There’s a 6-part documentary running on PBS called “The War”. It’s simply incredible. It takes the accounts of World War 2, both overseas and here at home, and puts an insightful, human face with what usually winds up being nothing more than high patriotism and casualty numbers or weaponry stats.
The most amazing part of this documentary is the way the veterans talk about feeling like expendable cannon fodder or their own mock bravery, unabashedly. I’ve served in the military and even went overseas (but I’ve never been deployed during a conflict) and I can’t help but feel like the military has always had this way of inflating the troops with high emotionalism and/or false pretenses, right before it does something that would to the normal person seem insane (i.e. charge into battle with guns ablaze, running 5 miles or more up steep hills with a boat on your shoulders, push-ups, etc.). That’s not to take away from the acts of bravery those people accomplished in face of adversity. I’ve always supported our military, but I’m not above questioning or critiquing the policy makers jockeying from the desk that get our men and women killed, especially since they don't personally suffer from the mistakes they've made.
Anyway my point was that you don’t have to be a military or history buff to appreciate this documentary. It portrays the sobering reality of death in what most considered a “good fight”, while pointing out that war and everything it embodies, especially the suffering, is timeless. War is a terrible thing. We should honor those who are willing to pay such a high price to preserve our way of life and yet seek every possible avenue to avoid putting them in such a perilous position ever again.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
There’s a 6-part documentary running on PBS called “The War”. It’s simply incredible. It takes the accounts of World War 2, both overseas and here at home, and puts an insightful, human face with what usually winds up being nothing more than high patriotism and casualty numbers or weaponry stats.
Friday, September 28, 2007
This movie is a free love 60’s style rendition of The Gift of the Magi. Ray Walston plays Orville Spooner, an insanely jealous and distrusting (yet conniving) piano instructor/song writer that will go to almost any length to sell stranded Vegas celebrity Dino (Dean Martin) his tunes. Knowing what a “player” Dino is, Orville concocts a scheme to run his wife out of the house for the night and have the local prostitute Polly (Kim Novak) play his wife in her place. He hopes to use his surrogate “wife” as leverage, in essence pimping her for guaranteed royalties from the big time entertainer.
The movie is loaded with Dean Martin shtick, Director Billy Wilder comedy and an inconceivable ending that is uncomfortable at first, but winds up being the only way everyone involved can come to terms. As the movie trailer suggests, this one’s for adults only.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
President Bush is threatening to veto a congressional spending bill that would increase the number of children eligible for State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
This is more than ironic if one takes into account that our president is adamant about rescuing our nation’s children from educational demise (No Child Left Behind), yet could care less if they receive adequate healthcare. Get smart, just don’t get sick... get it? Equally ironic (and hypocritical) is the fact that the president seems to have no problem letting the public foot the bill for his own medical coverage, yet is dead set against government involvement in healthcare for the rest of the country.
Consider that every government employee, from our military to paper pushers working for the IRS, is on some form or another of government healthcare. So government style, “socialized” medicine sucks for the everyday citizen but it’s perfectly fine for the military men and women who put their lives in harm’s way regularly (not to mention the Prez himself)? I’m not advocating “giving away the farm”, quite honestly I believe that the drains on society are already getting their “free”, universal healthcare or non. There’s got to be a better option than what we have now, as we taxpayers are funding indigent care claims and tax write-offs for non-payment anyway.
I’m a staunch supporter of capitalism, but it is impossible to quantify or monetize access to medical treatment. Adequate healthcare is a public good along the same lines as public safety, transportation, and education. That doesn't automatically make firemen, police officers, or teachers "Comrades". For that matter, the most popular universal healthcare plans don’t involve the government taking ownership of the delivery of medical care at all (the true definition of socialism). The key phrase is “single-payer”, not “socialized” care and private hospitals already bend over backwards to get that Medicare/Medicaid money, which is a de facto government funded single-payer enterprise (and nobody calls grandpa a commie for being on Medicare either).
To punch even more holes in “socialist medicine” mythology, you’d have to be in complete denial or extremely lucky to discount the myriad of hoops and rigmarole private insurers compel customers to negotiate in order to receive anything above an everyday regular doctor visit. The argument that service would be bogged down by bureaucracy holds no weight when care is already stymied by greedy insurance companies and their traffic-jamming, non-payment and/or pre-authorization requirement tactics, forcing individuals into a paperwork backlog that makes government pen pushers look like overachieving models of efficiency.
Lets not forget the federal government is already in the insurance business. How many of you socialist commie bastards are on the Fed’s Kool-Aid FEMA Flood Insurance Program? Hands? Who in their right mind could afford it any other way? Do we really need a Katrina-like catastrophe in the healthcare sector in order to see a real change?
Citizens shouldn’t face bankruptcy from a medical malady or postponement/neglect of vital medical treatment for purely financial reasons. There are a lot of ways our government wastes money, and without doubt, there’s room for collusion in healthcare. But is there a more noble or just cause for public funds than caring for the sick amongst us? I’m sure there’s more than one way to address this issue (and I personally invite all comers to an open discussion), but we can’t afford to stick our collective heads in the sand any longer. The only people left who fail to realize the dilemma in our healthcare system simply haven’t been victimized by it... yet.
Posted by Mad Hatter at 12:07 PM
Monday, September 24, 2007
What a weekend. Ok, not really. Most of my weekend was spent attending to a sick child and/or running in-between raindrops. I had every intention of going to TGI3F, especially since it was to be the last performance of Amos Hummell's "In Living Color" show, but sick kids and crappy weather plotted against me. Saturday I managed to be somewhat productive (between sick kid naps) and painted our old wine rack to match our new dining room furniture (flat black). Sunday was dedicated to gathering up groceries during fever-free periods sponsored by Motrin cocktails. Sounds exciting don’t it? Well we can’t all have the James Bond lifestyle can we?
Watching the news is nothing more than an endurance test crafted to analyze one’s tolerance level for stupidity. I’m good for maybe 5 minutes (including commercials). Print news isn’t much better. After reading some of his stories, I question whether one local reporter graduated middle school, or even realizes the concept of using facts to support a story, instead of just making it up as you go or inserting completely non-related facts into a story for no apparent reason. I’m not calling names, yet, but the fact that such poorly written stories ever see the light of day speaks volumes for much more than just one reporter. There is a project I’m working on to effectively and fairly address this issue, but I’m still going over the semantics (doing it right is better than doing it fast).
But Enough of That…
The first installment of the LowCountry Institute's Master Naturalist workshop for teachers took place over the weekend. A friend of mine emailed some pictures (along with an account of the class) and I must say I’ve already learned a few things I didn’t know about the area including the abundance and diversity of living organisms in our waters (periwinkle snails, sea squirts, and ghost shrimp... oh my!).
Today begins year-round calendar intersession. Hopefully this extra help over the next two weeks will give under performing kids the help they need to improve their academic standing.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I had reservations about reviewing this movie. For one thing it’s impossible to get away from the high-cliché factor (the song "As Time Goes By" is a tad bit overplayed) and the fact that it’s probably one of the best known/most loved classics of all time. I’m more into reviewing movies a little less known (and equally deserving), but because of yet another Netflix movie mix-up it was the only movie available this week (unless of course you want to know about Samurai Cop, which is probably the worst movie ever made… bad movies are a guilty pleasure of mine).
This is a good movie; especially considering it was made while the Second World War was in progress. The seedy desert town of Casablanca on the French occupied North African coast is the final stop for many European refugees seeking passage to Lisbon and freedom from Nazi rule. Government officials operate on bribes and political favors and leave their morals at home (as does everyone else there) before they start the day.
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) runs a bar/gambling hall there and is renowned for his unemotional, strictly business transactions. He has built up his profitable operation by taking care of government officials and making money off of refugees. That is until lost love Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) comes back into his life. She left him in Paris for no apparent reason just as the Germans moved in to occupy the city and they were to escape together. She hasn’t seen him since, but now she’s accompanied by her husband and underground resistance leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Rick painfully discovers she was married to Victor when they met in Paris (he was in a concentration camp and believed dead) and now Rick is torn between the contempt of love lost and a greater cause.
The strength of this film lies in the actors effectively portraying the story being told. I tend to harp on this more than I should, but there are no advanced special effects, no excessive violence, and no gratuitous sex scenes… yet the movie is interesting and still relevant, some 60+ years later. The film makes it on the story and the multifaceted relationships between the characters throughout. It’s one of those movies you just gotta’ see at least once, so here’s looking at you kid.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I got a phone call from my mother last night, and it was rather frantic. She is due to fly out here to see us next week and all she could talk about was the status of the tropics and the oncoming hurricane. Puzzled, because I didn’t realize there was any such development, my deductive reasoning kicked in. I asked, “Mom, are you watching the weather channel?” She admitted that she was. With a sigh and phone in hand I logged on to wunderground.com to see if I could make any sense out the latest hubbub Jim Cantore is spewing in order to terrorize the naive amongst us (again). I found there was NOTHING. Well there was a small “disturbance” of the coast of Florida, but it is far south of us and is predicted to travel west, not north. I didn’t even bother to turn on the TV, what’s the point?
Ah yes the Weather Channel, the same respected cable network that pollutes our brain cells with garbage like "Tornado Week" and "Storm Stories." The Weather Channel is yet another “news” entity looking to profit from info-taining the public (i.e. scaring the bejesus out of little old ladies) rather than unbiased and yes sometimes BORINGLY reporting actual events. It’s a shame it can’t just rain anymore, sans the dramatic music, flashy graphics, and consummate video footage of stormy destruction.
Make no bones about it, TWC wouldn’t broadcast this crap if people weren’t watching it. Like rubberneckers at the scene of an accident we simply can’t tear our eyes away from imminent carnage. This link from Scientific American tries to explain our obsession with weather and its destructive power. Heck I even considered putting a weather widget on this site (and still might!) but by in large I’ve already tuned out the high drama weather coverage. If only I could convince my mother to do the same...
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Well, through the process of trial and error (mostly error) I’ve spruced the place up a bit. You’ll notice the title header and picture has changed. I’ve also changed the layout and added some things on the side bar. One of which I’m most interested in is the Cbox. This lets anyone drop a comment, be it to stroke my ego a bit or tell me what an idiot I am… without actually logging in to a given service and is totally anonymous. Well, as anonymous as your IP address anyway. Hopefully those that visit will utilize this newfangled bit of technology. Don’t be shy. I put it there for a reason.
And feed my fish while you’re at it.
Anyway please excuse the mess, I’m probably hovering around a 2nd Grade... make that pre-kindergarten HTML reading level and it will take a while before I get it all the way it should be. More to come...
Posted by Mad Hatter at 4:44 PM
Monday, September 17, 2007
There’s not much in the way of (real) news going on today.
Well there is the whole school capacity debacle and some very astute blogger input on the issue, but that’s more of the same, and for today at least I really don’t have the energy to properly address it. Check out the links if you have time or gumption and decide for yourself.
Football season is cranking up and the NASCAR circuit is winding down, none of the teams I pull for have done much of anything, so I find myself pining about next year already. About the only thing good going on in respect to my old stomping grounds is Brett Farve has seemingly caught on fire. Too bad he’s not playing for a different team... or that Kiln Mississippi doesn’t have one of it’s own. **sigh** Maybe next year.
It’s mid-September and just a few days ago I smacked my forehead and cried, “a month with an R in it!” This means oysters (do they really still follow that rule?) and how I love me some fresh oysters. Around these parts you can obtain fresh out of the water, locally harvested oysters at very affordable prices.
Local + Cheap = Happy!
Everybody wins in this deal, so go get yourself a bushel or three, fire up the grill (or eat them raw, I like `em either way) and devour all the oysters you can, because they aren’t only good, but good for you and good for the local oystermen who pull them out of the pluff mud too. This is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to fresh seafood around here. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone within driving distance to take advantage of this unique local resource.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I hate to ruin the mood of Classic Film Friday and I swear I’m really not politically active but, after taking in the morning salvo of “news”, which is a subjective term at best, I find myself more than a little pissed off. George Bush (who gets no love from my house, just so you know) declared yesterday that we’d be in Iraq for a while.
How is this news?
Any idiot could have told you when we invaded Iraq that we would be there far beyond the terms limits of our current president. In fact there’s only one country that we’ve engaged in a military conflict (either for the sake of invasion or liberation) that we don’t currently maintain a military presence in… that being Vietnam. The one we lost. The Korean War took place over 50 years ago and World War 2 some 60-odd years ago and the United States maintains military personnel throughout Europe and Asia. We’ve been in Kuwait since The 1st Persian Gulf conflict and will probably still be there 50 years from today.
War is a messy, monotonous, and very painful process. Which is why it shouldn’t be waged with bad information or the full realization of what the consequences entail. Yes I’m angry about the fact that many of our troops have been killed and maimed in what seems to be a fruitless war, but that’s not the point. My point is the fact that the president admitted that roughly 100,000 troops will remain in Iraq for years to come is not news. And the politicos standing upon the altar preaching the sermon of Bush’s atrocity take us all for fools. Seriously, people are dying everyday over there, come up with something better than “let’s go home”.
Even if Mr. “It Was Wrong to Ever Invade Iraq” Barack Obama (and I happen to believe he’s right) were sworn in as president this morning, we’d still be stuck in the deserts of the Middle East for years to come. The debate about whether or not we should have waged war on Iraq has expired. It’s time to look at viable ways to get the hell out of there without creating another Saddam or bin Laden and somehow foster an environment non-conducive to America hating jihadists with a death wish and an explosives hobby.
And oh yeah, it’s time for news people to stop trying to invent or embellish the news and simply report it. Personally I believe we’ll be out of Iraq (and on to some other war) long before that happens.
The Apartment is tale of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and how he trades the use of his apartment to superiors so that they can have sleazy trysts outside of their marriages in exchange for political favors. On his way up the corporate ladder Baxter falls for elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). The only problem is she happens to be the mistress of his boss.
There’s an all-star supporting cast in Ray Walston and Fred MacMurray, but it catches one off guard to see such familiar faces, (Walston on My Favorite Martian and MacMurray on My 3 Sons) entering into such sordid situations.
Baxter essentially makes a deal with the devil, constantly selling out his morals for a better position in the company, but each advance only makes him that much more miserable. Will he find happiness, love, and job security with no morale compass? Watch The Apartment and find out.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Before I go on, I want to reiterate that this is really not a political blog. Seriously. Not. Political.
Listening to the radio during lunch yesterday, I heard a live feed of the congressional hearing on the “surge” in Iraq and the related benchmarks and what I thought was supposed to be a question/answer session with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. I say “thought” because there was actually very little “questioning” taking place. It seems the hearing was really nothing more than an opportunity for senators to get whatever is bothering them off their chests. The 5-minute long soliloquies coming from both the right and left, only gave me that sinking feeling about our legislative branch of government. Needless to say there was plenty being said, but not a whole lot of listening going on.
That’s not to say I support the war or immediate withdrawal, because on this particular issue, I’m torn. But the posturing and overly obvious baited questions have solidified my view that the people in government are only looking out for one thing, and it’s not the public interest or our troops or even something as inconsequential as oh, let’s say… The Constitution. These people would all sell their grandmother to a salt mine operator if it would get them re-elected.
Meanwhile the results of this hearing give everybody involved plenty to go home and talk about and none of it will produce anything meaningful. The left seems content to sit in the position of complaining without doing anything and the right is just trying to not get caught with their pants down in an airport men’s room (amongst other things). Everyone is scrambling to say whatever it takes to keep their job. So much for civic virtue...
Posted by Mad Hatter at 10:03 AM
Monday, September 10, 2007
To those who might not know, a photo illustration is a photograph that has been somehow altered, usually to help to support a story or help convey an idea. It’s important to remember the ratio (and believability) of “photo” to “illustration” varies wildly with each particular case, but ultimately the piece is never anything more than a work of art, emphatically not a factual representation of anything. That said, photographic illustrations bother me. I’m not against the practice completely but when they are used to depict an idea or story as true there’s potential for crossing a line. Take the infamous fake hurricane photo illustration for instance.
Ok so we’ve been here already what’s this about TV?
I’ve noticed a common practice in TV sports coverage (NFL and NASCAR in particular) where a representation of a giant screen is used to give the appearance that a humongous video screen lives atop the stadium. These resemble large screens found at many sporting arenas, except they are quite a bit larger (perhaps 10-fold), and the engineering required to make something like this a reality would be astronomical. ESPN even makes the screen fold out as if it were the convertible top on an automobile. These pretend screens are almost always used when cutting to or from a commercial and (to me anyway) give the impression that the stadium experience is much more technologically advanced than reality would prove.
So what’s the big deal?
I can only answer that by saying nothing in sports is supposed to be “enhanced” or “altered”. Why then do we need a visual lie to somehow improve the viewing experience of an inherently “real” event? Also consider that these jumbo screen illustrations are so good, more than one person I know has asked “is that real?” I searched for the actual depictions I mentioned but came up empty handed. Perhaps this means nobody else notices or even cares. But I say if they’re willing to go through so much trouble to fool you here, who’s to say they aren’t lying to you about something else... oops, maybe they already did.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
It seems the use of standard American English has become something of an inconvenience to so many people (and their kids) these days. The topic of personal speech can become so heated regarding how one chooses to talk or write and whether or not anyone should accept something other than standard English or if anyone has the right to judge another based solely on how they communicate… I decided to look up the SC state standards by grade level.
You can use these to “grade” your friends, poke fun at your enemies, or if you have a school aged children you can reference these standards in parent-teacher conferences and/or compare them to testing material your child brings home (I highly recommend this option).
Click each grade for a breakdown on academic standards and what to expect throughout the year.
The middle/high school info I was able to obtain is a bit dated (a year or two old). You can find the official state standards (warning: these are 100+ page documents, some of them dated as well) for each subject area in its entirety at the South Carolina Department of Education’s website. It is not as easy to access or as condensed, but if you’ve gotten this far, it’s probably important enough that you’re willing to wade through page after page to find what you’re looking for.
Friday, September 7, 2007
In case anyone didn’t notice, I had a Netflix snafu a couple of weeks ago which left me with no movie then, and lots of classic movies now. To celebrate I offer two classic films this week (yes I know it's a bit late).
The first is family friendly and somewhat obscure Disney classic The Ugly Dachshund. This movie is a dog lover’s dream. A Great Dane puppy raised amongst a family of Dachshunds results in all kinds of compromising situations. Dean Jones (from the popular Herbie movies) plays an artist that finds life with his wife’s doting on their show dog dachshunds a little less than “manly”. When the opportunity presents itself to own a Great Dane it’s an offer he can’t refuse. There’s plenty of doggy mischief and good hearted fun in this 60’s classic.
Next up is a film that should be firmly on the list of “must see classic movies” of all time. I’m referring to the 1934 murder-mystery-comedy The Thin Man. This movie is the quintessential example of why movies don’t need big budgets or extravagant effects or gratuitous sex to tell a great story.
Nick Charles (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) are a high flying, heavy drinking (swimmingly drunk even), and overly witty couple with nothing better to do than solve mysteries involving their murdered friends. The one liners and sarcasm come out by the truckload and the ending isn’t certain until the very last minute. The first movie in a series of six, The Thin Man entertains in layers of dialog, plot twists, and sharp comedy.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Let’s face it, this issue is a festering wound. The only reason it hasn’t drawn more controversy over the years is because it’s been for the most part ignored by the press because it is heavily laden with racial innuendos. But it certainly hasn’t gone away. The Beaufort County School Board and District are now justifying the construction of the $35 million Whale Branch High project by saying it will help more kids to graduate.
New schools will help children graduate?
I’ll let that soak in for a moment.
They claim that by building a new school, bus ride times will be reduced and thus preventing kids from dropping out. I’d hazard the argument that if a child is willing to drop out over an extended daily bus trip, that child has already failed to realize the value of an education and will likely drop out anyway.
Remember this school is at least 3-4 years away from being completed (they haven’t even started construction yet). Remember also the original referendum for this school was over 7 years ago. Also keep in mind that the board has justified this school as a means to escape its responsibility to ACE, which is a slap in the face to all Beaufort (and Jasper) County residents.
My point is, the district and board haven’t exactly shown much intent toward getting this school built or any kind of commitment to bettering education whatsoever. My best guess (I’m just blindly taking a stab here) is that once the high school is built (if it ever gets built), the board members that use race and ignorance as their platform will have to pay the piper when that new school fails just as miserably as the old one did (that is if they’re paying attention)... so other than getting folks in a tizzy and attaching emotional baggage to yet more political posturing, there’s no hurry here. Can anyone else see the windmill in Orwell’s Animal Farm?
The district (and board) once again doesn’t get it. If they’d just look around in their own house for half a second they’d realize that the problem they face is real, but it is not relegated solely to the rural areas in the northern part of the county. Regardless, the solution they’ve contrived will help nothing. Kids all over southern Beaufort County ride the bus just as long as those poor, pathetic kids up north. My daughter could ride her bike to/from school faster than it takes the school bus to make the trip (about an hour).
The real solution lies in having an adequate number of buses and routes to efficiently and effectively serve the children of each attendance zone. This would prevent or lessen those long bus rides, save us all from a $35 million dollar burden, and create a positive impact right now (instead of years down the road).
Northern Beaufort County residents have as much right to a decent education as the rest of the county, but this waste of money will not give them what they seek. This forces one to consider that either the district is woefully inept or crazy like a fox, neither of which bodes well for the folks footing the bill. It’s time to tell the school board to stop playing games and stop wasting our money.
Click Here for School Board Member contact information.
Monday, September 3, 2007
Rumor has it (and this is strictly rumor) that elementary school PACT test scores, at least those in the Bluffton cluster are looking good. If this is actually true and how this will translate to academic excellence remains to be seen, but we can hope for now that it will mean better days are ahead.
But how are we going to pay for it? This article underlines, highlights, and circles why Beaufort County continues to get the lowest return for the most amount of money. In fact 5th worst according to Forbes (whatever that means).
Massive overcrowding in primarily white and rapidly growing southern Beaufort County takes a back seat to a (now 7 years late) promise made to rural, declining population northern Beaufort County (that happens to be predominantly black).
The school board, at least in its current form is still not ready to make tough decisions germane to the problems at hand, instead opting to use their position as leverage to promote government waste and collusion via the race card. This won’t change until the folks pandering to ignorance or those too scared of the panders pointing them out as racist are forced out of office. Meanwhile the predator-type contractors and others that profit from such poor money management are laughing all the way to the bank.
Private school just keeps looking better and better.