Symbols

I’m troubled by something. 2016 has been mighty troubling to a lot of people, to be sure, for a lot of different reasons. And yes,it’s easy to just slap the name “TRUMP” on a blog post or article and get the same standard outrage from the Left and hoots and cheers from the Right. Yeah, yeah, he won. Fair and square. And there have certainly been a number of well-publicized hate crimes and what seems to be an increase in racist and misogynistic rhetoric; however, it’s really hard to get a true, accurate read on those numbers because, as we learned all too well this election cycle, the internet is full of shit and people only hear what they want to hear.

No, it’s not really a Trump issue, not really, that has me feeling tight in the chest and anxious. I feel like he’s sort of the symptom rather than the cause, the bellwether of a growing problem, an infection of sorts. The infection of jingoism and Nationalism that seems to have taken root in our beloved United States.

“Wait, what’s wrong with being Nationalistic? Ain’t nothing wrong with being proud of your country!” I can hear it already. Okay, look. I’m one of those people who get labelled “smart-ass” and “elitist” because of this argument, and I’m fine with it, because look: I don’t think it’s correct for most of us to say that we are proud to be Americans. And it’s not for the reasons you may think. It’s just semantics. See, I feel that if you’re proud of something, then it should be something you had a hand in earning. Be proud of earning your Masters. Proud of the bookshelf you built with your bare hands and a miter box. Proud of the way your kids turned out. But here’s the thing: most of us in this country were born here. We didn’t earn that. We just got lucky.

Am I delighted to live here? Oh, you bet yer sweet ass I am. For the past 46 years of my life, I’ve been able to say what I want, eat what I want, work where I want, worship (or NOT worship) how I want. I’ve had a say in who runs my community, my state, my country, even which laws are to be enforced. There’s so much about this country to love, but I have to acknowledge that I could very easily have been born in Sri Lanka or Hungary or Lithuania, and while I’m sure those are all wonderful places, they just don’t have the quality television programming, fast food, and rock music that I’ve been spoiled with my entire life. Now, someone who emigrates from any foreign country to the U.S.? Who toils to earn the money for the trip here? Who brings his or her family and studies hard and gets a visa and takes the test and thus joins the great community of these United States of America? THAT person has every right to be “Proud to be an American.” Because they will have earned that shit.

I simply inherited it.

Anyway, with that perspective firmly in mind, I get a bit nervous when I hear and see things like the huge outpouring of support for our President-Elect when he says “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Twitter, November 29, 2016)

Okay that shit’s alarming to me. Not that Trump said it…he’s made so many insane declarations that it’s hard to keep track, and if I got stressed out every single time he opened his mouth or his Twitter, I’d never sleep. And hey, the 1st Amendment protects his right to say it, even if some of his statements are offensive to me. I don’t have to like what he says. But I have to let him say it. That’s free speech, baby.

What concerns me is the way my social media feeds have been filled with ignorant shouts of “HELL YEAH! THROW THEIR ASSES IN JAIL!” And even more alarming is the number of folks who have no idea that not only is burning the American Flag as a form of protest completely legal, but it’s been upheld twice by the Supreme Court of the United States of America. And for good reason.

Consider the order in which our Bill of Rights fall in our Constitution. I mean, there’s some good stuff in there, stuff we often take for granted. The right to a speedy trial by a jury of our peers. That is huge. (Ask anyone in Saudi Arabia who’s committed a petty theft.) How about being protected from unlawful search and seizure? Yeah. The cops can’t just barge into your house when you’re at work in an attempt to find something incriminating. Oh, and that big one, the right to keep and bear arms. So very important. And yet, in front of ALL of these is the right of the people (or the individual) to say what they want, worship how they want, assemble how and where they want, and to publish or otherwise disseminate their thoughts to whomever will listen, watch, or read them. These rights were so important that the framers of our governmental framework said “OH, SHIT, GUYS? KNOW WHAT WE FORGOT?! FREE FUCKIN’ SPEECH! FUCK! PUT THAT SHIT IN WRITING AND GET IT IN THE CONSTITUTION POST-HASTE!”

Now, I get it. I do. This country love us some symbols, don’t we? The Stars and Stripes. The Bald Eagle. George Washington, minutemen, the flag raising over Iwo Jima. Powerful symbols that carry a lot of weight. I believe that our national obsession over such icons is due to our very brief history (we’ve only been here for 240 years, compared to, you know…the thousands of years our European and Asian friends can claim) and our mixed-breed pedigree (British, Germans, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italians, followed eventually by all manner of Asians and blacks, which is a whole ‘nother discussion, but anyway). We didn’t have a history. We didn’t have a shared national identity. So we made one. We adopted certain symbols and sigils and combined them into our own iconography. And then, slowly, things started popping up on their own. The Liberty Bell. The blues and rock & roll. Cowboys. Hot rods. Hell, I’d argue that blue jeans are more of a holy symbol of America than the bald eagle. Because we made them. We invented something timeless and enduring. Bald eagles were simply here. And like the native human population, we pushed them to the brink of extinction before realizing “holy crap, we’d better slow down! Let’s hunt some buffalo and wolves instead!” But as bad-ass as the American Bald Eagle looks, and as wonderful a national bird as it is (WHY THE HELL DO WE EVEN NEED A NATIONAL BIRD?!) landing on the Moon is much more representative of the USA. And yet, there are complete idiots that would choose to believe that it never happened, because…reasons? I’ve never understood that particular conspiracy theory, by the way, and wish I could haul off and Buzz Aldrin some bitches when they propagate that sort of foolishness.

But hey, you know what? I don’t punch them. Because they have a right to say whatever pea-brained derptastic feces that falls from their tiny little cerebrums and out through their putrid mouth-holes. So I sigh and shake my head and leave them to it.

In closing, I suppose the person I’d really love to ask about all this is my late Grandfather Watson. He won two Bronze Stars in Europe fighting the Nazis, and I think he’d be alarmed that a lot of the same rhetoric that was being spouted as Hitler rose to power is echoing here in the U.S. “OUR COUNTRY FIRST! NO FOREIGNERS! TO DISRESPECT A NATIONAL SYMBOL IS TREASON!” On the subject of flag burning, I’d imagine he’d say something to the effect of “Well, that’s their God-given right…but I’d recommend they don’t pull a stunt like that in front of the VFW. Like to get their asses handed to them.”

Grandpas always have the best advice.

 

That One Guy: Black Hawk Down Edition

I got into a discussion with my boss the other day about the events depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”  We’d been discussing how October 3rd through the 4th marked the twenty-year anniversary of the so-called “Battle of Mogadishu.”  Twenty years.  Mark Bowden’s book, upon which the movie was based, was published in 1999.   Ridley Scott’s incredible movie adaptation hit theaters in December of 2001.

I re-watched the movie on Netflix, and was reminded of what a damn fine piece of filmmaking the thing really is.   It reminds me of the classic 1977 film “A Bridge Too Far.”  That movie (itself an adaptation of a nonfiction book which chronicled the events of the failed Operation: Market-Garden during the Second World War) managed to weave several different storylines together into one wonderfully exciting and heartbreaking narrative.  And it did so with one of the largest casts of movie superstars at the time, including Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, etc. without any one of them overshadowing the story.

Speaking of large casts…as I watched Black Hawk Down again, I was struck by the sheer number of people that I had forgotten about; yet there they were, happily running alongside Humvees and such.  I began Tweeting about it and quickly had to Tweet a second time,  a third time, then a fourth.  So I decided to blog it up and put all of the guys that I could recognize in one easy-to-browse location. We’ll begin with the obvious, big-name actors, then the so-called “character” guys who you’ve seen in a million different shows and movies…and then we’ll end up with the “WOW!!  HOLY SHIT!!” guys. (WARNING:  you may wear out your scroll wheel.)

Josh Hartnett, Eversmann

josh hartnettThis dude was supposed to blow up, wasn’t he?  Then he did Pearl Harbor, and…and…

Ewan McGregor, Grimes

wean mcgregorHe mainly made coffee then got knocked down.  I know he’s Obi-Wan now, but to me he’ll always be Mark Renton.

Tom Sizemore, McKnight

tom sizemoreThis was a couple of years before Tom went batshit crazy and did a bunch of drugs and lived with Heidi Fleiss.  Ah, the good ol’ days.

Eric Bana, Hoot

eric banaBefore he was the lamest Bruce Banner ever, he was a Delta hard-ass.  (Also?  My late uncle Myron was nicknamed ‘Hoot’ and he trained soldiers to jump out of airplanes.  Coincidence?)

Orlando Bloom, Blackburn

orlando bloomHe’s become a pretty big star thanks to the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ franchises, but in this film he basically falls out of a helicopter.

Jeremy Piven, Wolcott

jeremy pivenYes, Ari Gold.  Hug it out, bitches.

Ron Eldard, Durant

ron eldardI’ve always enjoyed Ron’s work, from sitcoms with David Spade to the enjoyable role of Skank Martin in ‘Mystery Alaska’ to the alcoholic dad in ‘Super 8.’  The odd thing is that of all the big names in this movie, one of the most important roles (in my opinion) ends up in his capable hands.  Good stuff

Kim Coates, Wex

kim coatesNowadays we know him as Tig from ‘Sons of Anarchy’ but the dude has 120 credits to his name, according to IMDB.  Yes, you actually HAVE seen him in everything.

Ewen Bremner, Nelson

ewen bremnerSpud.  He will always be Spud.  I wonder whether it was Ewan McGregor, his ‘Trainspotting’ co-star or Josh Hartnett, his ‘Pearl Harbor’ co-star that got him this gig…

Sam Shepard, Garrison

sam shepardA veteran character actor who seems to specialize in authority figures, he’s also an accomplished playwright and stage performer.  But he’ll always be Chuck Yeager to me.  “Hey, Ridley…got any Beeman’s on ya?”

Ioan Gruffudd, Beales

ioan gruffuddYes, Mr. Fantastic.  Also, the “Is anyone out there?” lifeboat guy from Titanic.  In this movie, he has a seizure.  That’s about it, really.

Jason Isaacs, Steele

jason isaacsAlways plays an asshole.  Always.  Hooah?

William Fichtner, Sanderson

william fichtner

Yes, THAT guy.  The blind guy in ‘Contact.’  The shuttle pilot that wanted to shake the hand of the daughter something-something-Bruce Willis-something in ‘Armageddon.’  The guy in the bank at the beginning of ‘The Dark Knight.’  Yeah.  THAT guy.

Glenn Morshower, Matthews

glenn morshowerAlways plays a colonel or something.  Always.  CoD fans will remember him as the voice of the SatCom guy in Modern Warfare II.  He may actually be Jim Gaffigan from the future.

Richard Tyson, Busch

richard tysonThis guy has been a a ton of crap and ‘Kindergarten Cop’ where he played the bad dad.  Also, he’s been in lighter fare like ‘There’s Something About Mary.’  His hair in this particular movie was modeled on a 1977 Luke Skywalker poster or a He-Man action figure.

Gregory Sporleder, Galentine

gregory sporlederA very recognizable dude, he’s been in everything from a Sheryl Crow video to ‘The Rock’ where he appeared as one of the bad guys.

George Harris, Atto

george harrisOne of the few non-soldiers that has a speaking part.  You may remember him as Captain Katanga, the dude that basically SAVES INDY AND MARION RAVENWOOD WHEN NAZIS BOARD HIS SHIP!!!!   Yes, that’s him.  The swarthy tramp steamer captain from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

Ty Burrell, Wilkinson

ty burrellOkay, now we’re getting weird.  Yes, that’s the guy from ‘Modern Family.’  Think that’s odd?  Keep scrolling…

Brian Van Holt, Struecker

brian van holt

He’s on ‘Cougar town’ now, but he was also in SWAT (the movie) and some other things that mainly chicks would know.

Tom Guiry, Yurek

tom guiryYOU’RE KILLING ME, SMALLS!! Yes, that’s him.  Scotty Smalls from ‘The Sandlot.’  Wait, it gets weirder…

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gordon

nikolaj coster-waldauJaime. Fucking. Lannister.  And yes, he had great hair even then.

Tom Hardy, Twombly

tom hardyTom Hardy.  ‘Nuff said.

So, who did I miss?  Yeah, I know there are some support people and such.  Maybe I missed one of the villagers or medics.  If so, leave a comment below!  We’ll have to add a whole second page, maybe!  And for shits and giggles, go back and watch this movie again. It’s a great flick, and it’s a lot more fun when you can play ‘spot that one guy!’

Living in the FUTURE!!

I love old-timey stuff.  Jesus, sometimes it seems like that’s all I friggin WRITE ABOUT. But I’m also a dreamer and sci-fi addict, so my eyes are always on the horizon.  I love it here.  And by “here” I mean, of course, the future. I like the fact that I have access to all the old-timey stuff (I made chainmail once.  True story.  I also own an M-1 Garand which was manufactured in the spring of 1943.  I looked it up) and still get to play Skate 3 with my kids on the ol’ Xbox 360.  It really is the best of both worlds.  Yessir, no doubt about it: this is the best time that’s ever been.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future.

Because perfectly sane men spend months twisting and cutting metal links for a costume they’ll wear once.

“BULLSHIT!” you scream at the cold, unfeeling monitor.  “AIN’T NO FLYING CARS!!”  An excellent point, and the one that everyone uses when they wish to express displeasure at the quality of life in these modern times.  And my counter-argument is that there will never be cities full of flying cars.  Never.  Films like “Metropolis” and “Fifth Element” aren’t going to happen.  They aren’t.  Why?  Because technology is going to make flying cars obsolete.  Remember when Doc Brown tells Marty that where they’re going they “don’t need roads?”  In the coming century (yes, it will happen within a hundred years) you won’t even need cars.  Instantaneous transportation is going to change everything. How do I know?

It’s already been done.  (Kind of.)

This article from Scientific American is already four years old, and a decent Google search will bring up more recent experiments, surely.  But the gist is this: scientists were trying to see if entangled particles could communicate faster-than-light.  Under our current physics model, this is impossible.  However, when they created two entangled photons and separated them by about eleven miles, they proved (again) that entanglement is fucking spooky.  When they’d tweak one particle, the other responded instantaneously. With our primitive measuring capabilities, they weren’t able to prove that this sort of communication is infinitely fast.  They were able to measure that at the very least, data transfer was happening at 10,000 times the speed of light.

Let me say that shit again: TEN THOUSAND TIMES THE SPEED OF FUCKING LIGHT!!

The applications right now are obviously limited.  But it’s safe to assume that someone will one day soon build a pair of transmitters that include entangled particles.  When one is switched on and off in a pattern like, say, Morse code or Binary, the other gets it immediately.  No lag.  No waves traveling through the air, no bouncing off satellites.  A guy in China knows what’s happening in Nevada at the exact second it happens.  And like our own communication systems that have gone from telegraphs to telephones to radios to Skype and Wi-Fi, you can imagine that this is just the beginning.  And even better; entanglement theory is part of the grander, broader world of quantum mechanics.  Mark my words: we’re on the verge of figuring out how to actually either fold time-space what we’d call “Warp Drive” style propulsion (which is kind of a misnomer, since you’re not actually propelling anything…you’re moving space-time, not the object itself) or a “transporter” of sorts.  Build a bubble of entanglement or probability (or whatever spooky shit they call it) here and another one somewhere very far away.  You step into one, you come out in the other.  Seriously.  This is going to happen.  And most of the world has no idea how close we actually are.  It’s moving beyond theory now, into actual applied science.  This proximity to amazing breakthroughs literally give me goosebumps.  We live in the future, but our grandkids are going to live in the FUTURE!!!

I’d like to say that I photoshopped this. I’d like to, but I can’t. Because this shit is real.

Louis C.K. points out that right now, at this time in Human History, everything is awesome.  And it is.  He also points out that nobody is happy.  His assertion is that we take so much for granted.  We don’t appreciate things like the miracle of flight.  he has some valid points.  But if you think you’re spoiled now, just wait until you can have a real-time holographic conversation with your pal who’s going to school at the Martian Colony…or step into a terminal in New York and step out in Berlin in less than a microsecond.  It’s sort of staggering, but it’s coming.

And I can’t wait.

Fact Up Beyond All Recognition

Here are some facts that I made up.  Use them to sow discord, panic, and confusion.

Approximately 2.3% of humans are deathly allergic to ice.  Luckily, most of them live near the equator.

Gene Kelly was an ordained minister, and used to perform secret marriage ceremonies for all the gays in Hollywood.  He did so under the alias “Reverend Lockwood.”  Sometimes the ceremony would conclude with a  song-and-dance number and at least four transvestites.

“Dank” is used today to describe particularly sticky, hairy, mondo weed because back in the 60’s some stoner in Amsterdam didn’t know how to write or pronounce “dank je!”

The sound hyenas make is actually nervous laughter, as they are very self-conscious and don’t like being photographed.

OMG, this one time this guy TOTALLY overdosed on Tums and the EMT’s were all like “quick!  Get him something spicy!!  Poblano peppers, stat!”  He almost died, but like, there was this Qdoba’s just down the street.

The “gram” as a unit of measurement was a nod by Phillip Metric (father/creator of the Metric System) to his late grandmother.  The family generally referred to her as “Gram” or “Grammy.”  In fact, Thomas Edison was so taken with her (they almost married!) that he named the Gramophone after her as well.

Think about that the next time you pick up a gram of dank while watching the Grammys.  Seriously.

Wayback Interview: Charles Holland Duell

As many of you know, I have a fully-functioning time machine.  I use it all the time to give people the heads-up on things like the Miami Dolphins’  2015 Super Bowl win and so on (congrats to Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning!) But I thought it’d be nice to really see what this thing could do, so I decided to pry the minds of some of history’s giants.  Okay, maybe “giants” is a bit of a stretch…let’s say interesting footnotes to our societal timeline.  Grand.

First up: Charles Holland Duell. Who is he?  Only the most famous head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office EVAH!! Why is he famous? Because of something he said.  A statement that seems ludicrous today, and incredibly short-sighted. He once recommended that the Patent Office be discontinued because “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Dumbass.

"Also? This telphone nonsense is complete bullshit." - C. H. Duell

Charles agreed to let me interview him in the office he used after he was chosen to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC.  It was March 3rd, 1904 and as I entered, Judge Duell sat in a leatherbound chair, smoking a pipe and sipping brandy.  I politely declined his offer of a drink and sat opposite him in a similar armchair to begin the interview.

ME: So, Your Honor.  Do you mind if I address you in a more…familiar manner?

DUELL: Not at all.

ME: Can I call you Chuck?  Or better, Chuckie?  See, in the future there’s this awesome series of movies about a killer doll named Chuckie, and what happens is–

DUELL: You may call me Charles.

ME: Fair enough.  Speaking of the future, do you know if you have a great grandson named Doug?  Because he was my defensive partner when I played hockey in Evansville, and…well…you know.  Same last name.  Small world and all that.

At this point, Charles Duell glared at me in the way that only old judges with bald heads and white mustaches can glare.  He re-lit his pipe and took a long drag.  As he exhaled the blueish smoke, his eyes never so much as blinked. He was a tough customer, this Charles Holland Duell.  And his middle name was a country, so I knew I was in for a challenge.

ME: Well, let’s get right to it.  This quote of yours.  What were you thinking when you said “Every–

DUELL: Nonsense.

ME: Pardon?

DUELL: I never said that.  I never said anything like that.

ME: But…the interwebs…

DUELL: The which?

ME: It’s…it’s this thing that allows computers and mobile devices to…share…um, you can look up, uh…stuff.  I mean, it’s like…

More icy staring. I wondered how to explain Reddit or Wikipedia to someone that barely knew how steam engines worked.  I decided to move on.

Seriously, it's like a bunch of Dwarves got together to find a way to totally fuck the environment.

ME: So you’re saying that this quote that has been attributed to you for, what? Over a century?  You never said that?

DUELL: Correct. I know of this ill-attributed “quote” [editor’s note: at this point, Charles Duell may have given the first-ever “finger-quotes” in American history]  And if you would use your fancy Webnitron or what-have-you to do better research, you would realize that I actually implied quite the opposite.

Me: Oh.  Okay, when I get Back to the Future, I’ll look that up.  But…then, if not you…who?  I mean, are you suggesting that perhaps someone completely made that statement up?

DUELL:  Sir, you have a time-travel device.  Certainly you’re not so vacant and insipid that you believe everything you read.  You can read, can you not?

ME: Oh, I read good!

DUELL: But of course.  Young man, if I may…

ME: Young?  Dude, I’m forty-one years old!

DUELL: Wow…you look really good for forty-one!  I bet you work out, huh?

ME: Oh, yeah!  And you know the real secret? Clean living.

[editor’s note: none of the events from the last three lines ever happened.  Ever.]

DUELL: The truth is, I was and continue to be impressed with the breadth of creativity this great nation has spawned.  Here at the turn of the century, we marvel at splendid advances in the sciences and the arts.  Would you like to hear something that I wrote a few years ago on the subject?

ME: Yes, sir!

Charles Duell then produced a folded piece of good parchment, put on a pair of rimless reading glasses, and read his statement in an authoritarian baritone.

DUELL: Ahem.  In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.

He folded the paper lovingly and placed it back inside his jacket.  He then removed his glasses, took a long pull of brandy, and folded his hands in his lap.

DUELL: Have you any further questions?

ME: No, sir.  And thank you for enlightening me.

Charles Holland Buell’s mouth hinted at a smile, and he stood and firmly clasped my hand with his.  His hands were very warm, probably because the dude had spent all day chugging brandy.

DUELL: I envy you.  The things you’ll get to see, the music you’ll hear, the wonderful Velodrome Racing advances you’ll witness. [editor’s note: Velodrome bicycle races were fucking HUGE in the 1900’s]

As I turned to leave, I considered how badly I’d probably messed up the space-time continuum already, but couldn’t help myself.  I had to tell him.

ME: Your Honor, one piece of advice.  In about eight years, say you happen to be in Europe for any reason, do NOT buy a ticket on a boat called the “Titanic.”  Gonna sink, bigger’n shit.  The White Star line will brand it as “unsinkable.”  It ain’t.

DUELL: Another reason you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

ME: Oh, also?  Keep an eye on those Krauts.  Just sayin’.

DUELL: Duly noted.

 

VE ARE NICHT ZE KLAN! ALZO, ZIS IS NICHT EIN SUPERSOAKER!!