Posts tagged opinion
Kamelot has, really, always been king of symphonic/power metal mountain. At least as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only band that’s producing interesting material within the genre. There’s good reason for that, too. Thomas Youngblood is a fantastic guitarist (and now producer?) and his composition is usually fairly tight. Likewise, Casey Grillo and Sean Tibbetts are both impressive in their ability to nail down rhythm. Oliver Palotai is great as well — though a tad overshadowed by his buddies.
But, okay, let’s cut to it – Roy Khan. Roy Khan has always been the reason you’ve listened to Kamelot.
As good as all of those other elements are, what really pulled Kamelot together was Khan’s incredible voice. It was unique, it was powerful – it was signature Kamelot.
But after Poetry for the Posioned Roy Khan decided to find God, and that sort of left us all wondering: what happens to Kamelot?
They answered by picking up Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder). Now, almost a year later they’ve released Silverthorn. So, can Kamelot live on without Khan’s fire?
The meaning behind the name of the industrial/ebm band VNV Nation seemed fitting for today.
“Victory Not Vengeance”
The concept that we should achieve victory, but not for the sake of revenge. Justice, not a thirst for blood. Justice, of course, is not a damnable thing when it is carried out responsibly. When crimes are committed repercussions are natural and necessary to achieve a honorable society.
For a decade we’ve been chasing the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, desperately pouring money and lives into a search — presumably for justice. Yesterday, justice was served and Osama Bin Laden was killed at the hands of a US military team. The death of Osama is a symbolic statement more than anything else. A symbol for justice, for the intolerance of hatred and senseless violence.
Of course, that is what it should have meant.
The news has sparked a wave of jingoistic flag-waving unlike any other. People have literally taken to the streets, celebrating the death of another human being. While I understand why this is happening, I can’t feel comfortable with it. Almost as immediately as the news hit the masses, a sense of justice was morphed into a sense of vengeance. It was surreal to watch Phillies fans jump into chants of “U-S-A” at Citizen’s Bank Park. Seeing clips of it, I can’t help but feel as if I don’t recognize these people. Yes, Osama’s death is ultimately a positive — but to embrace it with pure celebration as if the death of a man is equal to winning the World Series? Does that not continue the hatred? This was not a sense of relief — that an enemy had fallen and a symbol of hatred had been buried. It was a zealous, cheerful exuberance.
As a country we have always tried to claim that we are “better than that.” That we are above the enemy. We are a land of justice, a land of freedom and prosperity, not savagery. When videos circulated around the media after 9/11 of people cheering, we judged them as lesser. This, of course, wasn’t because of the hate directed at us (or so we claimed) — it was because of the lack of respect shown to the dead. It was because it was zealotry and intolerance. It was a celebration of the death, something that has no place in a civilized society.
The difference here, is that we see one group as innocent and one group as the enemy. While there is no doubt truth to that statement, the hatred it has the potential to breed is dangerous — if not precisely the goal of Osama in the first place.
A quote from Salon’s David Sirota sums it up best:
This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.
We shouldn’t roll over — and the fight against hatred (and terrorism) is a just one. However, we shouldn’t be consumed by it. We shouldn’t forget that we are fighting to end hatred, not to perpetuate it. The death of Osama should signal images of 9/11 in our minds. We should remember that this man was responsible for killing thousands, yet we should also remember that his death does not bring them back, nor does his death signal the end of terrorism.
In the end, the cycle continues. One man was not terrorism. One man was not an ideal.
I’ll add more to this later. Just wanted to scribble some thoughts down before class.
Apparently the latest buzz word fix for the education problem in this country (and more specifically, this state) is merit pay. While I was already familiar with the system, I decided to do some extra research into it. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about the idea. In fact, I think it is actually a harmful proposal.
Merit pay, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is basically a system that removes tenure in favor of a pay scale that goes up with some sort of measure of student performance. In other words, teachers get more money if the kids do well on tests.
Straight off the bat, three questions spring to mind:
– Are tests a true measure of student performance?
– What about schools with naturally gifted students?
– How do you judge an untestable class?
To start, multiple-choice standardized tests are a poor way of monitoring student performance on many levels. First of all, if we base educational funding around test taking then all of a sudden classes become about answers and not about questions. Thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are already encouraged to only focus on test material. As I mentioned in a previous post, kids are now learning specific dates instead of the significance behind them. While this material might help them earn an A on a test, it does not help them learn about the world around them.
It is feasible in today’s school system that a child can graduate with a high score and yet be completely clueless to what they’ve “learned.” It is possible to teach to a specific test, giving students only the information they need to pass a test instead of information they need to adequately understand a subject.
Schools with a naturally high level of talented students would also reap the benefits, while those without them would not. Not to mention, it was fully possible to game the system put in place by the NCLB Act. How would merit pay be any different? Talented students are typically placed in high level honors classes — specialized classes that teach additional information to students who enjoy the material. Of course, however, these classes are more challenging and thus students in them typically score lower than those in the regular classes. Likewise, disabled students typically are shifted to courses that help them focus on very specific areas. How is it possible to balance these out within the merit system? If you apply the same scale to everyone, it will favor eliminating honors and special education classes and if you try to weigh the system by giving “merited” teachers the honored classes, won’t you be punishing the teachers — not to mention the students? Even if you give them extra protection or slack at the higher (or lower) levels, isn’t that just pay-scale reinforced tenure, the specific thing merit pay is suppose to replace?
In addition — what about school districts in rich communities that arguably have access to better resources? Wouldn’t these districts be continuously rewarded regardless of teacher performance? I fear that such a system would create a counter-productive revolving door in under-performing, challenging districts yet it would set up an even worse system of tenure in some schools.
Finally, how do you judge a class such as music or creative writing? What about journalism? Or art? Or even physical fitness? Would these classes be turned into cut-and-dry multiple choice classes with all of the unmeasurable creativity sucked out? Or, worse, would they completely disappear?
I’m not quite sure what would happen to them. I worry that they would ultimately be phased out in favor of “testable” classes. After all, addressing this to New Jersey’s system specifically, Governor Christie has already said he wishes for schools to simply build students to find jobs. While I feel that this is one job of our school system, I simply do not think it is the only one. Schools shouldn’t just create worker bees, they should create vibrant, educated citizens that can respond to the world around them in a clear manner. They should be a home for the mind as well as a training ground.
I don’t have the answer for New Jersey’s school system, I’ll freely admit that. I do, however, know that this isn’t the answer. Neither was the butchering of our state’s education budget over the past year.
Merit pay might sound good on paper, but in my mind it is just unquestionably broken in practice. We don’t need another No Child Left Behind fiasco.
Musically, it was a pretty good year. A handful of great albums were released, covering just about every genre I care about. As far as metal went, I had a hard time choosing only 5 albums to absolutely recommend. In fact, I was going to do a “top 5″ style article at first, but realized I couldn’t really do that in good faith — especially considering how diverse my taste in metal has become. I can’t say I’ve listened to absolutely everything this year, but I tried to keep up on as much as I can. Hopefully this means there is something for every metal fan on the list!
High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine
High On Fire is often described as stoner metal, putting heavy emphasis on repetitive, distorted riffs that can only accurate be described as “chugging.” This specific style has defined HoF since their inception. About the only thing that changes with their albums is the amount of refinement in their production, as their sound basically stays the same. For most bands, this can mean stagnation. After all, no one wants to hear the same album every two years. High On Fire manages to escape this by just being creative enough to pull in newer fans while not alienating their older ones.
Songs like the title track, Ghost Neck, and Fire Flood & Plague carry this album. While the other tracks are great, these three just stand out and push the album from simply good to solid. They bring in all the elements the band is known for while pumping in a ton of fist-clenching rage. Nothing like listening to twisted riffs while your ears are being hammered by mechanical drumming that just never ends. Quite frankly, it’s metal.
Kamelot – Poetry for the Poisoned
Kamelot stands out from the rest of the power/symphonic metal crowd. I feel that Roy Khan’s vocals combined with the creative direction they’ve taken since The Black Halo has made this band absolutely unstoppable. An album filled with dark, romantic (and murderous) undertones is almost expected of them by this point. After all, while Ghost Opera’s melancholic look at the world was pretty good, it just didn’t have that Kamelot edge that really made me stick TBH or Epica on repeat.
Poetry for the Poisoned, however, brought it in full. The album is dark, extremely so in parts — the first single, The Great Pandemonium, even has guest vocals by Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork fame. Not to mention the 4-part title track that explores the twisted love of a incubus-like vampire and his mate. The whole thing is just incredible.
…but, it isn’t quite as good as The Black Halo. Still, though, it is a definite buy.
Machinae Supremacy – A View From The End Of The World
A View is Machinae’s most versatile, energetic album ever — which is saying quite a lot, considering Machinae’s past albums. While it isn’t perfect, it is damned close. In a lot of ways this album is a return to form for the band, as they’ve gone back to home-producing just about everything.
Every track is loaded with “SiD” — the gaming-style electronic synth sounds that arguably made them who they are. Throw in some talented (and catchy!) riffing, and a much-improved lyrical style and you’ve got a recipe for kick ass metal.
Machinae has also gone back to their roots with their lyrics, choosing to switch between both up-beat, bouncy type anthems and revolutionary, fist-pumping warnings to the non-digital world. It is a combination that grabs you by the throat and holds you there for the entire album’s length. While I’d love to see a Flagcarrier style ballad, I honestly don’t mind as One Day In The Universe is one of my favorite tracks, ever.
I’ve got to say, if this was a top 5 list — I’d absolutely stick A View at the very top. It is that good.
Soilwork – The Panic Broadcast
Also known as: Welcome back, Soilwork.
The Panic Broadcast is a roaring, destructive and cataclysmic release. This is Soilwork grabbing their melodic death metal flags and flying them as high as they possibly can, declaring war on everything in their path. From the first track to the last, the album is absolutely brutal. While Soilwork has spent their last handful of albums searching for a “new” sound, TPB shows that all they really needed to do was perfect their old one. While this doesn’t quite sound like their founding albums, it does have that same sort of death groove that is intense (with an honest tablespoon of funk, seriously) yet melodic. It’s great.
Soilwork basically shows the world that you don’t have to kill the melodeath sound to make catchy, brutal songs. Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter and Deliverance Is Mine show that it is possible to have catchy choruses without making a song formulaic.
Now if only In Flames could do the same…
Blind Guardian – At the End of Time
Blind Guardian, while always pretty good, really hasn’t done anything groundbreaking for quite some time.
I’m happy to say that At the End of Time ends that trend. While this is quintessential power metal, the addition of extremely bombastic, symphonic elements really brings their sound back to the spotlight. While this sort of thing isn’t new for Blind Guardian or even the genre, it is done so fluidly that it increases the intensity of the traditional band.
With this album, Blind Guardian chose to focus their songwriting on various stories (such as both the Wheel of Time series), using them as inspiration for their direction. It seemed to work out pretty well for them, as while all the tracks stand on their own, the album feels pretty connected. Honestly, I was surprised that they managed to pull off such separation between the songs while keeping them sounding “together.” I’m not sure many other bands could do the same.
The intro track, Sacred Worlds, really is one of the main reasons I’ve thrown this album on here, though. It is just incredible and really serves as a great starting piece for the rest of the album. Even if you aren’t much of a Blind Guardian fan, I’d strongly suggest that track — though don’t forget about the rest of the album if you like it!
The media has been buzzing lately with talk of WikiLeaks and it’s founder, Julian Assange. While the website has been mentioned by the media before with previous releases, it hasn’t been until the recent “Cablegate” leak that they’ve really seen any major attention. With this current leak, they’ve published roughly 500 US diplomatic cables so far, although they have plans to publish many more.
The media jumped on the story immediately — not reported what was actually in the cables, of course, but instead choosing to focus on a very different question: Is Julian Assange a terrorist?
Sound bites have been played on most of the major networks from various personalities. Some quotes focus around Assange being captured, assassinated or otherwise killed.
Yet very few seem to be focusing on the wires themselves. What do they contain? For starters:
…and this is just from me quickly browsing them (basically, surfing their facebook page — not even going to the direct site and sifting through them myself, one by one). Considering an extremely limited amount has been shared with us so far, I’d say that this is pretty significant news, especially to US citizens. Yet most of the “sources” I find regarding the leaks are outside of the border.
Shouldn’t things like an air strike that killed civilians be major news? Shouldn’t the way our diplomats over seas do their job be news?
Instead, we are being “asked” if WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization.
I wonder of the people that say “yes” would’ve said the same about the New York Times? Or if they would’ve considered Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo criminals?
It’s impossible not to draw a comparison between the Pentagon Papers and this leak. While the situations are different, both seemed to highlight government secrets, especially ones that were damning to those with something to lose. The Pentagon Papers pointed out civilian tragedies that were unknown to the American people, along with government dealings that were previously unknown. Cablegate does the same thing — though most of the papers do not directly contain information related to the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
As anyone who has taken a class in journalism knows, the Supreme Court stood up for Ellsberg, stating that the freedom of the press trumps the secrecy of information when it is relevant. Does the information leaked here not have the same relevance? How about information leaked by WikiLeaks in the past, such as the infamous “collateral murder” video?
We need WikiLeaks because the government sometimes needs a watchdog. I understand the need for secrecy within the military and the government. Lives can be put at risk by some information. In WikiLeaks’ case, though, the information is not threatening lives. I honestly question if it is harming our diplomatic standing in the world. I doubt any other governments thought Americans looked up to them, and I certainly don’t think they expected any of it to be secret.
As citizens, we need to be informed of what is going on within our country. The sort of discourse that has sprung up from these documents certainly makes me wonder. I can’t honestly say that we would have gone to Iraq if an organization like WikiLeaks let loose that the CIA thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
The fact is, quite simply, that information has the ability to make us more informed about the world around us. I would much rather live in a world of free data than one that is suffocated and censored. WikiLeaks is simply a publisher. A tool for the world to better understand itself.
Note: I just sort of wanted to get my opinion out there. I’ll probably add to this soon.