Saturday, May 30, 2009

Evil and Innocence

I watched "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" last night.  It's staying with me.

The film, based on John Boyne's novel (which I now wish I had read before seeing the movie), presents an unusual approach to the Holocaust in two ways.

First, we see domestic details of a Nazi officer in his home setting.  Film and literature do not generally present Nazis as contented family men.  The juxtaposing of the newly-promoted commandant of a death camp as a happily married father somehow makes the deep-seated evil being perpetrated even more chilling.  The viewer watches "such a lovely family" revealed as an instrument of Hitler's Final Solution.

Secondly, the film reflects the Holocaust as seen through the prism of 8-year-old innocence.  Young Bruno, marvelously portrayed by Asa Butterfield, does not understand the spectacle of "farmers wearing pajamas" all day.  His questions go unanswered, and his fascination with the "farm" behind the barbed wire leads to his secret friendship with a fellow 8-year-old, a Jewish boy prisoner.

The movie starts slowly, but builds ominous layers that unfold with foreboding to the soul-rocking final scenes.  The performances are excellent, if you're willing to overlook a Nazi family with British accents (I was).  In addition to Asa Butterfield as Bruno, Vera Farmiga is especially wonderful, giving texture and depth to her portrayal of a wife and mother slowly coming to a horrified comprehension of the unspeakable atrocity that involves her family.

Every thinking person should see this film, especially in today's troubled world.  Perhaps if each of us could rediscover the pure simplicity and trust of our 8-year-old selves, we could at last rewrite some sections in the tired book of history that keeps repeating so many of its saddest, most shameful chapters.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Judging the Judge

Look, she's going to get in.

Sonia Sotomayor will be a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court-although there is debate in well-informed circles about the "first Latina" label.  Personally, I'm ready to move on to the next crisis.  I'm sick of the sight of this woman already.

Could it possibly have been just yesterday that the announcement of her appointment was made?  It seems like months.  How many times can we listen to the "white male" quote and hear the sad details of her  New Haven firefighters decision?

I think Republicans should make their points during confirmation hearings, but keep the best of their powder dry.  Sotomayor will be filling a largely liberal seat on the Court, anyway.  And if Kim Jon Il has anything to say about it--and it appears he speaks quite freely and unfettered under the Obama administration--there are much bigger battles to come.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Honor of Memorial Day

At Mass today, the choir sang the Navy hymn (linked here) in honor of Memorial Day, tomorrow, May 25.  This is an occasion to remember the fallen heroes of all branches of military service, of course, but since San Diego is a "Navy town," this hymn seemed especially appropriate.

There are three generations of U.S. sailors in my family, so I have a soft spot for the Navy.  But let us pause on Memorial Day to remember the sacred gift of every precious life lost in the service of our country. Theirs is a sacrifice we in our free nation benefit from, but can never repay.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reality Bites

Tony Harnden of the British Telegraph gives his pithy analysis of former VP Dick Cheney's speech in the article linked here, "The 10 Punches Dick Cheney landed on Barack Obama's jaw."  It appears that the British have a certain astuteness about our foreign policy that's missing from many of our own Obamatons.

President Obama is, rather pathetically, still in campaign mode.  He scheduled his speech in counterpoint to Cheney's previously scheduled talk.  Why is the president lowering himself into a spitting match with the former administration?  How does this make him look good or advance his goals?  Is he so afraid of contradiction that he must do constant public battle to protect his own ideas?

Rhetorical questions all, because it is painfully obvious that Obama can not tolerate the mere thought of a challenge to his Brave New America.  The fact that he may be wrong is unbearable, and the mere suggestion of such heresy must be addressed immediately, and publicly, from the heights of the presidential bully pulpit.

Four months of ideological speeches has already been a long time; four years will become much longer, especially as criticism of his policies increases.  With time, such an increase is inevitable, especially if our peevish president is successful in getting his every whim.  When inflation roars onto the economic scene as a result of the stimulus, when people are turned away from overcrowded hospitals due to government-run health care, when--God forbid--another radical Islamic terrorist rains death and destruction upon our country, Obama will be forced into an ever-more defensive position. Perhaps he should start now to reserve his nightly 30-minute time slot with the MSM networks.

I think Obama should pace himself, show a bit of internal strength and fortitude, and let dissenting voices die out unaddressed in many cases.  The fuss would end far more quickly with such an approach.  Alas, such humility is not our new president's nature.  Every discouraging word must be silenced and snuffed out.  It seems that is especially true when the dissenting voice is not self-serving and has something vitally worthwhile, and very true, to say.

The campaign is long over, and the realities of the presidency appear to be weighing heavily upon Barack Obama's shoulders.  He once remarked during the campaign that he was "from Chicago, and we don't play."  Neither do the terrorists, Mr. President.  Keep that in mind when you're moving the Gitmo gang into a prison near the citizens you swore to protect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California Voting

Californians went to the ballot box yesterday and figuratively smashed it over the heads of the state legislators.  By margins of over 60%, five out of six initiatives were resoundingly crushed by the tax-weary "Golden State" voters.  

No matter how hard the "Governator" tried to scare us with commercials of sad-looking firefighters talking about how screwed we would be if the props failed, we weren't buying it.  Or funding it.

Proposition 1A wanted to extend our "temporary" tax increase to "require a reserve" for the state.  So, why don't we already have one?  Or, as the creative folk songwriter might ask:

"Where have all the billions gone, long time spending?"  Umm, no.

Proposition 1B wanted to throw more money at our dysfunctional public school system.  No, again.  

Prop 1C was a real scream.  It wanted to "immediately borrow" money from the state lottery proceeds for the general fund.  Voters were shocked, shocked--and said NO.

Props D and E were on the ballot because they were previously-approved voter initiatives. Now, that's brave.  D wanted to take tobacco taxes that are approved to go for children's services, again shifting to the general fund, and E proposed transferring money approved for mental health services to that bottomless general fund.  Again, voters said NO and H*LL NO.

Proposition F was interesting.  It passed easily, the only surviving ballot measure.  Prop F forces legislators, including the governor, to forego pay increases when the budget is running a deficit.

Personally, I voted against F, also.  I was on a roll as I voted, filling in those "NO" blanks in a nice, symmetrical column, but that's only part of the reason.  If you need voters to pass a proposition to prevent you from giving yourself a raise when the state is bankrupt, then you're too stupid to be in government.

That's a conclusion that explains a lot.  Washington, take heed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stars in My Eyes

Captain’s Log, Star Date 0516200.9

This post is for true Trekkies, the original fans who began watching Star Trek from its first “salt monster” episode, broadcast in 1966.  I am among those faithful. 

Today, I saw the new movie--rather insolently

titled “Star Trek,” with no subtitle, as though this was a new idea rather than the latest in a long line of incarnations and mutations of a 40+ year old show that has gone where no entertainment franchise has gone before.

I think “The Beginning” would have been a fitting subtitle.  If you’ve wondered how James Tiberius Kirk got his name or about his Iowa childhood, how Spock was raised on Vulcan, Uhura’s mysterious past, or how the whole Enterprise crew came together--and trust me, real Star Trek fans do wonder--you’re in for an informative treat.  All those questions, among others, will be answered in the course of this thrilling joyride through the space/time continuum.

Without spoilers, which would be a sacrilege in this case, I can safely relate that the casting is top notch.  Zachary Quinto is Spock.  He not only bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Leonard Nimoy, he has completely nailed Spock’s expressions, movements, and voice inflection.  Chris Pine, the young Kirk, while not quite a twin to William Shatner, captures all of his character’s key qualities.  You’ve got all of Shatner’s macho physicality, complete with brawling fisty-cuffs, frantic running, emotional outbursts--“AARRGGHH!!!”  “NOOOOOO!!!!”--fellow Trekkies, you know what I mean.

Pine also possesses the jaunty swagger, the self-satisfied grin, the brash cockiness of Shatner’s early Kirk.  And let’s not forget the sexual element, always simmering beneath the surface in the original TV series.  (Does any fan really think that Yeoman Rand was chosen for her GPA?) Pine’s Kirk pays robust homage to the dashing Captain’s eye for the ladies.

The comedic touches that lightened the television series are incorporated into the film with clever regularity.  And our favorite recurring moments are present, too.  You’ll hear Spock remark “Fascinating,” Bones will state that “he’s a doctor, not a...”  Well, I promised, no spoilers.

One of the best moments mirrors a favorite scene from an original TV episode.  Remember the spores that allowed Spock to act human and fall in love?  Of course you do!  It was one of the best Star Treks.  The antidote was to arouse emotion in order to kill the spores’ effects.  There is a situation in the movie where Kirk must anger Spock in order to achieve an objective. This scene of Kirk’s taunting, followed by Spock’s fierce reaction, will warm the hearts and memories of every true Trekkie.

Leonard Nimoy appears as Spock--later in time, of course.  It’s great to see him, even if his dental work gets in the way of his delivery at times.  (Was that a spoiler?  Well, I do want you to be prepared for that one.)

I’ve read that the cast has signed up for two more Star Trek movies (which, hopefully, will be subtitled), allowing this imaginative film creation to continue "to seek out new life.”  I would be willing to violate the Prime Directive in order to see the sequels immediately.  Like the current release, I know they’ll be great movie-going.  But a part of me will always miss the original Star Trek television series, with its cardboard boulders and rubber-masked monsters, when William Shatner’s Captain Kirk was preening smugly on the Enterprise bridge.  

Take her out, Mr. Sulu.  Warp 3.  And thanks for yet another wonderful ride.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boring Current Events

If you're anything like me, you're bored with a goodly portion of the news of the day.

The important topics don't get nearly enough coverage, thanks to our presidential groupies media.  Americans have got national debt building at the speed of light, our troops still in harm's way, terrorists on the brink of being released into suburbia, a healthcare system about to be socialized into mediocrity, and government bailouts dragging our grandchildren into tax hell.  There are plenty more serious issues, but that's a fair start.

I don't think we can spare another minute of air or print devoted to any of the following tired, lightweight, blown-out stories:

1.  Miss California.  Enough of her answer, enough of the questioner's profanity, enough of the white bikini video clip.  She's "keeping her crown," let's turn the page, shall we?

2.  Elizabeth Edwards.  She's had many tough breaks in her life, to put it mildly, so I won't comment on her or her book.  But since John Edwards is completely finished in politics, how is this story important?

3.  The White House Correspondents Dinner.  Some of it was funny, some of it was hateful, some of it was stupid.  Everyone has their own opinion of what part was which, and we'll never agree on the analysis, so let's retire the video and move on.

4.  Bo, the First Dog.  Don't get me wrong.  I love dogs.  I have my own.  But they're not news.

5.  Michelle.  Oh well.  MSM has lots of words to tell, their Michelle.  But personally, I don't care about her vegetable garden, her sneakers, her upper arms, or even her personal assistants  and  chief of staff--although bragging about her staff certainly would have resulted in a different tone and type of news bonanza if Laura Bush had said it. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Definition

As if most of us hadn't already learned this, a mother's definition of the word "sweater" appears below ~

A garment worn by a child when its mother is feeling chilly.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Prayer for Today

In honor of the National Day of Prayer, one of my favorite prayers appears below. It was written by Doctor of the Church St. Francis de Sales, and it is as timely today as it was four centuries ago.

This prayer helped me through countless personal trials in years past. Now, in view of our troubled times, I pray it with our country at heart:

Do not look forward to the trials and crosses of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms.

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

If Bush Had Said That...

In trying to be clever with his Mexican guests on May 4, President Obama said it was "Cinco de Quatro" instead of "Cinco de Mayo," the Mexican holiday celebrated today.

Now, I ask you, what would MSM have done with a verbal double whammy like that coming from President Bush?  It would have enjoyed a robust circulation in a minimum 3-day news cycle, complete with assorted yucks on all the late-night shows.

Si, es muy importante


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Joy in the Moment

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
~William Wordsworth

     Thankfully, there is such a thing as joy in the moment, a feeling that lifts our spirits and lets them soar far above whatever mundane concerns are dragging us down in the  "real world."
         This You Tube clip, of dancers embracing the "Now" in a train station, captures that feeling better than anything I have ever seen.
     Enjoy the moment.