Monday, June 28, 2010

Everyone's Left and Right of Center

Politicians in recent years have drawn a line in the sand and over time they have seemingly strayed farther and farther away to their respective left or right side in an effort to... well... I'm not really sure. The more and more I hear about the stances that many politicians take these days leads me to the conclusion that no one really stands for anything other than opposition to what the other side is saying. At one time I remember that Congressional leaders would work together for the common good (i.e., we... the American public) but it seems that as time has gone on and partisan politics has risen, that no one has anyone else's interest in mind other than their own. I personally find that pretty sad and reprehensible.

Take for example the ongoing efforts at discrediting or finding overwhelming fault with President Obama's Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan. Everyone in opposition to Obama (cough cough... Republicans) seem to be on a Hellbent crusade to prove her completely unworthy of the post. They would have the general population believe that Kagan is absolutely the worst choice for a Supreme Court nominee and that they are doing their duty as Congressional leaders in rendering the most informed verdict. Nevermind that when former President Bush nominated John Roberts to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that they took exception and insult when the critics of Roberts wanted to step up and find out more about him. Now it seems they are playing tit-for-tat and are simply looking to block Kagan because they can.

Rather than presenting facts they seem to be more prone to present their understanding of the facts. That wouldn't be so wrong if all politicians (Democrats and Republicans) didn't behave as if they were calling the sky green despite overwhelming fact to the contrary that it is blue. Neither side seems willing to compromise on anything. They are simply trying to prove that they are correct and that the other side is wrong no matter what the point of contention may be. I find it very disappointing. In having read the history of my country and understanding that complete consensus will never accomplish anything good, I'm at a loss to understand how we could have devolved so much to find that we can't even agree to work together on basic issues. Is this our best example of Democracy in action? To criticize what opposition parties are doing? Then is it any wonder that the fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan are floundering so much if the world's oldest democracy is having problems?

I welcome healthy debate and I welcome a true discussion on the facts but what we see on channels like Fox News which is simply fanning the flames of discord, I wonder whether we can ever truly get back to what our democracy in action truly is. Simply insulting the opposite side and refusing to hear what they have to say accomplishes nothing. We must be setting a good example. The Iraqis and Afghani governments are looking to our nation as examples and if they see that Democrats and Republicans can't get along then can we honestly expect them to accept the notion that they can work with those groups that were previously their allies? Why not just continue the violence? We have an obligation to show how democracy can truly work and not how partisan politics works. I think they already have enough of that and so do we.


Friday, June 25, 2010

So Long Sir

So the question of whether or not President Obama would replace General McChrystal as the man in charge of Allied forces in Afghanistan was answered in pretty short order. Soon after their meeting earlier this week, McChrystal stepped down and General Petreaus, the well-known General who led our troops in Iraq and now controls operations for the entire region will be taking his place. A lot of people have been talking about the entire situation; I mean how can you not. For those of us World War II history buffs out there it's probably not much of a surprise as to what happened. After all, this is sort of like what happened to General Patton during the Second World War. In essence anyways, that's how you can help people understand what's happened.

Indeed, a lot of people have wondered whether the fact that McChrystal was removed from his posting whether that means he's been fired. Well yes and no. I'm sure those who have served in the military will be able to explain it a lot better than myself but then again I can at least put it in layman's terms. You can probably compare it to a regular Joe at the office being asked to leave his position. He's not being fired but he's taking a different role in the office. Now while the actions of McChrystal weren't exactly the best when you consider his position in the grand scheme of things, he didn't really do anything that would justify his being 'fired' in the traditional sense of the term. His comments can't be considered bad enough to justify having him undergo a court martial.

But where do you then draw the line? I don't think many of us can admit to agreeing with every single action our bosses take. We always have an opinion and probably like to think that we can do it better. Rare is the time that we actually come out in a public forum and make our dissatisfaction known to one and all. Sure there are some who certainly do do that but they aren't the vast majority of us and the reason is that we know that it's not really 'politically correct'. Certainly you can't expect someone like General McChrystal or now, General Petreaus to simply accept what their civilian bosses say and then go and do it. That's where the difference comes in. These gentlemen have thousands of soldiers working for them (and the country) and their lives are in their hands.

That being the case, it's not right to expect that they should by any means just accept what they are being told. However, given that they are publicly given a great deal of respect, I would think that they could return the same sentiment in kind. Had the President or any of the others mentioned in the General's Rolling Stone article come out and talked a lot of trash about the General then he had every right to say what he said, but since that wasn't the case, he should have kept his thoughts for a more private setting. I can't imagine the pressures he and now General Petreaus must go through leading so many troops into battle. They obviously care for their soldiers, but the same level of respect needs to go to the chain of command as well.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Political Strong-Arming

Anyone who knows anything about the long-in-coming Tysons Metro project knows that if one thing has been constant in it's construction, it's been delays and questions regarding funding. For years there was debate over whether it would be an above ground or below ground system, whether it would reach Dulles or only about halfway or whether it would even be built to begin with. Now, so many many years later, work is underway, traffic is suffering because of it yet it seems that our political leaders in Richmond feel that it's the perfect time to try some political plotting in an attempt to Shanghai Metro and its Board of Directors.

It seems that recently, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell recently threatened to withhold the matching funds which the state had previously promised the Metro Transit Authority for the project. The argument being put forward by the Governor and his supporters is that Metro has long been known to have problems with regard to their regulation and upkeep. Evidence of this is the recent spate of problems that have plagued Washington's only subway system such as the Red Line accident of a year ago and continued safety problems. Now while I agree that this is a problem, I don't agree that this is the means by which McDonnell can get what he and his supporters want which is two seats on Metro's Board. If he believes that by attempting to hold the transit company hostage in this manner, I'm afraid he's going to be sadly mistaken.

It isn't the first time that Metro has dealt with such cases (i.e., funding being withheld) so why would they deal with it any differently than they have any other time, which is basically to shrug and wish the State well? It's not a very big thing for the state to demand from Metro, after all, perhaps the Metro extension is what's needed to boost ridership again. After all, the Tysons corridor is where a great deal of business is done and if they actually finish the Metro up to Dulles, I think there will be a great deal more business. I mean I think the saddest thing is that Washington is practically the only capital city in the world (the world!!) that doesn't have direct train access from the city to the international airport. Isn't that pathetic? I think so.

Now McDonnell can argue that he wants to add a bit of governmental control to Metro and that will help the beleaguered agency but I don't really buy it. I can see Metro simply walking away from the work and leaving the mess for Virginia (and specifically Fairfax) to deal with. And what mess would that be? How about incomplete Metro pylons dotting the landscape? An incomplete tunnel linking Route 123 and Route 7? What about all the land that's been torn up and dug up in preparation for various stations? What's going to happen with that? I suppose McDonnell would argue that Metro would be held accountable. Perhaps, but Virginia was the state that promised to match funds to begin the project. Sure, McDonnell (or his party) may not have been the ones to make that promise, but just like Obama, McDonnell is inheriting a project that he didn't start; now he's got to deal with it, not threaten a mess that will be worse.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Let's Not be Too Hasty

For anyone who saw President Obama's speech on Tuesday evening, I'm sure the thing that stuck out most prominently for them was his declaration of ensuring that BP (formerly known to the world by their full name British Petroleum) would compensate the victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I'm no fan of BP, I think the good thing is that at least they are intending to comply with the President's request and announced on Wednesday that they would be establishing a fund (worth around $20 billion) from which they would recompense the victims of the oil spill. This money was not only for the residents located along the Gulf coast (thus most directly affected) but the businesses and homeowners in the area who were subsequently affected. Whether or not anyone actually receives payment remains to be seen but I figure if BP doesn't, they are going to be in much greater trouble than they already are.

But one of the big things that has raise tension both here and in Britain is in the fact that President Obama referred to BP by their full un-abbreviated name during a press conference thus (in the eyes of some) implying that the President (and in turn the entire country) was holding Britain (vice BP) responsible. There have been attempts by both sides to ensure that the assumption doesn't hold true and that good will (or relative good will) that has existed between our two countries doesn't suddenly disappear. But when all is said and done, there are still segments of the populations who suddenly seem to jump at the opportunity to bash the British for their supposed 'failing' and thus these same people want the United Kingdom held responsible for the deadliest environmental disaster in history. But to these folks I'd ask them not to get ahead of themselves and to recall Bhopal.

I'm sure many of you readers are wondering what 'Bhopal' is; well it's actually a place. In India in 1984, the city of Bhopal was home to a chemical plant owned by Union Carbide (which is now owned by Dow Chemicals and is an American company) . On the night of December 2, 1984, 27 tons of poisonous gas leaked from a storage tank and killed nearly 3,000 people. As if this wasn't bad enough, problems continue to plauge the region even after 26 years. Though some people appeared to have been unaffected at the time of the gas leak, subsequent generations were plagued with ailments such as cancer and other deadly birth defects. At the time, leaders in Union Carbide were held accountable but they quickly posted bail and soon after left the country.

Though investigations and litigation was made against Union Carbide, the ultimate end result was that while a promise of compensation to victims (present and future), not everyone has received the payout that they were entitled to. Even the Americans who ran the plant have managed to get out of the country and have been living the good life back here in America. Plus those running the plant (namely Warren Anderson) seemed content to blame the workers at the plant and claiming that "the third world nation (India)" wasn't ready to deal with that type of industry. If they were the case then wouldn't it be Union Carbide's responsibility to ensure that proper safety precautions were taken? And since they weren't isn't it only right that the victims demand justice for those responsible? So then I say that if people here wish to hold Britain responsible for BP's failings, so too can India hold the United States (since Union Carbide is American) for the failings of Union Carbide? Just some food for thought.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing

The photo seen here is definitely of happier times for defensive giant (pun most certainly intended) Albert Haynesworth. When former coach Jim Zorn and Daniel Snyder signed Haynesworth to his unbelievable contract for somewhere north of $100 million, there was a lot of talk about whether or not Haynesworth was worth the cost or not. Time always tells the tale and what it told Redskins fans was that a lot of money was dropped and not a whole lot of return on investment could be expected. Haynesworth definitely had his moments during his first tenuous weeks with the team but as time went on (and tempers began to inevitably flare) more and more people wondered whether or not Haynesworth really was worth all that money. The long and short of it is that he isn't.

A lot of players who play as hard as Haynesworth used to often get hurt and have to sit out a play or two once in a while, but when you (and your agent) are perpetuating the belief that you are worth $100 million you better believe that expectations are that much higher and when you don't live up to said expectations, it's not surprising to hear a lot of criticism, especially in a town like Washington. So what happens? Simple, coaching staff changes, player removals and trades and here we are a few short months from the start of a new season but still hearing the same from old Haynesworth. When new coach Mike Shanahan came into the picture, he didn't come through and make big sweeping changes that would have meant another long season for us fans, rather he decided to see what he had to work with and keep the team a work in progress.

That's great for Haynesworth who was more or less guaranteed his payout for the year provided that he at least did his part for the team. Now that Haynesworth went from his usual spot to being tried out as the nose tackle, all Hell broke loose and Haynesworth couldn't be bothered to show up for practice. His agent began spreading the word that Haynesworth was looking to be traded, and Shanahan, not one to mince words said that he and the team would certainly let Haynesworth go provided he got another offer. Of course the catch was that according to his contract, Haynesworth was due to receive a payment of $21 million for the year on April 1st. Of course if Haynesworth had signed with another team by then, then the deal would have been null and void. I guess that amount of money would make everyone reconsider and Haynesworth did the smart thing and took the money.

The team didn't have any outward signs of malice (and granted, we the public and even the press don't have any idea of what goes on behind the scenes) but rather than doing the right thing which would have been to show up for mandatory practice and the like, Haynesworth has been doing his best Chuck Norris impression and has been "Missing in Action". He refuses to come to mini-camp and refuses to take part in team workouts (voluntary and mandatory ones) so then what is the team to do? If his hope is to hold out and sign with another team, Haynesworth has a funny way of going about it. Rather than showing prospective teams that he still has what it takes to be a star defensive player, Haynesworth continues to hide out and hide from practice. That isn't doing the team any good and it isn't doing him any good. Perhaps he will soon come to his senses and do the right thing which is give back the money, break his contract and then all parties can go and do their own things.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gridlock Our Way to the Future?

Route 7 in Tysons Corner, Virginia. A stone's throw from my home of these past many years. When I first moved in my realtor kept telling me that the area would soon become a center of commerce given the fact that the Metro was due to open within a year. Flash forward nearly seven years later and the people of Tysons are still awaiting the arrival of the Metro. That's not to say that things aren't happening to help the Metro become a reality. Construction has been going on at a feverish pace for over a year now and slowly but surely we're starting to see signs of that progress coming to the area. Unfortunately along with it comes gridlock that was bad to begin with but has been becoming worse day by day.

Take for example the times of day when I dread driving through Tysons Corner which are morning and afternoon rush hour. I hate going through the area around that time simply because I've seen that while efforts are being made to ensure that traffic continues to flow even with all this construction, it's not being handled in the most efficient manner. For example, you end up racing from one traffic light to the next (a few hundred feet down the road) only to end up waiting there for that light to change to green. Add a couple of hundred cars and you can see how quickly the gridlock and mayhem can add up. I have previously left nearly 45 minutes ahead of time to reach a place five miles away simply because traffic is so bad that I couldn't afford to leave any later.

And before any of you eco-friendly types take it upon yourselves to lecture me about riding a bike the five miles rather than sitting in a car polluting the environment, you can keep your comments to yourself. I had considered that option in the past and very nearly did it until I saw that many bike riders in the Tysons area ride with one foot in the grave given that drivers rarely ever yield let alone 'share the road' with cyclists. That being said, isn't it safer staying in a larger piece of metal rather than protecting the cycle with your much more fragile body? Perhaps those environmentalists figure that the needs of the environment far outweigh those of humans but then I'm not here to argue for or against that point.

Still, the problem as I see it in Tysons Corner at present is the fact that proper study hasn't been done on the traffic patterns. I mean I have waited on the corner of Route 7 and Westfields Boulevard for nearly three minutes with no one moving and that wasn't because the intersection was blocked, on the contrary, it was because the traffic light cycle was completely out of whack and was allowing vehicles to turn left despite the fact that all two cars which had previously been waiting had long since turned. Rather than allowing traffic to progress for at least three or more traffic lights (thus keeping traffic moving) by only having it move from one traffic light to the next leaves a great deal of residual traffic behind. Now I know dealing with traffic isn't going to get any better (at least not for a few more years when all construction is done) so I think the least those in charge of road logistics on the project could do is try to make improvements now before things get worse.


Monday, June 14, 2010

World Cup Mania

There are very few sports that we here in the US watch that can actually be called 'international'. I mean we tend to call our championship teams in the NFL or baseball or even basketball for that matter, "world champions" although our teams don't really play anyone outside of our own country. Sure you can argue that at least some teams in baseball have gone to countries like Japan and the like to take on international teams but it isn't for the prestige of being a true world champion. It's for that reason that I've taken an interest in wanting to see the World Cup this year. It's true that soccer (I know it should be football but to prove that I'm an American... I shall refer to it as soccer), is gaining popularity here in the United States but it is still well below the level of near obsession that it holds in the rest of the world. Still, in having watched a couple of the early matches of the competition so far this year I can see why it can't be exciting.

Now the average person may say that nothing much really happens other than shuffling the ball from one side to the other until perhaps some lucky person gets a shot at the goal. But to me that's what makes it the most interesting. In the span of a few short seconds, the score can suddenly shift the momentum from one side of the field to the other. For example, the match between Ghana and Serbia was relatively even until an errant handball foul against Serbia gave Ghana a chance through a penalty kick. What was looking like a tie ending suddenly became a victory and put fire into the hearts of the Serbian players. Suddenly there was a greater sense of urgency among them and that's what made those final few minutes so much more enthralling.

As someone who has watched American football for a number of years, I can understand the strategy and skill behind what is going on and I'm sure that there is just as much going on behind the scenes in soccer games but it's not all that readily apparent to the casual fan. In reading some of the news about the early matches I was surprised to read a bit about how some of the players are a bit upset with adidas (manufacturers of the official balls for the games) and the fact that many of the balls seem to be moving erratically through the air despite the assurances of adidas that these are the most accurate balls to have been produced for the World Cup.

I couldn't understand why that appeared to be a point of contention until I read some of the associated stories and found that many players were upset given the fact that because of these erratic ball movements, teams like the United States (and even Ghana) managed to score goals and either tie or win games that they weren't supposed to. Now perhaps the players and fans of the world need to remember that in addition to skill and talent among the players, something is also chalked up to luck. Sometimes all it takes is just a bit more luck on one side of the equation or the other the completely change the outcome. We may not all like it but it is what it is. I can only hope that this doesn't serve to take away from the fun and enjoyment of the tournament overall. I mean from what I understand there have been numerous occasions where teams that weren't expected to win ended up knocking off teams that were perennial favorites. But then isn't that the whole point? To prove which team has the greater luck and pool of players in a given year?


Friday, June 11, 2010

Can Hollywood Save the Gulf?

It's been over fifty days since the Gulf-based oil drilling platform, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded and unleashed an oil leak which has been pumping out tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum (BP), the company who had contracted the platform to drill for oil and is being held accountable for the mishap, has been attempting to stymie the flow of oil for nearly two months with limited success. They tried capping the oil leak, they tried cutting the pipe and so far everything they have tried has failed. Oil slicks, tar balls, and the like have been washing up on shores as far as Florida. And if the gulfstream is any indicator, we could see oil washing up along the east coast in the not too distant future.

So what can be done? BP is trying but obviously they aren't succeeding. The federal and state governments have tried to intercede as well but the obvious problem is that they drank the Kool-Aid and believed the oil companies when they said that they had contingency plans in place in the event of an unexpected oil spill. I think it's safe to say that that was a bit of wishful thinking. The military is stepping in now as well but really, with them being spread so thin across the globe, is it really right (or fair) to expect them to do so much more for our country than they already are? So what are the people living along the Gulf Coast supposed to do? Well apparently turning to Hollywood isn't out of the realm of possibility. In the past few weeks I've heard of at least two Hollywood big shots planning on doing more than just telethons or making large donations to charity (for tax purposes). I suppose having expertise in making the impossible possible in the movies gives rise to the belief that perhaps they can do so in real life as well.

I first heard about Kevin Costner and his brother a few weeks ago. They are due to go before Congress sometime soon. Apparently the two developed a system shortly after the Exxon Valdez spill a few years ago and have been working on it on their own for just such an emergency. Basically it is a large centrifuge which will ingest tainted seawater and then spit out cleaned seawater. Now from what early reports indicate, tests have been successful and the system has worked to a limited degree so perhaps Kevin Costner will be able to take on a new name for himself. Rather than being Dances with Wolves he can be Cleans Up Oil Spills. There are those inevitable cynics and naysayers out there who wonder what an 'actor' like Costner will be able to do but I say unto them, at least he and his brother are trying to do something; at their own expense no less!

Then there's the self-proclaimed 'King of the World'... no not Leonardo DiCaprio but James Cameron. Some say that there could hardly be a worse choice from Hollywood to come in a step up with potential ideas. I mean sure, perhaps he had a mildly anti-military establishment message in "Avatar" but that aside he's actually had quite a deal of experience in dealing with extreme depth underwater situations. Cameron directed "The Abyss" which dealt with underwater oil rigs as one aspect of the complex story. He then directed "Titanic" and with the help of his engineer brother, managed to construct cameras that filmed the actual Titanic wreckage in stunning clarity for the first time in decades. The challenge there was working thousands of feet below the surface where robots and steady hands are a must. Not only that, but Cameron returned to the Titanic numerous times more in an effort to get more footage of the great ship. That being said, perhaps it isn't so far-fetched to believe that he could find a solution for stopping the oil leak in the Gulf.

But to me, I think the real reason there is hope in people like Costner and Cameron (and their brothers) is the fact that perhaps everyone currently involved in the spill clean up has realized that they are lacking the one thing that could help them come up with a solution and that one thing is imagination. Imagination is what helped Costner and Cameron create some unique cinematic worlds replete with conceivable technology and science that made the impossible seem possible. I suppose the assumption isn't a bad one and perhaps it's just the 'shot in the arm' needed to find a solution. One can only hope.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Understanding Different Cultures

In "Sex and the City 2", the quartet of 'sophisticated' New York fashionistas go on an all-expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi and while there they get to experience a brand new culture that not everyone gets a chance to experience. While I'm sure the writer and director saw this as an opportunity to introduce their audience to a new culture through the medium of film, the execution of said introduction left a great deal to be desired. Seeing how shoddily the subject of learning about Middle Eastern culture was treated, I was surprised if for no other reason than the degree of ignorance these four women were shown to have.

Now while I agree that not everyone will have an opportunity to learn about new cultures or even be familiar with them, I beg to differ as to the point the film appears to be making whereby these four women are shown to be so clueless about even the basic aspects of Muslim culture; especially in this day and age. While I could expect such ignorance and idiocy (and there's really no other word for it) from a country bumpkin who has never left their home city before going on such a trip, I refuse to believe that these women, who come from a culturally diverse city like New York, could believably be that stupid and ignorant.

But giving them the benefit of the doubt (and allowing for the sake of telling a story with these particular four women), is it really necessary to portray Americans (and specifically women) in such a negative light? I mean all the cliches that you could possibly have with regards to Americans exposed to new culture seem to apply to this film. What are some of these cliches? Well how about speaking louder and slower to someone in another country? It never ceases to amaze me that human nature works in such a mysterious way. If you think about it, there have probably been innumerable times where you've seen someone, in an effort to be fully understood by someone who doesn't speak their language, speaks in a slow and loud voice.

Or how about acting high and mighty about how all our (and by that I mean American) culture's aspects are better (or preferable) to another's? In this case, the four girls have a very heated and prolonged discussion about how restrictive aspects of Muslim culture are. Perhaps so, but rather than trying to understand the reasons or the rationale behind it (maybe not to agree but at least to understand) the four of them behave as if they are right to continue their ways regardless of their surroundings which includes dressing like streetwalkers and behaving as such (at times).

In seeing the film I was truly disappointed to see that in a time when understanding Muslim culture (as opposed to insulting both directly and indirectly) would be a good thing, this film however continued to perpetuate the false belief that many outside of America have about us and that is that we don't respect or want to understand Muslim culture or any other non-American culture that is out there. Thinking on it I began to wonder if this was just my bias against the film or perhaps that this was a trend. In thinking about it I began to realize that perhaps there truly weren't any films that sought to explore new cultures with respect and understanding. Then while listening to my iPod the other day I realized that that wasn't the case and I found the perfect example film; "The Karate Kid II".

Now while not a great film, this film shows how the main character accompanies his friend and teacher on a trip to Okinawa and in the process learns about Japanese culture and customs. He doesn't know everything and doesn't necessarily agree with everything he sees or experiences but at least the main character makes an effort to learn. While teaching the Japanese about our culture the teach him something about theirs as well. This is true cultural exchange and shows what we can learn if we open our minds to it. Now that they are remaking "The Karate Kid" (to be released this week), I am hopeful that they take the example of the original and try to teach the audience about a new culture rather than simply showing the false belief that all Americans never find anything good to take away from learning from another culture.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Remembering Normandy

Sixty-six years ago yesterday, Allied forces began their invasion of the European continent in an effort to push back German forces and defeat Hitler's Nazi army once and for all. The landings at Normandy, commonly referred to by many as D-Day, has been in the collective consciousness of most general war buffs for a long time and even those who aren't as avid a history buff as the rest of us tend to know about this event thanks in part to films like "Saving Private Ryan". But as I thought about it, while I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the men and women who fought and served in World War II, I feel that just as much respect and admiration is deserved by the men and women serving our country now.

Some make the argument that World War II was the last "good war" fought by our nation and if one simplifies things that's probably very true. Our country was fighting a common enemy that had declared war on the world, not just on one nation in particular. Had Germany not declared war on the United States alongside Japan following their attack on Pearl Harbor, it's quite possible that June 6th may never have had significance to the world at large. Yet things happened the way they did and the invasion of Normandy ended up changing the course of the European front in the war. That's not to imply that nothing of significance or importance was happening elsewhere on other fronts in the war. On the contrary, it's often forgotten by many that battles that were just as important were being fought in the Pacific as well.

And it was that thought that made me pause and think about the fact that not everyone seems to be aware about what happened in the Pacific or on the Eastern Front of Europe on that day. And then I got to thinking about all the other conflicts our country has been in from World War II onwards and whether you support the war effort or not, it's sad to think that people forget about the sacrifices being made by our servicemen and women on an almost daily basis, especially in the days since 2001. But even before then, perhaps the wars weren't on the scale of World War II but they were no less important, or dangerous. Operations that the public knows of such as those in Somalia and Bosnia, as well as the first Gulf War and all the wars since have required just as much bravery and sacrifice. Isn't it important to remember those dates as well?

June 6th is often credited as being the beginning of the end of the German war machine and we should remember these dates for their significance. Just the way we remember 9/11 and how it changed our world, we should also remember October 7th, 2001. That was the day that the invasion of Afghanistan began, less than a month after the 9/11 attacks. It's now coming close to becoming the longest conflict in which the country has been in combat situations since Vietnam. There also sacrifices are being made which will have an impact on the future of our nation and it is no less important. Remembering the significance of June 6th is a wonderful thing but I hope that it also helps us to remember the significance of today's servicemen and women as well.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Men and Chick Flicks

I have seen a lot of movies in my time. Probably not as many as some but I have seen my fair share and I am comfortable enough in my masculinity to say that I have seen a decent number of 'chick flicks' as well. For those unfamiliar with the term it is meant to encompass all those movies that appeal to the female species. It typically deals with a female protagonist who is looking for love in all the wrong places and ultimately finds it with a man she has been involved with throughout the course of the film. There are of course variations on the themes such as the guy is initially a jerk but he changes for her over the course of the film, or the guy is her friend who she doesn't look to as a suitor until the end credits are about to roll.

But I'm not here to argue the merits of seeing films of this nature. I can't argue the point because you could make the very same argument about many, if not most, action films as well. No. The reason I bring up chick flicks is because I have made careful study of the poor men who get dragged into seeing such films in the movie theater. It's often a very rare occasion but it has been known to happen. Take for example this past weekend when "Sex and the City 2" opened. When I saw the line for the film I was not too surprised to see a few men accompanying their wives or girlfriends in line but what struck me is that many of them had the same vacant expression on their face as they stood in line as they waited to see the film.

I could only compare it to what must have been the expression on the faces of many of the victims of King Henry's reign when the Tower of London saw numerous executions. It was a plethora of men basically resigned to their fate with nothing more to do other than to go in with a melancholic expression and bite the bullet. I wonder if the women they accompanied have any idea of the mental torture and not-always-friendly ribbing they could be subjected to once word gets out that they were seen going to a chick flick. Women believe that they are the queens when it comes to catty behavior but they have nothing on men who are teasing a fellow who has been caught going to a chick flick.

Besides the obvious teasing that they endure about being a pansy, there is also the inevitable question as to why the guy did it. Women can argue all they want that they endure action films and a dearth of other stupid movies that Hollywood churns out for the male species but it's not quite the same. After all, women will give sympathy to a woman who has had to 'suffer' through a movie made for a male. Sure they may not enjoy "Rambo" or "Lord of the Rings" but they aren't the worse for it. Perhaps it's my male chauvinism coming through but I find male characters to be much more complex than female characters. I suppose that's because Hollywood is full of men and not so many women writers and directors. Often, strong woman characters don't come from chick flicks but from non-chick flicks. Those are the ones that seem to appeal to the masses more. Perhaps chick flicks could take a hint from that and learn to make their films a bit more challenging to the mind. Romance is good but temper it with something more. Perhaps then men won't be so reluctant to see chick flicks.