Saturday, July 26, 2008

Freedom of what?

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Chinese government was going to deal with protests during the upcoming Olympic Games. Their solution? Establish three designated protest areas for the antagonists descending on Beijing. Great idea, right? Well, it seems like there's going to be some problems.
First off, the areas aren't anywhere near the Olympic Stadium. Secondly, the protests will be strictly monitored by Beijing police. And finally (my personal favorite), anyone who plans to hold a protest has to petition the government for a protest permit. That's right, a permit! So if you plan on staging an elaborate anti-government sit-down or rally, you have to first get the government to approve the idea. And may I remind you, the government plans to crack down heavily on illegal protests. Awesome!
I'm not really sure what the Chinese government was thinking with this one. Protesters haven't been known to abide by government restrictions, especially when it's the government they're out to pummel. Can you imagine the lone dissident at Tiananmen Square asking for government permission before he went out and stood in front of a row of tanks? You'd think a nation that is fast becoming the foremost economic powerhouse in the modern world would have a government that is slightly more flexible with issues like this.
In conclusion, I'll say that stories like this make me grateful that I live in America. People here are free to say all they want about their government. I'm forever thankful that the Founding Fathers had the wisdom and foresight to uphold such liberties as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It is an incredible privilege live in a country where I can spout off as much as I want and not end up in jail for my troubles.
Now I will take advantage of this liberty to remind you that I am extremely dissatisfied with the Bush Administration's whole-hearted cooperation with China for the Olympic Games. We condemn other nations that ignore human rights, and then turn around and embrace a country that commits the same injustices. Why is this? Is it because of money, or is it something else? Please tell me your opinion.

Aaron

P.S.
I just had an incredible idea. I'm going to fly to Beijing and stage an illegal protest right outside the gates of Olympic Stadium. Who's with me?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Radiohead vs. Coldplay


This post is an extension of a conversation I had with some friends at the beach on Thursday. The question: Who's better, Radiohead or Coldplay? As a huge fan of both groups, I will now endeavor to compare their music, lyrics, and commercial success. Enjoy!

1. Success
In a span of eight years, Coldplay has achieved worldwide fame and amassed millions of record sales. Their meteoric rise has been unusual, a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster music industry. Their four albums, Parachutes, A Rush of Blood to the Head, X&Y, and Viva la Vida, have sold a combined 30 million copies. Songs like Clocks, Viva la Vida, Fix you, Yellow, and The Scientist have become mainstream radio staples. On the other hand, Radiohead's seven studio albums (Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows) have sold an estimated 23 million copies worldwide. Advantage: Coldplay

2. Lyrics:
Chris Martin's lyrics tend to be somewhat misty and unclear. Coldplay songs tend to focus on love, with an occasional venture into tales of death and other somewhat ambiguous territory. Martin is not the strongest writer, but he does have a knack for creating a catchy, memorable lyric that sticks with the listener. And almost all Coldplay songs have no objectionable material in them, making them into a bit of an anomaly in the modern music industry. Thom Yorke of Radiohead is obviously a stronger writer, but listeners may be put off by the dark undertones of most Radiohead songs. Themes vary wildly, but focus on songs of inner loneliness and pain. Additionally, Yorke occasionally uses strong profanity in his songs (i.e. A Wolf at the Door, Creep, and Myxomatosis). Advantage: Coldplay

3. Music
Coldplay's catchy but predictable soft alt-rock has won the hearts of millions of fans the world over, but also earned the undying hatred of almost as many critics. After the release of X&Y, the New York Times labeled Coldplay as " the most insufferable band of the decade". Coldplay earns heavy rotation on my iPod, and I would consider myself a huge fan of them. But compared to Radiohead, their music pales drastically. In my opinion, Radiohead far outshines Coldplay and nearly every other band on the planet. Their eclectic mix of styles ensures that each song will never grow old, that there will always be something new to hear the next time around. The members of Radiohead are brilliant, brilliant musicians, and they create songs that push the boundaries of the alt-rock genre into new and unexplored territory. Most music critics have nothing but praise to give this band, making them one of the most critically successful groups of all time. Advantage: Radiohead

So who's better? That's for you to decide. In my opinion, it's Radiohead, hands down (although I do have concerns about some of the song's content). But I know people who would beg to differ. What do you think? Leave a comment and tell us!



Friday, July 11, 2008

From Rwanda to Darfur: Have we forgotten?




In 1994, the Hutu ethnic group of Rwanda slaughtered close to one million human beings in their effort to purge the country of the Tutsis. Over the course of approximately one hundred days, the world turned its back as the genocide raged. The conflict was finally brought to an end when Tutsi militia drove the Hutu military out of the country. One million human beings were murdered, and no one lifted a finger or batted an eye. Now, fourteen years later, almost half a million people have lost their lives in the Darfur conflict, and again the world governments are turning a deaf ear to the cries for help.
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia loosely defines the conflict in Darfur as an ethnic and tribal military conflict encompassing Western Sudan. But the conflict has become rather one-sided. The Sudanese military government, together with the Janjaweed militia, has engaged in a full-scale genocide of its own subjects; murdering innocent civilians, raping women, and destroying homes and property. The war is estimated to have displaced more than two and a half million people, driving them to enter refugee camps where living conditions are unfathomably harsh. The international outcry against Darfur has largely been ignored by the Sudanese government. The UN has been ineffective in its peacekeeping attempts. And the conflict rages on, well into its fifth year and showing no signs of ending.
The UN seemed to have learned its lesson after the horrors of Rwanda. So why has the crisis in Darfur been allowed to continue? There seems to be no clear answer. Mark Lattimer, executive director of Minority Rights Group, stated that: "this level of crisis, the killings, rape and displacement could have been foreseen and avoided ... Darfur would just not be in this situation had the UN systems got its act together after Rwanda: their action was too little too late." So half a million people have payed for this mistake with their lives. Has the UN become so ineffective that it can no longer accomplish what it was designed to do? And why have the rest of the world governments made no motion to intervene?
Public response to the conflict in Darfur has been extensive, but produced little results. And now we as Americans seem to be losing interest. Maybe the vast distance that separates us from them makes the news of the crises feel disconnected, like it is coming to us from another world. Our culture and lifestyle is so vastly different from theirs, it's easy to believe that somehow they are not our brothers and sisters. In the movie Hotel Rwanda, the African manager of a hotel tells a foreign journalist, "Once people see what's happening here, surely there will be help!" The journalist responds, "I think if people see this footage, they'll say 'Oh my God, how horrible!' and go on eating their dinners." Does that line hit home somewhere? It certainly does for me. I feel so helpless, sitting by and watching lives being destroyed. All I can do is pray that God will bring a swift end to the conflict and mend all those broken lives and hearts. And I'd encourage others to do the same. Maybe we can't single-handedly bring this disaster to an end, but we can at least petition the God of the universe to alleviate their suffering.

Aaron

Youth Camp, BABY!


Youth Camp '08, besides the rough weather, the name, and the shortness of our stay: was awesome. We had four messages from four different pastors: Mr. O'Connelly (I think I spelled his name wrong), Mr. Breault (our pastor), Mr. Emerson (Richmond's pastor and leader of our region of churches), and Mr. Lechner (from Charlottevilles, I think?).
The natural beauty of the campus. It is a really nice place to visit, even if you didn't have a whole youth camp to go to. the part of the campus we stayed on was situated on a hill so you could see the surrounding countryside and everywhere you were going or had been.
the first night, (after Mr. O'Connelly's message: "aM i SaVEd?") we played soccer from about 11 to 1 using the light from the cafeteria area. we had fun and totally shud have played a SGC vs all comers game, but it never happened. That night Aaron and I stayed in Gabe's room (Gaaaaaaaaabe!) with Hulme and Lee. after like 2 am we really had no clue what we were saying or even what we were talking about.
The next day, after about 4 hrs of sleep, we had "face-to-face" time. I wont give an opinion about it, I really dont have one, but it was something Mr. O'Connelly had outlined briefly the night before. It was basically a talk with your parents. I'd love to hear from someone what their opinion of their 'face-to-face' time (cue: make a comment?). But anyway, after Mr. Breault's message on honoring our parents, we played ball (yes, I mean basketball) for most of the afternoon, (I had to stop after twisting my ankle), and the competition? Well, my team lost to the pastors (O'Connelly, Lechner, and the Chick), but the rest of the churches didn't really...well, we won eight straight in the winners court. so, whatev.
That night, after Mr. Emerson's message: "wHat iN The wORlD?", we watched (or more precisely: waited to watch for like an hour and then left five minutes after they began) fireworks.
everyone was out on the side of the highest hill on the campus to watch the fireworks the night of the fourth. The fireworks turned out to be a lot farther and more generic than we expected, but we had fun hanging there for a while.
that evening was wacked out. ya. we definitely hung out in the lounge doing practically nothing until curfew at midnight. Me and Aaron again stayed with our chaperone extraordinare, Gaaaaaaaabe! While me and Gabe lost consciousness around 2:30, Aaron and Jon Hewitt argued politics late into the wee hours of the morning.
Mr. Lechner's (a.k.a. Jeepers) message: iS It wORtH iT? was fenomenal. His communicated his key points with passion and clarity. I really enjoyed listening to him. http://www.sgmidatlantic.com/YouthCamp2008/ this is a link to all the messages preached at youth camp. They are all worth listening to more than once.
after lunch we packed our things and left. Jordan and Mr. Melone rode in our car and Melone car took my mom, along with Laura and Emily Benson. Jord and I put the seats down and half-slept the rest of the way home. ya, youth camp was sweet.
the dudes with the matching shorts (stylin or not).

THE lunch table (and dinner table, and breakfast table) in fact, i dont think we really used any other table!
me, Keesh, Jord, and ST on the way home we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a small valley surrounded by 'mountains' (real mountain men would call them: 'hills') but the view was awesome and we had time for a couple of poses.


the parents were ok after the whirl of the retreat

the Bensons, Cagles, and Alyssa; we got this one off just before it started pouring
driving on the way home. if you could see through those tinted windows...well...i guess its a good thing you can't.

we really enjoyed the ride home but we really didn't do anything. me and jord were pretty comfortable:
Jord sporting the sweet shades
although you wouldn't be able to tell from this look inside the car, we had fun.

video

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

They say time flies, but...

Let's just say I was having a lot of fun to make time fly like this:

video

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beware: there is evil on this earth...

Ya and I thought Halloween 2 was scary...
(turn off the blog music for full effect!)

video

So the last of the five so-called "surge" brigades is preparing to withdraw from Iraq. Yet people still argue whether the troop surge was a success or not. The Pentagon and the Bush Administration claim that the action reduced violence and insurrection and is proof that the U.S. is making headway in Iraq. Critics of the move argue it only proves that huge numbers of U.S. troops are needed to keep Iraq marginally safe and secure. What's your opinion? Leave a comment or write a post on the chat box to the left.

God Bless,
Aaron

Amazing!!!!




Any of you catch the Wimbledon Final? That was some incredible tennis!!!!(not that I know anything about it). I was pulling for Federer, but Nadal obviously played a step above him. I think I'll become a tennis fan.

Here's a link to a highlight reel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubsv8jzsTsQ

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Boycott the Olympics!!!!!


36 days to go until the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The world's greatest athletes will meet on the world's biggest stage to vie for laurels and boasting rights. For many, it's the culmination of their life's work. But this year's games have been harried by controversy. China, the host of the games, has had to fend off critiques of the air quality in Beijing, as well as protests against the government and the human rights abuses committed in Tibet. Steven Spielberg, film maker and art director of the 2008 games, resigned the position in protest after his plea that China cease its support of the government-backed genocide in Darfur fell on deaf ears. The Olympic Torch's round-the-world run was greeted with massive protests and riots in many cities, prompting heavy security and even secrecy. China, which regards the games as proof that the nation has entered into a global playing field, both economically and culturally, has had a difficult time dealing with the various issues. So what should the U.S. do about it?
The question is basically irrelevant, as the U.S. has already fully committed itself to the games. But looking back, I think the right choice would have been to boycott the Olympic Games. We regard ourselves as a bastion of democracy and a champion of human rights, and the Chinese government's civil rights abuses fly in the face of everything we stand for. The Tibet protests sparked a government crackdown that resulted in thousands of deaths and the imprisonment of many others. The government-run genocide in Darfur, Sudan, which the Chinese government supports, has taken over half a million lives and displaced over 2.5 million people. And the Chinese still face persecution by their own government. Protesters are treated harshly, and Chinese Christians are martyred regularly. The U.S. has done virtually nothing to protest these acts. In order to be consistent with the positions we stand for, the U.S. should have pulled out of the games. The country withdrew from the 1980 games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The atrocities the People's Republic of China are committing are at least on level with that invasion.
On the Beijing Olympics website, the tagline is: One World, One Dream. the tagline seems to promote a peaceful world. But the Chinese government seems to reject this idea whole-heartedly. In my opinion, the U.S. missed an opportunity by not boycotting the 2008 Games.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Heading off...


Aaron and I are off to JMU near Harrisburg, VA, to "Youth Camp". (And I really detest that name!) But despite the name, we both hope it will be a blast. I'm sure after that whirlwind trip to SD, Aaron will still be tired, but I'm ready. Please pray for our time and for everyone else attending,


mpsnizzle