Lest We Forget: A Brief Memorial Day Essay

I am a product of both war and peace.

My father’s side of the family includes several men through the generations who did their military duty, including my grandfather, a veteran of the Korean War era.  He is a hero for many reasons, although his military service was not heavily involved in combat.  When I lived in his house during college, I was touched by the reverence with which he would raise the flag on the pole in his front yard every morning, and every night he would bring it in.  He and my grandmother would fold it together, just like I learned to do as a boy scout.  Love of this country is not casual for them.

On my mother’s side of the family, most of my ancestors were Mennonites, including several ministers.  They were pacifists, and they lived their religion.  This was a people that had been evicted from several European countries because of their beliefs, until they finally landed in the barren heartland of America.  They set to work, growing crops where nobody else could – making a bit of Heaven in places other settlers saw as Hell.  I can imagine the disappointment and the fervent prayers of my great grandfathers, ministers who preached in both English and German, as the dark days of the second World War dragged on.  How frightening it must have been, living in that uncertain world of constant threats, but holding to the conviction that it was better to die than to kill.

Memorial Day is about memory.  It is certainly about the memory of those who died to give us the freedoms we now trample under our feet.  But it is also about the memory of those who lived to preserve our freedom – those who survived to tell the stories, and to write new ones.  The Greatest Generation was not only composed of the dead – it was the generation of those who picked up the pieces of the war and fashioned them into a shining new America.

How many of our young people understand the sacrifices of the past?  The immediacy of technology has produced a silent cultural nihilism.  We live so much in the now that even what happened this morning is old news.  We are losing track of where we came from, not stopping to realize that those points in the past are vital to understand our current trajectory.  We have lost the skill of sacrifice.  And yet, the ability to live happily in this ignorant state was purchased with the lives of men and women who did their duty when the need emerged.

I am indebted to hundreds of thousands of soldiers for the rights to speak my opinions, to pursue my goals, and to worship my God.  But in my remembrance, I must also remember the wives and parents who stayed home and waited by the radio and the mailbox.  I must also tip my hat to the factory workers who made tanks and uniforms instead of cars and pretty dresses.  I have to remember the American people as they were back then during the world wars – and hope that by some miracle I will someday measure up to their standard of hope and patriotism.

Thanks to the veterans who bought our freedom.  Thanks to the Americans of the past who help me remember what that freedom means.  Most of all, thanks to the Christ who bought all of us with an infinite price to give us an infinite freedom.  In Kipling’s Recessionalwe read, “Lord of the nations, spare us yet / Lest we forget, lest we forget.”  If we forget our veterans, we miss the rich lessons of our nation’s past.  If we forget our God, we jeopardize our nation’s future.  The best honor we can give God and our veterans is to live up to the brilliant potential they have granted us.

Technical Notes about O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This year’s Audio Christmas Card project was again recorded in Audacity.  Last year I took a little more time, but this year I had a strict 2-hour time limit for arranging, recording, and processing.

To save time, I arranged as I recorded, and I didn’t bother with any notation. The arrangement is pretty simple this time – simple solo first verse, duet with a drone for second, and fairly standard four-part third with a brief tag and pickerdy third at the end.

I began with the solo line for the first two verses.  Then I recorded and looped the oohs over verse two, followed by the second verse duet harmony.  Then I recorded the third verse, beginning with soprano, then bass, then alto and tenor.  I usually record the inner voices last because they anchor themselves on the soprano and bass notes.

I was not pleased with the stock Audacity reverb plugins, so I installed and applied Freeverb.  I wanted to apply some chorus effects during verse 3, but I wasn’t satisfied with the sound I got from the plugins I tried.  If any of you have a recommendation, I would love to hear it.

For a two-hour project, I thought the results were decent.  Obviously not studio-quality.  Hopefully Santa will bring me a Blue Spark Digital microphone for next year.  🙂

Merry Christmas!

Google+, Control-

In case you’ve been completely disconnected for the past couple of weeks, Google+ is the next big social networking platform. Some people think it will kill Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other competitors.

Although I don’t think Facebook will be hurt enough to shut down, there is one aspect of G+ that makes it more enticing than any previous social networking tool: It’s embedded in Google.

Almost everybody who uses the internet also uses Google search. Calendar, Gmail, and other Google services are also quite popular. Now, as a Google+ user, your status updates appear in a bar at the top of most of the Google services everybody has come to rely upon.

I work in schools, and I’ve seen the evolution of content blocking. But can any corporate or school network admin really block Google? Blocking Google would handicap reasonable, everyday business or education tasks. They couldn’t get away with it.

But soon, Google+ and Google everything else will be inseparable. Google realized that social networking is largely seen as unproductive use of time, so it designed its social network to embed itself in places that we have come to see as necessary for productivity.

Don’t be evil…?

(Waste some time connecting with me on Google+)