Monday, December 31, 2007


January ~ To face my birthday with gratitude for all that has gone before and all that may lie ahead.

February ~ To remember that, no matter how cold and bleak they may be, winters always end.

March ~ To rejoice in the Creator's gift of new life.

April ~ To welcome the enduring light of springtime.

May ~ To do more of substance with longer days.

June ~ To enjoy and celebrate the coming of summer.

July ~ To be honored that my children's independent lives are a validation of the lessons they have learned from their parents.

August ~ To laugh and dance at my son's wedding.

September ~ To anticipate a happy season of holiday fun.

October ~ To do more on behalf of our troops overseas.

November ~ To cast my vote for worthy leaders and good causes.

December ~ To look back in thankfulness at the wisdom another year of living offers to each of us.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chicago Christmas

I'll be offline until close to New Year. This weekend I'm heading to Chicago, along with my son, to spend Christmas with my future daughter-in-law's sister and her husband.

Nearly 30 years ago, I drove through Chicago on a cross-country trip. I've made a few stopovers at O'Hare airport since, but that never counts as quality time. So at last, I'll get to spend some time in the Windy City. All of my sweaters are clean and suitcase-ready.

Kristine will be in New York, visiting both of her grandmothers and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. She was five years old when Pete and I moved to California, so this will be an auld lang syne Christmas for my daughter.

As she mentioned to me on the phone this week, "We're still trying to figure out Christmas." But, that's okay. As long as we're spending it with family, I think we're on the right track.

Best wishes to you and yours for a blessed and beautiful Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Strength Behind the Scenes

I've always liked Laura Bush. She has been such a refreshing change from the strident spouse of the previous administration. Dignified, soft-spoken, content to work quietly in the background, Mrs. Bush has brought a gracious sense of class back into The White House.

This article is one example of the positive influence her personal manner can bring into our foreign relations. Advancing our nation's interests doesn't always have to involve boots on the ground. With the right ambassador, pumps on the carpet will work at least as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Straight from the Source

One Marine's View has all the news you'll never see on the networks. Take time to read these encouraging words for America, directly from a troop on the front lines in Iraq.

Ask yourselves, why has the news coverage shifted almost completely away from the war and towards next year's presidential campaign, winter storms, and global warming? Because MSM does not want to stand corrected on the increasing success of the surge.

Remember our military overseas this holiday season. They are working hard to make sure things go right in the Middle East--whether their progress gets reported or not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the Memory Hole

With the presidential election less than a year away, and with primary fever starting to grip the political world, Stuart Taylor of National Journal provides us with a timely reminder of what the electorate is dealing with in Hillary Clinton.

In a word: Liar. A fuller description would include the words cold-blooded, calculating, without conscience, and oh yes--shameless--in front of the "L" word.

As inundated as we are with ever-changing news cycles and information overload, it is so easy to forget even the recent past. Taylor's article calls us back to the 1990s and the seamy shadows of Travelgate, Vince Foster, Monica Lewinski, cattle futures, and Hillary's questionable billing records from her law firm days.

If you're thinking of voting next year--especially if you're leaning towards Hillary--"Honesty: Hillary's Glass House" is definitely worth reading.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Actions Scream

By their fruits you shall know them

National Review Online has extensive commentary on the Romney speech, all of it interesting and worthwhile reading. I've linked four of the articles I found most intriguing in this paragraph, but there are many more available, at NRO and throughout the internet.

I find it both mystifying and sad that Romney's campaign had to come to the point of defending his individual faith. Although couched in the very relevant context of our nation's heritage of religious liberty, Romney's speech was an explanation of how he can fit in as our president, even though his is not one of the "normal" religious denominations. Obviously, he felt it was needed.

Could there be a more un-American need? This country was born of the quest for religious tolerance, and "Freedom of Worship," as depicted by the great 20th century artist Norman Rockwell, is one of our most dearly-held principles.

I am a Catholic who is blessed with many friends of various religions and philosophies. Aside from those of my own faith, I have friends (some quite close) who are Protestants of several different denominations, including evangelical Christians, Unitarians, Jews, and Buddhists. There are a couple of agnostics and atheists among my friends. Their religions (or lack of same) are completely irrelevant, because I have one simple rule for interpersonal relationships: to be my friend, you must treat me and mine with respect, honesty, and kindness.

That's all. Be a decent person, and we can build from there.

When my children were growing up, I would advise them to watch what people do instead of just listening to what they say. "Actions scream," I told them. Their father used to put the same concept another way with his pet saying, "You can't hide what you are."

So when I consider the possibility of Mitt Romney as president, I look at his life and how he has lived it. From a public perspective, I see an enormously successful businessman who is also a former state governor with impressive accomplishments on his record. On a personal level, I see a long-term marriage that has worked well and a beautiful family of young adults who are contributing to society and raising their own children in the same value system.

Romney is a decent person. I can build from there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hard to Believe

Lifted from today's headlines, here are five items I find so incredible that they're worthy of receiving awards:

  1. In the "Silly Me" category, the "Intelligence" community now says Iran isn't up to any mischief. Oops. Nothing to see here, folks, let's all go back to sleep...until the next crisis.

  2. In the "Pot vs. Kettle" category, Hillary Clinton expresses doubts about Barack Obama's "character flaws." And she's not kidding!

  3. In the "We're Not Biased" category, the Boston Globe breaks the earthshaking story that Mitt Romney has fired his gardeners for employing illegals. How many lawns did John Kerry have, and how many of his gardeners had working papers, in 2004?

  4. In the "I thought this was America" category, Mitt Romney (again) is planning a speech to explain why his religion is no impediment to his performance of presidential duties. Closing in on 50 years after JFK's speech on the subject, have we really made no progress?

  5. In the "Unworthy of Extensive Coverage" category, the Clinton campaign's "hostage drama" is in its fifth day--with no clue as to when the media will release us. I wish I could find this amount of MSM ink on the success of the surge!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Christmas Presence

Advenio ~ to come (Latin)

Yesterday was the first Sunday after November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, which means that we have entered the season of Advent. Christmas is three weeks from tomorrow.

It always seems a surprise when the calendar suddenly arrives at Christmas time. We may stop to reflect upon another year fading into the mists of time as we hurry forward into the future, but more often we are caught up in the bustle of the season. There are so many extra chores and errands, so many social events and commitments, that it's sometimes a challenge to catch our breaths and remember that this is yet another golden opportunity to be present to our loved ones at a special time of year.

Two years ago, my children and I shared our last Christmas with Pete, my husband, their father. Last year, we journeyed to Ireland to blunt the edge of his first Christmas absence. This year, Kristine will spend Christmas with her two grandmothers and family, on the east coast. I will travel with Matt and his fiancee to share the holiday with her family in the midwest.

None of us will do much shopping. Presents are largely secondary to the real Christmas gift. Through our shared loss, we have learned the inestimable value of Christmas presence. May all of us be wise enough to take time to give that priceless gift to our loved ones this year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Glass Castle

"Mom, this ham's full of maggots," I said.
"Don't be so picky," she told me. "Just slice off the maggoty parts. The inside's fine."

Last night, I finished reading Jeannette Walls' bestselling memoir "The Glass Castle." It's a remarkable book on many levels, none moreso than the author's matter-of-fact acceptance of, and personal triumph over, her difficult (to phrase it mildly) childhood.

So many people use misfortunes in their past as a blanket excuse in life. Their family was poor, their parents divorced, they weren't the favored child, they were deprived, etc., ad nauseam. All the pity party-goers should read The Glass Castle to learn how to identify a real childhood problem--and how to deal with it constructively.

I so enjoyed the author's comfortable and entertaining narrative of sometimes brutal circumstances that I went hunting for some footage of Jeannette Walls and found this captivating interview. Check it out when you have a few minutes. Can you imagine this charming lady ever feeling sorry for herself?

Although she never did enter the glass castle her troubled father had promised to build, Jeannette Walls certainly has arrived on life's sunny side.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Worst of All Ingratitude

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude

~ William Shakespeare

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has stated that America’s intervention in the Middle East by “clearing the decks” with a “quick burst of violent action” had led to “the worst of all worlds”.

Really? The archbishop sounds a lot like atheist Christopher Hitchens and his laughable assertion that religion "poisons everything." Regardless of theological persuasion, or lack of same, sweepingly negative hyperbole appears to be a British thing.

Britain doesn't suffer many tsunamis, earthquakes, or famines. If it did, the good archbishop might realize that the most consistent first responder on the scene of any global disaster is that moral reprobate, the U.S.A. In 2006, charitable giving in the United States set a new record of more than $295 billion.

And by the way, Archbishop, the preservation of the English language in your country is in large part due to the bravery and sacrifices of American troops in WWII. Even though we haven't done much for you lately--you're welcome.

Anyone who thinks that the U.S. has created the "worst of all worlds" is on another planet.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Danger of Not Seeing Danger

The stories of militant Islamic fascism are easy to find, even in MSM.

An Iraqi man and his wife are beheaded, in front of their children, by jihadis. Why? For not praying and for wearing western-style trousers.

A teenager in Afghanistan is executed by the Taliban for teaching English to students.

A rape victim--victim--is sentenced to 90 lashes. But, because she speaks to the media about her case, her sentence is increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail.

We don't hear much media outcry about these atrocities. They are reported in the "5 W's" of old-fashioned journalistic terms: who, what, when, where, why. There is not much editorializing on the content of these stories by MSM. For a change, we get "just the facts"--what a concept! It seems that, as long as our enemies are committing the heinous crimes, discretion is the better part of journalism.

Where is the outrage from the pea-brained celebrities who see George W. Bush as a "war criminal"? (I'll let you find your own links to that nonsense). Where are the Code Pink and ACLU representatives when it might actually be worthwhile to hear from them?

There is a real danger in not recognizing the evil of our enemy. The peril comes not from our government, as the deranged among us would have us believe; it comes from a fanatical and deadly foe who would, given the chance, revel in an endless stream of American beheadings.

Most of us in the U.S. are guilty of wearing western-style trousers, speaking English, and traveling in a car with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. These are crimes worthy of a horrific punishment, according to Islamo-fascist law. It's dangerous for any of us not to understand that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Count Your Blessings

When I'm worried and I can't sleep

I count my blessings instead of sheep

And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small

I think of when I had none at all

And I fall asleep counting my blessings

~ Happy Thanksgiving ~

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Gift of Goodbye

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
~ Matt 24:42

Nicky and Diana have been longtime neighbors, moving onto our block soon after we did in the 1980s. Their two children were about the same age as ours, and the kids often played together when they were small.

Our kids all grew up, diverging in many directions, into different schools and circles of friends, eventually into their adult lives. We four parents were all still there on the same block, waving hello as we drove past each other, stopping to chat occasionally on a pleasant evening, a comfortable and familiar presence in each other’s lives.

When Pete died of cancer in January 2006, Nicky and Diana were at his memorial Mass and came to my house, offering help--being good neighbors, as always. We talked now and then about having dinner together, but we never quite nailed down the details. We’ll get around to it, we all said.

One evening a few months ago, I asked Nicky about the construction activity in his driveway. He told me he was converting the garage into an apartment for his mother. I told him that was so good of him, and that we need to set an example for our own kids. “We’re going to be there one day,” I said.

During the past year, I saw Nicky and Diana often in the evenings, walking their dog in one direction as I walked Riga in the other. Jack, their dog, always wanted to play, while Riga always wanted to run him off. So, we couldn’t linger long during these encounters. Being human, I sometimes felt a little twinge, watching them walk as a couple, since that part of life is behind me. As we smiled our greetings and continued on our separate ways, I would remind myself of all the blessings I still have in life.

I last saw them this past Saturday evening as they took their stroll with Jack, and I with Riga. “Have a nice rest of the weekend,” I called after them.

Another longtime neighbor came to my door on Sunday afternoon, to deliver the terrible news that Nicky, and his mother, had died in a car accident a few hours earlier.

The garage apartment, lovingly constructed, is almost finished. But it was not meant to be. Nicky’s children, who have lost their father and their grandmother together, will never see him grow old and in need of their care. He will never “be there one day,” as I had told him.

We should have picked a date and had that talked-about dinner, months ago. Human beings are foolish that way. We let ourselves believe we have limitless banks of time, forgetting that we are mortal, each of us destined to die.

The tragedy that befell my neighbors yesterday has underscored to me the precious value of being able to say goodbye. As hard as it was to watch Pete die before my eyes, I prefer it to watching him drive off, never to come home. There is no easy way to lose one's spouse, but for me, it was better to share those last difficult moments together.

If I see Diana walking Jack on some future evening, I’ll feel a very different twinge. She does not have the solace of knowing she said all she wanted to say to her husband, aware that his minutes were slipping quickly away. She did not know, as Nicky slid into his car yesterday, that they had already said their final farewell.

I'm sorry that she didn't have the gift of goodbye. It's one of those life blessings I remind myself of, one for which I’ll always be grateful.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

American Actor

The viewer has to wait until the final minutes of the film to see Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe play a scene together in American Gangster. Fortunately for movie fans, the wait is well worthwhile.

These guys are my two favorite actors for solid reasons. I've loved good movies since I was a child, and I know a quality product when I see it--and feel it. From the gripping opening scene until the credits rolled, most of my breathing was highly truncated. Because of the actors, the story owned me.

And no one in Hollywood today owns a character the way Denzel does. I once heard renowned director Frank Capra say that the great Jimmy Stewart's gift was making the viewer believe that what was on the screen was actually happening. In our time, Denzel Washington has been touched by the same magic wand, and he humanizes the criminal Frank Lucas into a multi-layered man we can almost pull for.

Russell Crowe brings a similar intensity to his role and is completely believable as the relentless law officer Richie Roberts, who pursues Lucas for years. Crowe does fairly well with a New Jersey accent, although fuhgetaboudit--he'd never fool a local. And the film's numerous anachronisms can be distracting to the generation that remembers the life and times of the 1970s.

However, these are quibbling details. In American Gangster, director Ridley Scott sets a raw, realistic stage that effectively captures the seamy underside of metropolitan drug trafficking. In many scenes, you can almost smell the stink of the gutter.

But the actors portraying the two main characters, their lives running along parallel lines until the riveting collision of their respective destinies, are the whole show. Washington and Crowe, bravo to both of you. To quote a line Frank Lucas is fond of saying: "My man."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on the Seventh Soldier

A civilization is won or lost by those who fight to protect it
~ Victor Davis Hanson

The thoughtful among us will want to read every word of Hanson's article, "Freedom, Even from Fear." It is regrettably true that today's soldiers are the forgotten warriors of a spoiled and pampered American population.

I certainly count myself among the guilty. How often do I think about those who "preserve, protect, and defend" us as I flit casually about my daily business? Even volunteering as a Soldiers' Angel seems a weak return for what our armed services give for us.

As long-time readers know, I've been a Soldiers' Angel since early 2004. This, I feel, is the very least I can do to honor the service of our troops. Last week, after learning that my sixth soldier was safely on his way home, I signed up to adopt my seventh troop.

The e-mail I received with his mailing information contained a message from him, saying he would like to receive "beef jerky, sunflower seeds, playing cards." As is usual for all the troops I have supported over the years, he thanked me.

Think about that for a moment. He thanked me. "Thank you for all you do," he wrote. What exactly do I do, except live my life in secure comfort and freedom because of him and every other member of the military?

How do we rate such outstanding people in our military? It never ceases to amaze me. As Victor Davis Hanson concludes:

We should remember on this Veterans Day that some very young people — with long futures, in the prime of health, and at the center of their families — died for the rest of us. They lost their lives not just for us to watch an OJ outburst in Vegas or American Idol, but for the idea that we — most often not so young, not so hale, and not with such bright futures as our soldiers — could be free at their expense; free, not merely from being conquered or enslaved, but free from the very thought of it.

Freedom from fear. The asking price, from my seventh soldier, is a deck of cards, a package of beef jerky, and a bag of sunflower seeds. Only in America would you get such a deal of immeasurable worth.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Photo from Dept. of Defense website, November 11, 2007

Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell

From The Charge of the Light Brigade
~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Not much has changed over the centuries.

There are still military troops, human beings of uncommon strength and bravery, who step into the breach when called upon to defend and protect fellow citizens of their homeland. The sacrifices of these remarkable men and women can never be repaid, merely recognized, respected, and appreciated.

So thank you to all of our veterans, of all branches of the United States military, living and dead. Special gratitude from me to my grandfathers, my uncles, my brothers, my cousins, and my friends who have served in U.S. uniforms. Without you and your courageous dedication, Americans would not enjoy the life we have today.

Happy Veterans Day. God bless you, every one.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Comfortably Stupid

If 9/11 was really an inside job, you wouldn't be driving around with a bumper sticker bragging that you were on to it.
~ Mark Steyn

We've all seen the bumper sticker in question. I've also seen it scrawled inside airport bathroom stalls and in graffiti on freeway retaining walls. "9/11 was an inside job."

The stunning stupidity of this statement is beneath debate to any thinking person, but it has recently become such a pop culture tagline that it deserves to be addressed--with brain cells firing.

As Mark Steyn rightly points out, if we lived inside a government that actually perpetrated such atrocities against its citizens, it is hardly likely that we would be allowed to roam the country trumpeting that fact. It's far more probable that the shiny black boots would be kicking in your door at midnight, if you sported such a bumper sticker within such a regime.

This raises another question that challenges the logic of the "inside jobbers." If you lived in such an oppressive system, wouldn't you want to get out? Wouldn't you be crossing into Mexico or Canada with your flashlight and backpack in the middle of the night, trying to escape the ruthless fascists at the helm in the U.S.A.? Yet it doesn't seem that the 9/11 conspiracy freaks are at all anxious to leave home. They're quite content to stay, arguably to convince the rest of us of the evil nature of our government--but more likely not to miss out on the next Walmart sale or to upgrade their i-Pods.

The "why do they stay?" question prompts yet another inquiry: If our government was such an evil, corrupt, conspiracy-ridden dictatorship, would it allow us to leave? Wouldn't we be stopped at the border, the airport, the train station, and herded off to those highly efficient "re-education camps" that totalitarian regimes seem so fond of? Yet there are uncounted thousands of Americans traveling every day, both in and out of the country, unencumbered--except for that pesky shoe removal at the security check-in.

If "9/11 was an inside job," who would want to live here? As Steyn also notes,

Fantasy is a by-product of security: it's the difference between hanging upside down in your dominatrix's bondage parlor after work on Friday and enduring the real thing for years on end in Saddam's prisons.
That's good food for thought. Unfortunately, the "inside job" crowd isn't very hungry.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The Clintons are upset.

It seems that in the last Democratic candidate debate, Hillary actually got a hard question to answer. Furthermore, she had great difficulty answering it without looking and sounding silly. That is bound to be the outcome when you take both sides and try to argue each without giving away a real response.

Now the Clintons are up in arms, crying "no fair." She's the girl, and the boy are being mean to her. They're asking "gotcha" questions and practicing the "politics of pile-on," according to Clinton and her campaign. The translation of this outrage is that events are starting to deviate from Senator Clinton's carefully prepared script, an intolerable development based on her--and Bill's--indignant reactions.

Are interviewers really supposed to avoid any question that might upset Hillary? Should debate moderators tiptoe around any issue that brings out her nail-screeching shrillness, her strident defensiveness that reminds the entire country why we don't want to have to listen to Hillary for any further length of time, let alone a presidential term?

I think the hard questions have only just begun. You'd better buckle up, Hilly, strap on your helmet and learn to drive the crash course.

Get used to it, dearie. If you want to play in the big leagues, you've got to be willing to take some hits without worrying about your ponytail. Things are not always going to go your way all the time, and you can't always go running to your hubby for mop-up operations. You can't whine about being picked on because you're a woman when you don't like the question. Your best course of action will be to choose an answer and then stick with it, or be prepared for a challenge if you don't.

Just ask any guy in the race.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Unforgettable Road

You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.
~ Father to son

There are two main characters in “The Road,” Cormac McCarthy’s shattering novel of a gray and perilous post-nuclear world. The reader never learns the names of “the man” and “the boy,” but rarely has such a primal, personal connection with main characters been so deftly forged by an author’s pen.

The story of a father and his son, traveling along a road often strewn with horror and fraught with danger, is gripping from the first page. When the story opens, the nuclear Armageddon that blasted the world to ashes is already years in the past. The particulars are not dwelt upon, nor do they matter. The heart and soul of the story is the fierce love and devotion shared by these two lonely survivors.

As they struggle together on their journey, constantly encountering new and daunting problems, the father and son share short, terse rounds of conversation that reveal, in bare-bones understatement, the depths of their emotions. The son is full of questions and worries; the father answers in a calm and neutral manner. Creating dialog that rings true in such an unimaginable setting is the hallmark of McCarthy’s brilliance. So, too, are his vividly poetic, often breathtaking descriptions of an ashen earth, fading to dust.

The father is a full-blooded hero, vigilant, resourceful, unforgiving of himself, driven to preserve his son at any cost. The son is a marriage of vulnerability and strength, adoring of the father who protects him and terrified of losing him. The characters are clearly drawn with stark and simple lines. To convey so much with so few words is genius.

Any parent can relate to the terrifying responsibility of trying to care for and protect a child in the anarchy of such a world, just as any child can relate to the paralyzing fear of losing a guardian in such circumstances. As you travel “The Road,” you come to know and care deeply for these two lost souls as they surmount each difficulty and journey onward to their ultimate fate.

I can not remember the last time a book’s closing pages moved me so powerfully. I’ll say no more, except to note that Cormac McCarthy’s “Road” certainly is one worth traveling--every painful, emotional, unforgettable inch of it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Guard

...probably the most proactive response to a domestic event that I have seen in my 40 years in uniform...and we continue to be flexible and agile to meet the needs of Gov. Schwarzenegger and the citizens of California.

~ Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Everyone I've talked with about it is annoyed.

There was no mention of politics in the midst of California's disastrous wildfires last week, until both John Garamendi and Barbara Boxer grabbed the mikes.

They both proclaimed that the Iraq war has depleted California's National Guard to the point of dissolution. Garamendi made a particular jackass out of himself on Neil Cavuto's show, insisting that the war in Iraq had absorbed all of our National Guard "resources." If either of these ax grinders had bothered to check the facts, they would know that 17,000 California Guardsmen are at the ready, right here in state.

Initially, Gov. Schwarzenegger requested 1,500 Guardsmen to respond to Southern California's firefighting and relief efforts. By week's end, the number had risen to over 2,500 California National Guard troops, who seem to be everywhere; San Diegans have seen them on the news, at the evacuation points, on the roads.

Political grandstanders like the lieutenant governor and the senator, we don't need them at our time of crisis. They know nothing about the people of San Diego who are suffering as a result of these devastating fires, and they care even less. They certainly don't have enough decency to keep politics out of natural disaster. And they realize even less how stupidly self-absorbed they are, touting their own political agendas at a time of great personal tragedy for so many Californians.

Never let the real story get in the way of a good sound bite. I'm glad I never voted for either one of them--and never will.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Fireman's Prayer

The Fireman's Prayer

When I am called to duty, God wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save some life whatever be its age

Help me embrace a little child before it is too late or save an older person from the horror of that fate,

Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out,

I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me
to guard my every neighbor and to protect their property

And if according to your will I have to lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another Window to the World

I've been plugged into this link to Arts & Letters Daily for a fair chunk of the afternoon. Many thanks to my cousin Robert for sending it along.

The site is chock full of very readable goodies. Although content lists quite noticeably to the left, it's reasonably central. I didn't find the nasty, far left ranting so often encountered in web surfing. The first thing I clicked on was the "Columnists" link, and there is a robust representation of center types and conservatives.

I can overlook the inclusion of Maureen Dowd. Any website that provides links to Mark Steyn, Victor Davis Hanson, David Brooks, Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Sowell, the Weekly Standard, and National Review has some major mojo going for it.

You're right, Bobby, this site is one to watch. It's always beneficial to find another window into our world that's intelligently presented. I'll be visiting it as often as I do The News Right Now. If it remains as interesting, informative, and high quality as it is today, Arts & Letters Daily will soon earn a link in my sidebar.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Unreported Outrage

Hillary Clinton has chosen three "national security advisors."

They are: Madeline Albright, the good-time champagne gal of North Korea; Richard Holbrooke; and none other than old Stuffed Sox himself, Sandy Berger.

Can you imagine the media meltdown if Alberto Gonzales or Dick Cheney had smuggled documents out of the National Archives, hidden in their foundation garments? And "lost" them? The story would be a screaming headline for months on end. Conspiracy theorists would be lined up at The Leher Hour. Hanes and Fruit of the Loom would make public announcements to distance themselves from the Bush administration.

However, there wasn't much MSM fuss over Sandy's self-proclaimed "mistake" at the time. Even news of his conviction was muted and soft-pedaled until it died a quiet death.

Read Ronald Cass's piece, "Sandy Berger and the Real Hillary Clinton," and see if you don't feel the fury building. Lord help us if this crowd gets control of our "security." Is it possible that the U.S. will put these...these...people back in charge of the country during a time of war?

We're going to find out sooner than I like to think about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mom Was Right

Wash your hands!
~ Everymother

Just when you thought there was nothing to worry about beyond terrorist attacks, global warming, ongoing war, assorted diseases, and another Clinton presidency, here comes MRSA, the killer Staph infection.

Actually, it's been around for a while (discovered in 1961). But the U.S. infection rate has risen into the mid-90,000's in recent years, with a death toll approaching 20,000. And with this week's death of an American teenager due to MRSA, we can expect to hear a lot more about it. Bird flu will have to take a back seat for now.

Having watched the unyielding march of fatal diseases against friends and family over the years, I understand that, often, there isn't too much we can do in the way of prevention. But if something as simple as hand-washing will stop a deadly disease, we're crazy not to do it.

Heed the maternal wisdom that rang daily in our childhood ears--wash your hands.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Heroic End, Personal War

It wasn't political at all. It was personal to him. He was there fighting the people who'd attacked the city he loved.
~ Dan Murphy, father

An iron-souled warrior ~ Marcus Luttrell, friend

I’ve tried to find the story several times.

Scanning the newspapers, surfing the net, all the screaming headlines seem devoted to the fawning accolades being heaped upon Nobel Laureate Al Gore for his work in the politically correct field of global warming.

That’s fine. Good for Al. Now, what about our heroes?

The late Lt. Michael Murphy is the recipient of a posthumous Medal of Honor, as announced by The White House on Thursday, October 11, 2007. Lt. Michael P. Murphy, aged 29, willingly braved open fire on the battlefield in Afghanistan to save his fellow Navy SEALS and died fighting in June 2005. He is the first SEAL to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

There is little coverage of this important story of American courage in action. I found this article in the Murphy family's local newspaper, and this link, as well as this link. You do have to hunt for Lt. Murphy's story; Gore and global warming are the words of the day.

That’s a disgrace.

It makes me concerned for the future of our country that Lt. Murphy’s inspiring story of true courage, complete selflessness, and dedication to duty is deemed unworthy of wide coverage by MSM. This is an American story. Murphy was a young man who grew up not far from my own childhood neighborhood on Long Island, NY, trained as a SEAL near my San Diego home, and recognized the attacks of September 11, 2001, for what they were—acts of war against the United States. More specifically, Murphy understood that the Islamo-fascist violence was not aimed against some nebulous concept of “country,” but against our own family, friends, neighbors—fellow Americans.

Dan Murphy, Michael's father, declared that for Michael, "It's all very personal."

All of this nobility and honor has been smothered in the greenhouse gas of hot air being spewed over Al Gore’s “achievements.” Just what global warming has to do with world peace, I don’t quite know. However, an organization that bestows “peace” prizes to a premier world terrorist (Yasser Arafat) and to the most anti-American president this country has ever had the misfortune to suffer (Jimmy Carter) is largely suspect and unworthy of attention, in my opinion.

Al Gore is galloping along on the apocalyptic horse of global warming, preening as he gathers his trendy brass rings and pompously accepting cult hero status, all from within the comfort and safety of a nation made free and secure by the blood of true heroes.

As I previously stated, good for Al. But if you want to learn about true “achievements” or “accomplishments,” the story of Lt. Michael Murphy is the one to read. As the lone survivor of that doomed mission, Murphy's friend Marcus Luttrell, recipient of the Navy Cross, states, "They need to make more men like him."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Break Time

I'll be offline for about a week, taking a travel break. I always like to leave you with something worthwhile to read, so I've linked Mark Steyn's pithy summary of the Columbia University debacle. That disaster was beyond words for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts on The War

In watching "The War" on PBS (continuing tonight, don't miss it), I'm struck by both the similarities and the differences to today's war in the Middle East.

The similarities are the bonding of the fighting men and women; the horrors of war that they all face daily; the worry and fear of the families for their loved ones in harm's way; and the necessity of the conflict to protect our way of living in freedom.

The differences between the two wars are both more numerous and more ominous.

If a major newspaper during WWII had published details of a top secret government surveillance program, it could not possibly have survived the American public's wrath. Censorship of the news was accepted as a common sense requirement to protect American lives rather than a violation of our "rights." (The "right" to get Americans killed deserves quotation marks, in my opinion.)

In WWII, everyone sacrificed for the success of the war. Food and clothing were rationed, many consumer items were unavailable, American citizens actively sought ways to volunteer and contribute in order to support the troops through to victory. Today, half of Congress is invested in our defeat--preferably before the next election.

Unlike today's whiners, who insist that fighting the enemy in Iraq is completely different than fighting the same enemy in Afghanistan, Americans in the 1940s didn't question fighting the geographically and politically disparate powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. Everyone seemed to understand that it was all connected in one global war against tyranny. No one called it "Roosevelt's war."

The photos in this post are from family archives. My uncle enlisted in the Navy, at age seventeen, and came home to New York City on furlough one winter. The "tomato" with him is his big sister--my mother. Mom also appears in the other photo, the leggy gal who visited San Diego in 1942 with her girlfriend, before said friend's little brother shipped out with the Marines. I spoke with my mother this weekend and asked her if she was watching "The War." Yes, she exclaimed, and said "I am reliving my life" because of it.

What will documentary films many decades hence have to say about how America rose to the current challenge? When I think of the similarities of the war against Islamic Fascism to WWII, I am encouraged. But when I think of the differences, and how they seem to grow, I can't help but be worried.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The War

If you're not watching Ken Burns' epic documentary on PBS, "The War," you should be.

If you have been watching, undoubtedly you're as captivated by its images as I am.

"The War" is what I like to call "deep history." It is difficult to imagine so much evil happening simultaneously, involving so many millions of people, all across the globe. It is fascinating to listen to senior Americans, so eloquent as they reminisce, describing in vivid detail the daily life and dramatic moments of that time.

It is mind-boggling to realize that many of them were mere teenagers, fighting through some of the most brutal and extensive carnage human history has ever witnessed, each of them forever scarred by the loss of friends and family in battle.

The program has come under criticism for failing to adequately cover Hispanic and Native American servicemen. This, I find petty; the enormous scope of World War II renders impossible the task of representing each and every ethnic group. Each episode airs a disclaimer at the very beginning, noting that WWII was fought in thousands of places and no one story can encompass all of it. What more can be done to satisfy the noisemakers, I don't know.

Ken Burns consistently presents us with outstanding film chronicles of our country's history--The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and now this masterpiece, The War. In my opinion, he's the best documentary maker America has.

I'll say it again: if you aren't watching The War, you should be. It's the least a grateful nation can do.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Holy Houseguest

A friend sent me a copy of Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, with a note saying she thought I "might like it."

Good guess, Denise; I loved it.

I found the premise imaginative and intriguing--walking into your living room and finding a very modern-day Blessed Mother standing there, rolling luggage in tow. Author Diane Schoemperlen first draws the reader into the narrator's quiet, solitary life through the small, mundane details of everday existence. Then, after Mary's arrival for a week's visit, the two women explore questions of faith and philosophy alongside such basic chores as doing laundry, cooking, and housecleaning.

Schoemperlen does a stellar job of interweaving the simple practicalities of life with profound and timeless mysteries, often with a deft hint of humor. I could easily relate to her narrator, both as a writer and as a woman living alone with her private assortment of doubts and regrets.

Books that educate and make me think while absorbing and entertaining me always earn a special slot on my personal all-time bestseller list. Within the first few chapters, Our Lady of the Lost and Found jumped into the top tier. Which is, after all, where the Blessed Mother belongs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Searching for News

It frightens me to think how little I would know about what's happening in the world if I didn't catch snippets of Hugh Hewitt's radio show on the short drive home from work.

This evening, I switched on the car radio to hear Hugh talking about an article from Jane's Defence, a global military news periodical. Having worked in the defense (we use an "s" in this country) industry for many years, I'm familiar with Jane's and the name captured my attention.

I was not prepared to hear what followed: A story about an explosion involving a missile, sarin nerve gas, dead engineers and military, Iran, and Syria. As Bugs Bunny would've said, "Yipes!"

When I got home, I "googled" the item, just to check other coverage. The Jerusalem Post carried the story, as did this link. No fan of television newscasts, tonight I watched the evening network news out of curiousity. Would the incident even be mentioned?

Am I delusional? I often feel that MSM is living in an alternate universe, with no connection to what is happening in the real world. Tonight was one of those times.

Let's see. We started off with a happy report about the stock market soaring over a predicted change in interest rates. So far, so good. Next, a minute or two on the Blackwater contractors and civilian casualties in the Iraq war. The narration moved quickly to the latest on a psychopathic murderer who is now up on assorted felony charges. Deemed worthy of several precious minutes of coverage, included in this nothing story was a detailed photo of the killer's jail cell. No doubt that's highly valuable information for all viewers.

Coverage moved on again, this time to the traffic jams that plague our national highways, then to the obligatory daily coverage of our shrinking polar cap. The half hour finished with a fluff piece about the shortage of champagne due to demand from new markets like Beijing.

Not a peep about Iran, or Syria. Or sarin nerve gas. Or explosions, missiles, death tolls. Nothing to see here, folks, just keep moving.

I'll keep moving, all right. Away from the television set. TV's not a safe place to get one's news these dangerous days. In fact, I'm thinking about getting a subscription to The Jerusalem Post.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Leadership Question

My son asked me recently who I will vote for in the presidential election next year. This question led to an interesting discussion.

I've doggedly avoided any mention of next year's political race, since I'm already weary of the saturation of coverage. But as to the question of how I'll cast my vote, at this point, I don't know. As I address my criteria for a Commander-in-Chief, in view of current events, I must answer with negatives:

  • I won't vote for anyone who, by word or deed, demoralizes our troops.
  • I won't vote for anyone who, by word or deed, encourages our enemies.
  • I won't vote for anyone who calls the commanding general of our armed forces a liar--no matter how elegantly the accusation is phrased.
  • I won't vote for anyone whose agenda is angling for a U.S. defeat.
  • I won't vote for anyone who disparages good news from our field of battle.
  • I won't vote for anyone who rejoices in bad news from the same.

I'm not on fire about any of the current crop of potential candidates. In my opinion, they all have issues that will hamper their efforts to win. It remains to be seen whose name will be next to my ink-filled circle come November 2008. But already, I know whose names I've eliminated from my private ballot.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
The summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir-trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Left vs. Our Troops

There were no surprises, just the very predictable embarrassments during General Petraeus' report to Congress.

Hugh Hewitt's blog has full coverage, and it isn't pretty. dubbed the General "Betray us" in a splashy New York Times ad--so very fourth grade. The ad also asserted that the General is "cooking the books for the White House." Now there's freedom of speech in action, all right.

Code Pink comported itself with its customary grace and courtesy during the General's report. There were the usual assortment of stupid questions from Congress, but none surpassed Rep. Loretta Sanchez's inane questions about a poll in Iraq. Not only did she articulate like a bit player out of "Legally Blonde," she interrupted Ambassador Crocker's attempt to answer several times and coyly accused Gen. Petraeus of being a liar.

No wonder Al Qaeda thinks we're lightweights. Our elected leaders are publicly rude and insulting to both our military commander and ambassador and then get to wave, smile, and be interviewed on cable TV afterward.

The sum total of today's political circus is, as my mother would say, "a horrification."

Battle lines are sharply drawn, and they're not in Iraq. The two sides to this war are right here at home. One side wants our troops to win and will support the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal for our country's safety. The other side is completely invested in our defeat and humiliation in the Middle East and seemingly will stop at nothing to ensure that negative outcome.

I know which side is right, and it's not the left. It makes my blood run cold to acknowledge today's evidence, but the left is as devoted to our total loss as is Al Qaeda.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

From the Weak Horse's Mouth

When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse
~ Osama bin Laden, 2001

I've linked the full text of the translation of Osama bin Laden's most recent publicized message, via the BBC. In our pseudo-reality world of MSM soundbites, reading the whole message is the only way to understand what is being communicated.

It's particularly telling when OBL actually states that Al Qaeda does "not have anything to lose." No kidding. Living under the iron heel of Islamic fascism isn't much of a life.

He also tells us that "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished, God willing." Further on, we learn that he will "seek revenge forever."

Very conciliatory. Let's recap: we're supposed to leave Iraq, come home meekly, and wait for the promised Islamic hell to once again be unleashed upon our country? I suppose, with the way Congress has been behaving, OBL does have grounds to suspect us of actually being that stupid.

The only thing giving bin Laden any power whatsoever is our dissenting political factions at home. If we would unite, as we did in the wake of September 11, 2001, we could shorten this war by decades. If you read between the lines of OBL's message, you can see empty bravado. He has been living in hiding for six years now, with no end in sight. There is no question that the U.S.A. is the stronger horse.

The true question is, will we ever get out of our own way and choose to pull ahead?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

At What Price Politics?

There's some interesting commentary about Schumer's disgusting remarks over at Blackfive. But it's hard to know how to respond to something so repulsive as defaming our troops.

Servicemen and women are fighting, bleeding, and dying so that the sorry likes of Schumer can blast them from the comfort of his air-conditioned stage on the Senate floor. Politics is one thing; dissing our armed forces is quite another. While Schumer casually negates their hard effort and good work, the troops--with their very lives--ensure that he is free to continue slamming them. Nice deal for the oh-so-classy senator. Not much reward for our troops (who don't ask for much to begin with), but they're too busy kicking Al Qaeda's butt to be able to respond to such nonsense.

In honor of our military men and women in the Middle East, I've signed the "Stand by the Mission" petition at Victory Caucus and sincerely hope you will consider doing the same. It's especially important for everyday Americans to stand by our troops now. The Senate certainly seems otherwise occupied lately.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Learning Alone

This weekend, had my husband Pete lived, we would have been married for 35 years.

Considering that I remember the details of our wedding day as though it happened last week, that is a mind-boggling stretch of time. By the time I was the current age of my son, who is my younger child, I had had both of my children. In the all-encompassing activity of raising a family and earning a living, the decades evaporated with startling speed. As Wordsworth put it so well,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

Time is now inching towards the two-year mark since Pete’s death. I’ve learned to do many things on my own that I used to rely solely upon him to do. I know the schedule for curbside recycling pickup. I can mow the yard, find tools in the garage, fix a broken gate latch. I schedule appliance repairs, drive round-trip hundreds of miles, and affix the new DMV registration to my license plate. Although these may seem like trifling tasks, they are everyday things I have never done before. In doing them, there is a certain sense of progress in surmounting life’s inevitable sorrows. In this fact, there is something strangely comforting.

One thing I have not mastered is missing Pete’s counsel in my day-to-day life issues. He could neutralize my angst as no other person on the planet, excepting perhaps my long-gone father. I can usually figure out what Pete would have said to me in any given problematic situation. Imaginary conversations that I hold with him are better than none, but they are far from the reality of actually unloading my troubles to him and hearing his insightful responses.

Just a few days before he died, Pete told me with calm certitude, “You’ll be okay. You can take care of anything.” That remains to be seen. But, thus far, it is true that I am managing my life alone.

Yet I know I will always mourn the loss of my best friend, wisest advisor, and most loyal supporter. In this fact, too, there is something strangely comforting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Observations on the News

  • If Larry Craig can't restrain himself in an airport restroom, he's a poor choice for senator and should resign. End of discussion.

  • If Greensburg can clean up without whining about the government, New Orleans should be able to do the same. (A link was necessary there, as most of us have forgotten about Greensburg--since they didn't whine.) Imagine if the pioneers who built this country had sat around waiting for FEMA to show up every time they suffered a setback!

  • If celebrities are detoxing, relapsing, or recuperating, that's not newsworthy. Few things are more commonplace than a sobriety-seeking celebrity. As a headline, it rates several Z-z-z-z-z-z-z's.

The late Bob Thaves, author of the "Frank and Ernest" comic strip, published a terrific cartoon a couple of years ago. His characters are on the sofa, watching television, and the newscaster's voice announces "And now for tonight's carefully selected news." I liked it so much that I e-mailed Mr. Thaves, asking permission to post it in this blog. He was kind enough to respond a few days later, saying that although my blog was fine, he didn't know where his cartoon might ultimately be used as a result and asked me not to post it.

I certainly understood his reluctance, especially in today's media climate. Much of what qualifies as "news" today, such as celebrity gossip, is not important. It's not news. Much of what is very important, such as stories on the war fronts, either never makes the newspapers or nightcasts, or it's buried on page A-23. That "Frank & Ernest" cartoon remains taped on my refrigerator door, a daily reminder of the agenda-driven distortions we are constantly subjected to in the news we are presented.

I've got news for MSM--I'm carefully selecting my own news.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Faith in Action

Preach the Gospel at all times, using words when necessary.
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Faith without works is dead.
~ James 2:20

Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith apparently comes as a huge and quite newsworthy revelation to MSM. They’ve been asleep at the switch, however. This is a story I first read ten years ago, shortly after her death.

The fact that Mother Teresa suffered an extended spiritual struggle hardly disqualifies her from sainthood. In fact, it makes her even more worthy of the title. It is exceptionally remarkable that, despite her doubts in the face of the harsh realities of her world, she persevered through several decades of ministering tirelessly to the poor, the diseased, the outcast, and the hopeless. Her spiritual calling to bring comfort to the suffering won out over the darkness of her doubts and helped her to succeed in living an eminently Christ-like life.

Who among believers has not doubted? Our Lord himself was not above being tempted to doubt and despair at various times of his life: during his forty days in the desert, during his agonizing decision to sacrifice himself for us, and during his final moments on the cross. Should Mother Teresa be above Our Lord in this respect? And, being fully human, should she not be even more at the mercy of her dark thoughts?

St. John of the Cross, who suffered his own quite significant crisis of faith, called it “the dark night of the soul.” Mother Teresa’s "dark night" is not the point; the point is, she carried on. She continued doing God’s work, year in and year out, despite her uncertainties. In so doing, she shone a light in the darkness and left an example of truly Christian living for the world to follow.

Mother Teresa’s extensive charitable accomplishments challenge me to face my own doubts with active faith rather than passive hopelessness. For as St. John of the Cross writes, in that “dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.”

Mother Teresa’s legacy is a life lesson from which every soul could benefit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

To Choose the News

I listened to a recording of the President's speech this afternoon. I thought it was a good one. But when I heard him start to draw Vietnam comparisons, I knew that would be the headliner for the evening news.

The Vietnam analogy is irresistably seductive to the left-wing media. It represents our last great military failure--so it must be worked in at every opportunity. And here, President Bush was handing it to them on a platter. The context in which he made a Vietnam comparison--specifically, the carnage that followed our withdrawal--was completely ignored. The MSM equation is: Iraq + Bush = Vietnam. As in math, there can be only one conclusion: disaster.

Also predictably omitted from MSM coverage was the president's reference to the number of Al Qaeda killed and captured since January--1,500 per month. Let's do a different equation, one that wasn't on the Nightly News: 1,500/month x 7 = 10,500. As in math, there can be only one conclusion: success.

It's up to individual Americans to choose which equation is more applicable to reality. For the sake of our kids, I want to see our country win this long and terrible war. I choose my news sources with that hope in mind.

Friday, August 17, 2007

iPod-on Me

Oh, oh, listen to the music
All the time
~ The Doobie Brothers

Sorry, faithful readers, I didn’t mean to be offline all week, but it just worked out that way. You see, last weekend, I stepped into the nanotechnology of the 21st century and bought myself an iPod.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that the iPod was an online purchase. That ordeal, in itself, took an hour or two. I “timed out” at least twice as I pondered my mind-boggling merchandise options. “The click of a mouse” is not always the easy and convenient way to fast results in the brave new cyber-century world of shopping.

I then spent uncharted hours figuring out how to load the music into my iTunes library. I still possess no discernable clue about setting up personal folders or “playlists,” but at last, all 615 of my maiden iPod tunes were loaded in—artists listed alphabetically, which seems to be the default (I think).

Stocking the music library was the least of my worries. When my techno-gadget arrived, I read the tiny little booklet of instructions. Then, I read it again. In fact, I read the mini-manual several times, seeking to establish a comfort zone with the concept of UBS ports and device connections.

Okay, by midweek I was ready to begin my quest for my computer’s magical music connection. Having a rather archaic (2003) Dell, I had to pull the cumbersome computer off the shelf that has been its home these many eons (in computer time). As with the disturbance of any ancient artifact, considerable quantities of dust took flight as it thunked onto the floor. I dragged out the vacuum cleaner for mop-up operations (to my dog’s great interest), then returned to the musical task at hand.

I viewed the forest of wires bursting from the computer’s rear end with no small amount of trepidation. Briefly, I thought of waiting until my IT goddess-daughter next came to visit. But, resolutely, I shook off that longing. I would figure out this techno-task on my own or crash my hard drive trying.

It wasn’t too difficult to find the magical connection. The computer had a white wire connection to a flat little gadget sitting atop the casing, which was marked “reader.” I gingerly pulled out the reader’s connection and noticed that the shape was identical to the iPod’s connector. A-ha! A secret pathway into the “F” drive! (Or, was that the “G” drive? Whatever.)

Sure enough, when I plugged the iPod into the reader’s port, a sudden message appeared on the screen announcing the addition of my personalized iPod. As with a bad dream, I’m not sure of the sequence of events after that. I hit a few keys, toggled the mouse buttons, and suddenly all 615 songs were transmuting themselves into my tiny little iPod.

I bought a teeny-tiny speaker set to match my "nano" iPod. The whole mini-system is now set up, sitting at my elbow and functioning fine. I’m still in the “A” section, and Aretha Franklin is serenading me as I type, bemoaning the fact that she “ain’t got Jack.” I hear ya, sistuh.

I suppose I'll figure out playlists eventually. Maybe I’ll let my IT goddess help me with that part. Meanwhile, excuse me while I jump back a few tracks to the Allman Brothers. I’ve just got to hear “Blue Sky” one more time…

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ultimate Action

I was going to post this review earlier, but I needed to wait for the Advil to kick in.

Don’t get me wrong: “The Bourne Ultimatum” is a really good movie. I mean, it moves--very quickly. So fast and choppily that, if you’re like me, you’re going to end up with a headache.

There is enough action and violence to satisfy the most testosterone-drenched male viewer. In addition, there are a couple of brief, tender flashback scenes of his lost love tossed in as a peace offering, no doubt to keep the female viewers convinced of Bourne’s humanity.

I’m not so sure of that. Even the Terminator looked a lot more beat up than Jason Bourne after one-on-one encounters with an adversary. No matter the amount of physical pounding he takes, the vanilla-faced Bourne always seems to stride off into the crowd with the merest of superficial scratches.

There are also numerous, repetitive flashback scenes of his torturous indoctrination into the Special Ops of U.S. espionage. To the point that I was rolling my eyes in “I get it already, he was tortured!” fashion.

But these are quibbling details. The film is very good, and two hours of my life never moved faster. Paul Greengrass, of United 93 fame, leans heavily on handheld camera techniques, which leads to an almost documentary-style feel in the jumbled crowd scenes. Albert Finney is terrific in a small part during the climax, and we’re left wondering where Bourne will surface (quite literally) in the next installment.

And, considering the money this film is quite justifiably pulling in, there most certainly will be a sequel. That’s a good thing, eminently watchable movies being the rare entities that they are.

I’m left with one question: How did espionage ever take place before the advent of cell phones? The original James Bond managed to save the world while wearing a tuxedo, romancing a “tomato,” (as my father would have said), and quaffing a stirred martini. All that suave competency, without making a single phone call.

Bourne is certainly impressive, an unbelievably resourceful guy you definitely want on your side, but he always looks overly concerned. Super-survivor that he is, even Bourne could learn a thing or two about looking unruffled in the face of death from the ultimate master of spy movies.

Bond. James Bond. Now he was cool.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Weekend Prep

I'm planning to see the new "Bourne" movie this weekend. I'm awfully tired of Matt Damon and his sophomoric political lectures on various talk shows, but I've seen the two preceding films. I'll probably follow it through to the finale, if there ever is one. "Bourne" could be the next "Rocky" series.

I found this Mark Steyn article on James Bond movies and their critics, which made me laugh--as Steyn usually does. It's a good warm-up for the Bourne flick. Movie review, coming soon.

Monday, August 06, 2007

We're In It, Let's Win It

Anyone who says Al Qaeda is not one of the primary problems in Iraq is simply ignorant of the facts.

We could argue until the next ice age over whether going to Iraq was a mistake or not. That doesn't help the reality that we're immersed in this war.

So, let's win it.

Like many Americans, I remember Vietnam and its aftermath. Personally, I don't think our national psyche has ever recovered from that debacle. Those who are fond of comparing the current war to the Vietnam war need to remember that there was no danger to us at home from the North Vietnamese. Lest we forget, that is not the case with Al Qaeda.

So, let's win it.

If you haven't yet read Michael Yon's heart-stopping reports from the battlefield, please read them. They contain all the brutal facts you'll never get from television newscasts. The most important fact being, we are at war with a cold-blooded, ruthless enemy who will murder the elderly, children, infants, the sick, and the helpless, all with equally savage joy.
Like it or not, we're in a war. So, let's win it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Earning Fame

If you work hard, good things will happen.
~ Tony Gwynn

I had waited many years for July 29, 2007. When it finally arrived, I was driving 100 miles through Pennsylvania farmland, catching a cross-country plane, suffering through a weather-delayed connection, and totally missing the historic moment I had so long anticipated.

On Sunday, July 29, 2007, my all-time favorite baseball player, Anthony Keith Gwynn, was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. As Tony said when he got the phone call, “Validation.”

Tony Gwynn is my sports hero for a multitude of reasons. He played outstanding baseball with stunning consistency for 20 years. His five Gold Glove awards were the least of the opposing team's problems. Tony’s 3,141 career hits speak for themselves, proclaiming his untouchable supremacy at bat. He struck out only 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats. When Tony came to the plate in a clutch situation, San Diego fans relaxed. We had faith he would get the job done.

A Padre fan’s delight was to watch the opposing team scramble around the field, hand signaling each other and whispering behind raised gloves, when Tony walked to the plate. Frequently, there was the obligatory catcher’s trot out to the mound, to steady the unfortunate pitcher who had to face baseball’s best hitter.

"All I know is how I felt when Gwynn came up with a man on second," said Jason Schmidt, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. "And if there was a man on third? Forget it. Run scores."

The air in the stadium would hum with anticipation. A workhorse contact hitter that made the most of any opportunity, Tony was a fielder’s worst nightmare. “You just hope he hits it straight at you,” said Larry Walker, two-time National League batting champion.

But when he hit it into the hole, as he usually did, Tony made the whole city stand up and cheer. As the television commercial says, “Priceless.”

Tony hit a rare home run at Yankee Stadium during the 1998 World Series, but the Padres lost the game. “I would rather have had the win,” Tony said afterwards. The Padres were crushed in that series by the ‘90s powerhouse Yanks, but even New Yorkers acknowledged that Tony Gwynn was something special.

There are many baseball stars with more spectacular careers than Tony Gwynn, but none who can surpass his quiet integrity, both as a player and as a person. Resisting the seductive pull of wealth and celebrity, Tony stolidly placed home, family, and community above the astronomical salaries he could have commanded in bigger markets. He played for the San Diego Padres throughout his entire professional baseball career, earning the moniker “Mr. Padre” and, with it, the enduring love and loyalty of his city. In a pre-induction interview, Tony said "when you're identified with one club and one city, it doesn't get any better than that."

The charity work of Tony Gwynn and his wife within the San Diego community has been local legend for decades, although it’s difficult to get all the details. Being the true class act that he is, Tony doesn’t advertise his contributions.

Today, Tony Gwynn coaches baseball at San Diego State University, his alma mater. Just as he did when he was one of the game’s superstars, he stops to give autographs with a smile. He never allowed himself to be impressed by his achievements; he just kept demanding more of himself. In doing so, he set a gold standard for young ballplayers wise enough to learn from his example.

His lesson is simple, but not easy. Keep your eye on the ball, in life and in baseball. Work hard, and good things will happen.

Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer. For this baseball fan, it doesn’t get any better than that.