Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Non-Political Review Day

I'm taking a break from the political scene, trying something different, and sharing three reviews with you. Don't worry though...I'm working on something about Iraq, with the help of Molly Ivins' insight, and working on a tribute to departing senators. But for today we all need a little "fluff" with Christmas over and a new week sneaking up on us.

The Shawshank Redemption--

I LOVE Morgan Freeman! He is my all-time favorite. Yet, I'd never seen Shawshank, but had heard wonderful things about it. So I rented it from Great American last week, had to make a trip back to have the tape repaired, and successfully watched the entire film yesterday. At first I was concerned that it would be "just another prison movie," and was hoping it would not be in any way like A Clockwork Orange. It was neither. It was a good 'ole story of corruption at high levels. The kind of corruption that makes you think seriously about our prison system and criminal behavior at large. That and I'm a sucker for a happy ending! AS Cory says, I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone due to the language, but if that type of thing doesn't bother you, it is a great film. It's now on the top of my Favorite Morgan Movie List!


Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company--

Genius is truly the only word to describe Ray Charles. Simple as that. If you don't already own a Ray Charles album or have not yet heard his music, this CD would be a great start. The CD consists of duets with some of my favorite artists...B.B. King, James Taylor, Elton John. It doesn't get any better than this! Ray Charles gave his best ALWAYS and this album is no exception. A true genius. A true masterpiece. A true musician.


Howie Day: Stop All The World Now--

I don't particularly like to contribute to the success of artists who sky rocket to fame because of extended play time for one hit, but for this CD I made an exception. You've all probably heard "Collide" on the radio lately. On one trip to Burley (approx. I hour) I head "Collide" four times on one station. Though I certainly didn't purchase the CD for one song only, it was a selling point. Howie Day has this smooth and reflective tone, sort of a pop version of early Bruce Springsteen. If you like pop music and haven't already heard Day's music this CD would be a "sound" investment!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Happy Holidays!

So there has been a change of plans and I'm headed out of town tomorrow. I'll be back Christmas day and will post again sometime after my return. Hope you all have a a good Christmas and if you are traveling, drive safe!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

American Revolutionary

So, maybe I am naive in thinking that "revolutionary" refers to something or someone who has made major advances in the independence and liberty of this nation--George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Someone dedicated, passionate, considerate. NOT BUSH! TIME magazine announced their "Person of the Year" (the Dec.27, 2004-Jan. 3, 2004 issue) and sure enough it's W, fine, whatever, he is the President, but the subtitle reads "President George W. Bush: American Revolutionary."

Excuse me for over-reacting, but I certainly don't think "revolutionary" is an adjective I'd use to describe the Commander in Chief. The heading in the table of contents reads: "George W. Bush for sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat style of leadership and for setting the global agenda whether the world likes it or not, Bush is TIME's Person of the Year."

This is the second time Bush has appeared as Person of the Year, but certainly not the second time he has appeared on the cover of TIME. He has also appeared with such titles as: "President Bush?" "How They Aced Their Midterms," "Do You Want This War?" "Untruth and Consequences," "Mission Not Accomplished," "Love Him! Hate Him!" and "The World According to George Bush." Not quite revolutionary...

I watched on CBS Mr. Bush last night at the Kennedy Center Honors and was contemplating how I really feel about him. Sitting close behind him were the Powell's, Mr. and Mrs. Colin Powell, and next to him was Laura. I was thinking about what trouble we'd all be in if he didn't have those level heads in his life. After 9/11 when he made that comment about wanting Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," I was scared. And everytime her says anything about "smokin' em out," I become quite nervous. I just can't say the words George W. and revolutionary in the same sentence.

Hell, I can't say Kennedy and revolutionary in the same sentence and you all know how biased I am! Who would I have chosen as "Person of the Year?" Well, there are so many this year to choose from...Lance Armstrong, John Kerry, Martha Stewart, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, Tom Brokaw...the list goes on. But those I feel are the strongest candidates are those we lost over this year. Reagan. End of story. Ray Charles. Christopher Reeve. The best of the best. But if anyone deserved "Person of the Year," and I'm probably digging my own hole saying this, it was Yassar Arafat. TIME says, "Arafat deserves a second Nobel Peace Prize--for dying." I don't know if I agree with that, but his death certainly is "revolutionary."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Random Happenings

Forgive me for publishing a "random happenings" post. Orson Scott Card was on to something when he formatted Uncle Orson Reviews Everything. If I hadn't already pledged to post on the political and otherwise historical happenings of the world, I'd do something somewhat like he has done. Who else could get away with writing about Asimov and Altoids all in the same post?

Attack on U.S. Base in Mosul
Today's attack on a U.S. Military base in Iraq has me wondering, HOW? How do we honestly expect for elections to go as plans in January? I thought for a while that I was being pessimistic--or as I call it, "ever skeptical" of what seems to be an unconvincing argument. But after today's attack I'm wondering how we are to hold elections with Iraqi's lives at risk, American lives at risk, and I would assume British, Australian, and oh, Polish lives at stake. (Don't say I'm not mindful of the Grand Ole Coalition!) President Bush has commented in the last two days on Sec. Rumsfeld, the attack in Mosul, and his hopes for the elections. I'd encourage you all to check out the statements released in his press conference yesterday and today's statement on the attack. Since I have a strong conservative readership, I'll let you all make your own conclusions...

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
A good friend of mine burned me a copy of U2's latest album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. It's AWESOME! I am a huge fan of U2, was pleasantly surprised by All That You Can't Leave Behind, and am completely impressed by this latest release. It is the closest thing to deep unadulterated U2 since The Joshua Tree. The boys just seem to be getting better with time--the music is better, the videos are better, they are just amazing! You've probably seen the video for the hit Vertigo. It's unlike any other video right now. Check out Atomic Bomb; Amazon has the clips and I would recommend "Vertigo," if you haven't already heard it, "City of Blinding Lights," and my personal favorite, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own."

Reviews
I could review a hundred movies or albums today...having this time off from school and having otherwise absolutely nothing to do I've taken to the television and CD player. I just watched Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement, which was a poor excuse for a sequel--most are. But I have also rented The Shawshank Redemption and Miller's Crossing. Should have something better for you by the end of the week...

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Defending the Dept. of Defense

After that interesting question and answer seesion last week when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want," I've been doing a lot of thinking. And tonight's SNL opening was great...When that soldier asked Rumsfeld why they don't have the appropriate armor they need and yes, I understand he may have been put up to it by the press, I honestly thought Rummy's comment was political suicide...evidently I was wrong.

Okay, I'm not a supporter of the Bush administration--with an exception to Condie Rice, that goes without saying, but let me explain a few things. Just as conservatives have had an ongoing love affair with John McCain, I had similar feelings when Bush appointed Rumsfeld. Just ask my high school buddies, I was always wondering how far down the line of succession Rumseld was. I thought he was the next best thing to Robert McNamara...I was horribly wrong.

I can't venture into Iraq criticism, but I can tell you if you want to support someone you certainly don't say they weren't what you wanted, only what you had. I thought he was done, but yesterday two top Republicans voiced their public support of the man running the show in Iraq. Both Sen. Bill Frist, majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, majority whip, came out Friday with written statements atesting to Rumsfeld's "[capability] of leading the Department of Defense and our military forces to victory in Iraq and the war on terror."

I JUST DON'T GET IT! And the only two Republicans I have to back me up are Trent Lott and Chuck Hagel...that leaves a lot to be desired! Criticism and support have escalated since Bush announced he wanted Rumsfeld to stay on board. Seems to me America is as polarized when it comes to him as they are when Hillary Clinton is in the picture. Conclusion? I don't have one! But this I know--our troops deserve far more than a man who tells them we went to war with what we had...not what we wanted.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Finals Week

It's finals week at ISU! Yippee--right. I'm tediously working on a history proposal for my 291 class that is due Friday, comparing and contrasting the Warren Commission and The House Select Committee on Assassinations. Big job, in over my head, all that jazz. Not to mention four other finals to take this week--including the big Math final in about an hour!

I'll try and write something by the end of the week, but if not I'll certainly make up for lost time over Christmas break. Just a few things I'm keeping an eye on right now-- the Ukraine situation, the Secretary of Homeland Security appointment, and I'm still working with this Rosa Parks idea. ( I have to add a little history!)

Oh, and it's the official Electoral College meeting today across the country. I watched a bit of it on CSPAN this morning. Ohio is a very interesting dilemma...and tell me why do they pray before the meetings to decide something that has already been decided, but we can't have the Ten Commandments in a court of law? Go figure--

Happy Finals Week!

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Case Closed

Never trust a book with "Case Closed" in the title. At the beginning of this semester for my History 291 class we read Patricia Cornwell's Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed. Cornwell made a convincing argument in regard to the forensics. It played out a lot like an episode of CSI--- but in the end there were still questions about Walter Sickert's guilt. The case obviously was not "closed."

This morning I was watching Conspiracy? on the History Channel. Okay, so a waste of time, but an escape from the real world for a while. I was watching a segment about the assassination of Martin Luther King. Surprisingly, I know very little about Dr. King's death. I knew the where, the when, and the how---or so I thought. The show was going along well, I was starting to be convinced that there was something underneath it all, but then BOOM! I hit a brick wall---Gerald Posner.

Posner is the reason I have this little theory about books titled "Case Closed." Posner is a historical/analytical author who had written a book, Killing the Dream, that shot down the theories and work of James Earl Ray's attorney, Barry Pepper. Fine. Whatever. But the hang up is this...prior to Killing the Dream, Posner wrote Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. If the "case closed" part didn't send up an automatic red flag it was the fact that I've read this book several times and every time I come away mad that this man could be so naive into thinking something so catestophic and complicated could possibly be so simple.

Don't even get me started on why Posner bothers me so much--I'd be here for hours, but here is the problem: authors who include "case closed" in the titles of their books have an extreme personal bias. Both Posner and Cornwell went into the research for their books with an already determined outcome, setting out to prove a certain conclusion. Rather egotistically, they're certain the conclusion they've drawn is the only conclusion---hence the case is closed.

Not so fast...History, contrary to popular belief, is not cut and dry. There are numerous variables. Going into any historical research you must have an open mind. Closed mindedness leads to distortion. Whether Cornwell and Posner have personal vendettas, I don't know. Maybe Cornwell hates artists which allows her to believe Walter Sickert, an artist, was in all actuality Jack the Ripper. Maybe Posner, with good reason, is sick of conspiracy theories and wants nothing more than to put an end to it all. Fine. But you can't claim to have the only answer to a very complex question that may have many answers.

An extreme personal bias-- the kind I believe both of these authors have and the kind that allows them to include "Case Closed" in the titles of their books, is not to be trusted if you want want accurate history. In Cornwell's book she ignores the idea that art imitates life--she seems to forget that art is creativity, emotional and mental, at its extreme. Posner subscribes to the "Magic-Bullet" theory. Come on, magic?

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Power Struggle: The United Nations

I'm a creature of habit. I have a routine every morning. First waiting till the last possible moment to get out of bed, leaving myself just barely enough time, I shower, eat my cornflakes, and sit down to the computer. I get online, read the Washington Post, check up on Nick's Daily News, and read my email. With the exception to my email, the other two have been quite loaded with information on the United Nations.

Going into the election in November I was quite convinced that I had to vote for whomever could prove they had a plan to get the United States back into the U.N. and regain respect amongst the U.N. community. But, in the last several months with this new Oil-For-Food/ Kofi Annan madness, I've been forced to re-examine my outlook on the United Nations. Also, the recent resignation of John Danforth (first a senator, then clergyman, currently the American ambassador to the U.N.) has sparked my interest in the history of the United Nations.

Here's a little history lesson on the U.N.:

In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks, United States in August-October 1944. The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories. (Courtesy of the U.N. Website)

The conclusion I've come to is that no nation-state is going to give up their sovereignty without a fight. Nations swear allegiance to their own governments, not vast organizations like the U.N. This is why so much of what the U.N. does is met with great opposition. No group of people are willing to subject themselves fully to the idea of the United Nations-- not Americans, not Iraqis, and not the French.

So...how has this changed my mind on the role of the U.N. in Iraq? I still think that we must have a respectable reputation as the world's superpower, but the U.N. is not the answer. An alliance is. A very strong alliance. Not the alliance we currently have with Britain, Australia, and Poland, but a strong alliance of the strongest countries, i.e. France, Germany, Russia, and certain Middle Eastern nations.

Both the United Nations and the League of Nations are/were wonderful ideas--in theory, but like I said, you can't force a nation to subject themselves to a foreign power. Americans swear allegiance to America and America only.