Saturday, December 11, 2010

Culture over consumerism

Thanks to the wonderful world wide web I no longer have to spend my December weekends exchanging blows with my neighbors at the local mall. Instead, I can enjoy things like the dedication of the Paolo Soleri bridge in Scottsdale.

Soleri is the coolest Italian architect in this town and he is the godfather of the whole arcology movement. He is known locally for his Arcosanti concept. His people also make real cool bells and chimes.

Anyway, this bridge is a nice counter and complement to the evolving Waterfront area. It's nice to see his bohemian, utopian influences juxtaposed next to the State's biggest den of consumerism.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Where has all the good Christmas music gone?

Like many of us, most of my music time comes while navigating local streets. With the Holidays in full swing and my ipod transmitter broken I am at the mercy of the local radio stations to get me in the spirit. It's only been several days and I already don't like the mood they are creating.

A few thoughts on Christmas music and radio:

  • There are literally thousands of Christmas songs and millions of different versions of those songs. Why do these stations stick to the same 500? I love Bing Crosby as much as the next patriotic American but let's put the daily limit on "White Christmas" at 15.
  • The 40's, 50's, and 60's had to have been the golden years for the commercial Christmas song. Don Draper and his contemporaries gave us the classics like Rudolph, Frosty, and others all in the name of moving products at Macy's.
  • Meanwhile the 80's gave as a horrible nadir in terms of quality music. Leave it to Wham, Paul McCartney, and the folks behind "do they know its Christmas" to stink it up so badly that it would be almost a full decade before we would see artists tread back into these lucrative holiday waters.
  • If you are a successful musician making a Christmas song has to the lowest hanging fruit possible. Easy money, shooting fish in a barrel, you get my drift.
  • There are few religious Christmas songs played on the radio today. The obvious exception is "O Holy Night". But I think that is because it showcases the range of the diva more than celebrating the traditional meaning for the season. Seriously, if you are an artist and you want to demonstrate your skill then this is the Christmas proving ground for you. "Little Drummer Boy" is another exception but, c' offensive is a he?
A couple more hours of this and I will be running, not walking, over to the local Deseret Book for some Tabernacle Choir seasonal cd's.

Monday, December 06, 2010

I support the Dream Act. Here's why

While in no way a comprehensive solution to our immigration mess, the Dream Act represents a positive idea that should be supported and further developed by both sides of the aisle. (For text of the bill as it currently stands in the house click here.) Citizenship should be earned and this bill does a good job of providing the right kind of carrots for the kind of immigrant that will add value to our country.

Let's be honest, we can't blame the kids for whom this bill was drafted. They didn't create these circumstances. And before we lay all the blame on their parents, let's realize that our economy and government have long let the conditions for illegal immigration flourish. If we weren't so willing to pay these immigrants a tax-free pittance for their hard labor I doubt we would be facing our current immigration mess. But this is our reality and we would be best served by taking steps to improve it.

The bill focuses on paving a way for deserving immigrants a chance to go to college or serve in the military. There are plenty of strings attached to prevent this from being a free ride. And no these students won't be taking away grants and in-state tuition for those legal kids. The bill contains no language about in-state tuition, leaving that decision to each State. It merely gives some very deserving students the opportunity to attend college or the military and to earn an expedited path to citizenship through conditional permanent residency status.

There is an economic incentive to pass this as well. The CBO estimates that it will reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion annually. Some might bring up the opposing figures offered by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) but their perspective is too biased and their methodology too flawed to seriously to be seriously considered. Nonetheless, here is the link to their take.

The bill is not perfect and there are things that need further clarification and discussion. (i.e. in-state tuition, need to be part of larger reform, vague protections for anyone who simply starts an application, etc...) And, ideally this would be a small piece in a larger bill that truly fixes our immigration mess. Unfortunately that is not the case at this moment.

In the meantime, this is a worthy bill. It gives some relief to a group who can truly contribute and participate in America. And it will help in keeping the spotlight on an issue that only continues to grow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

There's more than just one type of "Hispanic"

The points of view on both sides of the immigration debate have become so hardened that it is fast becoming near impossible to reach any kind of middle ground or mutual understanding. That is unfortunate because both sides have valid points worth considering.

One tactic that both sides use, to their own detriment, is to paint the entire other side with the same general brushstroke. I guess that makes sense if you are trying to defeat something and not work with it. If there is one thing I've learned over the years it is that stereotypes and perceptions are lazy and often counterproductive. Travel to Italy and compare the cuisine from region to region and than compare it our traditional definition of "Italian" and you'll know what I mean. Not all Italian's eat lasagna and not all Mexicans are law breaking criminals who are undermining the "American" way of life.

Peel back the onion a bit and you get a far more intricate and complicated picture.

That is certainly the case with both sides of the immigration debate. Peer beyond the talking points of both sides and you can start to make some real ground. Right now I want to spend a few moments talking about the many nuances of the Hispanic community living in the U.S.

The Pew Center does a good job gauging the sentiment of the Hispanic Community. Many will argue that the Center is too liberal, but I don't find it to be too bad to where I can't use their data. Their surveys are comprehensive and often times they provide the source data for any surveys or research done.

I recently reviewed one of the surveys that was conducted before the primary elections of 2008. Most of the questions are centered on political opinions and immigration policy. The link to the full report can be found here. I pulled the data-set, a sample size of just over 2,000 respondents, and played with it in SPSS. Here are a few interesting findings:

  • Over 66% of the respondents viewed their quality of life as "good" or excellent.
  • 77% were "very" or "somewhat" confident that their children growing up in the U.S. will have better jobs than they do.
  • While more Hispanics affiliated themselves with the Democratic party and considered that party more attuned to their interests, the numbers were still relatively small. 42% didn't think that either party listened to them and and 37% consider themselves independent.
  • Over 83% think that we have "too many" or just the "right" amount of immigrants in the U.S.
  • 65% believe that discrimination is a "major problem" and an additional 19% believe that it is a "minor problem".
  • 41% stated that they or loved ones have experienced discrimination in the past year.
  • 46% are fluent in English as well as Spanish.
  • 52% of respondents are employed full-time, 31% are not employed.
  • 48% earn less than $30k/year.

There isn't anything particularly groundbreaking with this study. In fact, data can be pulled by both sides to validate their positions. But if you look at the numbers more closely you see a more diverse and pluralistic Hispanic Community. About the only thing that truly galvanized them in one direction was their opposition to implied or potential discrimination.

So what is the point of all this? We can't simply place the same broad set of assumptions on the Hispanic population as a whole. I know Hispanics here legally and illegally. I know Hispanics who are Republicans and those who are Democrats. I know some who want to stay here and pursue the American dream and others who are here for lack of better options back home. I know those who look down upon illegal immigration and those who see it as the only necessary route to both earn a wage as well as serve a demand here in the U.S. I've met some who are honest, some not so much. They are just as varied and diverse as any group.

Let's be a little more careful with our generalizations and seek to understand before we draw any conclusions.

A recent survey from last month reveals once again how diverse the Hispanic population is. In many ways it is a follow up to the 2007 survey that was mentioned above. Its findings are somewhat surprising and uncover a sizable divide within the community regarding the benefits and proposed treatment of illegal immigrants. Very, very interesting. Link to summary here.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Randomizer Volume VI Series II

Because my mind only works when it is traipsing gingerly through multiple badly formed thoughts.

Point of Political Ads?: Both political parties clearly understand that the American public is ticked off at partisan politics and negativity, right? Both parties want to demonstrate that they are ready to hear the voice of the people, right? Then why the "H" were the last five months spent subjecting us to the worst, most negative attack ads ever? From both parties! It's stuff like that that inspired me to vote Libertarian across the board. It's stuff like that that make me grateful for the remote control. The Republicans win a resounding victory than their leadership immediately goes off on a diatribe against Obama. We might not agree with his policies but shut up about the attacks. That is exactly what we don't want and that is what is going to make your control of the House short lived.

The Incredible Edible dessert?
Being married to Jodi means many wonderful things. One of them is that dessert will play a large role in our culinary adventures. I recently took account of my favorite desserts and I discovered one common thread. They abound with eggs. Also, they all have a lot of vanilla....but that's for another time. Tiramisu. Custard. Bread Pudding. French Cruller Donuts. Boston Creme Pie. Flan. All very eggey and all exceptionally tasty.

Having Something to Work With:
Ben Folds is cool. And when he teams up with Nick Hornby, of 'About A Boy' fame, he becomes even cooler. This following quote from a fairly recent NPR interview they conducted got me thinking.

"I was just going to say about sending Ben the lyrics and saying, 'Well, this is what they are' — [it] works in the same way that if you tell a kid, 'Write something; write anything; you can write a story about anything you want,' they can't think of anything," says Hornby. "But if you say, 'Write a story about a crocodile, a pineapple and a stair lift in a hotel,' then it will spark something up. The same still happens to me if I'm commissioned to write anything I want for a magazine. I never want to do it. But if someone comes in with some specific ideas about something, then the limit placed on the limitless actually does spark the imagination."

That statement is so true. We need certain parameters in place- whether it be sparked by interest or assignment- before we can really succeed creatively. Otherwise indecision looms because there are simply too many options.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rome in America. (Part III)

I am continually fascinated by Roman history, particularly the exceptionally tumultuous period when the Republic was usurped by Imperial rule. I can't help but wonder if this specific period has the potential to be echoed in our contemporary American experience.

Specifically, I am interested in the decline of virtue and its impact on society. The period right before and during Caesar's rise, reign, and assassination saw an increased abandonment of the core principles, values, and responsibilities that girded the Roman Republic. The following is an apt description of the times.

"As soon as riches came to be held in honor, when glory, dominion, and power followed in their train, virtue began to lose its luster, poverty to be considered a disgrace, blamelessness to be termed malevolence. Therefore...riches, luxury, and greed, united with insolence, took possession of our young manhood. They pillaged, squandered; set little value on their own, coveted the goods of others; they disregarded modesty, chastity, everything human and divine; in short they were utterly thoughtless and reckless."

Now you can understand why people like Cato were so ticked. But doesn't that also sound like today in America? Causes, unity, and respect have given away to TMZ, boorishness, selfishness, self indulgence, and laziness. We've gone from the "Greatest Generation" to "Generation X" in less than 40 years. I don't want to be the bum who says that the sky is falling but I can't help but look at the above quote and think it does such a good job of encapsulating one of the big causes to the fall of one Republic and the weakening of another modern one.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Driving Possibility

"He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted and to emerge as girders against the sky.
These rocks he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn; waiting for the shape my hands will give them."

I often reflect on these thoughts shared by Howard Roark in the "Fountainhead". To me they speak to the incredible creative powers that are to be discovered in each of us. It is an incredible high to be able to tap into that vein and create something truly unique and of value. It is an incredible low to discover that you have wasted your time by not mining out those creative forces that lay dormant in each of us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One could argue that Kauai is for lovers, not brothers. But the Jensen men managed to buck that conventional wisdom and make a memorable week of it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing our own story

Ah...the thirties. A somewhat mid-point in our lives when we take stock of who we are and what it is we were destined to do or be. For many of us this period represents a sort of writers bloc. Our teens are full of activity and possibility. Our early twenties are spent harnessing that possibility and forging the foundation for our assigned place within the world.

But than the momentum of those promises and goals slows down and by the time we reach our thirties we start to take a deep look at our original plans. For some, they are right on course. For many others, they are left to a cacophony of "second guesses" and "what ifs".

The plot isn't quite moving forward as we'd hoped.

What to do?

This is a period in which we start to soul search, question a little more deeply, and take up jogging. In our quest for meaning we do odd things like growing a garden, writing music, running relay races.


We've got to prove to our selves that our lives mean something. That there is more to our existence than a career, bills, and taking the kids to soccer practice. We no longer are given lists of clubs to join or teams to play on. We now have to forge our own path and provide our own momentum.

The seeds of change are varied. Disappointment, yearning, curiosity, or thirst can all lead to this change. But these seeds are probably the purest of any that we've ever planted. They can represent the core essence of our soul and ambitions. They are planted and nourished by nothing more than our own desires and our quest to fulfill the possibilities laid out in our hearts and heads.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Finding sources of "Comfort Food" everywhere

Sometimes life takes us along a strange and unknown journey. It's in moments like these that we yearn for the familiar bosom and the comfort that it provides. We like comfort because it provides familiarity, convenience, and an accurate response. We all know the term, "comfort food" and what it implies.
I feel that the term can expand beyond food. It can cover a variety of activities, diversions, or other aspects of our lives that we can run to when life seems a little too unpredictable. Here are a few of mine.
  1. Movies: James Bond. Anytime, anyplace. I don't grow tired of them in the least. They have the action, the gadgets, the story-sometimes, and the exotic locations....and they are so easy to watch. You don't need to get yourself in the mood for these movies, you just sit back and enjoy the ride. Most rewatchable of the series? Try "For Your Eyes Only", "GoldenEye", and "Quantom of Solace". What, no Connery? We don't need no stinking Connery.
  2. Music: Bad (Live), U2. A song that I can play 17 times in a row without getting tired of it. Don't agree? I'll punch you in the face.
  3. TV: Arrested Development or Seinfeld. These are the ultimate entertainment snack. One episode is just not enough.
  4. City: San Diego. It won't intimidate or tire you. Everything is within reach. The climate is as pleasant and docile as Eden itself. Its like the Krustez of cities. Just show up, add water, and enjoy.
  5. Website: ESPN. Because I'm a man and because there is never enough sports.
  6. Art:The works of Frederic Edwin Church. Enjoy it because it is simple straight forward beauty. You don't need to agonize over interpreting what the artist might or might not be saying. These are simply some of the best landscape paintings that you will ever see.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Because it's hot...really hot

We all know that it gets hellishly hot in Phoenix during July and August. Experience a couple consecutive weeks of 110 plus heat and you start to really question the draw of this place. And since San Diego isn't an option every weekend, you've got to find ways to escape the heat that are a little closer to home.

Fortunately for us we've got the Mogollon Rim about an hour and a half to the Northeast of us. One of life's simple pleasures is looking down at your car thermometer as you climb to Payson and watch as the degrees peel off.

This weekend we opted to hike Horton Canyon. It is about 20 minutes outside of Payson just below the Rim. While it only takes an hour and a half to get up there, it is a world away from Phoenix.

To start, it is green. We were fortunate to hike the morning after some heavy monsoon rains. Everything was green and absolutely verdant. We saw ferns and other plants that we wouldn't think would have anything to do with this State. The sound of the creek, the smell of the damp pines, and the distant roar of the monsoon thunder is the perfect therapy for those of us who are having a difficult time stomaching this heat.

I will throw in a few more photos. This time from a Memorial Day trip down to Tucson. This is Sabino Canyon. It was too hot and the sun was too strong to really capture any decent photos. I'd like to revisit this place after a wet, cool Spring.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Remembering John Wooden

I wasn't around to experience any of those great UCLA teams. Up until the last few years my only exposure to John Wooden came through second hand lessons taught by coaches and teachers. Up until a couple of years ago, I only knew that he was the most decorated coach of all time and that he had inspired legions of followers and practitioners of his teachings.

And than the news of his sickness and death came....the depth of my understanding of this man changed profoundly.

As I read the papers and heard the news I was inundated with stories and praise. This man was truly loved. He truly left his mark. And as more and more stories and anecdotes emerged, I realized one thing. They all dealt with his character. Sure there were references to his great success in winning games. But the majority of the time was spent on how he selflessly taught those around them how to work harder and become better people.

The athletes and coaches of our era are probably the best we've ever seen. Science and money have insured that by making athletics a very lucrative business. But behind all of the muscle and ego, there isn't much depth of character. The principles that we know are appropriate- team work, cooperation, effort- have been replaced with actions that are convenient such as greed, selfishness, and cheating. I can only imagine how Mr. Wooden felt during these last years as he watched this unfold in his beloved arena of sport. He proved that you can win the right way....only it was much harder then winning the convenient way. That is why he is so unique and singular.

Mr. Wooden, you thrived before my time. But your life and legacy is so very important to the people of my time. He was a throw back to the core principles that made us great. Maybe your passing will remind us that we've gone astray and that, to become great again, we need to look beyond ourselves.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Revenge of the Sequel

Hollywood executives are spending a lot of time these days rummaging through the "attics" of their back catalog. What are they looking for? Anything that had a pulse, made a little money, is relatively cheap to make, can garner a measurable safe return, and can be turned around on the fly. Why? Because that is easy money and Hollywood is about money. If you want something ground breaking or original go watch the Sundance channel.

So in that spirit, I have decided to help these folks out with a few recommendations of my own. These are surefire winners.

  1. Citizen Kane II, the Revenge of Rosebud: It's time we take the hammer to this iconic and innovative classic. Let's get one of the leading action directors of our day, Tony Scott or Barry Sonnenfeld, and load the sequel with every kind of cliche in the book. Yes, I did say action. We all knew that that darned Sled, Rosebud, looked like it was up to something bad. It will be unleashed in the sequel. It will be the slasher sensation of the summer box office.
  2. Godfather IV, the boredom of running a legitimate business: We breathed a sigh of disappointment when Michael wanted to make the family business legitimate. What about the action, blood, and Sicilian justice? This one will be somewhat of a documentary, underlining the difficulties that most Italian companies have when they are required to play by the books. Should be a big hit with accountants.
  3. Weekend at Bernie's III: Because there still so much that can be told. The Second wasn't enough, this movie franchise deserves a long life.
  4. Golden Girls Gone Wild: It is only smart to capitalize on the hottest actress of the moment, Betty White. It's a shame this wasn't started earlier as we've only recently lost Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty. People love it when Betty uses the sexual double entendre. Let's take off the gloves and let these octogenarians blow away every social taboo that hasn't already been desecrated by people like Howard Stern.
  5. Metrosexuals in the city: Because gays aren't the only men focused on clothes and their looks. Let's face it, we are becoming more vain. It's about time we had a movie that spoke to our vanity. Have it star David Beckham and Tom Brady. Have just enough of them to attract the female and gay audience. Have just enough action to capture the rest of us.
  6. Clash of the Titans: Let's take a mulligan on the the remake, it was horrible. Start all over again and get back to the basics. Call Harry Hamlin if you have to. Better yet, exorcise the spirit of Laurence Olivier. I'm sure he could help. He's probably got nothing better to do.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Very Short Essay: Why I love Beulah

I have never lived in a big city with a very strong urban core like New York or San Francisco. I've never been considered particularly hip. I don't attend many house parties, gallery openings, or clubs. And my artistic sensibilities are quite questionable.

But if I was hip, and I did live in one of these big cities, and I possessed a good sense of art, and I were to attend cool parties on a regular basis than I'd have to imagine that Beulah would be one of the artists on my playlist.

Listen to a couple of their songs and I'm willing to bet that you will want to join me in subletting a townhouse over in Cow Hollow.

It's a shame they are no longer with us. At least we still have the music of their former leader, Miles Kurosky.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hollywood Dollars and Sense....not making sense to me

As a kid there were few movies that really stoked the fire of my imagination. We were at an age that was brimming with adventure and ideas and we didn't need a movie to grow the flames. I can probably count the most magical movies on one hand.

Star Wars, Cloak and Dagger, Nate and Hayes, Indiana Jones, and Clash of the Titans.

Oh yes....the great Clash of the Titans. It had a sweeping story pulled from Greek mythology. It had the ability to take an already active imagination into an entirely different world and realm. The special effects were pretty cool for the time but they only played a secondary role to Perseus and his quest to save Mycenae from the Titans.

I distinctly remember the first time I watched the movie. I was at the Oldham's and we were playing outside, likely constructing the landscape for our next GI Joe battle sequence. Some of the older siblings raced inside with a VHS tape of the movie. Like Lemmings we followed the commotion. Fortunately, we were allowed to stay and partake of this cinematic manna. I was captivated and amazed. I would have to imagine that this was what Steven Spielberg felt when he was inspired to enter the trade.

Fast forward to the present day....

Like many, I had great anticipation for the release of the newest version of this epic tale. If nothing else, to see if it could capture the adventure and whimsy of the original. My love for Greek mythology has grown over the years and I am always interested to see how Hollywood interprets these stories. So with a free afternoon I joined the lines of octogenarians and waited for my own matinee marvel.

I waited...and I waited. All I got were over the top special effects, an actor who did a horrible job of portraying a great hero, no emotional connection being made, and a realization that this movie was probably nothing more than a studio cash grab. My imagination wasn't taken anywhere except to the sterile blue room that created the unimaginative creatures, sets, and back drop. There was no magic, no sense of epic adventure.

As I look at the slate of movies due out this summer all I see is more "Titan" sized disappointment. Hollywood has learned that there is big money to be made in dredging up some of the great entertainment brands of the past. GI Joe and Transformers go from being wonderful vehicles of imagination to coldly calculated machines of profit and nothing more. No fear, you only need to fool all of us once to create a blockbuster. None of these remakes, even A-Team, will be nothing more than half hearted ploys to pull at our nostalgic heart strings and extract a few extra bucks from our wallets. And that really sucks.

So I'm going to restrain from spending $10 at the movies this summer. At that price it shouldn't be too hard to do. The current Hollywood formula is trite and tired. I would rather save my money and plug in the originals. I get the magic of the first run and I don't have to spend $7.50 for a Diet Coke.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Does Arizona have it right or wrong when it comes to immigration?

With the Health care issue shelved for the moment, the public discourse is allowed to move onto other viable issues, namely immigration. And Arizona once again proves that it is ground zero for immigration policy and enforcement. The latest salvo fired is the imminent passage of State Bill 1070. Check the full bill here.

For many, Arizona has become a laboratory, for good or bad, for immigration enforcement. Because of that it gets additional scrutiny from all corners of the U.S. and both sides of the political spectrum.These articles from the LA Times and Deseret News are just two recent examples.

So what does this bill do and why is it so controversial? It essentially grants law enforcement more power in determining whether or not someone is in the U.S. legally or not. So is this good or bad? Depends on who you ask.
  • From a left of center perspective it is a gross violation of basic human rights and an open invitation for racial profiling.
  • From a right of center perspective it gives law enforcement that ability to actually enforce immigration laws that are already on the book.
I certainly understand the concerns from both sides. If anything I hope that this bill, and its resulting buzz, will push the spotlight to how broken our federal immigration policy is. We need some kind of dialog. Both sides have valid points and unless there is some meaningful dialog the fringes will continue to paint the rest of us into two horrible corners.

There are so many questions that need to be addressed and answered. Questions like:
  • Until we get a decent national policy in place, what rights does an illegal immigrant have?
  • What public services should a likely non-tax paying illegal immigrant have access to?
  • Are local resources best spent enforcing immigration laws?
  • How much do economic concerns play into the immigration debate?
  • What should be the minimal requirements for letting someone enter the U.S.? How many people should be allowed to permanently immigrate to the U.S.? What about temporarily?
Most of the questions that need to be asked and are complex because we have a system that is crippled and manipulated for political reasons. If we were to start over we could simplify the process and make something that works. The current band aids, whether they be amnesty programs like the Bracero or ad-hoc enforcement like the minutemen, simply aren't good long term answers.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Randomizer Volume VI Series I

Because sometimes its a lot easier to write in little fits and spurts than actually trying to flesh something out in great detail and craft.
  • I love to hate golf and I don't consider it to be anything more than a mirage for middle-aged white men who think that this hobby is a sport and that they are "athletes". I do feel, however, sympathetic for it it. Why? Because Tiger Woods absolutely owns it. With him golf gets ratings, money, and a sense of legitimacy. Without him, golf goes back to being a parochial activity for the blue bloods on a Sunday afternoon. So they are stuck with putting up with the Tiger Woods marketing bonanza machine and they are stuck having to deal with his sordid personal life. And there is nothing they can do about it. He is their deal with the devil.
  • I always thought it strange that Italy is the gold standard for mens business fashion. Don't get me wrong, I love Italy. I love its culture. I love its food. I love its history. I really like most of its clothes. Maybe the only reason why they go to work is so that they can look good doing so. It's kind of ironic that most of the guys that wear the Ferragamos and David Saddlers and Santonis have a quality of life that most of these Italian artisans absolutely decry.
  • So I'm reading some Jimmy Buffet right now and its making me question the foundation of the "American dream". 5 chapters into "A Pirate looks at 50" and I'm ready to flip the bird at stability, white picket fences, suburban living, and insurance policies. Move over Mr. Kerouac, your beatnik lifestyle has got nothing on what Mr. Buffet offers. Either way, we need to step away from our planners and enjoy a little real living.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Morning Second Guess

If I could redo my career selection all over again, I would choose to be an architect. The perfect blend of science and creativity. Building a legacy that stands the test of time.

If I could redo my career selection for a third time, I would choose Anthony Bourdain, post "Kitchen Confidential". Traipsing around the globe discovering new sides to the world's many cultures and sampling their culinary oddities. Far from the beaten paths of all-inclusive resorts, brochures, and the thunderous roar of the traveling herd.

That is good living. To discover the true essence of other peoples, far beyond the venal veneer that most people do not choose to look beyond. And to capture these people with such a mastery of word and craft. Well done Mr Bourdain, well done. Kind of reminds me of my cousin, Christian.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bringing the Winter Olympics to the rest of us

Every four years we are instructed by whichever network owns its broadcast rights to pay attention to the Winter Olympics. We try and pronounce the Nordic sounding names of the blond haired Europeans as they do some pretty strange stuff in the snow. (Or in the case of the Vancouver games this year, slush) Eventually we sort of pay attention to Hockey and Ice Skating and then we turn back to our regular sports that ....well, more closely resemble sports.

I am at a complete loss when it comes to some of these events. How did they evolve? Guns and cross country skiing as a competitive sport? Seriously? They are more an awkward patchwork of European elitist tradition and American styled daredevilry then anything that could really be considered a true test of athleticism. But I digress...

So instead of trying to figure out the Winter Olympics I have decided to slip into my wool turtleneck and jump right in. In fact I am going to take it a step further and actually recommend a few more events to help the Winter Olympics expand into the 9/10th of the rest of the world that doesn't experience winter or turtlenecks.

Here is my preliminary list.

  1. World-Class Snowball Fight Extravaganza: There could be team or individual categories and rules could follow those outlined in Paintball. You want drama, stamina, and precision? This is a sure winner. And it can bring in the coveted 18-34 straight male demographic in the same way that figure skating owns the smaller yet incredibly influential 18-34 gay male demo.
  2. Ice Sculpture: Grace and creativity combined. Plus it gives us a chance to bring chainsaws into the games. And because these events are almost exclusively attended by the white upper-class jet-set, the events provide a valuable sales opportunity for the competitors to present their art in hopes of making it into next years exclusive parties in the Hamptons and Monaco.
  3. Stone rock/broom concept: This one came to me as I was coming down from a Lortab induced hallucination during my last toothache. But hear me out. It's weird and it defies description but I think its got potential. Teams take turns sliding polished granite stones down the ice towards a target. Two sweepers with brooms or brushes accompany each stone and use timing equipment and their best judgment, along with direction from their teammates, to help direct the stones to their resting place. Oh wait....
  4. Ultimate Winter Endurance: Back to the need to cater to the young and lucrative demographic that drives ratings and ad revenues. Participants will strip down into their underwear and see how long they can brave a glacier fed lake. The event could even by emceed by Bear Grylls.
  5. Soccer: I told you I would engage the interest of the rest of the world.

These events can really help to expand the appeal of the Winter Games. It also gives us a chance to put up with 10-15 more hours of Bob Costas waxing poetic about the majesty and purity of international competition.

And remember it is not silly or stupid if there is a gold medal at the end.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I might have found a political home...maybe

Like many Americans I am experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. The direction and policies of the Democrats and Republicans have forced us into a wilderness of disenfranchised despair. The only thing that I can say without equivocation or hesitation is that the leadership in both parties are a bunch dipsticks. They both treat government like a giant feed trough that can be used for enriching their bank accounts, buying off key constituents, and keeping themselves employed.

This despair almost turned into complete apathy until I read Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher. The book was a revelation and helped me understand that I am not alone. There are legions of fairly conservative people like me who are equally dismayed at the greed, superficiality, lack of direction, and pettiness of those Republican officials who squandered the last decade and lost Congress. According to the book there is a rapidly growing sub culture within the conservative movement that is quite different from the established base. Hopefully this movement will grow to the point where it can help in shaping the direction of the party.

So what is a Crunchy Con? And how is it different from your typical White, Dockers wearing, suburbanite McMansion Republican? Here are a few key differentiators.

  1. A Crunchy Con cares about the environment but isn't a nut about it. We are the stewards of the earth and we have the responsibility to ensure its enjoyment for future generations. The earth is full of many resources for our benefit but not exploitation.
  2. Crunchy Cons have faith but typically aren't your standard "Christian Right" variety. Read the book for a better description.
  3. A Crunchy Con is productive and likes the good things in life but isn't as driven by money and accumulation of things, one of the traditional attributes that detractors use when describe the typical Republican. He would prefer a cottage in the city over a large house in cookie cutter suburban neighborhood because he values diversity and authenticity.
  4. The Crunchy Con has culture and, while they love the American experiment, they see the value and beauty of the rest of the world. They value authenticity and originality over the local mall.
  5. The Crunchy Con is a capitalist but he things Gordon Gekko is a bum. The free market is good but not perfect. Markets do need some regulation and oversight to keep the greediest lot from raping the rest of the population.

After reading the book I would say that my political views share a lot of similarities with your standard Crunchy Con. If I had to assign a U.S. figure as a standard bearer for this movement it would have to be Teddy Roosevelt. He was a good Republican figure who was also progressive on the right things.

So my apathy towards Politicians, Republicans in particular, has been slightly assuaged. I take heart in knowing that there are legions like me who see the ugliness of the state of the current party and politics in general. There are groups, like the Crunchy Cons, that I can associate with in my effort to push for positive change in our politics.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

If I were Sunday School President...

In this era of ADD and sensory overload there are very few things that can still manage to capture the attention of the "average Joe". The obvious exception is the top 10 list. We can come up a list, anything from best movies to most boring speeches from the 67th session of Congress, and we will be assured that it will draw the attention, ire and admiration of this attention deficient audience. The list is the equivalent of the hamburger; cheap, easy, and an object in which everyone has an opinion. And since we are all about conveniently summarizing things, such as our years, we are subject to myriad lists each December and January.

To keep with this theme I've decided to generate a 10 ten list of potential LDS Sunday School lessons. Our ward recently changed times and I rue prospect of dealing with the afternoon slot. I'm considering a move to the neighboring Lutheran congregation unless someone offers to teach one of these classes.

Top 10 Lessons not found in an LDS approved manual

  1. Cain, the White Horse prophesy, obscure comments from Brigham Young, and the truth behind Mormon urban legends.
  2. 101 Ways to replicate the Cafe Rio menu for your next ward gathering.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, and the need for improved institutional oversight.
  4. How to successfully prepare a lesson with less then three references to your mission.
  5. Mormon Profiteering: 10 easy steps to side step trademark laws in coming up with merchandising ideas for Deseret Book.
  6. Culture Shock: A deeper look into life in Utah County and the oddities of Mormon culture.
  7. Awake!: How to confound a Jehovah's Witness in 4 verses or less.
  8. Neighborly Relations: How to peacefully confront and diffuse the awkward conversation from the family in the ward who is pushing Quixtar.
  9. Real Estate opportunities in Jackson County, Missouri.
  10. Gerald Lund, his writings, and a case for canonizing the "Work and the Glory" series.

Did I miss anything?

3/23/17- A fitting end in Venice

That'll cost you 100 Euros I guess it makes sense to spend the last chapter of our Italian journey in the town most commonly associ...