Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 

Tyler Perry Follows His Personal Vision

"Me and critics, you can forget about it. I don't read the reviews, but if someone tells me there's a good one I'm shocked because, especially if it's not a black person, I always expect them not to get it. Always."--Tyler Perry, September 2010 issue of Empire

If someone presented Tyler Perry's life story to a Hollywood studio as a script with the names changed, it would be rejected as ludicrously implausible. Perry, the son of an alcoholic carpenter from New Orleans, was sexually abused by two different neighbors and he twice attempted suicide in his early teens. When he was 22, an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show about the therapeutic value of writing inspired him to draft a play titled I Know I've Been Changed. Perry spent his life savings at the time--$12,000--to stage the play. "It ran for four days," Perry told Empire's Dorian Lynskey. "I expected 1200 and 30 came." Perry clarified that the attendance was not even 30 per showing: "Thirty, that's it. Over the whole thing."

Perry worked dozens of different jobs before he was able to support himself via his theater work. Finally, in 1998 he again staged I Know I've Been Changed but this time he used a converted church as the venue instead of a theater. The tremendous success that ensued proved that he had connected with an audience yearning to hear stories of hope and redemption. Perry believed in his vision even when times were rough: "Every time I wanted to give up I could see it in my mind--I could see it being successful. And I knew this was the God voice in my mind. I knew it was God because there's not one person I can look back on and say helped me get to this place. Not one."

Perry honed his skills by staging roughly 300 shows a year on the Chitlin' Circuit from 1998-2005. In 2005, he produced his first movie, Diary of a Mad Blackwoman. He has since produced more than a dozen movies that have grossed more than $500 million. The popularity of Perry's work results from the combination of humor and inspiration that Perry conveys to the audience. Lynskey comments, "Christianity is part of the moral furniture of his movies, but the message stems more from the church of Oprah: do the right thing, respect yourself and others, follow your dreams, etc."

Perry often dresses in drag in his movies and his brand of slapstick comedy is not universally appreciated. Spike Lee sniped that Perry's depictions of black characters are similar to the "coonery and buffoonery" displayed decades ago in old Hollywood movies. Perry said to Lynskey, "I'm speaking to the masses in a way they understand and not speaking down to them and not saying, 'You're a coon or a buffoon because you enjoy this.' That's insulting on so many levels."

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

 

The Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh

"Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation."--Thich Nhat Hanh

The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh is a small book that contains a large amount of insight. One of the main ideas is that it is very important to be actively engaged in whatever one is doing at a particular moment, as opposed to worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Hanh explains:

It is of no use to sit in a peaceful forest if our mind is lost in the city. When we live with a child or a friend, their freshness and warmth can relax us. But if our heart is not with them, their precious presence is neglected, and they no longer exist. We must be aware of them to appreciate their value, to allow them to be our happiness. If through carelessness and forgetfulness we become dissatisfied with them, and begin asking too much of them or reprimanding them, we will lose them. Only after they are gone will we realize their preciousness and feel regret. But once they are gone, all of our regrets are in vain.

Hanh's writing style can seem almost childishly simple but do not be misled; his way of thinking and his way of living are pure and profound:

Have a look at the apple tree in your yard. Look at it with complete attention. It is truly a miracle. If you notice it, you will take good care of it, and you too are part of its miraculousness. Even after you have cared for it for only a week, its leaves are already greener and shinier. It is exactly the same with the people who are around you. Under the influence of awareness, you become more attentive, understanding, and loving, and your presence not only nourishes you and makes you lovelier, it enhances them as well. Our entire society can be changed by one person's peaceful presence.

Hanh explains that peacefulness should not be confused with passivity and/or weakness:

Understanding and compassion are very powerful sources of energy. They are the opposite of stupidity and passivity. If you think that compassion is passive, weak, or cowardly, then you don't know what real understanding or compassion is. If you think that compassionate people do not resist and challenge injustice, you are wrong. They are warriors, heroes, and heroines who have gained many victories...

Human beings are not our enemy. Our enemy is not the other person. Our enemy is the violence, ignorance, and injustice in us and in the other person. When we are armed with compassion and understanding, we fight not against other people, but against the tendency to invade, to dominate, and to exploit. We don't want to kill others, but we will not let them dominate and exploit us or other people. You have to protect yourself. You are not stupid. You are very intelligent and you have insight. Being compassionate does not mean allowing other people to do violence to themselves or to you. Being compassionate means being intelligent. Nonviolent action that springs from love can only be intelligent action.

John Wooden urged his players to "never mistake activity with achievement." It is tempting to think that every situation, encounter and confrontation demands immediate action/activity but often the best response is to stay calm and look at things in a larger context before making any bold statements or moves. Instantly lashing out in response to every real and perceived injustice can provoke other people to lash out in return. The best chess players excel at what I call "the art of doing nothing while accomplishing something," meaning that they subtly and relentlessly improve their positions very patiently without taking unnecessary risks; it is difficult to do this in chess and even more difficult to do this in life but mastery of this quiet approach leads to many victories.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

 

Douglas Hofstadter's Lonely Quest to Create Artificial Intelligence that is Truly Intelligent

Supercomputers have won Jeopardy (Watson) and defeated then-World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov (Deep Blue); answering complex trivia questions and outdueling a human genius in a purely intellectual game may seem like irrefutable demonstrations of intelligence but Douglas Hofstadter disagrees. The November 2013 issue of The Atlantic contains an article by James Somers titled The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think; Somers' piece is an engaging profile of Hofstadter that posits an intriguing hypothesis: "...Hofstadter has the kind of mind that tempts you to ask: What if the best ideas in artificial intelligence--'genuine artificial intelligence,' as Hofstadter now calls it, with apologies for the oxymoron--are yellowing in a drawer in Bloomington?"

Somers begins by noting that Hofstadter, whose book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize and is considered to be, in Somers' words, the "bible of artificial intelligence," is not impressed by Watson, Deep Blue or other highly publicized supercomputers; Hofstadter views Watson and Deep Blue as nothing more than very sophisticated calculators: they are not intelligent, nor do they provide any insight about the nature of intelligence.

Hofstadter wanted to ask: Why conquer a task if there's no insight to be had from the victory? "Okay," he says, "Deep Blue plays very good chess--so what? Does that tell you something about how we play chess? No. Does it tell you about how Kasparov envisions, understands a chessboard?" A brand of AI that didn't try to answer such questions--however impressive it might have been--was, in Hofstadter's mind, a diversion. He distanced himself from the field almost as soon as he became a part of it. "To me, as a fledgling AI person," he says, "it was self-evident that I did not want to get involved in that trickery. It was obvious: I don't want to be involved in passing off some fancy program's behavior for intelligence when I know that it has nothing to do with intelligence. And I don't know why more people aren't that way."

Dave Ferrucci, who led the IBM team that built Watson, explained his mindset to Somers:

"I have mixed feelings about this," Ferrucci told me when I put the question to him last year. "There's a limited number of things you can do as an individual, and I think when you dedicate your life to something, you've got to ask yourself the question: To what end? And I think at some point I asked myself that question, and what it came out to was, I'm fascinated by how the human mind works, it would be fantastic to understand cognition, I love to read books on it, I love to get a grip on it"--he called Hofstadter's work inspiring--"but where am I going to go with it? Really what I want to do is build computer systems that do something. And I don't think the short path to that is theories of cognition."

Not long after Hofstadter wrote GEB, he went his own way, avoiding contact with other artificial intelligence researchers: "There's no communication between me and these people," he told Somers. "None. Zero. I don't want to talk to colleagues that I find very, very intransigent and hard to convince of anything. You know, I call them colleagues, but they're almost not colleagues--we can't speak to each other.”

Hofstadter and the graduate students under his guidance conduct their own independent experiments. Somers describes the fruits of their labors as "almost ostentatiously impractical. Because they operate in tiny, seemingly childish 'microdomains.' Because there is no task they perform better than a human." Hofstadter is not trying to build a computer that can beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen at chess; he is trying to understand a much more fundamental question: how does Carlsen think when he plays chess and how can one program a machine to think that way, to truly display intelligence as opposed to brute force calculation?

Hofstadter lives a life of the mind and there is a wonderful purity to his vision: Life is short, so pursue the truth as you see it without worrying about what the mainstream scientific community thinks. That approach would not work for everyone but a genius who has tremendous confidence in his ideas can do wonderful things. Somers concludes:

Hofstadter never much wanted to fight, and the double-edged sword of his career, if there is one, is that he never really had to. He won the Pulitzer Prize when he was 35, and instantly became valuable property to his university. He was awarded tenure. He didn't have to submit articles to journals; he didn't have to have them reviewed, or reply to reviews. He had a publisher, Basic Books, that would underwrite anything he sent them.

Stuart Russell puts it bluntly. "Academia is not an environment where you just sit in your bath and have ideas and expect everyone to run around getting excited. It's possible that in 50 years' time we'll say, 'We really should have listened more to Doug Hofstadter.' But it's incumbent on every scientist to at least think about what is needed to get people to understand the ideas."

"Ars longa, vita brevis," Hofstadter likes to say. "I just figure that life is short. I work, I don't try to publicize. I don't try to fight."

There's an analogy he made for me once. Einstein, he said, had come up with the light-quantum hypothesis in 1905. But nobody accepted it until 1923. "Not a soul," Hofstadter says. "Einstein was completely alone in his belief in the existence of light as particles--for 18 years.

"That must have been very lonely."

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Friday, March 7, 2014

 

The Misunderstood Menachem Begin

"We were granted our right to exist by the God of our fathers, at the glimmer of the dawn of human civilization, nearly four thousand years ago. For that right, which has been sanctified in Jewish blood from generation to generation, we have paid a price unexampled in the annals of the nations."--Menachem Begin

In 1977, Time magazine dismissed newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin with this snide explanation of how to pronounce his name: "Begin, rhymes with Fagin." That one liner drips with contempt, if not outright antisemitism, but it is sadly typical of how the media treats Begin--and that is a shame, because Begin is the greatest Prime Minister in Israeli history, a Holocaust survivor, a freedom fighter and a peace-loving statesman who understood that peace-seeking democracies must be ever vigilant and ever strong when confronting tyrannical and despotic regimes.

In "Menachem Begin: His legacy a century after his birth," Daniel Gordis describes the gap between perception and reality regarding Begin:

...Begin is still disparaged by many of the very same Jews who see in the American revolution a cause for genuine pride.

Begin himself seemed to sense the irony, so he spoke time and again about the American revolution. In an article commemorating the 35th anniversary of Ze'ev Jabotinsky's death, he combined two passages from Thomas Jefferson's letters to fellow statesmen--one to James Madison and another to William Stephens Smith. "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical," Begin quoted Jefferson, adding the American revolutionary's sobering observation that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."


Gordis, whose book Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel's Soul will be published this month, explains the prominent role that David Ben-Gurion--Israel's first Prime Minister--had in smearing Begin's good name:

...Begin's reputation was also scarred by David Ben-Gurion's refusal to acknowledge his own participation in some of the events for which Begin is vilified. Ben-Gurion consistently denied having had anything to do with operations that did not go as planned, while Begin stood ready to take responsibility. The Hagana's David Shaltiel had approved the now infamous Deir Yassin operation, but when it went tragically and horribly awry and many innocent people died, Ben-Gurion painted Begin as a violent thug, pretending that his organization had had nothing to do with it. The Hagana was also intimately involved in the approval and planning of the King David bombing (for Ben-Gurion had come to see that Begin was right, that the British needed to be dislodged), but when civilians were killed because the British refused to heed the Irgun's warnings to leave the building, Ben-Gurion assailed Begin, pretending that he and his men had known nothing of the plan.

Ben-Gurion was one of the greatest Jewish leaders ever to have lived, and the Jewish state might well not have come to be were it not for him. But his greatness notwithstanding, he was unfair to Begin-- consistently and mercilessly.


Gordis is correct that Ben-Gurion played a pivotal role in Israel's creation but an honest reading of the historical record shows that it was more important to Ben-Gurion to win his political/ideological struggle with Begin than it was to save Jewish lives and create a Jewish State. The deplorable Altalena Affair, during which Ben-Gurion's forces opened fire on Begin's forces (including Begin himself) on the Altalena ship in the middle of Israel's War of Independence, illustrates the vast difference in character between Begin and Ben-Gurion; Ben-Gurion declared, "Blessed be the cannon that bombed that ship"--a cannon fired at Ben-Gurion's orders and that killed his fellow Jewish freedom fighters, albeit freedom fighters who had different political views than his--but Begin would not permit his forces to fight against fellow Jews. Begin prevented the outbreak of a civil war that could have destroyed the young Jewish State. Shmuel Katz later wrote that Ben-Gurion ordered the attack knowing full well that Begin was aboard the ship because Ben-Gurion wanted to kill Begin, who was a potential rival for leadership of the young state. Remarkably, the two men formed a rapprochement near the end of Ben-Gurion's life. One can question Begin's policies but one can never question that his motives were always pure and that his foremost concern was the safety and well being of the Jewish people--if only the same could be truthfully said of most of the other Israeli Prime Ministers!

In an article titled "Menachem Begin Will Live Again," Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveitchik described the "familial loyalty to the people of Israel" that Begin consistently displayed:

He was the first prime minister to truly bridge the social gap between Sephardim and Ashkenazim in the Jewish state, famously declaring yehudim anachnu, we are all Jews. It was he who first set in motion the return of the Ethiopian Jews to the land for which they had longed. It was he who left as his last will and testament that he be buried not on Mount Herzl, in the manner of some of his predecessors, but rather on the Mount of Olives, near the graves of Meir Feinstein and Moshe Barazani, one Ashkenazi and the other Sephardi, who had died in a British prison in each other's arms, and who together embodied for Begin the bond between all Jews that made the State of Israel possible after two thousand years of Exile. It was he who, unlike any other Israeli leader before him, made the case for the public Jewish character of Israel, drawing not on Jewish law, but on familial love. Honoring the values of Jewish generations past, he told the Knesset, was incumbent on all Israelis who believed in the ethical obligation declared at Sinai: "honor your father and mother." This commandment, he further suggested, was all the more potent when those parents were no longer among the living. Heim einam od, he said, our parents are here no longer. It is we, their children, who must honor the beliefs for which they bled and perished.

Gordis concludes:

Jewish sovereignty did not happen by chance, nor simply through negotiation. It came about through determination, grit, courage and blood. It was wrought not only by Ben-Gurion and those he invited to that memorable afternoon in Tel Aviv when he declared independence, but also, to paraphrase Moses, by "those standing there that day, and those not standing there that day." Despite the venomous animosity that divided them almost all their working lives, Ben-Gurion and Begin were both necessary elements of the creation of a Jewish state. Without either one, Israel might well not have come into being...

...Begin's life had, at its core, an unwavering constant, a guiding principle that shaped everything. It was a life of selfless devotion to his people. That devotion fashioned a life in which determination eradicated fear, hope overcame despondency, love overcame hate, and devotion to both Jews and human beings everywhere coexisted with ease and grace. It was a life of great loyalty--to the people into which he was born, to the woman he loved from the moment he met her, and to the state that he helped create.

That is a legacy infinitely greater than most are able to bequeath. In an era in which many Jews are increasingly dubious about the legitimacy of love for a specific people or devotion to its ancestral homeland, the life and commitments of Begin urge us to look again at what he did and what he stood for, and to imagine--if we dare--the glory of a Jewish people recommitted to the principles that shaped his very being.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

 

Struma's Fate Provides Chilling Reminder of What is at Stake for Israel

The sinking of the Struma is a vivid, terrifying reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people when they did not have a national homeland and a powerful indicator of what could happen to the Jewish people if Iran succeeds in destroying Israel, the national homeland reestablished by the Jewish people in 1948.

Sarah Honig's February 23, 2012 Jerusalem Post article about the Struma's demise is almost unbearably sad. Here are some heart-wrenching excerpts:

...Against the enormity of the then-unfolding Holocaust, the loss at sea of 768 Jewish lives (103 of them babies and children) was at most blithely overlooked as a marginal annotation.

Moreover, although these Jews fled the Nazis, in the pedantic literal sense they weren't executed by Third Reich henchmen.

This atrocity was the coldblooded handiwork of Great Britain (committed while it combated the Germans but remarkably without compassion for their Jewish victims), supposedly neutral Turkey (whose so-called nonalignment didn't extend to outcast Jewish refugees), by the Arabs (who were openly and unreservedly Nazism's avid collaborators and who pressured London into denying endangered Jews asylum in the Jewish homeland) and, finally, by the Russians (who targeted the immobilized sardine can that carried Jews to whom nobody would allow a toehold on terra firma).

The entire world seemed united in signaling Jews how utterly unwanted they were anywhere.

Such apathy-cum-enmity hasn't disappeared.

Only its form and context had mutated but the essence is still ultra-relevant to the Jewish state.

We're still threatened with annihilation. Nonetheless, unmistakable harangues from Tehran notwithstanding, the international community worries about an Israeli preemptive strike--not a genocidal strike against Israel.


The Struma was a barely seaworthy ship packed with Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied lands only to discover that they were unwelcome anywhere, a situation that emboldened the Nazis to accelerate their plan to kill every Jews on the face of the Earth: if the Jews were considered undesirable by every country in the world, then why should the Nazis think twice about annihilating them? Honig describes how this tragedy unfolded in front of the uncaring eyes of the entire world:

The Struma wasn't struck suddenly. It was slowly tortured, accentuating with demonic deliberation how disposable Jews were, just when genocide's monstrous machinery was switched into high gear. This 75-day shipboard melodrama underscored the total helplessness and humiliation of Jews without power.

Struma passengers gathered in the Romanian port of Constanza on December 8, 1941. For four days, Romanian customs officials "examined" their belongings. In fact, they pilfered all they saw--clothing, underwear, jewelry and most important, food. 


The Struma was eventually destroyed by a torpedo blast from a Soviet submarine; everyone onboard perished except for 19 year old David Stoliar, who--in Honig's words--"was imprisoned by the Turks for six weeks for the crime of not drowning."

Honig concludes:

Oblivion is perhaps the greatest sin against the Struma but also against ourselves. If we forget the Struma, we forget why this country exists, why we struggle for its survival. We forget the justice of our cause.

Dimmed memory and self-destructive perverse morality hinder our ability to protect ourselves from the offspring and torchbearers of the very Arabs who doomed the Struma. They haven't amended their hostile agenda. We just don't care to be reminded.

The state the Jews created is threatened with destruction and its population with obliteration.

Yet there's negligible sympathy for Israel and even less practical support to avert tragedy. The Struma's story is seminal in understanding why the Holocaust was possible and why a second Holocaust cannot be ruled out. More than anything, the Struma powerfully illustrates what happens when Jews rely on others' goodwill.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be well advised to read Honig's article, draw the proper conclusions and act accordingly before Iran uses nuclear weapons to destroy the Jewish State. Netanyahu can be remembered by history as the man who saved Israel or as the man who presided over Israel's destruction.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

 

Carl Sagan's Legacy

Carl Sagan's groundbreaking PBS series "Cosmos" introduced millions of people to the wonders and mysteries of the universe. Sagan often spoke of "great demotions," meaning that humanity has been forced to accept that the Earth is not the center of the solar system, that our solar system is not the center of the galaxy and that our galaxy is not the center of the universe. Sagan began "Cosmos" by telling the viewers, "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be."

Joel Achenbach's Smithsonian article Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable describes Sagan's influence as a science popularizer and explores his core beliefs, "including the sense that there is an order and logic to the universe, that it is fundamentally a benign place, congenial to life and even intelligent life. His cosmos was primed for self-awareness. He sensed that humanity was on the cusp of making a cosmic connection with advanced civilizations (and no doubt that a certain Brooklyn native would be in on the conversation!). In effect, he believed he was fortunate enough to live in a special moment."

Sagan did not think that evidence supported the notion that UFOs are spacecraft piloted by intelligent extraterrestrial beings but, like Fox Mulder from "The X-Files," it could be said that Sagan wanted to believe. Shortly before Sagan passed away, he told Achenbach, "I'd rather there be extraterrestrial life discovered in my lifetime than not. I'd hate to die and never know."

While Sagan spoke about "great demotions," David Grinspoon--son of Sagan's best friend Lester Grinspoon--promotes a concept called "Anthropocene," meaning that "human beings are changing the Earth so rapidly and dramatically that our presence is becoming part of the geological record. And we can't pretend it's not happening. We have to learn to manage this place. Grinspoon made an analogy: It's as though we've just awoken to the fact that we're at the wheel of a speeding bus on an unfamiliar road. And we realize we don't know how to drive."

Achenbach concludes that Sagan would not be disturbed by Grinspoon's ideas:

Would Sagan have been able to square his great demotions with this new Anthropocene concept? Of course. The universe isn’t about us. The Earth is but a grain of sand. But upon this humble rock we will make our stand. It’s a task that will require science and reason--but also courage and far-sightedness. So it is that Grinspoon says of his old "Uncle Carl": "Lord knows we need him now."

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

 

Great Lyrics

Music--delivered via radio, CD, TV, iPod or other systems--provides the soundtrack to our lives and music lyrics deliver the narrative. Lyrics can be brilliant, witty, humorous, insightful, outrageous or all of the above. Here are some lyrics that will inspire, amuse and/or offend you:

"Might not know it now
But, baby, I'm a star."-- Prince, "Baby I'm a Star"

"When my situation ain't improvin', I'm tryin' to murder everything movin'."--Jay-Z, "Hard Knock Life"

"Fool can't play the wise but the wise can act a fool
I stay cool and mild mannered and just put in my work
Don't push, you don't know what's up under my shirt
Don't you take me for soft, I got a heart that pump
Like a 12 gauge shotty when it starts to dump
You'se a mystery, cause you don't know who you runnin' towards
And got history, that shit is told by who won wars."--Dilated Peoples, "Kindness for Weakness"

"I got so much trouble on my mind
Refuse to lose."--Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"

"Never question what I am
God knows
Cause it's comin' from the heart."--Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"

"When it's sink or swim
You gotta think to win."--Ice Cube, "You Can Do It"

"I'm makin' moves, not fakin' moves."--L.L. Cool J, "Farmers Boulevard (Our Anthem)"

"Don't try to act crazy 'cause the shit don't faze me
If you ran like a punk it wouldn't amaze me."--Ice T, "Colors"

"Circumstances might not allow me to bust
Because they know I got more game than Toys 'R Us."--Tone Loc, "Cutting Rhythms"

"Every time u get some
People wanna take it back
They rather see u on the run
Than see u get it like that
Every time they stop u
Change up like a sock
Every time they try 2 clock u
Tick more than they tock."--Prince, "Push"

"Brother can you paradigm?
Pump, pump, fake, feint, fade, forward, jump, slam dunk...in your face
The tip-off, the tap-in, rushin', jumping, backboard crushing, dunking...in your face
Brother can you paradigm?
Shape-shifting
Shifting the shapes of things to come
Plays and instant replays are plays to come
Came and went, time well spent
Brother can you Paradigm?"--George Clinton/Prince, "Paradigm"

"Do fries go with that shake?"--George Clinton, "Do Fries Go With That Shake?"

"Sex is not all I think about
It's just all I think about...U."--Prince, "Shhh"

"Every time I comb my hair
Thoughts of U get in my eyes
U're a sinner, I don't care
I just want your creamy thighs."--Prince, "Erotic City"

"What if I called U silly names
Just like the ones that U call me?
What if I filled your eyes with tears
So many that U cannot see?"--Prince, "Billy Jack Bitch"

"You gotta love me or leave me alone."--Brand Nubian, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone"

"He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool don't see
Tryin' hard to recreate
What had yet to be created

Once in her life
She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize
It never really was."--Doobie Brothers, "What a Fool Believes"

"I keep your picture
Upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain that's lying there
So don't you ask me
To give it back
I know you know it doesn't mean that much to me
I'm not in love, no no, it's because..."--10CC, "I'm Not in Love"

"You could have been with me
Instead of alone and lonely."--Sheena Easton, "You Could Have Been With Me"

"Hey Nineteen
That's 'Retha Franklin
She don't remember
The Queen of Soul
Hard times have befallen
The Soul Survivors
She thinks I'm crazy
But I'm just growing old."--Steely Dan, "Hey Nineteen"

"I've seen your picture
Your name in lights above it
This is your big debut
It's like a dream come true
And when you smile for the camera
I know they're gonna love it."--Steely Dan, "Peg"

"I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm all right
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore this is my life
Go ahead with your own life leave me alone."--Billy Joel, "My Life"

"They say there's a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun...
You know that only the good die young."--Billy Joel, "Only the Good Die Young"

"All you got is this moment."--INXS, "Need You Tonight"

"Well I'm sick of it
It's a load of shit
We could stop the world
And let off all the fools
And let them go live
With their guns in the sky."--INXS, "Guns in the Sky"

"Knowledge, wisdom and understanding brings long life and health
Think anything else and ya playin' yaself."--Jeru the Damaja, "Ya Playin' Yaself"

"I'm a true master you can check my credentials
Cause I choose to use my infinite potential...
I'm the mack so I don't need to tote a Mac
My attack is purely mental and its nature's not hate
It's meant to wake ya up out of your brainwashed state."--Jeru tha Damaja, "Come Clean"

"You wouldn't let me say the words I longed to say
You didn't want to see life through my eyes
[Express yourself, don't repress yourself]
You tried to shove me back inside your narrow room
And silence me with bitterness and lies
[Express yourself, don't repress yourself]."--Madonna, "Human Nature"

"Don't care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don't give up and use the chance
To return to innocence
That's not the beginning of the end
That's the return to yourself
The return to innocence."--Enigma, "Return to Innocence"

"I ask you lord why you enlightened me
Without the enlightenment of all my folks
He said 'cause I set myself on a quest for truth
And he was there to quench my thirst
But I am still thirsty..."--Arrested Development, "Tennessee"

"Count the Days" is a powerful song with a deceptively simple melody that almost sounds like a lullabye--and that melody is completely incongruous with the song's harsh but understandably strident lyrics directed toward oppressors of all kinds:

"Count the Days"

I have been "counting the days" my entire life but I doubt that I will live long enough to see things turn out the way that they are supposed to be.

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