Random Thoughts 5

I suspect one of the most satisfied men on the planet right now is American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert. He gets all the fame and adulation and other benefits without the oppressive obligations and contractual entanglements that seem to coincide with actually winning the competition.

 

As a long time Sherlock Holmes fan I have a bad vibe that the Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr. that’ll be released later this year might really really suck. There’s no denying that Downey is a brilliant performer, but is he miscast as the world’s foremost amateur detective?? And director Guy Ritchie…most famous for marrying Madonna (therefore legitimately bringing his taste and judgment into question)…doesn’t exactly have a great track record. Plus, translating great literature onto the big screen is thorny territory to say the least. Sometimes it turns out really well…..The Lord of the Rings trilogy, To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, almost any version of A Christmas Carol, Of Mice & Men (a wonderful 1992 remake starring Gary Sinise and John Malkovich). Other times it, to say the least, does not…..Romeo & Juliet (the 1996 version with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Three Musketeers, Left Behind, almost everything Dickensian except the aforementioned A Christmas Carol. I will reserve final opinion until I actually see the film…I’m just saying my expectations aren’t high.

 

I was in a restaurant recently and, after dinner, asked about dessert. One available item was bananas foster, but the waiter said that they weren’t actually allowed to flambé the dish tableside. I ordered something else because really, what’s the point of bananas foster without the flames??

 

Kanye West is a moronic jackass.

 

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that a comment like “you’re Mom is kinda hot” would run across my mind and it’d be wrong. Now the bad thoughts are more like “you’re daughter is pretty cute”…and it’s even more wrong.

 

Will someone please explain to me the hatred of Rush Limbaugh?? I realize that we are a nation of diverse sociopolitical opinions and spiritual beliefs. I have no issue with disagreement and debate. But when I compare the left-biased public perception of Rush with what he actually says and does the fanatical loathing of the masses just doesn’t compute. The man is forthright and unapologetic, there’s no denying that. Maybe he scares people because he says the things others are afraid to say even if they are thinking them. Maybe he scares the opposition because he’s so right much of the time. However…is he offensive, racist, mean-spirited, and hateful?? No one who truly listens to Rush’s show can be intellectually honest and say that he is any of those things.

100 Favorite Movies…..91-95

We continue on our path with a set of five disparate films that show just how eclectic my tastes can be. By now faithful readers are probably gaining some insight into my psyche, atleast so far as what entertains me. Please don’t hesitate to provide feedback, positive or otherwise. I claim no monopoly on defining quality amusement and always welcome the insight of others.

 

 

 

95 Uncle Buck
One of the most regrettable losses in American cinema during the past two decades was the untimely death of John Candy due to heart disease. Not really an A-List star or leading man, Candy nevertheless had an impressive career and brought joy to millions in such films as Spaceballs, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Stripes. And while the majority of his roles were supporting and bit parts, there are two significant lead roles that stand out, one of those being in Uncle Buck. Buck is a slovenly bachelor who is unexpectedly called upon to babysit his nieces and nephew. The kids are a real handful, especially the eldest daughter, a rebellious teenager, but Buck has his own unique brand of parenting and discipline. Hilarity ensues. I’m not usually a fan of overly schmaltzy conclusions…..”heartwarming” mishandled triggers the gag reflex. But Uncle Buck does it right and has fun along the way, without resorting to the foulness so omnipresent in many modern films. It is also a departure of sorts for director John Hughes, known so well for his 80’s teen hits. It seems odd to say, but I believe Hughes is one of the most underappreciated writers and directors out there. This movie also introduced the world to Macaulay Culkin, who would become a 10 year old megastar just a year later in Home Alone.

 

94 Hook
One of my sincerest beliefs in pondering the topic of movies is that the actual movie viewing experience can have a significant impact on one’s opinion. Where the movie is seen, who one is with, what one may be experiencing in life at the moment…..all can enhance (or in rare cases be a detriment to) the enjoyment and long term memory of a particular film. I saw Hook while in college in an old, historic theater with two of my best friends. We were literally the only three people in the theater and we had a blast. It’s one of my fondest memories. The fact that Robin Williams is one of my very favorite actors (and Dustin Hoffman isn’t exactly a slouch) also plays a part in my high opinion. Though not a critical success, and not without some issues (Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell?? please), I find Hook to be a perfectly logical update of the Peter Pan mythology, the story being that he grew up and is now a Type A workaholic that doesn’t spend enough time with his family. It’s a very 90’s kind of theme and it works

 

93 Honeymoon In Vegas
A movie’s setting and its music are two key elements to success. Think Jaws and that haunting theme, Grease and its 1950’s high school motif and awesome soundtrack, The Blues Brothers with its Chicago backdrop and bluesy vibe, or Saturday Night Fever and disco. A perfect example of this vital relationship is Honeymoon in Vegas. Would Honeymoon in Myrtle Beach or Honeymoon in the Bahamas have worked?? Probably not. Now, I must admit that I’m a sucker for all things Vegas and have been planning a trip there for awhile, but looking at it as objectively as possible it cannot be denied that the Las Vegas backdrop just seems to work. Ocean’s Eleven (and Ocean’s 13), Bugsy, Rain Man, Casino, Swingers…..one could compile quite an impressive Vegas filmography (and yes, I’m conveniently ignoring Showgirls…..they can’t all be gems). The cast is superb, headlined by Nicolas Cage and James Caan, with solid performances by the always vivacious Sarah Jessica Parker, Pat Morita of Karate Kid and Happy Days fame, and a group of skydiving Elvis impersonators. Speaking of The King, the soundtrack is made up of Elvis covers done by a variety of artists including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and John Cougar Cougar-Mellencamp Mellencamp and ain’t bad at all.

 

92 The Ten Commandments
If it weren’t for the ever increasing hatred of Christianity in America I’d say The Ten Commandments is a perfect candidate for a big budget remake. The only problem with the original is the now antiquated special effects. Imagine what CGI and other modern tricks of the trade could accomplish in scenes like the parting of The Red Sea or Moses encountering the burning bush? Of course the other issue (besides liberal Godlessness) would be replacing Charlton Heston as Moses…..certainly no easy task. Anyway, until that day comes…if it ever comes…we have the original and it’s just fine. Is it Biblically accurate? Not exactly. There is a certain amount of poetic license taken by director Cecil B. Demille. But it isn’t offensively out of bounds either. Heston sadly became a caricature in the last couple decades of his life, but at one time he was among the most highly esteemed actors of his generation, and nowhere is he better than in The Ten Commandments. Surprisingly the film continues to be an Easter tradition on ABC television, giving millions an ongoing opportunity to enjoy and embrace its greatness.

 

91 Pride of the Yankees
The story of baseball legend Lou Gehrig is atleast somewhat familiar to even non-fans. This film chronicled his life just a few short years after his death caused by the disease that now bears his name. I first saw Pride of the Yankees in college during a sports films class (yes, such a class exists…and it was an easy A and a lot of fun) and loved it, even though I’m not a big Yankee guy. The real story is touching and emotional, and the movie does it justice. Gary Cooper is perfectly cast, as is Teresa Wright, and actress that never became a big star much to the surprise of anyone who sees her as Gehrig’s chipper wife Eleanor. It is the love story of Lou and Eleanor Gehrig that is the true soul of the movie, and that’s just fine, even in the eyes of a person like myself who doesn’t usually gravitate towards sentimental romance. Some of the scenes involving Lou’s German immigrant parents might seem a bit corny to modern audiences, but that minor infraction can be forgiven. Of course it all culminates with Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium where he declared himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth”. Not long ago I read a superb Gehrig biography by Jonathan Eig entitled Luckiest Man and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys this movie.

 

 

The Godfather of Cyberspace’s 35 Undeniable Truths of Life

(Originally published 12/19/2007)

Back in 1988 The Godfather of Talk Radio, Rush Limbaugh, published his 35 Undeniable Truths of Life. A few years later he did a revised list since many of the originals had to do with communism, The Soviet Union, & other outdated concepts. Now, here, in the Year of Our Lord 2007, The Godfather of Cyberspace humbly presents my own list of The 35 Undeniable Truths of Life:

 

 

1. Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) , and “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

 

2. Never put anyone on a pedestal…they will eventually come crashing down.

 

3. The most overrated sports dynasties are Notre Dame football and the New York Yankees.

 

4. Nothing is more important than family…never take sides against the family…never let anyone outside the family know what you are thinking.

 

5. “Look thou character
Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act
Be familiar, but by no means vulgar
Those friends thou have, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatched, unfledged comrade
Beware of entrance to a quarrel but, being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, but not expressed in fancy – rich, not gaudy
For the apparel oft proclaims the man
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry
This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day, thou cannot then be false to any man”
Shakespeare’s Hamlet

 

6. If you work on weekends then you are not at the top of your chosen profession. (notable exceptions: the clergy and sports)

 

7. Disappointment is the worst emotion, as it is a blend of both anger and sadness.

 

8. Faith and religion are two different things. Religion is a public show too often put on by hypocrites, while faith is a deeply personal thing that can change your life. Share your faith, not your religion.

 

9. Rap is not music. Poetry maybe. But not music.

 

10. Perception is reality & reality is perception.

 

11. When in doubt, atleast act like you know what you are doing.

 

12. Anyone who doesn’t shed a tear during the last 10 minutes of Field of Dreams doesn’t have a heart.

 

13. Don’t be sad because it’s over, be happy it happened in the first place.

 

14. Abortion is wrong and capital punishment is right. This makes perfect sense.

 

15. “It’s not what you know but who you know” is just as true as it ever was.

 

16. Guns don’t kill people…evil, crazy, stupid people kill people (sometimes with a gun).

 

17. Music makes our world a better place.

 

18. Freedom of religion has been hijacked to mean freedom from religion, which was not the intent of our Founding Fathers.

 

19. Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others – even the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit
If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans
Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time
Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is
Many persons strive for high ideals and everywhere life is full of heroism
Be yourself
Especially, do not feign affection, neither be cynical about love
For in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself
Be at peace with God
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world
Be cheerful
Strive to be happy
-The Desiderata

 

20. Milk is the universal beverage, going well with almost all meals and nearly any type of food.

 

21. Timing is everything and hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, we can all see situations, great & small, where a seemingly insignificant shift of time (a few minutes, a day or two, a month) made a notable difference.

 

22. It’s always about the money. Always.

 

23. The wussification of America, in which overly sensitive followers of political correctness have turned our nation into the United States of The Offended, is very real and very disturbing.

 

24. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.

 

25. There are three sides to every story – the two conflicting views of the parties involved, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

 

26. Creationism and evolution don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

 

27. To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a redeemed social condition, or a job well done
To know that even one other life has breathed because you lived
This is to have succeeded
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

28. There are three answers to a prayer: yes, no, & not right now.

 

29. Anyone who says they’ve never contemplated suicide, even if only very briefly, is either very fortunate or a liar.

 

30. If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise
If you can dream but not make dreams your master
If you can think but not make thoughts your aim
If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop and build them up with worn-out tools
If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss
And lose, and start again at your beginnings and never breathe a word about your loss
If you can force your heart and nerve and muscle to serve your turn long after they are gone
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue or walk with kings and not lose the common touch
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you
If people count on you, but none too much
If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it
And, which is more, you’ll be a man, my son
-Rudyard Kipling

 

31. Cigarettes & multiple tattoos/piercings decrease a woman’s attractiveness by atleast 50%.

 

32. There really is no place like home.

 

33. Don’t ever pray for patience, lest God give you plenty of opportunities to learn your lesson.

 

34. Life is a lot like the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away. It’s really just you, alone on an island, struggling against the elements. There may be many people in your life, but almost all are like the soccer ball Wilson…they keep you company and give you someone to talk to, but in the end they’re fake, full of hot air, and float away. In matters of survival (food, shelter, etc.) you can only really count on yourself.

 

35. If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t, it is almost certain you won’t
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind
If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before you can ever win a prize
Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can
— Unknown

 

 

 

 

Random Thoughts 4

The Pittsburgh Pirates have resumed residence in their familiar place, the cellar. That didn’t take long.

 

“The proportion of GM cars sold domestically and manufactured in those low-wage countries (Mexico, China, South Korea) will rise from 15 percent to 23 percent over the next five years, according to the figures contained in a 12-page presentation offered to lawmakers in response to their questions about overseas production.”


“General Motors is open to considering moving its headquarters from Detroit, selling off U.S. plants and even renegotiating parts of its restructuring plan with its major union.”

So….the bailout is going well I see. Idiots.

 

 

Note to Wanda Sykes: Being a minority trifecta (black, female, gay) and loud & obnoxious does not equal funny. Let’s face it, if she were a straight white man she’d be asking people if they want fries with that instead of getting a chance to perform for The President and wish Rush Limbaugh would die from kidney disease.

 

 

The new Star Trek film won’t make my list of Top 100 Movies at this time. I refuse to make snap judgments based on only one viewing. However, it is a spectacular movie…well written, lots of action, and spot on representations of familiar characters. The casting director deserves a medal.

 

 

Manny Ramirez. Moron.

 

 

I’m not a fan of meaningless apologies. I think it was Clinton that made a big deal about apologizing for slavery. Apologize to who? The people directly affected died 150 years ago. Recently some Jewish folks got themselves in an uproar because the Pope (who just so happens to be German) failed to apologize for The Holocaust during a visit to a Holocaust memorial. In the United States a person can lessen their prison sentence (and do some quality PR if they’re famous) by showing contrition. It’s all a bunch of politically correct superfluousness.

 

 

Word has it that 75 year old Shirley Jones…..of Partridge Family fame (and mother to Shaun Cassidy and stepmother of David Cassidy, both 70’s teen heartthrobs)…..may pose nude for Playboy. May I be the first to say “EWWWWWWWWW”.

 

 

President Obama still has a 66% approval rating. Why?? As previously noted, the bailout not only is a bad idea but it is NOT WORKING.

Defining Conservatism

I make no secret about my political ideology and my strong opinions on socioeconomic issues. I believe we are living in a society with an emergent laissez-faire “anything goes” attitude, and I find it disturbing. I’m not intolerant or narrow-minded by any means, but I do have standards and believe that, while most everything does have shades of grey, there are still some absolutes that should not be so casually thrown on the brush pile.

 

The problem that we run into, not surprisingly, is politics. Much like faith and God that is pure and pristine until we pesky humans insert our…well, humanity…into the process, many of the issues we face in our world are straightforward, with obvious boundaries, until selfishness and greed enter the picture. When so-called public servants and special interests become involved their egos and craving for power seem to muddy the waters and blur that delineation between right and wrong.

 

Fortunately for me I have no such elected position nor do I crave any sort of power or prestige. I am what I am, know what I know, and think what I think. I am past that stage in life when others’ opinions matter all that much. Therefore, while the politicians are busy doing whatever it takes to get re-elected and the “mainstream” media is sticking to their script and duping the masses, I can be honest.

 

The first thing we need to do is throw two terms, maybe three, out the window. Those words are Democrat, Republican, and I would include Independent. They are all political titles, and they are meaningless. The assumption is that one can assume what an elected official believes and how they will conduct themselves based on party affiliation, but that assumption just doesn’t hold water. Make no mistake, politicians are in business for only one person…..themselves. They do not truly represent you, and if you are under the mistaken impression that they do you are naïve. And as far as Independents go, well…..I have no respect for anyone who is too weak to take a position, to declare what they, atleast in theory, stand for. All these hacks try to have their cake and eat it too, but Independents aren’t even smart enough to pretend to represent anything specific.

 

I am not recommending withdrawal from the political process at all. It’s the best we have, the best in the world as a matter of fact, and we must deal within the system to shape and mold the country. I’m not even a fan of third parties, as they have proven to be ineffectual and a waste of time. For the purpose of full disclosure I will happily acknowledge that I am a registered Republican. But my point is that it is an ever increasingly empty association.

 

Devastated by the double whammy of losing Congress and the White House, the Republican Party is now busying itself with trying to re-brand, remake, re-image, etc. What that truly means is that they are willing to sacrifice their principles and do whatever it takes to achieve victory and regain their power starting in 2010. However, the folks in charge of this rebuilding effort need to exercise caution. They have been fooled into believing that they need to shift to the center, that the country is closer to the left than the right. I do not completely disagree. As I said, we are living in an anything and everything goes culture. But I also believe that this shift has been skewed by population disparities, substantial manipulation by the undeniable force of the pervasive entertainment industry, and a growing detachment in Average America where people feel disenfranchised, overlooked, and underappreciated and have therefore just withdrawn from the whole process. All a Presidential candidate has to do is win the extremely liberal northeast U.S. and California and they are nearly a lock to win. So why would anyone in Tennessee, The Dakotas, or Missouri give a damn?? The politicians don’t care about them anyway.

 

I believe that conservatism is still alive and well in America. It’s just confused and hurt and hiding, like a child that has run away into the woods after catching Mommy having some play time with a strange man while Daddy is out of town on business. I am here to woo that child back, to say it’s okay and that Mommy just made a mistake that she’ll regret but that it’s not your fault. In order to make sense of the confusion and hysteria we need to clearly define conservative principles.

 

Conservatism is often misinterpreted as narrow-minded, stuffy, old fashioned, and stuck in the past. This is an unfortunate obstacle. Even more regrettable is being thought of as racist, homophobic, arrogant, and greedy. I have never really understood these stereotypes. I do not know one single conservative that fits that description. That’s not to say that we are perfect, but rather to point out that the success with which the liberal media has painted conservatism with such a broad and malevolent brush is astonishing. I don’t claim to speak for everyone everywhere, but I do feel confident in outlining my beliefs and asserting that they represent the core values of the average conservative. While I think it is wrong to say we are against progress and dislike change, I do believe it is accurate to assess that we have respect for tradition and seek to defend the boundaries of common sense, liberty, and the basic foundations upon which America was built.

 

Conservatism stands for limited government. Government has its purpose. Unfortunately that purpose has been exceeded a thousand times over. I realize sometimes people need a little help, some assistance to get back on their feet. But the welfare state that currently exists is unbelievable. If government would get out of the way and let people figure things out themselves we’d all be better off. Giving people handouts their whole life is not helpful, it’s destructive. By extension we also realize that nationalized health care would be an unmitigated disaster and that education would improve dramatically if government bureaucracy was not involved.

 

Conservatism is NOT racist. The spin that has been put on this issue is amazing. Liberals are the true racists, holding minorities down by tricking them into believing that they need help, that they cannot achieve success on their own merits, that anyone not willing to give them that which they have not earned hates them, that the world owes them something because of how their ancestors were mistreated. Liberals have used social programs as a pawn to buy the votes of minorities for decades. Conservatives are the ones who have faith that people can build a good life for themselves through hard work and effort no matter what the color of their skin may be.

 

Conservatives believe in capitalism and lower taxes. I grew up with a typical liberal family in a typical liberal small town and state. The class envy and hatred of anyone who has “more” is mindboggling. There is instant jealousy and disdain of “rich people”. This type of resentment has lead to the quasi-socialism that Americans are lapping up like deprived wild animals right now. But the bottom line is that lower taxes leads to economic growth, which in turn leads to job opportunities, which then provide a better quality of life all the way around. I know that is a simplistic explanation. I don’t claim to be an economics sage, but I know that things like redistribution of wealth and leveling the playing field backfire in the long run. Life isn’t fair and so those who constantly lecture about equality and fairness just need to shut up.

 

Conservatives believe in God. I talk about separation of church and state in another discourse here at The Manofesto. However, suffice to say that conservatism believes in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Contrary to some opinions there are rules in life, there are limits. It’s shocking to me how some of the most extreme views have become not only accepted but are lovingly embraced. I will also say that some of these sorts of issues, like gay marriage and abortion, are probably better left to individual states to decide. That gives people some choice as to where they may or may not prefer to live depending on how strongly they believe in or are affected by something in particular. This seems to be what is happening with gay marriage, but unfortunately was not done with abortion.

 

Conservatives interpret The Constitution as it is written. That means we support the right to keep and bear arms and the due process of law, among other things. The Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to “loose interpret” The Constitution, and that has lead to many of our current problems.

 

Conservatives don’t hate the environment or animals. We do tend to look at those issues pragmatically. Animals do not and should not have human-like rights. Some, like cats and dogs, were meant to be faithful companions. Others, like chickens and deer, were meant to be killed and eaten. If someone has the means to buy a mink coat then why shouldn’t they? What else are minks good for? As for the environment, there is evidence to support some of the climate change concern, but far from enough to give credibility to the hysteria that the left has had unfortunate success creating. God made this planet and He won’t allow us to destroy it. It is arrogant to believe we have that much clout. Environmentalism, much like race politics, is just another way of controlling people who aren’t wise enough to realize they’re being duped.

 

This is far from a comprehensive analysis of conservatism. It’s just a small but focused overview of what it means, atleast in theory. So while the Republican Party is wringing their hands trying to figure out a way to win elections and gain back their beloved power, maybe they should try to remember what it is they are instead of what others are trying to force them to become.

 

 

Reality and the Negative Spirit

(The following is reprinted from a post that first appeared in the original Manofesto over on MySpace on 9/20/08)


* Pragmatism is defined as “a practical approach to problems and affairs”.

* A realist has “concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary”.

* Optimism is the “inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome”.

* Pessimism is the “inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome”.

* Negativity is “marked by denial, prohibition, or refusal, marked by absence, withholding, or removal of something positive”.

I give these definitions as a foundation for this particular invective because I reject each and every one of them. Each of these concepts is fundamentally flawed. By the end of today’s experience I hope to have the outline of a new philosophical approach, one that I can live with, one I will egotistically refer to as Samism.

Pragmatism offers the “practical approach”, which is fine for a lot of life’s issues. It is certainly better than sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring a problem. However, it leaves no room for faith. It leaves no room for whimsy. It leaves no room for overcoming obstacles and achieving the impossible. It leaves no room for hope. I don’t like that at all. It may be the intelligent approach to life, but it’s also a rather somber and gloomy point of view.

I’ve always said I wasn’t a pessimist nor an optimist, but a realist. However, I am officially changing that attitude. Why? Well, look at the definition. A realist has no vision, which means they have no imagination. That too is a rather depressing outlook on life.

Optimism and pessimism are polar opposites of each other, and both are an illusion. One anticipates the worst possible outcome; one anticipates the best possible outcome. There are a couple different difficulties there. First of all, either way there is anticipation. I understand it is difficult not to anticipate, to think ahead, to worry and wonder how something is going to turn out. But it’s a losing proposition. If one always anticipates the worst possible outcome all the joy and happiness of life just dissipates into thin air. If one anticipates the best possible outcome they are setting themselves up for heartache and disappointment when things don’t go well. Secondly, anyone over the age of 5 has likely figured out, to varying degrees of awareness, that the upshot of a situation is most often neither the worst case scenario nor the best, most perfect solution. Life just doesn’t work that way. Does the absolute worst possible thing sometimes happen? Sure. Does something good, even better than the best thing one had hoped for, sometimes occur? Absolutely. But life usually isn’t that simple. The concepts of optimism and pessimism would dictate that, on a scale of 1 to 100, the result will always be either 1 or 100. An intelligent being with any type of life experience knows that is nearly impossible. It is extremely rare for one extreme or the other to transpire.

Negativity I suppose could be lumped in with pessimism. But I examine it separately for this reason…it is more active than pessimism. Pessimism is an attitude. Negativity integrates effort. By definition it requires one to “deny, prohibit, refuse, withhold, and remove”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of work to me, and I’m far too languid for such a task.

All this deep introspection comes as a result of becoming fed up with negative, pessimistic, unimaginative, unenthusiastic, downtrodden forces within my orbit. I’m just tired of it. I am a person with a physical disability. I was raised with love and kindness, proper discipline, and a certain level of support, though I am at a point in my life where I realize I wasn’t challenged and uplifted as much as might have been possible. I am coming to grips with the fact that I have been influenced by dark forces that have, to a degree, shaped my life in a way that has limited me and had a negative impact on my emotional health and social productivity. Are some of these issues a result of my own shortcomings, mistakes, and attitudes? There’s no doubt about that. But it saddens me when I realize just how low the expectations of others are and continue to be about the possibilities not only of my life, but of life in general. When I look back I can see I was really only encouraged in the area of academia. Thankfully I was always an inquisitive, creative, nerdy kid who enjoyed school and learned things with relative ease. I was always expected to do well in school, get good grades, make the honor roll, etc. And that I did. As a result, I’m perfectly content with sedentary pursuits such as reading, being online, listening to music, and watching television. My intellectual curiosity has never been absent, and for that I am thankful. It is no one’s fault but my own that I have not used these skills and aptitudes to their maximum potential. That being said though, it must also be stated that phrases like “the shape you’re in” and “it’s all work” permeate my environment. It’s been pounded into my skull over and over and over again that I have “two strikes” against me. I suppose in a way this was done as a way to protect me from harsh disappointment and rejection and to make sure I understood clearly the challenges I would face. While I appreciate the shelter and the love with which it was undoubtedly intended, I am only now beginning to fully grasp, too late I suspect, the consequences of such a guarded and trepidatious path.

But I don’t want to make this all about me. I know there are many others that have been held down in one way or another for various reasons by well meaning people or possibly by not so well meaning people who knew full well what they were doing and had selfish reasons for doing it. Most of us are products of our environment, and whether it’s an individual, a neighborhood, a family, or a town full of the oppressed and demoralized, negativity breeds negativity and vice versa. So, what to do?

I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. However, I suppose a good way to begin is to train our mind, and for the purposes of the present discourse we must start with discarding all the old definitions I previously mentioned. Don’t be a pragmatist…it forces you to crush dreams and have no faith. Don’t be a realist…it eliminates vision. Don’t be an optimist…you will be disappointed often. Don’t be a pessimist…it destroys hope. Don’t engage in negativity…it uses far too much unconstructive energy. Be a Samist. The question is, what the heck is that? Well…..

Samism addresses problems, issues, and concerns head on in an intelligent manner. Samism has vision but engages that vision with reason and common sense. Samism recognizes that having expectations is unavoidable but seeks to employ critical thinking to temper such expectations so they do not lean to one extreme or another. Samism is open minded enough to welcome possibilities. Samism has faith in an omnipotent and just God that allows us the free will to screw up, grants us grace when we do fall short, and desires a relationship with us so we can learn better each day how to get it right. Samism believes in dreams but doesn’t allow one to be crushed by their weight.

This is a work in progress and the final working definition will most assuredly evolve. I just know that changing one’s own mindset is a jumping off point for changing one’s life, which is a jumping off point for changing the lives of others and the world around you.

The Catcher in the Rye

“Must we go on with this inane conversation?” someone inquires of Holden Caulfield at one point in The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a question I recall asking myself a few times back when I read the book.

 

I suppose maybe I read the book too late to really “get it”, too late in my life and too late in the history of our nation and world. For some reason I didn’t read it until I was an adult. I went to high school in the 1980’s, and even though political correctness was in its embryonic stage Catcher had already been deemed too scandalous for young ears.

 

That “scandal” is, in my opinion, what has really vaulted Catcher to its abstract significance. It has given the book an undeserved level of prestige. We tend to embrace the forbidden, to be drawn to the esoteric. Telling teenagers that a book has been banned gives that book a one way ticket to Coolsville and makes the youngsters want to read it that much more. Unfortunately in this case the controversy is much ado about nothing. From my viewpoint it seems like a bunch of uptight wet blankets got themselves in an uproar about some “damns” and “hells” and various instances of taking The Lord’s name in vain. I’m not saying these are good things by any means, but I am suggesting perspective. Banning The Catcher in the Rye from…well, anywhere…..while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the garbage that has been appearing on our televisions and movie screens with increasing quantity and intensity over the past couple of decades seems somewhat misguided.

 

The book itself is an easy read…..too easy as a matter of fact. The first time I read it I kept waiting for the symbolism, foreshadowing, and other hallmarks of great literature. I pegged Holden Caulfield as a Shakespearean tragic hero with a fatal flaw in the mold of Macbeth or King Lear. I assumed there had to be some reason why many thought of this as such a great novel. All I got for my intellectual effort was a reminder of what happens when one assumes.

 

The “hero” Caulfield is just an irksome and petulant bundle of neuroses. I suspect that if I’d done my academic duty when I was supposed to, at around age 14 or 15, I might have more closely identified with the whole angst vibe, the sense of being perpetually unimpressed and underwhelmed by everything and everyone. But it’s amazing what a difference a decade or so can make. Two decades really changes the game. As cynical as I can be, as adept as I am at openly mocking the absurdity in our world, even I find Holden Caulfield to be a bit much. He’s the kind of galling personality that in “real life” would have people just waiting with fervent anticipation for him to fall on his face. It’s difficult to like Holden or feel any semblance of compassion for his plight. He does have a tendency to accurately see through the speciousness of others, one of his few redeeming qualities.

 

I don’t dislike The Catcher in the Rye. It’s a decent, well written story. I don’t feel like the time I spent reading it (and re-reading it years later) was necessarily wasted. I’m just of the opinion that those who deem it as one of the best books ever written are giving gravitas to something unworthy of their passion.

100 Favorite Movies…96-100

Before we begin, I feel the need to clarify my thoughts on something. A list like this isn’t easy to assemble. I don’t mean that it is difficult in the grand scheme of life. Certainly there are more important issues that we deal with on a daily basis, and there are deeper things on which we can spend our time pondering. But quite frankly I find people who are unable to relax and have fun just a tad bit irritating. How one spends “down time” is an individual choice, and in 21st century America we have an abundance of options. I am fully aware that some folks are movie buffs and some find such entertainment mundane and beneath the pedestal upon which they have placed themselves. The latter group will find this list uninteresting. So be it. But the armchair critics and couch potatoes among you will hopefully find my choices worth the read, and will also appreciate the delicate complexity involved. So without further adieu…..the first five choices on the list:

 

 

 

100 Caddyshack
AFI rated the Bill Murray/Chevy Chase classic ode to golf and class warfare at #71 on their 100 Greatest Comedies list. I suppose a lot of folks would have it rated higher on their list and mine. Sometimes I think enjoyment of a movie is all about timing. Where one first sees the film and under what circumstances, how many times they’ve seen it, what year it came out in relation to the viewer’s age, and other correlations. I was only 8 when Caddyshack was in theaters, and it was Rated R. But many people have come to adore it through the magic of television and video, and there are older films that I find immensely pleasurable, so the timing issue doesn’t fully explain why I rate it dozens of spots lower than the majority likely would. I also believe that everyone’s sense of humor is different and that we “get” certain things while others just go completely over our head. Bill Murray is someone whose humor just never really bowled me over, and his legendary performance in Caddyshack made his career. Actually, I would go so far as to say it IS his career. Anyway, I do enjoy the movie which is why it’s on the list. I just may not enjoy it as much as you do. And the sequel that was made eight years later which is disparaged by most, especially fans of the original…..well, I don’t think it’s all that bad, probably because I don’t have the first one on such a high pedestal.

 

99 E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
It wasn’t Spielberg’s first venture into the world of sci-fi (remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind??), but it is his most beloved. This is a perfect example of circumstances shaping one’s opinion. I’m not positive that E.T. was the first movie I ever saw in a theater, but I distinctly remember seeing it in a theater with my mother and sister, and I know it’s one of only three movies (we’ll get to the other two much later in this process) that have ever brought tears to my eyes.

 

98 Fast Times At Ridgemont High
If one needed to procure items for a 1980’s time capsule a copy of Fast Times would be a must. It is the quintessential high school flick and launched the careers of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, and Eric Stoltz. There are 3 Academy Award winners in that list ladies and gentlemen. That’s impressive. I’m not a Sean Penn fan by any means, but with Spicoli he created one of the most original and enduringly funny characters in American cinema. And if Phoebe Cates never does another thing in her life (and let’s be honest…..her career after Fast Times hasn’t exactly been noteworthy), she will be immortal to generations of randy teenage boys who’ll never forget her coming out of that pool.

 

97 Risky Business
Once upon a time Tom Cruise was the living breathing definition of cool, and this is where it all began. Sure, he’d been in some other quasi-memorable flicks (Taps, Losin’ It, The Outsiders, Endless Love), but the roles were all pretty insignificant. With Risky Business, a tale about a high school boy-next-door type turning his house into a brothel while his parents are away on vacation, Cruise burst onto the scene and over 25 years later is still around. One key element to a good movie can be a memorable scene or two, and all anyone has to say to evoke a smile when it comes to Risky Business is “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” or “El Train”. That kind of positive notoriety is the envy of about 99% of all entertainment produced these days.

 

96 School of Rock
I typically shy away from holding newer movies in any kind of high esteem. I like to see if it has staying power, if it’ll make me laugh or give me as much pleasure the tenth time I’ve seen it as it did the first time I watched. There are exceptions to the rule though. I like Jack Black. He’s funny and creative. Put him in a role where there’s good music involved (and good music is the central backdrop of School of Rock) and the combination is irresistible.

Random Thoughts 3

The defection of Senator Arlen Specter to the Democrat Party is much ado about nothing. The man has never been a conservative…..he just finally decided to make it official.

 

I find it amusing when I belch and my puppy sticks his nose up to my mouth to sniff.

 

Tony Bennett is one of the greatest singers of all time, but he really needs to keep his political opinions to himself, lest he come across as a senile old man with a sub-Forrest Gump IQ.

 

I recently gave pineapple on my pizza a whirl. It’s okay.

 

So for the cost of a cup of coffee one can help build water wells and such in some kids Third World neighborhood. How about this…. just send the kid a plane ticket to get him/her out of that rat infested nation and into civilization.

 

RIP Bea Arthur, Jack Kemp, & Danny Gans

 

Jeff Zeleny, a reporter from the New York Times, should be fired immediately. He needs to be working in a Pottery Barn or Starbucks. If you have no idea what I mean Google the name or look for it on YouTube. No wonder newspapers are becoming obsolete.

 

Personally, I’m not losing any sleep over this swine flu thing.

 

Separation of Church & State

Little White Church

How much longer until our churches are deemed illegal??

It all started with some well meaning church folk and a big hunk of cheese.

Let’s jump right into this controversial issue by stating as fact that “separation of church and state” as applied and attributed to The United States of America is a complete myth. That phrasing is never used in The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or any other official document. When Thomas Jefferson made a passing reference in a letter to “the wall of separation”, he was specifically referring to The 1st Amendment to The Constitution, which simply says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Of course it goes on to talk about the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. But the part that we’re specifically concerned with is what’s commonly known as The Establishment Clause.

There are two things that jump out at me when I read The Establishment Clause. First, the main focus was anxiety about the federal government declaring an official religion. The people that came here from England had gone through a lot. Britain was a place that went back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism, depending on who was wearing the crown. The prevailing religious doctrine changed merely on the whim of a monarch, and the people had no choice in the matter. Not following the rules set forth by The King or Queen had dire consequences. The founders of the New World, what became The United States of America, wanted freedom to worship God the way they chose, not the way the government dictated. Secondly, the latter part, the part that seems to be so conveniently ignored these days, specifically says that the right to freely exercise this freedom to worship God shall not be prohibited. So why is it that our government, and more specifically The Supreme Court, has done nothing but try to prohibit (or at the very least inhibit) the free exercise of religion?

When did freedom of religion evolve into freedom from religion? We’ve become The United States of the Offended over the course of the past couple of decades. We get ourselves in an uproar over the irrelevant issues but fail to defend the most significant of our freedoms. The “separation” battle has gone so far that we have people fighting to eradicate any and all mentions of God, such as “In God We Trust” on our currency and the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. It’s insanity, and most certainly not what our Founding Fathers intended. They wanted the citizens of this country to decide for themselves how to worship God.

There is no disputing that nearly all the men that laid the foundation of this country were Godly men. They may have followed an assortment of doctrines, but generally speaking all believed in God. For the most part these gentlemen were deists or Unitarians. I will not go in depth on either subject, as I trust my readers’ ability to research such topics if they so choose, but suffice to say that our Founding Fathers believed in God even if they weren’t followers of Christ and were somewhat suspicious of organized religion and “church” as an earthly construct.

So if it can be agreed upon that men like Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed in God and that any philosophical departures were more dogma-centered, why then should God be eliminated from our daily lives?? Christians believe in God. Muslims believe in God. Jews believe in God. Even Eastern religions believe in God in some form, though they may define it differently than what is generally accepted in our hemisphere.

The only people who don’t seem to believe in God in any form are atheists. Depending on what source one chooses to rely on, atheists are about 10% of the U.S. population. Consider this…..about 7% of Americans are vegetarian, yet every town big and small has a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. If someone is a vegetarian they simply don’t eat at those places. Or maybe the more tolerant among that group are able to sit in a restaurant and have lunch with a friend or co-worker who is consuming meat of some sort while they stick to fruits and veggies. Why can’t atheists practice this broadness of mind??

Now I know what some would say…..it’s easy to avoid meat because there are other choices on the menu, but this circumvention isn’t possible when it comes to God. I will concede the point only when it comes to money. Everyone, atheists and believers alike, must make use of the same currency that evokes the name of God. But this is where my indignation kicks in. First of all, it’s ONE thing. That’s it atheists?? That’s all you got?? Secondly, I once again reiterate that we are talking about 1o% of the population. We are a democratic society. And while that does mean that every vote theoretically counts, it also means that the majority rules. I am sick and tired of kowtowing to people who are outnumbered more than 10 to 1. Get over yourselves. If you’re in any kind of contest imaginable and you are over-matched by those odds, you lose. Life isn’t a Rocky movie. Not all underdogs are lovable and most really don’t stand a chance.

Why then have we gotten to the point in 21st century America where The Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed in a courthouse and employees are told to utilize the term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?? The answer is easy: The Supreme Court. The Court’s job was meant to be interpretation of the law, but somehow it has evolved into actively making law, sometimes even superseding The Constitution. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the issue of separation of church and state. As previously stated, the only thing in the original documents that formed the framework of the country that even alludes to the issue at hand is the 1st Amendment to The Constitution, and we’ve already examined this so called Establishment Clause. It clearly was meant to prevent a national religion and ensure each individual’s right to worship God without government interference. However, The Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to loosely “interpret” this clause to justify all kinds of lunacy. In direct contradiction to what our esteemed forefathers meant to happen, religious freedom is being hindered, not supported.

I fear that this is a Pandora’s Box that we will never be able to get under control. Things like eliminating prayer in school have stretched beyond the school day to the point where invocations are no longer allowed at events like graduations and football games. Christmas trees aren’t allowed anywhere near government buildings. The mere mention of God or allusions to anything remotely religious in any type of public setting seems to create a paranoid hysteria, albeit among a decided minority. Of course, as was mentioned, our society seems to bend over backward to please these vocal fringe groups, and therein lies the problem.

Whatever happens, however far we spiral downward into the abyss of Godlessness, just know that it wasn’t supposed to be this way, no matter what anyone says.