Friday, August 31, 2007

Remembering the Queen of My Heart

Today marks a sad day...the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of the world's most beautiful woman: Lady Diana Spencer, formerly known as Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales (until her 1995 divorce from Prince Charles).

I remember the day clearly. I got a phone call from my sister, who was going on a mile a minute about the death of someone. I didn't know who she was talking about so I thought a friend of hers died. When I asked who died, she was shocked that I didn't know. So, that's how I found out the news. My mom couldn't believe that I didn't know. She asked what happened to me. My parents weren't too thrilled that I was going to BYU, and my mom thought I had joined a cult or something that wouldn't allow me to keep up with events in the outside world. But I was just too involved in the activities and excitement for incoming freshmen to watch television. I didn't bring my own TV with me and I never went into the recreation room at Deseret Towers. Not that I thought August would be an eventful month anyway. Even now, I rarely watch the news on the weekends, so I'll miss something until Monday rolls around. But, because I heard the news from my sister and not television, Diana's death doesn't feel "real" to me. The same would happen two years later when I met for a study group to go over the hard concepts of Physical Science for an upcoming test. One of my study group partners casually said something about John and Caroline Kennedy in a missing plane. She didn't know the details and because she said "Caroline" (the name of John's sister; his wife's name was "Carolyn"), I panicked. Two of JFK's children gone? I couldn't concentrate on science after she said that, so I rushed home and sat glued to CNN to hear the details for myself, saddened by his death, but a little relieved that both of JFK's children didn't perish that day.

In a way, those two tragic deaths were bookends for my BYU experience...Diana's fatal accident in my first semester and John Kennedy's in the summer term before my last semester at BYU. I admired both of them. In fact, a part of me had a secret wish to see John and Diana hook up in marriage and produce lots of beautiful offspring! They are about the same age (John born in 1960, Diana in 1961). A year or so ago, the news came out that Diana did have an affair with John, partly to make Sarah Ferguson (the former Duchess of York and her sister-in-law) jealous because it was Fergie who wanted to get with John. Gosh...everyone wanted to sleep with John (including Madonna). That's why he was my idol...he had his pick of women! I'd have stuck with Daryl Hannah myself, but his mother was dead set against it.

Anyhow, Diana has always been a popular figure in our household...probably due to our sharing a common famous ancester or two (Noah Webster and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland). But additionally, she brought warmth and real humanity into the emotionally cold house of Windsor (if we were Brits, we'd definitely not be "Royalists"). She was a breath of fresh air. She was someone I wished that I could have met. Since her Royal Marriage in 1981 (or was it 1980?), no other woman I've ever seen was as beautiful as her. All beauty pageants were in vain, because I thought no other woman held a candle to Diana. And she only grew more beautiful with age.

One of my first biggest shocks at BYU was hearing classmates talk bad about her, especially in the aftermath of Mother Teresa's death a week later. It's like to honour one person, they had to put down the other, not realizing that both women did good for the world. True, Diana got more attention...but that's just the way our world is. Diana was blessed with beauty and used it for good. Who can forget her last year of life when she pursued the cause of getting rid of the world's landmines? Who knows what she could've done for our planet in the past decade? She didn't even get to see age 40. As her brother said in his eulogy, God took her at her most beautiful and that's how she'll be remembered in history. All I know is that the world has been a lot darker in the decade that she's been gone. She is definitely missed. She was and always will be, the Queen of my heart.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Scenes from the Oregon Coast on 1 August 2007

Me in the Shadows with Cape Lookout in the background

Cape Lookout and the beautiful Pacific Ocean from the beach at Camp Clark (southwest of Tillamook, Oregon)

That is not Haystack Rock in the background. That's some other rock formation southwest of Tillamook, Oregon

Beautiful Cape Lookout. Watching the clouds roll over the top was way cool. It made me think of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, in which descriptions of that mountain claim that watching white clouds roll over that flat mountaintop was like watching God roll out a tablecloth over His table. I don't have to travel all the way to South Africa to see the same thing, which was very cool!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good Riddance to Gonzo!

First, Rum-Rum resigned. Next came Rove. Now, we have the worst Attorney General in history resigning (perhaps out of fear that the Democrats won't let up on the questioning and his web of lies will only end up ensnaring the prez'uh'dint). I never thought I'd ever say this, but Alberto Gonzalez was so bad that he makes John Ashcroft look ethical, and that is quite a feat. If not for Gonzalez's disasterous reign as the supreme legal authority in our land, Ashcroft would be bestowed with the dishonor of "Worst Attorney General in history." Now, he's only second worst. But as Gonzalez's actions proved, even Ashcroft has some sense of morals and decency, refusing to go along with Gonzalez.

With three major resignations, I hope that the Democrats won't let up. Next, we need to target Dick Cheney and force him out of office. Of course, resigning their positions should not be seen as a bargaining tool that will keep them out of jail. Not unless they decide to spill the beans about everything Bush or Cheney has done that is against the law. If these low-life, conscience-less, pathetic excuses for human beings would just reveal the truth about Bush, Cheney, and their disasterous foreign policies, we might just be able to save our Republic. But whatever they confess, they still deserve nothing less than jail time. Jail time in the same cell as the most roughneck, violent criminal imagineable. And to make things sweeter, give the big, bad inmate some viagra and a box of condoms and let them go to town on these White House criminals. Yeah, that's the ticket!

So, goodbye, Gonzo and good riddance. You won't be missed. And hopefully you won't be the last of this sorry administration to resign. I hope this is the start of a mass exodus...a sign that the rats are finally deserting the sinking ship that is the Bush Administration.

And to top off the good news of Gonzalez's departure, comes another gay sex scandal involving a Republican politician...this time the Senator from Idaho. What is with these people? They run on family values and intolerance for anyone who isn't straight, and all this time, they are seeking out the very things they condemn? It's just one more sign that proves to me that the Republican party is the most hypocritical and sanctimoniously phony party to ever exist in our nation's history. Why people believe that party has any moral credibility is baffling. I hope it only wakes the people up and gives the Democrats a super-majority in the House and Senate as well as the White House in 2008. Making the Republican Party extinct should be our goal as people who love democracy and wish to restore our Republic to the vision our Founders had.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ten Year Anniversary of My BYU Experience

Read below for my retrospective on my BYU experience, starting ten years ago about this time. What a decade it has been...though I still haven't found my way. Honestly, sometimes I think going to BYU has put me on the downward spiral I seem to be stuck on. Think about it:
In the summer of 1997, I was completely DEBT-FREE. My credit cards were paid off, I owned my car (a 1991 Saturn SL1), and I had just gotten back from a Navy Reserve duty in Stuttgart, Germany (with an extra week spent in Paris and Bretagne, France). Man, those were the days!
Okay, so I was working at a hotel job I hated for $6 an hour. That was okay work while I was attending school full time at Georgia State, but not what I wanted to do with my life.

So, in answer to a prayer that I had made to God in December 1996, it was to attend BYU and so I did...

I've been questioning God a lot lately. I'm wondering where did I go wrong? As much as I love the friends I made at BYU, as much as the difficult experience there as a religious outsider (despite our common heritage in the first 14 years of the church's existence) was a growing experience, it is the college loan debt and nothing but low wage jobs in the years since that have brought me to this point of near, total, utter emotional devastation. People at work are noticing how unhappy I seem all the time, but I can't help it. Everytime I find something to be happy about, it's taken away from me. The only thing not taken away is the debt that I carry. The debt that began occurring when I went to BYU. What do I have to show for it...other than a few friends (well...the ones who still keep in touch, that is)? I'm actually wondering if I'm the only person who's actually making less with a college degree than I earned without having one. I keep wondering when my degree is going to pay off with a good salaried job? Or do I have to incur even more debt and go on to grad school?

The honest truth is, had I known everything the past ten years would have entailed, I would not have attended BYU. The college loan debt and credit card debt just aren't worth the headaches. Sometimes I wonder if that was the voice of God that I heard, or the trickster?

On the other hand, when I think about the experiences I've had there, the spiritual growth I noticed after my time there, and the friends I've made in Matt Baker, Janell, Mandy, Brooklyn, Jantzen; the lady I dated (Yudelka Casto); the times I actually cried when I came out of the testing center after bombing a test; the trials I've had with a few difficult roommates; the interesting submersion into complete Mormon culture that was so foreign to what I was accustomed to; and all the times the prompting of the spirit led me to some good self-knowledge about how the spirit world works...all of that has added something important to my life. So yes, that part of my experience was worth every cent (with deferred interest).

I can't believe it has been ten years since I took that journey, starting with a four-day roadtrip from Atlanta in a fully packed car, with no worries that I might have a wreck or a flat. I just went...and almost got sideswiped by a speeding taxi in Memphis TN. I had to cancel plans to visit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial because of a torrential downpour as I drove through the city. But I did get to spend a couple days in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which I loved. And then I took part in the Honors Program intro, and then the Freshmen indoc program (at which point, I felt way too old for those fresh out of high school 18 year olds). I was a 25 year old Freshman. But those were the days. I lived in Deseret Towers and the first week at BYU, I felt like I was truly among aliens. I never had culture shock when I first moved to Germany and also to Italy, as I did at BYU. I guess I had no idea just how far apart our two churches were. I grew up thinking that we were like Canada and America, where the only noticeable difference was the way one pronounced "about" (aboot), but beyond that, the similarities were striking. Not so with our two churches. I also realized that I'd feel lost in such a large church and came to truly appreciate my own in the years since. We may not be perfect, but it's perfect for me. Small, interconnected, and complete freedom.

In 2000, after our internship ended, my roommate Jantzen asked if I'd ever go back to Provo, Utah for a visit. I told him that it was too soon. The pain of the loneliness I felt there was too fresh. Not just the loneliness, but the intolerance I felt for not joining "the One True Church" (I actually thought people would have accepted an RLDS at BYU without a need to convert me to "the dark side"). I said maybe in 5 years, but definitely by my 10th anniversary. So, I'm contemplating it for October. I really do want to walk the campus again and see how my perceptions have changed, to see what memories are brought up, and to see how different (if at all) this new batch of Freshmen are from when I attended. Most of all, it would be kind of like an emotional "homecoming"...more of a measurement of how much I've changed and have grown from the experience of attending there. I might be "richer" in terms of emotional and spiritual development, but I'm still waiting for that to translate into real dollars. I want my degree to lead me to the job of my dreams. Back then, it was to be a loyal political aide to President Gore. Now, I don't know what...but I'm still every bit as passionate about human rights as I was when I took my favourite course in college: the Human Rights one taught by Darren Hawkins, who made no apologies for his liberal views.

Those were the days. God bless 'em!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Last night, as I tried to post my latest entry (The OJ and Dubya Show), my computer crashed for some reason. I called the technical service guys and hoped they could walk me through it. Looks like I have to send my laptop in to get fixed, which is about a 2-3 week process, meaning that I'm without a personal computer for awhile. Since I'm looking for a job, that means I'm back to the four day a week, one hour per day session at the library to do all my internet and job search activity. It's a setback I don't need right now. Frustrating, to say the least.

So...I guess I won't have a blog a day for August like I had hoped. But, it gives you a breather. I'll try to post twice a week at least. We'll see...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The O.J. and Dubya Show

With O.J. Simpson back in the news again (regarding the release of his "confessional" after a judge had ruled that the rights to the book would go to the family of victim Ron Goldman), I couldn't help but think of the similarities between him and our beloved president G. W. Bush. Both are pathological liars who lack a basic sense of compassion. They have much in common and probably would make a good "buddy match" in a brand new reality show!

Let's talk a little about "the Juice". He's known for his ego, how he can't seem to live outside the spotlight. Though he has a legion of followers who believe that he was framed for murder by a racist cop and a white media elite, the circumstantial evidence is undeniable. I remember in his civil trial in 1996, his defense was, "I didn't do it...but if I did, it's because Nicole was a slut." In his defense, he smeared the reputation of his children's mother. What kind of innocent person would do that? After his criminal trial acquittal in 1995, he vowed to spend the rest of his life hunting down the real killer(s). Unless they live on a golf course, he hasn't made good on that promise. A few years back, I remember one TV interview he gave in which he startled the poor reporter lady by making stabbing motions with a banana he had in his hands. Again, the "joke" was in poor taste and reveals a lot about his psychology. These are not the actions of a person who is innocent. Because if a loved one is murdered, how would you be able to joke about their manner of death? How could you slime that person's character in a court of law in order to prove yourself innocent of the crime? It doesn't make sense.

I believe that he has long had a need to confess that he did it. There's a part of him...the egotistical part...that is perhaps proud of the fact that he got away with murder. He's under no threat of jail, thanks to our laws against double jeopardy. This book that was supposed to come out last year along with a TV special in time for November sweeps is his confession. For, why else would an "innocent" man even entertain the thought of how he might have killed his ex-wife? There's no logical sense to it at all. If there are still any believers in his innocence out there, I hope the details and reasonings behind this book project will convince them otherwise. O.J. did it. Orenthal James Simpson IS GUILTY of the crime of murder...of Nicole Brown Simpson and of Ron Goldman on June 12, 1994.

Now, moving on to that other psychopath, we have G.W. Bush. As Governor, he oversaw the execution of many prisoners, including a born-again Christian woman that many Evangelical leaders as well as Pope John Paul II had pleaded for him to spare her life. What did he do? In an interview with Tucker Carlson, that bow-tie wearing conservative talkshow host, he mocked her by speculating that her last words were "please don't kill me." Some might be dismissive of that, but consider other evidence: in a college photograph, the younger Bush is seen elbowing an opponent in the face during a rugby game. In response to the news that insurgents were increasingly targeting American troops in the summer of 2003, he said, "bring 'em on!" And during a videotaped skit for the annual dinner the president has with members of the media elite, Bush was seen searching under his desk and behind his curtain in the Oval Office for the missing weapons of mass destruction. That he can find the humour in the fact that his rationale for going to war was false, that members of our military are dying because he dared the insurgents to "bring it on" reveals something deeply pathological about him. Like O.J., Bush lacks a sense of decency and compassion. True, Bush loves to speak of compassion like he invented it...but how can one take seriously any politician who presided over the death penalty when they speak of compassion? It's a contradiction in terms. Compassion means to "suffer with." When has Bush or O.J. suffered? Instead, by their very actions, they inflict suffering on those around them. Thus why they would make a perfect duo in a reality show. We can send them off to places in the world to inflict their brand of compassion on other sadistic leaders of the world. They can even joke about it in their twisted way.

Yep...the "O.J. and Dubya Show". The joke's on them. We'll see who's still laughing in the afterlife.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hitlery Clinton?!?

On Sunday, my brother and I met some family friends in Seattle for a short lunch visit before they boarded their cruise ship for a week long trip along Alaska's inner passage. These two couples are close friends of my parents, members of the Community of Christ church, and thus, extended family to my brother and I. Despite our long history and close friendship, their political views are such that I knew to keep my mouth shut about it. We simply don't agree on politics and despite their priesthood callings, I'd have to say that I'm RIGHT about politics. I know that's quite an arrogant statement to make, but my views on politics is based on authentic spiritual values, that is to say, how politics affects the poor, the powerless, the outcasts, the foreigners. I side with those who need the help of government the most. They side with the powerful, business class, the rich. So, despite their sincere belief in Jesus as personal saviour, I can honestly say that their views on politics are WRONG.

So, we discussed the personal, family, the church. It was a very nice visit with some good food. Then, out of the blue, one of the ladies asks me who I'm voting for in 2008. Before I could respond, she made her opinion known by adding, "and don't tell me that it's Hitlery Clinton!" Hitlery Clinton?!? Whoa. That was a bit severe. Actually, that was a lot severe. I wouldn't even compare Bush to Hitler, though I sometimes wonder if he aspires to it (Bush did say after all, "this would be a lot easier if it were a dictatorship, just as long as I was the dictator!" during the controversial 2000 election results).

I just said, "Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would be good." I didn't want to get into a debate on why I thought Hillary would probably be the best bet, and why I believed that she will most likely be our next president (because I believe the elections are fixed and she has made deals with the right Rupert Murdoch and the Trilateral Commission). Though I am still supporting Barack Obama at the moment (his comment to bomb Pakistan did shake my support of him a little bit...any more bombshell revelations like that and I may drop him for another candidate with foreign policy experience). However, I believe that the reason why Hillary would be the best possible person for the presidency is because no one will give her a blank check the way they gave Bush a blank check. The press won't fawn all over her the way they did with Bush. We simply can't afford to have a president who controls the media message, who gets the media to repeat the lies without further investigation. The media simply won't do that for Hillary Clinton. Why they did it for a moron, incurious, immature frat boy is beyond me...but Hillary won't get those kind of breaks. So, that's the biggest reason why she would make the best president, besides her foreign policy experience already.

But to compare her to Hitler? Come on! That's so far from a stretch. Let's look at Hitler...he didn't win the election to become Chancellor, but somehow finagled himself into the leadership position. The burning of the Reichstag was blamed on communists, in order to whip Germans into a frenzy to support his plans to invade Poland. Turns out, the burning of the Reichstag was done by members of the Nazi Party just for that purpose. Hitler used Christian religion and "family values" to further his agenda. The belt buckles of the military said: "Gott mit uns!" (God with us!) and their motto was "Kinder, Kirche, Kuche" (children, church, kitchen). Sound familiar?

It's simply not possible for a Democrat to be the second coming of Hitler. The Nazi Party and the fascists are a right wing ideology that used race, xenophobia, and sexism to gain and maintain power. Fascism is a system that thrives on war between people. Conquer and divide. That could describe the Bush/Rove brand in America, but it has led to nothing but ruin. Why people ever gave Bush a blank check to have his way is baffling. But when you think honestly about you really think the American people are going to let Hillary have a blank check to do whatever she wants?

I think part of the reason why people have such animosity towards her is because she's a woman. Men do hold women to a higher standard than they do to other men. What's even more baffling is that studies have reported that women are even more harsh in their view of other women than men are. I never understood this, the tendency towards "cattiness" among women. It's just laughable that anyone who has been a witness to our national politics could ever think that Hillary would be closer to the Hitler model than Bush has been. In order for that to happen, you need to have a mass of brainless followers who will do anything their leaders asks of them, who will believe what the mass media tells them. I simply don't see Hillary having that kind of power. As the first woman president, she will be the most scrutinized president in our nation's history. That's actually a good thing and why I think she'll make a great president. She won't be given a pass at anything. The media and American public lowered the bar on Bush and look what a disaster that has been! By not keeping our current president honest by calling him out every time he uttered a lie or a half-truth they way they did with Bill Clinton, it has led out nation to disasterous consequences. Do you actually believe that the media is going to let Hillary get away with lies, incompetence, unpopular policies, and endless war? I think not. They'll raise the bar to the highest setting it'll ever have and she'll pass with flying colours I think. She knows that her husband's and her legacy depend on how well she manages her own administration. She's the only one who can redeem that impeachment stain on her husband's place in history.

Honestly, I don't think any Democrat could ever do as bad a job as Bush has done. He's the worst president in our history, surpassing the previous worsts of Nixon, Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding...all Republicans by the way. Their party is hopefully going the way of the Federalists and the Whigs...into political extinction.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Excerpt from Chapter 2 (Part 2)

In case you're not aware of it, but I had posted Chapter 2 of my novel excerpt a bit later than the original post date (I have spotty wireless service, so I don't want to write lengthy posts and not have them posted on the's happened too many times to make it frustrating).

So, if you haven't read it, you might want to check it out. I will post soon the second part of the chapter...but not all of the Shellback Initiation, because you'll lose your lunch! However, I'll give you a taste and then the final few paragraphs, which makes a good segue into Chapter 3, which shifts back to Kennedy Bradford's last year in high school. The novel is designed to be circular, like the seasons of a year, to fit with the title, Seasons of Silent War.

I'll post please go back and read the chapter 2 excerpt if you dare (about the crossdressing pageant that went on in the "old Navy"). Since all ships are capable of having female crewmembers, I heard that they really watered down the whole crossing of the equator rituals. But my novel reflects the ceremony as it existed up to at least 1999, according to a good friend of mine who actually underwent the ceremony and gave me the gory details to write about it. Enjoy...or not!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Crazy Art of Manifestation

Ever since I got back from my best friend's wedding in June, I've made a job search my part-time job that's become an obsession. Actually, though, I have been looking for a new job since January when my co-worker snapped at me for the third time, leading to a yelling match between us until she backed down. She had snapped at me for the dumbest reason and it was inexcusible in my opinion. I know some people find it hard to believe, but I'm of the opinion that there's little need to yell. In fact, when it comes to yelling, I'm at a severe disadvantage.

The last time I really yelled at someone was in December 2005, when one annoying guy at my workplace in Atlanta bragged about the Iraqi election being a success, as though he knew all the ins and outs of Iraqi politics. I was just fed up with him that I started yelling at him about his ignorance regarding politics. I know I shouldn't have let him get under my skin like that, but I was tired of his blind support for Bushpolitiks. So, what happened? I lost my voice for a week! Because it happened immediately, I knew that I was being held spiritually responsible for what I did. At the time, I even thought of that story in the Bible when Elizabeth's husband loses his voice for doubting God. So, I haven't yelled at anyone for over a year. Until my co-worker lit into me. And one thing I wish people knew about me...if you leave me in peace, you'll get peace back. But if you push me, I'll push back. I'd rather do the Gandhi thing, but because I've tend to be on the puny side of things in our oversized American culture, I've always been the favourite target of bullies. And bullies don't like it when others push back. That's how I saw it with the co-worker.

However, my job search was dismal. I probably applied to over 50 jobs this year. Not one single request for an interview. Occasionally, I'll get a rejection letter from a place I applied to, long after my excitement moved on to another job prospect. Most of the places I've applied to, I didn't hear from them at all. It got so bad, and so did work, that the month of July nearly consumed me in the most severe case of depression I've ever had to endure. No prayers were answered and my desperation for any improvement in my job was so severe that I did what I had been avoiding for a long time (because of the expense involved and the questionable "credibility"). I decided to make an appointment with a psychic on August 1st to get the answers.

So, I did. And from the first "vision" he saw, he hit it on the nose. I prefer to keep the session private (sorry!), but it did give me the answers I had long sought from God. I know I should probably meditate more, but I had a problem discerning the impressions I had within, so all the psychic did was tell me things I already knew. But what he gave me was a reshifting of my priorities and gave good advice on where to focus my energies if I wish to manifest big changes in my life. The amazing thing is, August has proven to be the most productive month. I've gotten 4 calls for interviews in this month (after not snagging a single one all year long). One didn't pan out, two didn't return my calls, but one led to a face-to-face interview. And that one is an interesting job, though not exactly my dream job. I also sought the advice of a spiritual career guide, and she told me that I had to visualize all the details of my dream job and not settle for less, if I get a job offer that doesn't meet my main desires. Since I've manifested things before, I believe this stuff does work...I just have a hard time manifesting my dream career.

Anyhow, the one job that expressed interest wanted me to make a decision right away, not giving my current employers a two week notice. I was very uncomfortable with that. I needed more time. Then on Thursday, I got a call from the guy who interviewed me and he said that he had bad news for me: the hiring decision has been postponed until September 1st. When he said that, I didn't tell him, but that was good news for me. I wasn't ready to make a decision this week. I needed a couple weeks to hopefully "manifest my dream job" or see how things at work plays out. So, I got my wish.

Today, the office manager pulled me into her office to talk about the big changes they are instigating at the office. It verified what I had been feeling at work for about a month. I had suspected that something odd was going on. Other people at work felt it as well. Too many closed door meetings, hush-hush conversations, and just outright paranoia. It was a weird vibe in the air. The office manager said to me, "I know you're looking for another job because you're not happy with your current job, so I wanted to let you know about a new position we're creating that we think you'd be great for." Now, if that sounds bad, it's not. It was actually what I wanted to hear. Honestly, I hate doing customer service work. Dealing with customers and the same ass questions everyday (and dumb questions generally) really got to me in July. I couldn't take it anymore. I haven't been exactly discreet about my dissatisfaction with my job. Someone's got a mouth and probably told the office manager my intentions. But, I'm not too worried about it. If you can't be honest where I work, then there really is no hope anywhere that an organization which made trustworthiness and honesty the cornerstone of its philosophy is any different from the rest of corporate America.

So, I admitted to her that I have been looking for a job, but I also made it clear that I was loyal and enjoyed working with most of the people at the office. My main beef is the low wages, so that's why I was seeking a better paying position. I even asked for a raise if I take this new position. But I'm awaiting a decision on another position that pays the wages I seek. We had an interesting conversation and she told me that they would want me to start the new position on September 1st. There's that date again. Ka-ching! So, that's two jobs lined up to choose from. It gives me two weeks to manifest my dream job. If one doesn't materialize in the next two weeks, then I will have squandered the month of August. This is the month I wanted to make the change, so I haven't given up on it yet. I'm just grateful for the delay so I can see what else might come my way.

My biggest flaw is that I'm too loyal. And I'm personally conservative, in that I tend to be risk averse. Quitting my job in Atlanta to move across country was something I considered to be the biggest gamble of my life. It hasn't resulted the way I thought, in terms of income, but I'm working that angle. If I didn't have college loans to repay, I'd love to go to Grad School and get a Master's in Economics. I used to hate that subject, but increasingly over the past few years, I'm interested in learning how the economy works because I have so many questions about the illogical nature of what I see around me...namely, the lack of well paying jobs in relation to the expensive rent or cost of homeownership. There are a lot of expensive condos, townhomes, and houses for sale. It prices out a lot of people who don't earn enough to qualify for a loan or the rent calculation. So, the only fair system I can think of is to have housing reflect the salary. For instance, if 60% of the jobs in a metro area pays minimum wage or a bare living wage, then 60% of the housing prices should be affordable for those people. The sad truth is, rich people have more freedom to determine where they live and what they can afford to own. All I ask for is a salary that allows me to pay all my bills and college loans, and have a lot left over to put into my savings and travel funds. Yet, so many places expect people to live on $12 an hour, despite the cost of living making it near impossible.

So, that's where I'm at now. I want to learn more about this system of inequality and exploitation, but grad school is a pipe dream for me until my loans are paid off. I had hoped that I'd sell my novel for an amount that would pay off all my debts and have enough left over for a monthlong vacation to Australia, a new car, and to finance being in grad school for 3 years. Like I said...pipe dream! Right now, I'd just be happy for a good political job or one involved with international relations, where international travel is part of it.

Based on the developments of the past couple of weeks, I remain hopeful that other opportunities will appear. I'd like to have a choice of at least four different jobs when it comes to September 1...the day I'll have to make a choice. All of them have positives and negatives involved, which tends to even out the job prospects until I'm indecisive and can choose any one of them in hopes that I didn't make a mistake. I don't want that this time. I want a clear indication of a job that has everything I want in a dream job. That's the part I have to work on manifesting. After all, I did manifest the five things I wanted in my second car; the five things I wanted in a girlfriend. God gives me a taste, but things never last. But, I promise you, that will change this month. I'll keep you posted, if you keep me in your prayers. Thanks...

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Few of My Favourite Things

For some odd reason, at several jobs I've had, co-workers have called me "Nicolai"...which is perhaps the only true nickname I've ever had. I suppose that once people find out about my views, they come to the conclusion that I'm a commie, so they "bolshevize" my name into the Russian version. But, I've taken a liking to it. I actually love it when a woman calls me "Nicolai".

Well, when I moved to Portland, I saw on a map that there was a street near where my brother lives called "Nicolai St". So, this past Fourth of July, I finally got my photo taken there in my "patriotic" American flag shirt (that I only wear a few times a year since I've first bought it in 1994).

For today's post, forget about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Below, you'll find a few of my favourite things...

Country -- France
City -- Paris
American City -- San Francisco
State -- California
County -- (Tie) DeKalb in Georgia and Marin in California
Architecture -- The Sydney Opera House
Architect -- Maya Lin
Mode of Transportation -- Train
Car -- Maserati
Car that I'd buy -- Scion tC
Place I've seen (nature) -- The scenery around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Place I've seen (manmade) -- The inside of the chapel at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany
Street -- Avenue des Champs-Elysee, Paris, France
Street in the USA -- Massachusetts Avenue, Washington D.C.
Stretch of Interstate -- I-64 between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia
Square -- (Tie) Times Square in New York City and Place de la Concorde in Paris
Monument -- Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Historical Site -- Williamsburg, Virginia
University -- University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Small Town -- Concord, Massachusetts
Mid-sized City -- Portland, Oregon (of course!)
President -- Thomas Jefferson
Presidential Library -- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield IL
Vice President -- Al Gore
Secretary of State -- Madeleine Albright
Senator -- Barbara Boxer of California
Member of Congress -- Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon
International Political Leader -- Nelson Mandela
Political Prisoner -- Aung San Suu Kyi
Continent -- Europe
Continent Shape -- Africa
Country Shape -- Australia
State Shape -- Texas
National Anthem -- "Nkosi Sikileili' Afrika" from South Africa
Country Flag -- South Africa
State Flag -- California
State Capitol Building -- Hawaii (because it's original; the design is symbolic of being a volcanic island--sure beats modeling it after the U.S. Capitol building)
Sea -- The Mediterranean
Ocean -- Pacific
Island -- Tahiti
World Historical Period -- The Renaissance
American Historical Period -- The Revolutionary (1760-1789)
Historical Figure -- Napoleon
Novel -- "The Bonfire of the Vanities" by Tom Wolfe
Writer -- Jack Kerouac
Writer (Living) -- Michael Crichton
Nonfiction Book -- "Spirit Matters" by Michael Lerner
Painting Style -- Impressionism
Painting -- Monet's "Water Lillies"
Painter/Artist -- Paul Gauguin
Political Philosopher -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Motion Picture -- "The Sound of Music"
Director -- Terence Malick
Actor -- Tom Hanks
Actress -- Audrey Tautou or Frances O'Connor
Comedy -- "9 to 5"
Romantic Comedy -- "Roxanne"
Drama -- "Dead Poets Society"
Action/Adventure -- The "Star Wars" saga
War Movie -- "Casualties of War"
War to study -- The Civil War
Music Group -- U2
American Music Group -- Dave Matthews Band
Album -- "Cruel Crazy Beautiful World" by Johnny Clegg and Savuka
Male Singer -- Johnny Clegg
Female Singer -- Madonna
Song -- "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
Music to Meditate To -- Enya
Female Music Group -- Bananarama
American Female Music Group -- TLC
Concert Ever Attended -- Johnny Clegg and Savuka in 1990
Concert Seen On TV -- Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour (1990)
TV Show -- Moonlighting
Reality Show -- Big Brother
Talk Show -- The Charlie Rose Show
TV Station -- ABC
TV News -- ABC World News Tonight
TV News Anchor -- Peter Jennings (I grew up on him); now Anderson Cooper
TV Journalist -- Diane Sawyer
Food -- Italian
Dish -- Lasagna
Restaurant (Chain) -- La Madeleine's (New Orleans and Atlanta)
Restaurant (Non-Chain) -- L'aragosta in La Maddalena, Sardinia
Coffeehouse (Chain) -- Caribou Coffee
Coffeehouse (Non-Chain) -- The Waypost, Portland OR
Drink (Non-Alcoholic) -- Chai Latte
Drink (Alcoholic) -- Amaretto and Coke
Place I've Lived -- Fulda, West Germany (1985-1988)
School Year -- My Senior Year (1989-1990)
High School Teacher -- Thomas Malone, U.S. Government (1989-1990)
Subject in School -- History
College Professor -- Darren Hawkins, of the Human Rights Capstone
College Course -- Political Geography
College Roommate -- Matt Baker
College Experience -- Washington Seminar (Spring Semester 2000)
High School Crush -- Vicki Garcia (Sophomore year, 1987-1988)
College Crush -- Yudelka Castro (from the Dominican Republic)
Life Experience -- Navy Basic Training (1991)
Road Trip -- My 1999 Spring Break trip to the Pacific Northwest
Vacation -- South Africa in 1994
American Vacation -- Christmas in Hawaii in 1997
Color -- Green
Type of Living Accomodation -- Loft Condo
Gift Ever Received -- Ballot to the 1994 South Africa Election (from my Dad for Christmas in 1995)
Surprise -- When Nathan Hagman called this past January that he was in town for a week.
Item to get -- Handwritten letters
Childhood Memory -- My family's visit to Thailand when I was 4, during the Water Festival
Adolescent Memory -- Acting in the play "You Can't Take It With You" as the IRS Man
Young Adult Memory -- My port visit to Toulon, France in April 1992
College Memory -- The discussions Janell, Jantzen, Matt and I had at the apartment complex in D.C.
Coincidence -- Crossing paths with my 7th grade friend in Naples, Italy in 1993 (8 years later) who never kept in touch so it was really such a shockingly unlikely event that convinced me that God exists and snapped me out of my "atheist period".
Job I've Ever Had -- Submarine Squadron 22, La Maddalena, Italy

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Material Girl Turns 49 Today!

In honour of Madonna's 49th birthday today, I will write my view of her career pre-Evita, from the "boy toy" who inspired a mall full of wannabes up to the moment when she insisted that only she could play Eva Peron in the film version of the Broadway musical "Evita." Continue reading I share a couple personal experiences that "connect" me to the Material girl (in a "Six Degrees of Nicholas Carroll" kind of way).

My first memory of Madonna is of her song "Borderline". We were on our way to church camp in Guthrie Grove, Iowa when that song played on the radio. I liked that song, but one guy (who happened to be my main tormentor in the Scout troop) made fun of that song. He was into heavy metal, I was into pop. But because I didn't have MTV, I never knew what Madonna looked like.

In the 7th grade, on the first day of German class, a friend of mine said that the German teacher looked like Madonna. I was so excited that I could finally see what this singer looked like (it was the spring of 1985). In walked this gorgeous young teacher and I was impressed. I said to him, "so that's what Madonna looks like?" My friend's jaw was dropped and he was speechless. It turned out that it was a joke. He was kidding to me that the teacher looked like Madonna, and we later found out that the teacher was only a substitute. We met the real teacher a day or so later, but I'll never forget that day.

In the 7th grade, Madonna was huge. In fact, to this day, whenever I hear "Like a Virgin", "Material Girl", "Angel", and "Into the Groove", I'm transported to back to that great year, my last in Nebraska. I even had a crush on the most popular girl in the class (Kristin Rikkers) who dressed like a Madonna wannabe (as these early photos of Madonna showed the style some girls imitated in the mid-1980s). When Madonna first came out, she was the fantasy girl of a lot of guys. Strange how she became a gay icon, as you won't find many guys admitting to liking her these days. The most interesting thing about her is how she's evolved. When she first came out, critics predicted that Cyndi Lauper would be more successful and have a longer-lasting career. What they didn't expect was that Madonna was smart (she supposedly has a genius IQ). While the other 80s icon Michael Jackson seems stuck in the same style (his "Bad"-era clothing and hairstyle has never gone away), Madonna has morphed into different styles...from the hair, clothing, and music. That makes her always an interesting person that I'm always eager to see what she's doing next. Because she's been around a long time (I was in the sixth grade when I first heard her song on the radio), I feel like I've grown up with her. Her music has been the soundtrack to my life.

In the 7th grade, I actually didn't know what the word "virgin" meant. It proved embarrassing because some classmates asked me if I was a virgin. All I could think of was that Madonna song, "Like a Virgin." That song didn't describe me at all, so I said, "no." My classmates eyes got very wide and they were shocked. Almost disappointed. Man, it seems funny in retrospect, but then they realized that I didn't know the word and tried to explain it to me, and this was in Biology class. The boy even panted to get his point across, but I still hadn't a clue until they said, "the Virgin Mary." Then I got it. After that, I said, yes I'm a virgin and they seemed satisfied. Man, were those days innocent or what?

But back to I said, her songs really bring back memories of my 7th grade year, especially "Angel" and "Into the Groove." I remember the fuss in 1985 when nude pictures of her would appear in either Playboy or Penthouse magazine and I wanted to get a copy of that, just to see it (never did). Because I only went to the movies when my parents took me, I didn't get to see "Desperately Seeking Susan" until it was aired on TV years later. But "Into the Groove" was one of my favourite songs of 1985. I still don't get tired of hearing it.

When "Live to Tell" came out in 1986, I was so struck by that song that I couldn't wait to buy her new album when it came out. I was one of the first people to have it, when I lived in Germany and I remember on the Protestant Youth Group outings, the girls in the group wanted the youth leader to play it on a bus trip. He didn't like Madonna because of her sex-obsessed image, but the girls vouched that her "True Blue" album was good and safe to listen to. So, he obliged them and played my tape. He later admitted to liking "La Isla Bonita"...and this was well before that was ever released as a single. To this day, "True Blue" remains as my favourite Madonna album (and I have all of them on CD) even though she showed much artistic growth on her "Like a Prayer" album. However, "True Blue" was one of the rare albums in which every song could have been released as a single. There was not a single "filler" song on the album. In fact, I thought she was going to release "Love Makes the World Go Round" next when I discovered that she had released a new song I never heard of, called "Who's that Girl?", which is another favourite.

Her "Like a Prayer" album didn't start out on a good note with the controversy over her music video featuring burning crosses and implied sex between a black saint and Madonna. The outrage even caused Pepsi to stop playing the ad featuring the song, after spending a lot of money to get her endorsement. It was a lot of hoopla over nothing. I didn't get the album right away but when I finally did, I was impressed by the depth of her songs, particularly "Til Death Do Us Part." It seemed autobiographical, relating her abusive relationship with Sean Penn. It's amazing that they seemed to bring out the worst in each other (the opposite of what marriage is supposed to do), as they were a tabloid favourite in the late 1980s, for spitting on paparazzi to making bad movies together. It was all fodder for the press. The Poison Penns they were nicknamed. Madonna showed the strength to move on after Sean had supposedly tied her to a chair and threatened to kill her. Wow...I found that hard to believe, because Madonna seemed so smart, yet why was she in an abusive relationship with a bad boy? That's the one thing I'll never understand about some intelligent women who are in abusive relationships. The drama is not worth it. My respect for Madonna increased when she finally left him and put her experiences down in song. "Like a Prayer" is my second favourite Madonna CD.

Then came "Vogue", which sounded very cool when it first came out and amazingly enough, I still haven't grown tired of the song despite how many times I've heard it. It's timeless, still as breathtaking today as it was 17 years ago. However, the album "I'm Breathless" doesn't hold up quite so well. My cousin Brandy loved to listen to that album when she came with our grandparents to attend my high school graduation. She and my sister put on a dance for my parents and grandparents, brother and I, using songs from that album ("Cry Baby" and "I'm Going Bananas"). I did like the album at the time, because it was so different, but when I listen to it now, it's kind of embarrassing. I wonder if Madonna feels the same way. Of course, it was done to reflect the music styles of the 1930s to promote her major star turn in "Dick Tracy", in an enhanced supporting role. She's a terrible actress but does okay in supporting roles, so she wasn't bad in "Dick Tracy" (she had all the best lines). But it's her Blonde Ambition Tour that year which showed what a concert tour could (and should) do. It's the one concert I wish I could have attended, though I did have the HBO special on video tape for a couple years until it got lost. I was impressed with the theatrics. None of her later shows come close to the brilliance of that show. My favourite segment was when she went from thrashing on the bed during her "Like a Virgin" performance (featuring male dancers in Jean-Paul Gaultier designed cone bras) into her religious segment, featuring candles and a cathedral-like atmosphere. It was sheer brilliance.

She ended the year on a controversial note, by having her first video banned from MTV. I remember her indignation on "Nightline", but some think she purposefully pushed the limits to see how far she could get away with. After all, MTV and Madonna seemed a perfect synergy. They both came out around the same time (1981 for MTV, 1983 for Madonna) and her videos helped propel her to the top. In fact, the four biggest artists of the 1980s all used music videos to good effect: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and to a lesser extent, Whitney Houston. But, the video "Justify My Love" was just plain bad. She was trying to top her outrageous segments of the Blonde Ambition Tour by featuring a music video that had sado-masochism sexuality in it. The song's beat already has a nasty funk to it. The music perfectly mimics the sex act in its rhythms. In retrospect, the song seems rather innocent compared to her disasterous "Erotica" CD, which pushed the envelope even more. That came out in the year 1992.

I was in Paris, France in October 1992, staying with a French family. I had a French female penpal, whose 14 year old brother loved Madonna. Anyhow, he was excited because Madonna was going to be interviewed on TV one evening. While Christelle and I wandered around Paris, we were on the Champs Elysee when a short woman in big sunglasses with two big men following her walked in front of us. I saw her and thought it was an interesting sight, but didn't think twice about it until I saw some French teenagers chase after her screaming. Christelle and I thought it was odd, and I remember thinking that the lady looked familiar, but because of her sunglasses, I didn't think anything of it until we watched the interview on TV that night. Christelle and I looked at each other and said, "That was Madonna!" So, that's the closest I've ever come to meeting Madonna. She literally "crossed my path" in Paris...the Champs Elysee of all places!

1992 turned out to be a bad year for her, as she seemed to try to push the sexual envelope even further by releasing not just a provocative song, but an album full of provocative songs; a movie ("Body of Evidence") that was a bad rip-off of a better sexual thriller, "Basic Instinct"; and a book full of sexual photos, called "Sex". When that came out, I remember wondering what she was thinking because she'd probably have children some day and that would be a very difficult thing for a child to accept in a parent. I still wonder sometimes how Lourdes and Rocco are going to react when they learn about that book. The book was overpriced, poorly designed (the metal covers had a tendency to fall off), and most of the photos were just embarrassingly bad. It was sold in mylar covers so people couldn't look at it without buying it, though some places actually had a room where people could rent a time to view the book without having to buy it. I only got to see it when a shipmate had bought it and lent it to some people before being sent to Naples, Italy for whatever reason. He didn't know if he was coming back to the ship and wanted me to get the book back for him when I had to go to Naples for an eye appointment in 1993. So, I got the book (the covers had fallen off) and looked through it. I even photocopied one photo I thought was hilarious: Madonna completely naked hanging from a hang glider. Outrageous! But, I thought the book was ripoff. The shipmate was pleased to get his $50 investment back. If it wasn't for me, he wouldn't have gotten it back, so I felt that I was spiritually selected to do that for him.

I loved her song "This Used to Be My Playground" and her small role in "A League of Their Own" as "All the Way" Mae. Her antics with Rosie O'Donnell provided much of the humour in the film, especially when she threatens to kill the bratty kid with a baseball bat. In 1994, she returned to musical form with "Bedtime Stories", answering her critics of the sex overkill in the cheeky song "Human Nature." The music video is hilarious and it showed that Madonna could have a good sense of humour about things, even though the critics were right about her sexual obsession. In 1994, to promote the release of the album, she seemed to hint that she had a secret to reveal, which people speculated that she was pregnant. But it proved a tease. That held over until the biggest project of her life...playing Eva Peron in the film version of Broadway's "Evita", which had been speculated for years that actresses like Meryl Streep and Patti Lupone were interested in the role. But for some reason, Madonna felt such a strong bond with Eva Peron and their lives almost seem to parallel. I wouldn't be surprised if we learned in the spiritual realm that Madonna was Eva Peron in her previous life. Eva's life was cut short due to cancer, and Eva wanted to be a famous singer and actress but found greater success in politics. Perhaps God allowed her to try once again to find success as a singer or actress, in the person of Madonna. Who knows? It'd be interesting to find out.

But, this post has gone on long enough. I find it hard to believe that Madonna is now 49. Where do the years go? Next year, I will again write about her, focusing on her career since "Evita." That film project is the perfect dividing line in her life, because "pre-Evita" her music style was a lot different than it has been "post-Evita". Plus, she found a new spirituality instead of her love-hate relatioship with Catholicism and she matured a lot since becoming a mother. So, Happy Birthday, Madonna! Thank you for the years of great music, controversies, and being one of the most interesting entertainers out there. Someone needed to push our conservative buttons, and she's the perfect provocateur for our collective prudishness. Here's to another couple decades of continuing musical and personal evolution!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Apocalypto Now

No, the above photo is NOT a scene from the dreadful "Book of Mormon Movie", but it does make me think of some of the Book of Mormon stories regarding the wickedness of the Nephites under King Noah.

It's actually a scene from the haunting Mel Gibson film, "Apocalypto," which I finally saw a few nights ago. It was supposed to be released in theaters last August, but instead, Mel Gibson got drunk, drove off in his car, and got busted by the cops, which he then started verbally assaulting them by making anti-semitic remarks such as the Jews being responsible for all wars. After that episode, I thought for sure that he had gone off his rocker. The film was released on or around Christmas Day last year, which I thought was an odd date. I never have the taste to see a violent film during the Christmas season. There just seems to be something wrong with that picture.

I've had this DVD from my Netflix subscription for about a month and have hesitated watching it. I don't know what it is. It's like I have to work up the courage to see a violent film in a dead language. This week, for whatever reason, I finally decided to watch it (if only so I could finally send it back). As I watched, I was actually impressed. Maybe Mad Mel is on to something. It's certainly not as violent as his "Passion of the Christ", but there were a few scenes that were a bit too intense for me. It reminded me of parts of "Casualties of War" (my all time favourite war film) and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." The heart-ripping scenes were a bit much for me. I've seen that before (the most scary parts of "Temple of Doom", which gave me nightmares as a teenager). But, the film was actually an admirable and worthy accomplishment. Mel might have gone mad, but his filmmaking abilities seem to be getting better.

The film begins with a quote about how civilization destroys itself within FIRST before it is destroyed from without. The only reason I can see why Mel put this quote at the beginning of the film is to serve notice to the American public that we ignore history to our own peril. Better take heed, because we are destroying ourselves. Perhaps in 40 years or so, we'll be so thoroughly bankrupt (morally, militarily, and economically) that China will finally send its 50 million man army to finish the job (oh...the number 50 million I got from the alarming statistic that because of female infanticide in China over the past couple decades, that number represents the surplus of men over women, meaning that all those men will either have to become gay, share wives, or else seek out wives from foreign countries).

In the early scenes of the film, there's a lot of talk about fear and how it infects your soul, that its a sickness. I was actually impressed by the message Mel seems to want to convey. It got the film on to a very good start. And it continues to build and build. Though it does seem a bit longer than it should be, I couldn't help but think that I was actually seeing Mayan culture. That's the most powerful aspect of filmmaking. It makes history come alive in ways that a book or a museum display cannot do. Though I've read that there were some inaccuracies in the film, I know nothing about Mayan civilization (other than the infamous December 12, 2012 being the last day of their calendar, which some see as the official date for the end of our world).

The scenes from atop the pyramids, in which humans are sacrificed on the altars to appease an angry God were the most heart-wrenching because people believe that for millenia and even now. That's always been my biggest critique of Christianity...the view that God would require a blood sacrifice of a perfect being in the personage of Jesus Christ in order to pay for the sins of humanity. It doesn' t make logical sense if one believes that God is an all-loving God (and only capable of unconditional love). The "atoning sacrifice theory" of Jesus stems from ancient man's view that sacrifice was a necessary way to appease God's anger for committing sin. I believe that the early followers of Jesus were so distraught by his unjust crucifiction that they tried to find meaning in his being the ultimate sacrifice to appease God's anger at our human tendency to sin. And because that's been the official view, people of today still hold that ancient view of innocent sacrifice to appease God mentality. I rejected it years ago. I wish everyone else would as well.

This film correctly shows how vile the practice was. So many lives were wasted, before a rapt audience who screamed for more blood. It was mass genocide, which required the ruling class to raid villages for more and more humans to sacrifice. How such a society could be so barbaric is baffling, but then again, so many things have been done by our government in the past few years that shows me that we haven't learned a single thing in our accumulated historical knowledge. When will we learn? I see this film as an important wake up call from an imperfect messenger. My only regret is that I never got to see this film on the big screen with surround sound. I just wasn't ready for it last year or earlier this year. But after seeing it, the images remain in my mind. A haunting memory, a powerful message. I'm glad Mel took the risk to make it. I hope he will continue to make more films along the lines of "The Passion" and "Apocalypto". He's bringing history alive and giving us much to ponder.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Public Letter to Karl Rove on his Resignation

Dear KKKarl Rove,

The corporate media is making such a fuss about your decision to leave the White House and not staying with your buddy until the very last day. It's got the whole punditocracy aflutter over your real reason for leaving. Apparently, the standby excuse ("I want to spend more time with my family") has been used a bit too often. It's kind of funny when you think about it. You, who exploited family values, yet neglected your own to service an agenda. And it wasn't even a good agenda or one that will last. In fact, one could say that you have lived your life in vain and it amounted to nothing but a disasterous presidency. Try as you might, you simply couldn't make your buddy Dubya competent. Some personal failures are set too deep to change if the person is in denial of his inabilities to be an effective leader.

You don't fool me, though, Turd Blossom (the Dubya-given nickname). I know that you're leaving for nefarious reasons. You either plan to wage a stealth campaign to help the Repuglicans eek out another questionable presidential victory, or you're hoping to avoid indictments and prison time. Perhaps someone finally has the goods on you to go public. Could it be that gay escort, Jeff Gannon or James Guckert or whatever name he used, the one who pretended to be a reporter to ask softball questions to the president when the real reporters got a little too close for comfort in the independence of their questions? I wouldn't be surprised if we're going to have another gay Republican sex scandal because your party is the most hypocritical, sanctimonious, and immoral party ever. For whatever flaws the Democrats have, at least they don't run on sideshow issues to distract the Americans from the real agenda.

I have to ask you, you believe in God? I read somewhere that you are an atheist or an agnostic. If so, then man, I congratulate you. How you were able to con the mass of sincere evangelical Christians is truly "genius", if I may use that word. Why, if they found out that they've been conned by an atheist, I don't know what they'd do with themselves. All their pompous religiosity in the world couldn't save them from falling for a con like you, a wolf in sheep's clothing. How does it feel to con the very people who support you? Does it make you feel more manly? Does it give your ego a boost?

But what does it say about your life? You made our country more divisive. At a time when Americans needed to cast aside the petty politics of the "culture wars", you sought ways to deepen the divide, all in the belief that you would make our country a ONE PARTY STATE, as exists in only the most despotic countries. That's some kind of aspiration. And yet, how quickly your movement fell apart. Even Republican candidates for 2008 find Bush too toxic to embrace, for fear of losing votes. I bet you didn't see that one coming, eh, Mayberry Machiavelli? You never thought that the public would ever catch on to the fraud you helped prop up since 1999 and even earlier. But they did. What did Abraham Lincoln say? You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. I think it was Lincoln who said that. And Bush, himself, said that you can't get fooled again. Americans took that advice to heart.

So, what's to become of you, Rove? Or, your soul? Have you ever heard of a thing called a life review? You should be very afraid of that. You see, when you die, your ego dies with the body. It's cast aside. All you have left is your conscience. You know...that small voice you ignored all your life. Yeah, that one. That's the one that will convict you in the end. You'll see your entire life and realize that you wasted a great opportunity. Our goal is to increase the love of our planet. To foster trust, cooperation, good will, and peace. You've done exactly the opposite. You sowed seeds of discord, anger, fear, lies, hatred, scapegoating, war, false allegations...for what? What does it bring you? Was it worth it? Is it worth knowing that you have done the wrong things in your life, making America a worse place than how you found it?

How will you be remembered? I don't think it will be good. Your idol Lee Atwater confessed his political sins on his deathbed, probably out of the fear of God. What good is a deathbed confession when you can't make amends? And it looks like Atwater's example only encouraged the likes of you to continue the policies of lying and winning political office by the lowest road possible. So many good candidates you smeared with your lies: Ann Richards, John McCain, Al Gore, Max Cleland, and John Kerry. Even if you have a change of heart, confess your sins, and ask for our forgiveness...who knows what college Republican finds your tactics pure genius and will aspire to continue your rotten values in future campaigns. The seeds of discord you planted have made a mess of our world. You hold some responsibility for that. And I hope God holds you to the highest standard of accountability. You are a despicable human being and all I can say is, good riddance. I hope you never show your face in public again until you confess every bad political deed you ever done and ask for the country and the world's forgiveness. If you're too proud to do that, well, by the time you meet God, it'll be too late. The karmic bill will be even harder to balance at that point. So you might as well do it now, before it's too late.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Introducing (Future) President Seth Moulton

Have you ever wondered what it might be like if we had the ability to identify the person who would be the president of our country in about 20 years or so, that way we can keep an eye on him or her, and get to know him or her when they are still a "nobody"? Well, now's your chance.

I want to introduce everyone to former Marine 1st Lieutenant Seth Moulton, the best candidate to be OUR generation's first the year 2020. For such a visionary year, we need to think that far in advance and rally behind the person who could take us there.

Who is Seth Moulton?

Well, when I saw the documentary "No End In Sight" last Friday, I was struck by the intelligence and articulateness of one of the military officers interviewed. I did some google research on the guy (that would be Seth Moulton, pictured above) and was impressed by his background: Andover, then Harvard (a physics slouch there!). He was the student selected by his class to give a speech at commencement. He was the class of 2001 and enlisted in the Marines. Then 9/11 happened. He served two tours of duty in Iraq, including one where he extended it to serve as a staff assistant for none other than General Patraeus (however it's spelled). In Iraq, he even broadcasted his own TV program with an Iraqi, called the Moulton and Mohammad Show or something like that. Currently, he's writing a book about his experience in Iraq (and hopefully it'll give more of his biography as well) and going to grad school. He originally wanted to work on Wall Street. But, coming from a family that lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts and the fact that he attended Andover shows that he's part of the leadership "elite" that often assumes political power at mid-life. Based on that, I suspect that he might have some presidential aspirations. He claims to have joined the military in part to gain leadership experience.

In the documentary, he is so well-spoken and knowledgeable that he comes across as the opposite of Bush (who often sounds like he's talking out of his ass, like he hasn't a clue). And Seth Moulton is only 28 years old! I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that when our generation comes to power (which isn't too far away...I'll be 40 in 2012), we'll have plenty of leadership-capable individuals who have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and/or Iraq. I fully suspect that our country will still be in Iraq when 2013 comes around (the 10th anniversary of the invasion). We'll need a veteran of that war to solve the issue once and for all after a president or two post-Bush passes the buck to the next successor down the pike.

So, get to know Seth Moulton (google his name), read his book when it comes out, and pay attention anytime his name pops up. I would bet serious money in Las Vegas that he will be a future candidate for president. If not by 2020 than perhaps either the election before it (2016, in which he would be 38) or the one after it (2024, in which he would be 46). I look forward to seeing what he will decide to do next, once his book is out and he has a graduate degree. Perhaps Mayor of Boston or some town around there, then Governor, then President? Stay tuned. Our generation can't do any worse than what the Boomers have given us (a president who can't control his appetites or make up his mind without running a poll; and another one who can barely speak English and wouldn't know the truth from a hole in his ass). If Americans decide they want real leadership for a change, Seth Moulton is the man capable of doing it. After all, anyone who has been to Iraq doesn't have to take crap from the neo-cons who put us there without combat experience of their own.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Excerpt From Chapter 2: "Crossing the Line" (Part 1)

The photo above is of the crossing of the equator ceremony on a Royal Canadian Navy ship. I thought it looks cool, and certainly classier than the American Navy's version of the time honoured Navy tradition.

Below is the Royal Family of King Neptune, his wog queen (a sailor in drag, obviously), and the Royal Baby, whose belly each wog must "kiss" (to retrieve a well placed cherry).

And finally, the last photo is of a guy overemphasizing a woman's attributes to win the right to serve as King Neptune's wog queen in the Shellback Initiation cermony.

**All three photos were taken from a google image search

Read below for an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my unpublished novel "Seasons of Silent War", in which Kennedy Bradford participates in the wog queen pageant that he had found out that he was selected for in the Chapter 1 excerpt from last week. Enjoy...

**Remember, the following excerpt includes "sailor language" that more morally pure readers might find offensive. This is not an indication that I speak this way in referring to women as some sailors do, but to reflect the realism of the Navy, I included the colourful language of sailors. Read at your own eternal peril**

Fighter planes pack the forward half of the cavernous hangar deck, leaving enough room for sailors to fill the empty half near the portable stage at the aft end. A blue curtain on transportable plastic frames blocks my view as I wait next to the Hazmet locker, breathing deep to calm my nerves without concern that my lungs might inhale perilous chemicals. The unsoiled yarns of a brand new mop obtained from Supply Department this morning cover my black hair, which I thought was a good idea until I notice half the guys lining up behind are enhanced by actual wigs, dresses, high heels and full on makeup. Suddenly, they make me feel like a deficient woman.

A couple balloons trectch out an old T-shirt to give me buxom figure, an old rack curtain skirts my waist, and shower shoes pad my feet against the abrasive nonskid deck. Several guys wobble around me in heels, attempting the feminine art of balance. This afternoon when Admin berthing was empty, I practiced my walk, imitating from memory the catwalk of models I remember seeing on TV once. If I can make the howling chipmates forget my gender for a transitory minute, maybe I'll win and be spared the ordeal of tomorrow.

King Neptune stand ready on the stage, wrapped in a toga with a plastic gold crown on his head. I recognize him immediately as Master Chief Petty Officer Johnson of Navigation Department and with his strong build, thinning brown hair, and booming voice of a basic training company commander, he's perfect for a role that demands respect and authority. New sailors to his department are known to shiver in his presence and as i wait for him to summon the wog queens, I now understand their intimidation. He holds the power to determine my fate tonight.

He pounds his six-foot long trident on the stage as a call to order before bellowing, "Miss Admin, get your ass out here!"

Sailors roar their forceful approval as I strut on stage, struggling to affect the confident stride of a hooker. Large speakers on both sides of the stage blast ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and I dance gracelessly at first, until my body finds the harmony. With the spotlight on me in the darkened hangar deck, I'm only aware of the whistles and hollers of horny sailors and suddenly sympathize with the women I had gazed at before.

At the far edge of the stage, a khaki-uniformed man watches from his chair, as though he would be judging this competition. With his recognizable shock of white hair, blue eyes, and rugged pink face, I almost trip on my own feet as they cross one another in mid-tempo. He is Commander Cole, the Executive Officer (XO), my supervisor's supervisor. He's the officer I deliver the Plan of the Day and other paperwork to during the workday. Does he recognize me? I'm praying that the mop yarn doesn't fall off my head, as though it actually hides my true identity. He claps his hands to the beat of the song and laughs along with everyone else, aware by now that ABBA obviously isn't singing about me. I can't dance and I'm not having the time of my life.

King Neptune mercifully interrupts my dancing and asks a few questions, which I answer and immediately forget. The only thing my mind is thinking about are all these cheering shellback shipmates of mine and wondering where the wogs are hiding. A commotion in the background goes unnoticed by everyone near the stage, but I trust that a wog rebellion assault is imminent.

"For the talent portion, get on your knees, ho!" King Neptune presses his massive hands against my shoulders and my knees are ready to collapse from nervous exhaustion. "My queen my know how to suck an elephant through a straw, so show us your talent." He forces my face into the XO's lap until my lips press against the fabric of his pants. The boisterous cheers of the shellbacks sound their approval as my eyes stare into the crotch of the ship's second-in-command, the man who can dismiss an official inquiry of sailors on their way to Captain's Mast, the person my office works directly under. The view of the world from his lap is not a world I desire to know, but the audience wants a performance of simulated fellatio and I won't give them the satisfaction.

King Neptune yanks me up, saving me from unreserved shame as the attention shifts to Miss Weapons, who sashays onto the stage in a red wig, a black sequined dress, fishnet stockings and high heels. Someone yells, "You're mine tonight, baby!" leading a chorus of whoops and whistles.

Miss Weapons performs a lap dance on the XO, who continues to laugh with the raucous audience. Once he finishes his routine, the stage soon crowds with cross-dressing sailors as King Neptune beckons contestants to prove their feminine wiles before the mass of shellbacks. Miss Medical has incorporated blown up condoms in his costume and as he appears on stage, he tosses packets of Lifestyles to the shellbacks in front of us. Other songs blast from the stereo: "Carribean Queen" by Billy Ocean, "Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate, "Dude Looks Like a Lady" by Aerosmith, and for the old salty seadawg sailors: "Evil Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra.

Once the stage is lined with wog queens representing the twenty competing departments on board for the shellback audience to judge, I notice for the first time that I'm not the only wog to wear a mop yarn wig. The contestants are evenly split between those who wear real wigs, dresses and makeup and those who got creative with cleaning supplies. Who in God's great Navy would take this pageant seriously enough to come prepared with female garments and accessories before we left Norfolk? How did they know that their deparment would choose them as the wog queen representative unless they secretly relished the chance to display their feminine sides with the Navy's blessing? That would mean that there are guys on board who were...who might of them.

As we wait for King Neptune to render his judgment, the Village People's "In the Navy" begins over the speakers. Some sailors jeer as soon as they recognize the antediluvian rhythms. So detested is this band among crewmembers that a red flag immediately goes up if anyone onboard is discovered to have one of their cassettes. To many sailors, mere possession of a Village People song is indicting evidence that the owner is less than straight, less than a man, one of them. Other bands also raise the same speculative fears, particularly the Pet Shop Boys, Wham! and Erasure, so if anyone has all four of those groups in his music collection, he will be branded for life. Despite the scattered heckles, the song continues to play.

King Neptune paces in front of us, scrutinizing our flaws. "I've never seen a more pathetic bunch of wog queens," he says. "And I have to pick one of you to be my whore. Who should I pick?" A loud eruption of indistinguishable catcalls smothers the various department names. Several contestants strike provocative poses like a Voguing Madonna to influence the decision, but King Neptune slices a hand through the air to silence the shellbacks.

"It's my queen and therefore my choice. Now, which one of you bitches know how to deep throat and will swallow anything and everything I give you?" Almost every contestant either jumps up and down, yelling "me!" or drops to his knees to demonstrate enthusiasm but I reamin in a subdued stand, watching my shipmates behave in ways I didn't think possible.

"My wog queen will be..." King Neptune announces with a ten second pause before naming the winner. "Miss Navigations!" Cheers and applause mix with scattered boos as Miss Navigations shrieks in delight and tramps up to King Neptune for a vicotry hug until his balloon busoms pop. Although he wears a blonde, shoulder-length wig and a tight red dress, his gym-hardened physique can't be ignored. Several contestants more convincingly female voice their objections as we begin to suspect that the contest is rigged from the start. Miss Navigation and King Neptune are known workout buddies in the ship's gym.

"The rest of you wannabe queens aren't worthy to stand in my presence," King Neptune says. "Get the fuck off my platform and join the rest of your slimy wogs. You'll have to earn your way back to my sight." Before he could say another word or leave the stage, six red water balloons fly through the air, hitting him and a couple shellbacks near the stage. One lands directly on the XO's chest as he rises from his chair. The shellbacks closest to the stage run towards the nearest ladderwells to escape the assault. They have nothing to retaliate with but tomorrow, I expect they will pay us back in kind for our insurrection.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How's Your Summer of Love Going?

This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the Baby Boomers' "Summer of Love," when the hippies became the movement of that moment. It was all about flower power, tuning out, and dropping out. Though you'd have to be a Baby Boomer to really understand what that was all about, apparently it was a year which produced a lot of the classics we now associate with the 1960s: "Get Together", "Love is All Around", "Happy Together", "The Letter", "Brown Eyed Girl", "Good Vibrations", the Supremes' "Reflections", and the anthem that epitomized "flower children": "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)."

Where's Generation X/Y's equivalent? The only thing that comes close is the awesome rock opera "American Idiot" by Green Day (one of the best cds to come out so far in this decade) and the hip hop song "Where is the Love?" by the Black Eye Peas. Where's our "summer of love"? One of the things I dislike about the hippie movement was that it seems self-indulgent. It had some good ideas, but the rampant drug use and open sexuality created a conservative backlash that we're still paying for. And because of the hippie and anti-war movement, it has cemented in many people's minds that liberals are these "immoral" hippies who seek to destroy the foundations and traditions of our nation. And a lot of the hippies supposedly turned into money-grubbing yuppie materialists in the 1980s. It was like a fad they went through and had dismissed later on when they joined the rat race. Look where it has gotten us. Another disasterous war.

But why can't our generation rise up against the powers that be? The Boomers were divided over the Vietnam War. Some burned draft cards or moved to Canada, others joined the free love movement and experimented with drugs, communal living, and traversing the country on the cheap in VW Microbuses and Beetles, while still others served in the military. Now, we've had two Boomer presidents, and three "nation-building experiments" (Bosnia/Kosovo; Afghanistan; and Iraq). Where's the movement, though? I think it's because of our material abundance that most people are simply tuned out on Iraq and the current administration. After all...we have so much that the Boomers didn't have when they were younger: iPods, cellphones, BlackBerries, Tivo, Youtube, the Internet, laptops, and even PSPs (though the Boomers did have PCP, which isn't the same thing). And there's no draft to worry about. At least not yet (I'm actually in favor of a draft, as I see it as the only way to force the younger generation to get involved with the political decisions of our government. Why should old men near retirement force the younger generation to fight in their wars?).

But, I'm getting off point here. This summer is the anniversary of that summer "of love". Music played a big part of the movement back then (a couple of my favourite songs from the 60s are "Fortunate Son" and "For What It's Worth"). It shows that music serves as a soundtrack to life. And I'm such a music addict. I've been thinking of songs that reflect where I'm at today. The other day, I started getting back into an old childhood favourite, which I had never really paid much attention to the lyrics until just recently. That song is "Magic", by Olivia Newton-John. It's like a song my daimon guide would put into my head to remind me of the spiritual help he offers. Read the lyrics for yourself, and you'll see where I'm at today...

Come take my hand/You should know me
I've always been in your mind/You know that I'll be kind
I'll be guiding you

Building your dream/has to start now
There's no other road to take/you won't make a mistake
I'll be guiding you

You have to believe we are magic/Nothin' can stand in our way
You have to believe we are magic/Don't let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive/Your destiny will arrive
I'll bring all your dreams alive/for you

From where I stand/you are home free
The planets align so rare/There's promise in the air
And I'm guiding you

Through every turn I'll be near you
I'll come anytime you call
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll be guiding you...

Peace be with you, and have a happy summer of love with whatever songs fill your soul.