Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Empty Nest

With the defection of senior senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) to the Democratic party, many are left wondering how this could impact, possibly negatively, the chance that the Dems could garner a 60-member majority in the Senate (if Al Franken holds his lead) and thus be able to rule without the minority being able to filibuster their efforts.

Of course, the question many of the pundits are caught up in asking is "what will happen now?" but I believe a more apt question to pose would be "how did we let this happen?"

Let me explain.

Specter, a 5-term Senator up for reelection next year in 2010, is one of only a handful of moderate Republicans still in Congress. With the push within the party to radicalize it's base to right-wingers instead of maintaining a welcome sign for all who believe in smaller and less intrusive government many of these moderates have been pushed out of the party altogether through primaries and in-house bickering.

Like anything in life, when there is no room left open for dissent and compromise, bad things will happen. When narrowing ideology forces people to either accept the status quo or jump ship, things are definitely not heading in the right direction.  However, this problem is not exclusive to the GOP, as many southern (blue) Democrats have faced such conflicts from the growing and very powerful liberal base in their party. The polarization in Washington during the last 15-20 years has caused throngs of Americans to lose hope in compromise, in politicians, and even our system of government.

This is not to say that Specter himself is not to blame for some of his own criticism, citing that he would have not survived the GOP primary in his state next year if he had stayed in. Instead, he has sought to keep his job by switching sides and running the chance that his base (and then some) in Pennsylvania will keep him in D.C. for 6 more years.

Maybe between now and then, they can actually work on creating balance instead of ballistic rhetoric towards one another.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

End of the Line

The writing stopped. The scanning of the tiny, marked bubbles was finished as I laid down my scantron with the wind rising around it as I firmly pressed it away from my hand.

And like that, my undergraduate education was over.

The major things in life always have a tendency to vacate us, not with a whirlwind of commotion, but more than likely a whimper. Walking out of class today, it was hard to imagine that a journey I had began in August of 2005 would end so quickly just 4 short years later. But, as time can tell, the best times of our lives also go by the quickest and in the end we remember the short good times, instead of the drawn out periods of inactivity and ignorance. 

Sure, I'll be back at Campbell in August to begin anew in graduate school, but the spectre of this time will still linger. As old faces give way to new ones, and those who I have grown to seeing day in and day out shuffle their feet out of this place, I will remain. And for that reason, I'm not sure if it would be worse to graduate and move elsewhere or to remain and see your life change in a non-changing environment. 

But let today worry about itself, and let tomorrow deal with it's own issues then. Because I'm done with school and how sweet it is!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thank You for Being A Friend

Usually, I keep my posts on here to 1 per day, but something that has occurred today has made me break my own rule. That event is the death TV actress Bea Arthur at the age of 86.

My roommate has very electic tastes, especially when it comes to music and television. So, on one day last year when he was watching the Golden Girls, I just took him to indulging himself in geriatric humor with 4 old women. In short, I wrote the entire series off as an attempt to lure older viewers to television.

Was I ever wrong.

On the one day I decided to give it a chance, I was shocked with how much I liked the show. The humor, the characters, the outrageous St. Olaf stories, they all connected with me and what I found to be funny. But one thing that struck me about the show was the relationship between Dorothy Spornak (Bea Arthur) and her mother Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty).  Their wit and sharpness created an impeccable duo that TV will never be able to recreate between a daughter and a mother in the golden years of their lives.

Bea Arthur was funny, and she knew how to keep a straight face so that the audience could laugh for her.  Though she's gone now, she will still be with me from 8-10am every weekday on the Hallmark Channel.

Thanks for being a friend.

Take Me Back to Paradise

With the temperature above 90s degrees and the school year concluding in less than 5 days, the summertime is rapidly approaching us. For those living here in the south, this means a time of great heat, humidity, and mosquitos.  Hopefully, my summer outlook will take me over the southeast as my friends and I embark  (hopefully) on trips to the beach, Nashville, and the 7 weeks I will be spending in Winston-Salem for my job this summer. I love summer if not for the weather then for the freedom it affords who can take part in it.

Growing up, summertime meant days spent at the local pool, late nights in the neighborhood playing freeze tag, and the sweet aroma of charcoal grills. This summer, I'm very much looking forward to looking back, as I return to the exact same place where I spent my summer 5 years ago at Governor's School in beautiful Old Salem. The food, sights, and history always have a way of welcoming me back each time I visit. The long hot nights and the youthful and academic atmosphere help rekindle the past as well as spark interest in the future. 

But for now, I must embrace my last undergrad collegiate studies and the heat swell of the spring.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sarcasm (No thanks.....really)

One of the hottest (And the funniest I believe) TV shows on nowadays is The Office. On the show, a faux documentary crew captures the lives of the employees of paper company Dunder Mifflin at a branch office in Scranton, PA. One of the main vessels used to convey comedy in this series is the ever faithful Sarcasm.

Everywhere you look on tv, you see sarcasm being used. From The Office, to the Colbert Report all the way to the morning news, its currently being engrained into the fabric of our society. For me personally, this element of humor has been engrained in myself as well, having intensified quite a bit such high school.

For many people, especially in TV Land, the use of sarcasm as humor helps deliver punch lines to ignorant bosses and lovers, to the dimwitted and ignorant, and to those who just don't have a clue, but the audience does. For me, its being able to use a current situation and turn it into humor without having to try to hard. But as tantilizing as this sounds (and oh it is!) it is just as easy to allow this method of humor to become so prevalent in the life of an individual that it is hard to see where the humor ends and the person begins.

By nature, I am a very light-hearted guy. I think life goes by too fast for people to take things seriously all of the time like many do. Because of this outlook on life, it is easy for me to find humor in my life and in the life of others. I serve not so much as a clown to my network of friends, but rather a source of amusement when it would otherwise not be so. But many times I feel like I allow the "sarcasm-me" to overshadow the real "me" and the scary thing about it is that I sometimes fail to remember who the real "me" is. 

If you tell yourself the same thing over and over again, you will grow to believe yourself whether you know it to be true or not. It's so easy for me to cast a line into the humor of sarcasm, but its so much more tougher to pull that line back into shore in order to find myself yet again. 

In the journey of self-discovery there will be plenty of times for laughter and just as many for insightful perception. The key is knowing the difference between the 2 and feeding off that. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Running On Empty

When growing up back home in St. Pauls, as school was dismissed each day, the familar sound of teenagers reeving their engines and burning out their tires once exiting the parking lot was a daily tradition. To signal the end of another laborious school day, the screeching of rubber against road symbolized that of the student against the school. But as I have noticed over the past few years, "burning out" can mean much more than a smell or a noise.

Unfortunately, when it comes to work in the ministry, it is very easy for those who lead or are heavily involved to be burned out. When it comes to stepping up and filling in when others fail to, or the long hours it takes to plan, execute, and break down weekly worship activities, the demands of servant leaders are strenuous ones indeed. But looking beyond the actual physical work of ministry is the effect that such work has on the spirituality of the individual. Especially for me, instead of letting myself be lost in the eloquent words of an invited speaker, I often find myself checking my watch out of habit, to make sure that the schedule is running along smoothly. By the time that I'm collected enough to invest in a message, it is already done and people are walking out the door.

Being involved in campus ministry for all 4 years of undergrad, I have both experienced and seen countless people deal with the problem of burning out. Like most issues people face, acknowledging that there is a problem is the first key to fixing it. Then, being able to step away from what is burning you out is key because if you don't then you will continue to suffer and there is greater potential for your ministry to suffer because of it. Finally, taking those steps which only a individual can take to refocus and recharge before reentering any ministry position is key to the further spiritual growth of the person and whatever ministry they will be involved in in the future.

So, as the summer quickly approaches, I look forward to taking a brief self-sabbatical of sorts, to refocus and reenergize myself for the upcoming year. Time to learn how to kick back now.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Super Size Me?

Now, I'm not one to be taken in by one-sided documentaries, but there is one that has caused me to reassess my dining options on a regular basis. Yesterday, I watched Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super Size Me" for the first time. Dealing with the issue of healthy eating habits and regular fast food consumption, I understand that much debate has been given to what affect such fat-laden food has on obesity in America.

My stance is this, personal responsibility trumps any advertising or marketing campaign by any food producer. People can simply say no, but millions choose not to. All because people get fat off of their own ambition does not place blame on the restaurant that serves the food, but the individual that decides to overindulge themselves. Just like you can't blame tennis shoe manufacturers because some people that wear their shoes can rob a gas station and run off in a pair. 

However, one thing that I do detest about this entire process is the blatant marketing towards children. This doesn't concern me if it deals with a product and it's particular store location, but when food and drinks are placed in schools from K-12 that do nothing but sugar and fatten up their captive consumers, these standards and practices are nothing more than unethical. In a learning environment, children should be reinforced with good and positive choices for all areas of their lives, and if they leave out of health and fitness only to see a huge, lit-up Pepsi vending machine, the reinforcement for the lessons learned in the classroom get immediately lost the second the child steps in the hallway.

Thats my opinion on the matter at least. To find your own on the matter, why not watch the entire the documentary for yourself. Enjoy:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Album Review: "Little White Lies" by Fastball

Well, it's been almost a week since I downloaded Fastball's newest album, "Little White Lies" and I've had enough time to absorb most of the songs to give you all a little review of what I think so far about it.

Starting off, if you look fondly upon the catchy, guitar-driven powerpop tunes of the late 90s-early 2000s, then this album will certainly not disappoint. Seemingly recapturing a simpler time in music, the band throws off the status quo of rock groups nowadays (heavy use of piano and pulsating clashing cymbals) and instead lets guitar riffs and melodies speak for themselves. The following are a few of my favorites from the album.

1. All I Was Looking for Was You - the first track begins with a simple solo guitar riff. The lyrics seem to reflect the aging of the band as they reflect becoming wiser when it comes to life and their choice in the opposite sex.

2. The Malcontent (Modern World) - a catchy lament of living in the present while being sick of it at the same time. Coming from the perspective of the band, they are reflective of their past successes while at the same time riffing on the celebrity status' that occupy their industry and how little that has changed since their initial work and that continues now 10 years past their entry.

3. Little White Lies - the title track's riff evokes a toned down similarity to those of Franz Ferdinand minus the dance floor pace. Lyrically, it deals with lying to oneself over the girl they can't forget or obsess over.

4. White Noise - nearing the end of the album, this all-out rocker will certainly leave skeptics of the band with a mild headache as they recover from the reverb and blistering harmonies.

Overall, if you are a diehard Fastball fan like myself you will certainly enjoy this album. For those who are looking for some rock music that doesn't make you want to go out and buy Emo gear, this album will also be a welcome reprieve from the mundane. For a good time, and to forget that you are in fact living in the modern world, this album is definitely for you.

Buy the album, but until then, enjoy this live version of "All I Was Looking for Was You":

Friday, April 10, 2009

On a Tuesday...

Beyond the obvious reasons why I'm looking forward to the end of the school year is a more blatant excuse for wanting the days to go by quickly. That excuse is the newest album release by the band Fastball on tuesday April 14th. The album, "Little White Lies" is the band's 5th release and their first since 2004.

My admiration for the band goes back to 1998 when I first really discovered MTV and their video for "The Way" got my interest. I later bought their album from the same year, "All the Pain Money Can Buy" only to hear that one song. But in recent years, I have listened to all of the songs on the album and now realize how great the band truly is. Now, they haven't had as big a project since 1998, but subsequent releases still delight hardcore fans like myself.

As part of the "Power Pop" musical genre, their music has edge but also has catchy melodies to keep the listener in full gear for sing-a-longs in the shower or on long car rides. I readily anticipate waking up on tuesday, going to the itunes store, downloading the entire album, and listening to the entire thing as my day of work and projects progresses. As soon as I have time to process and listen to the entire album, I hope to post my review on here for all to see. 

I'm sure this will be a good one, I got a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Childhood Obsessions II

In my second report on my childhood obsessions, I look back to a glorious time slot that doesn't exist anymore: Fox Kid's Weekday Afternoons.

Used to be, when I got home from school I could count on a few things to always take place. First, I would shed my shoulders of my backpack, thus relegating my homework to a later point in the day. Second, I could look forward to a snack to get my blood going again after a boring afternoon of learning. And last, but not least, I could look forward to a block of TV that introduced me to some of the greatest shows of the 90s. Between 3 and 5pm each weekday, Fox Kid's came into my living room and took me along with Batman & Robin to fight villains like Mr. Freeze and the Joker. Or I could laugh along with "Life with Louie" or "Bobby's World" (incidentally, these are the last shows that I liked that had any association with Louie Anderson and Howie Mandel.)

But, out of all the afternoon distractions that this block of television offered, the absolute hilt was the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. This show blew me away. For years, I made sure to be at home to watch the rangers fight and defeat a new evil monster every afternoon. I had the video games, the toys, the playing cards, you name it I had it. But the greatest thing that a fan of the show could get was to meet the rangers in person, and that's what I got to do.

Belks in Fayetteville was holding a promotion where Tommy (Green/White Ranger) was coming to the store to sign autographs. Being my favorite ranger, I about peed my pants when I heard that I would get to meet this hero of mine in person. As an added bonus, Billy (Blue Ranger) tagged along to the delight of us ranger fans. The day of the event, the store was packed out with children and their parents, meshed together to create a frenzied sea of youthful zeal for our costumed heroes from Angel Grove.

 As I approached the platform to meet the Rangers and have them sign my card, I could not speak. I stood there and just looked at them signing autographs. I was literally star struck. Now, since that time I have met several celebrities. I've ridden a elevator with Emmit Smith, gotten my picture with one of the Statler Brothers, and even attempted to follow Jimmy Carter into a bathroom for the chance to meet him. But no matter who else I meet in my lifetime, nothing will ever top me being in the presence of my childhood hero, Tommy the Green Ranger.

As soon as I got a premade autograph from both both Billy & Tommy, I turned to step down from the platform. As I turned towards Dad, who was waiting for me, the crowd erupted and flash bulbs started going off like crazy. As I turned to see what the commotion was, I saw Tommy and Billy standing on their table doing karate moves.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday at all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fat Camp

One of the things I most enjoy about my leisure time are my guilty pleasures, the majority of which come in the form of TV that is far from normal or mainstream. From the Golden Girls to paternity tests on Maury, shows like these help take my mind off any lingering boredom. And for a day like today, with no class and bad weather, nothing could help clear the boredom like MTV's "Fat Camp."

Having both been fat previously and worked at a camp, in this documentary I joyfully cringe at the many awkward and ridiculous moments that these kids endure on screen. From wannabe pimps to downright lazy kids, the whole spectrum of fat, ignorant, annoying, and spoiled yankee children are documented for the 2 hour special.

I question I always ask myself when this airs is, "what purpose is this serving?" How does that documentary help promote healthier lifestyles and better attitudes for the millions of obese teenagers when all they see are teens who don't take the program seriously and have bad attitudes during the entire course of the series. Instead of focusing on the determined teens who follow the program, conduct themselves appropriately, and lose & keep the weight off, the "experts" at MTV (where they don't even show music videos anymore) decide to turn this experience into nothing more than a laugh at fat kids documentary.

So, if you really want to inspire a media-addicted society of teenagers into actually taking proactive steps towards a healthier lifestyle, don't subject them to a reality show that demeans the entire process. I would just like to know what happened to the MTV I met for the first time in 1998...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Childhood Obsessions I

Well, today I will begin a series (not continuous) on memories from my childhood. This isn't particularly about any one thing, moment, etc. but spans whatever I can remember as having a big impact on my life.  Today, I will begin my series with the one reason why I want to visit Japan: Godzilla.

Now, my initial fascination with the monster from Tokyo Bay came by accident, as I stumbled upon classic Godzilla movies not because of their content, but because of their price. After buying a few of these movies, I became entranced not only with the monsters but with collecting more and more of these action-packed, costumed, over-dubbed movies. 

The era of Godzilla films that I have collected spans from the first movie, in 1954 to the last Godzilla film in 1995. Now, since that time more Japenese Godzilla movies have come out, but I don't count them as worth collecting or watching right now as enhanced computer effects have cheapened the franchise by taking away the magic that only physical props can add to such movies.

So, in the era of 54-95, I have all of the movies released (somewhere between 25-30) with the exception of Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, a movie dealing with the ills of pollution in early 70s Japan. Oh, and I only have the VHS of these movies, I refuse to buy the remastered DVDs of these films. So, if you have any VHS' of the one movie I don't have, please feel free to send it my way.

Until I get to Tokyo to see it myself, this'll have to do