Friday, July 29, 2005

Top 100 List of the Week

High School Music Teacher For Dummies

Chapter One: Don't Give the Scared, New Kid the French Horn.

I was new to a middle school (strike one), a little awkward (strike two) and in band class I wanted to play the trumpet but was assigned the French horn (steeeerike three! You're out!). Of course this ended up being a horrific, life-changing experience for me. There's nothing quite like struggling with scales on the French Horn in front of half the 6th grade.

For some reason I started thinking about this today. In hindsight, my middle school band teacher lacked common sense. You don't give the scared, new kid the French Horn to play in band class. You give him the trumpet so he can get a leg up. But this man, Mr. Walters, who himself probably had a horrible school experience, wanted the brass band to sound good. Of course, even after all his positioning and strategy, it sounded like ass. Probably in no small part to the frustrated boy in puberty blasting away on the French Horn.

My theory is, let people play what they want to play. If the entire band were trumpets, go with it and make it work. Isn't this kind of a maxim for life as well? Doesn't it cause more problems for people when you frustrate them and force them to be something they're not, setting them up for failure? Society is a harsh place, sometimes. Senator Rick Santorum was on the "Daily Show" the other night promoting his new book "It Takes a Family" talking about trying to fit everyone into the same mold. It made me think that it would be hard to be one of those people that doesn't fit in to that mold because of lifestyle or preferences, regulated to play the French horn in the band.

That fateful day when I was assigned, Mr. Walters, unknowingly, sent my life on a irrevocable course. He helped make me into the passive-aggressive, scared of new groups, man that I am today. It's not easy being a 6th grader where all the students run around in some kind of crack-induced haze because their chemicals are out of balance. There's extreme pressure to be a macho, sports-loving, aggressive alpha-male. Call me crazy but the girl next to me who played French Horn went on to be high-school valedictorian.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Join the Army, Climb Rocks

The Army is coming to the Saint Louis area to drum up some fresh recruits for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I should say at the out-set that I am not against a career in the military. Defense is the US's leading area of spending, and believe me there's not only money, but education to be gained by a military career. And, put 20 years in and you get a pension. You can't say that for many jobs. You can see the world, help your country and get free health-care and housing. It sounds like a good deal. So, why does the military need to employ computer games (America's Army), bass-pumping music, and rock-climbing towers to lure young men into the fold?

Well, that's probably because, if you sign up now and learn how to fire a weapon, you stand a good chance of being sent to a little place I like to call Iraq.

To research new recruiting tactics I came across this article by Capt. Steve Alvaraz,, off the web page Interestingly enough, the Tech Sergeant in the article is the same one who once screwed up my records and basically de-railed any potential career I would have had in the Air Force. I do owe him thanks for that.

Reading it over, you can see how your tax dollars are being spent to enlist 18-35 year old males for the cause. In an Air Force recruiting area you might see a $150,000 custom-built motorcycle that serves no defense function, but is commissioned by the Air Force. Obviously, it serves as an ice breaker to young men high on testosterone. It also serves to be a public relations coup for families. The Army employs its own traveling display that includes a rock-climbing wall, a flight simulator, computer games, and personalized dog-tag machines.

I can't think of another career with as many opportunities as the military. I can say that it turned my life around. But I was not fooled into joining. I did not climb a rock wall, lured in to thinking that the military was going to be like playing war in my back yard as a kid. It's serious business and I wish it would be treated as such rather than a form of seduction. Does the fire department let 18 year-olds climb all over a shiny red fire truck, spray the fire hose, or blare the siren? Probably not. To be a fireman probably involves a somber discussion by a responsible adult about how that career can be great, but it can also take your life. The military can give you a lot if you know what you want to get. If you're in it for the rock-climbing, you're probably in for a rude awakening.

The argument will be made that the military is doing the same thing corporate America does to enlist 18-35 year olds to spend their money: make it flashy, make it cool. The difference is if an 18 year old buys Levis he's maybe lost some money. But joining the military is sobering to say the least and I would think it would be in its best interest to recruit only those who are prepared. Clever tactics or dishonesty? Both walk a fine line. But, when lives are on the line, I think we should error on the side of caution.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Focusing on Families

Dr. James Dobson took a break from focusing on families to become a legal pundit on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

"Judge Roberts is an unquestionably qualified attorney and judge with impressive experience in government and the private sector. He has demonstrated at every stop on his career path the legal acumen, judicial temperament and personal integrity necessary to be a Supreme Court justice."

Did you happen to see Roberts' family on TV last night? They do look as American as apple pie. They look peeled right out of a Normon Rockwell painting. The son, God bless him, was wearing saddle shoes. This is probably the type of America Dobson envisions.

CNN and Fox News dug up every Washington lawyer they could find. One was practically giddy. He couldn't stop smiling as he recalled his fraternity days with John Roberts, and oh what a wonderful, brilliant man he is. Suddenly my girlfriend bust out, "These people don't know how 90% of America lives. Look at them, yakking it up, laughing. " Then she started making wild arm gestures and mock laughter "Haha...John Roberts...haha...Harvard...haha...abortion...." It was inasne and funny and accurate. Roberts, Dobson, Bush, do not know how the other half lives.

I was listening to the radio and heard a husband and wife "talking" to each other. They were recalling how the used to argue and then they realized they were just praying on each other's "fear factors". I thought they sounded crazy until I discovered I was listening to Focus on the Family. Is that an ideal marriage? An exercise in avoiding "fear factors" and applying fake and flowery rhetoric? Is that how we're supposed to live our lives? The husband sounded like a tool, completely emasculated. The wife sounded like she read a new marriage-help book every week. I suppose everyone's lack of confidence about how to conduct themselves in life or relationships leads to that kind of thing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Doublespeak of the Week

I have no doubt that future political scientists will study, with neophytic zeal, President Bush's 2004 election victory. A victory complete with such stunning tricks as turning a decorated Vietnam veteran into someone who shamed his country and making that same person into a flip-flopping, second-guessing ninny.

Of course it was Bush, a man who never experienced combat, who was painted as the veteran troop commander. It was also Bush, himself an experienced flip-flopper, who came across as the decisive leader. Yes, he was decisive about the big decision: invading Iraq. Even though this is a decision which history will prove him wrong about, much like history later exonerated all of those who protested for our withdrawal from Vietnam. Bush, in danger of going into the red on public support for invading Iraq to find phantom WMDs, later changed his rational to installing democracy and removing Saddam, all the while desperately trying to tie Iraq to 9/11. Faced with mountains of evidence, or lack of evidence, Bush has indeed proven decisive, though most would say stubborn.

And here we are with his latest flip-flop: what to do about the man he nicknamed "Turd Blossom". Yeah, Karl Rove. At first Bush said, decisively, that he would fire the person found to be the leak. Now, he says he will fire the person if he has committed a crime. Of course those are two different things and the reason is because the person who leaked the info is his good buddy Rove. Is the White House changing its story to fit the prevailing political wind? Wow, I didn't see that ploy coming! Of course, the 55 million who voted for him probably care less and gladly rejoice in the verbal abuse. Although, there are those confused 5-10% who, since the election, have abandoned approval of the President, although I'm not sure what they've been recently surprised about.

If Bill Clinton can be investigated and practically impeached for a sex scandal can I expect the same diligence for a national security issue such as this? I'm not holding my breath. I think if this country had its eye on national security issues we would have learned the lessons of Vietnam and not trusted it's fighting young men to a waffler.

Stay tuned for more smoke and mirrors as Bush announces his Supreme Court pick tonight. I predict more ire from the religious right.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Reaping What You Sow

This post has been written for the Biblically impaired (read: knee-jerk fundamentalists).

Fundamentalists who re-elected President Bush should be familiar with this saying: "A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7). Unfortunately, the rest of us have to reap what they are busy sewing as well. It's kind of like my favorite bumper-sticker: "Jesus loves me; everyone else thinks I'm an asshole." Amen, bumper-sticker. Amen.

What I'm talking about is the latest, most blatant abuse of power and public trust thus far by an administration that has already cornered that market. Karl Rove as the Valerie Plame leak? And now a Cheney aide as the second leak? (

Watching the Sunday morning news, it seems evident (and not surprising) that most people are not aware of the facts of this story. Plame is the wife of Joseph Wilson, who was the top US Diplomat in Iraq at the start of the Iraq war. The CIA sent Wilson to check out intelligence that the government of Niger had sold yellowcake uranium to Iraq for nuclear weapons. The chief rationale for the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 was that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Of course Wilson found no such evidence and even criticized the Bush administration for its lack of evidence to go to war. He was silenced, and his wife's name was leaked, even though she was a CIA agent. Knowingly leaking such a name is considered treason. How did her name get out? It turns out Rove and Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff, apparently had something to do with it.

Criminal or just plain stupid? Probably a lot of both but I'm going to with-hold judgment until all the facts are in. Honestly, it's been all I could do to keep from commenting when Rove's name surfaced. I suppose it would be too much to expect that Bush be true to his word about firing the leak(s) once they are found, and being as diligent about catching criminals among his own staff as he is about killing Iraqis.

I suppose in some way this is how every church works, isn't it? The sinners in their midst, the yeast infecting the entire batch, goes overlooked while chosen canvas society looking for the next heathen to convert. Much like the Pharisees I suppose who were convicted by Jesus of traveling over land and sea to find a convert only to make them hell-bound (Matthew 23:15).

And every good church needs its tough-talking minister to lead the confused sheep around. And that role is played nicely by our president, George Bush. Unfortunately, Bush, like many ministers I've worked with, is in it for himself. He likes the attention and the power, but when it comes to making decent, pragmatic decisions, it rarely adds up.

So, we can probably add this to a growing bushel of fruit produced by this hard-core Christian president and appointed staff. But most who vote for him are unwilling to recognize it as it really is. They have surrendered their higher-thinking for rhetoric that makes them feel good. They sew the wind, and we all reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

Late-Summer Movie Round-Up, Update

Well, I was wrong about "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". It was good. Hey, I can't always be right.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Late-Summer Movie Round-Up

I wish I had thought of this a few months ago, starting with "Star Wars: Episode III" (which I liked). But now we enter into those timorous waters, the dumping ground of summer movies. It's kind of like that scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" where the Star Destroyer drops all its garbage before jumping to hyperspace. Hollywood is that Star Destroyer! So you don't get caught smelling like refuse I will now predict the remaining big summer movies.

6-24 "Bewitched" - BAD - come on.
7-8 "Fantastic Four" - BAD - it looks like it has the whole formula for comic book movies, so it will be too cliche and rehashed.
7-22 "Bad News Bears" - I want to say GOOD - Thornton revisits his "Bad Santa" guise, which was as good as gold.
7-29 "Stealth" - BAD
8-5 "Dukes of Hazard" - GOOD - I'm not sure, maybe it's just Jessica Simpson, but I'll probably go see it.
7-15 "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - BAD - Depp + Burton = Michael Jackson?
7-29 "Sky High" - GOOD - the name is terrible, but I liked the preview.
7-22 "The Island" - GOOD? - I have a big tolerance for sci-fi movies.
8-12 "Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo - BAD - Schneider should stick to cameos in Sandler films which shouldn't even be made.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rational Fears

I wish I had posted this a week ago, but I did mention it to one person so I have a "witness". Fear of terrorism is a rational thing. Today London's subway system was bombed by terrorists, killing 40 and injuring 300. It is yet another signal that terrorism is alive and well, and should be taken seriously.

I remember reading Democratic responses after George Bush's latest television speech. In the speech he incorrectly linked Iraq with September 11. The Democrats cried that Bush was using fear tactics to garner support. Well, of course the president will use the fear of terrorism for support, because it's a rational fear. Just as FDR would have been remiss if he would have waived off the Japanese threat after December 7, 1941.

Terrorism is a legitimate threat, and continues to be. It is not irrational to fear it. Some people board planes and claim they are not afraid of a terrorist hijacking it, and flying it into a building. But, I am not one of those people. I take my seat and I begin to wonder what I will do if the plane I am on is the one targeted to become a giant missile.

I joined the Air Force after 9/11 because I wanted to do something to keep my family safe. I remember watching what was happening in NYC and all I wanted to do was get my family in my sight again. I'd like to think that my contributions in some small way have helped avoid events in America, like the one that happened in London. But, of course, God only knows. Regardless, it is not the fear of terrorism that is the problem. It is how we solve the problem of terrorism.

The White House will point to the attacks in London and become ever-more staunch in their endeavor in Iraq. But maybe it's evidence that our endeavor is not working at all. Maybe our resources should be spent elsewhere. Either way, look for Bush and Blair to use this attack as a rallying point.

I'm no terrorism expert. I don't know how to change the average would-be terrorist to calm down and enjoy life. I suppose it's like it was when you were in high-school--highlighted in the movie "Bowling for Columbine". In high-school you have no reference, if life sucks you think it will suck forever. And so, bringing a gun to school starts to make some kind of sense. In the same sense I suppose, giving up your life for a greater cause makes sense when your own options seem so limited.

Some terrorists are well-educated, but most are just cannon fodder. They're recruited because they'll do exactly what they're told, with religious zeal. I suppose there's a flaw there in any type of single-minded fundamentalist, Christian or Muslim or Jewish or any other. I suppose you have to give those people more options so that they can't say "My goat herding job sucks, religious fanaticism sounds awfully good right about now." Somewhere at the creation of that explosion in London was a mind out of options.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Top Ten Sweatiest Cities

Florida works up a sweat in Old Spice's Top 100 Sweatiest Cities.

10. Fort Meyers, Fla
9. Orlando, Fla
8. Tampa, Fla
7. Houston, TX
6. West Palm Beach, Fla
5. Corpus Christi, TX
4. Miami, Fl
3. Tuscon, AZ
2. Las Vegas, NV
1. Phoenix, AZ

view the whole list here:

Thought of the Day

This time next year I'll be 30.

I have 730 blog hits after like two months? Hell, by now I figured I'd have the Eastern Seaboard or something.

Time to go stand on the street corner with a sign that says "Will Drop Pants For Food".

Be right back...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Iran Elects Conservative Hard-Liner, Washington Suspicious

It was a battle between liberal and conservative, and the conservative won amid accusations of election fraud. No, I am not talking about the 2000 or 2004 US presidential elections. I'm talking about Iran's June 25 presidential elections. The victory of the conservative Mohmoud Ahmadinejad over the moderate Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani completes conservative Islamists' takeover of all the branches of the Iranian government.
"He will turn this country into Taliban-land" one fearful citizen declared. "We are doomed."

Ahmadinejad has the reputation as a political opportunist and a religious fundamentalist. He is viewed as corrupt with a huge personal fortune. Who in their right mind would elect this type of person during such tumultuous times? Yes, he won. But how did he do it?

The previous president Hashemi Rafsanjani , the moderate opponent, received limited international support during his presidency. The European Union did not want to offend Iranian conservatives essential for trade. Meanwhile, the White House was busy turning Iran into a world community pariah ever since the revolution 26 years ago, culminating with President Bush's labeling of Iran as a member of the "axis of evil."

Apparently, Bush's approach played right into Iranian conservative's hands, preventing any reformist action while making conservative's look tough in the face of Western rhetoric. In light of this, Ahmadinejad's ultra-conservative views and tough talk resonated with voters. He has promised to resist "Western decadence", to build a "powerful modern Islamic Iran" and to continue Iran's nuclear program.

Of course Washington is trying to immediately dismiss the election as a fraud, much like it did with Ukraine's election of an ultra-conservative. When the American people elect a fanatical, tough-talking, right wing religious conservative to be president it is one thing. When Iran does it it's quite another. American's would never allow their leaders to abuse power, hurt innocent countries, and become uncooperative in the world community. Americans would never allow our country to let it's own self-interest run roughshod based on tough talk met only on at level of our own fears. We would never be placated or assuaged in that way. After-all, we have a free press to keep leaders in-line and get the facts, a system of checks and balances to prevent total take-over of government, and we have elections periodically to make sure inept or overly-aggressive leaders are removed.