Grasmere is a small village in the heart of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria, England. At Dove Cottage in this village, William Wordsworth, the poetic wordsmith, lived for many years and wrote much of his poetry. He is also buried at a nearby cemetery. This whole area was very scenic and well (words)worth a stop. Yet, our tour was not originally scheduled to stop there. It was at the request of two English teachers in our tour group that Tom, our tour guide, made adjustments to our schedule that allowed us to visit Grasmere.
Dove Cottage in Grasmere
Grasmere wasn't the only unscheduled stop we made on the tour. While in northern Wales, our son asked if we could detour off our intended path and visit a town on the island of Anglesey named Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. This is the longest place name in Europe and one of the longest in the world. The tour guide wasn't sure of the pronunciation, so asked our son Andrew, who he knew spoke some Welsh, to say the name on the bus intercom system. Apparently the town took on this name in the 19th century to attract tourism. In English, the name means "The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave."
While thinking about the places we got to stop simply because someone asked, we realized that there were many things we did on the tour that we would never have known to do had we planned the trip ourselves. Some things like the Scottish banquet we attended in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Welsh banquet we went to at Cardiff Castle in Wales. Had we missed the latter event, we would have missed Andrew being crowned king and being asked to taste the Leek and Potato Soup for poison. One very interesting place we would never have even thought about going to was the slate museum in Llanberis, Gwynedd, northern Wales. There, Andrew was allowed to split a large piece of slate using only a hammer and a chisel. This museum acts as a preserve for a very important part of Welsh history.
So, whenever you travel in the future, please remember Grasmere. If you're on a tour and you want to stop somewhere you're not scheduled to stop, ASK! If you are planning a trip on your own, consider going to a place or an event that you wouldn't normally go. You might be surprised.
When it comes to how people should interact with each other and with their government, there is a wide array of opinions. Some are liberal, some conservative, some libertarian. Some are statists and some individualists. Some are socialists; others capitalists. On listening to all these different viewpoints, it can get extremely confusing. There are good points to be made all around. I know that I personally find myself wavering as I hear the arguments coming from the various camps. Yet, through all that confusion, I keep coming back to one fundamental question that is foundational in choosing one's political persuasion.
WHO OWNS YOU?
Have you ever thought about this question? If so, have you ever settled on a definitive answer? I have asked this question of a number of people. Some of the religious folk answer, "God." Okay, that's fine, but I'm actually talking about ownership as it relates only to humans. With this criterion, most people would probably answer, "Me, of course." Yes, indeed. You own you, and I own me. It seems quite obvious to most people. Yet, most people do not fully understand the deep meaning of this answer and how it should play into their understanding of their place in the world and their relationship with others.
Throughout all of history, even into the present day, there have been places on this Earth where slavery existed. Yet, I believe that most people today would readily admit that slavery is wrong, even immoral. Why? Because we tend to believe that each man is an individual worthy of living his own life. I too believe this. Yet, in so many ways, people fail to understand how this belief should play out when living in a civil society.
Let us suppose that after the civil war Section 1 of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution was written to say:
"Slavery and involuntary servitude within the United States shall not exceed 40% of a person's productive life."
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
In other words, a person could own up to 40% of another person, but no more. The remaining 60% of a person's life would be his own. How does this settle with you? Nonsense, you say? Yes, well, I agree. No one should be allowed to own even a small percentage of another person. One's life is his own. If he wants to choose to work for another man, that's his prerogative. But no man should be able to force another to work for him even a short time, let alone 40% or 100% of his time.
Of course, even though slavery ended in 1865, many laws remained on the book for 100 years that allowed whites to treat blacks as second class citizens, thus, at least in part, permitting whites to have partial ownership of blacks. Yet, even this level was considered heinous and unworthy of an enlightened nation. It took a civil rights movement to get things changed.
Another egregious form of slavery that remained in effect after the civil war was conscription. After all, how is forcing someone to serve in the military not involuntary servitude? Yet, mandatory drafts were used as "needed" until they were abolished in 1973. It was then that the US went to a voluntary military. I know that there are differing opinions about mandatory drafts across the entire spectrum of American life. Many people argue that a mandatory draft is absolutely necessary when our country is under attack and we are in need of protecting our freedom. But, how does one justify taking away some citizen's freedom by involuntarily conscripting them into the armed forces in the name of protecting freedom?
But there is a more subtle form of slavery that occurs in our society that many people simply ignore: taxation. Yes, taxation. How is this slavery? Well, think about it. If the 13th amendment had read, as I stated above, that citizens could be enslaved up to 40% of their time, we would consider this immoral. Yet, isn't having 40% of the fruits of your labor taken from you essentially the same as enslaving you 40% of your productive time?
Okay, some of you are probably saying, "But that's different. Slavery entails one person owning another. Taxation comes from a government elected by the people." Fair enough. So, how many people have to come together to enslave you such that it will be okay? The people on your block? The whole neighborhood? Your entire city? The state? The whole nation? At what point along this continuum does enslaving you go from being immoral to moral? Let's suppose the 13th amendment had been written this way:
"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except at the behest of the duly elected officials of the federal government or as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Is this wording satisfying to you? Would you be okay with the government being able to enslave you, even partially, as long as no individuals could? I kind of don't think you would. But taking your hard earned wages, in essence, is the same thing. To this you might counter, "But I am willing to pay a part of my income to the government to provide essential services and to help others less fortunate than me." Well, there would be nothing to prevent you from sending that money in voluntarily just like young men and women voluntarily join the military.
The founding fathers of the United States of America understood well the power that government could wield over its citizens and were understandably dubious of having one. Many of them, or their ancestors, came to the colonies to rid themselves of the tyranny of government in other parts of the world. Yes, unfortunately, slavery was encoded into the original Constitution, but that was mostly a compromise position in order to get the country started. It took an extremely bloody war to correct this problem. Yet, the founding fathers also understood that some level of government was essential to a nation's preservation since there needed to be an ultimate authority to settle disputes, provide law and order and justice, and to protect citizens from foreign invaders.
So, the founders decided that since a central authority was absolutely needed, they would create one. But a VERY limited one. A constitution was written clearly delineating the powers this government would be allowed to have. In other words, the government operates at the behest of the country's citizens rather than the citizens working at the behest of government. The number of people making up that central government was very small and could be supported by only a very small amount of taxes. Interestingly, the income tax didn't even exist.
However, as the founders feared, government began to grow. Slowly at first, but speeding ever faster as the present day arrived. Congress, with the help of the Supreme Court and the President, now have hundreds of thousands of pages of federal law that gives the federal government FAR more power than we citizens have permitted them to have via the Constitution. And as it grows, funding has to be continually increased to pay for it. Citizens gave the government the right to tax their income at a very low rate with a Constitutional amendment in 1913. Since then the rate has increased dramatically. Other taxes not approved by the Constitution have been authorized by our elected officials as well. Now, the amount of money needed by the government has grown to a point that even those taxes are not sufficient to fund it. Knowing the negative effect of increasing taxes even further, both electorally and economically, our nation now borrows about a TRILLION dollars each year. We are now almost 17 TRILLION dollars in the red.
The system as it exists is unsustainable. We citizens need to help our nation by once again asking ourselves that fundamental question, "Who Owns You?" Once we truly understand the ramifications of the answer, "I own me," and begin to enact it in the real world, we can begin to veer our country off its current path to destruction and hopefully make it once again the land of the free, the home of the brave, and a nation of prosperity.
I come to my favorite topic in this series: FOOD. While in Britain, we ran
into some interesting food traditions that were common to the entire area and
some that were unique to certain areas.
tour price included a breakfast every morning at each hotel we stayed at. Most
mornings we had a buffet. Many of the items on the buffet were similar to what
we have here in the United States. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, cooked mushrooms,
toast, coffee, tea, etc. However, there were some interesting differences. For
instance, what they call bacon would be called ham here. I only remember one
hotel that had our version of bacon (thin sliced and cooked until crisp) and it
was called fatback bacon. Another interesting difference was that essentially
every breakfast buffet included baked beans and cooked tomatoes. We would call
the former pork and beans; they weren’t baked with brown sugar until the sauce
was thick. The cooked tomatoes were always medium-sized, cut in half, seasoned,
and then cooked until soft, but not stewed. One last thing concerning breakfast
is egg preparation. In the US, it is fairly common for breakfast buffets to
include an omelette station. We saw none of these in Britain. Rather, they had
poached egg stations. However, most of the time poached eggs were simply served
on the bar without the need of a separate station.
common dish found throughout Britain is fish and chips. I have always
considered this to be an England thing, but I learned quickly that it is
prevalent throughout Scotland, England, and Wales. In fact, the best fish and chips we had on the tour was at Greyfriars Bobby Bar in Edinburgh, Scotland. The fish was always a white
fish, usually cod or haddock. And, as most of you probably know, chips are
really fries. Warning: I seriously doubt that the Brits would want to hear you
call them French fries. (By the way, potato chips are called crisps in
Britain.) What amazed me about the fish was the size. Every time we bought fish
and chips, the fish was a HUGE fillet, taking up nearly the whole plate. The
only place I recall seeing fillets this big in the US was up in Massachusetts
many years ago. One thing I didn’t like as much was the malt vinegar for putting
on the fish. It didn’t have nearly as much vinegar twang as what I’m used to in
the US. So, I mostly used tartar sauce.
I think about fish and chips and England, I’m reminded of the story my uncle
told me when I was a kid. He said that when he was in England during WW2, he
used to eat fish and chips out of a rolled up newspaper. That’s how it was
served in those days. Later, an Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips came to my home town.
That was my first taste of British-style fish and chips, and I loved it. It was
interesting that the paper they were served on looked like newsprint.
can’t forget to mention the mushy
This was something that essentially every restaurant served with their fish and
chips, although you could get them with other dishes as well. They are
essentially an embellishment of what we call green peas or English peas.
They’re not totally mushy as there are still solid pieces of peas in the mush.
Kathy and I are not big fans of green peas, so were hesitant to try them. But
lo and behold, they were great. Try ya some sometime. Unmushed peas were also
of mushy, I must tell you about the soups of Britain. We tried a number of
different soups, but not one had any chucks of anything in it. In the US, I am
used to getting broccoli and cheese soup with chunks of broccoli in it,
vegetable soup with chunks of vegetables in it, and so forth. Well, every soup
we had in Britain was chunk-less. Apparently if it’s called soup, they blend it
up. In other words, if there is anything that has to be chewed in it, it’s NOT
soup in Britain.
like in the US, bread is a staple food in Britain. One difference here is that across
the pond they seem to only like bread as an appetizer or for making sandwiches.
Yes, restaurants here in the US usually serve bread before the rest of the
meal. But they also leave it for eating with your main course. Over yonder they
like to take up any remaining bread before the main course arrives. Of course,
all we had to do was ask that they leave it, and they would.
were everywhere in Britain. They seemed to pop up on any sandwich plate and
were available for every meal. Yet, there seemed to be a severe lack of
dressings to put on them. I discovered this was generally true throughout
Britain when, after many times asking “What salad dressings do you have?", I got
sort of a blank stare from the server. Typically, the only thing available was
something like Miracle Whip or little packets of salad
Fortunately, the salad cream was really good. Otherwise, I’d have been eating a
lot of dry salads.
far as specialty dishes in the different countries, the first we encountered
was haggis and black pudding in Scotland. These
were actually on the breakfast bar our first morning in Glasgow, Scotland.
Haggis is made from sheep guts and ... ‘nuff said. Sheep guts are enough to
turn me off regardless of what else is in it. That being said, I tasted it and
it wasn’t too bad. Yet, it wasn’t good enough to get me over the sheep guts
hurdle. Our son, Andrew, loved it. He ate it just about any time he had the
opportunity. But, that’s Andrew. He’s not only weird, but he loves weird foods
you didn’t know better, you’d think that black pudding would be good. I mean
who doesn’t like dark chocolate in a pudding. Well, you’d be wrong. Another
name for black pudding is blood pudding. And, yes, it is actually made from
real blood. I don’t mind a bit of blood coming out of my medium steak, but for
a dish to have blood as its main ingredient grosses me out. That being said, I
tasted it and it was essentially tasteless. That was definitely not enough to
get me over the animal blood hurdle. Yet, our weird son loved it. He even got
it on his pizza in Edinburgh. Sometimes I think he needs to host that Travel
Channel show “Bizarre Foods America”. Hey, come to think
of it, isn’t the current host named Andrew? Maybe our son could start a new
series called “Bizarre Foods Britain”.
unique dishes we tried related to Wales were leek and potato soup and Welsh rarebit, although the latter
we actually had in York, England. We had the soup at a Welsh banquet at Cardiff
Castle in Cardiff, Wales. As mentioned earlier, it was chunk-less, having been
blended to a thick liquid. Yet, it was so good we have since made it here at
I hear the words “Welsh rarebit”, I always think of the episode of “Gomer Pyle” where Gomer starts
sleepwalking after consuming large amounts of Welsh rarebit. The name belies
its simplicity. It’s actually a form of cheese toast. In fact, the actual Welsh
term for it is caws pobi, meaning baked cheese.
don’t know how common this is in England, but in Oxford I purchased a roast
beef sandwich at a large indoor market. It consisted of a huge thick roll with
lots of lettuce, tomato, and other salad-like compounds. Buried under all of
this was one lousy thin slice of beef. I couldn’t really even taste it. After
returning to the states, I was watching Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. He was
talking about England with one of his guests. He told a story about getting a
ham sandwich in England and it only having one lousy thin slice of ham on it. I
guessed from this that one slice meat sandwiches are prevalent in England, if
not all of Britain.
pains me to think that I will never be able to sample all the different cheeses
that exist in the world. There seems to be as many cheeses as there are people
in the world. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of cheese. Oh, there are some that
I don’t like, but there are a lot that I do. It seems that just about every
place in the world has its own custom cheeses. Britain is no different. At one
point on the tour, one fellow on the bus from New York bought some Wensleydale
cheese with ginger embedded in it and shared it with anyone wanting a piece.
This was good stuff. Later in the tour I decided to do the same thing and
bought some Snowdonia white cheddar cheese with cranberries and shared it.
Interestingly, while shopping at our local Publix tonight, I discovered they
had some of the Wensleydale cheeses. I bought the one with cranberries. Yum!
were more specialty foods in Britain than we either cared to try or had an
opportunity to buy. You’ll hear of things like Toad-in-the-Hole, Pasties,
Ploughman’s Lunch, Shepherds’ Pie, Neeps and tatties, Cullen skink, Stovies, Cockles,
Cawl, Lobscows, Kendal Mint Cake, and more. So, you’ll find there is no lack of
new things for you to try should you visit.
this post has already grown too long and I’ve not even gotten to drinks. I’ll
cover those in another post.
As anyone familiar with the
Bible knows, there are quite a few seeming discrepancies in it. For a pretty
comprehensive list, see The
Secular Web. Biblical apologists such as Josh
McDowell, Lee Stobel, Alex McFarland, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, and many others, have been
diligent about solving these discrepancies. In many cases, they have been
successful, satisfying my skepticism. Many times the explanation is that the
differences lie in differing viewpoints of the various eyewitnesses. They
usually point out how in even a modern day trial, eyewitness accounts will sometimes
seem contradictory because of seeing things from different perspectives, emphasizing
different points, and simply bringing their own biases into their testimony.
All this is absolutely true. Yet, if I were one that believed the Bible to be
inerrant and that the words of the writers were totally inspired by God, almost
as if the words were dictated to a scribe, the differing testimonies would be
troublesome to me. If all the writings are coming from the same source, God,
there should be no differing perspectives and biases. However, I know that many
Christians do not believe that God dictated the Bible to its writers. Some do
not even believe in the inerrancy of scripture. They simply believe that the
Bible is a collection of writings written by inspired, but fallible, men. Even
so, there is one important aspect of the resurrection appearances stories that
is troublesome even if written by fallible men.
First, it is important to
note that the earliest extant manuscripts of Mark do not even mention any
resurrection appearances. Mark
16:9-20 only appears in later manuscripts and seems to be a synopsis of the
other Gospel endings. Matthew states that an angel and Jesus himself instructed
the women to tell the disciples to go to Galilee for a meeting, which they do (Matthew
28:5-10). It was in Galilee that the disciples first see the risen savior (Matthew
28:16-17). On the other hand, Luke says that Jesus appeared to the
disciples on the day of the resurrection
and instructed them to stay in the city of Jerusalem until they received the
Father’s promise, which was the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke
24:13, 33, 36, 47-49). They are reported to have received that gift on
Pentecost and, according to Acts, began to preach in Jerusalem and stayed there
2:1-4). John says that Jesus appeared to the disciples twice in Jerusalem
and at least once in Galilee (John
20:19-26, 21:1). However, the meeting in Galilee was at the Sea of Tiberias
(aka Sea of Galilee), not a mountain as stated in Matthew. Apparently some of
the disciples, according to John, had gone back to their fishing occupations in
Galilee, and Jesus appeared to them there, even eating breakfast with them.
In summary, the Gospel
thought to be the first one written, Mark, does not mention any resurrection
appearances. Matthew reports that the women at the tomb were instructed to tell
the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee, which they do. Luke reports
that Jesus appeared to the disciples, on
the day of his resurrection, in Jerusalem and told them not to leave the
city until they received the Holy Spirit. After that event on Pentecost, they
stayed and ministered in the city according to Acts. John agrees with Luke in
that Jesus first appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem. However, instead of
staying in the city, at least some of them go back to Galilee and resume their
fishing business. Jesus then appears to them again at the sea.
I first encountered these
problematic verses soon after becoming a Christian in 1980. As a young
Christian eager to learn more of God’s Word, I enrolled in a “Harmony of the
Gospels” class at a nearby Bible college. As we neared the end of the semester,
we began to study the resurrection. While studying at home, I noticed the
contradictions mentioned above. During the next class, I brought these problematic
verses to the teacher’s attention and asked for an explanation. In sort of a
huff he said something like, “Uh, we don’t have time to discuss every aspect of
the Gospels.” So, my concerns were left unaddressed. Later, I was thrilled to
discover a book entitled “Gospel Parallels” edited by Burton H. Throckmorton,
Jr. However, my excitement was quickly quelled when I found that while most of
the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were printed side by side, the
resurrection stories were not. Rather, at that point the Gospel Parallels
became the Gospel Linears. I realized this did not bode well for the veracity
of the resurrection.
Whenever I encounter an apologist
discussing the supposed discrepancies in the Bible, they usually only explain
the easy stuff like which women went to the tomb and how many angels were
there. Almost never do they discuss the issues I present here. When they do,
they usually explain it away by simply saying that there were appearances in
Jerusalem, then in Galilee, and then again in Jerusalem (see this example).
But this explanation totally ignores the fact that Luke clearly tells us that
there were appearances in Jerusalem, then they waited to received the power of
the Holy Spirit, and then stayed to minister in the city. I see no way to
harmonize these differing accounts. If you know of a way or have a reference to
someone who does, please leave me a comment.
After the disappointment
of not getting any satisfactory answers to my questions about the resurrection
appearances, I began to notice other problematic verses in the Bible. When I
asked church leaders about these, the ultimate answer was that I just needed to
have faith. That was definitely not satisfactory. All these
issues ultimately resulted in my de-converting from Christianity.
I discuss the resurrection
appearances as well as many other topics related to the Bible in my latest
book, “God Is: Exploring the Nature of the Biblical God”. It is available in paperback
formats on Amazon. Questions and comments can also be left on my book’s Facebook page.
I went in Britain, there were eyes. Deep dark staring eyes watching my every
move. Well, not really. The eyes I am talking about are what we in the US call
Ferris wheels. And, actually, in Britain they are mostly called simply
“wheels”. But the biggest and boldest of them all is the one in London, which
is called the London Eye. It stands on the edge of the River Thames (pronounced
Temz) keeping watch over the good citizens of London as it rakes in huge
amounts of money from tourists wanting a bird’s “eye” view of England’s, and
the United Kingdom’s, capital city.
Wikipedia says that the London
Eye has about 3.5 million visitors each year. Based on the crowd that was there
when we arrived, I can believe it. Regular adult tickets were about 20 GBP
each. If you didn’t want to wait an hour or longer, fast track tickets were
available for an extra 10 GBP. These shortened the wait time to about 10
minutes. With the limited time we had in London, we opted for the latter. For
the three of us, the final cost was about 140 USD, given that the exchange rate
was about 1.55 USD per GBP. (With 3.5 million visitors each year, you do the
math.) For your money you get to take one rotation on the wheel. That’s a
30-minute ride. And it was one fascinating ride. Since the passenger capsules
are all glass, except for the floors, great views were available in every
direction as you ascend to almost 450 feet above the ground. When the London
Eye was completed back in 2000, it was the largest in the world. It has since
been superseded by wheels in China and Singapore.
the Eye never has to stop. The rotation speed is slow enough to make that
unnecessary. At the base of the wheel are three stations. The first is for
unloading passengers, the second is for the clean-up crew to sweep out trash,
and the third is for loading passengers. Quite efficient if you ask me.
London Eye is not the only wheel in Britain. Other larger cities like Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Liverpool, York, and Cardiff also have them. Apparently, UKers like
their wheels. We saw a few of these, but not all. The London Eye was the only
one we had an opportunity to ride.
you ever get to visit Great Britain, be sure to keep an eye out for the eyes.
me address the obvious first. In Britain, people drive on the wrong—uh, I mean
left—side of the road. Whichever way you want to look at it, they drive on the
side of the road opposite to right. When we were trying to decide whether to
take a tour or plan the trip ourselves, one of the considerations was our lack
of experience driving on the side of the road opposite from what we have always
driven on. I didn’t think I would personally have a problem on country roads
with little traffic, but I could easily see myself getting confused in a place
like London. And then there are those roundabouts. I’m not used to doing these
on the right side of the road, let alone the left/wrong side. Needless to say,
I was a bit concerned. But we ultimately decided to take a tour for many
reasons other than the driving. So, for the entire >2-week trip I didn’t
touch one steering wheel. It was a nice break.
thought it would be weird just riding on the left side of the road, but sitting
up high in the tour bus, it really wasn’t. It was on the final day of our trip
that Kathy and I got a real taste of left-side riding. We had a chauffeur drive us to the airport in a private car. This was included in the tour price. Then it
seemed strange. From the car, we could more easily see the other vehicles
whizzing by us on the right side. Andrew had already experienced this as he had
ridden a London taxi to the Sherlock Holmes Museum while Kathy and I walked to
Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.
one point in our tour, our guide explained why the left side of the road was the
right side of the road to drive on. Back in the day when people mostly used
horses for transportation, a person would occasionally run upon a hooligan that
had to be fought off with sword or spear. Since most people were right-handed,
it was only natural for the horses to pass to the right of each other, meaning
they were on the left side of the road. So, as motorized vehicles made their
ascension, people just naturally stuck to the familiar side. I guess that means
that either roadway sword fighting was rare here in the colonies, or most
colonists were left-handed.
had two different bus drivers while on our tour. The first driver, Mark, quite a friendly ole chap, drove the
first week as we made our circuitous way from Glasgow, Scotland, to London,
England. Richard then took over the second week, taking us to Wales and looping
back to Windsor, England. I was amazed by these drivers. Much of our trip was
on narrow country roads where the great scenery was. Sometimes it seemed that
we were on a one lane road. And sometimes we met another tour bus or a large
truck. Each vehicle had to get off the side of the road to pass. Sometimes our
left windows were scrapping tree limbs while doing this. I was just glad that I
wasn’t the one driving.
has a lettering system for its roadways. The larger highways are M, such as M1
or M40. These were typically divided highways with multiple lanes similar to
the US’s Interstate system. The next level road, which could be four lanes, but
more typically just nicer two lane roads are lettered A, such as A2 or A9. The major
A roads are based on radial patterns from London and Edinburgh. The
local roads are lettered B, such as B1091 or B4343. For more information, see this
in case you were thinking it: No, I didn’t see any wild drivers cutting off
people or weaving in and out of traffic. But then again I spent most of my time
sitting up high on a bus where other vehicles were hard to see. There’s no
telling what was going on below.
few years ago my son, Andrew, started listening to and enjoying the rock band
Muse. He had me listen to some of their music, but I couldn't get into it. So,
when he asked me to attend a Muse concert with him in Atlanta back in 2010, I
was hesitant. But I decided to go anyway. Well, lo and behold, just a few songs
into the concert, I converted to a fan. Now I love the group. So, when I heard
that Muse was coming to Nashville on September 6, 2013, I immediately asked Andrew
if he wanted to attend. Unsurprisingly, he did. Well, that concert took place
last night and it was a dilly-whopper.
concert was opened by a group named Cage the Elephant. They are a somewhat local
band since they are originally from Bowling Green, KY, a mere 65 miles away.
The musicians and the lead singer were quite good. However, I did not care for
their style of music or the lead singer's spastic movements on stage. But most
of the audience seemed to love them. I even heard one girl say they were
unknown reasons, there was almost an hour intermission before Muse began, but
when they did, they didn't disappoint. Raw power emanated from the stage from
the beginning and never let up. The crowd stood up when the music began and
never sat down until they got to their cars after leaving the arena. With lead
singer Matthew Bellamy on lead guitar and piano, Christopher Wolstenholme on bass and harmonica, Dominic Howard on
percussion, and unofficial fourth member, Morgan Nicholls, on various
instruments, the band brought showmanship and excitement to an arena full of
This concert was a part of The
2nd Law tour. The 2nd Law is the
band's sixth studio album in their almost 20 years of existence. The music on
this album is tremendous. Muse's music is like a bottle of wine that only gets
better with time. Of course, they also played a few songs from earlier albums.
Luckily, they were some of my favorites.
I have been to a lot of concerts where the band simply performs
their songs without actually putting on a show. For softer music or more
intimate settings, this can work, as it did at a Dan Fogelberg concert I
attended many years ago. However, for a power band like Muse, I don't think it
would. Muse apparently understands this, so spares no expense with the lights,
lasers, projected live and recorded video, and all the props needed to
implement them. Hey, they even had people manning some of the equipment from
seats hanging from the ceiling. Not only do all these things add visual
excitement to an already exciting show, it helps make the audience at a
distance feel more included in the event. When you are far enough away that the
band members look like Munchkins, it is sometimes hard to feel a part of the
show. Muse makes it easier by filling the stage and the area above it with
visuals; synchronized to the music, of course.
Muse has some interesting song lyrics. Being a libertarian-minded
person, I particularly like the lyrics about standing strong against the
oppression of others. One example comes from one of my favorite songs, Uprising, which in on The Resistance album.
Paranoia is in bloom,
The PR transmissions will resume.
They'll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
And hope that we will never see the truth around.
(So come on)
Another promise, another seed.
Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed.
And all the green belts wrapped around our minds,
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined
(So come on)
They will not force us.
They will stop degrading us.
They will not control us.
We will be victorious.
So come on.
Interchanging mind control,
Come let the revolution take its toll.
If you could flick the switch and open your third eye,
Andrew and I had seats about two-thirds of the way back from the
stage. This was a bit too far to get good photos with the camera I had with me.
However, I did get a few decent shots of the overall show. You can see them
If you have never listened to Muse or have only heard them
occasionally, I would highly recommend you check them out. I would personally
recommend The Resistance, their
fifth studio album, released in 2009. I fell in love with all the music on this
record and still consider it a favorite. Andrew recommends his favorite song, Follow Me, from The 2nd Law album. Also, don't miss them in concert if
you have a chance. Matt Bellamy has a wide vocal range and does a pretty
intense falsetto. Hopefully he will be able to maintain his vocals for many
more years, but many people with that kind of range start losing it in their
later years. You need to hear him while he's at the top of his game. If you’d
like to hear some radical falsetto singing, check out Micro Cuts on the album Origin
of Symmetry. The entire song is sung in falsetto.
In closing, I wanted to mention that, at the concert, Matt Bellamy
performed a version of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, on his guitar. It was very reminiscent of
Jimi Hendrix’s version at Woodstock in 1969. I wasn’t at Woodstock since I was
only 14 at the time, but I did see the movie. Concerning Matt Bellamy’s version,
I’m sure he would make John Stafford Smith and Francis Scott Key very proud.
Well, once they got used to electronic music.
While riding along on our tour bus in
Scotland, England, and Wales, I couldn’t help but notice how similar the
countryside was to many areas in the United States. Crop farming, animal
farming, flat land, rolling hills, and mountainous areas. Grass, trees, shrubs,
flowers, and rock. All pretty common stuff. However, there were a few things
that were different; as least different as far as my experiences go.
One thing was the amount of sheep. It
seemed that 70% of the rural land we saw was devoted to sheep grazing. In fact,
one place we stopped at didn’t even have the sheep contained. They just
wandered wherever they pleased. If they were in the road, they had the right-of-way. Perhaps there are areas of the US like that, but I don’t recall ever
seeing them. The next most popular use of the land I saw was probably split
between cattle grazing and growing crops. In the US, these seem to be the top
In the US, farms make extensive use of
fences. They divide people’s properties as well as keep animals off the roads.
There were a lot of fences in Britain also, but it seemed as if the great
majority of them were stone fences. There were miles and miles of stone fences
covering the land, even up on steep hills and mountains. I guess this resulted
from how plentiful rock was. In many of these areas, there was much more rock
on the hills and mountains than there were trees. I guess that is why many of
the towns also used stone for buildings rather than wood.
One final observation. The roadsides
appeared to be lined with hedges much more than here in the US. I can’t tell
you how many times I would raise my camera to snap a photo and before I could
push the shutter button a hedge appeared and blocked my view. I learned quickly
that I had to look ahead for potential photo opportunities, ready my camera,
and snap just as soon as I could to avoid those hedges. But such are the
challenges of a photo enthusiast.