Dec 23, 2009

The Top Ten Christmas Movies of All Time!

Here are the Top Ten Christmas Movies of all time (according to Randumblog).  Let me begin by saying that I am aware that A Christmas Story, The Polar Express, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation are not included.  If there were fifteen they would be (but so would Gremlins).  I also realize that A Charlie Brown Christmas is not listed.  It is a special and not a movie or it would  definitely be in my top ten.

10. The Family Man (2000)
This may be the most underrated Christmas film of all time.  It doesn’t help that it came out at the same time as How the Grinch Stole Christmas which is the highest grossing Christmas film of all time.  The Family Man is a modern twist on the story from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Instead of dealing with what would happen if Jake Campbell (Nicholas Cage) had not existed, it deals with an alternate path that life would have taken him if he had chosen his girlfriend over his career.  If you have not seen this movie, you should rent it soon.

9. Die Hard (1988)
What more could one want from a Christmas movie besides time off from work, reconciliation with family, and a Christmas party?  Oh yeah, did I mention terrorists, explosions, and NYPD officer John Mclain (Bruce Willis)?  Die Hard brings in the holiday with a bang that makes me want to say Yippie Ki Yay Merry Christmas!

8. A Muppet’s Christmas Carol (1992)
Most people disagree as to which “Scrooge” movie is the best.  I happen to believe that it is the Muppet rendition.  Michael Caine would be a great Ebenezer Scrooge in a serious film, which makes it even better that he is acting along side of the Muppets.  Kermit is the best Bob Cratchit that I have ever seen.  On the comedic side, Statler and Waldorf are hilarious as Jacob and Robert Marley.

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
I loved the original animated version of the Grinch.  This was an improvement in every area except the rhyming.  It has grown on me ever since.  Jim Carrey does an outstanding job of bringing the Grinch to life.  This movie is a feast for the eyes.  Whoville is a set design that makes Willie Wonka’s Factory look like a sad joke.  I also love the back-story on why the Grinch moved to Mt. Crumpit in the first place.

6. The Santa Clause (1994)
This is hands down the winner for fastest beard growth, with Evan Almighty and Teen Wolf as honorable mention.  Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) is hilarious as the witty would be Santa.  It is a touching story of a boy believing in his father when no one else will.  It is a shame that the two sequels for this film were not up to par.  Actually, it is a shame that sequels were made for this movie period.

5. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I am surprised at how many people still have not watched this movie.  It is the greatest clay animation movie of all time.  Most of the people I talk to think that it is supposed to be scary.  This is simply not true.  It is a whimsical fairy tale about someone who wants to bring Christmas to Halloween Town.  The people try, but end up messing up Christmas for our world.  It is up to Jack Skelington to take Santa’s place and save Christmas.  The music is amazing.  Disney originally released it under their Touchtone Pictures label until they saw how great it was and quickly put the Disney brand on the movie.  Coincidentally, this is the only Christmas movie that is applicable to two holidays.

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The original is definitely the best when it comes to Miracle on 34th Street.  I am still scratching my head as to why the proof for Santa in court was changed from the letters that the post office had, to the In God We Trust motto on the dollar bill.  Were the makers of the modern film trying to say that God is a fictional character?  It doesn’t really matter though since the original is king.  Edmund Gwenn is the best Santa that I have witnessed in any film.  I love how Santa sends the business from Macys to Kimballs and it actually increases the business at Macys.  It would be great to see businesses (and churches) operate in this manner today.

3. Elf (2003)
Elf is destined to become a perennial favorite for years to come.  It is one of those movies that keep getting funnier each time I watch it.  It really helps that there are great quotes within the film. “You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don't smell like Santa.”  I am not a big Will Ferrell fan, but I am glad that he was cast in this role, because he was perfect for it.

2. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone always seems to start the Christmas holiday for me.  I know that Christmas is about Jesus, but the feeling of Christmas and the freedom Christ brings always hits at certain times.  Home Alone is that time for me.  I could have the lights up, the shopping done, and be baking cookies and still not feel like the season has started until I watch Home Alone.  I know it sounds weird, but the sooner I see this, the sooner I begin focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Classic, classic, classic!  Did I mention classic?  This movie has it all; great acting, a dynamic story, and the universal moral truth that each life matters.  It also has Jimmy Stewart who is good in any role.  Who would have thought that we would still be watching this annually over fifty years after it was made? I will close with this, “Merry Christams Mr. Potter, Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!”--and Merry Christmas to everyone reading my blog, regardless of your opinion on the best Christmas movies.  Grab one you like, someone you love, and some popcorn and have a great Christmas! 

An updated list for 2011 is available here

Dec 20, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Brittany Murphy

Brittany Murphy was found dead this morning in the shower.  She died from cardiac arrest but the cause is uncertain at this time.  The 32 year old actress had starred in movies such as Clueless, Just Married and 8 Mile.  My personal favorite role of Brittany's was that of Luanne Platter in television's King of the Hill.  Luanne never failed to make me laugh when she was interacting with Hank Hill.  Brittany's voice was perfect for the role.

It is always sad to see someone die this young (I am already 30 myself).  The rumors are that she was taking Vicodin, although a drug overdose seems to be ruled out at this time.  Her husband, screenwriter Simon Monjack, told hospital staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that he did not want an autopsy performed (or at least that is what sources are telling TMZ).  Her mother, who found Brittany and dialed 911, told paramedics that her daughter struggled with diabetes.  All of these things cast a shadow on what will become a full blown investigation into her death.

She will be missed by her family, friends and fans.  Ashton Kutcher, who acted along side her in Just Married, had this to say on Twitter:  "See you on the other side kid 2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon."  Let us remember her family in prayer at this time, as we reflect on the brevity of life and the legacies that each of us are carving out. 

Dec 18, 2009

AVATAR - Movie Review - With No Plot Spoilers!

Well I just returned from the much celebrated and highly advertised Avatar movie.  I had an enjoyable time watching this film (as I always do when I get a good seat in an uncrowded theater).  The experience was heightened by the digital theater I saw it in and also by the 3D glasses.

Avatar was filmed with virtual cameras, so that the director could see the finished product, as it was being shot on the green screen.  This is going to revolutionize the movie industry.  I can't wait to see the worlds that will be unfolded with this kind of technology.

I know that at this point most of my readers have not seen Avatar, so I will not give away any plot spoilers.  I thought that the special effects were great, especially when coupled with shots from New Zealand (where much of Lord of the Rings was filmed).  It was very difficult to think of any of what I was seeing as CGI.

There is an indigenous tribe called the Na'vi that the main character, a paraplegic named Jake Sully, has infiltrated by using a real living avatar.  There is no explanation of how the human can transfer back and forth from avatar to body.  It is like logging in to the Matrix except that this is supposed to be real life and not a computer program.  This should require the avatar to return to the lab to be logged out of its body but they do it from a distance somehow.

The movie itself felt like watching Dances with Wolves in Space.  The humans are evil and want to kill the very "green" blue people.  Even the tag-line at the end of the credits says that any similarity between the movie and real people or events is unintentional, although one can find a very purposeful connection to modern politics.  We are told by the military in this movie that we must do a preemptive strike to fight terror with terror.  This was an obvious reference to Iraqi since there were no acts of terror or any other mention of terrorism in the entire movie.

This is likely to become Al Gore's favorite Sci-Fi movie.  The movie speaks of the "mother" of the planet (in the form of a goddess).  It is said that there is nothing green on earth and that the humans had killed their mother (Earth).  Apparently they were bent on killing the mother of the Na'vi too.  James Cameron presents us with a world where all living things are one together (the force), one must be born a second time in order to be a full member of the tribe (Christianity),  and the great mother provides neutrality but in a pinch can use power to aid her followers (Greek mythology/Buddhism/Environmentalism).  They even commune with the souls of their ancestors.

Avatar is the best movie I have seen since 2012 and it may even be better.  It has a great story of forbidden love woven in.  All in all the movie is enjoyable and can spark some good discussions.  Such as, why is a movie with a PG13 rating, violence, and a good deal more profanity than most current fantasy films being marketed in McDonalds' Happy Meals?

Dec 15, 2009

Childlike Faith

My Grandad died when I was thirteen years old. I remember it vividly. I accepted that he was indeed dead, but I also believed that God had power over death and life. All of this faith and I was not even a believer yet. I buried my face in my pillow and cried. My crying turned to screaming and soon I was yelling at God. I did not think that this was wrong because in my mind he had taken my grandad and there was still some negotiating to be done. I mean, what is the point of God raising Lazarus or Jesus from the dead if he did not intend to stay in practice? I remember begging God to bring my grandad back and when I had finished my rant and settled down, I went into the family room. I sat by the phone for the next hour or so honestly expecting a call saying that my grandad was back. Yes, he would be back in his body to finish out his life until such a time as I and God agreed on his rightful departure. How naive, but full of faith I was.

Somewhere on the path of life to adulthood we seem to lose our childlike faith. The same thing happened to Jesus' disciples when he had been preaching to a large crowd. They wanted Jesus to send the people away so that they could buy food. Jesus told them to feed the people. This was an absurd suggestion, but one of the disciples found a boy with five small loaves of bread and two fish. The boy was willing to give the food to feed the over 5000 in attendance. Jesus' followers said that it was not enough.

I remember being like that boy. I believed in the impossible. I believed that I could be anything if I only dreamed it. The disciple's faith is where I find myself too often. I find myself thinking, "Sure it can happen--but it's unlikely."

Jesus prayed for the food and fed everyone with it. Here is the kicker though--he made the disciples pass out the food. They saw first hand what Jesus could do with one boy's faith. Then Jesus asked the disciples to do something strange. He wanted them to pick up the left over scraps that the people had left on the ground. Why would he do this? The food was probably dirty or partially eaten. They could just leave it for the animals since they were outside the city. I believe he did this as a lesson. Each one of them picked up an entire basket of scraps. There were twelve baskets in all. One basket full for each of the disciples that had doubted what God could do.

I hope you will keep in mind that there is always hope where there is faith. We should choose to have the faith of a child. That whimsical belief in a box-less God who can do the impossible.

Dec 12, 2009

The Tiger Woods Scandal Continues

Well the latest news on the Tiger Woods scandal is that Gillette is either scaling back, phasing out, or taking a break from his endorsement of their products. In the midst of all of the chaos and constant coverage I would like to voice a simple, WHO CARES? I am not downplaying what he did. It is a shame that he had so many indiscretions that threaten to rip his family in two.

The truth is that we are not helping matters. If there is hope for Tiger’s marriage there won’t be when the media is finished chipping away at it. Does anyone remember Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey? Their relationship was scrutinized, analyzed and questioned to the point that it fell under the strain. Tiger and his family have asked for privacy during this time so that they can sort all of this out. We as a gossip-saturated society are not allowing it. If we didn’t jump at the chance to see a scandal or gawk at someone else’s misfortune we would be a lot better off.

Well, let’s put all of this aside for a moment and let me go back to my original comment. WHO CARES? I mean come on people! The man plays golf! What's next, a chess scandal? If this were Michael Jordan, Wayne Brady or Derek Jeter I could at least understand why there is such a fuss. When the O.J. trial filled our nations tabloids and newscasts, at least it was a scandal about a formerly great sports star. Golf is a game not a sport. What if soccer players rode a cart to where they would kick the ball? What if hockey players had someone skate around with them carrying their stick? I mean come on people really; this game is like pool, cornhole or anything for the Wii. In fact ping-pong has much more action than golf. Now that I have made all of the golfers out their mad, let me say that I know it takes skills that I do not have. Come to think of it, so does Double Dutch.

The bottom line is that the Tiger scandal is overplayed, malicious, and frankly none of my business. Since it is before me daily, I am reminded to pray for Tiger, his wife Elin, and their two children. It is my hope that he will face the consequences, embrace the guilt and work to salvage what he has tarnished. As for throwing stones, (verbal or literal) let’s continue to follow the example that Jesus set with the woman caught in adultery, when he said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Dec 11, 2009

Star Wars Bethlehem A New Hope

My four year old son and I wanted to make a video.  It was a toss up between a Christmas or a Star Wars movie.  Since the decision was difficult we merged the two.  He was the genius behind all of the set design and most of the creative elements. It is probably not the most professional thing that you have ever seen, but if you like it, we would love it if you shared it with others.

Dec 3, 2009

Blu-ray and DVD on One Disc?

When I saw Disney re-release Snow White earlier this year with a Blu-ray disc and DVD in one package, I thought it was a good idea.  Beginning in January, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release a GREAT idea.  They have begun production of the "Flipper", which features Blu-ray and DVD on opposite sides of the same disc.  The first release will be the Bourne trilogy.  

I still do not own a high definition TV, and will not in the near future.  As a movie lover the prospect of starting over is not an appealing thought.  Sure Blu-ray players can play both formats, but for how much longer?  Is this just to ease our transition?  How many DVD/VHS combos do you see nowadays?  That transition cost me a pretty penny.  What if I want to watch it on my computer, in another room, or just let a non-Blu-ray owning friend borrow a movie?  Do I have to buy a machine for every TV and an extra for friends to borrow?  No, I do not.  All I need is to purchase future movies on the "Flipper" disc, and even if Blu-ray goes under like HD-DVD did (which an Xbox 360 can still play, but is no longer considered a feature) then my collection is still safe.  For now I will keep my analog TV and DVD collection, but come January I may own my first Blu-ray disc.  I will enjoy the DVD side and all of my friends can borrow it regardless of their machine choice. 

Nov 24, 2009

Star Wars in Concert--Original or Rip Off?

Pictured Above:  My wife Debbie

I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I mean HUGE!!!  I have a corner of my bedroom dedicated to vintage Star Wars memorabilia (yes, I'm married), my children are named Luke and Leia, and we have occasional light saber battles as a family (lights out and all).  When my youth workers decided to send me to Star Wars in Concert, I was thrilled.  It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.  There was a three story LCD screen playing images specifically chosen for this event, to a live orchestra complete with synchronized lazar lights and pyrotechnics.  It even had live narration by Anthony Daniels (C3PO).  The only problem I found, was that they did not sell a video of the event.

Today, I was given the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and it was still sealed.  This CD came with a bonus DVD entitled Star Wars: A Musical Journey.  Every clip from the concert is on it with the same order, music, titles, and even narration between clips.  The only difference is in the narrator.  Instead of Anthony Daniels, they have Ian McDiarmed (Emperor Palpatine).  Even so, he is saying the same thing word for word.

This DVD is from 2005, and the "totally original" concert tour is going on now.  Wow!  Am I mad?  No.  I enjoyed the show and am glad that I have the video now.  Do I think that it is funny that fans are paying top dollar (my tickets were $55 each) to see something that came out 4 years ago?  Yes, I do.  Here is a quote from  "Creating the music for the Star Wars films has been an exciting and wonderful experience for me, and I therefore have derived particular pleasure in assembling a compendium of themes from all of the films to be presented in Star Wars: In Concert," said Williams. "The editors at Lucasfilm have created original film montages to accompany each of the musical selections, and in the process, I believe that a singular and unique Star Wars experience has been born."  I find all of this disturbing and yet funny.  I thought I would pass this on.

Nov 22, 2009

The Thanksgiving/Black Friday Connection

I find it strange that Thanksgiving is right next to Black Friday in the order of holiday events.  Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy both occasions.  Thanksgiving for the food, fun, and family, while I like Black Friday for the excitement and buzz that it generates as we usher in another Christmas season.  On Thanksgiving we are supposed to give thanks for the things that we have been blessed with.  It is a lesson in contentment.  Then comes Black Friday.  A day that can be exhilarating and fun (if you have had your coffee), but also a day traditionally filled with fights, selfishness, and an overall disregard for other people.  Fortunately, everyone is not in a foul mood on Black Friday unless someone tries to jump in line.  Last year the mobs even resulted in the death of a Walmart employee.  This year Walmart and other stores are offering sales on Thanksgiving Day as well as earlier in the week.  Thanksgiving is becoming enveloped by the madness that is Black Friday.

The irony of these two days being next to each other can border on hypocrisy.  Have we lost the true meaning of Thanksgiving?  Should we instead put a fire on, switch off the power, and eat by candle light?  Would having a modest meal or going without a meal help us to see the gifts we have been given for the blessings that they truly are?  This Thanksgiving let us thank God for what we have, and ask him for opportunities to bless others.  Then we can begin on Black Friday by meeting people in line, being friendly and patient with cashiers, and even handing the last item on a shelf to someone else.  Black Friday is a replacement of the appreciation for ones blessings, with the materialistic rat race of modern society.  Wouldn't it be great if these two days were a continuation of each other.  Mahatma Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."  What kind of world do you want?

Nov 21, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, A Film Review

Well, I have just returned from seeing New Moon at the Marquee Cinema in Statesville, NC (I see movies in digital whenever possible).  I must say that I was pleasantly pleased with the overall film (if I can still call a digital picture a "film").  New Moon has already broken two box office records.  The first was for the highest grossing midnight showing at $26.3 million.  The second was for the highest opening day with $62.2 million.  The film has already grossed $72.7 million, and that is not even including the money they took from me.

The movie is slow overall, but so was Twilight, and it really works well for both of them.  New Moon has pretty convincing special effects, including a scene of a bird in suspended animation as Victoria flees from the wolves beneath. I found myself drawn to the visual nature of the film.  The use of several bright colors such as the red in Bella's truck was very appealing in contrast to the overcast setting of Forks (except for a scene with artificial looking flowers).  Overall, New Moon is far less sensual than Twilight, which I consider good given the age of the core audience.  I enjoyed the experience, and am looking forward to the next installment (I am still not going to read the series at this point).  I give the movie two thumbs up, only because I do not have three.

This is the part where I will be giving away details (SPOILER ALERT!).  The movie begins with Bella's 18th birthday.  She does not want to age, and fears growing too old (and ugly) for Edward.  She has a dream where she is in a meadow with her grandma.  Every move she makes is mimicked by her grandma (keying in on Bella's fear of aging).  Then the camera pans to Bella who now looks exactly like her grandma (obviously she is seeing a reflection of herself).  At this point the movie insults our intelligence by panning back to the grandma, who is now encased in a mirror (in the middle of a field).  I hate when movies lead me by the hand.  I mean come on--we get it!

Then Bella bleeds, Jasper attacks, and the Cullens must move.  The only problem is that Edward is really callous about it.  It is not like she could follow him anyway (he is way too fast).  He treats her like the boy in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, when he shoos his new pet ant away (because it is for the ant's own good).  I'm not complaining about this scene, it is merely an observation.  After that, she goes through depression. This is before realizing that she can see and hear Edward's over protective image every time she does anything risky.  Motorcycles help with the rush, so she gets two from a junkyard, and goes to Jacob for help with repairs.  She begins to fall for Jacob, as do the 12 year old girls swooning in front of me at the theater.  He is very likable in this movie, and I find myself rooting for him as the underdog (no pun intended) of Bella's crazy monster movie love triangle.

Jacob changes into a werewolf, and he skips out on Bella too.  He returns when danger strikes in the form of Laurent and Victoria.  When I saw Twilight, I was led to believe that these two had parted company, yet now they are working together.  I am told that the book bridges this incompatibility, but movie sequels should not be written with any prerequisite, except for the prior movie.

Bella jumps off a cliff for another Edward sighting, and is seen by Alice Cullen (who sees the future).  Edward thinks she is dead, and goes before the Valtori (ruling vampires) with a death wish.  Bella shows up, and there is a fight.  They decide to kill Edward and Bella.  Alice assures the Valtori of a vision--that Bella too will become a vampire--and they are set free.  They head back to Forks where Edward says that he must come in the window because her dad will not let him in the door (again we are given information from the books that is not explained in the movie).  Bella turns Jacob down, and is asked by Edward to marry her.  She never responds, and the credits roll.

I am looking forward to hearing your responses to New Moon.  Please watch the movie first.  Otherwise you will be like my son, who likes to complain about dinner every night before tasting his meal.

Nov 19, 2009

$300 Million Dollars Awarded to a Florida Smoker!

Cindy Naugle (61 years old) is going to receive $300 million from Philip Morris.  A South Florida jury said that the company's negligence caused her emphysema.  This is the largest sum ever awarded in a U.S. court to a smoker from a tobacco company.  This is the dumbest lawsuit since the "Help I spilled my coffee, let me blame McDonalds" charade.  I mean, come on!  It is common knowledge that smoking causes emphysema and cancer so there is only one person to blame, the smoker.  

Every pack has a warning from the Surgeon General on it, coupled with the fact that they are barely allowed to advertise, and taxes on them are through the roof.  One would have to have a death wish or no backbone to take up this habit.   If we really believe that tobacco is so "evil" then it should be illegal like other addictive substances (except alcohol, because our government makes money off of it--i.e. ABC stores).  The truth is they will not make smoking illegal because of the taxes.  If someone should be sued it should be the government.  If we had proof that the FDA knew a food product could kill and did not remove it there would be an uproar.  A warning label would not suffice.  

Do I believe smoking should be illegal?  No, I do not.   Especially not while it is legal to make moronic decisions (and I am glad we are free to do so because most of us do).  I for one drink far too much Mountain Dew.  If I become diabetic could I sue Pepsi?  I probably could, but I won't.  I know it is bad for me and I should not receive a reward for my lack of self control.  I am trying to cut back on my habit as smokers can choose to do as well.  It is hard since it is an addiction, but they were not born with it and we all know it is addictive before we light up for the first time.  I do NOT hate smokers.  I hate frivolous lawsuits!

Nov 16, 2009

2012 - The End of the World?

I just returned from watching 2012 at the only all digital theater in my area.  I must say I was extremely impressed. I had read many reviews on the film (some good and some bad) and decided to give it a go myself.  I generally like apocalyptic thrillers so I went in expecting the same End of Days meets Armageddon disaster  type of flick.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie was 2 hours and 38 minutes long.  The first half hour or so was attention grabbing but the final 2 hours was an edge of the seat thrill ride.  The CG work was actually good for the most part and has come along way since The Day After Tomorrow (which left much to be desired).

There is some language in the film but far less than one would hear if these events really took place I assure you.  There is no sex or nudity at all.  It is in the heart department that I would caution you.  If you are an overly emotional person it may do a number on you.  I am pretty emotional (for a guy) and there were several parts that brought tears to my eyes (thankfully it is a Monday and the theater was pretty empty).  It did not help matters that the main character (John Cusack) had a boy and girl (as I do), which he experienced every tragic disaster with.  They do show the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil toppling and a rift between God and Adam from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting.  This may perhaps play into the writers view of Christianity but when these are coupled with the destruction of the Washington Monument and the White House one may conclude that they are merely showing us landmarks that are universally recognizable. After all the 23rd Psalm is said to be a comfort to anyone regardless of faith (which I found interesting).  They also constructed "arks" (borrowing the biblical term) for the continuation of life after the disasters.

I thought that the tie in to the Mayan calendar would be stronger.  Very little was made of this connection.  They seemed to make it as though all of the planets will be aligning.  This does not happen in 2012.  There will be a galactic alignment that won't happen again for 26,000 years but that is dealing with our sun in relation to the center equator of our galaxy.  December 21, of 2012 is the winter solstice (like every year) and the date at which the galactic alignment would start over according to the Mayan people.  They did not mention anything cataclysmic and probably believed that their descendants could add to the calendar as the years drew closer to the completion of the galactic cycles.  Our sun crossing over the equatorial line of the Milky Way actually began between 1998 and 1999 and will be complete in 2018 but hey they were pretty darn close.

The world will not end in 2012, but that doesn't mean you will not enjoy the movie, in fact it will be quite a relief to you as you watch.  Please let me know your thoughts on 2012 if and when you see it.  It is well worth the admission provided that you don't take a family of five and spring for popcorn and drinks.

Nov 15, 2009

Political Correctness Impairs Reporting on Terrorism

Like many Americans, I watched the memorial service for those killed at Fort Hood with tears in my eyes.  I have read many reports and articles on what happened and I'm frankly a little perturbed by the politically correct garbage we are being told.  I have seen the shooter referred to as an army psychiatrist in everything from CNN to the Wall Street Journal.  This was not an army psychiatrist or an over-stressed gunman, this was a TERRORIST!  

The KORAN commands Terrorism, War, and Jihad:

Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. - Surah 2:216
(different translation: ) Prescribed for you is fighting, though it is hateful to you.

But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them. - 4:89
O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them. God does not guide an unjust people. - 5:54

When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. - 9:5

Fight those who believe neither in God nor the Last Day, nor what has been forbidden by God and his messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are People of the Book, until they pay the tribute and have been humbled. - 9:29 

Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth and your persons. - 9:41

Lets call it for what it is--the shooting at Ft Hood was a terrorist attack on this country.   Political correctness is making our nation ripe for this type of terrorist activity.  Don't get me wrong--I do not believe that Arabic people or those of the Muslim faith are prone to terror, rather it is those who would seek to follow the Koran literally and in its entirety that are an eminent danger to civilized people worldwide.  We should NOT silence them or their views (or anyone's for that matter), but we should be wary and not ignore danger under the guise of being politically correct.

I do want to talk about one person in particular who lost her life in the shootings.  Her name is Sgt. Amy Krueger.  She graduated from high school in 1998 (the same year I did).  She joined the military after the terror attacks of September 11, vowing to her mom that she would kill Bin Laden.  Her mom told her she could not do it alone but she said, "Watch me." (Quote from The Associated Press Nov. 6, 2009)  She captured the essense of every American heart after the fall of the Twin Towers, but she chose to do something about it.    It is tragic that she joined the military to fight terrorism and was killed in the worst attack on our soil since September 11.   She and 13 others (I am counting an unborn child) deserved better than to be shot by a coward.

Nov 13, 2009

The NEW LAW: We are no longer equal!

The Civil War marked an important time in history for us as Americans.  The 14th amendment had passed guaranteeing Americans equal protection under the law no matter what color, creed or ethnicity to which they belong.  For the first time every person in this great country was finally equal in the eyes of our government.  This new amendment added something precious without infringing on any of the rights already guaranteed to us by the original Bill of Rights.  Now in 2009 one hundred and forty one years later, under a new bill the 14th amendment is as good as scrapped.  

With the passing of the "Hate Crimes Prevention Act" (actually is was tacked on to the 
"2010 National Defense Authorization Act") our right to be equal is gone.  This bill threatens to make it a federal crime to hate someone in your mind, which essentially punishes us for the way we think.  Our President and Senators are telling us that we still have the freedom to hate if we do not act on it physically.  This is a half truth, because the act of assault for example is already illegal and punishable on a local level.  What the bill says is that the federal crime tacked onto the assault charge will be a crime of motivation (which DOES punish one for his or her thoughts).   I would argue that if you act on it physically than the physical act of the crime should be prosecuted not the hate behind the action.  Please don't take my word for it, read a section from the bill itself on page 1059 section 3 lines 16-21 (that's right I've read the whole thing).   

(3) State and local authorities are now and will 16
continue to be responsible for prosecuting the over-17
whelming majority of violent crimes in the United 18
States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. 19
These authorities can carry out their responsibilities 20
more effectively with greater Federal assistance. 21

Just who is equal in the eyes of the NEW LAW?  Well let me tell you they are minorities, women, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and the disabled.  If you attack one of these protected groups there can and will be essentially two crimes (assault and hate), but if you assault a white heterosexual male there will only be one crime and if you are in one of the aforementioned protected groups then you can probably get off by saying that you acted in fear of your own life because the straight white male hates you.  I happen to be a straight white male and believe that I am no better than any other human being, but I am certainly no worse either.  We deserve and should demand the equal treatment that the constitution promises us.  

I am also a Christian and believe in obeying the powers that be, but fortunately we live in a constitutionally limited republic and not a democracy.  This means that our constitution is one of the powers that we obey and right now it is contradicting itself.  

I believe that at this rate it may soon be illegal for people to speak their minds or practice their religion freely.  A pastor, rabbi, priest, or cleric who says for instance that homosexuality is wrong will become a "hater".  It happened when Nero burned Rome and blamed it on Christians.  The so called "haters" were rounded up and killed.  You may not be religious or a straight white male, but don't you want to live in a country were we are all truly equal with equal protection for every citizen regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual lifestyle?  I do and for many years I did.

Oct 14, 2009

Believers do not have "Freedom of Speech"

When I write a title like "Believers do not have Freedom of Speech", Christians will open my blog expecting to say "Amen brother, we are losing our freedoms".  That is not what I am driving at today, rather I am hoping to make you think.  If you are not a believer in Jesus than this blog will not apply to you but you are welcome to read on.  If you are a Christian than  read and listen carefully.  We who follow Jesus are called to give up certain freedoms.  The first is our "right" to be in charge "you are bought with a price . . .", "lay down your life, pick up your cross".  

Actually let me start from the beginning so that you will understand my rant.  I was enjoying a Caramel High Rise Cooler at Caribou Coffee this morning when I caught part of a conversation going on beside me.  The people involved had just finished up a prayer meeting and are from a great local church that has my respect.  What I am saying is that there was no doubt to anyone present, that these were Christians.  Their conversation turned to the present economy, with one gentleman saying sarcastically that President Obama said that the recession is over.  That is when the lady next to him proclaimed, rather loudly, "Obama is an idiot!". 

Good, now you are caught up to speed.  Now I can begin.  First of all, as an American she had the right to say what she did about a governing ruler, but as a Christian we are called to obey God rather than man.  God calls us to "not let any harsh word come out of our mouths," as well as "respect the powers that be."  It is time for Christians to voice their concerns without malice.  We can disagree without stooping to hateful rhetoric.  We should not be referring to our President as "Obama" or "Barack".  He is "President Obama" and should receive a great deal more respect from believers than from anywhere else.  Remember that the lost will know we are believers by "our love for one another" and by "seeing our good works and glorifying our father who is in heaven."                        

If you are an American you have the right to worship whatever god you want and say what you want  about who you want.  If you are a believer you need to realize that you are free in Christ, but free from sin and not free to sin.  We may not worship any god we want or speak words that tear others down, especially our leaders.  Remember that under Caesar, Jesus called for obedience, and even in slavery, Paul called for obedience.  We must be Jesus to this world. This will not happen if we retain this partisan, anti anyone who disagrees with us attitude.  These three remain Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love.  What the world needs now is Love, Love, LOVE!

Sep 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Friends We've Never Met

It can be a strange moment when a television show comes to an end.  All of the sudden you have this half hour to an hour block of your life back and must fill it with something.  Well, actually that is probably a good thing  but when you follow a program you can become somewhat attached to the characters.  For some television is mindless entertainment (an excuse to just sit on the couch),  for others an excuse to laugh without having to following an intricate plot ("Seinfield"),  it could also be a surreal look into the mirror of your own life ("Everybody Loves Raymond", while we lived with my in-laws for three years), or a thought provoking who-done-it ("Law and Order" / "Matlock").

I was upset this year to learn that "King of the Hill" was coming to an end after thirteen seasons.  This is the only animated show with realistic dialogue and plots.  The "Simpsons" meanwhile is beginning its 21st season (with Bart still in the same grade after multiple halloweens and Christmases).  Then there is "Family Guy" a raunchy blend of "South Park" content and "Simpsons" characters.  It finds its humor in the shock value of sexual jokes that are in bad taste.  It is in my opinion the worst show on network television (and I know a lot of people will disagree with that statement).  This is my opinion even though "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlene is a huge "Star Wars" fan.

"Fox" first disappointed me when they decided to only release six seasons of "King of the Hill" to DVD.  The second time was when they decided to bring the most intelligent and brilliantly written animated sitcom on television to an end.  Amazingly this is during the year that "Family Guy" spin-off "The Cleveland Show" begins to air.  Wow, that is a bad trade off.  I am not surprised by this move though, as Fox is an expert at niche marketing, bringing us "Fox Faith", "Fox Family" and "Fox News" while at the same time giving us shows like "Married with Children" and "Family Guy".  I guess the "Fair and Balanced" tag-line that they use for "Fox News" would be better used for the "Fox Network" in general.  Then they can boast having everything from wholesome family entertainment to something rather subhuman and devoid of all morality.

None the less King of the Hill was a television gem especially from Fox and it will be missed (to be fair they also have given us "X-Files", "House" and "24").  The humor was priceless the characters endearing and it will not be the same without them "I tell you what". As the curtain closed on the final episode of King of the Hill and they panned up from Hank and Bobby Hill grilling side by side (the first thing they found real commonality in) to the Arlin water tower, I smiled, it was a great run.

Sep 15, 2009

The "You Lie" Scandal

As if to prove my point from Sunday's Blog about Kanye and Taylor, "The Washington Post" comes out with this headline today - "You Lie!' Shout Brings Vote on Sanction, Racial Issue Simmers as Black Democrats Lead Push Against Wilson".  This headline was in response to Republican Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina after he shouted, "You Lie" during President Obama's speech on government health care.  This was directly after our President said that illegal immigrants would not benefit from the healthcare package.   Rep. Wilson was the first to speak on the floor today about the issue of socialized medicine.  Should we be angry with a government that seeks to overstep the authority given to them by our constitution?  Yes.  The tenth amendment (which is part of our "Bill of Rights") tells the Federal Government that any power not specifically given to them in the constitution is reserved for individual states or people.  So where is the phantom paragragh about health care in the constitution (there is not one).

Was it rude for him to interrupt our president? Yes! Should there be consequences for his actions? Absolutely!  Was it racially motivated?  Are you kidding me!  To our media and society it apparently has to be.  Somehow there are no headlines inferring that the Kanye scandal could have any racial intent.  As I said on Sunday we are a hypocritical society when it comes to race issues.  We need to be color blind, but it should be from EVERY angle.

Sep 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze died today of pancreatic cancer.  He will be remembered by so many people.  He will be remembered by students who have to read "The Outsiders" for school and who opt instead to run to Blockbuster Video for the 1983 movie adaption.  He will be remembered by guys for his action roles in "Roadhouse"(1989) and "Point Break" (1991).  He will be remembered by women everywhere for "Dirty Dancing" (1987) and "Ghost"(1990).  To this Blogger he was "Orry Main" from the television mini-series "North and South" (movie adaption of three books by John Jakes).  This was the best dramatic portrayal of the life, events, and times of the civil war that I have ever seen.  If you have not seen it there are still sites where it can be ordered (it is twelve made for TV movies, so clear some time if you plan to watch because it is hard to turn off).

He was a great actor and a breath of fresh air in this society where almost every celebrity death is met with the scandal of suicide or drug overdose.  In the midst of Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, and Anna Nicole Smith of the last two years, we have Patrick Swayze. An actor who dies of a natural cause after a great career spanning four decades with his wife by his side.  He married his first and only wife Lisa in 1975 and they renewed their vows last year.  Hollywood could learn a lot from Patrick, from his career and his life.  He will be missed.

Kanye West vs Taylor Swift

During the VMA's last night Kanye West rushed the stage took the mic from the teenage Taylor Swift (who had just won an award for best female video) and proclaimed,   "I'm sorry, but BeyoncĂ© had one of the best videos of all time."  Let's assume that this is not a publicity stunt from MTV (i.e. Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction) and look at it for what it is.  Kanye has had a history of on stage rants (i.e. when he did not get best new artist, and last year when his performance was in a hotel instead of main-stage)  but his complaints are usually centered at his self.  Let's look at the REAL NEWS for a second, a teenage country singer won an VMA from MTV and that is amazing.  It is a real shame that the only thing people will remember about last night is negative.  By the way there is not an ounce of creativity in Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video (just a bunch of girls shaking their hips at the same time).  

I do want to point out one other interesting thing that almost no one is saying.  Although the act was probably just a rude individual just being himself, if Beyonce had won and a white artist had stormed the stage declaring that a country singer's video was better, everyone would be crying racist.  I may even be labeled by some for noticing this hypocrisy within our culture.  The truth is we all have different tastes in music and we can still have mutual respect for talented individuals regardless of who is in our personal music collection.

Just a suggestion for the holidays ahead : Kanye CDs make great drink coasters (almost makes me wish I owned some . . . hey, I said almost).

Sep 11, 2009

We Will Never Forget?

Well it was eight years ago today (if I post this before midnight) that we were attacked by terrorists.  I can still remember everything.  Where I was, who I called, and my anger and pride as an American boiling within me.  We said and did a lot of things in the days that followed.  We promised to remember and vowed to never forget.  American flags topped every antenna, while magnets and stickers shouted patriotism from every car I followed.  There were definitely more magnets than stickers (which explains why they are all but gone today).  Bipartisan decisions were made, justice was sought and we were all united (or as united as we have been in my lifetime).

Two years later we were arguing with each other and protesting the dissenters.  What happened?  Well I guess it depends on what position you took or take currently.  We were attacked by Osama Bin Laden who was in the Taliban located in Afghanistan.  We had attacked and leveled them quickly, restructuring the country quite well.  The problem was that we had not found Bin Laden and we as a society did not feel justice had been done.  Despite our views of our President's decision about Iraq we did want something else to happen.  In retrospect the idea of a war on terror rather than a war against the Taliban within Afghanistan is a never ending struggle that will live long beyond the memory of those that felt wronged.  This is like trying to find an assassin and after searching to no avail, declare that our new job is to find every assassin on the planet.  We entered into a war that could never end but still would end as soon as someone new took charge.

In the "War on Terror" we never took care of North Korea, Iran, China or even the securing of our borders. We are therefore no more safe now, than we were before 9/11 (except on an airplane from any would be passenger attempting to smuggle a finger nail clipper aboard).  We lost a lot of good people on 9/11, let's not forget that it was radical fundamentalist Islamic extremists that were responsible.  They hate and still hate us because of our support for Israel (so far), the high number of Christians on our soil, and the debauchery that our society has fallen into (the last area definitely needs improvement).  The threat is still real, and we should still be looking for either common ground to unite our parties or drop out of both broken parties and vote your conscience as this Blogger has been doing for years.

I don't know where you stand but I will NEVER FORGET!

If you liked this post you may also enjoy
Labor Day: A Rest From Unemployment
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Sep 9, 2009

Karate Chop Jesus

I had the opportunity to speak last night at a local Methodist Church women's meeting about a possibly teen center in our area.

What was interesting is that I stood in front of a picture of Jesus that looked as if he had Karate Chop Action.  I just had to snap a picture.  It was painted in 1958.

 I thought about the time Jesus turned the tables on the money changers and could almost see the "Karate Chop" in motion.  I do not however, really see Jesus, as someone who would put a pounding on someone.

Speaking of a pounding, we ate from 6 varieties of pound cake afterwards.  I am truly concerned for our country.  Every woman at this meeting under 50 contributed ice cream or dinnerware.

It was only the older women who pleased the palette with pound cake.  My friends we are 20 years from going to gatherings that are pound cake-less.   This will be a dark day for America.

Learn how to make pound cake and pass on this blessing while you still can.

Sep 7, 2009

Labor Day - "A Rest From Unemployment"

We are a very label conscious society.  We read labels for nutrition information if we are counting calories, for natural/organic content if paranoid of artificial processed fillers, or for name brands if materialistically savvy.  I remember shortly after 9/11 (when America's view of France was about as lows as their view of us) that a boycott of all things French was on the rise.  We were eating "Freedom" Fries, "Freedom" Toast, and even "Freedom" Kissing our spouses (ok, so that last one was just me).  It was during this time that "French's Mustard" (a British  owned company) issued statements separating them from France and reminding them that Mr. Robert T. French was born in New York.

Now for all of our label consciousness and despite our recession, high unemployment, and many toy recalls on China based products (that lack proper inspection to the point that they contain lead) we still ignore the label that tell us the point of origin.  I am not suggesting that we go deeper in debt by buying overpriced brands and items just because they sport a U.S.A. logo, but I am saying that the point of manufacture decal should play a role in consumer decision making.  If it is a better deal and suits your other label conscious aforementioned needs then we owe it to ourselves and our fellow countrymen (many of whom are waiting in line for unemployment) to buy American.  If you do not care or have not been personally been affected let me appeal to your selfish tendencies by reminding you that the amount of people on unemployment and welfare (not to mention bailouts for the corporate sector) directly determine tax increases that will affect you personally.  

Let's all do our part this Labor Day to make this country a better place to live, work, buy, and sell.
Happy Labor Day!

Sep 5, 2009

Marvel Goes Disney

WOW!  Can I just say wow!  Did I say wow?  Disney buys Marvel Comics for $4 Billion, wow that is actually not as much as I would have expected.  Personally I love Marvel and believe that Disney got it just in time.  I mean Marvel has just started making movies without the likes of Fox or Sony and they already put out blockbuster smashes like Iron Man.  I hope this doesn't mean we will see Tony Stark in a Mickey t-shirt around his mansion (maybe a rebirth of Dark Wing Duck through Marvel would work, although I wouldn't get Lucas to direct since "Howard the Duck" was such a flop).  Seeing a Marvel park at Disney World would be an amazing fruit of this new venture, can we say "Mr. Fantastic Roller Coaster", Cerebro 3D, or Punisher the Musical (ok maybe not the last one).  I guess this move was to be expected though.  Disney used to be on the forefront of imagination, now if they can't think of it they buy it (i.e. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Power Rangers").  I will say that Disney has it's finger on the pulse, that is why they did not even consider a D.C. Comics buyout.  Ha! Take that Aquaman!