The Latest from Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello all,

This is an intimate message from the Ritland Rambler himself, one Erik Ritland.

I’ve been writing blogs under some semblance of the Rambling On name since 2012. It started with a weekly run of several articles (in a newspaper type format) in January and February 2012. I quickly ran out of funding to keep it going, and after a second attempt in the summer I had to reconsider my direction.

Throughout 2013 I wrote a few blogs under the Music, Sports, and Sunday Ramble names. Finally in April 2014 I launched the latest version of Rambling On, a regular blog and podcast, that I’ve been running ever since.

Speaking of, Rambling On is seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

I’ve kept each of the former incarnations/incantations of my rambles up for the sake of archive. Enjoy them but be sure to check out the latest and greatest stuff at http://www.ramblingon.net.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Rambling On (original series)
The original run of seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. Archived winter and summer 2012.

Music Ramble
Longer articles about music of all kinds. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sports Ramble   Local and national sports coverage. Mainly baseball and football related but some commentary on hockey and basketball as well. Archived from 2012-2014.

Ritland Ramble
Erik’s former culture blog. Society, politics, current events, and more. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sunday Ramble
Religious commentary. Archived from 2012-2013.

Daily Ramble
Daily blogs covering sports, music, culture, and more from January 2014.

The Weekly Ritland
Short-lived site that linked to each article I had posted for that week. Archived September 2012.

Main Ramble
Articles about politics and culture from the original run of Rambling On in 2012. Archived fall 2012.

Football Ramble
Commentary on the first few weeks of the 2012 football season. Another project that ran out of funding. Archived fall 2012.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Remembering Joe Paterno

In late 2011 the often divided people of America came together for one short moment…and it was to harass an elderly, dying man.

Joe Paterno was found guilty before he could defend himself.

That Jerry Sandusky was guilty of the sex abuse charges against him was clear from the beginning of the investigation. Immediately, though, guilt was also assumed unfairly onto Penn State, Joe Paterno, and every person remotely involved. If you held any other opinion you were defending child abusers and had no sympathy for the victims.

This was a sad example of American thought crime. Instead of waiting for all the facts to come out, instead of thinking critically, instead of sifting through the facts and figuring out exactly who was to blame and to what capacity, most people simply threw out all notions of real, serious thought in exchange for an unthinking mob mentality. Amidst all the venom against Penn State, and especially Joe Paterno, nobody asked what we actually knew about what Paterno did or didn’t do. There were only stories, reports, and assumptions. That people had such venomous, hateful, spiteful feelings of Paterno despite this is disgusting.

It has come out that Paterno knew about some allegations against Sandusky. Yet it is still unclear exactly what he was told and exactly what he knew. The reports of what he was told range from mere horseplay to accusations of anal sex. It is easy for people to jump to conclusions but the fact is that we have no idea what Paterno was actually told.

It is easy for somebody on the outside to think that he should have gone to the police no matter what he was told. Yet if he was told it wasn’t serious, as he and other Penn State people have claimed, why would he? He told people he worked with for decades who he had the utmost faith and trust in, people who I’m sure he trusted would take the information he had, investigate it fully, and make sure that the allegations weren’t true. For all we know he was then told that there was nothing to the allegations and that the matter had been resolved.

If you were in his position what would have you done then? It’s easy enough to say “I would have gone to the authorities right away for sure.” But remember that we don’t know what he was told about the allegations or the fallout of them. Because of this it is impossible to judge him or what he had the “moral obligation” to do.

The public reaction to the story displays the hypocrisy of contemporary America. Suddenly our ethically depleted country that can’t keep a marriage together or raise successful children,that watches television shows and movies and plays video games that are all completely void of morals – that indeed praise vices – has a moral compass? Are you kidding me? Hypocrisy at its finest.

The second reason why the public reaction has been so sad and embarrassing is that it’s fueled, too largely I’m afraid, by the self-righteousness of the self-loathing masses. People don’t like themselves and are so bitter that they have no stature that they have to tear down anybody who has a good reputation (such as Paterno) or any institution that is elevated or legendary (such as Penn State) at any chance they can get. They put their noses in the air and feel, if only for a fleeting moment, that they’re better than somebody, that somebody who used to have the attention and respect that they so badly crave has gotten that taken away from them.

The people rejoice whenever anybody or anything is brought down to their level. Their lives lack meaning to the extent that they have to latch on to the failures of people who have the social stature they wish they had so they can, at least for a few moments, forget how much it hurts them that their lives are so insignificant. At least this seems to be far more widespread than most people would like to admit.

Regardless of all this Joe Paterno was taken to the gallows by a large portion of America with no real evidence and without any real knowledge of the story behind what he was told and how he handled it. It may come out that he knew more than he was letting on and was even more of a disgrace than he’s being painted as being already. The point is that in bloodthirsty America you’re always guilty until proven innocent. And if by chance you’re proven innocent a large chunk of America will be sorely disappointed that they can’t use your failure to build up their sad lives.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His online magazine Ramblin’ On  is a weekly survey of society, music, sports, culture, philosophy, literature, Christianity, religion, history, psychology, and more. You can reach him at erik@erikritland.com.

Do the Stroke: The State of the Union Address

from Volume 1, Issue 2 of Ramblin’ On

If I became president one of the first things I’d do is eliminate the State of the Union address. Instead I’d just have my speech writers write the speech and then find some struggling college student/unemployed writer to read it and circulate it on the internet, or maybe make a low-cost video of it. That way all the money it costs to put on the State of the Union, all the suits and gas and electricity and fancy dinners and flights and TV feeds and whatever else waste of money goes into it, could be saved and given to people who actually need it. Like the homeless, the starving, and all the people Johnny Cash wore the black for.

At this point – and maybe it’s been like this the entire time – the State of the Union address is nothing more than a gigantic masturbatory stroke fest for the political party the president belongs to. The president gets up, says a bunch of nice sounding bullshit that his speech writers have prepared for him, pauses after every sentence so his cronies can give him a standing ovation, and ends with an obligatory, and completely phony, plea for god to bless America. News flash, folks: none of these people believe in God and, if there is a God, he’s obviously abandoned this sinking ship a long, long time ago.

Everything said in the State of the Union address is simply posturing. The president says what people want to hear – especially those in his party – with no regard or knowledge to how to make the ideas presented actually work. There’ll be points about education, jobs, taxes, and all that other inconvenient shit that people have to deal with between the games they play on their cell phones. But little (if any) of it is coming from any sort of a genuine place, no matter how plugged in the president’s speech writers are, no matter how functioning the teleprompters are, no matter how eloquent the president’s presentation is. Vomit is vomit regardless of what it sounds like when it’s coming out.

It’s especially sad when anybody takes anything that is said in the State of the Union address seriously. If you’re on the side of the president, if you’re cheering along with every pleasing, well-presented word, then you’ll find every damn thing he says to be satisfying. You’ll find it hard to understand how anybody could not like your candidate or be on your side or want what is being presented. You’ll actually think that what he’s saying has some sort of relevance to reality. On the other hand people against the president will look to jump on any sentence, any word, any phrase, any letter of any word that the president says to use it against them. It’s a childish game of us vs. them that makes grown men and women look like idiots.

Yes, I know there’s more to the story than I lay out here. There are always some ideas in the State of the Union that could actually have bearing on people’s lives. But not nearly as much as people who buy into the whole “Democrats vs. Republicans,” “American Democracy,” “We actually vote for the president and have some sort of say in what happens to us” charade that is being sold to the masses.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Expression vs. Observation: Re-Thinking Science and the Arts in Education

Should we sit back as programs in the arts are cut in education across the country? How much science is it necessary to force kids to learn? Are we bold enough to ask such questions?

Traditions. Dogmas. Strict rules. Complete adherence to a dominant, elite group that has nobody to answer to and has nobody fighting against it.

Obviously I’m talking about the current state of education in America. What, you were thinking something else?

The structure of public schools today (remember, public schools are run by the government, which is in turn run by big business and special interest groups) needs to be re-assessed, re-evaluated, re-structured, re-vamped, re-done, and perhaps re-moved. I always hear about blind adherence to things like, oh I don’t know, religion, but there is nothing like the blind adherence Americans have to the way they go about education. The first lesson is this: things don’t have to be done the way they are being done now. It is essential that we question why we educate the way we do and if it is the best way of doing it.

Why, for example, is there such an emphasis on the sciences? The arts constantly being cut in schools, and, more and more commonly all the time, even sports. Why don’t things like biology, physics, chemistry, geometry, and other classes get reduced instead? I’m not saying cut those things out completely. If kids are interested in them they should have the option of taking them. But cutting them as required courses for most students, as they are now, would not only cut costs all around, but would also free up more time and money for teachers of those subjects to nurture students who want to learn about them into deeper, more critical knowledge. For example, instead of so many intro classes for people who don’t care about biology, that same time could be taken to give people who actually are interested more challenging, diversified options.

As paradoxical as it seems, the arts have a more practical purpose for humanity than the sciences. Music, art, theater, and other arts are important ways of expressing who we are as human beings. Creativity puts the power in our hands as human beings and is what separates us from any other creature. The arts bring people together, help people learn how to form important bonds, builds up camaraderie and stewardship, and teach important lessons about working together and relying on others to reach a goal. These are all life lessons that are practical in the approaching adult life of each student.

Compare this to the sciences. Our capacity as humans to be able to notice, reflect on, and quantify the world around us is a uniquely human experience, and is indeed important, and wondrous. But in the sciences we aren’t expressing anything significant as human beings; we’re merely quantifying the world around us. Expression is not in the scientific vocabulary, because, and rightly so for the sciences, rules are rigid to get accurate data. But personalities are not as important as data. Art is expression; science is observation.

The majority of people can pick up an instrument and, with the right amount of practice, join a community band or a jam session. An aspiring artist, as they hone their craft, can commune with other artists. Amateur actors who love what they do and work hard can join a local acting group. You don’t need to be a specialist to get the full effect of the creative outlet that art offers or the benefits and lessons that come with working with a group of artists.

What parallels are there to this sort of thing in the sciences? For the most part science is a loner’s game. A person does it because they’re interested in it, on their own time, to come to their own ends. As with any hobby, you can always find like-minded people to talk theories and scientific interests with. Talking scientific theory and wondering at the world around us and its order is exciting and invigorating, and fills the hearts of a lot of people. But there’s no such thing as a Science Band, where a group of people who love science work together to create an experience and a creation that is uniquely their own in space and in time. There’s no scientific parallel for a painting or a play.

Additionally, the arts have shown to be helpful in more practical ways. Students in the arts tend to get better grades. Participating in the arts has proven to help people’s mental stability and self-worth. To speak in thoroughly unscientific language, art lifts up the soul, it makes us feel good inside, it makes us feel good about being alive and being human. Science does this only for the specialized group of people who are interested in science. Almost as if it’s a hobby. Or, as 20th century philosopher and political scientist G.K. Chesterton called it, a “tremendous trifle.”

Moving forward Americans need to ask themselves why education is structured the way it is today. Is it the best way of teaching our children? What is the emphasis of education and why is emphasis placed on the certain things? We need to stop automatically believing that what is placed in front of us is the best and only way of doing things, as though we are blind, unthinking followers who can’t think for ourselves. A good place to start in this re-evaluation of education is by considering why the sciences are so prevalent and the arts are being continually cut from school programs.

But we must not stop there. Think for yourself on education. Raise questions, start discussions, inform people. And, ultimately, work hard to bring the change that you want to see.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.