Monday, February 28, 2005
It's Only A Matter Of Time...
If you're interested, I have some suggestions for the few remaining possible TV-to-film projects posted at the film geeks blog.
If I didn’t have friends in Wichita, I’d probably never have heard of the BTK killer until they caught him this weekend.
I do have friends in Wichita, though. For some time now they’ve lived in fear of BTK, to one degree or another. That is, of course, what BTK wanted. That's why he played his sick cat and mouse games with the police and media.
If Dennis Rader, the man arrested, is in fact BTK, then he is responsible for ten or more gruesome murders in the Wichita area since 1974. BTK, the name he gave himself, stood for “Bind, Torture, and Kill.” His victims were men, women, and children. He may have been actively killing into the 90’s, according to some theories. He may or may not have confessed to some of these crimes, depending on who you believe. Depending on who you believe, his daughter may have helped police capture him, or may not have.
Dennis Rader had been the congregational president of his church. He was a Cub Scout den leader, and at one time, he had worked for ADT Security Systems. He was a dog catcher, and there is an account of him allegedly killing a dog in the presence of it's family. He looked like the guy next door, like any of our neighbors and acquaintances. These bastards always look like the guy next door. They never look like we’d expect; they never look like Rob Zombie.
People are already trying to sell his business cards and letters from him on e-bay. Rubberneckers are having a field day in his hometown and at the former homes of his victims. Sickos.
I am opposed to the death penalty. At times like this, it’s hard to be. I just keep repeating to myself, “Our capacity for mercy is what separates us from them.” The words are sweet in my mouth, but in my belly they are as bitter as hell.
The Thing About The Oscars Is...
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Breakthroughs at film geeks
If you're interested, we've got a post about our favorite breakthrough performances from the movies up at film geeks.
Friday, February 25, 2005
I Is Good With Language
Wendy took this test on the net the other day, so I took it too... and here's what I "learned about myself:"
Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.
You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.
I don't know how much of that is true, but I sure like the sound of it!
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Pretty, Swirly Turds
While Wendy and I were moving our couch in the snow today, the dog was contemplating the edibility of crayons. There is no greater joy in life than standing in the snow, on a slippery hill, holding a couch and arguing with your wife about the best way to move it, while you watch your dog prepare to snarf up a couple of crayons. Can you imagine the Technicolor dog piles we’d have found in the yard over the next few days?
We were really looking forward to our tax return this year because it would be the biggest one we’ve ever received, considering that we bit the bullet and got married last year. Of course, every dime of it was earmarked for projects around the house that we’ve desperately needed to address. The oak tree in our back yard probably hasn’t been pruned in twenty years or more. It looks like something out of one of Tim Burton’s nightmares. I’ve made an appointment to get that taken care of, and also to remove the ancient storage shed from our back lot. We don’t use that shed for anything other than providing shelter for the bees and snakes that use it in the summertime. As much as that sounds like a Disney movie (“The Happy Animal Shed!”), it isn’t. Mowing around it is a major pain in the ass. Of course, getting stung by hornets is preferable to getting bitten by copperheads… so I try to be grateful to them, relatively speaking, as I run back to the house, cursing and flailing.
Anyway, another item we used some tax return money for was the purchase of a sofa. Our old living room sofa looks like something you’d see in the D-Day Museum, and we couldn’t wait to replace it. We bought a new sofa at a local furniture store last week, and it was to be delivered today. We decided that our old sofa was suitable for our basement wreck room (that’s not a misspelling), and we decided that we’d move it down there this morning before the new sofa arrived. Of course, our old sofa is large enough to be seen from space, so our only option was to take it out the front door, around the house, and in through the basement door. So you can imagine our joy when we woke up to pouring snow.
Of course, once we tipped the thing over and got it outside, things started pouring out of it. Cheereos. Popcorn. Match Box Cars. Crayons. There were also a number of things that the kids lost in there. And, of course, the dog had to investigate everything that fell out, and decide if it was fit to eat. I don’t mind her eating five year old Cheereos, but I was pretty worried about her eating toys and crayons. Thankfully, Wendy got to them before the dog did.
I highly recommend standing in the snow with your living room furniture while your dog tries to poison itself. It provides an opportunity for retrospection.
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about today. I wanted to write about Motley Crue. If there’s one topic that deserves the title “Pretty, Swirly Turds” more than the one discussed above, it’s Motley Crue. My friend Saul sent me a link to a really funny review of a recent Crue show from BillyMeade.com, and it’s well worth reading.
After they played Dr. Feelgood 6 times (or six different songs, I have no clüe), finally Tommy F'in Lee starts his drum solo. The crowd is going nuts because, hey, he's Tommy Lee and we're not, so boom-boom, whatever… BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE - he flies to the other side of above the stage, where there's another drum set - er, wait, no - it's keyboards. Okay. Then he starts to play "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. Well, not exactly, but pretty close. Now - picture the crowd here. Drunk fat dudes pushin' 40. They don't really know what to do at this point. I swear I saw some of them weeping because Tommy had crossed over to the dark(er) side.
Read the review, it’s really funny.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Good Bad Television
Alright, the thing is, I’m an elitist hypocrite when it comes to television. I complain about how awful TV is… how it’s complete brain-rot and how it damages the human brain and the mortal soul… and then I watch TV anyway.
I didn’t used to be this way. As far as I was once concerned, the only thing worth watching on TV were the programs on A&E and Discovery, BBC comedy, the occasional quality films that show up on cable, and, of course, The Simpsons. I was sincere in this belief, and stuck to it religiously. Avoidance of TV in general, and network TV in specific, was my policy.
Then, Wendy and I moved in together and all that changed. Wendy is a couch potato. She cringes when I say that, but it’s true. She watches a LOT of television. She watches reality TV shows, for Pete’s sake. She watches that Donald Trump show and The Real World and all that garbage. Usually, I just pick at her for watching this garbage and go off and do my internet stuff and play my video-games while she watches it.
Hey, at least my brain-rot is somewhat interactive.
But, as I said, I’ve become a total hypocrite as I find myself watching more and more TV with Wendy. And, ya know what? Some of it is pretty good. I hate to say it, but there are some good shows on TV right now, and I’ve gotten to where I enjoy and anticipate watching a few of them. This post is intended to out myself as a network TV watcher and to promote a couple of shows that I think are actually pretty damn good.
HOUSE, Fox, Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM.
I’ve been a fan of Hugh Laurie’s since the days of Black Adder, one of the all time best britcoms from the BBC. So I was glad to see that he had a regular show on American TV, even if it was another of those medical dramas, and even if it was on network TV, and even if it was probably going to be a short-lived piece of garbage. I was happy for Hugh because I figured that the show involved a decent paycheck for him, and it made me happy to see one of my favorite British actors, and a relative unknown in this country, making some money.
A few weeks ago I sat down with Wendy and watched an episode of House, and I have to say, I’m shocked at how good the show is. It’s really, really good.
If you, like me, are a fan of Hugh Laurie from the Black Adder days, you’ll probably be a little shocked at how different he looks now. Check out this comparison:
As I said before, House is one of those medical dramas, and I can’t say how it compares to ER and the like, because I don’t watch those shows. I did used to watch St. Elsewhere when I was a teen, though, and I can say that House is every bit as good as that show was. In many ways, it's even better.
Laurie plays Dr. Greg House, and his character is a lot of fun. I’m really surprised to see a network TV show with a main character who isn’t sanitized for the protection of the audience. Dr. House is not the kind of dashing, perfect, George Clooney type of medical TV show hero you might be used to. In fact, Dr. House is kind of a jerk. He’s rude to his co-workers. He’s arrogant. He’s also an unrepentant Vicodin addict. He's smart, and he's dedicated... but he's very, very flawed. There's a lot of gray area on this show. This is a character who I’d expect to see in a movie, where there’s room for some complexity and depth to the characters… not on a TV show.
The show seems, in a lot of ways, to be pretty conventional. Every week there’s a patient with a mysterious ailment, and it is up to Dr. House and his team to find out what’s wrong with the patient and try to save his or her life by the end of the episode. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they aren’t. But what really makes this show different is Laurie’s performance as Dr. House. This character is complicated, interesting, and very, very funny. I laugh out loud several times every time I watch the program. So while the construct of the medical drama isn’t that inventive, the character and Laurie are what sets House apart, and I recommend it without hesitation.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, Fox, Sunday Nights at 8:30 PM
I hadn’t watched this show until recently, and I still haven’t watched it on it’s actual broadcast night… but a few weeks ago, my friend Brian started raving about the show, and he… ahem, “loaned” us his “back-up copy” of the first season on DVD. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more. Anyway, We’ve watched all but two or three episodes of the first season, and I have to admit, it’s really smart and funny. The premise is that a formerly wealthy family from California is coming apart at the seams as their patriarch serves time for white-color crime. All the characters are vile, selfish, repugnant people… so to some extent, it might be said that the show is a parody of the worst types of people among us. And it’s funny parody, too. If you watch it, don’t expect to find heroic, admirable characters. Don’t look for a thread of decency in the storyline anywhere. These are horrible, horrible people. But they’re funny. They’re really funny. And the show is smart and well written. I wish we’d started watching it from the first episode, in fact… and it pains me to say that. I hate to say that I actually regret having missed a television program!
Now, don’t get me wrong… The Simpsons is still the best thing on TV, and if I had to watch only one regular TV show, that would still be it. But I have to admit, I’ve been wrong about network TV in general. Just because most of what’s on network TV is garbage (see Will and Grace. See Fear Factor. See Friends. See CSI. See most shows, ad nausea), doesn’t mean that it all is. House and Arrested Development are both quality shows, and they’re both worth an hour of your time.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Yelling at the TV
I’ve been watching crap TV lately, and I’m ashamed of that. Along with having been sucked into Wendy’s American Idol fixation, I’ve also been watching garbage on MTV and VH1.
As far as American Idol is concerned, I’ll predict now that David Cassidy… oops, I mean Constantine Maroulis… will stick around for some time, and he doesn’t deserve to. My wife calls him “dreamy.” Whatever. The guy can’t sing. Scott Savol, who on the other hand can sing really well, but looks like a baboon’s butt, will probably be voted off early on. I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see.
On MTV (or was it MTV2? Whichever.) I saw The Cure’s Icon Tribute. I was a big Cure fan when I was younger, and the show brought back a lot of memories. In fact, I’m looking forward to dragging out some old Cure albums and listening to them. The show itself wasn’t that great, although the Deftones did a stellar performance of one of my favorite, more obscure songs, “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.” That performance alone was worth seeing.
On VH1 I saw an amazingly insulting show called… brace yourself… “BLACKAPHOBIA!” Yep, it was all about the evils of the white man and his whitey white culture and his whitey white whiteness, and how we’re all too busy suppressing the brotha man to ever examine how we’re both keeping down the brotha man’s culture AND SIMULTANIOUSLY ripping off the brotha man’s culture. The show featured interviews with prominent black sociologists, like The RZA and members of Outkast. At one point, they all talked about how White America would collapse if they ever admitted that Jesus was… gasp…. BLACK! One of the astute social observers on the show said that the only thing that White Amerikkka fears more than the idea of a black Jesus is death itself!
Amen, brotha! Stick it to da man! We ain’t be goin’ out like dat, you know what I’m sayin’? Snap!
Just a note to the cast of BLACKAPHOBIA! Look, you idiots, in the first place, Jesus was probably a great deal darker than the iconic “surfer-Jesus” pictures we all are familiar with. In fact, he probably looked more like Cat Stevens than Jim Caviezel. Just for the record, though, I’m fine with that. It doesn’t matter. You know why? Because, as a Christian, I believe that Christ offered me redemption from my own sins. Mine. My personal ones. I don’t need to shoulder the burdens of the sins, real or imagined, of any whole race of people. When you turn Jesus into a token of race-related political bating, you miss the whole point and you trivialize my faith. So, yes, I’m offended by the things you were suggesting… not because of the notion that Jesus was black, but because of the notion that the color of Jesus’ skin is important enough to discuss. It isn’t, and the color of his skin neither invalidates my salvation, nor validates your position as an angry, hateful, liberal moron.
By the way, I'd like to see a network do a show called "WHITEAPHOBIA," wherein white celebrities sat around and talked about how their tired of being misjudged and portrayed as villians by blacks. How long do you think it would take until there was rioting in the streets? Until the first commercial break? Maybe?
Man, I gotta go back to just watching the Discovery Channel.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Blogparty: My 5 Villains
I can’t resist participating in MCF’s blogparty, and throwing my nominees for the top five villains from movies, comics, TV, etc, into the mix:
5) Darth Vader... A no-brainer. He’s got to be on the list.
4) ”Sideshow Bob” Terwilliger... I love it when Sideshow Bob pops up on an episode of The Simpsons. As voiced by Kelsey Grammer, Sideshow Bob is both menacing and hilarious. I could name favorite appearances by him on the show, but this blog entry would take several pages. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be when he married Aunt Selma and tried to blow her up.
3) Dr. Doom... Hey, disfigured, super-techno-powered comic book bad guys are a dime a dozen. How many of them are also diplomats? Dr. Doom enjoys political privileges that the Green Goblin and the Joker and The Kingpin could only dream of… and his position in the comics universe is unlike any other. To heck with him being the villain in the Fantastic Four movie… Doom deserves a movie of his own.
2) Amon Goeth... I hope I’m not cheating here by going to a villain from real life, and I hope it doesn’t seem that I’m making light of the Holocaust in any way… but Amon Goeth, as played by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List, is absolutely chilling. Fiennes gives a performance of uncommon depth and power, and manages to make Goeth both human and purely evil. The scenes where he experiments with forgiveness, only to find it unrewarding, and then reverts back to absolute disregard for human life, are hard to shake. He's believable, both as an absolute devil and as a real man.
1) Tommy DeVito... You’d have to be a pretty heinous to come in ahead of a real life Nazi on this list, and Tommy DeVito, as played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, is heinous indeed. Based on real-life gangster Tommy DeSimone, Pesci’s character was absolutely ruthless, vicious, and vile. He didn’t mind murdering. In fact, he enjoyed it. And the messier and more violent the killing was, the more he liked it. The amazing thing is, as horrifying as Pesci’s character in Goodfellas is, the real Tommy DeSimone was worse… angrier, more bloodthirsty, and a great deal larger and more physically intimidating than Pesci’s diminutive size. Imagine that!
So there’s my list of the five best (meaning worst) villains from pop culture. Each of them dark, each of them evil... and one of them is probably the real Keyser Soze!
The Death of an Original
"There is no honest way to explain the edge of sanity, because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over." - HST
Thanks for all the guided tours, Dr. Thompson.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Darrell's Heavy Rotation
The other day, when I posted my mockery of the Grammys, I mentioned that I am a big music lover. It occurred to me shortly after I posted that, that I'd never once posted anything about any of the music I love. That just won't do.
I've added to my sidebar on the right... there is now a small graphic that links to the amazon page for each of the albums that I keep in heavy rotation. In order to qualify as a link-worthy album, each album up for consideration has to have spent weeks without having been taken out of my car stereo, or else I have to have burned a copy for my car because my wife and I constantly fight over who gets the original. Whenever I add something to the "Heavy Rotation" list, I'll post an entry about it. Here's just a few notes about the albums in this first list:
Glen Phillips - "Abulum"
Easily the album of the decade for both my wife and I so far. I'm sure that it's safe to say that we've not gone more than a week or two without at least one of us listening to it since it first came out. Phillips is the former lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, and this first solo album is an amazing, outstanding effort. If you're a fan of Wilco, Toad, Ryan Adams, and the whole alt-country folk/rock singer-songwriter thing in general, then do yourself a favor and buy this CD right now.
Killswitch Engage - "The End of Heartache"
No problems fighting with my wife over this album. She hates it. I love it, though. This is old-school thrash metal, like the stuff I grew up with. Good, solid riffs and positive lyrics about love and trying to be a better person. What more could a headbanger want?
Jimmy Eat World - "Bleed American" (Newer copies are simply self-titled.)
I will never get tired of this perfect pop/punk/80's rock sounding mix. I've loved every song on here at one point or another, and I am surprised at the fact that I can still enjoy it as much as ever, considering that I've probably played it a thousand times since we got it.
Tool - "Lateralus"
Tool may well be my favorite rock band, and this is their best album. Other Tool fans might dispute that, but they are all wrong. Tool is like a Pink Floyd / Metallica hybrid, if you can imagine, and they just get better and better.
P.O.D. - "Satellite"
Probably the last good album by this strong Christian rock band (they're still together, but they've gone secular/pop and their newest stuff is garbage). "Satelite" is a great, great album. It was released on 9/11, and it almost serves as something of an emotional safety net for those of us who love it.
Jimmy Eat World - "Futures"
The newest Jimmy Eat World album came out just a few days before Wendy and I got married. This is probably the one band that she and I share the strongest mutual love for, and while we agree that "Bleed American" is their strongest album, we both love this one, too. Songs like "Polaris" and "23" are as strong as anything they've ever done.
Tony Rice - "Church Street Blues"
Tony Rice is the best musician I've ever heard. If you need proof that there is a God, listen to this guy play guitar. He's amazing. Rice's music is a constant in my life, and of everyone on this list, I've listened to him the longest. I constantly discover other Rice ablums that are new to me, but I always come back to this one as the standard I judge guitar players by.
Brand New - "Deja Entendu"
I got this album for my wife for Christmas last year, and I ended up falling in love with it as much as she did. This is sort of like Jimmy Eat World's stuff, kind of a punk/pop mix, but with more acoustic stylings, and yet with more raw punk emotion. The song titles are intentionally obtuse, but the songs are pure pop genius.
Ben Folds Five - "Whatever and Ever Amen"
Another album my wife got me into. I didn't like "Brick," the album's lead single, when it was on the charts... but once I heard "One Angry Dwarf..." I was interested in the rest of the album. Songs like "Smoke," "Evaporated," "Song for the Dumped," and "Selfless, Cold, and Composed" really hooked me. In fact, there aren't many albums from the last ten years that are as strong and consistant as this one. In the context of the album, I even got to where I liked "Brick."
Nine Inch Nails - "The Fragile"
I think Trent Reznor is a musical genius, and I can't wait to get his new album when it comes out this May. Til now, I've thought that his most recent album, "The Fragile," was his strongest and best. The guy takes some real chances here, the album is full of instrumentals and jazz-influenced experiments, and to my ear, it all works well. I've played this album to death since it came out. Check out "Just Like You Imagined" for a prime example of why I love this album.
Outkast - "Stankonia"
I do NOT like hip hop. I think most of it is crap. However, Outkast are real musicians and songwriters, and the stuff they come up with is about a mile above the average Eminem/Ja Rule/50 Cent garbage. This album is so catchy, funny, and inventive that I couldn't help but get into it. Key tracks include "Bombs Over Baghdad," "So Fresh, So Clean," and the hilarious double entendre of "I'll Call Before I Come."
John Mellencamp - "Words and Music (Greatest Hits)"
The newest CD on the list, Wendy gave it to me for Valentines Day. These are all songs I grew up with, and songs that were huge hits when I worked in radio. Giving me this CD was like giving me a scrapbook of my childhood and early adulthood. John Mellencamp, despite his typical far-left rock star goofball politics, is an American treasure.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
In the words of my friend Saul:
A quick glance at the Grammy recipients this year reveals
what I've always said: the best way to win a Grammy is to a) have
someone in the band named "Bono" or b) die.
Of course, he's right. As a music lover, I usually either watch the Grammys and shake my head in disgust... or skip the Grammys and read the results in the newspaper the next day and then shake my head in disgust. I remember a few years ago, when Steely Dan won album of the year. I didn't even know Steely Dan was still together, and for the life of me, I can't think of a good reason why they're still together.
Looking at the pictures posted at the grammy's website, it seems that this year I missed the head-shakingest show they've had in years:
Here, Joss Stone performs
(03/25/05... turns out that Melissa Etheridge has cancer, and that's why she is bald. That's right, big brave me mocked a cancer patient. I should be flogged.)
Here, Loretta Lynn shows off her awards, along with the ugliest of her daughters.
Pill lady? Pill lady!!?? They gave me a little record player! PILL LADY!!??!"
Here, Steve Earle shows off the grammy for Most Politically Ostentatious Country Performer. He also won the post-show Meatloaf look-alike contest.
Here's James Brown and the hooker he'll be beating after the program.
Dear God, Diana Ross has gained weight! Oh, no, wait a minute... I mean, Dear God, Starr Jones has lost weight!
Here's J. Lo's future ex-husband, Tico Whatsisname. He didn't actually win a Grammy, he was just given one out of sympathy.
Here's an odd pair... an annoying celebrity who makes his living by acting stupid and speaking in a goofy voice... along with Adam Sandler.
"Pill lady?!! PILL LADY!!??!"
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Homespun Symposium XII and the Ensuing Debate: A Summation
Tom over at Being Thomas Luongo has responded to my last post with some sound and considerable arguments, and you can click here and here to read them.
At this point, I’m afraid to say, I’ve exhausted my ability to continue in an informed debate. A lot of what Tom and I are debating probably comes down to semantics, and it may well be that each of us is reacting to an individual, personal definition of the words the other uses, with no real way to be 100% sure of the other’s intent. That’s probably true of most debates. At any rate, after a rocky start, I’ve enjoyed discussing the nature of law, government, and the draft with Tom. I’ve added his blog to my “Other Blogs” list on the side, and I’ll refer to it myself when I’m looking for a challenging perspective.
I’ve also discussed the topic of the draft with my friend’s Saul and Tony, both of whom served in the army. Like Tom, they’ve given me a lot to think about, and they’ve also given me permission to post some of what they’ve said to me by e-mail. Saul and Tony both present their ideas clearly and a great deal more succinctly than I do. I think there’s a similarity in their opinions, and that what they’ve written on the subject is similar to what another ex-military blogger had to say.
Saul said the following by e-mail:
What freedoms were the conscripts who fought on both sides of the Civil War dying for? How about Vietnam? Though I think there were some noble motives for going into Vietnam, I'd have to say that in retrospect that war did not defend the freedom or security of Americans. I guess what I'm getting at is that I just don't trust the government to decide who goes to war; I'd like for the people to have some say in it by means of volunteering for service. I would never want to give the government a blank check for any of its fiscal programs, why would I trust them to throw bodies at some random problem overseas?
Yes we did have a draft in WW2 and WW1. I don't know how these affected the military; I'm not sure it was such a great system. It seems to me that there were a whole lot of other factors that made WW2 a success for the US. Plus, all the countries we fought against were using conscripts, too, but were doing a pretty poor job of it. I don't think many of the soldiers wanted to fight for Hitler or Stalin.
I think having an all volunteer Army is great. Since the '70's, the Army has had to strive to make the military a desirable place where people want to be, not something they are forced into. I think of the soldiers fighting now...it's been 3.5 years since September 11th; I'll bet a significant portion of our current military has voluntarily enlisted or re-enlisted sometime in the last 3.5 years, knowing full well that we are a country at war. That's gotta be good for morale.
And I like using the examples of the Civil War and Vietnam, because they both demonstrate what happens in every country and every war...there's always some way out of military service if you have an "out", usually money (a $300 payment to the government during the Civil War, or a deferment while you are in college during Vietnam). If we do have a draft, let's have everybody do it, and not give these lame excuses people can use to avoid service.
I think my experience in the Army was great, and something that all young men should go through. However I was in during peacetime, so I'd hesitate to encourage anyone currently eighteen years old to enter the military knowing that they would probably go to war. I've always fancied there being some kind of alternative service similar to the Army, but with non-military missions, and this would be a better place for mandatory service. I think that was JFK's vision for the Peace Corps, but once again, I haven't researched.
One more note, I'm looking forward to the time when people born after 1955 run for office. If you were born in 1955, the draft ended in 1973 when you turned eighteen. No more arguments about who did what during Vietnam. Let's face it, neither John Kerry nor George Bush would have been in the military at all if it wasn't for the draft, yet we still had to hear about their "sense of duty" during that time. Give me a break.
Tony had this to say:
This conflict has virtually nothing in common with either world war and isn't going to be won by putting huge numbers of troops in the field. That doesn't mean that we don't need huge numbers of troops, mind you, it means that we aren't going to invade Iran on our own anytime soon and we sure as hell aren't going into North Korea, either. So, if I am right about this, what good would a draft do us now? Frankly, conscripts are virtually worthless, especially in the sort of fight we are in right now. Look at Afghanistan as an example. We knocked the Taliban out with spec force guys, the 101st AB, the 82nd AB, nasty loads of air power, and a very motivated indigenous ground force. That war was probably the most intelligently fought campaign in the nation's history. Conscripts, like those sent in by Russia, would have been slaughtered in the mountains. So, if my vote counts (and it sure doesn't in Washington's gubernatorial election, it appears) I am against the draft.
The other thing that bothers me about the draft is the concept that military service ought to be an obligation that all men should honor. A debt to our nation to be paid, so to speak. I reject that as a professional service. Think of it this way, is military service an obligation or an honor? I viewed it as the latter. I was honored to serve, not obligated to. I understand the thinking that some have that they must "pay back" their nation for all she has done for them, but I don't think the complex modern battlefield is any place for compassionate conservatism or bleeding heart liberalism. Want to pay back the country? Get a job, pay taxes, volunteer for a bunch of stuff, have babies who vote Republican. Leave the fighting to the warrior class. Do-gooders in uniform end up dead, disillusioned, or stuck in some non-combat role because they aren't suited for the rigors of warfare. This is, of course, one hell of a broad generalization. I mean, Pat Tillman was a do-gooder who felt obligated to serve his country in uniform and paid for that since of duty with his life. I would never question his fitness to serve, since he could have snapped my neck like it was Howeird Dean's, but he is not a typical case.
So, I suppose, I don't feel like anyone is duty bound to join the military and I would discourage anyone who feels that way and how is not of the warrior mentality to join the Peace Corps, instead.
Thanks to Tony, Saul, Tom, and everyone else at Homespun who’s given me input on my symposium topic. This has been a fun, active, and thoughtful week of blogging for me.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
More Symposium-Inspired Debating
My debate with Tom at Being Thomas Luongo continues, and I’m really starting to enjoy it. Tom has challenged my ideas at their very foundation, and I welcome that challenge. It gives me the chance (as I said in an e-mailed note to him) to really examine my beliefs and try to learn something about myself. That’s not always easy to do, and my biggest fear is that I’ll do a poor job of defending and explaining my beliefs. I worry about that for fear that I’ll poorly represent those who share my beliefs. I don’t see myself as a spokesman for all southern conservative Christian men, but I recognize the inherent hubris in having deemed my own ideas worthy of public consideration. If your beliefs about God, country, and duty are similar to my own, I hope you feel that I’ve presented them well. If I haven’t, please forgive me. I say that sincerely. C.S. Lewis is my hero, but, of course, I’m nowhere near his league when it comes to crafting language or advancing the Apologetic cause. One quality I do share with Tom is that we both can get a little long-winded.
I’ll address some of Tom’s specific points:
>The problem I have is with the implications you attach to the word 'right,' as if your rights come from some other place. Now, some say they come from God, I say they derive from your being a human being.<
There’s where you and I have our first and most critical ideological separation. I’m one of those who believes that our rights come from God. I’d call your beliefs humanism, and you may well be comfortable with that label. I think that our differences here are so basic as to prevent either of us from winning the other over to his own side.
While I think we’d both agree that our rights are inalienable, we probably interpret that word differently. My position is that our rights are God given, and that no man has the right to take away what God has given to all.
I think that my feelings about the draft are probably grounded in my belief about our rights being a gift from God. While I do believe that those rights are given freely by God to all men in the form of free will, I also believe that a sense of duty is incumbent upon all of us who recognize the source of those rights. Don’t misinterpret me, I realize that it might sound like I’m suggesting that our relationship with God is quid pro quo; “I’ll give you something since you’ve given me something.” That’s not what I’m trying to say. From my point of view, a sense of duty is natural and even unavoidable if you view your rights… your very life itself… as the gift of God. To that end, I believe that answering the call of military service, if it is needed by the nation, is a fundamental way of serving the common good... and that serving the common good is a fundamental way of responding to a sense of duty to God.
I do realize that it is possible to share my belief in God and still disagree with my ideas about the draft. I recognize the basics of the argument of conscientious objectors. I feel the need to restate periodically that I do not propose to represent the beliefs of all Christians by what I’m writing. I represent no one but myself, and the ideas I’m explaining and defending are none but my own.
>… your rights are personal and only an unrepentant socialist would believe that your society or government is the source of your rights.<
Agreed. Again, my sense of duty is not a matter of being compelled by law. I suppose my idea of duty is that it is as inherent and as natural as free will itself.
>Now, in your post you talk about the 'rights of citizenship.' That phrase doesn't parse well. You may have the 'privelege' of citizenship, as granted by your society/government within their legal framework, but not your 'rights.' Again, your rights are your own. <
By “rights of citizenship,” I mean those rights guaranteed by the rule of law. I see a distinction between God-given rights, which are the natural and inalienable ones… and legal rights, which are those agreed upon for each individual by the collective. I suppose I see citizenship as something of a contract between the individual and the government that serves him or her. I see it as a set of “if-thens” that are agreed to by all parties involved. I hope I’m clearly explaining how I see that distinction.
>Remember, rights are things that only people have. Governments have powers, granted to them by the people which ordained them (see the preamble to the Constitution). So, I'd like to know how the government can have the 'right' to force me into service to do it's bidding? <
My point of view is that the draft is a part of our history and a well-established cornerstone of citizenship. I spoke of a “contract” that the individual makes with his or her government in the form of citizenship. Part of that contract, as I see it, is a willingness to serve the collective in a military capacity if the collective (or the majority of it) agrees that the draft is necessary and serves the greater good. I think that’s a fairly mainstream view about the draft and how/when it should be used. I’d submit that such use of the draft is so basic that anyone who disagrees with it would do well to find a more suitable collective to join. Yeah, that sounds like a mandarin way to say “Love it or leave it, buddy!” But, that’s not what I have in mind. I guess I’m just trying to break it down to basics.
>Moreover, any task that has to be forced upon a free-acting adult is a task whose motives and consequences should be questioned. <
I agree whole-heartedly. Don’t for one minute think that I’m suggesting that anyone submit to the draft without introspection and without examining the nature of the conflict that he or she is being asked to serve in. I don’t believe in blind, Orwellian service to a government. I do believe, though, in majority rule and the greater good of the collective.
I think you and I have fundamentally different ideas about what government is, as well. I get the idea, if I’m reading you correctly, that you see it as a foreign and different body from it’s citizens. I simply see it as a voice and tool of the citizens. I don’t believe that the draft is something to be imposed by a ruling body (i.e., government) but a condition to be agreed to, individually and collectively, by the citizens themselves. If the majority of the individuals in the collective are opposed to the draft, then by all means, there should be no draft. Of course, at this point, we’re being totally speculative and hypothetical. But then, my original question about the draft, by and large, was hypothetical.
>If it was such a good idea to invade this country or kill these people, there would be no need to forcably do anything, except maybe turn away unqualified volunteers.<
Well, to get back to the specific conflict at hand, currently there is no need for a draft. Again, as we’ve already discussed, my original question about the draft was, arguably, a “loaded question.” It had more to do with my perception of duty than it did with the situation in the middle east in 2005.
>The freeloader vs. team-player argument is specious as well for the simple reason that we are all economically active and as such contribute to a particular cause via the division of labor and our leveraging our unique talents/skills/dispositions to our maximal advantage. So, while you may offer yourself up as infantry, I may be testing the food that goes into your rations to ensure your health<
Agreed… but, again, I was referring specifically to the issue of the draft and the sense of duty I associate with it. I’m not saying that the only way to serve the greater good is to serve in the military. I am saying, though, that I recognize that the nation has called it’s young people to duty in the draft before, and that I hope that if it needs to again, those called will share my sense of duty.
I hope I’ve explained my positions well, Tom, and I look forward to hearing your take on what I’ve had to say. For that matter, I look forward to hearing anyone’s take on my ideas. The comments link, as always, is immediately below this line.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Homespun Symposium XII, a Follow-Up
The topic I proposed for the Homespun Bloggers Symposium has stirred a few people, and I encourage you to read the responses they've linked at the Homespun page.
I've had a lively (even angry) debate with a fellow Homespunner, Thomas Luongo, both in the comments sections of his blog and my own. We've also exchanged some e-mail. I won't attempt to paraphrase his opinions, he presents himself clearly, and his ideas are best read in his own words.
In one recent note, Tom encouraged me to continue the discussion at my blog, which I'm doing here. I e-mailed this note to Tom, and I'm blogging it, too, for the consideration of anyone who's interested. If you care to comment, the comments link is at the bottom of this post, as usual.
I think that the heart of our disagreement is the differences in the way we'd each answer this question, which I'm phrasing as objectively as I can: Is an individual who enjoys the rights of citizenship in Nation X obligated to defend that nation if called to duty? Clearly I see an obligation. From my perspective, it's the difference between being there when you're needed and being a freeloader. You seem to see things differently.
I think our differences here stem from fundamental elements of our characters. That might read like a slam, but it isn't intended to be. I do thank you for e-mailing me and approaching the debate civility, and I thank you for your comments at my blog. I'm not interested in "preaching to the choir," and I like to hear from people who disagree with me, even if we do initially rub one and other the wrong way.
Evan Maloney's "Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution"
Evan Maloney at Brain Terminal is doing his part to help, ahem, bridge the divide, as it were, between Red and Blue America. He showed up at President Bush’s second inauguration with consolation prizes to hand out to disgruntled liberal protestors.
One thing's for sure, I'll no longer be able to sweepingly categorize leftists as nutcases. Oh, noooooooo. These guys have it all figured out, man. On Inauguration Day, Maloney interviewed a pretty diverse sample from the American left: People dressed up as Jesus and people dressed up as cats. People waving signs that equated Bush with Nazis, and people waving signs with vulgarities written on them. People who believe that the Republicans have conned the American people and people who believe that Bush supporters voted for him out of fear and closed-minded Christianity. Wow, what intellectual variety there is under the blanket of liberalism!
You can download the video at Maloney's website, or watch it live if you have broadband. It's worth it, if only to see which was the more popular consolation prize: The Hillary doll or the Michael Moore doll.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Homespun Symposium XII
Of all the Homespun Bloggers, I might be the laziest. I’ve certainly been lazy about participating in the weekly Homespun Symposium. So it probably doesn’t speak well of me that I waited until it was my turn to propose a topic before I mustered up the wherewithal to write a response. The topic I proposed for this week’s symposium is as follows:
During last year’s presidential election, people began talking about reinstating the draft. Most conservatives, such as myself, simply saw it as an effort on the part of liberals to distance young people from Bush. Many conservatives have responded to the issue by insisting that there won’t be a draft. Yet, I think another question deserves consideration. Do we have the right to insist and expect that the war against terror will not require a draft? The draft was an important element in the winning of the first two World Wars. The war on terror is another global war. What gives our generation the right to abstain from the same duty our grandfathers and forefathers were called to?
I suppose that the way I worded the question makes my answer obvious. No, I don’t believe that anyone in our generation has the inherent right to opt to sit this one out. As a libertarian, I realize that the draft is an ugly concept. It’s counter to most of what I believe to support the government’s right to impose it’s will on it’s citizens. I’m a big believer in individual freedom. However, I’m also a proponent of individual accountability. I believe that my freedom is worth nothing if I'm unwilling to stand up to those who would destroy the society that grants me that very freedom.
My perception is that many of the people who are sure that the Bush administration is moving toward a draft are, by and large, the same people who equate the war against terror with “another Vietnam.” I have a problem with that line of thinking, which is why I worded the question the way I did. I think that the war on terror is more akin to World War II. The Islamofascists want to impose their will on the world. They want to see America fall. They must be opposed. I agree with the President that the best way to oppose them is to spread freedom. As a nation, we have to get out of our “post-Vietnam” mindset and face the reality before us.
That’s not to say that I’m a jingoist, nor am I chomping at the bit to fight in a war. And I certainly don’t relish the idea that one day one of our kids (mine and Wendy’s, that is) might be drafted. Still, I come back to what I see as the crux of the issue: Is anyone really free who isn’t willing to fight to protect his or her freedom? A free nation made up of individuals unwilling to risk anything to protect their freedom is really nothing more than a chicken coop waiting for slaughter.
I hope there isn’t a draft. I hate to think that it might come to that. But it might. The forces we oppose in the war against terror are multi-national and wide spread. The day might come when we or our children are compelled to act on our principles. The freedom we cherish was preserved for us by past generations who were similarly called to duty. If it comes to that, history will define us by our response.
(Be sure and read the responses from other Homespunners... links to their ideas about the draft can be found at the bottom of the page dedicated to the topic.)
1 + 1 = Racism
I have a message for liberal educators: Ya'll peoples is stupid.
According to benchmarks for (Newton Massachusetts) middle school education, the top objective for the district's math teachers is to teach "respect for human differences." The objective is for students to "live out the system-wide core value of 'respect for human differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors."
Priority No. 2 is where the basics come in, which is "problem solving and representation — students will build new mathematical knowledge as they use a variety of techniques to investigate and represent solutions to problems."
Maybe I am naive in my belief that the best way to deal with racism is to simply ignore it, except and only when it raises it's ugly head and must be addressed. If so, I'm not alone in my naivety:
"I personally think it would be far healthier for kids, if you want to talk about culture, talk about it in Social Studies but don't talk about it in every single class. It's a waste of their time in math and science, and I think it's fundamentally wrong."
That's Joanne Jacobs' take on the Newton Mass issue, and it's my take as well.
Look, there's no denying that racism has had a negative role in our history, but this kind of perpetual obsession with it isn't productive. It's like picking at a cultural scab. Please, people, let it heal.
Minor Threat said it best:
For something I didn't do
But I don't know who
You blame me for slavery
A hundred years before I was born
I'm a convict
Of a racist crime
I've only served
19 years of my time
I'm guilty of being white.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
Up In The Country
Yesterday we went to visit friends who live deep in the heart of the Alleghany mountains. Call me a regional narcissist, but I just can't imagine why anyone would want to live anywhere other than this area. Each season brings it's own kind of beauty to the mountains. Autumn is, of course, breathtaking... Spring is fragrant, summer is lush. But wintertime in the mountains has a stark, bleak beauty of it's own. Even when there's no snow on the ground, there's something about the look and feel of the mountains that I enjoy. I snapped a few pictures on the way up, and if you're interested, the thumbnails below click to larger images.
In it's glory (I imagine 100 years ago) this house must have really been something. Now, abandoned and neglected, it is compelling in a different way. Especially in winter.
Someday I'd love to own a home nestled in a glen just like this.
Craig Creek again. More of a river than a creek, I think. I admit, this shot would have been a lot prettier if there'd been snow. Had we made the trip two days earlier, there'd have been plenty of snow on the ground to decorate this picture.
I like the hues in this picture. The greens, browns, blues and yellows make up the palette of the Alleghany mountains, and this shot features a little of all of that.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Oh, Dear Sweet Jesus!
If you aren't already convinced that Michael Moore is the biggest narcissist in the world (and if you aren't, then you need to read Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man), then this bit ought to convince you. Commenting on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the Flint Fathead had this to say:
"(I'm disturbed at) how easily the vulnerable can be manipulated, twisted by images on the screen."
Note to Michael Moore: Manipulation of the vulnerable is the cornerstone of your career.
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