Thursday, August 31, 2006

Movie Review: Invincible

"Invincible" stars Mark Whalberg as 30 year old Vince Papale circa 1976. Papale is a South Philly boy who has lost his job and his wife. New Eagles coach Dick Vermeil has signed on with a terrible team and announces open tryouts as a way to stir excitement for the coming season. One of Papale’s buddies talks him into trying out and enormously improbable hometown guy actually makes the team. I hope that I’m not giving away the movie, but it is an actual story.

Let’s take a moment and look back at 1976… The Cold War is raging, Gerald Ford is President and has lost handily to the massively incompetent Jimmy Carter. The Olympic Summer Games open in Montreal amid real concerns of terrorism from the 1972 Munich Games. To our shame, North Vietnam and South Vietnam unite to form the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The economy is starting to tank and trade unions are working diligently to destroy American industry. Big blue collar towns are really starting to feel the pain. In Philadelphia, the Eagles recent record was:

1972 Eagles 2-11-1
1973 Eagles 5-8-1
1974 Eagles 7-7-0
1975 Eagles 4-10-0

People look for positive things when times are hard (and seem like they’ll get harder) and Papale was the guy that helped Philly get through theirs. This happened 30 years ago, but it is timely in the current time of uncertainty.

Who doesn’t love an underdog movie (except the critics of course)?!? I don’t give a shit what anyone else says, I’ll take a positive, uplifting, and inspiring story over a Syriana any day. I don’t just recommend the movie, I plan on taking my son this weekend and buying it as soon as it comes out. I’ll put it on my shelf next to Rudy and Cinderella Man.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Holy Craplog

Wow. I haven't written anything in over a week? WTH? Sorry, I managed to catch a nasty summer cold and just realized how much time has gone by. I hope to have some really crappy posts up in the near future! In the meantime Does this mean that it would be more hygienic to steer your car with a toilet seat?


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sunday Kick-Ass Photo

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thoughts on Extemism III

I believe that education in this country is beaten, battered, and under relentless assault by radicals. A personal case in point. In high school I had an English teacher that was a self-described hippie who wrote poetry (for class consumption) on the merits of peyote. This was pre-advanced placement days, but this class was made up of those who placed very well in reading in tests. Anyway, he was an easy teacher to write for because he wanted to "be moved" by our work. Facts, structure, spelling, and grammar all took a backseat to emotion.

While it was certainly helpful to learn how to manipulate people's emotions with words, it didn't really teach me much about writing in a meaningful sense. Imagine my suprise when I went to college and quickly failed every single paper that I wrote in the first months. You see, I hadn't been taught how to convey rational thought about a subject, only to "express" myself. While I had always felt that I was a good writer, having my teeth knocked out in college taught me the skills needed for the corporate world. My teacher's disdain for the corporate world (and absolutely no experience outside teaching) may have played a role in what he taught.

Without necessarily going into the ills of the education systems, it is certainly fair to note that the left has an inordinate amount of influence. Radicals, much to their subversive credit, recognized that they could dominate thought by institutionalizing themselves. Ironically, most of these folks were drawn to extremism by wanting to bring down "the man" and now find themselves to be the institution. I'm sure that they are unable to see the irony.

Neal Boortz wrote on his blog that:
"The truth, though, is that these are not so much schools as they are indoctrination centers. If your child is attending a Catholic school you should expect that your child would be taught that the Catholics pretty well have this religion thing down cold. Ditto for a Jewish school, or one operated by a Christian fundamentalist church. Question: Will a government school to be any different? Why would you expect a government employee in a government institution to tell your children that government is not necessarily the answer to every problem or critter that goes bump in the night?"
This same idea is exasperated even more by professors who are simply perpetuating leftist theory. Whether it is a class that largely ignores the English language or a Ward Churchill diatribe against America, these are the public people that are responsible for passing on knowledge.

Because of this cancer in the education system, the extreme left has a fertile field from which to pluck new members. The anti-war left long ago inserted itself into our government (primarily) and private (elite) education systems. The curricula has changed dramatically and lessons that were learned generations ago (often with blood, sweat, and tears) have been rewritten, repackaged, and delivered in a 20 minute lesson plan. In this new dynamic, communism and socialism didn’t fail. The Soviet Union was only an abnormal perversion of utopia and the dream still lives. Forgotten is the massive effort at research, debate, and ultimately, compromise that characterized the formation of the U.S. Constitution. Radical professors advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government and invoke the name of George Washington as a revolutionary "terrorist." The fact that Mr. Washington was fighting a government that he believed was denying him his rights, these radicals want to see the government fall for a wider variety of reasons.

Much of what the West has long held to be true is rapidly changing. There was a time when values were based of religion. Education is designed to test one’s knowledge and force students to think critically. This process includes deconstructing some of what the student believes to be true and showing that there are alternative views outside of their personal sphere. This is still true today, however, there was a time when the student was then reeled back in from the abyss and told that their views were okay as they were based on a moral value system (in our case Christianity). While falling back on religion as the basis of an argument is considered a "logical fallacy" in debate, I suspect that particular phrase was created simply to not stifle debate.

Think about it, early educators wouldn’t allow a debate student to cite religious doctrine or scripture for the coup de grace, as it was just laziness and the easy way out. No student could cry "cause that’s what the Bible says. I win." Unwittingly, this device may have reinforced secular views taught by leftist professors to malleable students. Describing the foundation of one’s value system as a "logical fallacy" without fully explaining the reasons for it is simply a corruption of that foundation.

To reiterate, the lack of quality education has created a generation that is woefully unequal to its forebearers. This appears to largely be a change in value systems. Resources are spent on "conflict resolution" and "self-esteem" projects to the detriment of reading, writing, and arithmatic. We are all victims to these radicals. Don't believe me? Just take a look at the rambling in this post! It isn't my fault it is my lack of a decent education... I swear!

Movie Review of Talladega Nights: The Legend Of Ricky Bobby.

I love Will Ferrel. Seriously, I think that he is just the Cat's Ass. I laughed out loud many, many times.

That being said, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby is funny, but not super funny. Actually, I will probably love it later. Why? Well, it is pretty raunchy with lots of sexual and homo innuendo. Trust me, that is stuff that will make cola spew out my nose everytime, but I think ticket buyers didn't know what they were getting. Allow me to explain.

I'm currently working near Daytona Beach. The families that came to the movie were clearly NASCAR fans (yes... families). Little kids all over the place at a TOTALLY inappropriate movie. Not only that, there were several couples in their 70s who walked out (clearly not happy with the show). These were probably not actual NASCAR fans cause if you've ever been to a race, you know it is all about Cars, Boobies, and Beer (which I heartily condone). Although there was no nudity in the movie, that would have improved it.

Honestly, I think that if I had been in my TV room with a bunch of buddies drinking beer I would have laughed my ass off. Hearing little kids giggle at jokes they shouldn't hear and probably (thankfully) don't understand sucks. I felt embarrassed for the idiot parents who just sat and watched. Listen, I'm no prude, but a bunch of six year-olds?!? Sheesh.

That being said, go with friends who share your naughty tastes and loud farts... or wait for the video and fart at home. I'll buy it just for that purpose.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Thoughts on Extremism

It seems to me that left-wing extremists tend to come from two distinct groups, the extremely poor (typical in third-world countries) and the upper-mid class (in the U.S.). From what I understand, the typical extremist is from a wealthy family, is highly educated, and feels either disenfranchised or bored. They tend to lead double lives that consist of living very well (nice home, car, etc.) while simultaneously despising the system that allows them to live in this relative comfort.

The Left today looks nothing like the Left of 50 years ago. The Left in the earlier parts of the 20th century revolved around Marxism. I don’t know a great deal about the Communist movement, but I can see that it held sway, again, primarily in the poor and elite classes. While clearly radical in some sense, I’m not sure that there was a large effort to internally overthrown our government. This is an issue that I fully intend to learn more about.

The modern radicalization began with the anti-war movement in the 1960s. What is it that leftist extremists are looking for? I don't know yet, but it seems to me that they are simply unhappy with "now" and are convinced that they can create a better "tomorrow" (so do I to a degree... within the current system). Nobel Prize Winner (Economics) Frederick Von Hayek wrote extensively about this phenomenon. He explained that there is a difference between "made" and "spontaneous" orders. "Made" order is something that is planned and controlled and is most visible in socialism and communism. "Spontaneous" order is what happens when events are allowed to develop naturally. These are the origins of the free market. In a centralized economy a potato is worth X because a panel has deemed that the potato is worth X. In a naturally developed (read - spontaneous)economy a potato is worth X precisely because someone is willing to purchase it for X. He wrote with unfailing logic why socialism always fails and why it is always desirable to the masses.

Despite the logic of free markets and the resultant liberty, extremists seem to strive for a future utopia, no matter that this process has consistently murdered and destroyed lives. One only needs to look at recent history for utopian examples: Afghanistan was an "Islamic Utopia" and Iran still believes itself to be (BTW, I recommend reading Mark Bowden’s – Guests of the Ayatollah). The "Worker’s Paradise" failed and light will shortly be shown on Fidel’s little slice of heaven. Utopia is different for everyone, and allows extremists and despots to rule. This has always failed. This is precisely the reason that the "Great Experiment" is so appealing. Utopia here in the United States is being able to live as you choose with minimal government intrusion. Sounds good to me.

As always, I welcome your comments and enlightenment on this whole issue of extremism.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Thoughts on Extremists

In an effort to sort my thoughts, I'm throwing out some things that I think I know about leftist extremism. As I make these marks on the wall, I'd appreciate any thoughts that you, gentle reader, may have on the subject. So, without further ado...

It seems to me that the use of the word “extremist” has become overused, primarily for political purposes. Any perusal of books written by the Left or Right will find the use of the word "extremist" to describe the politics of the other side of the aisle. For example, Sean Hannity describes the current Democratic leadership as extreme-left wing (Dean, Pelosi, Kerry, etc.). While the politics of the DNC may be increasingly shrill and distasteful, it is far from the leftists who want to overthrow the government of the United States.

We should, therefore, carefully consider our use of the word "extremist." Wikipedia defines it as
a term used to characterise the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political center of a society; or otherwise claimed to violate common standards of ethics and reciprocity. It is usually considered by those to whom it is applied to be a pejorative term. It is typically used in reference to political and social ideologies seen as irrational, counterproductive, unjustifiable, or otherwise unacceptable to a civil society. The term connotes the illegitimacy of certain ideas or methods.

The terms "extremism" or "extremist" are almost always exonymic —ie. applied by others rather than by a group labeling itself. Rather than labeling themselves "extremist", those labeled as such tend to see the need for militant ideas or actions in a particular situation. For example, there is no political party that calls itself "right-wing extremist" or "left-wing extremist," and there is no sect of Islam that calls itself "Islamic extremism."

Okay. I can follow that. In fact, the article goes on to outline an article by Mr. Laird Wilcox in which he lays out sixteen traits of a political extremist. They are:
1. Character Assassination.
2. Name Calling And Labeling.
3. Irresponsible Sweeping Generalizations.
4. Inadequate Proof For Assertions.
5. Advocacy Of Double Standards.
6. Extremists Tend To View Their Opponents And Critics As Essentially Evil.
7. Extremists Tend To Have A Manichean Worldview.
8. Extremists Very Often Advocate Some Degree Of Censorship And Repression Of Their Opponents And Critics.
9. Extremists Tend To Identify Themselves In Terms Of Who Their Enemies Are
10. Extremists Are Given To Arguments By Intimidation.
11. Wide Use Of Slogans, Buzzwords And Thought-Stopping Clichés.
12. Doomsday Thinking.
13. Extremists Often Claim Some Kind Of Moral Or Other Superiority Over Others.
14. Extremists Tend To Believe That It's OK To Do Bad Things In The Service Of A "Good" Cause.
15. Extremists Tend To Place Great Value On Emotional Responses.
16. Some Extremists...claim some kind of supernatural, mystical or divinely-inspired rationale for their beliefs and actions.

That appears to be even better distilled. I can see many of these traits on both sides of the political spectrum. But one only needs to surf around the politically inclined blogsphere to determine who best matches these characteristics. Can we, gentle reader, agree that these are indeed characteristic of extreme political dialogue (even if it tends to be a one-way conversation)? Is there an element missing? Why is the Left so vocal and predominant? Is it because the Right is self-regulating? For example, the John Birch Society was denounced by conservatives as fools long ago. Are the Birchers even really extremists?

I suppose that I'm looking for a word that describes those folks who advocate the overthrow of the government. There was a time when I might say "extremist" or "radical." Maybe those terms are no longer sufficient due to their overuse. What say you?

Movie Review of the World Trade Center

The easiest thing to say is… go see the movie. It was actually really well done and a new story for me. While I’m sure that this story of two N.Y. Port Authority cops trapped in the rubble of the WTC was told all over the place in the year following 9/11, I happened to be in Pakistan and Afghanistan chasing Al-Qaeda. I was acting as a sharp instrument in our country’s foreign policy. I had heard that there were survivors, but missed out on the story.

Good story. I was surprised to see the piece about how the two were discovered. If you already know it or would like to read about it before you see the movie, click here. Cool story. My expectations were low due to the Oliver Stone factor, but he put out a solid, emotionally fulfilling movie about the destruction of the WTC. While it really doesn’t focus on the perpetrators, they aren’t completely ignored either. I actually got the feeling the Mr. Stone had a bit of a love-hate thing going with aspects of the film, but resisted the urge to blame the Joooos. Which is nice.

If you would like to see a movie, this is a good one.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lots Of Things Come In Threes

I was at the gym on the stationary bicycle this morning… killing myself… when Joel Osteen came on the tube. I immediately felt guilty that I hadn’t found a church for the morning (remember that I’m on travel). Anyway, Mr. Osteen spoke exclusively on one topic… physical health. What he said resonated with me because it is something that I have long held as a belief. There are three components to health: emotional, physical, and spiritual. The camera panning his massive audience revealed another massive detail… the massive size of his typical parishioner. He talked a lot about balancing these three areas for success.

It seems that throughout my life I have felt that I was doing well in only one (sometimes two) of these aspects at a time. When going through a divorce with my first wife, I was only healthy in the physical sense (except I still chewed tobacco). I was an emotional wreck and my faith was tested. Practically any snapshot that one could take of my life would show me succeeding in one area, struggling in another, and completely bombing the third. In truth, I have been out of balance.

I am a Type A personality. I enjoy competition and thrive under stress. I have a high threshold for risk and manage to come out ahead… particularly over time. Currently, I am working to improve my physical health by training for an Olympic triathlon for next summer. I am pretty emotionally stable if I can stop thinking about all the cut-and-run assholes. So, I’m doing a self-evaluation and realize that my spiritual health sucks. Okay, so what to do about it? First, I’ve signed up for a daily devotional to be emailed to me and I resolve to actually read it. If I can make that a regular part of my life, I’ll be well on my way to some spiritual health. Sweet.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Scratching My Head

Okay, so how can a cease-fire agreement occur between a sovereign nation-state and a decentralized terrorist organization? I don't get it. I really don't get it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sorry, I'm on the Road Again

But, I would like to say that I feel like things with the Islamofacists are only going to get worse before they get better. A proxy war with Iran is really what is going on in Lebanon and Israel. Alleged terrorists are caught in Ohio and, of course, the current plot foiled in England. Looks like no more drinks on flights. The funny thing is that the terrorists will just take a play out of the high-school-football-game-get-booze-into-the-stadium-playbook and put their liquid explosives in a leather canteen worn under their clothes.

Boo Terrorist Plots! Hooray Beer!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Waiting on Fidel

Well, it appears that Ms. Sheehan accidentally jumped the gun and prematurely released a statement about the death of el Jefe. It reads in part,
"I met Fidel during a little get-together and margarita tasting with Hugo [Chavez] and Harry [Belafonte]. The first thing that I noticed was that he was a natty dresser... I mean WOW. After quite a few drinks and some central planning ideas, Fiddy reached in to kiss me. We bumped noses and we laughed. While not the most considerate lover, he took me like a real man. He was powerful, not like the 'fortunate son' George W. Bush. Afterwards, I woke up alone and limped back to my room on a broken heel and disheveled pink moo-moo. He promised that he'd call, but I knew that he'd be too busy running the Cuban paradise. Farewell Fidel, I would say that we'll meet in the afterlife, but we both know there is no God. I miss you so."

In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers crossed at Castro's always-timely demise.