Friday, June 29, 2012

Tiny Home

Quite frankly, I thought I'd be writing about the Supreme Court decision concerning the new healthcare law, but the news networks and my Facebook feed have been so clogged with content about the decision that I got a little sick of it. I will write about it in the coming days, but here is something completely un-healthcare related to keep you all interested in the meantime. A fascinating video about a highly motivated and initiative-grabbing young man.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Pellet With The Poison Is In The...

I decided to end this week with one of the funniest movie scenes ever. What Friday is complete without Danny Kay stumbling over himself to remember a ridiculous ditty that his life depends on? Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Cycle of Outrage

You know that something truly pathetic has occurred when news organizations begin reporting on each other.

On June 19th 2012, NBC News released a tape of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney sounding incredulous that a fast food establishment had a touchscreen system to order food. One simply had to order, print a reciept and pay, simple as that. The living proof that Mitt Romney, number one hated rich guy, was completely out of touch with the reality of our day-to-day middle class existence. To listen to the clip, you would have thought Romney had never been inside a Sheetz before.

Then Fox News jumped into the fray, running the entire clip of Romney's speech, demonstrating how NBC had conveniently edited out the part where Romney was comparing and contrasting the private and public sector's respective levels of innovation and ease of use. Romney's feigned incredulity was a sarcastic attempt to drive home the comparison.

As expected, the entire weight of the conservative pundit establishment came crashing down on NBC's head, one time slot and time zone at a time, everyone getting a chance to take a whack at the pinata and knock some commentary candy out. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Andy Dean; they all took their shots, throwing around terms like "unbelievable," "incredible," and of course the ever popular "outrageous." Their disgust was palpable and righteous.

Now, I will not deny that the edits were unprofessional, political, assinine, and completely dishonest. NBC has become infamous for such edits (George Zimmerman's 911 call suffered a similar fate) and anyone who honestly expects to hear straight-shooting newsmen from that organization might need a reality check. But I must ask all of these pundits and commentators one question, especially the Godfather: if you all "know liberals" so well, as you constantly claim, then why are you constantly surprised and outraged at the "liberal" things that they do?

The two sides fit together into an uncomfortably convenient yin-yang. Liberals throw a punch, conservatives thunder their disapproval and the crowds on both sides cheer with approbation. This is how it's done, right? One side makes a move, the other lashes out, the first counter-lashes, and so on.  Some would call it the free "exchange of ideas." Others would say it is just the way politics happens to work: if you don't have a thick skin then get out. I have a different opinion of what I would like to call the 'cycle of outrage:' it's stupid, childish, and unproductive.

I can think of several reasons that this has become the norm. One is that liberals and conservatives have come to think of themselves as inherently different kinds of creatures, each adhering to a set of principles they believe to be completely mutually exclusive. This very nicely sets the stage for the scene we see daily: an endless and tiresome series of shouting matches in which no real ideas or concepts are actually exchanged between hermetically sealed minds. At least sales of identity theft protection go up in the meantime.

Another reason is that outrage, as a form of sensationalism, sells extremely well. Take a look at The Bachelor if in doubt of this fact. Or Jane Velez Mitchell's show. Or Glenn Beck's programming. Or Fox News. Or The Neal Boortz Show as the best example. The common thread is the peddling of outrage, the churning up of emotion for emotion's sake. Most of the people pushing outrage know that it makes the listening public feel like they care about the issues. A little like the so-called "armchair activists" who push "Like" on Facebook in support of their favorite cause. It is easy to replace righteous anger with simple outrage.

Speaking of righteous anger, let's look at this problem in the moral realm to gain some perspective, as any mass appeal to human emotion must have some moral component. I am thinking in particular of the only religious and moral authority that tackles the problem of sin with head-on directness, the Catholic Church. The priests of the Church perform one specific function on a regular basis, in my opinion the most fascinating of the sacraments the Church administers, the sacrament of Reconciliation. It involves a priest sitting in a confessional box or room for countless hours listening to penitents recite the evils they have performed. By the time the five hundred thousandth person has confessed that they gossiped or slandered someone, a priest has got to have a different perspective on the nature of sin. It has become boring. At all costs, for the sake of the devil's cause, sin must never become boring or else it loses its allure. 

Where am I going with this? Specifically this: evil is dull. Human beings doing evil, malicious, and callous things are dull. An opponent with no new tricks to play is dull. It is not that people should not be called out on the evil they perform, but that in an entirely cynicism-free way we should hardly be surprised by it. One of the most effective techniques I know to help someone who pours out their troubles to me is to remain unsurprised in the face of those troubles. It is easy to shoot yourself in the proverbial foot by falling into the trap of being taken off guard by the ordinary and mundane.

In politics, religion, combat, and life in general, it always pays to know your enemy. A general on the battlefield would be insane not to take every opportunity to spy on and calculate his opponent's intent. A man going into a debate would be woefully unprepared if he had no idea of who he was debating and what questions would be asked. So when your opponent or enemy does something that falls squarely in line with all of his previous actions, why would your first instinct be to go nuclear on him? 

The expected and the mundane are causes for constant and real diligence, not outrage. The latter just makes a lot of people very red in the face.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Imitation Can Be Unflattering

The European Central Bank
I was only recently introduced to the writings of columnist Victor Davis Hanson, but already I have found him to be an insightful and very readable author. His site is also host to a couple other authors, including Bruce Thornton, an even more brilliant and penetrating mind. Here is a piece Thornton wrote last week about the financial crisis in the EU, providing both a historical perspective on the problem and also a warning to those who insist that bigger and more inclusive is better.

Photo by Eric Chan, via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Extreme Walking

Extreme walking at its finest. The Japanese have always been a precision oriented people, and this apparently is no exception. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Myth of American Exceptionalism

I had picked out a title and worked out most of the salient points of an article I wished to write, until I did some Google-assisted research and realized that not only had this article been written already, but at least twice. And under the same title as the one I chose.

So I read both articles entitled "The Myth of American Exceptionalism" and I have to say I had to agree with the main points both authors made, here and here. Now I understand that both authors are what the political right would label as "left leaning" (and therefore "unreliable"), but those who seek the truth must be willing to accept it from whatever source it comes. If you are of a conservative or liberal bent, please read both of these with an open mind and understand the points made before you agree or disagree. The term "American exceptionalism" involves the very definition of the word patriotism, a definition which remains extraordinarily misunderstood and abused in America today.

Photo by Lipton sale - via Wikipedia

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Forgotten Railway

Old Soviet locomotive
Photo by LHOON.
I must first take a moment to thank my readers who live in Russia. I don't know how many of you there are exactly, but I do know that the majority of pageviews this week came from Russian readers. I honestly never expected to be more read outside the US than in it.

Anyways, I dug up a story this afternoon from the BBC concerning Russia that I found fascinating. I would assume that some, if not many, Russians already know this story, but I am posting it more for the benefit of my English speaking audience so they will know.

It is the story of a massive railroad project that literally disappeared

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Non-Partisan Presidential Wish List

Forget for the moment the ridiculous political ads that have begun to plague the airwaves in greater and greater numbers, the high flights of hyperbole and somber music behind a lurid announcer's voice claiming that their political opponent voted to club baby seals to death. Forget for a moment the two major political parties and their platforms, one who says we should spend loads of money and the other saying we should spend much larger loads of money. Forget the bitterness, division, and dissent for a moment. I have a question.

Put aside party, race, sex, and anything so superficially identifying. Look at the presidency of the United States and ask: what kind of man or woman do I want filling that seat?

I have my own list, and here it is. Agree or disagree as you please.

  • I want my president to be a good speaker. Not just when he is in front of a teleprompter, but all the time. I want him to be able to string good words together into intelligent and articulate sentences, to be able to explain himself without flinching or saying "um." Included in this is a president who does not say stupid and embarassing things on an open mic.
  • I want a president who has been a soldier. I mean that in a very specific way. A president who has been a professional fighting man (or woman) will understand not only the strength and honor of the military, but also the horror and stress and fear of combat. The one reminds him of what the military can do, the other what we as a country should avoid doing if at all possible.
  • I want a president who can do math. This might sound stupid, but then again there are many remarkably stupid people in Washington. Our current president's administration cannot balance a budget. The previous one only did a little bit better. I would like someone who has balanced a budget before or at least has a mathematically sound concept of how to do so.
  • I want a president who respects the lifeblood of this country. When I say lifeblood, I literally mean just that: the blood of America's children. I want a president who understands we have nothing to gain and everything to lose by allowing the killing of children in utero to continue. When the president of the most powerful country on earth does not respect the lives of his most helpless citizens, how can he respect the lives of anyone else, be they American or otherwise?
  • I want a president who is there. Not on vacation all the time, not prowling around for photo ops and present only to shake hands and sign bills. I want a president who is where the action is happening. When June 6th rolls around, for example, I want him either standing on the beaches of Normandy or at some World War II memorial, not having dinner with high rollers in Vegas. If the U.S. is struck by natural disaster, I want him on the ground as soon as humanly and safely possible, giving victims his condolences. I want him to be present, not just to vote present.
  • I want a president who is fit. I want someone who looks active, who radiates healthy habits and who is not afraid of the outdoors. Someone who doesn't just talk about national parks, but actually visits them and climbs their mountains and fishes in their streams.
  • I want a family president. I want someone who bespeaks marital and familial love, who has children and knows how to interact with them.
  • And finally, I want a president who is honest. I almost don't care if I disagree with him or not, as long as he is forthright in the explanation of his actions. I want a president who does not beat around the bush waiting for someone else to clean up his mess or explain him. I want one who does it himself.
Maybe this is all too much to ask. Everyone has flaws. But I think it might just be a good start.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Coolest Model Ever. Seriously.

This video was too fantastic not to share with everyone. I don't even remember how I found it, but it is worth the watch. The sheer time and artistry invested in this model is mind-boggling. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Today marks the 68th anniversary of the launch of Operation Neptune, the beach landing portion of "Overlord," the largest invasion ever attempted in human history. The operation marked the true beginning of the end for Hitler's European domination plans, as Allied forces grabbed a toe hold in France and began rolling up the Nazi carpet one machine gun nest and Panzer at a time.

Let us not forget, however, that the D-Day assault was not necessarily a slam dunk, resounding success. In fact, the attack ground to a complete halt for several hours on the most important beach of the day, Omaha, where many men met a shockingly bloody death at the hands of rapid-fire German machine guns and heavy artillery. Many more men lay terrified and psychologically helpless at the edge of the water or at the sea wall, huddled down to escape the almost certain death slicing the air overhead.

In the end, the beachheads managed to link up only because individual men seized the initiative and decided it was better to die taking out a German gun emplacement than lying prone at the edge of the rising tide.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Bad Weekend

I am apologizing in advance to my wonderful readers, I will probably not be posting much until Sunday is almost over. It is going to be a crazy busy weekend and I won't have time to put thoughts to keyboard until it's all over. Be Aware until then!