Saturday, 5 September 2009

Viewing Numbers That Don't Add Up

With all the uproar over the President's upcoming speech to kids in schools across America next week....I got to pondering. What if.....they were given a choice? Lets say there were ten options:

1. President Obama's speech

2. Reruns of Tom and Jerry Cartoons

3. A 30-minute chat with Brittney Spears

4. A 45-minute interview with Hulk Hogan

5. A 15-minute National Geographic special on "MONSTER SNAKES"

6. A two-hour movie on Japanese Geisha girls

7. A live viewing of BYU and Oklahoma football (with Oklahoma hopefully losing)

8. A Danish language movie on three unemployed gas station attendents and their evening adventures in Copenhagen

9. A 90-minute Micheal Jackson video tribute

10. Bass-Pro Fishing Tournament with former NFL greats

With this listing....I'm afraid....that the President might be number ten on the requested viewing group.

The only way to make this work...is to force every single kid to watch....dope them up with Mountain Dew MAX....and give them free tennis shoes at the conclusion.

Sadly, this is the state of America tonight, as we sleep.

Orwell, Wisdom, and Words

Over the past one hundred years....we've had the good graces of a dozen or so great writers. In this regard, I am referring to writers of the five-star variety who challenge your mind and soul. Amongst them.....I consider George Orwell to be in this group.

At some point in high school....I read Animal Farm. I took the book apart in less than a weekend, and by Sunday night....I sat there as a 17-year old kid....truly amazed at the simpleness of the story and the enormous weight that it carried. I would have doubts that any other kid in that year group....ever read the story. I can still remember looking at the sign-out card and it'd been over a year since anyone checked it out from the entire school. Over a twenty year period...it'd been read only thirty times....which says alot.

The thing about Orwell...is that he could compact a tremendous amount of wisdom into a very brief sentence. You would have stand there and think about what he wrote and the true meaning of the quote. In terms of adding layers of wisdom to a reader....this is thick coat of wisdom that simply doesn't wash off.

So here....I offer a dozen quotes from Orwell....worth remembering:

1. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

2. During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

3. Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

4. Enlightened people seldom or never possess a sense of responsibility.

5. Good writing is like a windowpane.

6. The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.

7. War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil.

8. We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

9. The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.

10. Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.

11. Society has always seemed to demand a little more from human beings than it will get in practice.

12. Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.

With Orwell....it was always a play to words and their meaning. What he left you in the end...was a very simple catch-phrase...that you could not overcome: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength".

Just Plain Happy


There's some report over at Yahoo...about the happiest cities in the world. I spent fifteen minutes reading it. It's a curious thing, how you would measure happiness. The top five?

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2. Sydney, Australia
3. Barcelona, Spain
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
5. Melbourne, Australia

This left me puzzled. How would you measure happiness and relate it to a city? The guys in this study indicated that happiness is difficult to quantify...so at least they were honest about this.

So then they admitted that this whole "game" is about where local populations are happiest than a reflection of respondents' thinking about where they could imagine themselves happy. Perception wins over reality.

At some point, they then toss in this measurement device....that perceptions might be more dependent on conventions, tourism and an influx of talent....than anything else.

I work around mostly military folks or former military folks. They would all pretty much agree to Fort Walton Beach, San Antonio, and Omaha as being the happiest places on the face of the Earth.

I pondered on this a while. I could probably put up my five choices of happy places but then there's the question of how I arrive at this. And the more I thought about it...it's my pondering that was more important than the names of the places.

The happiest towns are places where there's only one barbershop and you know both Gus and Fred who run the place...personally.

The happiest towns are places where breakfast cafes make you weep over a stack of pancakes, crispy bacon, buttered toast and coffee that burns your tongue.

The happiest towns are places where busty women wear tube tops mostly.

The happiest towns are places where they place softball from early April until late October.

The happiest towns are places where folks rake their leaves to a nice point on the yard and burn them in the cool fall air.

The happiest towns are places where you share a whiskey with your neighbor on Saturday night and then sit next to them in the Baptist pew on Sunday morning.

The happiest towns are places where you left your $800 chain saw out in the front yard over night, and its still there the next day.

The happiest towns are places where folks talk more about the weather, baseball scores and lusty women, than they do on politics, universal health care, or whatever was on Fox news this morning.

The happiest towns are places where cops spend more time on crime than speeding tickets.

The happiest towns are places where family reunions involve a hundred folks and it never turns into argument fest.

The happiest towns are where your kids safely walk to school and never worry about some crazed nut or some punk kid with a kill-them-all agenda.

The happiest towns are where the most exciting part of the day is when you visit the Piggly Wiggly and the cashier says something nice about you, and then winks at you.

The happiest towns are where old warriors sit around a VFW bar and talk of basic training, foxholes, and battleships, while sipping cheap Pabst Blue-Ribbon beer and munching on salted peanuts.

The happiest towns are where you lost your innocence, found true love, and then discovered the new cook at the local grill who makes hand-packed burgers that you'd weep over.

The sad thing over my qualifiers...is that these are dinosaur towns....dying out each day. Once they were mighty....and now, they are so few.

The Bama Abu


So there is this guy....for months, and it's been bothering the intelligence folks...Abu Mansour al-Amriki — or "The American". It's bothered the intelligence folks because he spoke English and readily connected to American society. He is home-grown. He's been at war for jihad in Somalia for a fair amount of time.

The thing is...he does video clips and they get posted over to YouTube and a dozen other places. He's like the salesman of Islamic jihad...for Americans. This worries some folks.

So this week....we finally come to realize that he's a Bama guy. Yep...home-grown, from down in Daphne, just outside of Mobile. He grew up in the 1980s and 1990s there. He event attended university for a while down there.

The curious thing is that his mother was a Baptist, and somehow...she got married to this Islamic character. Somewhere, in the midst of his high school years....he converted over to Islam and got the "feeling". One person interviewed from the school years indicated that he just didn't get anything out of being a Baptist...so it was just a switch-over.

Here's the thing...which you have to pay careful attention to...almost all of these individuals who knew him in the high school years...referred to him as being "gifted", "highly-intelligent", and "intellectual". He left high school a year early. He immediately enrolled in college.

The curious thing...if you haven't read national news or paid attention to other regions in the US. Up in Minnesota, there is a fair Somalia society in size. It's one of the largest in the US. Somalis left their homeland because it's become a wasteland of war and death. They all try to relocate their relatives and find peace....which Minnesota offered.

A strange episode started about eighteen months ago....teenage boys started to disappear. No trail....no bodies....no notes left behind...nothing. These were all Somalia guys around eighteen years old. The FBI has gotten involved. There is strong speculation now that they were recruited and somehow taken out of the country.

Lack of passports or airline tickets? This has been the puzzling part of this exodus of these guys. The best judgment guess is that they boarded freighters up in the Michigan region and quietly left. They are back in the homeland....as part of the Islamic jihad...which our Bama dude is a willing player and shaker in events there now. Recruit by our Abu? Yes....one way or another.

The thing is...our Bama dude has become a recruiter and spokesman. Now reverse back...highly intelligent and gifted. Whatever persuasion or brain-washing that took place in Bama to convince him of his purpose in life...is worrisome. He is a little "Ossama" in the making. The same trail that Ossama took in the Afghanistan war of the 1980s...as the young, naive and gifted gentleman....this Bama dude has started the same trail.

There should have been this "Bama-layer" that covered this kid and left him with this Scottish nationalist "protect-the-heartland" beliefs. We Southerners have this strong desire to stand over our property, our relatives, and our community. It's been this way for over three hundred years. When the Scots and Midlands guys came into the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia in the 1700s...they brought this one belief with them...protect what you have in your grasp.

Abu? He's not one of us. He may have faked folks, and pretended to be of southern heritage....but he's never been part of our society. Folks around Mobile who are shocked by his behavior? Well.....he's not one of us. He's become something that a Scot or Midlands dude from the 1700s would refer to as a "threat". As such....a true Scot or Midlands man would take an immediate stand against Abu.

So somewhere in Somalia tonight...sitting around some campfire...is Abu. He's stuck in some crazy mindset, in some crazy mixed up warzone, and chatting like a monkey on some caffein-binge. He's lost his morale compass. He's tossed his map away. He's dumped his Bama heritage. Frankly, he's a threat. And we need some strong Scot and Midlands men to overcome him.

Prospective, Just Not Mine

This week...came the discussion over pictures of GI's dying in combat...and being used in the news.

On the one side was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was bitterly disappointed with the Associated Press....when they took a picture of Lance Cpl. Joshua "Bernie" Bernard dying from severe leg injuries after a grenade episode.

Despite requests by Gates and the father of Lance Cpl Bernard...the AP went ahead and utilized the picture in the news.

The AP comeback on this topic....came from John Daniszewski, senior managing editor. He respected what everyone had said....but he wanted the government to know that sometimes the government and the press have opposing perspectives.

John even goes on to say "We thought that the image told a story of sacrifice; it told a story of bravery. We felt that the picture told a story that people needed to see and be aware of."

I sat there for a long while thinking over this. Up until the Civil War....there weren't pictures taken of war. In WW I, we launched into a massive picture collection episode...and in WW II...it simply went into turbo-drive. For the past 100 years, pictures have been taken of GI's in combat, GI's in foxholes, GI's in fear, and GI's in death. None of this can be argued about.

It's only in the past twenty years that the Pentagon and White House have come to the point of believing that certain pictures sour the perception of the heartland. They felt that way about pictures take from the cargo planes that land at Dover and offload coffins of GI's. Up until six months ago...you were forbidden from picture-taking at such an event.

The AP's argument probably worked up until the 1960s. During Vietnam....things started to shift in terms of using the pictures to tell a story. A good reporter could bring negative heartland views of a simple picture of a guy dying on the battlefield. Most intelligent people began to realize that the media was shifting and changing. They weren't just showing a part of the war...they were selling for or against the war.

What will happen now? The AP will find a cold reception for future chances to accompany GI's. They might actually find guys blocking their view and perhaps even taking a swing at them as they take their "sacrifice-pictures". The AP guy will stand there...mystified why anyone would dare stop him.

Then the Marine doing the block will respond that he has a prospective too...and by blocking the shot...his prospective is bigger and bolder than the AP prospective. He won't grin or smile about this. He'll just let the guy how things will be....with Marine authority displayed.

In the heartland, a candle burns tonight.