Monday, December 31, 2007

Year in Review

It's hard to believe that I started this blog in January and today's post makes 235 for the year. Not bad, considering I didn't know what I would blog about when I started. As you can tell, once I finally caught my stride, I haven't run out of things to blog about.

I only made one resolution for 2007: to land a job that paid a salary equal to my age (I was 35 so I was looking to make $35,000 salary) and in a field I was more passionate about. Of course, that hadn't happened. There were several moments when I was ready to quit, including the months of January, May, and July, which were the most stressful months. Honestly, had I known how this job would have turned out, I would not have accepted it when I was offered it in my second week in Portland. I should've held out for another job offer, as I had a temp assignment offer with one agency and a job interview with Tri-Met that paid above the critical $30,000 salary range. I'm in my mid-thirties, and therefore I should have a wage that reflects that salary range. I'm experienced, hard working, and dedicated. My current employers are merely taking advantage of my work ethic on the cheap, which is not good. So, with deep job disatisfaction, this year would have been the worst year of my life...and from a purely professional level, it is (how far I've fallen since the high point of my White House Internship, when I felt like the king of the world!).

However, for many years, I wanted an active social life with a group of loyal and committed friends who share the same values or heritage as me. My first few months in Portland (before MAYAs officially formed this past summer), I sought friendships through contacts made on craigslist before I moved to Portland (many of those fizzled out) or with spiritual groups like the Indigo group that disbanded. I didn't find a connection with the young adults in the evangelical church my brother attends. I was content to just attend YAPS activities four times a year as I felt the deep connection through fellow members of the Community of Christ, through our shared heritage and beliefs, our sometimes mutual family and friends, and all the coincidences I continually have when I meet another member of our humble little faith community. So, when I hear the evangelical church my brother attends put down Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and atheists, I know it's not for me. Where would I be today without my education among and by Mormons? Though I never converted to the LDS Church as some had hoped, I still have a deep love for the traditions of that church and of my ongoing friendships with 5 people I knew best on the Washington D.C. Seminar. So, evangelicals who put down the LDS Church and call Mormonism a "cult", I know right away that these people are drawing a line in the sand and I proudly stand next to my Mormon brothers and sisters. Granted, we have our theological differences and disagreements, but when it comes down to it, we are all inheritors of the Latter Day Saints history and heritage (at least through 1844).

So, all the retreats and services I attended with YAPS and MAYAs this year (Vancouver BC; the Skoor Family cabin; the Mount Saint Helens weekend; the Young Adult Retreat at Samish Island; the Mission Center Conference; the special Young Adult service at Portland congregation; the farewell potluck of Dutch church member Erik O.; and the Tuba Christmas event at Pioneer Courthouse Square)...these are the events that buoyed my spirits and therefore my year, from being a complete waste and disappointment. Each year when I do my Christmas card list, I take special notice of the new names added this year that weren't on last year's list. In particular, this year, I have met and gotten to know Rachel, Christine, Tim, Andy, and Jarom...none of them I knew last year. I've heard many people complain about the "flakiness of people" in the Northwest in regards to friendships and making commitments, therefore I'm blessed to have found a group of friends who can be counted on to do things together. I'm not the most socially engaged person, as I have many personal goals that I work on in which having a too active social life might interfere with. However, the group that make up MAYAs is the right size for me and the level of commitment (twice a month) is perfect.

So, that's why I find myself in the odd position of being so grateful about my year. I didn't get everything I wanted or the thing that I wanted most. But I haven't given up on it. I'm still just as determined to find my dream career in 2008. Everyone who knows me, knows how passionately politics courses through my veins. Whichever candidate gets me as a volunteer or a staff member will quickly learn what an asset I bring to their campaign, because I'm loyal, knowledgeable, passionate, and consistent. If I can't land my dream political career in an election year, then I really do need to "shut up" about politics and find a new line of work. But, I'm optimistic. And appropriately enough, I just finished reading Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" on New Year's Eve...the last book of the year, making the number of books read for 2007 twenty-five. They covered the range of politics, biography, spirituality, novels, an old classic and history.

Here's my year broken down to numbers:

Number of jobs applied to --76
Number of rejection letters -- 6
Number of interview requests -- 3
Number of interviews -- 2
Number of job offers -- 1

Number of Blog posts -- 235
Best Blog Post wrote this year -- I'd have to go with "America as a Graduating Class". If you haven't read it, please do. Click on August and look for the link (it was posted on August 8).
Number of literary agent inquiries made on my novel -- just 1 unfortunately
Result? Rejection letter (making the tally 12 rejections thus far).

Of course, it was hard sustaining both rejections on the job front and the novel front, thus why I didn't do a more comprehensive push on literary agent inquiries this past year, but I will certainly aim to submit to at least 35 literary agents in 2008.

Back in October, Janell and her husband Josh remarked about how I remember what I did in a certain year in the distant past. They seemed impressed that I could remember which years I made which vacations. I told them that's how I remember my years. I measure my years by the vacations made, the books read, the people I meet, the new discoveries I've made.

Each year, I have an ambitious plan...which includes reading at least one classic and re-reading one book I was required to read in high school; and reading at least one 1,000+ page novel (I always fail at that goal). I also like to do something new and unique each year. For 2007, it was starting and maintaining a blog. I don't know what it will be for 2008, but I'm leaning towards helping a lady I read about in the paper. She's an immigrant from Iraq who has started a non-profit organization to help resettle Iraqi refugees in the Portland area. I figure that this is one way to put more action into my life instead of just criticizing the war in Iraq on my blog or to anyone who cares to listen.

But all in all, 2007 wasn't a bad year. It just paled in comparison to the great year that was 2006. But I remain ever optimistic. My best friend Nicholas sometimes remarks at my amazing ability to bounce back from adversity. The sum total of my life is rather impressive in the experiences I've had. But I am at the point where I want to settle down. I made the choice to settle in the Pacific Northwest. My goal is to land a career that pays a respectable wage so that I can finally pursue my marriage goals. All of my old male friendships are married (I don't count the new friends I've made in the past couple years in this group) and my sister, who is 9 years younger than me, may be getting an engagement ring soon...which means that she'll beat me to the land of matrimony. Nothing wrong with that, considering that I feel like I haven't "arrived" in life yet (I blame the fact that I put my entire post-college career goals on a Gore Administration and not having an adequate Plan B career option, which meant being sucked into three really bad low wage jobs). I'm more than ready to settle into a dream career finally.

I'd place the year in the middle range of the years I've lived. The best years of my life are 1984, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2006 for various reasons. I hope 2008 will join that exclusive group of "great years". As my dad says: "2008 will be GREAT!" Amen to that!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Look Who's Four Years From Forty!

The picture of me on the right was taken twenty years ago, on my 16th birthday. Wow...does time fly! Or not. It certainly has this past year. When I turned 35 years old last year, I had big hopes that this year would be my best year ever with a literary agent, my first published novel, and most important of all...I'd be free of my current job and in one that I love and have dreamed about nearly all my life. So, I missed my mark by a huge margin.

But, in an odd way, I can't help feeling seriously happy, joyful, and blessed. God has blessed me in ways that I couldn't have forseen a year ago. Despite the difficulties of the past year and my lack of success in landing my dream job or a literary agent, my social life has far exceeded what I had hoped when I moved out here last year. I was right in my view that moving to Portland would be a boon to my social life and that I could participate in church life once again. And through the church, I've been blessed to have found some good friendships with Rachel and Tim and Christine and Andy and Jarom in the Portland area; and Sean, Erik, and Aaron in the Seattle area.

Today started off with a blessing in that my apartment complex had a Sunday brunch, which they had done about a month ago as well. So, I actually got up early to enjoy some of that before catching the bus to church. Then at church, someone announced that another person was celebrating a birthday tomorrow, so the congregation sang "Happy Birthday" for that person (and though I didn't mention it to anyone that I turned 36 today, I did take that song as a gift for me as well). And during a sharing of concerns portion of the service, a small boy next to me (he couldn't have been older than 5 and I might even venture to guess that he could have been just 4) raised his hand for the microphone and attempted to share his mother's prayer needs, but he then needed help. But I was so impressed by his courage and how spiritually aware he seemed to be for someone so young. I wouldn't be surprised if he accomplished great things some day.

The rest of the day, Tim and I hung out with a lunch at nearby Mt Hood Pizza, which I later regretted due to painful food poisoning; and then hanging out at his place until Rachel came over to take us to the new movie theater complex at Clackamas Town Center Mall to see "The Kite Runner", which Rachel, Christine, and I had read and loved. The film was pretty loyal to the novel and inspiring. I was impressed. I love that movie. It was well made and packs an emotional punch. Who doesn't love a good redemption story? Well, I mean, except for film critics and their elite cynicism.

It was the perfect way to spend the day, though none of the people I was with knew it was my birthday and I hope they don't get mad if they later find out. The reason I didn't "announce my birthday" to any of them is because it's a pet peeve of mine when people make an announcement to unknowing people that it's their birthday. It's a "plea for attention" and manipulative, putting others in an awkward spot. I felt like it would've been too distracting and embarrassing. Besides, I like it better this way. I was given a gift anyway, without their knowing it. I didn't plan to see "The Kite Runner" today. Rachel and I originally had planned to see it on 31 December, but she had called yesterday to see if I was game for seeing it today. So, that was a nice change of plans.

I've done this a few times before. In 1990, I took a girl I was interested in to a restaurant and movie ("Pretty Woman", which was still playing at the $1 theater at the time and I had never seen it) on my birthday and she didn't know it was nor did I volunteer that information. Maybe that's manipulative, but not to me. I don't need the attention and the awkward distraction of people feeling obligated to wish me a happy birthday or feeling guilty that they didn't get me anything. Just spending time with another person sometimes is all the "gift" I need.

So that's what I got today and I'm grateful. But I hope that next year will be much better for me in finding myself on the career path I should be on by now. I can't take another year like this one. I'm due for my dream job, since I was deprived of my previous "dream job" when Bush stole the election from Gore (the administration I wanted to be a part of since I was in the Navy). I will get my due this upcoming year. But for today, I'm grateful for the blessings in my life, for the increase in relevant spiritual experiences, and for all that I was able to experience this year. All that's missing is my birthday song, which sometimes plays on the radio by spiritual manifestation as the universe's way of wishing me a happy birthday. The song? Why, it's "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart, which was the #1 song in the year I was born. It's always a thrill when I hear a radio station play it on my birthday, which has happened more than a few times. I still have a few hours yet, so we'll see. However, I was surprised to see ABC (my favourite television network) play my all time favourite movie tonight (that would be "The Sound of Music", which I have on DVD). Maybe that's "the universe's gift" to me this year. For next year, is it too much to ask that I finally get my novel published, just like the main character in "The Kite Runner"? That's been my dream since 11 years old and one I will never give up on. It will happen someday. But for today, I'm happy and contented, blessed beyond measure. I feel good about my future.

"There is a way to be good again..."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best of 2007

Like everyone else, I have to have my end of year "Best of" list. So if you don't mind my indulgence, please read on for my list of favourites this year in the world of books, music, movies, and other phenomenon.

Best Biography/Memoir Read in 2007
Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

Best Nonfiction Book
The Assault on Reason by Al Gore

Best Novel
Sammy's House by Kristin Gore

Best American Idol
Melinda Doolittle

Best Song of the Year
4 In the Morning by Gwen Stefani

Best Music Video of the Year
4 In the Morning by Gwen Stefani

Best Album of the Year
Away From Here by The Retrofits

It was hard to decide between this debut album by local Portland band (who sound a little like Ben Folds Five), Taylor Hicks' debut album and Maroon 5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long, as all three of those CDs have been on heavy rotation this year, but I have to go with the fresh and surprising debut of a band I didn't hear about until I attended Jeff Merkley's Senate campaign announcement and the Retrofits were there to pump up the crowd. When everyone's feet started tapping (including mine) to the music, I knew they had something going on. It's the most irresistable music I've heard all year!

Best Television Show of the Year
Brothers and Sisters

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Wanda Sykes in Evan Almighty

She also has the best line from any movie I've seen this year: "If that comes out the front, I don't even wanna know what comes out the back!"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War

Best Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role
Tabu in The Namesake

Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role
Ioan Gruffudd in Amazing Grace

Best Director
Sean Penn for Into the Wild

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Into the Wild

Best Spontaneous Catchphrase of the Year:

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tears for a Remarkable Lady

Yesterday, I was stunned and saddened to discover the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who recently returned from exile to represent her party in the upcoming elections. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to learn about it while at work instead of learning about it when I watched the evening news when I get home.

Bhutto was one of the leaders who fascinated me because I've long been a jealous type when other nations elected a female leader before we had our chance. Hard to believe, but it's true. As a teenager, I remember hearing about the assassination of India's female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. And of course, I was a child of the Reagan and Thatcher years and when my family attended the RLDS Reunion in the British Isles in 1987, I remember being shocked that the British teenagers I met didn't like Thatcher at all, because I wanted to trade Reagan for her. And I was excited when Corazon Aquino became the leader of the Phillippines after the Marcos were run out of the country. In my senior year in high school, Violetta Chamorro became leader of Nicaragua. And since then, we've seen women come to power in Pakistan, Germany, Canada, Liberia, and most recently in Argentina. France almost elected a female president. Will America finally get our first female president?
But, it's funny that I could feel so sad about Bhutto's death. I don't really know that much about her. However, she was a familiar face from when she was the prime minister. I remember being envious when it happened, because my thoughts were: "we're more advanced than Muslim nations, so why did they beat us to the punch?" As you may have guessed, I'm all for female leadership in the world. Though I don't think that it's necessarily true that they'd be more "dovish" than male leaders (Thatcher certainly was not), I think they bring something fresh to the electoral process and governing.

Reflecting on her death, I realize what an international politics geek I am. No one I worked with cared much about the news of her death, whereas I was really saddened by it because I was all excited about the prospect of her assuming the leadership of Pakistan again in these dangerous times (if al-Qaeda takes over the government of Pakistan, we'll have serious nuclear weapons to worry about). I believe that she is a great leader who could have done some great things for her part of the world. As I learn more about her lifestory, she reminds me a little of Aung San Suu Kyi, the rightful leader of Burma who is still detained. Like Suu Kyi, Bhutto was seen as the legitimate heir to her father's political heritage, which was a commitment to democracy. It's interesting to me that a lot of the women who come to power in the world have done so not in their own right, but as daughters of an assassinated beloved leader (Bhutto, Suu Kyi, and I think Indira Gandhi); or as heirs to an assassinated husband (Aquino and Chamorro, if I'm not mistaken); or through marriage to a politician (such as Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina; Segolene Royal in France; Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, and Mary Bono in the USA).

So, it is with sadness that I reflect on the darkening of our world with the flame of democracy being snuffed out in the life of Benazir Bhutto. I hope that God will welcome her in the warmest of embraces. This is a death we should all mourn. We'll never know what good she might have done as the next prime minister of Pakistan. Hopefully someone of her stature will rise up to lead the people away from Islamic extremism, but I'm not counting on it. Bhutto now belongs to the ages, with the assassinated leaders before her. God bless her, now and always.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Gospel According to Me

The combination of YAPS and MAYAs attending a performance of "The Foolish Wiseman" play on 15 December

A couple weeks ago, MAYAs and a couple members of YAPS attended a play in which a MAYA member was performing as the Fourth Wiseman who was searching for his three wiser companions. She did an outstanding job. That's right, I said, "she" did an outstanding job. She played the fourth wiseman. It was a pretty entertaining one act play, though it had a religious message (which didn't surprise me, since it was sponsored by a local church). What baffled me was the inclusion of Adam and Eve into the Nativity story. They spelled it out for the entire audience, God's "plan of salvation." Now, I know I'm a heretic for saying this, but I'm going to say it anyway...has anyone looked at the whole Adam and Eve story with logical reasoning? The whole story is illogical. I've gotten in trouble for posing questions that people couldn't answer and for my truthful statements when I tell people that I don't believe the Adam and Eve story as literal, historical events. I see it as a metaphor, which is the beauty of it. But because I'm honest about why I don't believe that nonsense, it causes "true believers" to question my faith in God.

Newsflash...I base my spiritual testimony on only one thing: what I personally experienced in life. One of the complaints I have about Christianity is the idea that our salvation depends upon what we believe about events that happened thousands of years ago that we weren't a witness to. It doesn't make sense. What if Adam and Eve didn't exist (I don't believe that they existed at all, they were creations of Moses or whoever wrote the book of Genesis, and I don't mean God, for God is not an author)? Would Christianity still be able to function if Adam and Eve were fictional characters? That's the problem with basing a theology on dubious mythology. Seriously. A talking snake. Why is that more believable than a unicorn? Or Pegasus?

I know that it "fits well" with the idea that Jesus was sent as an atoning sacrifice to forgive humankind of the "original sin" (enlightenment is not a sin; knowledge is not a sin...but wanting to achieve instant enlightenment or knowledge without putting in the work required to understand it could be considered a sin of sorts) is a neat little story that makes everything circular and ties up loose ends. But if you don't buy into the Adam and Eve story, then the whole thing falls flat. Christianity suffers as a result. The whole meaning needs to be made-over, one that ties into evolutionary theory and gives the proper respect to God and the people who are expected to believe in the new theology.

So, here is my take on the whole Adam and Eve story and the Nativity. I may be branded a heretic, but at least I'm honest. My view on the reason why hypocrisy is so rampant in religion is because people don't really believe what they claim to believe. Instead of pretending to believe these childish stories, why don't we examine them with adult intelligence and look at the historical and metaphorical meanings behind the origins of the stories we're told to believe LITERALLY? Religion should make people be more honest. If a person doesn't want to believe in the Bible as literal truth, then accept it. One day, we will realize that our beliefs don't mean much to a God who knows everything...including the truth about what we really believe, even if we pretend to believe what we're told to get along with others. The world would be a better place if everyone was brutally honest, especially about what they believe and why they believe it. So, I'm putting myself out there (don't crucify me!)...

I believe that Adam and Eve is nothing more than an origins tale by the ancient Jewish tribes to explain how life began and how man came to be different from the other animals. These people knew nothing about evolution. These people probably never imagined that humans would one day ride in steel boats under the ocean, land on the moon, invent enormous megacities of concrete and steel, have transportation that can move large distances at high speeds. All they knew about was their corner of the world, where the three continents met. The story of Adam and Eve was also created to make people obedient to authority, and what better way than to claim that we're all sinners who will burn in hell unless we do as we're told? The Adam and Eve story is so laughably ridiculous, it's hard to believe so many people take it as literal fact. I already mentioned the talking snake tempting Eve, who then tries to hide from God. If God is all knowing, why would He tell his two humans that they can have anything in the garden except the fruit of that one tree? Any parent knows that as soon as you tell a child that they can't have something, they want it. So, why would a perfect and all knowing God get angry when Eve disobeyed?

The next problem is the question on who Cain and the other offspring mated with to produce a population? Was it incest? That's rather icky to think about and isn't there a law in Leviticus about it being deadly punishable? These are things that people don't seem to ponder about when they accept it being literally true. Yet, it's the people who question the logic of the whole story who get harassed by the "true believers" and accused of falling for one of Satan's tricks or in need of salvation.

Which brings us to Jesus. I don't accept the idea that he was sent to "atone for our sins" and that our salvation depends upon our acceptance of him as our personal "saviour." That's not to say that I don't believe Jesus was a holy and spiritual man. I believe the role Jesus was meant to live out on earth is to show us the way to authentic spirituality. That meant following the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. He broke many of the arcane Jewish laws (like how a man cannot speak to a single woman; or saving a woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death). He brought spirituality to the people, with healings and miracles while the Pharisees and the Sadduccees were obsessed with following the written laws.

We see the divide today in our politics. Conservative people tend to be obsessed with "literal truth" and demonize anyone who won't believe as they do. They obsess over the words of the Bible and use them to beat up people who don't follow the letter of the law. True spirituality is in our interractions with people every second of every day. Jesus spoke in parables to get his message across, but literal minded people couldn't see the deeper meanings behind them. It's the mark of a true genius, the way Jesus was able to answer questions with parables when the Pharisees tried to trap him into making statements that would prove him to be a charlatan.

Because of my bad history with evangelical Christians, I tend to avoid talking religion with them because they are too blind to the words of the Bible to understand the deeper meaning or to see another way at looking at events. To them, I'm just an unrepentant sinner who will end up burning in hell for eternity because I don't embrace their theological view.

But, God gave me an intelligent and inquisitive mind. I'm of the opinion that God would be sorely disappointed in me if I surrender my reasoning abilities to tell these people what they want to hear. I'm the one who has to live with my dishonesty of pretending to believe something I know deep in my heart isn't true. Christianity is far greater than the ridiculous Adam and Eve story. Please, let's work within our faith communities to increase the intelligence of our theology. Let's look at most stories in the Bible as metaphors, not literal truth. And most of all, let's not force people to make some confession about Christ as saviour that might be a dishonest attempt to fit in. Let's show people how to have authentic spiritual experiences through prayer, meditation, fellowship, and personal experiences. Then and only then will our faith be stronger and the people more honest. And let's give God a break. I'm certain that He is tired of hearing his children fight over which words and ideas are more right than another's. Because expending energy in that ego-gratifying way only hurts us in the long run.

My message to evangelical Christians out there who don't accept my spiritual views as valid would be: I haven't met one to this day who has had the kind of spiritual experience I had. That's not to say that my way is the right way, because I don't know what works for another person. I don't know another person's history. Only God knows the best way and the best religion for another person to achieve the kind of spiritual bliss I've experienced in my life's journey. I trust that God is leading me in the ways He knows is best for my life, so please focus on your own spiritual life and stop worrying about "saving souls" for Christ.

Peace be with you!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Calling Holden Caufield

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney got the equivalent of a coal in his stocking this Christmas by a newspaper in New Hampshire that did a rare "anti-endorsement", telling voters in next month's primary to NOT vote for the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. It went so far as to call him a "phony". If that's not a smackdown, I don't know what is. Perhaps Holden Caufield is now an editorial writer living in New Hampshire? For those who never read the classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is a troubled teenager who desires to save children before they become "phony adults." Now a newspaper has gone so far to "save America" from a phony politician. However, where were they eight years ago? Romney might be phony, but Bush is far phonier (pretending to be a Christian when his behaviour consistently shows the opposite of Christ in everything he does).

This story is too good to ignore. We can probably safely assume that Romney doesn't have a chance in hell to win the Republican nomination now. And it wasn't even his religion that did him in. It was his Kerryesque flip flopping from his rather moderate term as governor to his attempt to convince conservative evangelicals that they can trust him on the issues they hold dearest to their hearts. They just aren't buying the product he's selling, thus I predict that Huckabee will win the Iowa caucus and South Carolina primary and it'll be a fight between Giuliani and McCain for New Hampshire. However, even Giuliani seems to be fading in the polls with his latest health scare and stories about the more controversial aspects of his mayorship pre-9/11.

Watching the Repuglicans commit political suicide has been the biggest thrill of the campaign season thus far. They deserve it for picking Bush over the more qualified McCain in 2000. That's why I find it hilarious to see the party so divided over their next candidate for president. Bush said in 2000 that he was a "uniter, not a divider." He could very well be the man who broke the Republican Party's fragile coalition between the godless capitalists, the fundamentalist Christians, and the military dominionists. I never understood how they were able to cobble that group together for so long. It was bound to crack up sooner or later. I'm glad that it finally broke in the past couple years. They were long a minority party that can only win office by electoral fraud, lies, and the specter of another terrorist attack.

To read the editorial for yourself, please check out

Now, what's interesting about the editorial is how they used Romney's book title against him. Though I haven't read the book yet as I want to, "Turnaround" is about how he helped turnaround the financial scandal that plagued the 2002 Salt Lake games (though as resident of Atlanta, I can tell you that whatever happened with the SLOC in their attempt to win the winter olympic games is dwarfed by the fraud and bribes that the AOC committed to win the 1996 Olympics when Athens was the sentimental favourite because of the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games). Maybe there is a subconscious level at play as well, in which Romney decided to use that title for his book. For he has done a full "turnaround" on various issues such as abortion, gay rights, gun control, stem cells, health care and immigration, to name a few. As the editorial points out, it's not necessarily a bad thing when a politician changes his or her views over time. However, with Romney, it's blatantly obvious that his "change" on so many issues only occurred between the time he was last governor and his current run to be the Republican's nominee for president. How could one person change his views so much in two years time? Especially when those changes seem to be going in a backwards direction and now fit so perfectly with the people whose votes he's trying to win?

As much as I like Romney as a person and believe him to be more moderate than he is currently letting on, I think the way he is conducting his campaign is shameless. I didn't like John Kerry in 2004 for the same reasons. It's hard to get to know a candidate or a person if they are trying to present themselves as someone they think you want for a president, instead of showing who they really are and letting the votes fall where they may. Romney should be smarter than that. He made a fortune turning around faltering companies and then did the same for the Salt Lake Olympics. Why can't he do the same for his campaign? He only has one shot to win the presidency and his time is 2008. If he doesn't secure the nomination this time, he most likely won't be a contender in 2012 or 2016.

That brings us to Mike Huckabee. I read an article about the interesting development in the Republican Party in which the establishment is reacting with horror to the gaining appeal of Huckabee among the conservative Christian base, whom they have depended on to win elections for them since Reagan in 1980. Huckabee's insurgency represents what Malcolm X might say: "the chickens coming home to roost." After talking values to win these voters, then doing nothing to bring about the changes they seek, they have created a strong undercurrent of resentment among the religious right. These people are no longer satisfied with platitudes. They want to be delivered a full scale theocracy and probably believe that Huckabee (who believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old) is the best chance they have for bringing that about.

Of course, the party establishment is more Wall Street than Main Street, more Pentagon than square. They never had any intention of creating a theocracy because they tend to be secular materialists who don't believe in Jesus (after all, Jesus said correctly that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; and he told the rich young ruler to give everything he had to the poor and follow him, not invest in the stock market and buy an SUV). Now, these party establishment people who created the Frankenstein monster of mixing religion with politics to win elective office are finding that their party will most likely lose 2008 to Hillary with Huckabee at the helm. And despite my dislike of Huckabee's religious views, I think he is a more sincere Christian than Bush ever was; and at least with Huckabee, he does govern with the poor in mind. He is the true "compassionate conservative" that Bush only pretended to be in 2000. I think that's what really scares the Republican establishment. They prefer a flawed candidate like Giuliani or Romney because either of those men would serve the role of corporate whore that Bush does so well. Huckabee on the other hand could very well lead a revolt against corporate control of our government. And that's not a bad thing.

In fact, I'm now rooting for Huckabee to win the Republican nomination, just because I want to see that party self-destruct from all the lies and hypocrisy of the last 27 years. I'm glad that conservative Christians are seeking an authentic Republican to support. We may have our theological differences, but I believe that a revolt is in the works. The era of corporate compliance might be coming to an end. Americans want authenticity, not pre-packaged candidates who will say anything to win elective office, then work for corporate interests once they attain office. We the people shall no longer stand for it!

Smile...Cheney got you in his sight!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Have a Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish each and everyone of you who reads this blog a

Merry Christmas!

I hope you will get the gift that speaks to your heart this year.

And for laughs, if you haven't seen the above skit from Saturday Night Live last year, please find it on YouTube and watch. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Sorry. Just my bad sense of humour, but I love that video. So, if you're still wondering what to get someone, just remember to "cut a hole in the box, then put your junk in that box!"

Seriously...have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and thank you for reading my blog posts this year. I appreciate all the comments you've left and possible debates started.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Cheney (Part 4 of 4)

The final installment of A Christmas Cheney: The Ghost of Christmas Future featuring Saddam Hussein as the final spirit who attempts to change the cold, dark heart of Dick Cheney

Cheney couldn't believe his eyes, for appearing before him was a man who was finally put to death just a little under a year ago. A man who once did what the American president told him to do (such as starting a war against Iran in 1980, then invading Kuwait a decade later). Why was this vile man coming to warn him of his future? It didn't make sense. He didn't have to stand for it. He wouldn't stand for it. He was Dick Cheney and no one scared him. No one could scare him, for he survived five heart attacks. He would live long to see his imprint upon this planet. For Lord Lucifer had promised him the keys to the world if he would do the work and con good Christians into going along with the Luciferian plans of world domination of the poor people of the planet, the people whom Jesus sided with against the empire.

Cheney smiled at the way he was able to con the masses of good Christian folks, who bought into Bush's phony religiousity and marched behind in lockstep to the neo-conservative agenda. It was brilliant, sheer brilliance. So, why was the ghost of Saddam making an appearance before him now?

"What do you want? You played your purpose and we no longer need your services. Be gone and let me sleep in peace!"

Saddam just pointed a finger in his direction and magically they appeared at a huge gathering of people that made New Years in Times Square look like a funeral for Leona Helmsley. Millions, if not billions of people were cheering. Who could have elicited such a joyous response from so many people? It had to have been a scene from last year, when Saddam was hanged. But here was Saddam, as the supposed Ghost of Christmas future, showing him some future event.

"What are they cheering?" Cheney demanded, but Saddam didn't respond. They moved to the White House, where the boy king was wailing about something.

"It's just no use," Bush cried. "I can't do it anymore. I'm impotent without him. I can't function. I don't know what's wrong!"

Condoleeza was trying to soothe him by cooing in his ear, "but you like it when I pretend to be your intern and do things to your Tiny Tim that your wife won't--"

"But it's just not working, anymore. It's great and all, but Tiny Tim just doesn't want to grow anymore. You don't suppose you could get me one of those blue pills, do you? But don't let anyone know who you're getting it for. I still need to strut my stuff on some battleship now that the surge is working."

Condi shook her head. "I just wish, sir, that your surge would work."

"Shhh--don't talk so loud. I don't want Laura to hear us. But please hurry and get the blue pill for me. I don't want my Tiny Tim to be a cripple for the rest of my life!"

Condi scampered off in the dark in search of the magic elixir that good ole' Bob Dole once advertised on television without any sense of shame. She wanted to do anything to make her boy king feel good again and maybe he'll finally have the courage to confront his old man and his wife that their interracial love affair was deep and that miscegenation was no longer a capital offense in the United States. Heck, if former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his beautiful wife Janet could find love and happiness despite the racial barrier, Condi held out hope that her beloved bad boy would also find a deeper happiness with her.

Cheney scoffed at the scene. "I want to know why those people are cheering, not what that wench of a woman does with the boy king's Tiny Tim!"

Saddam took Cheney to an undisclosed location where a man was strapped to an inclined bench, with his head covered by a cloth as water was poured on his face. The man didn't scream in horror like Cheney thought he would be. But Cheney smiled. "Torture that terrorist! Make him talk! Show no mercy!"

Just then, the cloth was stripped away to reveal the face of Dick Cheney himself. How could that be? Why would he be waterboarded? Is that what the millions or billions were cheering? Was this being televised around the world?

Saddam brought him to another scene, of a huge courtroom with a panel of international bureaucrats. Up on the dock, defending themselves were Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Bolton, Negroponte, Kissinger, and finally, Cheney himself! That's not possible. He wasn't ever going to face a war crimes tribunal. Lord Lucifer promised him that it would never happen, because the people were comatose to justice. They had their DVDs, SUVs, and PSPs. The news showed nothing but Britney and Anna Nicole and OJ and Lindsay Lohan all the time. The people were appropriately distracted by the trivial to pay attention to the hands that fleeced their paychecks, the eyes that monitored all their electronic communications, the ears that heard every subversive word, the nose that smelled the scent of treasonous subversion to the government's control. No, no trial of that sort would ever occur. The war would go on and Cheney would be safe in retirement, his millions turning into billions because of Halliburton's profiteering in Iraq for decades to come. Cheney earned a nickel for every dollar you spend on gas and he saw no reason to make any changes.

"You don't scare me, Saddam," Cheney yelled. "You're a patsy. You served your purpose until you were no longer useful to us, then we discarded you. Look how easy it was. You haven't even been dead a year, so how could you possibly scare the likes of me?"

Saddam disappeared, probably to return to the same holding cell that held Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. Or perhaps he joined Reagan in a cell somewhere in purgatory, to reflect on all the misdeeds those two concocted. Maybe he even shared a cell with his bitter enemy the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. A place where they learned that nationalism and religiousity only keep them from entering the heavenly realm, yet they didn't know enough to leave behind the earthly concerns to enter as spirits free of all attachments to temporary identities.

Cheney laughed for a good long time. No one scared him. Death would never become of him because his heart would always prevail. That's the promise Lord Lucifer made when he signed the contract. He will live forever and will control the government from the petty class of people who cared more about Britney's sex life than they did about his illegalities and war crimes.

Back in his bedroom, Cheney laid back down to rest, pleased that he survived his ordeal and could return to a calm sleep. For he would awake the next morning to continue as he always had. There's no reason to change, no reason at all. He was the most powerful man on the planet. People feared him and he feared no man, no Christ, no God, no eternal judgment. He was Dick Cheney, dammit! His job is to dick every American alive out of their hard earned pay and by golly, they'll like it. If they complain or attempt to rebel, there's always the tried and true technique of waterboarding. It reduces strapping men to whimpering little girls every time. Before he fell into his restful slumber, he whispered, "God bless America for being so easily distracted and not able to recognize who their real enemies are!" Then he laughed a deep and bellicose laughter that even managed to frighten every wolf from D.C. to Alaska. All the sheep of America fell asleep to the rumble of Rush on their television sets and all was well in the halls of power. Even Tiny Tim was able to grow larger with Condi's expert resuscitation efforts. All was well for the powers that be.

The End

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mujahedeen and Movies

I went to see the new Tom Hanks film written by The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin (who previously wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men and The American President), Charlie Wilson's War about one Texas Congressman's crusade to fund the mujahedeen's rebellion against the invading occupying army of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He increased the covert ops budget allocated to the rebels in Afghanistan from a paltry $5 million to an astounding $1 billion.

Rather than give just a straight review of this film, I will use it to reveal my thoughts on our foreign policy during my lifetime, at least when I started having opinions about such stuff.

The first moment I was aware of any war was the Falkland Islands War when I was in the third or fouth grade. I used to pretend I was a British Naval pilot when I was on a swingset, and fighting the Argentines in a war that I later learned was Prime Minister Thatcher's idea of a "splendid little war" to increase her approval ratings at home while the economy was sputtering. Nothing like a nationalistic war to rally citizens behind the Union Jack, eh? Well, apparently her successful intervention on behalf of the British expatriots who occupy an island that by all rights should belong to Argentina, since it sits just off the coast, the war supposedly inspired Reagan's "splendid little invasion" of Grenada to distract Americans from the devastating Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. And George H.W. Bush had his own "splendid little war" to bring Panamanian dictator, drug runner, and CIA-financed thug Manuel Noriega to justice; and he followed it up by liberating Kuwait from Saddam after Saddam had been given a subtle hint that the U.S. would look the other way if he invaded the oil rich Kuwait.

So, that's our history. Watch. When Hillary becomes president, she'll be looking for her own "splendid little war" to prove that she has balls as big as Bush, to reassure Americans that although she's a woman, she'll be a butchy hawk like Thatcher and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, instead of sexy and soft like Aung San Suu Kyi or Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

It's amazing to reflect on all our little military actions in my lifetime--at least since I was aware of them. I supported some and didn't others. I never understood the invasion of Grenada. I couldn't even find it on a map and I was a big time map freak since childhood. I had spent many hours staring at maps since first grade. I knew all 50 states and their capital cities by 2nd grade. Geography was my favourite class in high school, especially because we got to colour and label maps during classtime. In college, I prided myself on the fact that I've only gotten perfect scores on every map quiz I had to take in at least three courses. And best of all was creating names for the imaginary continent of conflicting countries that was our final exam for Political Geography class. What can I say? Maps is the one trait that is passed down from my grandfather through my father to me. A trait I honor and cherish.

Anyhow...I was against the invasion of Grenada. I didn't know why we were in Lebanon. I was worried that Reagan wanted to engage our military in Central America, which would've been another Vietnam and something I worried about the closer I got to high school graduation. I was against the bombing of Tripoli in 1986 and even wrote an odd short story about it in high school. Although I will admit that the airstrikes really made Muammar Khadafi keep a low profile after that. However, he probably ordered a retaliation by blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. I was against the invasion of Panama because I thought it was a waste of resources to grab a head of state of another country, especially one who was once employed by the CIA.

I did support the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, and I thought that would be the conflict I would participate in as part of a Carrier Battle Force, but Bush wanted to make history of having achieved "victory" within 100 hours of an invading land force (after a month of air bombings). It proved to be a hollow victory. The whole invasion of Kuwait by Saddam through the eviction of his troops from that country all happened after I graduated from High School, enlisted in the military, and before I went to basic training. I was angered by the abrupt end, as I believed then (and now) that Bush should've marched to Baghdad to remove Saddam from power. It did not make sense to call Saddam "worse than Hitler" and then leave him in power. In the years since, it made me look at other information, which claim that Saddam only invaded Kuwait on Bush's command because Bush needed a hot war to justify the continued military/defense industry budget after the Cold War abruptly ended with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I'm of the opinion now that Saddam was a patsy to Bush's nefarious plans, thus why he was allowed to remain in power. But then in the 1990s, Saddam was showing too much independence and needed to be dealt with once and for all, but neither Clinton nor Gore would do anything about it, thus why election 2000 had to be stolen so that the Baby Bush could finish the job his father failed to do.

Back to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and the film Charlie Wilson's War. When I was a teenager, I actually thought supporting the Mujahedeen was a brilliant plan. I was all for it. Anything to drag the Soviets into a quagmire like our Vietnam and bleed their military strength. It also helped that my favourite James Bond movie featured the Mujahedeen as the good guys whom Bond fights with against the Soviets (The Living Daylights). And in 1988, Rambo fought in Afghanistan (though I only saw the film for the first time this past summer and have since learned that the new Rambo movie out in January will have him go to Burma, which means I plan to see it, hoping that it will have a spiritual message that the third one briefly hinted at by having Rambo live among Buddhist monks in Thailand). I love the clothing that the Afghanis wear. I want those clothing...especially the hat! In a week or so, the MAYA group will go see "The Kite Runner", which also deals with Afghanistan and a film that I'm looking forward to seeing.

I don't believe that it was wrong what we did in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We helped the people fight against the foreign occupying Army who had no right to invade. How ironic that we became the invading army in 2001. I was against the war in Afghanistan, but only for historic reasons. I didn't think we could possibly succeed where the Brits and the Soviets had failed in the previous century. However, we did have moral justification to invade to "drain the swamp" (as some Bush Administration officials said, obviously unaware of Afghanistan's topography) of al-Qaeda operatives and the collaborating Taliban. So, while I was against the war for historical reasons, I didn't feel too troubled by our involvement there. Since we're there, I hope we will help rebuild the country and not abandon it the way we did after the Soviets left in 1989.

That's the whole point of the film Charlie Wilson's War. I read several reviews of the film that basically made the same critiques about the film's "abrupt ending." However, I thought it ended perfectly. After somehow convincing Congress to increase the funding of covert operations in Afghanistan from $5 million to $1 billion, once the Soviets withdrew, Congressman Wilson couldn't even get Congress to approve $1 million to build a school. We just abandoned the mujahedeen after they served our purpose of defeating and humiliating a rival empire. The film ends with a quote from the Congressman about how we can wage splendid wars with perfect execution and success, but somehow manage to mess up the peace. I don't remember the exact quote, but it was a perfect end to an awesome political film (which is oddly comedic and fun to watch). That critics wanted a more blatant ending is baffling. They will criticize some films for being too obvious, while criticizing another film for being too subtle. Which is it? You can't have it both ways! I thought that any intelligent person who watches the film and knows anything about our foreign policy of the past 25 years would get the message of the film.

For those who don't (such as clueless film reviewers), the CIA agent played wonderfully by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, spells it out by telling Congressman Wilson a zen koan about a Zen Master who hears a man recollect about a boy who got a horse. The man said "what good luck!" The Zen master said, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" The story continues on and on as the boy falls off the horse and breaks his leg ("What bad luck!" the man says, which the Zen Master replies the same, "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"), then the military come to draft him but he can't serve because of his leg ("What good luck!") and on and on the story goes, alternating between what seems like both good fortune followed by bad fortune, followed by good fortune, etc. The point? We simply don't know how things will turn out. For example, our "successful" Gulf War in 1991 is often cited by Osama Bin Laden as the moment when he turned against the U.S. He was deeply offended to see our secular troops (with females doing men's work even) on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. He was one of the mujahedeen who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He received aid and arms from our government and look how he ended up! Good luck, bad luck, who knows?

But we can know. The reason why I believe the CIA is one of the most immoral organizations on the planet is because they have no moral qualms about dishonesty and deceit, traitorous behaviour, and betrayal of confidences, of torture and inflicting long as it is directed at our enemies. Yet, while they train people to do these techniques and have these behaviours, they don't realize the toll it takes on a human being. Regardless of another person's political views (I never saw a problem if a person wanted to be a communist) or citizenship, they are still a human being and a spiritual one. It is never okay to violate the Golden Rule. But the CIA does things to other governments that would anger Americans if a foreign government does to us. If you don't believe this is true, just think about China for a moment. A lot of people were angered in the 1990s by the Chinese government's ties to the Clinton administration, in which fundraising and nuclear secret transfers were the true impeachable scandals. If the Chinese government tried to tamper with our electoral process (my question Hillary "the Manchurian Candidate"?), Americans would understandably be angered. But why the silence when our government agency tampers with elections in Iraq, Venezuela, and other places? And why does the CIA feign shock when one of their agents turns out to be a double agent? Or when a dictator turns against the U.S.? It's happened before and will again. You can bet on it just as certainly as you can bet on the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning. The CIA even have a word for it: blowback. That's just another word for karma.

So, what to do? Well, see this film for starters. It will have you laughing and thinking about what our foreign policy has gotten us...which I say is not a damn thing. When I learned about our foreign policy in college, covering the years from 1945 through 1999, I believe that our government has really only did three great things in those years: (1) The Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and Japan; (2) the creation of the Peace Corps; and (3) containing the Soviet Empire instead of waging a nuclear war with them like some neo-conservatives wanted to do from the Berlin Airlift through the Cuban Missile Crisis and beyond. But our involvements in political assassinations of foreign leaders, the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Central America and Asia, and the training and funding of thugs like Noriega, Saddam, and Osama Bin Laden by our CIA has made our world worse, not better. You can't achieve peace in our world by supporting evil and turning a blind eye so long as they are killing our enemies, because the day of reckoning always comes and Americans hate and fear that day. 9/11 was supposedly just such a day. Nothing happens on this planet without a root cause somewhere, and instead of killing innocent people, we need to see if and what our hand in it was. There is a better way to increase the peace of the planet.

Friday, December 21, 2007

If It's Friday, It Must Be Survey Time!

The photo above is of me during Christmas season 1988 or 1989 when I was a Junior or Senior in High School.

The photo on the right is of me during the depressing Christmas of 2000 when the Supreme Court made their worst decision ever in Bush v. Gore. I know the bumper sticker I'm holding might be "offensive" to some, but that's really my sense of humour, so deal with it! Ha. I love that sticker.'s Friday, so that means survey time!

1. Did you like school? Not really. College had its moments, though. There were a few classes that I loved, but not the multiple guess tests!

2. What was your favourite subject? In high school it was history and geography. In college, politics. My favourite semester was when I had nothing but political science classes!

3. Would you take the bullet for someone? I've thought about this a lot when I was in D.C. Someone had said that I should see about becoming a Secret Service agent, but I told him that I couldn't be one because you're supposed to be non-political and willing to take the bullet for whoever you're assigned to. For me, taking a bullet for someone would be the highest honour one could do, so the only politician I'd take a bullet for would be Al Gore. I might take a bullet for a close friend or family member, but the politician has to be someone special for me to risk my life that way.

4. Where would you like to live? Coeur d'Alene, Idaho still has a draw for me and if all goes well, I will have a successful retreat there this upcoming Memorial Day and I'll get a better idea if that town is in my future. Otherwise, I'm quite pleased with Portland.

5. Do long distance relationships work? Only if people make it work, but I wouldn't do it if it could be avoided.

6. What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm still longing to be a political aide to a politician I admire, a novelist, and/or a human rights activist. Only those three career options energize me like you wouldn't believe.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years? A political aide to the Mayor of Portland or to a Congressman.

8. Do you listen to music every day? Abso-freakin-lutely. It's the only "drug" I use, as nothing gets me high like a good melody and a toe-tappin' beat.

9. Have you ever had a big role on stage in a play? I don't know about "big", but I played Wally in "Our Town" in the tenth grade and an IRS agent in "You Can't Take It With You" in the eleventh grade. Both were fun, but not something I'd do again.

10. When were you the saddest in your life? Probably when my car was totalled in 1996 because of some SUV-owner's wreckless driving. It took six months for me to forgive the other driver and years before I came to believe that the accident was actually "destined" so I could get my dream car at the time. It's funny to remember how depressed I was, how worried my mom was about me. It's just one of those things...we don't know why things happen until years after the fact (if we're lucky)...but we have to trust that things happen for a reason (most of the time).

11. What songs make you happy? A lot of the upbeat 80s songs. I can't help it. That's my decade. Whenever I hear an 80s song, I can't not be happy. Music was so fun back then. I can't think of a particular song that makes me happy, but pick any 80s hit song and chances are, it'll fit.

12. What would you like to listen to before you go to bed? Usually Enya or something of that nature that will put me into a spiritual mindset as I enter dreamtime.

13. One wish? The job of my dreams in the political field. Man, I live for politics so to work in a political job would just be a dream come true. I've waited for a long time to find the right candidates, so I hope 2008 will finally be that year.

14. Name one song that explains your current life. This song perfectly described my work situation in 2001 as well, so that's not good. But it is what it is: "Stuck in a Moment That You Can't Get Out Of" by U2. So true, at the moment.

15. What's the next movie you plan to see? Charlie Wilson's War. It has Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and it's political. What more could I possibly want?!?

16. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be? I still long to see Paris and France again soon. But, I also want to see Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti as well. But if I could be anywhere...anywhere at all right now? I'm happy to be in Portland.

17. What do you know about the future? That Bush will leave office widely disliked, that many Americans will be glad to see his era gone, and before we celebrate too hard, we're going to get a huge bill for his disasterous policies and it's going to put our country in a serious economic crisis. Hold on to your jobs, folks!

18. What is your all time favourite band? That would be Juluka, Johnny Clegg's early band with a lot of African folk music. But I also like his formation with Savuka, which had a more western sound. However, I think no one is better than U2. Twenty-five years and still going strong!

19. What book are you reading now? "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama

20. What was the best book you've ever read? "The Bonfire of the Vanities" by Tom Wolfe. Man, that was a book!

21. What do you want for your birthday? My dream job to materialize. I've long paid my dues. I want a new job in the new year. One that pays the salary I deserve, one that utilizes my experience and knowledge and one that I'm excited to go to every day and can't believe that it's already time to go home. Because that's what a dream job is. That's what I wanted all year. It's not to late to manifest in my life! That's what I want more than anything.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mele Kalikimaka

That's me on the North Shore of Oahu on December 30, 1997

Ten years ago, I spent the best Christmas holiday of my life on the Hawaiian island of Oahu (from 20 through 30 December). I didn't intend to spend that Christmas in Hawaii. I was going to visit my Great Uncle Jim and Great Aunt Effie in Bloomington, Minnesota and then visit one of my best friends Nathan, who was going to spend Christmas with his family in Mason City, Iowa. But, he couldn't get leave approved and suggested that I come out to Hawai'i. I had wanted to visit Hawai'i for years. In fact, I had hoped to be stationed there in the Navy when I first joined. There wasn't a billet for Hawai'i when I got to pick duty stations at my 'A' School command. I jumped at the chance to serve on another island, though...Sardinia, which is one of the best places I've ever lived.

Anyhow, when I got out of the Navy, my supervisor tried to talk me out of leaving the Navy. I was the THIRD Yeoman Second Class that Admin Department lost in 6 months. As the Department Head, I suppose it didn't look good for him to lose three E-5s in six months time. We should be on the career track. So, he tried to scare me with the uncertainties of the job market in the civilian world, even going so far as to say that the only job I'd find out there was flipping burgers at Burger King!

Um...I've been out for almost a dozen years now and still haven't worked in fast food. True, I've been in low wage jobs and haven't found my dream job yet. But I've done a lot of traveling in the past ten years. Berlin. Paris. San Francisco. Honolulu. Santa Fe. Las Vegas. Seattle. Vancouver. Portland. Minneapolis. New York. Boston. Washington D.C. Philadelphia. Atlanta. New Orleans. Saint Louis. Chicago. Need I say more? I don't need the Navy to travel. I do just fine on my own.

Anyhow, I always thought it ironic that I had joined the Navy in part to get stationed in Hawai'i, but only made it there as a college student. Ten days in paradise. With one of my best friends. And soul brother. Though we clashed a few times, he was a sport, when he wasn't being selfish. He took me to all around the island of Oahu more than a few times. Introduced me to shaved ice. Had me help move a Mormon girl out of her apartment. Charity was her name. She was cute too. And engaged. But I always suspected she and Nathan had a fling, though he was mum about the whole thing. She was fun. Nathan would speed his Acura around, scaring me half to death while she yelled like we were on a roller coaster. She sang along to the music he blasted on his car stereo.

I also saw BYU Hawai'i and thought about transferring until Nathan talked sense into me. That's the job of a best friend, you know? He knew me too well. Here's what he said to me: "You're on an island, Nick! How many times do you want to drive around this place?" He knew that I love road trips, the longer the better. Heck, I was on Oahu for TEN Days and I was getting sick of it after day seven. I wish I had more money to hop over to the other islands. But, I got to see Oahu in detail. And we saw our share of movies. Including "Tomorrow Never Dies." And I remember going to see "The Postman" and seeing a huge line. Here's where it's funny. I actually thought the LONG LINE was for "The Postman"!!! I remember being shocked that so many people wanted to see it. But little did I know that it happened to be the opening weekend of "Titanic", which I was certain would sink at the box office. Shows how much I know!

And we even watched "Liar Liar" on a docked sailboat that belonged to a friend of Nathan. He took me out to hike to hidden waterfalls, where I couldn't help but notice a couple girls staring at us. It always happens when I hang out with Nathan. He truly is the closest friend I have to experiencing "celebrity." He is a true chick magnet. And the best thing is, his charisma is "transferrable", for I always have better luck with women once I've hung out with him for any amount of time.

We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was cool. A sort of Polynesian Disneyland (without the rides). The expensive ticket included a luau and evening show, in which the hula dance was so mesmerizing, I was actually hypnotized by it!

I went to see the Arizona Memorial by myself since Nathan was being a jerk about it, claiming that he wouldn't go on principle (though he did see it years later when his wife made him go). That's okay though. There were two Aussie chicks on the same ride out there as me, so that was his loss.

In Hawai'i, I also knew the Ishikawa family and went to church with them. I love Sue Ishikawa's house. It's simple, but very nice, especially with the steep backyard and the beautiful view of the mountain range. It was paradise. I met her son John and his beautiful wife Lori, who lived around the corner. For the most part, I couldn't believe I was in Hawai'i and that it was actually a U.S. state. It has the infrastructure of a state and you know that you are in the United States, despite the different landscape and it's distance from the mainland. A few years earlier, I had been to Puerto Rico, and you knew that you weren't in the U.S., even though they use the same currency and English is spoken. I just thought the differences in infrastructure and road signs between a state and a territory were interesting.

Christmas day, Nathan and I spent with the Hayler family, who lived out in the jungle. They had a cool house. I remember thinking how lucky they were living in Hawai'i, even if you always have to fly to the mainland and everything was more expensive. But, it felt like paradise for me.

The best thing we did that Christmas was go Christmas caroling in government housing, which was a lot different than you might imagine public housing to be stateside. It wasn't so "ghetto" and dangerous. The people were actually quite nice. And it was the first time I heard the Hawaiian Christmas song, "Mele Kalikimaka".

On my birthday, the Ishikawas took me to the main market in downtown Honolulu and a tour of the most unique state capitol building in the United States. It was designed to resemble a volcano on an island. I appreciated the symbolism and thought that went into the building.

I flew back to the mainland on my birthday, landing in Los Angeles to visit another friend for New Year's. It was all downhill after that. In fact, my second semester at BYU was one of the most depressing and loneliest I've ever experienced. I blame it on my Christmas vacation in Hawai'i. Though Nathan isn't much of a gift giver, his insistence that I come visit Hawai'i that Christmas was one of the best gifts I could've ever been talked into. I can't believe it has been ten years since I first landed on that beautiful island. I wonder when I'll see it again. Hopefully in the next few years. The Ishikawas are still there and it's time for a visit.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Was TIME Thinking?

Once again, I don't agree with TIME magazine's selection for its Person of the Year issue. It's one of the reasons why I had started doing my own "Nonconformist of the Year" selection since 1992, after TIME Magazine selected Ted Turner for it's 1991 Person of the Year. In the years since, they've made some "lazy" choices, I felt to avoid the obvious choice. For instance, "You" (us) for 2006? Are they crazy? The whole point of the honor is to give it to the person who has made the biggest impact on the world in the year they give it.

Who else could it have been, other than former Vice President Al Gore? He was written off as a political has-been after the controversial election of 2000. Then this year, he finally achieved the pinnacle of success when last year's profitable documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature this year. He followed that up with a major, global warming awareness concert on 7 continents on 7/7/07. Then he won an Emmy for creating Current TV, which uses viewer submitted podcasts for content. Then he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with a United Nations group focused on climate change issues. Following the speech to the Nobel Committee in Oslo, he went to the conference in Bali, Indonesia and admitted to the worldwide audience that our government was doing nothing to solve the problem but promised that the next president will and that the rest of the world needs to take leadership on the issue instead of waiting for our hopelessly corrupt government to do anything about it while Bush is president.

In a sentence, Gore had a great year. Why he merited only a "runner-up" status to the outgoing president of Russia is beyond me. But as is the case in 2000 and in 2001, neither George W. Bush nor Rudy Giuliani deserved to be named Person of the Year. It's just one more example of TIME magazine's strange desire to go with a less obvious choice, despite more worthy people deserving of the honor.

So, in honor of Al Gore, enjoy the photos I've taken off of Google. Gore shouldn't mind. Google made him a wealthy man. Maybe they should call it Goorgle.

Is a messy office the sign of genius?

Does anyone know how to hail a cab?

"Can you hear us now?"

"Would you like peas with that?"

Someone needs to invent a smaller cell phone!

This is how you become one with nature.

"No, I haven't seen Monica! Quit asking about her."

"Will the smirking Chimp in the back row evolve already!"

Alfred Nobel makes his presidential choice for 2008 known.

Still dreaming about the White House

"You wanna piece of me?"

"What don't you understand about global warming?"

Gore's press conference after receiving news that he had been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Like a modern day prophet

Bring back the man in black!