Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Son's Memories

I haven’t been keeping up with the blog lately due to life.  I lost my Dad a few months ago and dealing with the last few months of his battle with cancer pretty much wiped me out.  So in an effort to bet it moving along again I thought I would post about my Dad.  Several people have asked for me to post what I wrote for him at the memorial service so here it is….

I think most sons that have had a good relationship with their father will say that their dad is their hero.  For me it is not just how my dad lived his life that he is my hero, but also how he lived as he died.  Anyone who knew him knows that he was a man a very few words.  Partly because he had a laid back personality but also partly because he couldn’t suffer fools and as he liked to say, if you can’t say anything meaningful don’t say anything.

My father’s childhood was not the easiest one.  His father, when present, was abusive and drunk.  His father gave my dad an excellent example of how not to be a father.  So when in the course of his life he began his own family my dad decided to try his hardest to be nothing like his father.  In that he succeeded well past his expectations. 

I remember throughout most of my childhood my dad worked allot.  He didn’t do well with showing his emotions at the time.  He showed my sister and I how much he cared by providing for us.  We were the stereotypical middle class suburban family, with 2 cats instead of dogs.  Dad didn’t like to waste money.  Some people, if they would have seen him as he walked around the airport on his breaks returning the luggage carts to their rental cue for the quarter it gave you, might have called him cheap.  I would call him long suffering and patient.   You see he saved up enough quarters by returning those carts to take the family to Europe one summer.

Since I can remember my dad loved to sing.  He loved to sing in the church choir, but he never sang around the house, or in public.  In fact, I can say I never heard him practice ever.  He didn’t like the attention so he sang on his way to and from work for his practice.  But if there is one thing he liked more than the choir it was his family.  If I had to pick my dad’s biggest fault it was that he loved his family.  Of course it was also his strength.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing he would not have done for his family.  You can see this in the family pictures.  He is more often than not in the back, watching.  Even in the family videos you can find dad in the corner of the room watching quietly.  Smiling as his family acted like idiots playing around when we got together.  This tradition continued when I had my own family.  My wife and I rented a condo on the beach and had our children and grandchildren over.  My parents joined us too.  Here we all are crammed in the kitchen and dining room being goofy and laughing and sitting quietly behind us watching with a smile that showed complete contentment was my dad.

While I have always been close with my mom, I was not so with my dad until later on in life.  Maybe because we are too much alike and but heads.  Maybe because I was too stubborn to realize the gift God had given me in him.  But always my strength was my dad.  He was always there, praying for me.  Ready for me. 

Dad became more vocal about his opinions and emotions once he became “papa”.  He loved being a grandfather.   Something we both share.  He shared his faith more openly the last 10 years as he grew more comfortable opening up.
When dad was first diagnosed his cancer, I really thought he would beat the odds.  After all, he survived 2 heart attacks, quit smoking was healthy and he has always been there.  The Lord has continually worked miracles my family’s life.  I knew it would be a hard road, but I though dad would make it.  I was not in denial, I just had confidence in the Lord.

 The day hospice came and was admitting him the nurse asked him about his religious preference.  Dad looked at her and said, “Everyone here knows Jesus as their Lord and savior.”  Then he looked at her with a look that implied the question, and what about you?  I remember trying to hide my laugh as I thought, That’s my dad! 

He remained overly concerned about others even the last few days as the cancer became stronger than his will and more than his body could fight.  He worried about the health of my daughter, about the security of my family, about his “girls” the grandchildren and mostly about my mother.  The last days of my father’s life I sat next to him and read to him some of his favorite passages and promises of Scripture.  The disease had robbed him of his speech, but he still was able to communicate.  Every time he heard the name of Jesus he responded.  Even at the end my father remained faithful, to his family and to his God.

I use to think that 75 years old was just that, old.  Now I can’t help but think of it as way too young.  My mom and I were with dad when he went home to the Lord.  Afterword still in the room, I told my mom that I really thought that God was going to work a miracle.  She looked at me and smiled and told me that He did.  She told me that God worked his greatest miracle of all right in front of us, salvation.

So yes, like many sons before me I can say that my dad is my hero.  However, it is because of his faithfulness to the Lord and to his family.  It is because of the love that he showed.  And that love was a true gift from God.  And that is what I shall miss the most.

Monday, November 25, 2013

No More 50th Anniversary Dr. Who special

OK, so I am about to officially out myself as a nerd.  I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan.  I have been a fan most of life.  I first discovered Dr. Who when my family bought our first VCR, (way back when).  I remember I set the timer on the record function to test it (because I was a kid and kids know how to use technology better than adults) and it recorded our local Chicago PBS station in the middle of the night.  The next morning I woke up and raced downstairs to see if the VCR recorded anything, I didn’t care what it was it was just fascinating to find out if it recorded on its own.  

I turned on the VCR and saw the counter was no longer on zero.  It Worked!  So I rewinded the tape and looked to see what it recorded.  It was Doctor Who; the episode was The Talons of Weng-Chiang.  I was mesmerized by this goofy man with a really long scarf running around acting a fool.  Empire Strikes Back had just come out (if it helps to show how old I am) and I was becoming an avid science fiction fan.  I have been a fan of Dr. Who ever since.  

Now as Doc Holiday would say, my nerdom knows no bounds.  I have gone to Dr. Who conventions, met Patrick Troughton & Colin Baker.  I even have a hand knit replica of Tom Baker’s scarf (thanks to my Grandmother).  I have gone to comic con and horror conventions.  I have met Tom Savini and George A. Romero.  But I like to fool myself and point out I may be a nerd but I am a pyrotechnician, make my own wine and play guitar so I am not that bad of a nerd.

I should point out that I really do like the new Dr. Who series.  I prefer David Tennant out of the new Doctors but my favorite is Peter Davison.  This should give you some idea of my bias with this beloved TV series.  Anyway....  I awaited along with several million other people the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who this last week.  And as I watched it I was dumfounded.  How on earth could   Besides the fact that Gallifrey Anthony Ainley because I knew him first no offense to Roger Delgado fans, only one of the classic Doctors in the entire episode?  And he only appeared as a cameo at the end.
was save and frozen a while back by the Master no less, I happen to prefer
they screw this up so bad?

I really do like the way they put Tom Baker in the show, if you’re not going to use anyone from the classic days that is the way to do it.  But come on guys there are 4 other doctors still alive that would have been in it.  It is kind of cool to see that they reached back and pulled out the Zygons for a classic enemy.   But the story is not even consistent with the new series events let alone with the previous 40
years before!  It seems like Steven Moffat does whatever he wants and explains it by saying “hey it’s about time travel”.   There has to be some rules some consistency to help the improbable be believable.  

I found that the BBC movie An Adventure in Space and Time was incredible.  I preferred the movie about the making of the series more than the 50th special.  I really like the end of it; you will know what I mean when you see it.  I also liked the comedy spoof that the BBC put up with the classic Doctors better than the special.  It is really sad when that happens.  I know that they thought it would be funny to do the spoof, and it was, but it didn’t have to be so true.

In the end I will keep watching the show, I am a fan.  But on an occasion as special at the 50th anniversary WTF!  How do you not put in that which gave you the 50 years in the first place?  Yes I know that it is a new series separate from the old that pays tribute in its own way, but this was the 50th.  I do like the better production of the new series.  It is nice so see better special effects and better music than in the old days.  But there is something that warms the heart with the cheesy music and$0.00 budget special effects from the old episodes.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The New American Beauty

Well I am falling behind with keeping up with this blog.  That might be because of the release on my new CD that is available on my site Gregory Luther Music .  So it is time to write about something that I am sure no one cares about, my new guitar. 

 I am in the process of creating a guitar.  That is I an endeavoring to become a luthier, or in layman’s terms I am making my own guitar from scratch.  I am making the body 100 % from scratch.  The body is coming from a large tree that came down and is wide enough for me to get a piece that is at least 24 “.  The blank is going to be 24 x 14 x 1.75 and in a modified Strat shape.  I haven’t decided about the paint job yet.  I am not going to carve anything on it for this one, but that is in the future for the next one.

The real dilemma I have is what kind of pickups to throw in her.  I know I am going to use Seymour Duncan.  That is just a given.  What I haven’t made up my mind yet is  what one?  I have narrowed it down to three choices.  The first one is the Alternative 8 SH-15.  This pickup has a great high end which makes sense since SD reviews it as “High output humbucker with Alnico 8 magnet for extra output. Perfect for all rock styles and great for use with high gain amps.”

The next choice and the one that I am really leaning towards is the Blackouts AHB-3 Mick Thomson EMTY.  This one kick ass.  I mean it rocks. 
It was designed for Slipknot’s Mick Thomson and gives you “even tighter bottom, and more searing top end cut.”  I guess it is a no brainer it will rock since it is related to Slipknot.

The last choice I am struggling with is the LiveWire Dave Mustaine Pickup.  The best explanation why I considering this is well, Dave Mustaine enough said.  

Anyway, that is my electronics dilemma.  The neck I am going to buy.  I am not ready to make may own yet, that is in the future.  I know I am going to have 22 frets and it will be a cutaway neck.  It will be unfinished and thin with a nice bevel similar to the Clapton Strat.  I might go with a rosewood. 

All in all she is going to be beautiful.  I haven’t made a guitar in a long time and it is time to do one from scratch.  I might even do some custom work sometime next year.  Who knows maybe real soon there will be custom guitars for sale by Gregory Luther Music.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

OK, so I have been thinking about what I wanted to write about for my next article and do you know what I came up with?  Nothing.  For a brief instance I was actually upset that I could not come up with an idea for this latest blog article and then I realized that the topic really should be about nothing.  After a cursory examination of the subject matter I was very surprised that “nothing” is actually not very small at all.  Rather it seems “nothing” is a very vast and popular concept.  At that discovery my curiosity got the better of me and I began looking into nothing.  As an aside, I can legitimately tell my wife I am working on nothing and it means I am busy.  Without digressing to far I have discovered that “Nothing” is in every facet of society and is inescapable.  Looking at popular culture, science and religion & philosophy one finds that the most prevalent and strongest idea is nothing.  Therefore I would ascertain that “nothing” is the glue holding the universe together.  To put it another way, the “god particle” that scientists have been looking for everywhere is actually nothing.

Noting In Popular Culture
The first area of society I would like to look at is in popular culture.  It has been a long standing practice to look to the popular culture to find the worldview and beliefs of a society.[i]  When we look into nothing in popular culture we can find it prevalent in television, music and movies.  The most glaringly obvious example of nothing in popular culture can be found in the form of one of the most successful televisions sitcoms ever made, Seinfeld.[ii]  The show was pitched, written, and remained about absolutely nothing.  As a result of this nothingness, the show became one of the most successful television shows in history.  The show went off the air 15 years ago and is still doing well in syndication!

The second area of popular culture we can find nothing in is in music.  No I am not talking about Pink Floyd’s “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict.”[iii] 
No matter how nonsensical that song is it is about something not nothing.  But there are numerous songs that are just called “nothing”[iv] and one even called “The Nothing Song.”[v]  This again reinforces the idea of nothing in popular culture.

The last area to look at nothing in popular culture is in movies.  I shall include plays with this for brevity as well as general lumping screenplays together.  According to IMDB.com there have been three movies simply titled Nothing from 1947 to 2010[vi].  I have nothing to say about them as far as content.  It is interesting however, that there has been even one movie made, let alone three that are called nothing.  Even the infamous bard himself could not resist the lure of nothing.  One of his more famous comedies is called Much Ado About Nothing.[vii]   So we have seen in television, music and in movies and stage the idea of Nothing is very much about something for popular culture.

Noting In Science
The second area I will look at to find nothing is in science.  Nothing can be found in all of the sciences, for our purposes we shall only look at three, Mathematics, Physics and Geography.  In mathematics nothing is a very important concept.  “0” is the mathematical notation for nothing.[viii]  Can you possible image even balancing a checkbook with using a zero?  In more complex equations {} is used for nothing showing that the set is void of value or holds nothing.[ix]  Without nothing the mathematical existence we uphold with not exist.  It is almost as if the existence of nothing keeps nothing from existing.

Noting can be found in physics too.  In astrophysics the idea of nothing is the canvas the universe is painted upon.[x]  Outer Space is made up of a vast emptiness or nothing.  Space is by its very nature, void.   There is an area of study within quantum mechanics trying to show that something can come from nothing.[xi] 
The nothing being the physical representative or reality of the mathematical idea of a null set.  Some scientists have gone as far as stating that mater is nothing more than quantum vacuum fluctuations.[xii]  In other words, reality only exists because there is a fluctuation in the vacuum of nothing. 

In Geography you can find nothing as well.  While some have joked about the State of Iowa be the state of perfect nothingness.[xiii]  I would respectfully purpose that it is not Iowa but rather Nebraska that is the state of nothing.  Having been there I can attest to the fact that there is nothing there.  However, there is still one last bit of interesting scientific evidence of nothing.  Apparently in 2009 two men had a computer write a paper that was about nothing.  This paper is grammatically and scientifically correct but is actually about nothing.  None of the sentences mean anything.  They even managed to get a scientific journal to publish the paper as a legitimate paper!  The men withdrew the paper before it was published but you can read it here.

Noting In Religion & Philosophy

After looking at nothing in popular culture and then science I shall now turn to the last area to look at nothing, religion and philosophy.  Eastern religions are known to aspire to attain balance which cancels out both sides leaving you with nothing. [xiv]   Perhaps one of the most well-known of the eastern religions is Buddhism.  In Buddhism one strives for liberation and a freed mind free from passions whether it is anger, stress etc….  This state that one strives for is called Nirvana.[xv]   Nirvana is a negative state of being in the sense of doing away with and being stripped of.  True Nirvana is being left with nothing.[xvi] 

Even in Christianity there is a branch of thought known as Annihilationism.  In this thought the belief is that after death the unbeliever who is not saved does not go to hell as traditional Christian theology has sustained, but after death the unbeliever is annihilated.  The soul and personhood is completely destroyed as punishment for turning against God.  Annihilationist’s believe that the unbeliever is turned into nothing.

In traditional Judeo-Christian theology nothing is found the beginning.  The creation story found in Genesis believed by both Christian and Jewish thought is that of ex nihilo or creation out of nothing.  In fact on of the evidence of God is that of His power for ex nihilo.  Nothing is the starting point of creation for Judeo-Christian theology.

Philosophy has wrestled with nothing for years.  Perhaps the most known philosophical thought dealing with nothing is that of Nihilism.  Nietzsche is one of the great prophets of Nihilistic thought.  This thought is that of moral nihilism, or amoralism.  Nietzsche contended that there was nothing of intrinsic value or meaning.     This gives birth to moral relativism and ultimately straight up pure hedonism.  Of course this philosophy is not sustainable in living out and in Nietzsche’s case is really a fight against Christianity.

Another philosophical train of thought of nothing in from the existential thinkers like Sartre and Camus.  While this thought is another form of moral nihilism this one is not originating from a antagonistic perspective of Christianity as Nietzsche was.  Nietzsche’s writing seems angry while the existential thinkers have a very sad connotation to them.  Sartre believed that existence was absurd.[xvii]  While he arrived at the same conclusion as his angrier peer about religion, it was not satisfying to him.  Rather the contrary, the existentialists were very upset and depressed about the human condition and the absurdity of existence.  Meaning and thus morality has no meaning and is morally the empty set. 

We have looked at three pillars of society, popular culture; science and religion & philosophy.  After examining these litmus tests for existence we have discovered allot of nothing.  In fact one might go so far as to say that nothingness is everywhere we turn.  In popular culture the thought of nothing is not just entertaining but big business.  In science the idea of nothing is vital the core of all structure without nothing can there be any mathematics, physics or astrophysics?  In religion & philosophy the thought of nothing is so prevalent that it is the beginning and the endpoint of the discussion.  From our brief excursus of looking into reality we have found absolutely nothing.  The one thing that everything has in common is nothing.  It is for this reason that I contend the “god particle” that scientists have been looking for everywhere is actually nothing, that nothing is the glue holding all reality together.  Perhaps Berkeley was correct when he said “Esse est percipi” -To be is to be perceived.  Maybe we are just nothing, existing simply in the mind of God.