health care is a cherry on top of a deteriorating cake. As American political parties attempt to drag us down for the sake of election donors, we must lift our heads and breathe freedom. Green jobs, tech, finance and other service positions must have incentivized, enforced training programs that ensure that the spoils of capital reach all.

More must be expected from capitalism’s winners, rather than lording it over the losers. The days of money making in isolation are over, because we cannot afford to attribute ourselves to the old ways. The future of our economy and world are responsibility and participation by multinationals and corporations in the system going on around them. Wealth inequality and a low participation rate could make for less involved classes, including working males. We have to invest in hiring and training workforces again, as FDR did during the Great Depression or the GI bill after WWII. Responsibility is good for all involved in world finance, by companies and those who surround their commerce day to day, and week to week.

We cannot allow companies to isolate their wealth and earnings, nor allow them to lobby for kickbacks, tax cuts, loopholes, or other kinds of corporate welfare. Lobbying for welfare to subsidize employees they should be paying fair wages to is absolutely out. Healthcare plans that seek to keep workers tethered to a job they do not want or need have to go. The Federal Government should enforce training and hiring of local people, including long-term investment for future productivity. Commerce relies on innovation, and we will not get that or productivity with a talent drain in the coming generation. Countries need to go back to a self-sufficient economic model that creates middle class and wider prosperity. Competition and capitalism are inherent, but the good of employees is mandate. Without such a mandate, the contract that people signed with industrialization two-hundred years ago becomes forfeit, and so does productivity. Capitalism is inherent in democratic government, because the wealthy may only sleep soundly having fulfilled their responsible to society. It is inherent to predict that all classes owe something to each other, for it is teamwork on a global basis.

Since the great recession has begun, an era of freeriding has persisted, wherein companies think it is profitable to liquidate employment for fewer workers. Companies have become unwilling to hire more employees who might need training. These companies then complain in the mass media and to our government about college education. However, a college is not a sufficient substitute for training programs. The government should rather enforce a fair and equal system of long-term investment by American companies into homeland workers. A lost generation is an excuse and scapegoat for laziness. Just as Keynesianism would call for greater spending in a recession, so must we enforce training in an atmosphere of low demand. We cannot allow companies to create a dearth of productivity. In tomorrow’s economy, talent, skills and education could come at a premium. Unless we step in and incentivize contrary actions against this now, we will pay the economic price tomorrow.

Though shareholder economies usually weigh towards the rich, those who can afford to set away superfluous funds in larger amounts cannot dictate to all. Even though Wall Street builds wealth for the few, dividends and capital must benefit society as a whole.

Nations have to think for themselves and protect their own interests, especially against predators of world finance. Developing nations without enough economic freedom, or political freedom must account for themselves. With the new advent of super-nationalism, or under another guise, Trumpism, the days of US defense paying for other countries’ wars should be subservient to investment on the homeland. While a bigger defense budget can be good for economic growth, the focus must target narrow activities with achievable ends.

Trumpism has become the economics of our stagnant era over one presidential election. There are now two choices since the election: socialized improvement or protectionist isolationism. We can have Bernie Sanders-style single-payer healthcare systems, guarding against the high costs of the few over the many; higher taxes on personal incomes at the least. We could also have Trumpanomics’ pay-for-your-own policy, fixing trade imbalances, protecting personal interests, as well as raising the flag and sword against any indiscriminate offenses. In a world based on internet commerce and globalization, there can hardly be any good in a tariff on other nations’ goods outside the norm. While there is money in new technology, global commerce stops for nothing. Organizing against wealth inequality is the first and final important thing we should do. Favoring larger immigration bases for future innovation and productivity is a necessity. We can equalize immigration’s impact on rural and lower class wages by mandating industry average pay. Growing citizenship and quickly accepted citizenship will not leave a soul in the dark. We cannot afford to grow into a system of ineffective disenfranchisement. We should increase the pay of incoming H-1Bs at perhaps one and a half times industry average, to keep our talent pools large and make replacing American workers more expensive. Bernie’s system may involve higher taxes, but with a reformed, progressive tax code, and less loopholes or offshore tax shelters, productivity would be keen. Bernie’s system literally seems like Trumpanomics without the fear, rather, the equality.

We cannot allow the wealthy to take from the people, and companies may not sit idly by and use infrastructure without giving back in equal proportion to the resources that they use. Wealth cannot be allowed to flow from homeland to offshore and distant places, trusts etc. Earnings should have equal taxation for resources used, not only to justify the presence of there having been a company in this country and market in the first place, but rather to make America live on as a republic into the future. It is fair and responsible that a nation makes one’s business possible in the first place, only if it will reduce factions and tyranny of the wealthy minority over the common majority as well. In such a case, programs for training workers, for example, should boost our economy well into the future, to relieve the weight of the resources a company would use.

Even though companies might have made things easier for themselves after the recession, we are now considering cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% towards 15%. Though Trump’s tax plan could be good in some ways, one has to ask, where is the incentive for the people? As the Democratic Party shifts towards single-payer healthcare and health costs become a bigger controversy, lower business and corporate tax rates should have the same benefit. Personal income tax must fund a better nation state. The tyranny of the minority and empires of individual wealth are a threat. Federal income taxes should weigh heavily on the upper class to balance power with those of lesser means. It is destructive to the integrity of the country if Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United allow power and tyranny to grow and take supreme command. Corporations cannot be people; it is simply insane to consider the fact. Unlimited spending in elections is a downfall for fairness and balance, a drag on the republic in an age of no campaign, or public campaign finance reform. Democracy, like the American dream, requires fairness among classes. Just as we should not lay asunder the middle class consumer, so should we not become an oligarchy. Citizen’s rights are pursuant to economic freedom. We innovate, create, and destroy new economies to restrict tyranny in the future; we do not hold ourselves accountable to the economic success of the businesses of yesterday.

US-built businesses must endure enforced incentivization of hiring, training and investing in people again. Free government and clear democratic institutions are the cause of productivity. Participation enables the worker of tomorrow to be the employee everyone hunts for. World economic freedom is freedom for all; we cannot allow capitalism to drain off resources for its own interest. Society must work to create clear-eyed laws without the blame going around in Washington D.C. and confusion and instability reigning the day. We always need less accumulated wealth. After having lobbied a government to pay for their interests only, a corporation can hardly be called human in polite society. With gentrification and worldwide investment, we must make sure investment lands in workforces of the future. Responsibility is success. We must harness free markets for the greater good, tethered to the master of a Republic. We must come together in a united cause for freedom.

 

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Let’s work as a team and play hard! No ‘I’ in team!

High-Speed Rail in the United States

 

Are we so consumed with cars, automobiles, airplanes, bikes, coal and industry, that we cannot grasp the importance of high-speed rail? Every time I have to travel on an airplane and then arrive at my destination, I wonder to myself: couldn’t I have taken a super-fast train to get here? Every time I touch down, I think, ‘wow, I hate airplanes’. I hate the seats, the packed flights, the delays, the mid-flight meals or lack thereof, the complimentary water, the peanuts, waiting for the plane, the stress of getting to the airport and being at my gate on time, rushing into the sky in a metal cylinder, I am done with all of that. I always think to myself, “Why couldn’t it have been high speed rail?”

I get that people are obsessed with convenience. If you run a business, then probably a train is not for you. Moreover, if you have ever had the inconvenience and misery of riding an Amtrak between cities in the Midwest, let me tell you, it makes one long for an airplane. But there are such things as high speed rail and super-fast trains, like in Europe or Japan, that take you from Paris to Amsterdam, London to Munich at hundreds of miles an hour. They are luxurious, and spacious. I want this, for my country and myself.

The problem, you see, is the way we have let industry rule our country. We are polluted by oil, coal, and the muck it drives into the air: high-speed rail would be cleaner. High-speed rail would connect the flyover states to the bigger coastal cities, allowing the freedom to take a vacation throughout the lands that America has to offer. I would combine this with a European style vacation for upwards of a month and 2 weeks regulated per year for all American workers. The American worker needs a break, and breaks would increase productivity throughout the year for industry as well as make our lives better and more fulfilling, we could spread the wealth from work on the coasts and ports around the country through vacation.

Perhaps vacationing for all Americans through this great country is just a dream, but it is a good dream to have. Screw airplanes! I want to see this country without having to navigate flying everywhere for bundles of cash and the stress involved. I just want to mosey anywhere my feet land, for an adventure. In addition, when you arrive at your destination, you could rent a small, green car.

Imagine taking a train through the east coast, the south, Montana, Dakota, Washington. We are a wide-open country with space, so why not make it viewable? We have the room for the infrastructure required by high-speed rail, the lines could fit practically anywhere in the wide-open spaces available. We have room for an oil pipeline, so why not a train? A plane is expedient but painful for most, a car is tiring and an exhausting investment of time, a train allows you to check things out on the way. It is a good dream.

I see videos of people getting from one city to another on a train in Europe or Japan, isolated countries and islands where people live short distances of each other and the convenience of high-speed rail makes sense. Recently there has been talk of a high-speed rail train in Austin, TX, and I think this could be the start of something special here. Texas is a wide-open land, a kind of prairie. It would be wonderful to get from Austin, to Dallas, to Houston, San Antonio, New Mexico, in the blink of an eye–without flying. Of course, the reason this train is probably being made is business, but I wonder if anyone has considered the tourist side of it? Being able to see another city without worrying about hotels, plane tickets and everything involved in trip planning infrastructure, or with planes especially, would be a great idea.

I am excited to see it all happen, and the effect this could have on people seeing more of America’s cities would be beneficial. If one could combine this new, intracontinental high-speed rail with easily rentable small electric green cars for greater touring and extension of tours after arriving in a city, American tourism would hit a home run. Of course, there is always bikes, for one, but a small rentable, convenient, green car would solve many issues, at least when electric infrastructure advances. Try taking time away from your own home city for a while, visit a beach, a different area, a different locale, and see new people, a different social scene. It sounds wonderful to me.

Of course, people would need the free time to make the dream come true. If we expanded the week or two week break to a European month and a half break or month at the least, touring might become a part of American lore. How much less stressed would the American worker be with more time to travel and vacation, and high-speed rail to do so? How much less crime, violence and altercations would we deal with? How might society become more harmonious?

Then again, there is always the threat of people staying home on their break from work. I am not quite sure yet how we would motivate people out of their homes but I think that with the time would come easier options, expectations, especially for young families, for the young. With national touring would come greater expectations that would evolve from it. There is the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone national park, Rocky Mountain National Park for example, but what I would not give to travel to Vancouver, a different country, through Washington or Oregon, from my home state of Colorado. People already want to visit places like San Francisco, and I would travel to Hollywood, Los Angeles, North up the Rocky Mountains into Canada, Chicago once in a while (probably once a year), New York, Boston (how I love it so), Florida, Alabama, New Orleans, heck I’d even go to Arkansas because I’ve never been. I would travel to Kentucky for the whisky distilleries, but most of all, I would see the ocean once a year, just to remind myself what it is like every year.

The greater expectations more travel would initiate would require counties and cities ramping up their tourism spots, maps and destinations. More jobs and more money for all of these places would ensue from being interconnected by high-speed rail. Greater interest in the history of America, perhaps? Think of what this new spread of money could do, if you were to clean up the corruption in the Mexican government and make tourism there more accessible, and baiting their local governments to get in on the deal? How much more useful would fluency in Spanish be worth then? How much more interested would Americans be in Latino culture, food, its lands and even South America?

Not to mention the pollution we would save ourselves from with high-speed rail versus cars. The taxi service would likely expand in these areas, or Uber. These newly interconnected tourist cities would save gas, hotel and other expenditures from long car trips. The headaches it would save people would be tremendous. Overall, high-speed rail cross-country in America would be a coup for everyone except the car industry until it adapted. It is time to start thinking of the future that includes greater efficient travel. We should think ahead for the sake of our children, but also the flyover states. A high-speed rail industry combined with greater vacation time could improve moods, patriotism, impact on the world–with reduction of greenhouse gases and accessibility to locales and geography. People would know what America really was, rather than learning about it in a classroom. If high-speed rail were affordable enough, it would let the poor vacation too. There could even be vouchers by the government. I think it would increase love of country, our fellow man, as well as community respect and tenderness.

I would for one travel to Gettysburg, Shiloh, places from the civil war. If only you could take a train to Hawaii, but alas… I have recently been watching Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary from 1990, and in it, Shelby Foote, an author who I truly adore in the series, makes a point. He remarked that these men, these veterans coming back from the war ‘knew they had a country’, ‘they had seen it, they had been all over, they had walked the terrain’ in 1865. Foote points out that the civil war made our country an ‘is’ versus an ‘are’, one structured country, a nation together, rather than simply a mishmash of states’ rights. I think it is important for new generations to get out and see the whole country on their own. The United States is a large area, better to know it effectively than tiringly, with long, hot car trips in the summer and long navigation of infrastructure required, money saving, and little time to do it in.

I hope Washington DC and state governments can see the positive aspects of high-speed rail, not just for profit and building up coffers of state and local government treasuries from rails’ pure profits, but also for love of country. How can you love a country if you have never seen it? How can you understand a way of life if you do not know it? We should instill a love of country back into everyday Americans again, into the citizenry, and we should empower the rural states and backwaters of this nation to take pride in, their way of life, and their uniqueness. Take a load off, a speed trip up the Midwest, just for the heck of it one week.

It could all be accompanied by more efficient hotels in cities, travel routes, etc.

Older folks always want to say, ‘Millennials and such, they just play with their phones, they don’t care about anything’. I think if you build it, they will come. I believe in America, I believe in high-speed rail, I believe this country can be even better. We can make it happen for a broader American tourism.

The future is interconnected, like our economy, like the internet. With increased ease of travel, and the time provided or incentive to do so, we can even de-isolate the country, reducing the term ‘fly-over state’ or ignorance of our neighbors. Of course it is all a dream, perhaps I am reaching in some ways, but it is realistic–an insoluble vision, part of a better world. Who wants to live their life in an office? I want to see America. Our congress does nothing while big industry and Wall Street pick us over; this is a chance to give back.

I hope that over the next ten years, we can start thinking about going from Chicago to Cincinnati in the blink of an eye, without tiring planning, beyond budget and other constraints. Travel really should be as easy as getting on a train, wandering the country, booking a hotel on short notice, renting a car for sight-seeing, buying a map, bringing some good shoes and a change of clothes, and seeing what the city has to offer. The internet could even accommodate by introducing City Tourism Review Sites, easy guides and walk-throughs. In addition, the economy would benefit by the production of jobs in the construction of high-speed rail infrastructure as well as the resultant tourism.

The only drawback I can think of is ruining natural horizons with a super high-tech train line–but that is preposterous because we built a train line across the country in the 19th century. If you built the architecture of lines within the natural limits of the land in an artful way, it would likely only increase the value of wherever such a line was installed.

Therefore, here is to the future, let us hope it is a success and let us dream big. Thanks.

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Sailor Moon versus Daria, and the Various Contexts of the Shows in Life and Conquest.

I have been watching anime for a while, and about a year ago, I watched Sailor Moon for the first time without changing the channel, three whole seasons worth. Long since, I had skimmed parts as a middle-schooler, detesting it for its girliness. It is a great series with strong, feminine characters, silly, and cartoonish animation and wonderful hijinks. In the same time span, I watched Daria, the American animated show produced by MTV back in the 1990s, about a lonesome girl who just moved into Lawndale and has to adjust to a new high school. Something about fall always brings me back to Daria: cool September days, where the wind gusts and you think winter is around the corner. You start thinking back on those long school months after the summer. These two series are connect in the act of growing up, those years spent in insular safety and nostalgia.

I find that the natural reason why I was so interested in Sailor Moon originally is my dreary persona. Usagi, the main character, is a middle school-aged girl all bubbles and cream, cavorting at the top of her lungs in joy or terror on her way to school every day, living her life to the fullest effortlessly. The shameful world of responsibility has not beaten her down, and she has not cashed a paycheck. Her thrillingly chaotic life is in overdrive, endlessly open to a road of a million possibilities.

Nothing in the known universe brings me back to high school days like Daria. It understands me so well from different points in my life, but it is better for the introvert’s psyche if not every show is Daria, too. If you had a tough time socializing in school or life, Daria makes it all the more apparent and obvious its challenge. Daria represents the inherent difficulty for those who do not feel comfortable among others. If you are not used to extending yourself to get what you want, or are not socially proactive, she is your social avatar. Daria is the symbol of the stay-in generation, those who favor a nice quiet night at home over parties and loud social gatherings.

These series mesh because of their striking contrast, an anime series about nervous junior-high schoolgirls and Daria, who is in high school and miserable about it. Daria dresses in dark fall tones, while her friend Jane dresses in blacks and reds, a classic femme fatale with pouting red lips. The sailor scouts dress in broad pastels, washed out oranges, reds and blues, all that makes youth marketing. The sailor scouts are yippy, yappy, yuppy things who are always visiting shops in Tokyo to fulfill their picky materialism. Daria says materialism sucks.

As to which world vision is correct, they are both different things, different sides of the ocean. It is worth noting however the contrasts, such as, is Sailor Moon mindless in comparison to Daria? The show is about friends and the bravery of choices one makes with friends. Daria on the other hand is about femininity combined with individuality. Usagi might grow to be as wise as Daria, world weary and cynical, but she has not yet had the chance. Usagi is forever arrested in that in between time of childhood and puberty. Daria captures the time when puberty strikes and the world is pure misery, the flowers of childhood begin to drop and turn brown. There are other anime shows where the magical girl sees the world for more of its realities, but none that I know of has the characters grow up in real time and change through puberty. It would be a fascinating experiment to witness.

We cannot know who Usagi becomes because she is forever gestating in Sailor Moon, never becoming much different or more mature in those first three seasons (Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon-R, and Sailor Moon-S). Daria however turns out to be a sophisticated individual going through growing pains in a four-year high school context, even through graduation. Daria shows her chagrin at the world, caught in a constant hibernation or molting of her younger, more naive self. She brings out of herself all that she can; straining what she is into what she could be. She also takes long views of the United States and its capitalism, continually prodding it to see how it will react. Overall, though, she is really just trying to get along, with her true self and core beliefs intact.

A modern example of going in between the narratives of the two shows might be Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a popular anime from 2011. Puella had a large cultural impact, as it tried to recreate the magical girl experience and its innocence and insert real life wisdom and reality into it in a stark way. It is not certain however, that anyone would think Puella is any more mature, with its dark retrospective on magical girl anime like Sailor Moon. Its sporadic, art-nouveau backgrounds and chaotic direction from Akiyuki Shinbo, and trademark Shaft Studios stylishness could be seen as skin deep. Puella is like a dark middle ground between what a magical girl anime was originally and what it could be in examination, in between Daria’s humor and Sailor Moon’s naiveté. Its short run of eleven episodes are possibly shallow compared to the longer take on world building and relationships in Daria and Sailor Moon. It does not quite achieve what it sets out to in a full way.

Many anime shows stay locked in a certain period of life, but spread among many different sensibilities and ages throughout the medium, whereas in western animation, the characters are under constant pressure to mature and become something more than silly and stupid as soon as possible. Even SpongeBob has a job as a fry-cook and a pineapple for which he must pay a mortgage. Only with the growing eminence of anime into western culture has western animation mutated, such as Adventure Time’s whimsy. Anime is an escape for its society whereas in America we never shake the shackles of capitalist duties to produce work and profit, always hamstrung by a nagging sense of responsibility and morbidity.

Usagi is a social butterfly with a core clique of friends, who share her troubles, and often fight for her, but they all become closer and learn more about each other as the series goes on. Daria needs her one true friend Jane, who is in ways like her addiction, her close friend in a sea of acquaintances, almost at time even too close. Jane is a rogue art student and Daria is a book nerd who is perhaps too intelligent for some of her classes because of her natural brilliance and extended knowledge of many subjects. One wonders if Sailor Moon might grow out of her popular sailor scout group, though the goal of most social ambitions throughout high and college, or even work for many people is developing a close networking group that begets more influence and power, and the show alludes to her always being protected by her friends, even in the future. Daria is stuck in a world where she has one friend, while Usagi has a kingdom, a boyfriend, a future daughter, and friends to hang out with and study with, a mom, dad, brother and pet. Daria has a sister who hates her and is popular like Usagi but with a very vain, immature personality.

The Sailor Moon anime is bright lights and pastels, watercolor backgrounds and fading definition of detail, that perfect time in anime when every background was ambient space of green trees and white sidewalks, casual background characters. The washed out animation style of the mid-90s lends itself to nostalgia, and the creators always make everything seem very romantic and picturesque. Daria has its own empty space, high school. It also has suburbs, the boredom of growing up isolated from everything cool in the city and cocooned in the security of large houses with wider lawns. Daria’s mother is a work-addict lawyer who barely has time to think about the family except during impromptu lasagna dinner, reheated five minutes before. Daria’s animation is opaque colors, especially in the later episodes, though it starts with a similar washed out look in its first season because of budget and the animation quality of the era. With better ratings and further seasons came better animation quality, and the more solid tones actually make Daria seem more alive as the show goes on.

Daria is about rock music, because it aired on MTV back when MTV stood for music television. The show often featured snippets of popular artists the network wanted to push on younger minds and as an artistic transition in between scenes. The cynical dictatorship of high school features befuddled teachers, manipulative principles, classless salespeople and marketers, high-strung parents and bratty, dumb teens. Sailor Moon on the other hand is about a beautiful Tokyo paradise where nothing goes wrong except for monsters. Anime often strays its characters in a world bereft of anything the show does not require, the unexpected extras in life. Anime is often animated to be convenient for the story and the budget. One also cannot help but notice the strange cultural differences, age differences, life stages, and maturity of characters in anime, which ranges from dumb innocence to children in a war zone, etc. Anime has quite a range, and Sailor Moon is no different with placing younger people in wacky situations. Fighting an evil empire or stopping a hostage situation while going to the mall to buy shoes.

Comparing two seismically different shows that chronologically seem to fit into each other from middle school to high school also gives us cultural differences.  From Sailor Moon you get a warm, nostalgic feeling, of being protected from the rest of the world. Daria gives a sense of despair, reality, satire, taking the world at face value but valorously fighting it every day. Daria makes one feel insecure but understood, sequestered and isolated but confronting her feelings about everything. Sailor Moon gives the sense of being very young again, in middle school. Daria goes through puberty and high school and tries to build relationships the best she can. Puella Magi Madoka Magika, the in between anime, alternately has people messing about with character archetypes, throwing magical girl tropes into a pot and hoping it makes a gumbo, then laughing about how cool it all was later.

Puella is a deconstructed magical girl anime, which does less in comparison to Sailor Moon and Daria, because it features much less world building and simply tries to shock its audience. Puella is generic moe anime characters who all look like they are eight years old, fighting brutal battles against magical heathens and sometimes even losing outright. If anything Puella covers the chronological age standpoint of elementary school while trying be much more ‘real’, without probably doing it successfully other than producing the most shocking, ratings grabbing show possible. Puella Magi Madoka Magika, being a 2011 anime, makes one appreciate the long view of 90s animation creators and writers, and the task they were put to building their characters, without being able to commercially resort to cheap gimmicks.

Another example of comparison might be Kimagure Orange Road, an anime from the late 80s, a series that never made a dent in America; it is lost in its own nostalgia, pastels and sunsets like Sailor Moon but in a way seriously trying to invent nostalgia all the time. The show is about a boy caught in a love triangle between a petite, happy blond and a tall tsundere girl who starts out cold and abusive but warms up to the main male character eventually. Kimagure was that other youth culture from the late 80s that had already transpired by 1992, with a movie and ova’s even as far as 1996. Kimagure is about a world that is much more innocent and economically secure, especially in Japan who was going through an economic bubble phase when Kimagure manga was originally written. Its main characters never have existential breakdowns or breakthroughs, opting instead for romance and fun, playful hijinks. This 80s anime is all about adventures to compare different parts of a love triangle against each other in different places and scenarios. Kimagure is about a romantic past; from a nostalgic viewpoint as if every day is summer. The only thing the characters have to worry about is what they might do after high school and if their romantic attentions are noble.

It is curious how Daria and Sailor Moon follow so close to each other, like Kimagure and Sailor Moon, or Puella, yet the worldview is always so different and changing. They all interpret such different things. In Sailor Moon a trust in materiality and in Daria a scowling at it. Trust in friends versus a lack of trust in peers and parents. Parties and cynicalness of the late 90s MTV generation, gen x and grunge in America, versus trust and warmth in Sailor Moon’s Japanese world in the early and mid-90s. Short skirts, magical powers and expensive hairdos, versus messy hair and highly personalized outfits made for the individual but always with a sense of gritty charm. Girl group verse serious psychological friendship, reliance vs acceptance of one’s friends, life and culture in Daria.

Both series are great in their own way. Inevitably, Usagi does go through some maturing in the end of season one when confronted with a battle that for once has consequences and lost lives. Usagi is often confronted with her ego and her beliefs, emotional intuitive situations that call for her most personal talents. Sailor Moon, when not confronting evil, is mostly about Usagi getting fat and happy or painfully sad and annoyed. Daria is about growing up and getting through life as boring and unsuitable as it may be. The shows represent two worldviews, extrovert and introvert, different things and phases in stages of one’s life.

Usagi is basic and simple, envy, love and desire are all hers whenever she wants, and her world is easily attainable and accessible. Daria only gets what she works hard for; hard work is a difference between the two series though one could say Daria works a little harder because she is older. Usagi is lazy and often late to class, terrible at doing homework, and often an irritable crybaby. Yet she fits the role she’s been given in Sailor Moon with tenacity, in the nick of time finding the strength in herself to confront her troubles. Daria cannot have anything but what she needs, she is an anti-social book-reading outsider who does not join clubs and barely participates in activities. The two different life stages of Usagi and Daria have different roles, such as acceptance by Daria that she will never become accepted because she is intellectually world weary and has different values than her peers. Usagi wants to be a carefree, loafing middle school student but has extra responsibility for being a sailor scout, which is now her extracurricular job.

The two shows have themes centered on work and responsibility in society, and could be extrapolated to describe the main characters’ roles in society. It is interesting to note that Usagi is training to be a moon princess. Daria training to do something someday, we just are not sure. Daria only does homework and projects occasionally. Usagi is a future mother, her daughter, Chibiusa, shows up in the second season with help from a time machine. She comes to Usagi’s time to ask her to help save the future moon kingdom. Usagi of course runs a whole kingdom and people with her moon powers. Daria is supposed to go to school, like Usagi. Daria’s main role is interacting with peers and her school, growing up as a person, and figuring out the meaning of life.

Daria does not have a lot to do, except have existential crises about her status in life.

What is truly interesting in comparing the two shows is Daria wasting so much time. What does she do? She reads. She has motivation, skill, intelligence, but to what end? Usagi is a lazy good for nothing who is now fighting monsters, raising her future daughter, dating Tuxedo Mask, saving Tokyo. She is constantly busy. Wouldn’t Daria like to have something to do, run something, run an election, write a column, and work on something? Instead, she goes through the same doldrums day after day, a dreary routine without hope or identity. Her future is to graduate high school, go to college, and then a job and that will be the definition of her dream. Daria wants to live out her individuality, she desperately wants agency. Usagi wants to get fat and relax while Daria is bored.

Usagi’s life is fighting monsters and getting everywhere, while complaining about no down time.

It is funny that the two characters want what the other does not have. What they are really looking for is balance, but Usagi actually has balance. Her predetermined life may seem boring to western individualism but it is actually great. Daria’s life alternately is full of hazards and problems; anything could happen to her in the future because capitalism runs her life. The feminist take would be Daria’s life, but I want Usagi’s. She will not be a doctor but she will be CEO of an entire people in her kingdom on the moon, and without medical school. Daria is brilliant and knowledgeable to the nth degree, but could still end up poor. Whatever happens in college, the health of the industry she wants to work in, the job market, friends, relationships, and any number of variables could change things. The minute Daria steps into the wide world after her high school graduation, any number of pitfalls awaits her.

You feel pity for Daria, though I imagine a feminist might say fate chose Usagi’s life for her, and what a sad existence it is not to enliven her individuality in a chosen career. Life gives Daria the freedom to choose, but to what end is her choice? She spends high school dreaming of anything but high school, a quiet life in the city as a writer, even as a wife to a Trent, a slacker musician. Daria’s future roles are long. Usagi’s existence is sheltered, protected. For a middle school student, future existence is too much to imagine or even desire. The role of princess is an escape from the endless societal process of sussing out talent. In terms of feminism and the entrance of women into the workplace since WWII, Usagi is a dream.

Society might look on at Usagi and say it is all too much to ask. It is too much to ask to have a defined role and life path at such a young age. Yet is Daria, in high school, truly asking too much? Is it possible for a young person to do so? Daria wants something to do, and this is the role of humanity, its highest aspiration, to achieve and help your fellow man. Daria’s aspirations are not too far to reach, not too high that we cannot possibly help her attain some parts of them.

I desire Sailor Moon’s life, which to westerners might seem sacrilegious. Her life is certain for the next one hundred years, and there are no consequences for her failure at school, or materially. Her relationship is secured with a brilliant person, Mamoru or Tuxedo Mask in the English dub, who is an engineer at an esteemed college and extremely handsome by the standards of animation. She will not want for anything except handling her kingdom with whatever is required of a monarch. Fighting off monsters who wish to invade the moon, such as in the second season, Sailor Moon-R, could be a mental strain but nothing she proves unable to handle in the show’s three seasons. She simply has to count on her own inner strength.

Daria’s future could possibly be filled with emotional fragility, as we see in the show. She has only one single serious friendship, which was strained at times, and a boyfriend who she splits up with shortly after dating. The show said that she would become whatever she wanted to be, based on future whims and how her mentality changes through the years. As a westerner, I am supposed to see an open future as the most enviable, the most free. Sometimes I wonder though if the United States is a country with too many choices.

For example, the end of the military draft by lottery, which was a good thing during the Vietnam War after the deaths of so many innocent Americans and Vietnamese. The end of the draft meant just as much to freedom of choice during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but without state programs how can one ever learn to know or love their country or nationality? There is no pride in not working; there is no knowledge in structurelessness. Humans needs goals and ends, vicissitudes, they require inconsistency and chance. We are a people who require the sturm and drang, even though we hold off from it. A life of little effort is useless and fruitless. Endless luxury is the opposite of such.

High school does not serve a purpose other than caretaker of someone not of legal age. It is hard to compare economy and society of Japan and America. No one wants to be a wage slave without a vacation, such as in America, nor be a salary man like in Japan, who works until far into the night without ever getting to see one’s family. Capitalist economies are a dreadful means to the end of busying people, it seems like the state could do more. America gives people freedom but perhaps its kind or its structure is not always a great fit.

No one currently sees Daria’s life as a problem in America, but perhaps it is. It concerns me as an American who grew up like her, with too much choice and no narrowly directed path. Daria feels like vegetables left out to rot in the sun. The best productive use of human potential should be harvested, that it is efficient. Adult vocation should suit you, if spending four years of one’s life in an academic institution leaves people to waste then there is no purpose. Could a better system not take advantage of the time spent in high school?

Some in the west probably want Daria’s life, yet building the youth of America and other capitalist economies is a disorganized mess. The young could to do something more at that inefficient age. We all want freedom of choice, but choosing without knowledge is hard. A more direct path should be laid out, with some constrictions and boundaries. Capitalism is hard enough without the structure gained from learning effective hard skills early in one’s life.

The thing that always got to me, being a teenager in high school, was the insurmountable amount of choices. Neither are very great or totally desirable early in one’s life, and you receive no help choosing between them. You choose by doing, and it has affected my generation negatively to deprive them of the sophisticated means to choose one’s path correctly. More organization early on would go a long way in building structure for the future; then again, most people are probably just awkward enough in the teen and middle school years to want to be left alone, but that accounts for the sensitivity of puberty in general.

Daria’s life is incontrovertible freedom. Usagi’s is efficient organization of one’s sensibilities into a career for the future, becoming what you are good at and working towards it as early as possible. The Sailor Moon anime is far from reality in many ways, but its reality is by far the one I aspire to. To use one’s sensibilities effectively as soon as possible should always be the end goal in making a person successful and useful. If there is a good way to do so, utilize it, but this reality has not yet been realized realistically. No one is doing a great job of cropping the talent and potential of people in capitalist economies, as we should be; nevertheless handling general welfare of people after those, choices have been made. Instead of depending on the cruel whims of markets, general welfare and medicaid/medicare, more could be done.

An American would say that Daria’s life is essentially just fine, her life is difficult for a while as she gets used to puberty and the troubles of growing up, but she will go to college, have a career, and then everything will be solved. This broad capitalism paints lives with a supposedly even brush, but what about an in between stage before college, or a program afterwards to funnel Daria into a good career? What about taking care of all people and producing wealth for the many without counting on them to make every correct choice possible? We keep our hands off people to their detriment, even to catastrophe, doing little to guide them, letting the free market crush anyone who does not survive as the fittest in the name of innovation and economic freedom.

The different lives of Usagi and Daria could be rephrased as growing up with a fortune, like Usagi’s moon kingdom and narrowly defined future, versus a perfect talent for the market with unlimited capacity, like Daria’s. In reality however, anything else besides perfect, unbound potential with the correct skills is left to molder in the name of a great melting pot or the free market, and automatic stabilization of the economy.

You might brand Usagi as mindless and lazy, while Daria is a human being with an ever-changing heart, but to what end that heart? Is mindless such a catastrophe it cannot be led by the hand? Western economies are increasingly finding out they cannot trust the free market with every power they have endowed it with, capitalism is a casual, vapid lover, leaving us collectively alone when it wants to go away for the weekend for a fling, while we look after the kids. In an age of supposed internet productivity who really is watching the kids, how can we really monitor the markets truthfully?

Not to speak of the overall structure of money markets, or its care in general, which should always inevitably be free. Rather the point is people; those are the supports of such a system. The free market is cruel to people, unless they are everything it desires, and we cannot always be everything desired. The markets want the government to be hands off; they say it is good for growth and productivity. Government intervention should not be consigned to crowding out, a phenomenon where the state dominates the market. Yet when we speak of people’s lives, it is high time we separated the quality of life in a capitalist system from the self-determination of economic growth. If a system cannot make best use of its people, what use is the system?

America has great potential in reserve. In the west, Usagi would be seen as young and futureless: a failure at school, deterministic through emotions, an unthinking participant of monarchic moon conformity, and a symbol of Japanese salary man technocracy, foregoing innovation and creativity for what is easy. Usagi is rather an example of an individual who has been given help, she has help from friends, parents, Luna (a magical cat), her boyfriend Mamoru. Her moon powers give her the tools she needs to keep fighting the monsters of her life, a magical tiara and scepter for example. The providence of the moon gives her the power to transform into Sailor Moon, and gets help studying for her high school exams from sailor friends such as Mercury or Mars, both her age and both more scholastically able than her. Life only gives Daria the help she desires, which tending by her emotional stability is not clear. Without help Daria has accomplished nothing, Usagi in contrast, everything.

Capitalism needs to help people more; it should be the goal and tool of the system to support the people that support it. The world needs free markets, but it does not so much need billionaires. Like Usagi, people need gifts on occasion, love (even if we do not ask for it), to feel desired (even if we are emotionally cold that day). It cannot harm society to give it more than it asks for, or more than is currently required. It does not harm someone to give them a hug (usually), to tell them they are pretty, to tell them they are valuable, and boost their esteem. Where did society get the idea that everything has to be as difficult as possible? When did everyone decide we should all grow up in a civilization all stick and no carrot? Is remuneration the greatest reward, or a working, fluent, contingent society that works for all people? Who feels safe in a society that pushes the proverbial stick so far in that digesting a carrot brings no joy?

America and capitalism in general, as well as the gross domestic economy, could stand to give a little more than it gets to people. People aren’t born dumb, they each have their own talents and abilities which they add to the system, there’s more you can do than leaving people on the sidelines of life because of a recession. There should be roles for people outside of free market survival of the fittest. Innovation can happen in so many ways that it is impossible to predict. Society should be planting as many seeds as possible for the innovation of technology and growth in order to further the progress and living standards of all. If not, then it is not efficiently using all its resources and keeping up with its own economic possibilities curve.

When you peer inside the soul or spirit of Daria and Usagi, you may see someone who is lost and someone who is secure. In Usagi there is a warm soul guided by the invisible hands of fate. Daria meanwhile is left to her own instruments, to fiddle about. Society has a job, which it is not currently doing up to its profound capacity–to guide people into the proper channels of their own success. Some may thrive on structure, not all are initiative driven capitalist fiends. However, a passing direction could do more than all the money, investment and time government pumps into the free market system through welfare and bureaucracy. Leaving people alone in high school might be one of the worst trespasses America commits, since these years could be more productive and challenging for many.

In the shadow of a long recession at the end of the George Bush presidency in 2008, it is worth looking at better, newer options. Franklin Delano Roosevelt created work programs during the depression, and the end of WWII saw a great vision for how to reorganize returning vets, in the vein of marvels such as fast food, countrywide food infrastructure, national highways, and the GI bill. America got rid of many state sponsored programs for workers’ benefit over time, but perhaps the country ought to reorganize its people once more towards a better future and loftier goals? Rather than leave castoffs from the great pie of people society is gifted in population growth, it should be appetizing talents: like Usagi, a wide-open road of destiny finely designed and shaped for the greatest benefit of all, harvested securely and efficiently.

She may seem like a spoiled child, but Usagi is a gifted individual and society would do well to treat all people like magical girls. Daria takes her misshapen world head on, but should she really have to? Must things always be as hard as possible? Is inefficient society in the interest of the good? No. America is needlessly hard on itself and its most productive citizens; they could do with a break and more opportunities for innovation. Daria gives off a sense of despair, and society does little to ameliorate her common situation. This article was written in the interest of America’s future and success, its author wants such for its people and potential.

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Let’s work together! Let’s make this great!

Why I’m Worried about Hillary’s Election Chances

Perhaps my fears about Bernie’s lack of hawkishness were unfounded, but his old-mannish incapacity and socialist scare tactics don’t seem completely electable. And thus, so did the Democratic Party. So now we’re set with Hillary, who has her share of Benghazi, emails, and other controversies. I’ve personally long strayed on Hillary’s small controversies, which might be the Republican party’s inept way of creating controversy and negative politics where there are none. But I think, in a year of attacks in Paris, San Bernadino, and Germany, and even an Orlando gay club, hawkishness is going to be the big electoral decider. People are nervously afraid of many, many things. People want a tough, competent president who will stand swagger to swagger with Putin, hold court over the European Union, and unite us, like England could not. A president who can admit the mistakes of US foreign policy but also continue to be resolute in the face of unthinking, chaotic enemies.

I check Hillary off on those things. As the Democratic party also did, betting the house on Hillary’s campaign in the primaries. Hillary is built into the insider hierarchy and donor system of the Democratic party, so she can fund an election, but she is also hawkish enough, with Secretary of State experience. She can pass in this year’s violence tinged election.

I think Hillary would make a good president, and on economic affairs, she has Bill Clinton on her side. Bill Clinton presided over GDP growth of three to four percent a year. For comparison, Barack Obama presided over two to two and a half percent GDP growth per year. Barack Obama will be the first president in ages not to have achieved a three percent GDP growth year. Bill is seen as the symbol of the 90s boom years, he has received a lot of credit for the last best economy and only budget surplus in years.

Since Bill Clinton’s budget surplus, the government has added to its debt through wars, stimulus spending, and basic spending. Since Bill Clinton we have watched a decent Bush economy turn into a recession, caused by an under-regulated housing sector and housing policy push, which subprime mortgage buyers couldn’t handle. Barack Obama become the first African-American president of the United States, and reigned over one of the most humble recoveries from a recession in American history. Americans have lived through boom times and middle-class prosperity since WWII, only to see it drained away after a financial crisis only second to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

And in the election for President of the United States in 2016, Hillary Clinton will face off against Republican nominee Donald Trump. As we look back on election history, and perhaps consider 2004, when John Kerry was caught up in a controversy about swiftboat veterans, we realize that you can never bet on a presidential election in America.

In 2004 I predicted Kerry would be elected President, yet George Bush won through dirty tactics in Ohio, being a war president, and American unification stemming from 9/11. There was a controversy about suppression of the poor, African-American vote in Ohio. Every election has a possible controversy, such the disenfranchisement of voters in 1960 between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. After a great run by Dwight Eisenhower for eight years, and an exceptional 1950s economy and a cold war, one would assume Republican policy would continue to rule the day, but then the TV debates happened. Kennedy wore a full tan from the beach, and Nixon looked like an old, greasy bug. Even though Richard Nixon won the radio debates according to the general public, it was the TV appearance that mattered.

You can’t put anyone away too early or too late in elections. I recall trying to see the logic in the swiftboat campaign against John Kerry, and having conversations with people who believed those ads. There was an invisible wall that hung between me and Republicans then on the general facts of the election. I recall conversations at school with peers at the time, and how unproductive they were. Karl Rove’s Bush campgain successfully ran a culture war in 2004, he used the bully pulpit of his power. Feeling safe against terrorism also entered into it. There was an entitled feeling at the time of ‘my president’ from Republicans, as well as  strong congressional approval of bills like The Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

The reason I have major concerns about Hillary Clinton, is Donald Trump’s media presence. If you can truly never put an election away, 2016 seems presupposed on a Hillary Clinton win. For every New York Times byline and negative Trump press, there are even less positive ones about Hillary Clinton. I remember in 2004, John Kerry received a lot of positive press from liberal media, such as Rolling Stone Magazine, MSNBC, and major TV outlets like NBC–but nothing compared to that swiftboat ad. Liberals ran themselves into an echo chamber, while the rest of the country, and important counties and states, were washed over by inseminating, effective Republican propaganda. John Kerry did not successfully get his message out with conservative voters. There was also his boringness, his debate-style speaking presentation, his lack of spark or excitement, he had no charisma. Bush had all the style points in spades, such as the ‘I would drink a beer with him’ talk going around after Will Ferrell played him on Saturday Night Live. Of course images like that matter, but one wonders how much it matters in single-majority swing counties?

I am worried about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy thus far, who checks all the typical liberal, Democratic party things off the election list, but has no spark or excitement. She cannot manage to stay in the media, unless it is to bash or talk about Donald J Trump. Democrats are playing into the old hand from losing years. Republicans warned us for years of Hillary’s “incompetence”, her dangerous lack of ‘vision’ or ‘standing’ in world affairs, and day-to-day business as secretary of state. Benghazi and her emails hover over her campaign like a weary cloud. Whereas it doesn’t matter what Trump does or says, because there is always some new controversy or tweet for tomorrow. Some new distracting press with pop its head out and unwind Twitter once more.

So where are Hillary Clinton’s tweets, I ask? Where is her message? Where is the press about Hillary Clinton, her policies, her thoughts, her media presence? Trump brandishes a new message every day, or at least every 3-4 days. He stays fresh in the American mind, like a rotting pumpkin which sits in one’s driveway, and hasn’t been thrown away since last Halloween. Every tweet and verbal pow-wow is a reminder of what he thinks, that he is still around, doing work, marketing himself. Every time a new Tweet is released, Trump seems to say, ‘remember me’. Whereas Clinton’s message seems to be, ‘forget about me, okay?’. Hillary Clinton is the silent ghost of this election, a technique that has haunted too many Democratic presidential candidates through history. Ronald Reagan had snappy lines like morning in America, tax cuts, and a better economy. Bob Dole was Bob Dole… probably.

And Barack Obama has a hole in his bucket, while Trump is the presumed man who can fix it. A man who ghost-published The Art of the Deal, won’t release his tax returns, has no history in government. A man who presides over secret real estate history and failed casinos, and participated in fake wrestling matches. An East-coast con man apparent, a businessman who presided over bankruptcies, who says whatever is on his mind while he eats McDonalds on a plane. An orange-tinged impression of a man, who every time he talks, sounds like he’s shaking your hand–making a new deal to what end, you don’t know.

Hillary Clinton sounds nervous, acts with immense restraint. She lacks confidence in message and speeches. She has little spark, simply the remembrance of one in Bill. Her record as senator of New York is barely mentioned. Some foreign policy experience as Secretary of State, long besmirched by Republicans. A lot of work on congressional bills which one assumes were pro-children and poor, according to the Democratic Convention. A mother with a heart for all. And an orange orangutan who spouts tweets. But does this sweet mother spout her good message? Does Hillary Clinton have anything to say, really?

This is the mystery that led me to write this post. What does Hillary Clinton have to say? Where is her Rovian swiftboat ad against Trump? Her genius ad that outdoes the big mean tweeter? She has accumulated more election funds than Trump, yet I cannot recall a single ad that speaks positively for her. When will Democrats learn to have a message and market themselves? When will they understand that politics is a business, and you must advertise yourself, you must act like a running company? The Democrats more often need a clear, concise message that rings in your head. We need to know how great they are or how bad their opponent is, in a catchy way. The Republicans have Benghazi and emails on their side, and Clinton has Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich

There’s something about diagnosing the quality of art that makes it even greater than it already is. When they say in the movie ‘Ratatoille’ that the work of one artist is always more than some dirt-bag critic, I take slight offense. For it is not in the work itself that there is value, but in the response by the public, I believe that. The response is why we have print media, the internet, electric phones, and satellites, it is for the human race to react to something in a moment. The chain of a hundred-thousand people all realizing something is brilliant is supposed to be the best part of culture. In an age of Trump you wonder if that is still true, but it can be true, if we put our minds and hearts to it.

This is how it would have been for Dmitri Shostakovich, when he wrote and released this composition and prepped an orchestra for its debut, in Stalinist Russia. Dmitri was a big deal in this time in Russia, the 1930s before WWII. The Russian critics could be very tough. Their positive critical reception was everything, not only for artistic achievement but coming down from the pressure of the Russian state and figure head, Stalin.

Shostakovich’s public reception occurred on November 21, 1937. The context of this recording makes one realize the immediacy, and profound effect music and culture had then. This piece and its public performance, in the face of fierce criticism from the public and critics in years before, made this the most important piece and performance in Shostakovich’s life. And Shostakovich was successful, for this piece glorified Russia and it glorifies the composer. Of course, half of the know all of classic music is the performance of the piece. In the LP era, the CD era, it is extremely important to know who a conductor was. Rarely does the original composer get a chance, and I can only think of Stravinsky having conducted his own music. Here we have Leonard Bernstein directing the piece in 1959.

Bernstein would have recorded this performance at the height of the cold war, and it is a canon recording highly regarded by critics at the time and even now. Such information separates this release from the thousands of other classical performances that may even exist for one symphony. This particular recording was recommended by Ted Libbey of NPR on his 50 Great Classical Recordings list.  And this piece is everything I am looking with classical music, as a novice who is slightly ignorant of the genre, Ted Libbey has been the best guide I have yet found for classic music. His recommendations have been accountable, and have made distinct, immediate impressions on me, for some detail about each piece I have encountered. Be it Emiel Gilels’ Beethoven Sonaten, or Paul Jacob’s Debussey Piano Preludes, I have always found the performances thrilling or inspiring.  And after all, what you really want from music this old is to understand what made it good in the first place. You may be surprised, but not every conductor is comforting or notable in their performances of classical music. Some are wrote, some are boring, some are annoying or confused. Classical music is unique from pop music, it has varying emotions and lives that it lives under the thumb of novices, technicians, masters of the art form, of various other musical artists controlling a piece of art which they wrote down on a notepad one time. There are poor conductors, lazy renditions, out of tune orchestras, and one entering into classical music, wading into that history wants to immediately get a feel for the music. A conductor’s caliber can relate us to something, in the piece that is tangential, that connects us to its time and place, an emotion perhaps. Or the pull of some past experience from the composer that communicates what you are supposed to be feeling and thinking with a certain piece, its context.

With the investment of time that is classical music, you must immediately be able to judge the quality not only of the composition, but the conductor him or her self. Luckily Libbey’s list lets you onto this secret. The worst way to access classical music is to be bored by a poor conductor. The way to be excited by it, is to tell when the conductor is carrying you with energy and verve, and when not. An immediate connection such as that, can make us more knowledgeable about classical, you can tell your friends about it and articulate what makes a piece good and bad, a performance thrilling. Poor music might confuse us with its heavy tones, cumbersome time span. Secondarily, is the musical history that precedes a piece, that can only come with time.

And I will say that this piece absolutely delivers. In fact, it delivers in such a way that is unusual even for classical. One can tell immediately from this album, that, even with a casual drive in summertime, under thunderous blue cloudy skies in the middle of a Colorado afternoon in south Denver, there is immense gravity and weight to this music. I have learned to think that Bernstein carries with him a serious, immediate tone, like he wants to be noticed, like he is the most beautiful, important girl at the part. Shostakovich himself gives us the sense that the planets were collapsing into each other, that universes are being broken and made within the drama he has coalesced here. He is serious, fighting for his musicians’ life and fame in Russia, he hangs on us like a heavy drape and will not let go. He is almost honestly too heavy, one can image Russia as a communist state in the 30s, the rise of socialism and fascism at the time. You could compare it to present day China or North Korea–his performance must be perfect, awe inspiring! The depth of a big, blue world is on his shoulders, his countrymen and all of Russia will feast on this piece, his Symphony No. 5.

Bernstein is academically well-polished, with his usual bon vivant, especially conducting the New York Philharmonic in the 50s and 60s, his prime era. We get a clear sense of the intentions, and I feel as if I have been sunk beneath the ocean, under Shostakovich’s heavy emotions of artistic pride and solace for his recent failures. Things are thick with excitement and tension. Shostakovich dug under the earth to retrieve our humanity. Especially song three of the fifth, the largo’s slow revolving around the central themes of the symphony.

The piece gives off a heavy lilting, a sense of betrayal to one’s self, as if one will sway off kilter at any moment, a precipice. The psychology I had, listening to this after reading the notes of the pressure on Shostakovich to make a great symphony, a great Russian symphony that would glorify the country to the world, honor it and the perhaps corrupt communist state at the time, we wonder about the finality of fate as he does. We swoon under Shostakovich’s daily emotions at the time, his probable mental state.

The music feels titanic, a big country caught in the composers thumb and forefinger, examined, beneath multiple directions of its people, spread outwards with exceeding motivations. It feels like the history–that only classical can do in an abstract sense. This piece attracts the most basic emotions and honesty of people, and ties them all together in a four-movement symphony. Shostakovich’s symphony 5 is the music of the people, its themes of history, referenced in every way. We get a deep, deep yearning of the Russian people to be proud and honest.

Shostakovich had been destroyed for his third symphony, for writing an unimportant, inconsequential, simple symphony. His reply should be apparent to all, as Bernstein made Shostakovich transcend through time. He told us in his interpretation the importance of this symphony, and gave us all the context we needed to understand its specialness in the classical canon. I don’t see how even in a casual spin could not give an inkling this music and its emotions. Shostakovich started anew on the fifth in order to win over critics and mother Russia, and his success echoes through Bernstein’s NYP.

 

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