Sunday, January 30, 2011

The King's Speech

Submitting to all the overwhelming hype, I begrudgingly went to see The King's Speech last night. The complex was packed as I fidgeted impatiently in line to stay warm. Damn, those outdoor ticket booths. Luckily it wasn't sold out, however a number of senior citizens were frustrated when I asked them to move their brittle bones so I could secure a seat. Felt like Bingo Night, even though I was the one with the hearing aids.

The movie was sensational. Rarely do movies live up to their hype (see Avatar, well actually, don't) but this film was a welcome exception to the norm. For those who haven't seen it, the movie channels the ascension of King George VI, while focusing almost entirely on his noticeable speech impediment. His stammer.

Colin Firth portrays the King. He is taken under the auspices of a (sort of) Doctor, a speech therapist played by an eccentric Geoffrey Rush. Firth is married (to the Queen, obviously) to Helena Carter, who I adore from my liberal viewings of Fight Club. She plays an unlikely (for her) mostly docile wife who scours across England to help cure her bumbling husband. A minor subplot forms with George's brother,  played well by Guy Pearce (see Memento if you don't know) relinquishes his throne to his younger sibling.

You know, as I type this I realize just how boring the premise is, and I'm doing no better in its review. But that's the charm of this movie, it is so exceptionally acted and shot, that you lose sight of the fact that the plot isn't all that elaborate and many secondary cast members go completely under developed. Nonetheless, Firth will likely earn an Academy for his impeccable portrayal, and it's no stretch to say that  Rush/Carter may be recipient as well.

So, see it if you haven't, it's highly recommended.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aggression

One of the assigned books I'm reading for class is, "Beyond War" by Douglas Fry. Fry's thesis is - the ubiquitous and unchallenged rhetoric that man is innately violent - is false. He doesn't base his theory off opinions, rather empirical evidence collected from the history of mankind until present day. Similar to "Ishamel" by Daniel Quinn, the primary culprit for our present violent destructive tendencies are nascent, occurring only in the last 12,000 years beginning with the agricultural revolution.

The revolution enabled populations to expand beyond their means because man controlled crops and with burgeoning populations, you can see how more conflicts are inevitable. Especially, when you consider droughts and other natural disasters, where populations face severe pains because they're too big to move along like the small, nomadic tribes of our ancestors. Additionally, a hierarchical system occurred concomitantly that lead to caste systems, and disparity between individuals.

Interesting premise, no?

Fry points to numerous examples of nomadic tribes where each member is more or less equal, much closer to egalitarianism than what we have in the industrialized world. While conflict is obviously present, dealing with the conflict is resolved primarily non-violently. He postulates a step further, questioning whether or not man is innately aggressive. I use 'man' specifically, as women are not historically nor presently very aggressive or physically violent.

Fry believes aggression is a learned trait, past on through our glamorized history books, Hollywood, and present culture. The violence dominating our society leads to more violence while giving us the wrong impression that this is natural, or 'the way it's always been.'

Do you think man is innately aggressive or violent? Do you think we have to repress our urges, or are these urges thrust upon us via cultural factors listed above? Colman McCarthy once taught me that we have to teach our children peace, or someone else will teach them violence.

I'd like to hear what you guys think...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Column Link

Here is my latest for The Eagle, published today. Too bad my photo isn't visible online, it's in the hard copies. I'll be posting some new photos soon, as I've been eating right and working out hard for my trip to Mexico...

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/emphasizing-the-need-for-compassion/

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Blog

For my Public Diplomacy course, I created a blog for a small group of classmates and I. We are asked each week to opine about a pressing public diplomacy issue. We can keep it short and simple, or carry on in a short narrative, it's our choice. We have much autonomy, however the concepts must correlate with class material and/or the readings.

In any case, if you'd like to see another forum and what other graduate students (and some undergrad, it's a mixed class) are thinking, please click the link below...

http://diplomaticstuds.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Suns Won!!!!

Had a blast last night cheering on Phoenix. Sat about 14 rows from the bottom and held up my sign proudly as people snapped photos and nodded admittedly as I flaunted it during timeouts. Nash, of course, played very well finishing the game with 14 assists and something like 17 points and 4 rebounds. However, Channing Frye stole the show with his accurate outside shooting derailing any small chance the Wizards had.

It was a sloppy first half, both teams shooting poorly and turning the ball over frequently. The second half, the Suns came out firing and looked like, dare I say it, playoff-caliber.

After the game, as I at times do, I paraded the sign for all to see high above my head as Wizard fans laughed and chided me. As I walked to car I passed by Hooters, and placed the sign up against the glass window of the establishment and knocked loudly. The restaurant parishioners laughed uproariously while I admired the...ambience. Good times.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Suns Game

Perhaps for the last time in his career, I will watch Steve Nash play live this weekend at the Verizon Center in downtown DC. I'm stoked. As many of you are aware, Nash is a 2-time MVP and a future Hall of Famer in a game dominated by guys 6-10 inches taller and stronger than him. But Nash is unique in his athleticism, agility and work ethic. Dude doesn't have an ounce of fat on him (and he's 38!).

I'm bringing a sign that reads NASH...the real Wizard! (The Washington mascot is the Wizard).

A true story: When I was about 13, my Pops drove me to downtown Phoenix to run in a 5-k race. Unfortunately, we got the time wrong and I missed the start. Instead, I ran the 8-k (had to scramble to make that race). Unbeknownst to us, a Phoenix Suns player was going to be present to shake hands and promote the games to all finishers.

After I finished, my Pops and I went searching for the player. Standing alone, in a short-cropped military cut was Steve. He had his arms crossed and looked bored like 2-hours into a lecture. No one was near him. Likely, because no one knew who he was.

But we did.

We had watched Steve play at the end of his college career, and went right up and chatted with him. What's funny looking back is that Steve was the designated PR guy. He was the grand disappointment. You show up to something under the assumption someone awesome like Charles Barkley is gonna be there only to have some scrub named Nash who was accumulating splinters off the bench.  No one cared.

What a difference a few years make.

Many analysts now revere Nash as perhaps the greatest passer of all time. Now if he showed up in public he'd be surrounded by bodyguards that would make the Secret Service blush. Hats off to a guy with more heart than Cupid. I'll always be a proud Steve Nash fan. Go Suns.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrate MLK

Martin Luther King Jr., is one of my heroes. His adherence to non-violent activism sets a wonderful example for young folks like me. I've studied him profusely in school (including graduate school) and although he had some private life miscues, his professional activism was second to none.

In his honor, I offer three short youtube clips. Please watch if you have 20 minutes (total time). Watch them in chronological order. It's the least we can do to appreciate and commemorate his life.

Please feel free to share any thoughts in the comment section...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SfH2uMayks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FQIlE-WlM8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvB5a9_XJ3I

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cancun

After much deliberation, I decided to utilize my parent's timeshare in Mexico for Spring Break. While chary of the violence (mostly drug and gang related), I remain undeterred after researching some of the problems Mexico is having. I'll be staying nearby some Mayan ruins and may get to swim with dolphins. Looking to do some hiking, snorkeling and exploring. 

Thanks for the input and I shall post some photos when I return. Just an early heads up, trying to lighten the mood by distraction while the tragic shooting captivates our lives. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Column Link

So it appears I still have a column this semester, good news for me.

Here is the link, comment on the page if you wish :).

http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/the-fear-of-transparency/

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shooting

As you should already know, an Arizona Congresswoman was gravely wounded yesterday when she was shot in the head by a deranged 22 year-old in Tucson, Arizona. Gabrielle Giffords, a moderate Democrat, was hosting a town-hall type meeting in a mall when the shooter opened fire. Six people were murdered.

Unsurprisingly, the degenerate shooter recently signed up to join the military. This kid had a death wish written all over him.

What prompted him?

No one knows for sure, although he seemed to ascribe to bizarre beliefs based on his youtube videos and public profiles. Some have made the connection that Sarah Palin was influential. Palin infamously, 'targeted' with bullet holes 20 representatives in the midterms with a map of the United States. See below.

As a gun enthusiast, people like Palin are influencing the most rabid and idiotic of our nation. It's not all that different than Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan recruited by Al-Qaeda. I don't blame Palin directly, but she certainly played an indirect role using her inflammatory rhetoric to charge people like the insane shooter and inspire them to take violent action. While she condemns the shootings, and denies her role, it is people like her and Glenn Beck who boisterously motivate the dumbest of the dumb to action.

It's tragic.

Luckily, Giffords has survived the shooting. I'm as appalled as I'm sure you all are, especially because my home state continues to produce some of the most disgusting events in recent memory. Here's hoping for a full recovery.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Open to Circumstance

I'm no expert of economics (then again, no one is). My undergraduate degree is in Political Science and it's a flaw of our scholastic system that we don't dedicate more time studying current and past financial collapses and bull markets. Any economist will scoff at a politician ready to make proclamations about Wall Street. Yet any politician worth his salt will discount the 'wisdom' of economist's predictions.

Let me start with a question.

What is your fiscal outlook? What fiscal policy do you believe in?

For Republicans (I assume there aren't any reading this) the answer is reflexively automatic. Low/no taxes. Cut spending. Free trade. Less regulation. Reduce deficit (in theory of course). Basically, these are soundbites that we hear and even most Democrats consider themselves fiscally conservative. And this makes sense because corporations have funded innumerable think tanks to hijack debate and produce a litany of op-eds, studies, news stories, documentaries, etc. that show a favorable approach to their (big-business) beliefs.

You think the poor have the collective manpower, money or clout to do the same? Of course not. The studies are funded by think-tanks via corporations. We know this, nothing new.

What bothers me, is it seems that different economic circumstances should influence different types of behavior. For example, if I have $1 Million in the bank (I don't) I'm probably saving/investing/spending differently than if I have $5,000 (still no). Just a microcosm example. But I hypothesize that it's applicable on a larger scale. Under different economic conditions, our opinions should be malleable and alter with the circumstance.

Yet, we never see any of this. We never see a politician or economist iterate anything other than what we expect them to. Bernie Sanders is predictable. So is every Republican (and many Democrats). No one espouses a flexible economic mentality - believing in applying different measures under different times.

Even after we had one of the worst financial meltdown in our nation's history, Republicans still champion deregulation, low taxes and free trade. Our culture values consistency more than flexibility.

And this is why, I presume, our economic plan is doomed to stumble further.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spring Break

Look at me, semester hasn't even started yet and I'm already harping about spring break. But alas, I am saving up mounds and mounds of moolah with an attempt to take an adventure somewhere exciting this March. At first, I focused intently on Central America. A) I've never been. B) The terrain is diverse and has mountains as well as beaches. C) It's geographically convenient and don't lose a day traveling. D) It's not your typical College Spring Break E) Money goes far. Seemed like a good place to start. So after reviewing the 7 states I honed in on Guatemala and Panama.

Guatemala because it's the most interesting with lots to see (ruins, volcanoes, etc.) and Panama because Pops went last year, they still accept US Dollars, and not as touristy as, say Costa Rica.

But it wasn't long before my budget was scoffed at by reality. I could afford airfare and probably a taxi service to get to a hotel, after that I'm on my own. So now I'm forced to recalibrate and allocate more money toward the trip. Or, perhaps a change in venue.

A few cruises run out of Miami, and there are still many Caribbean islands I have yet to see. But cruises will be packed during Spring Break and they sound rather dull (do you really play bingo?). I've also read that many cruises aren't all-inclusive and therefore you spend way more than you expected to.

So here's where you come in, I'm open to suggestions (assuming they're relevant) and solicit your expertise. If you have any ideas for a 'unique adventure' my catch phrase, let me know. I'm obviously looking for something affordable, something a tad out of the ordinary but that more or less satisfies the A-B-C-D-E criterion above.

Thanks for your help....

Monday, January 3, 2011

Persuasion

You're right ya know and as you should,
Conduct yourself like a conceited bull,
An aura of arrogance worn like cologne,
Isn't any question, you wouldn't know,


But I am right I say, and I stand firm,
Obligated to teach and inform,
So what I come off a little boastful,
Better that than timid or blindly hopeful,


But context is key don't ya know,
How can they hear you when you're atop the throne?
Refusing to budge even an inch,
Giving ground isn't just a weakness,


What ground to give when I've studied the issue,
Challenged the answers, torn it apart like tissue,
My frustration leaks when engaged against stupidity,
Of course I'm pissed - I'm paying attention - that's not rigidity,


You attract more bees with honey than fly swatter,
You detract from your argument when the heat gets hotter,
By shouting louder or saying 'you're wrong',
Even if you're right your stature is small,


It's exasperating is what it is,
To be a nihilist and live amongst droids and squids,
To have no one criticize the canonical bullshit,
Everyone walking around like brainwashed dimwits,


There ya go again with your personal attacks,
Can't ya see you're like a baseball approaching a bat,
If you're so smart than why can't they be persuaded,
Is your intellect enough to counter those jaded?


It's not enough because the dumb have one thing in common,
Intransigence to accentuate their foolish dogma,
So in essence it's futile to swim upstream,
They're stuck forever in a hapless dream,


Then find a circle of those like yourself,
Those willing to dig deeper and concerned for human health,
Commiserate together and forge a strong bond,
It'll be rewarding in a small world and perhaps beyond,


So drop my idealism that they'll see the light?
Refuse to engage or mollify views more than a slight,
I shouldn't be forced to relinquish my passion,
The longer I stick at it, maybe one day itt'l happen...