Jon Stewart’s commencement address

Found on Chip’s blog, your best source for Athens news:

Highlights:

“Let’s talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I … I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.” …

We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror – it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui. …

In 1981 I lost my virginity, only to gain it back again on appeal in 1983. You could say that my one saving grace was academics where I excelled, but I did not. …

He closes on an up note: And the other thing … that I will say is, when I spoke earlier about the world being broke, I was somewhat being facetious, because every generation has their challenge. And things change rapidly, and life gets better in an instant.

Full text

They’re here …

My mother-in-law’s back yard has been completely overrun by cicadas. Walking down the steps from the deck to the yard was quite an experience, though I can honestly say they were more scared of me than I was of them.

Of course, I know there’s nothing to “fear” from cicadas. Stepping on one of these guys or banging into them is just a cringe-inducing experience, much like scraping your nails on a blackboard. It’s just that I can’t picture a situation in which I might be walking down the street and then, randomly, I scrape my nails on a blackboard. Cicada-crunching, though, can happen at any time.

We’re not in bad shape right now at Casa Dure. Just a couple out front and a few swarms making noise in the distance.

Ride the snake

Great NPR piece on the rise of Pentecostalism, particularly these crazy Canadians. The report isn’t as skeptical as it could be, but the retort from a scholar who likens the phenomenon of “holy laughter” to mass hypnosis is probably close to the mark.

Sometimes, I wish I could believe in a religion like this, where all I have to do to get out of my head is go to church and have what sounds like an LSD trip minus the legal problems and future flashbacks. But I think it’s another case of us trying to turn God into what we want God to be — a drug trip, a manipulator who ensures that everything happens for a reason, an imaginary friend, etc. Life’s not that easy.

Wrinkled metaphors

Cold War allegory? Christian theology? Growing up, I always thought A Wrinkle In Time was just a book about geeky math kids. Guess not.

ABC had a production of this book on its Disney show last night. Not bad, but probably a bit too creepy for kids. I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares about Bayliss interrogating me while my dad yelled at me not to listen to him. (Inside joke for Homicide fans — Kyle Secor was the bad guy.)

Song review: Midnight Oil

I could write a lot about Midnight Oil. You’ll rarely find a better three-CD stretch than Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mining and Earth and Sun and Moon, released between 1987 and 1993. (After that, they backed off from international stardom a bit with more laid-back Breathe in 1996 and Redneck Wonderland in 1998. AllMusic.com says the latter dealt somewhat specifically with an Australian political incident that we Yanks would consider obscure, implying the Oils didn’t mind that the themes resonated less than the Aboriginal plight so beautifully depicted on Diesel and Dust)

There’s no “best song” on any of these, but the most representative is probably My Country, from Earth and Sun and Moon. Before and between the verses, they play a simple piano line that suggests an inspiring national anthem. Beneath that piano line is churning anger. Drummer Rob Hirst, who wrote the song, kicks it off with a powerful fill and keeps things moving while the guitars punctuate their steady roar with an occasional howl. It’s as if they’re singing an anthem but making little effort to hide their bitterness over the current state of the country they love, much like Jimi Hendrix’s brilliantly twisted take on The Star-Spangled Banner.

Peter Garrett adds his usual snarl to Hirst’s lyrics, which are a ripping indictment of those who think loving their country means asking no questions. From the menacing bridge: “I hear you say the truth must take a beating / The flag a camouflage for your deceiving”

I’m making it sound as if this is some sort of overbearing, unlistenable song. Not at all. It rocks. It’s fun. It treads very well on that fine line between making a point and overdoing it. And these days, it’s good primal-scream therapy for those of us who love our country but reserve our blind faith for God.

Great version on Saturday Night Live, too. Hirst is fun to watch as he juggles drum fills and backup vocal duty, and Garrett is the master of dancing with righteous anger.