Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Four-Way Stops

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who do not know how to properly use a four-way stop. I'm not sure if this is a Utah thing, or if people all over the country are unaware of the rules for a four-way stop. It is odd to me that this fairly easy process is either forgotten or not known, because it was emphasized quite often during my driver's training. Before I go over the rules, I want to send a message to a few people I see at four-way stops all the time.

To the lady who waves for me to go when it isn't my turn- Thanks for being nice, but what would be really nice is for you to OBEY THE RULES!

To the dude who doesn't look to see if anyone else is there before going- LOOK! I was here way before you.

To the people who just do a quick pause before gunning through the intersection- It is called a four-way stop, not a four-way pause.

Here now are the rules for how to handle a four-way stop.

A FOUR-WAY STOP sign means that there are four stop signs at this intersection. Traffic from all four directions must stop. The first vehicle to reach the intersection should move forward first. If two vehicles reach the intersection at the same time, the driver on the left yields to the driver on the immediate right if there is one. If a vehicle cannot move because of some impediment—a pedestrian crossing in front of it, for example—or, for some reason, cannot clear the intersection unimpeded, it must await a change in status and should be treated by other motorists as though absent from the intersection until circumstances make it eligible to proceed. A vehicle may not proceed until all vehicles that might have priority have first cleared the intersection. Also, only one car from each side of the stop can go at a time.

There, is that so hard?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,

PATTON (1970)

Starring- George C. Scott, Karl Malden

This is the greatest war biopic ever made. Not only did this film win Best Picture, it also won Best Actor for George C. Scott's fabulous portrayal of the eccentric World War II General George S. Patton.  Based on historical accounts by men close to Patton, there are many great anecdotes that turned into iconic scenes that are the stuff of film legend.

The film begins as the U.S. enters the war in North Africa, with Patton as the great wild card for the allies.  He is successful in his command of the desert tank battles, and achieves great success as he vies for glory with his chief rival, General Montgomery of the British Army. Patton is a larger than life character whose passion for battle and excessive hubris drive him to succeed, and also prove to be his undoing. After a few memorable incidents of shooting his mouth off, and the slapping of a soldier, he is removed from duty and left feeling empty as the allies storm into Europe without him.

Patton is a redemptive character though, and after some help from his old friend, and polar opposite, General Omar Bradley, he is given command of Third Army as they sweep into France following the D-Day invasion. It is great to see Patton humbled and then renewed by his return to the battlefield. Not only is this film a great character study of one the most enigmatic figures of the 20th Century, it is also a valuable history lesson about our nation's finest hour.

I feel that it is necessary for everyone to know about their past, and have a grasp on how our country was able to confront the greatest threat we ever faced. Patton is a great film to see in order to gain some of this valuable information. I showed parts of it to my class when I was teaching history so that they could get a feel for who was at the core of our success in World War II.  Scott's work as Patton is also a great example of how to completely immerse yourself in a role to achieve absolute authenticity.

Things to watch for-

Jerry Goldsmith's iconic score
Patton's Poetry
The opening speech
The invasion of Sicily planned in a lavatory

"Do you read the Bible, General?"
"Every Goddamn day."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Future Isn't Now

When I was a kid I couldn't wait for "the Future." In movies and books the future was always shown to be a time of interest, whether it be a post-apocalyptic wasteland or a shiny, warp drive fueled paradise.  Guess what? It's 2010 which is basically the future, and life is still pretty much the same.  Movies and books lied to me, and even though we have lots of cool stuff and have made advances in many areas, I am still waiting for a few things that would make life so much better and more like the future of my dreams.


Back to the Future Part II led me to believe that by 2015 there would be hoverboards and sweet Nikes with power laces. I'm still tying my own shoes and not hovering around town- what the crap? Science has five years to get their act together or face some strongly worded emails from me.


I also naively thought that by now we'd be seeing some cities being constructed underwater or floating on the ocean. I was wrong, but I think with the way things are going we need to get going on some bubble cities because overpopulation is a real concern. Forget laws limiting offspring and contraception, build Atlantis already!


This one is a no-brainer.  There are fewer accidents in planes than in cars, so lets get some cars in the air- pronto. I know for a fact that most people in 1950 thought we'd have flying cars by 1975, but thanks to Watergate Nixon's flying car initiative never got off the ground. Get us flying, Obama!


I don't know about the rest of you, but I need someone to help me do my chores and errands. Clones are the answer, and I know you'll say "what about overpopulation?" To that I say, you can be vacationing in the underwater city while your clone is cleaning up your regular house.


Back to Back to the Future Part II. When are guys going to start wearing two ties? I'm ready, but apparently fashionistas aren't ready to make shirts with two collars. When they do, the future will have finally arrived.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part II

Here now is part two of my Undergrad thesis on the Vietnam War.

As with any war there will always be a contingent of men, however large or small that will fight any place, anytime for their country. The Vietnam War began just like all of the American wars that came before. Gung-ho young men went to do their American duty by serving as soldiers to defend their nation. Following the overwhelming American success in World War II, many young men went to Vietnam with a rosy outlook and deeply romantic feelings about the nature of war. “Dear Mom and Dad, Everything here is just fine- in fact it’s better than I thought it would be...All the talk I hear from the guys who have been here awhile make it sound pretty easy over here." This excerpt from a letter written by PFC John Debonka illustrates the innocence of the soldiers who came to Vietnam early on in the war. Debonka arrived in Vietnam in late 1966, and was killed in February of 1967. It was not as easy as he or many Americans thought at the time.

The reasons that the American people were given made those who served more eager than they might have been. President Lyndon Johnson’s original reasons for sending in ground troops in the Spring of 1965 was to protect U.S. military installations, not to attack the Vietnamese directly. The entire operation in Vietnam stemmed from the fear of communism, and by June it had become clear that the army was not solely there to defend, as reports came out about offensive moves by U.S. troops.

The public was not overly concerned, but the horrors of the war could not escape the young men, who, while patriotic, were not ready for what they experienced. As escalation occurred throughout 1965, Johnson and his advisors attempted to maintain popular support, and get young men involved in the cause. Student leaders were brought to Washington D.C. for seminars, and young soldiers toured college campuses in a project known as “Target: College Campuses.” Initiatives like these were effective, but Johnson had already committed 100,000 more troops to the cause in Vietnam by the end of 1965 at the request of General William Westmoreland and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The stage for long-term involvement in Vietnam had been set, and the men that were to fight had to deal with the consequences of their Government’s actions.

There was a sense of duty for many of the soldiers, who, while still uneasy about the war, felt compelled to stop the spread of communism. PFC Richard Marks wrote in a letter home in December 1965 that “I don’t like being over here, but I am doing a job that must be done- I am fighting an inevitable enemy that must be fought- now or later.” This attitude reflects the patriotism that many felt, while still being uncertain as to whether or not Vietnam was the right war at the right time. A commonality among many of the soldiers was a feeling that if communism in Vietnam was not stopped here and now, then the threat might move closer to home. The idea was to head off communism before the Russians and their client states could gain a legitimate foothold on territory, and we should help keep those countries free.

The idea of “helping” the Vietnamese to evade communism was central to the motus operandi of the war. Lt. Thomas Bird talks about helping, and how the military had no real clue about how to treat the Vietnamese people. This is only one aspect of how under prepared the U.S. military was to fight this war, and how the soldiers who were there had no chance of beating their enemy.“We had a strong indoctrination in “help”...We all had a tremendous big brother ego, everybody gave the kids something to eat.” David Parks wrote in his journal in March of 1967, “I’m not sure the native people are with us. They smile at us in the daytime, and their sons shoot us at night. It’s hard to spot the real enemy.” Life for G.I.s was difficult because of this, and the government was not equipped to prepare them for it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Bernard Lee

It is my eventual mission to review each James Bond film individually, and we get started with one of the less popular, but still entertaining, films in the series. Sean Connery had departed the role of 007 in 1967 after You Only Live Twice, but returned for the seventh Bond film after George Lazenby's hasty departure. While it was very welcome to have Connery back as Bond, this is far from his best outing. Unlike the more realistic tone in Lazenby's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds are Forever revolves around gadgets, humor and a over-the-top plot.

In Diamonds, 007 is sent to investigate a smuggling ring that leads him into a dubious partnership with smuggler Tiffany Case as well as into the clutches of his old nemesis, Blofeld. It turns out that Blofeld is using the diamonds for a giant space laser so that he can hold the world ransom- sound familiar? While this plot is not the most engaging, and Charles Gray is a very unconvincing villain, there are some good things about this movie.

Connery's presence is good for a lot, as he exudes the charm and menace that endeared him to audiences in the first place. Also, the dialogue penned by Tom Mankiewicz is some of the most clever and witty in the series. Recognition must also go to a few scenes that stand out from the rest. The fight in the elevator between Bond and Peter Franks is a bruising classic, as is the final tussle aboard a cruise ship as Bond finally dispatches the creepy henchmen- Kidd and Wint. Las Vegas and Amsterdam are welcome locales that help with the plot, and the car chase that takes place in Vegas is quite good despite one of the great screen goofs of all time.

In all, this film is not really greater than the sum of its parts, but there are enough good bits that make it a solid Bond outing. It was only a matter of time before two emblems of capitalism, James Bond and Las Vegas, joined together on the screen for a wild adventure.

Things to Watch For-

Jimmy Dean as Willard Whyte
Klaus Hergeschimer- G Section
Bond's "funeral"
The Bomber Surprise
Bambi and Thumper
Shirley Bassey's great theme song

"I'm Plenty." "But of course you are."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part I

For my undergraduate thesis I wrote a lengthy paper about the Vietnam War, specifically, what soldiers felt about the war as they were fighting it. I will serialize this thesis on my blog in an attempt to shed some light on what I feel is an important topic. Here now is part one.

Ever since the United States was formed in the late 18th Century, there have been wars that this nation has had to fight, some internal and some external. In the 20th Century the nature of war changed, and it became more deadly and costly than ever before. The two World Wars altered the course of history, with the United States emerging as the largest of the world’s powers. Following the end of World War II, the U.S. took on the role of peacekeeper and watchdog for the world, and had only one challenger for supremacy, the communist Soviet Union. Communism, and everything that the Soviets stood for was contrary to the American ideals of freedom and democracy, but unlike the Nazis whose ideology was rooted in Germany, communism was not limited to Russia. 

The fact that many nations succumbed to communism following World War II (China in 1949, Cuba in 1958 and the North Koreans in the 1940’s) showed the U.S. that there was not one enemy to fight, but many. While most in the U.S. during the early Cold War believed the international communist conspiracy came directly from the Kremlin, an all out war with the U.S.S.R. was not an option. Vietnam, therefore, became the American battlefield against communism, and the supposed beginning of the end for the Russians. 

It was, however, not that simple, and in 1965 U.S. troops began fighting a war that they could not win, in spite of efforts made by the government earlier. Did these men who volunteered or that were drafted know that they were fighting an unwinnable war? Were they aware that this war was different from the ones their fathers and older brothers had fought in before? Did they know that no matter how many times we beat the Viet Cong in battle that the enemy would never give up? In these blog entries, the feelings of the everyday soldier will be explored to figure out what they felt and knew as they fought against an ideology as opposed to a more conventional enemy. 

Said U.S. Army Officer John K. Walker, “This isn’t a war for territory, it’s a war for the hearts and minds of the people.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey, Schmohawks!

The world is full of disappointing people, and Larry David's name for them is- Schmohawk. I like this term, and will now give you a new list of Schmohawks.


This Schmohawk from the Utah Legislature went down onto the House floor and admitted to having a naked hot tub experience with a minor back in his mid-twenties, and then paying her hush money when he ran for office. He only had to come clean because his lady friend was trying to extort him further. What a massive Schmohawk!


Most people know Piven for his work on the wildly unentertaining show "Entourage," but on this blog he is more known for his Schmohawk behavior. Piven is known in many circles to be a real cheapskate and was even banned from a chain of restaurants after being rude to management and leaving only a DVD copy of Entourage as a tip on a several hundred dollar tab. Maybe not everyone remembers when you were a bald supporting character on "Ellen," but I do, Schmohawk.


This guy is such a Schmohawk that I can barely write about it. Beck's crybaby ramblings are rooted in his paranoid brain and nowhere else. Many have said that Beck's use of conspiracies to prove points only spreads fear and chaos. I agree, but will take it a step further and quote Jon Stewart, "finally, a guy who says what people who aren't thinking are thinking."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

Guy Ritchie's new version of Sherlock Holmes is fun, interesting and entertaining, but it is far from perfect. I liked this film enough to buy it, but with that said, there are some flaws. Overall, I like the choices that Ritchie and his actors made with how to depict Holmes and Watson for a modern audience. I like the fact that Holmes' more eccentric behavior is played up by Downey, I like the fact that Watson is a much more active character, and I like the gritty realism that Ritchie shows in this version of London.

These likes outweigh the dislikes, for me, so I will spend some time discussing them. Robert Downey Jr. is a very likable, watchable performer who brings charm and wit to any role he plays. I think that for a more disheveled, vagabond Holmes, he is the perfect man for the job. Some have decried this depiction of the master detective, but upon re-reading some of the original stories by Conan Doyle, I have discovered that there are many elements in Downey's portrayal that stay very true to Sir Arthur's creation. Jude Law is also very good as Dr. Watson. I always hated the versions of Holmes that had bumbling, inactive Watsons because that is in no way how I pictured him based on the books. Watson is a doctor, and therefore not a moron, as well as a decorated war veteran, so he is not a coward. Law plays up Watson's smarts and fighting ability, and it makes him such a much more interesting character. I also love the chemistry between Law and Downey because they really seem to have the rapport necessary to play the two friends.

As for Guy Ritchie's direction, I like much of it. His films have a great palpable atmosphere, and Sherlock Holmes is no exception. London is almost another character in the film, and rightfully so. I also like his choice of pace in the movie, intercutting action scenes with slower dialogue driven moments. I do not, however, like everything. Sherlock Holmes' shortcomings are not many, but they do exist. Rachel McAdams is a fine actress, but totally miscast as Irene Adler. I also have trouble with some of the villain's plot, as well as the Da Vinci Code-esque secret society mumbo jumbo that feels tacked on and overdone. Finally, this film does give way to some silly moments that cheapen it and make it feel like other reboots akin to Will Smith's Wild Wild West.

If you are a Holmes lover, this film has much of what has made him a viable character for over 100 years, so try to get past the few problems and enjoy this very interesting movie.

Things to Watch For-

Hans Zimmer's inventive musical score
Guy Ritchie's signature- bare knuckle boxing
Lines taken directly from the original Conan Doyle stories

"You have the grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Let Me Put My Poems In You

I was inspired by my friend and great poet, Joel Long, to write some poetry recently. I am admittedly not in the same vicinity of the league that Joel is in, but his work is the type that gives other people the spark because he cares so much about it. Here now are a few selections for your enjoyment.

Allergies at the Cabin

We take our life in our hands,
Or at least you do
Light trades with shadow
As the Cottonwood floats down
Piles like snowdrifts on the edges
Moves like a yawn on the floor

Yellow splatters on us
Paint hat tokens from an old room
I can see
Your tears cannot hold back the grit
Sandpaper eyes
A sniff and you go inside
Two Benadryl

Wreathed in pollen
Aspens stretch out
Waking in a haze of itch
A roar rips through the still


Have you tried that new Thai Restaurant?
She asked with a sneer
When did that become our barometer?
As if Pesto wasn’t enough

Messenger bags full of sushi
And advice on jet lag
Quentin’s latest film
After a meal that looked like a Jackson Pollock,
But tasted mediocre at best
A Chai with soy milk

It’s the Chinese character for peace
Is it?
I didn’t know you spoke Chinese
Or ever went to China
I am not deep enough
To plumb those depths

Sorry to have disturbed your debate
I didn’t know that coat was vintage
I only buy wine for the labels, not for taste
I went to the same school you did
Tarantino sucks

By the way, check out Joel's new book Knowing Time By Light- his stuff is awesome.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Welcome to the Hall

Two of my all-time favorite players were elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame today- Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen. When I was a kid there were few more talented, hard working or notable players than these two. I am very happy that these two greats are joining the many illustrious players in the hall or fame.

My love of Karl Malone goes back a long way, but was solidified when I had the good fortune to be paired with him in a Hardee's commercial. I was about 11 or 12 when Karl and I spent a morning together shooting free throws in a driveway. He was very nice to me, signed many autographs and answered many of my questions while we shot the ad. I received some teasing from my friends about the commercial when it came on T.V., but it never bugged me because I got paid to hang out with a two time MVP, a great power forward from my favorite team and now, a hall of famer.

Scottie Pippen was always one of my favorite players. His defense, ball handling and work ethic made him stand out- even while playing in Michael Jordan's shadow. Pippen was fun to watch and complimented Jordan so well, that sometimes his play was more exciting than Michael's. I remember writing 33 on my shoes in eight grade as a tribute to Pippen, and insisting on wearing 33 in all our middle school games that year.

Cheers to Karl and Scottie.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Movie of the Week

This Week,

RED RIVER (1948)

Starring- John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan

This is the best Western ever made. I have a great appreciation for many films in this genre, but for me, Red River tops them all. Director Howard Hawks brilliantly depicts the harsh life of a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri and gets great performances out of his leading actors- Wayne and Clift. It is the back and forth between these two men that makes Red River special, as Wayne plays a more villainous role than usual to Clift's hero.

The story centers around cattle baron Thomas Dunson (Wayne) and his desire to take his large herd of cattle North to market, at any cost. At first, his adopted son Matthew Garth (Clift) is his staunchest ally, but as the drive gets longer and harder, Dunson becomes a brutal leader and eventually forces his men to mutiny. Garth is then left to lead the drive while Dunson stalks him to get revenge. Red River is by no means a complex story, but it has some very nuanced scenes that make it seem more complex than it really is. Also, it has a fabulous supporting cast that enhances the drama between Dunson and Garth.

I love this film because it is fun, exciting and suspenseful all at the same time, and it seems more realistic than some of the other Westerns of this period. Kudos must go to Hawks whose direction and cinematography make this film seem larger and more epic than it already is. The shots are so dynamic at times that you almost don't notice that the movie is in black and white. If you like Westerns or The Duke, make sure to put Red River at the top of your list.

Things to Watch For-

Two Jaw Quo
A Revolutionary 360 degree pan shot of the herd
The Great Score by Dimitri Tiomkin
The Red River D belt buckle worn by Wayne that he wore in pretty much every movie after
The great Walter Brennan as Groot

"There are only two things more beautiful than a gun: a Swiss watch or a woman from anywhere."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

College Advice

I have been to college, and as such I have some advice for the kids out there.

Is it me, or are high schools going overboard with getting their students into college?  It seems that more and more students are applying to colleges, and what is more, they want to go!  I just don’t understand what the deal is with all these kids trying to get more education.  Sure college can give you a leg up in many areas, but what about the forgotten trades?  I think that in this economy students are doing themselves a great disservice by restricting themselves to college after they graduate from high school. The list of jobs that await high school grads these days should be expanded. Many, including President Obama, say college is the key.

I say, nonsense.  The truth is that many great careers can be started right away, without attending college.  For example, the carnival and amusement park industry is always looking for people with a keen mind and a strong back.  A top notch carny can make up to $25,000 a year, and that includes benefits.  You may start out cleaning up after the goat boy, rabbit girl or sword swallower, but advancement is possible.  

Darryl “Jawbone” Jenks, one of the industry’s biggest tycoons, started out as a mop boy on The Nausiator, but because of his work ethic, it wasn’t long before he became the Tilt-a-Whirl operator. After that, he hit the mother load.  When three time Carny-of-the-Year Award winner Red Noonan retired, Darryl took his post as the “guess my weight” guy.  It may sound far fetched, but there are just as many future Darryl Jenks out there as there are lawyers and doctors.  It makes me sad that there is this clear bias against not going to college.  There is nothing to be ashamed of if a student wishes to pursue a career as a carny, street performer, cobbler, hand model or dog groomer.  The stigma against these trades must come to an end, because there is nothing that you can get in an Ivy League college that you can’t get under a tent at the fairgrounds. 

 I was lucky to meet Darryl Jenks on one occasion, and I must say that he was a man of great moral fiber who, despite his lack of book learning, lived an exciting and deeply fulfilling life.  Reject the impulse to go to college and choose a more exciting path. 

P.S. This is an April Fool. Duh.