Monday, December 28, 2009

A (tough) Year to Remember

This has been an especially memorable Christmas for me, mostly because of my little girl. She is five years old and full of wonder and awe over Santa and the deluge of presents and Christmas cheer he brings. Much of the fatigue and humdrum that I have endured as an adult through recent holiday seasons past is almost nowhere to be found, in the face of Natalie's innocent joy.

I've been hugging her extra tight of late - holding on to my little girl fiercely with a mixture of overwhelming love and of the equally powerful fear of ever losing her.

This is something that every parent endures on a daily basis. The mind races with unspeakable imaginings of what could happen. But at Christmastime, the fearful flights of my imagination seem to occur at an alarming rate.

This year has not been an easy one - I lost an old friend who was a police officer, he died in the line of duty at the hands of a mad man. I lost a dear man who was the spiritual leader of my company and a beacon of light in my life. He left this earth suddenly and without warning.

And on September 30th I lost someone who I had never met, yet her passing has left a hole in my soul. This is by far the most crushing loss I've ever had to bear in my life so far - and yet I know I don't feel 1/1000000th of the agony that her family does.

The best man at my wedding has a four year old niece who is now with the angels. She fell into her family's swimming pool. There was a fence. Yet somehow she got in, and in an instant it was over.

I never met this little girl, nor her father or three brothers. I probably haven't seen her mother in 15 years. But I think of them all every single day.

I tell everyone I know with small children what happened. I know very few details of the event, and I don't really need to. The point of the story isn't to depress people or to make them fearful, but to make them aware that those we love most can disappear suddenly - and we need to cherish them with all of our hearts every single day.

When I look at my little girl sometimes, I'm overwhelmed at the thought of losing her. My mind races and I literally shake in my shoes. My wife and I have cried ourselves to sleep more than once over the thought of what happened on that fateful day.

But then I turn to my faith - my belief that there is a power greater than all of us who has a plan beyond our comprehension, and I am comforted.

This little girl, who was only here for an instant, has already touched so many more lives than her parents will probably ever know. Every single person that I've shared this story with has been affected, deeply. From the owner of my company to random lighting techs and associate producers. The freelance teleprompter guy who has a 3 year old. The producer of the Daytime Emmy's who has a toddler son. All of them nearly moved to tears, quiet and contemplative. I know they will hug their kids extra hard and love them even more than they thought possible.

Margareta was her name. And she was a very real angel, sent here for a very real purpose. She was put on this earth to touch us profoundly and to teach us just how precious life is.

And I have no doubt that there are many other lessons she imparted as well. For me personally, the most powerful gift she has given me is to rejuvenate my relationship with God.

It is through God that I find comfort in the arms of my little one. She's about the same age as Margareta and no doubt just as sweet and precocious. This is probably why this event has been so tough on my wife and I. Every little thought and detail (real and imagined) that enters our heads about what happened, we can imagine it so easily happening to Natalie. I hold her impossibly tight, close my eyes and pray to God that she stays safe and happy. But with the anguish in my heart that Margareta's passing has brought, she has also brought me closer to the big man (or woman) upstairs - and in doing so has helped melt some of the adult hardness around my heart.

I recognize, as with Margareta, that Natalie is here on God's time. As are we all of course - but children, especially little children, are living breathing angels among us. Both Margareta and Natalie make it easier for me to let go of my adult cynicism and to recognize just how small I am in the face of my maker. As I turn the corner in my own mortality and recognize that in all likelihood I have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I see that really - life is so precious and fleeting that every day is truly a gift.

I hope and pray that Natalie has a long and full life ahead of her, that she will touch people's lives profoundly as a fiesty teenager, a passionate young woman, a mellowed but still joyful middle aged go-getter and as a contented elderly sage of wisdom. But it is not up to her, nor me. She is on a mission, as are we all - to try and be the best we can be, to face every day with love and wonder in our hearts, to let go of fear and jaded disdain, to embrace the unknown and recognize that we have no control over our fate - only control of how much love we bring to bear on those around us.

This is the lesson that Margareta has taught me and I will be forever grateful to her for it.

I am overwhelmed with sadness and love for Margareta's entire family, and for anyone who ever had the gift of meeting her in person. I cannot begin to comprehend the anguish that they feel and that they will never fully recover from.

But I hope they find some small comfort in just how far and wide the love of this little girl has already spread, and will continue to spread, as ever expanding ripples in water - touching the hearts and minds of people who never even met her in a truly beautiful and profound way.

Peace and love to all of you this holiday season, and the very happiest of new years.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Country first.

I refuse to condemn our president for his long delayed and potentially inadequate troop surge in Afghanistan.

It's easy to look at his decision, a long time coming - nearly 9 months since his General's request for a minimum of 40,000 troops, as one directed more at appeasing his moderate constituents than towards winning the war. Obama's strategy will surely infuriate those on the left end of the spectrum, Michael Moore already has a ridiculous letter of condemnation up on his website, and those on the right side as well.

Speaking as a considerably right of center hawk, when it comes to our military and what our role should be in the war on terror, I can tell you that there is a lot that is troubling here.

Anything less than a whole hearted pursuit of total victory in Afghanistan I fear is guaranteed to fail.

We cannot sacrifice the lives of our soldiers with a plan that includes an exit date. Nor can we second guess the most qualified people on the planet, that would be the strategic minds and operational commanders of the US military, as to how to best kill al qaeda and the taliban. These two inescapable facts I fear, combined with the historical truism of Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires and a cesspool of corruption, may have already sealed our fate.

It very well might be possible that this war is already lost.

But I'll be God damned if I am going to treat the 44th president the way his far left supporters treated the 43rd.

I may disagree with Obama's approach - which smacks of fulfilling a campaign promise rather than fighting a war that we must win, but I will from this moment on, put my fears into the far back of my mind, and concentrate on positive hopes and prayers for the outcome of this - the most important conflict of our time.

Obama has said from the beginning that he supports killing terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I respect him for that, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Obama has said he will finish the job - while also acknowledging that the Afghans themselves must begin to take responsibility for their own peace and prosperity. I can get on board with this.

I also have a healthy respect for history, and I see that Obama is following in the footsteps of someone who got it right.

Same exact secretary of defense, same exact anti-insurgency plan of battle.

From comes an unintentionally brilliant series of side by side quotes.

Obama: "We Did Not Ask for This Fight"
Bush: "We Did Not Seek This Conflict"

Obama: "New Attacks are Being Plotted as I Speak"
Bush: "At This Moment ... Terrorists are Planning New Attacks"

Obama: "Our Cause is Just, Our Resolve Unwavering"
Bush: "Our Cause is Just, Our Coalition [is] Determined"

Obama: "This Is No Idle Danger, No Hypothetical Threat"
Bush: "The Enemies of Freedom Are Not Idle"

Obama: "We Have No Interest in Occupying Your Country"
Bush: "I Wouldn't Be Happy if I Were Occupied Either"

Who knew that Obama and Bush were two of a kind? Honestly, in a weird way, I'm relieved. Both men have been charged with protecting the free world, both men have risen to the challenge.

At this point it's obvious to me that the one topic that no one, especially not the liberal press, wants to mention is Iraq. Like it or not, believe it or not, we are leaving that country better than we found it with the day to day violence an ever fading memory.

Facts are facts, and no amount of anti-Bush vitriol can change hard numbers. Casualties, both civilian and military, right now are microscopic in comparison to the streets of Detroit or Washington DC.

Number of US Military killed in Iraq in November - 11.

Number of COMBAT related deaths of US Military killed in Iraq in November 2009 - 1.

That's right. This is NOT a typo. This is the biggest story you'll never read about. 1 US soldier lost his life in combat in Iraq last month. The rest were vehicle accidents.

Rant and rave all you like about the horrible costs of this war - I can't disagree with you. But face the inevitable - right here, right now, we are not losing in Iraq.

There is an argument to be made, though you may disagree, that we have already won.

Truly, I believe in my heart that thanks in large part to the convictions of George W. Bush, a man whom I never voted for, nor agreed with on many issues, we have achieved enough success in the region to declare victory and go home.

He was my president and I KNOW he put his country FIRST.

I would be honored to shake his hand.

Those who place the love of their country second to their political convictions will attempt to rewrite history and bring dishonor to Bush, our troops and our country's role in Iraq. But I have faith that intellectual honesty and hard numbers will somehow weather this fog of partisanship, and much like Harry Truman, who was reviled when he left office, George W. Bush - at least when it comes to the war on terror, will emerge as a man who got it right as far as conducting and winning the war in Iraq.

Now whether we should have been in Iraq in the first place is an entirely different issue, and one that I am less certain of. I can certainly concede that it might not have been the best idea, nor was it really related to 9/11.

However, seeing as how we hung the Iraqi people out to dry in the first gulf war (watch the movie "Three Kings" for an excellent treatise on this) I am ultimately glad we went back and righted what we did wrong - though the cost in civilian and military casualties does make me wonder sometimes if it truly was worth it. It's not a black and white matter - but evil has been vanquished, at least for now.

In the end, Iraq is not perfect, there are still violent stragglers, but al qaeda has been decimated and Iraq is slowly but surely returning to normal. The withdrawal plan, which was drawn up by Bush and Petraeus (not Obama as many probably have deluded themselves into believing) is underway and is proving not only workable but sustainable.

I have a great faith and hope that the same may some day be said for Afghanistan.

This is a war in which many on the left have said is a "good" war. Though many in congress have conveniently forgotten this, I have faith that our current president actually meant it when he said so. There is, even right now, far more support for our presence in Afghanistan, both from within the US and from international sources, than there ever was for Iraq.

As long as Obama doesn't waiver and wholeheartedly pursues this task, I have to believe he can succeed.

I will support him and our troops. I will pray for total victory and for an end to the drug trade and corruption that seem to have riddled the people that we helped put into power.

I will pray that the lives lost in the coming months will not be in vain.

Obama has done his job; he has decided that Americans WILL die for the protection of liberty and the defense of freedom. I cannot discount nor condemn him for this.

He is my president and I KNOW he will put his country FIRST.

I would be honored to shake his hand.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Enough already.

The shooting spree at Fort Hood was not a random tragic occurrence committed by a mentally ill lost soul, it was a pre-meditated act of terrorism by an Islamic extremist who knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it and who he was doing it for.

In other news, seems as though we now want to bring the mastermind of 9/11 into our civilian courts and treat him like a common criminal. Another great idea. Even better that we give him a platform in New York (of all places) to legitimize him and make sure that his "views" are heard.

In the meantime civilian judges, many of whom are like most Americans and just don't get it, can allow the spilling of plenty of information in the courtroom about our intelligence gathering techniques so that other Islamo-facists can use this info to expedite killing us.

Fundamentally, it's a refusal by the current administration to acknowledge that we are at war, and it turns my stomach.

Treating this as a criminal justice issue, as Clinton did with the first WTC bombing is a huge step backwards.

9/11 wasn't just terrorism, it was an act of war. These men are not just criminals, they are war criminals and deserve to be treated as such - as have all enemy combatants over the last 100 years. We didn't haul Goering into a local courtroom in 1945, and it's preposterous to consider such an act today with men who are just as crazy and on top of that refuse to wear a uniform.

There is no wiggle room here for the forces of evil to somehow escape from a criminal justice system rife with the rights, technicalities and loopholes that we afford citizens of a free society.

Nor is it acceptable to give these same forces a platform (on the sacred ground of NYC of all places) to voice their madness.

Most importantly, we cannot allow the courtroom to be turned into a circus, a vessel for defense attorneys to not only do their utmost to free these men but to grandstand and downplay the all too real war on terror.

I know it's fashionable right now to deny that such a war exists, but to do so is to disgrace the memories of those who died on that fateful day and to dishonor the forces overseas who are fighting to put down the disciples of the 9/11 mastermind.

This whole matter to me reeks of politicized opportunism, and a genuine lack of intellectual honesty from this administration. Not to mention a staggering ignorance of history and of the true nature of evil.

But none of this matters as much as one inescapable fact. Most of the relatives of those who died on 9/11 are very angry about this - so that's good enough for me to be too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Note to the Unknown Soldier

A little tribute video I cut together;

I was inspired by the Five for Fighting song
"Note to the Unknown Soldier"

Once the video starts, click on the lower right corner of the video to go to YouTube and see the video properly in widescreen.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last night I went to a housewarming party at my brother's new place - he's recently moved in with his girlfriend who is lovely in every way. Kudos to him.

A big highlight to the gathering was everyone playing and enjoying his recently purchased Beatles Rockband game.

It's fun, it's silly, it's addictive. For those who don't know, Guitar Hero and Rockband are musical video games, that involve mimicking rock n' rollers with plastic pint-sized instruments. Rockband is especially goofy because it involves guitars, drums and a microphone.

Once dignity has been dispensed with, it's a heck of a lot of fun, not only for people actually playing, but for observers as well.

But what makes the recently released Beatles version of the game especially great is, well, The Beatles.

I was struck last night at how everyone in the party, playing or not, took time to enjoy the music. One great thing about the game, is that the music you hear is the actual Beatles - not a cover or close proximity. It's really the boys, thanks to the miracles of modern sound engineering, separated onto different tracks. So if you're on drums and flub a beat or two, you hear Ringo's drumming drop out while the guitars and bass keep going. It's very slick.

The graphics are kind of creepy at first - robotic looking Beatles strum and strut through the numbers. For the earlier music you're in the Cavern Club, the Ed Sullivan Show and various stadiums and arenas. Later tunes feature the fab four in studio, but as the songs get underway they transform into psychedelic dreamscapes.

Once I got past the fact that John, Paul, George and Ringo looked like mannequin androids, I was impressed at the attention to detail, both in the bands mannerisms and technical playing as well as the digitally crafted environments. The music and the imagery combined with an enthusiastic group of friends who happen to love the Beatles, creates a unique and surprisingly powerful interactive experience.

Beatles Rockband, as surreal and as ridiculous as it is - is actually very special. It brings the best band in the world to a whole new audience, in a completely original way. It was put together with a lot of thought and care, and carries the seal of approval from the band's surviving members and the widows of George and John.

The Beatles are quite simply, the most influential and most beloved rock and roll act of all time. And happily, I am part of the vast majority of earthlings who have been enthralled and forever affected by the fab four.

Their music has meant very much to me personally over the years - it was a big part of my childhood, and today I still get emotional over the memories that are induced when certain tunes are played. I'm also especially struck, now as an adult, at just how cohesive and perfect the overall arc of the Beatles music is.

13 outstanding albums. Zero reunion tours.

Yoko Ono said it best, shortly after the bands breakup. I'm paraphrasing - "The Beatles were like a perfect temple, that was destroyed right after being built. Now they will always be perfect."

And it's true, unlike certain other "legendary" British bands, they will never be a tired old joke. They will never "retire" only to resurface with a mediocre record and world tour two years later, strutting around the stage in their 60's after endless plastic surgery and pilates. They will always be perfect.

Whatever twinge of sadness we might feel over never having the chance to see The Beatles play live, ever again, we can take more than enough solace in the fact that they will forever and for always be great. And their ultimate message, their gift to the world - is love. This will likely not tarnish or be diminished for at least a millennia or more.

But I confess, one of the great recurring daydreams of my life, is what would have happened if John hadn't been taken from us so abruptly. Recently before George was diagnosed with cancer, the three remaining lads became not only amicable but friendly to the point where they collaborated intensely on The Beatles Anthology and even crafted 2 brand new songs using John's old vocals. It captured my imagination. What if John had been in that mix? Would they have gone on tour?

Entertainment Weekly recently ranked the 50 best Beatles songs. A preposterous and pointless exercise. So much greatness, how can they only pick 50? I think it's patently ridiculous to even try. But to imagine what a set list might have been at a Beatles concert were it held today, where there would be at least some logic to picking and choosing, now that's a great idea!

My dream Beatles concert would go something like this...


The stage and lighting would be bare bones. Dark except for the instruments illuminated by harsh overhead spotlights. The iconic drum kit on a small riser, the classic Hofner bass, Gretch Duo Jet and Rickenbacker guitars on stands and waiting for their masters. The arena is plunged into darkness. Over an ocean of screams the cyclorama is illuminated, and four men arrive in silhouette. Three picking up and strapping on their guitars, one sitting down at the drum kit, the blackened shapes meander a bit - and then the first chord is struck...

A Hard Day's Night
Get Back
In My Life
Paperback Writer
I Feel Fine
I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Ticket to Ride
I've Just Seen a Face
She Said, She Said
Back in the USSR
Ballad of John and Yoko
All Together Now
I Saw Her Standing There

The first act is entirely The Beatles only, no additional musicians or instrumentation. The production design is also very flat and basic. The focus is the music. There are no costume changes, and a minimum of instrument changes. When the curtain rises on Act II, however, there is a full Orchestra, as well as additional percussionists and of course, Billy Preston on Keyboards. The staging, especially lighting, is a lot more elaborate and colorful.

Act II

Here Comes the Sun
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart's Club Band
A Little Help From My Friends
Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds
Within Without You
Hello Goodbye
Penny Lane
Strawberry Fields Forever
A Day In the Life
Yellow Submarine
Let It Be
Norwegian Wood
I Am the Walrus
Hey Jude
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End
All You Need Is Love

Just a single encore, but what an encore. Once again, it's just the boys, stripped down and simplified.


She Loves You
Please Please Me
From Me to You
Can't Buy Me Love
Love Me Do
Twist and Shout

I know, I know, not enough George and Ringo songs. Too many hits, not enough obscurities. Well tough. Make you're own! This one is mine! I really tried to make it feasible number of songs, in a non-chronological order (for the most part) that would have a very good rhythm of both upbeat and slower numbers, with nice builds towards the climaxes of each act and the encore.

I love the idea of a stripped down first act, a psychedelic second act, and a third mini-act that mimics the original set lists from those early stadium shows. About a 3 and a half hour show; a perfect evening that hits all the right notes and memories.

And one things for sure, this concert in my head is most likely WAY better than any actual show would have been.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

ACORN's going DOWN

When Jon Stewart, the most powerful political voice in the country as far as anyone 25 and younger is concerned, turns on your organization - it's time to go. This is an incredibly funny video, the humor is a bit crude and there are a few bleeped f-bombs, but hang in for the whole thing and be amazed.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

In case you don't watch Fox News or listen to right wing radio, this ACORN deal is the biggest story ever that the mainstream press still refuses to cover. Maybe now that their poster boy of comedy has finally seen the light, this story might get some legs.

It basically confirms what "crazies" like Limbaugh and Hannity have been saying for years now - that ACORN is a fundamentally corrupt and criminal organization, funded largely by taxpayers. I'd say, it's days are numbered.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Just About the Creepiest Thing I've Ever Seen

I know I just posted, be sure to read below this post, but OMFG.

Am I crazy? Is this not Mao? Castro? Chavez? This is insane.

Yes, 90% of it or so is fine, inspirational even. But the other 10%? Dear God.

Newsflash - I'm not here to serve the president, or any man. He's here to serve me.

I'm going to continue to flip people off who cut in front of me.

I'll drive whatever the hell I want.

I will not chant in unison with other pin-heads, even though I may be hopelessly in love with my own sanctimoniousness.

Am I a bad person because this video makes me very angry?

I pledge to play video games and internet poker.

I pledge to watch movies with lots of explosions and graphic violence.

I pledge to eat at the Olive Garden.

I pledge to eat Oreos, heavily laden with trans-fat.

I pledge to speak out against socialized medicine.

I pledge to recognize that I am smarter than Ashton Fucking Kutcher.

I pledge to support our military by supporting their mission.


Sorry. This one definitely got my blood pressure up.




Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Teach Your Children Well

So the president will be addressing our kids. Should be okay. I guess.

I doubt he'll try to push any of his policies or reforms explicitly on them, he's a pretty smart and savvy man. Even moderates probably wouldn't stand for such an overt indoctrination. But the cynic in me suspects that Obama realizes that most of our nation's public school teachers will do the dirty work for him anyway.

Here's an example; and if my little girl was a bit older and happened to be in a typical urban public school (thankfully she's in a school where they say the pledge of allegiance every morning) she could very well be up against something like this: (Skip ahead a little bit to the classroom).

Now, to be fair, I am a political junkie of sorts and certainly in my adulthood I find myself a bit to the right of center. My wife however, while not politically apathetic, could care less about the latest Michelle Malkin column or what Keith Olberman has been saying about healthcare.

With that in mind, when it comes to my child, I sincerely don't plan to directly indoctrinate her with my own views. No doubt she'll adopt some of them by osmosis, but my fondest hope is that she'll make up her own sensible mind about politics and at the same time become as big a fan as me on government happenings and social issues of the day. I pray that she spends her time surfing sights like or instead of TMZ or Perez Hilton.

And in my fondest partisan dreams, I hope she'll be a wide eyed liberal in her teens (showing she has a heart), then surprise herself by adopting conservative views as she enters adulthood (showing she has a brain) and eventually find herself somewhere in the middle ground of common sense where she is able to cast aside ideology for a more practical and thought fueled approach. Always asking questions, always being a healthy skeptic.

In any case, I hope she can at least recognize the shrill insanity of the woman in the video (as I was able to in my addle-brained teachers at Berkeley High school) and come to her own more fact based conclusions on stuff that matters.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Obama and Nixon

We now return to our regularly scheduled politically inflammatory blog.

UPDATE: Now apparently dissent is only patriotic when you're thrashing George W. Bush. If you dissent over health care, you're un-American.

The whole health care matter is complex, and I'm not necessarily on one side or another. I'll confess, my instinct is always for free enterprise and less government interference - but I'll concede that clearly our current system is badly damaged if not broken. It needs to be fixed yes, I'm just not sure that burning down the house (instead of a sensible renovation of the current system) is the way to go.

Having also been lectured on three different occasions in three different countries (Canada, the UK and New Zealand) about how shitty nationalized care is (rationed, endless waiting lists, a stifling of innovation, etc.) I'm a little hesitant to jump on the bandwagon when it hasn't worked anywhere else to any great effect that I can see. Michael Moore's movie notwithstanding where it did appear that the health care in Cuba was quite excellent, LOL. (Yes, I did watch sicko, it was entertaining if nothing else).

But believe it or not, I can be persuaded that maybe national health care is the way to go. I don't know for sure. I'm not really that passionate about it, so I'm willing to listen. Both sides make good points.

But the issue that is gnawing at my craw of late is the Obama administration's Chicago style tactics in dismissing thousands of politically active Americans, many of whom are saying the things that I'm thinking.

Obama and Pelosi with her Nazi swastika comparison, don't just disagree with the protesters - they see them as illegitimate. Oh the Irony. How quickly they forget that the government subsidized Acorn recruited homeless people to their protests in exchange for box lunches.

I guess when in doubt - go for the classic tactic of attacking the messengers and ignoring the message. Especially when the messengers are an ANGRY MOB.

But once again, right wing tool Rich Lowry says it much better than I could. Hooray for right wing talking points.

In Pursuit of a Silent Majority
Obama wants the majority that opposes or questions his policies to stay silent.

By Rich Lowry, NRO

Like Richard Nixon, Barack Obama wants to govern on the strength of a silent majority, although with a twist. Obama wants the majority that opposes or questions his policies to stay silent.

Obama’s White House and its allies have unleashed a barrage of criticism and condescension at people daring to show up at town-hall meetings and ask their elected representatives pointed questions. “Fired up and ready to go!” apparently works only one way. If engaged citizens shower Obama with adoration at stage-managed rallies, they are the very stuff of American democracy. If they boo their congressman, they are a scandalous eruption of fake or hateful sentiment.

The Democratic National Committee has called the hostile questioners and protesters at town halls a “mob.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that they represent “manufactured anger” ginned up by nefarious corporate interests, and referred to them as “the Brooks Brothers brigade.” California Sen. Barbara Boxer, too, took offense at the untoward lack of shabby dress, noting with disapproval that the protesters are “well-dressed.” It’s the attack of the haut polloi.

All of these Obama mouthpieces must forget that the president once was a community organizer. As a young man in Chicago, he got people to meetings and primed them with questions to ask city officials. By the Gibbs standard, when Obama prodded his community activists to get the Chicago Housing Authority to remove asbestos from a public-housing complex in the 1980s, it was contemptible “manufactured” outrage.

Conservative groups are publicizing the times and locations of town-hall meetings on the Internet. They are calling and e-mailing people on their membership lists and urging them to make their voices heard. No one prior to the troubled career of Obamacare thought town-hall meetings should be closely held secrets, or considered basic block-and-tackle political organizing as out of bounds.

Obama once extolled such organizing as one of the marvels of American democracy. The same DNC operative who attacked the “angry mobs of a small number of rabid right-wing extremists” ran a union-funded group in 2005 opposing Pres. George W. Bush’s Social Security reform. It organized protests and town-hall meetings, and ran TV ads. But never mind — it’s activism for me, not for thee.

The Obama team labors under the misapprehension that its sweeping, $1 trillion health-care plan is popular. Pluralities in almost every poll disapprove of the Democrats’ proposals and disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care. Polls show that opponents of Obamacare feel more intensely about the issue than supporters. It’s not surprising, then, that town-hall meetings would be uncomfortable for members of Congress plugging for Obamacare.

In politics, every action prompts a reaction. If Obama had had his way, health-care reform would have passed both houses of Congress a week ago in a pure power play. If Obama gets his maximalist version of reform through, he will depend less on persuasion than on sheer political muscle in Washington. Only a public quiescent to the point of obedience would meekly accept a rush to reorder one-sixth of the economy. And only a conservative opposition that had curled up and died wouldn’t raise holy hell.

The ultimate point of the attacks on the town-hall protesters is to define that opposition as illegitimate. Which is also why liberal opinion-makers are so obsessed with the “birther” conspiracy theorists who believe Obama was born in Kenya. The birthers have been denounced by every reputable conservative. But the Left still wants to use them to tar all Republicans as extreme in what it hopes will be a self-fulfilling narrative of conservative obsolescence.

This narrative will encounter the same difficulty as the health-care plan: reality. Obama is sinking toward a 50-percent presidency, with the public evenly divided over him. In New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races this year, Republicans are leading by 14 points in the latest polls and appealing to the center. No matter how fervently Obama may wish it to be so, his skeptics won’t be silent.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Touched by Greatness

I know a lot of people, and even love some of them. The ones I love are pretty much restricted to my family or closest of friends.

There is one exception to this.

One extraordinary soul that only departed this earth last Wednesday loomed large in my life - not just as an employer, but as a unique force in my life entire.

Paul Sharratt was 75 when he succumbed to a heart attack in the arms of his wife at 630 in the morning on May 27th, 2009.

He was a successful performer in his native land of Australia, with plenty of fame and awards to compliment his formidable skill set in the arts of comedy, song, dance and hosting. He was knighted. He has a park named after him. He won 12 "Logey" awards (the Australian equivalent of our Emmy).

He was an executive producer at my company, again with plenty of accolades and benchmarks of professional accomplishment. He has an American Emmy. He has traveled all over the world, not only for broadcast programming but for the outstanding charity work of Feed The Children. He has been instrumental in the success of my employer and by extension my employment.

But his legacy goes far, far, FAR beyond commercial achievement.

I have struggled for days and days on end to put into words just what made Paul Sharratt such an incredible force, not only in my life, but with everyone he encountered.

Honestly, I think he was touched by God.

He had a light in his spirit that was inescapable, and undeniable.

Don't get me wrong. He was not a saint, he was mortal. He had plenty of human faults and sins that were plainly visible at times. And yet, it didn't matter one bit. Everyone wanted to be around this man.

Case in point - an ex-employee (one of many) was at Paul's service. He drove all the way from Utah to be there. He had been personally fired 6 years ago BY PAUL. It didn't matter. He was there and he loved the man.

Everyone. And I mean everyone, loved Paul.

I've never met a man before quite like him, and I know I'll never meet one again.

I have been with my company for 13 years, and I've had the privilege of working with Paul on most days in that time period. Both in Los Angeles and all over the world, in locales as diverse as his homeland, Africa, China, southeast Asia and all across Europe.

By nature, especially at work and in my day to day interactions with the world, I am a private person. I save my inner thoughts and vulnerabilities for my wife, my brother, my mom and a small handful of my closest friends.

I rarely had any "deep" conversations with Paul, it was always pretty much work - good humored and good natured, but pretty much about business.

I loved the man, probably within a few months of meeting him, but I always respected his position as my employer and never sought to connect with him beyond my role as an employee who had a healthy respect for him.

There are two exceptions I can remember where my usual business-like manner was let down with him. I cling to these instances now fondly - as I wish with all my heart I could have had another conversation to tell him how much he meant to me.

The first instance was in Rome, after we had all enjoyed an audience with Pope JP II. I have written here before that I, not a religious person whatsoever, burst into quiet tears of joy upon seeing the holy father. I had a lovely talk with Paul that evening about the experience, and I could see that he was genuinely touched that I had been so moved (as had he) in seeing the pope.

The second instance was back in LA, when Paul had just returned from his cancer surgery. I looked into his eyes and told him how great it was to see him, he squeezed my shoulder gently and smiled with his usual magical warmth and a twinkle in his eyes, not saying a word, but clearly touched by my concern.

Reading back on what I've written, I think I've pretty much failed to convey what was so great about Paul.

I can say all sorts of wonderful things about him that are true and give you a sense about him as a person - but you really had to know him to understand that he was so much more than the sum of these parts.

He was warm. He was charming. He had a fun and wicked sense of humor. He had charisma, but still seemed down to earth.

He was a good listener, but generally had already formed an opinion - and yet, he didn't come off as close minded at all.

He could be irritable - and yet, somehow, people were still drawn to him, even when he was cross.

He didn't suck up to people. Ever. He didn't kiss ass - and yet, somehow, even people that he had to deal with professionally (yes, he did fire people on occasion) never held a grudge, never wished him ill. It sounds unbelievable, bizarre even, but it was true.

I honestly believe there was a light in him - that he could be fallible - and yet somehow never lose his connection with the divine.

I have been deeply affected over losing him - though as I say, I wasn't by any means a close friend of his. But I am overwhelmed and so deeply honored to have, as Ruta Lee so beautifully said at his memorial service, lived in close proximity to such an incredible thread in the tapestry of life.

I take great comfort from Paul's wife, who told me in private that Paul thought very highly of me.

My heart breaks for her, and Paul's daughters - one of which worked with her dad here in LA for many years. How hard it must be for her to come back to a place that is so much filled with Paul's presence.

All of Paul's girls (his wife and 2 daughters) are in my prayers - I know they will get through it, because Paul is with them and helping them along the way.

He is with me as well - and I know he doesn't want anyone to be overwhelmed with grief. He wants us to enjoy our lives.

I know those closest to him will eventually persevere. And the rest of us will get through as well.

Looking around at the people who knew him, it is very evident that Paul has left a little piece of his divine light behind - and it is shining in our hearts, as brilliant and as bright as the sun.

We are now, as he was in life, touched by greatness.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wow. Just... wow.

I think I'm getting a whole lot of empathy for my friends on the left who suffered "Bush Derangement Syndrome." over the past 8 years.

And then there's this supreme idiocy.

This Carter-esque bumbling is not only stupid, but I would argue (as Teddy Roosevelt did) that such extreme fealty and blind pacifism is inherently immoral.

There were stretches of 2006 and 2007 (when things in Iraq were really bad) when my aforementioned left leaning friends fell into despair about the future of our country.

I'm in one of those pockets right now.

I guess more than anything, I'm scared of being right.

I hope that the land of Unicorns and Rainbows that our president speaks of really does exist - and that somehow the 60% tax rates of Europe and fun stuff like government mandated thermostats will turn out to be the very best thing for all of us.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Rest in Peace, Officer

Nearly fifteen years ago I umpired one of my last baseball games, at St. Mary's college in Moraga - my partner was John Hege, a stocky fellow a few years my senior with a good head for umpiring and a wicked sense of humor.

The game I don't really remember, my life was changing and I still loved baseball, but I knew I was headed for different things. But I do remember the conversation John and I had in the parking lot. He told me he had joined the Oakland PD as a reserve officer - and he loved it. He spoke excitedly about being a cop, how the adrenaline he and I experienced from laying down the law on the ball field was nothing next to the rush of playing the role in real life.

I don't remember specific sentences, but I'll never forget that enthusiasm in his eyes. He had found what he loved.

I at one time had aspired to be a police officer; it appealed to me. Helping people, seeing justice served. But I knew well before my conversation with John, that such a life, while enticing, was ultimately not for me. Police work, like umpiring, was thankless - and truth be told, I am the type who would have a knot in my stomach for days after I made a bad call. I was, and still am, sorely lacking the thick skin needed for the job.

Not John. He could have a coach screaming in his face (though it didn't happen that often) and happily eject the loudmouth with a smile. Inevitably he would have a scathing joke about the offender afterwards that would leave me in stitches.

John and I, over about 4 years, maybe umpired a hundred games together. He, along with my good buddy Jay, was my favorite guy to work with. We also went to the Joe Brinkman professional umpire school together in 1991. He did well, but came down with a very nasty cold that saw him fall just short of moving on to the Major League Umpire Development program.

I lost contact with him, along with all my other umpire associates, when I moved to Tucson and away from the baseball life in 1994. I had fond memories of my time on the diamond, but my brother told me years later that I was a much happier person afterwards. Umpiring was for men of a different breed, men like John Hege.

Police work is even more daunting, and far more important. When a prowler came to my bedroom window at 2 in the morning, only 2 weeks after my little girl was born, the cops came quickly - and eventually caught the piece of trash. "Go back to sleep sir, this doesn't happen in Burbank." was what the officer told me.

Apart from the handful of instances where police have helped me directly, and even one time where they pulled me over because I matched a suspect's description, I know there are countless other instances where because of their mere presence or prior actions - I have been spared the evils of society.

I am in awe of these men and women, and I literally thank God that this thin blue line is there for me and my family.

On Sunday John and his partner pulled over a man for a minor traffic violation. The man put a bullet in John's head and killed 3 other officers before being killed himself. John as of this moment is still on life support, but is brain dead and will be allowed to go to his maker as soon as organ donation arrangements can be made.

The memory of John has been with me all day, and I am hurt and angered by the thought of such scum taking John's life. But I am also remembering the good times, and most important of all - reminding myself that John knew what he was getting into and was ready to give his life so the rest of us could be safe.

These days, my life is good. I am a successful television editor, on a show about, of all things, cops. I have seen first hand, raw footage, reel after reel after reel, of officers doing their job. Being human, yes, being tough, yes - but always having compassion and a greater need to serve their community and protect the innocent.

They are lied to, over and over and over again. And yet they keep their composure and their humanity. They pray before hitting a search warrant - pray for their safety and the safety of their families. And they pray for the safety of the suspects whose homes they are about to invade.

It will take awhile, but eventually I know I must pray for another man who now lies dead in the morgue - the man who took John's life and the lives of his fellow officers. The man who shattered the lives of the families and children, not only of the police, but of the people who knew him and probably even loved him.

In the mean time I am praying for John, that his passage into the next life will come soon and peacefully. I'm praying for those that loved him and the doubtless thousands of people whose lives were touched by his service and are now saddened at his passing.

In my mind, I can see John, that wry grin and twinkle in his eye as he stomps out to the mound to break up the coach and players bullshit session. Then he's back behind the plate, slams the mask down.

Play ball.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Deal With It

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Movies 2008

My faves for 2008

Keep in mind I don't get to see many moves, compared to what I used to watch pre-kid. Not complaining, but my choices are much more limited these days.

10. Cloverfield
Perfect DVD rental. Loved it from first frame to last - strong choices top to bottom and a great faithful ethos to b-movies.

9. Prince Caspian
Love the books - greatly admire the movies. Very moving for a fan and a person of faith. Caspian is not perfect, but a great addition to the series.

8. Milk
Sean Penn is amazing (too bad he's such an idiot as a person). Film expertly captures the time and illuminates a historic event that I thought I knew very well.

7. Man On Wire
Stunning documentary, almost derailed by ridiculous sex scene reenactment. Beautiful otherwise.

6. Speed Racer
Unconventional. Not Hollywood. Plenty of heart. Phenomenal visuals. Ahead of it's time.

5. Iron Man
Great ride. Downey is amazing - set pieces are exhilarating. Even Paltrow is tolerable (actually perfectly cast for once.)

4. Kung Fu Panda
I was absolutely floored by this film. A MUST for anyone who loves Kung Fu movies. Finally Dreamworks Animation approaches Pixar quality in story and animation. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

3. Tropic Thunder
One of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Instant classic.

2. Wall-E
Pixar's masterpiece. Incredibles is a better movie, Wall-E is a better film, and the best of the Pixar crop.

1. The Dark Knight.
The standard by which all comic book movies should be measured. Along with Wall-E, this is one of the most profound movies of the decade.

Honorable Mentions - movies that I enjoyed and would recommend.

The Spiderwick Chronicles
Great little fantasy film, plenty of thrills and chills plus a great heartfelt punch.

Horton Hears a Who - almost made the top ten, but how many cartoons can I have up there? I know I'm a dad, but oye! A delightfully realized romp. It will always have a fond place in my heart also because it's the first movie my little girl saw in a theater.

Jumper - Very flawed story, but still a hell of a lot better than Twilight. Great gags and effects, a fun ride. Listing it here because I know it will be overlooked.

Incredible Hulk - Damn good comic book movie. Until I saw Iron Man and Dark Knight. Still a blast and a definite purchase.

Bolt - Very good adventure, hard to compete against Pixar and Dreamworks. Some great character work and plenty of heart.

Madagascar 2 - Yes, I have a 4 year old! Honestly, I've become a great fan of these movies (even after, or maybe because of, seeing them both dozens of times). Borat is hilarious as the lemur king. Good times, great movie for kids and silly grown ups.

Honestly, I can't remember a year with more animated home runs. Any other year Horton Hears a Who is a top ten movie on my list.

Movies I REALLY want to see badly.

Frost/Nixon - Heard nothing but good things. Nixon fascinates me.
Ben Button - Love Fincher's work. Zodiac was amazing.
Gran Torino - This one more than the others I'm dying to see. Heard it's a big un-PC Dirty Harry as a geriatric flick.

Worst Movies I saw in 2008

Rachel Getting Married - What. The. Hell. I like Hathaway, but honestly, her character needs to shut up. Like, now. And what's up with the long ass scenes in real time that don't go anywhere. And the twist? Unbearably contrived and just stupid. Crap on crap. Did I mention I didn't like this movie?

Mamma Mia - I love musicals. I even like Abba. I hated this. Hated it. Meryl Streep is a big loser for bullying her way into this role. "I'm Meryl Streep. I have 2 dozen oscars. I like Mamma Mia'. I demand the lead!" Newsflash - You can't, freaking, sing.
How can you have a musical with lead characters that can't FREAKING SING? The numbers are somewhat well conceived - Dancing Queen is a visual delight. But it all falls apart, because the actors driving the show, don't have the tools to do the job. I felt sorry for all involved in this fatally flawed mess.

Twilight - meh.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - There's lots here that I actually like a lot. Love the 50's atom bomb sequence. Enjoy Shia' and the visual gags that accompany him. Love the college motorcycle chase, love the ants in the amazon. HATE HATE HATE the Crystal Skull itself. Looks like a model for the actual prop. "So Steven, this is a mockup?" "No, this is it." "This is what?" "The actual prop." "But it looks like acrylic with saran wrap inside of it. It looks like ass." "I'm Steven Spielberg, End of Discussion." And the final act is just terrible.

That's it. Overall, I really enjoyed most movies I saw this year. And I can't say enough about the Dark Knight and Wall-E, two of the best movies I can remember in a long, long time.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

God Bless America

As I write this, the President-Elect is mere moments from being sworn in.

I am fully prepared to give the same level of support and optimism to Obama, as the democrats did to Bush.

Er... actually, I want Obama to succeed.

It is a great day for our nation, from a historic perspective. Obama, an African American, will be sworn in under oath on the same Bible that Abe Lincoln used in 1865. Pretty amazing stuff.

I pray for our new President's safety and success.

I also hope those who are infatuated with him, don't crumble in despair when it hits them that he is merely a human being faced with one of the toughest jobs on the planet. As leader of the free world, he will make mistakes. Big ones.

He will not fill your gas tank. He will not pay your mortgage.

In fact, one of the things I really admire about Obama - and goes largely un-highlighted by the press and his supporters; he pushes responsibility and accountability of the individual. True, he is a hopeless liberal, who currently has plans to expand the government even beyond our previous president (who spent more on failed social programs that the previous four administrations combined), but he also will stand before a black congregation and call for fathers of the community to stop abandoning their kids. I have faith that more of the latter and less of the former Obama will emerge as he realizes that the Presidency is not tantamount to playing "wish fairy" for the loudest complainers in the social strata.

To me, the biggest surprise, or you could say, elephant in the room is that Obama's America, will actually, be pretty similar to George W. Bush's. I laugh at the deluded folks who are saying things like "Now, I feel like I can come back to my country." Newsflash; your country has always been here - and will remain long after our current President departs.

This inauguration still has a prayer, before and after - this time led by a right wing pro-life pastor of all people. We still fire massive cannons after the oath of office is taken - and I have no doubt that Obama's speech will contain a warning to our enemies that amounts to "You mess with us, we will kill you." Some things about the Presidency will in fact, never change. At the end of the day, he still has to man up and do his job.

I am hopeful, but not deluded. I am, right now, choking up at Obama's speech. Our country faces challenges, and no one man can solve them. We are indebted to our country, and the ideals it was built on. I may disagree with Obama on many of his views - but I can say I have faith that he will fight to defend us from tyranny, and preserve our way of life.

God Bless America.