Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rock and Roll vs. Classical Music

Popular music is here today, gone tomorrow. Each new recording gets more and more stale as time goes by, where classical music can always remain fresh and new. 

Dinner Topics for Friday

This enduring quality is why classical music is called "classic"!

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

Yes classical music is superior to popular music. Not in every way perhaps, but it has one advantage that popular music threw away years ago.

Let's start with Elvis Presley. Some say that there was no music before Elvis. Clearly there was, but clearly too he was important.

But the 'was' in that last sentence is very significant. Elvis, contrary to the belief of some, is dead. All we have of him is his recordings. And a few Elvis impersonators.

The recordings are great. But the problem is that every time you play one of Elvis's records, it's always the same. However great a record may be, it gets increasingly tired and stale as time goes by.

Even if Elvis were alive today, he wouldn't be the same Elvis. Not the youthful innovator and shaker of pelvic bones. Nor the reinvented Elvis of the 1968 NBC TV special. Nor the 'fat and cuddly' Elvis who could still enthuse an audience, although some of his performances didn't exactly do the songs justice.

If Elvis were alive today he would still be singing his old hits. But it wouldn't be the same. The original records are the definitive performances, and they will never be equaled or surpassed by anyone.

So that is the problem - recording!

Somehow, popular music has focused on the record as being the definitive version of a song. Whoever is the first to get a hit record with a song defines how that song should sound for eternity. Anything else can only be an imitation.

Now let's compare that with classical music. In the heyday of classical music, there was no recording. So the only way to preserve music was to write it down.

And the written score has come to be regarded as the definitive version of any piece of classical music.

We can't go back in a time machine and hear a performance directed by Mozart. All we can do is perform the music as best we can from the score.

But that is surprisingly advantageous. Because there is no definitive recording of any piece of classical music (even modern works regard the score as the original, even if the composer has conducted a recording), it is open to anyone to give their own individual interpretation of that music.

And performance styles can change over the years. No matter how much historical evidence we can gather, we will never know for sure how music was performed prior to the era of recording.

So, because there is no definitive version of Mozart's 40th symphony, for example, we can go on performing it and re-interpreting it forever.

But popular music... well we'll always have to listen to those old recordings, because the recording is the definitive version and it can never be bettered.

I propose two solutions to this problem...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parenting, Peer Pressure, and Drug Abuse

Parenting and Prevention: Preparation Helps Resist Peer Pressure and Drug Abuse

Dinner Topics for Thursday

Teach young adults how to lead, not follow, their peers.

Daniel was one of four children of Israel chosen by the king of Babylon to live on the king’s diet for three years.  He faced peer pressure, too- -possibly fatal. Yet he held firm to his religious health code. How can we help our children say no to drugs?

The temptation and pressure Daniel faced was real. It was surely an honor to be chosen, as a second-class citizen, to participate with princes of the kingdom. Worse, he was good friends with the chief eunuch who was conducting the program. The eunuch feared he would lose his head if he contradicted the king. But Daniel was confident. He asked for ten days to use his own diet of simple food, and water instead of wine. His request was granted, and the king observed that the four young men did indeed prove to be healthier and wiser than their peers.

What can we do to help our children make the same wise choices? For years, the Center for Addictions and Substance Abuse has taught that children who eat dinner with their families abuse drugs less, are healthier, and do better in school.

It’s really as simple as it sounds. Obviously, daily meals prepared at home are more nutritious than fast food gulped down while on the run. But there are other benefits. Studies show that strong parental example weakens negative peer influence. The more your children interact with positive adult role models, the more they will act like mature, responsible adults themselves, and the less they will be influenced by confused, unhappy peers.

Example is certainly reinforced by word or precept, but what can you say that won’t sound like preaching? Try stories about epic heroes. By telling parables, Jesus taught his hearers how to make wise choices using principles of self-government.

The story says that “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself”. (Daniel 1:8) Many successful parents have taught their children to decide beforehand that they will not defile their bodies—that they will abstain from addictive substances and keep themselves morally pure. Then when the moment of decision is upon them, they are better prepared to withstand peer pressure. Dinner topics might include a discussion of the epic hero Daniel, as well as role playing possible dialogue that might arise. Discuss ways your young adults can decline in a polite, kind, or even humorous way, as Daniel was able to respectfully adhere to his principles. Often your children will find that peers respect them for their courage, and are enticed by positive peer pressure. If your children hold firm once, they are empowered to do it again.

There is yet another powerful benefit. The story relates that “in all matters of wisdom and understanding” Daniel and his friends excelled, far beyond even the king’s adult magicians and astrologers. (Daniel 1:20)There is a principle upon which this blessing is based. Those who keep their bodies pure and undefiled are better able to be guided by the Holy Spirit. They are thus happier individuals who go on to provide a stable environment for their own families.

Copyright © 2011 by C.A. Davidson 

C.A. Davidson is author of Epic Stories for Character Education, a collection of scriptural epic stories told in easy, dinner-talk style. Daily dinner topics help parents teach young adults how to lead, not follow, their peers.  “Dinner Topics for Epic Heroes Journal”  may be found at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

John Locke and U.S. Constitution

John Locke's Influence on the U.S. constitution

Dinner Topics for Wednesday

From Wikipedia

John Locke 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.[5]

Influence on Founding Fathers

The Constitutional Convention began deliberations on May 25, 1787.
Delegates used two streams of intellectual tradition, and any one delegate could be found using both or a mixture depending on the subject under discussion, foreign affairs or the economy, national government or federal relationships among the states. The Virginia Plan recommended a consolidated national government, generally favoring the big population states. It used the philosophy of John Locke to rely on consent of the governed, Montesquieu for divided government, and Edward Coke emphasizing civil liberties. The New Jersey Plan generally favored the small population states, using the philosophy of English Whigs such as Edmund Burke to rely on received procedure, and William Blackstone emphasizing sovereignty of the legislature.
The Convention devolved into a “Committee of the Whole” to consider the fifteen propositions of the Virginia Plan in their numerical order. These discussions continued until June 13, when the Virginia resolutions in amended form were reported out of committee.
All agreed to a republican form of government grounded in representing the people in the states.


Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him "le sage Locke". His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a "long train of abuses." Such was Locke's influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Bacon, Locke and Newton ... I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences".[11][12][13] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence.
But Locke's influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.[14]

Theories of religious tolerance

Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single "true religion" would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.[15]
Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Economics, Character, and Gold Standard

Economics, Gold Standard, and National Character

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.” ~ Edumund Burke 
 Note: As of 2009, "In God We Trust" is still on the new dollar coins, but not on the front. Only on the back. It seems to be a sign of the times--a slippery slope? A reflection of our national character? We ought to keep an eye on the minters. Maybe next time it will be gone altogether. ~ C.D.

“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.” These words by Edmund Burke have been the unspoken standard in our civilization since America was founded. By standard I mean a definite rule or principle by which things are measured. Gold or silver standard simply means that paper money is backed by a precious metal of intrinsic value.

Once there was a time when the standard of currency was measured by gold or sterling silver. The pound sterling, which is the name of Great Britain’s currency, comes from its early use of the silver standard. Sterling silver is defined as having a fixed standard of purity or conforming to the highest standard.

Gold Standard

Throughout the nineteenth century, America and Europe experimented back and forth with gold and silver. Seeking more monetary stability, the United States, along with many other nations, accepted the gold standard in 1873. Not long afterward, Silver Certificates were also issued, which could be redeemed in silver dollars and bullion (bulk metal). In 1933 the US discontinued the gold standard and maintained Silver Certificates, which continued until the death of President Kennedy in 1963.  In 1968 President Nixon ended both the gold and silver standard.

The gold standard prevented governments from printing too much paper money, and causing inflation (over-priced goods and services due to too much money in circulation). Governments were also limited in flexibility to create monetary policy and stabilize financial shocks. However, financial shocks are often caused by the very monetary policies that governments like to create. The free market, when left free of interference, will correct itself from time to time. The impact of these corrections can be proportional to the degree of fiscal responsibility exercised by a nation’s citizens and government. Those nations with robust economies tend to keep taxes low and minimize interference with the free market.

Today most nations use fiat money, which is money that has no intrinsic value, and is used only as a medium of exchange.  Our only standard has been the confidence of the world that the US will honor its debts. Our monetary policy is based on our good character—ability to keep promises—to pay our debts. How are we doing?

Without a standard of gold or silver, good character without greed is the only thing that keeps our government from debauching your money by paying debts with printed money. We presently have many elected officials who are now devoted to restoring fiscal responsibility to our monetary policy. It will take a long time to undo the damage of recent years.

To protect long term investments against inflation, you may look into savings of some kind. IRAs and Certificates of Deposit currently yield 3-5 percent, if your bank is giving you a “good deal.” Banks are now investing more in gold, which can yield ten times that much. Some financial institutions lend money to irresponsible people who cannot pay their loans, but reward the frugal with an insulting three pennies on the dollar of their savings.


Some individuals use tax money to support immorality; some huge corporations take tax money that they don’t need. Other multi-million dollar businesses run their production lines around the clock, every day of the year, endangering the safety of their employees for lack of sufficient rest. In a past era, the only businesses which never closed were hospitals and fire departments. Now everyone stays open all the time. Why? Greed. They lose money if they close one day a week so their workers can be with their families.

The government is a product of the people; its character is representative of the national character. In the United States, the government is supposed to be accountable to the people. The people used to be accountable to God.

The silver standard is no longer with us. Nevertheless, “In God We Trust” is still engraved upon our currency. In the modern era, even an age of relativism, the quest for sterling character still begins at home. The true individual worth built in the family circle ultimately influences entire nations.

Sterling character is not measured in money. At the end of the day, it is not what we acquire that matters, but what we become.

Copyright © 2011 by Christine Davidson