Monday, May 30, 2011

The Religious Dinner Table

I moved last weekend, so I've been a bit busy. Here now is an old entry from the first days of this blog. You probably haven't read it. If you have, just relax and I'll get some new material going in a few days.

When I taught World Religions, I used a metaphor to explain how I thought the conflicting religions of the world could possibly get over their centuries of acrimony. This is really not a new idea, but a nice dream. This class was right around lunchtime, and so many of the metaphors and references had to do with food, so bear with me.

Imagine a large circular dinner table, if you will, with no head- like Camelot's Round Table. At the table are the leaders of all the religions of the world. The Pope, the Dalai Lama, Bishops, Rabbis, Voodoo guys, the LDS President, there's even room for the Scientologists. Just don't send Tom Cruise because there are rules about jumping on the furniture.

Everyone is seated and comfortable, and lunch is about to be served. On the menu at the religious dinner table is Pizza. Why pizza? Well, for 2 reasons, one- as my uncle says it's like sex, when it's good it's great, and when it's bad it's still pretty good, And two- it is the one food that I have found most people can agree on.

That said, pizza can be difficult to agree on. I personally like a thin crust with pepperoni, olives and mushrooms. My wife likes Hawaiian. I hate Hawaiian and she hates pepperoni and olives, so how if we can't agree on pizza how will all the world's religious leaders? The Jews won't have Canadian Bacon, but might want a New York style, the Catholics will want meat and Chicago style, but not on Friday and the Vegan Pagans will want soy cheese and a gluten free crust. I smell more acrimony brewing.

Okay, well let's have them agree to disagree on toppings, sauces, cheeses, crust styles, etc. everyone gets their own personal pizza. How then, if each za is different does the metaphor work? I say focus not on the type of pizza, but on the fact that despite that some like the Hut and others Dominos, everyone can agree that pizza in some form is good, or at least acceptable.

Religion is the same as pizza. If my wife and I can have friends over and decide to eat pizza, but not get bogged down in the details, perhaps those in power can put aside some of their issues and agree on the basic concept of dough with some fixings, then perhaps they can go the next step to mending some of the oldest conflicts on the planet. Pizza is not called the perfect food for nothing, people.

Movie of the Week

This week,

KINGPIN (1996)

Starring- Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray, Vanessa Angel

Other than the classic, Dumb and Dumber, this is the best movie that the Farrelly brothers have ever done. It follows the rise and fall of bowler, Roy Munson (Harrelson) who after winning the state bowling title loses his hand and becomes a degenerate drunk with a hook. He is at rock bottom when he discovers an Amish kid named Ishmael (Quaid) with the bowling talent to put Roy back on top.

After having to convince Ishmael to leave his Amish community to go to the National Bowling Tournament in Reno, Roy must teach him how to be great in order to win. Roy just has to remember how to do that. Along the way to Reno they try to earn some money by hustling, but run afoul of some dubious ruffians and pick up the girlfriend of their leader, Claudia. She proves to be a sexy, but unpredictable wild card for the two men. When they finally get to Reno Roy and Co. meet up with his former rival, Ernie "Big Ern" McCracken, the one responsible for the loss of Roy's hand. Ernie is now the Michael Jordan of bowling, and takes every opportunity to slight Munson and Ishmael.

The finale of the movie is up there with Caddyshack and Major League in terms of drama and hilarity. Big Ern's duel with Roy is a combover mussing, thrill ride that is howlingly funny. The cast of Kingpin is sterling, but the real kudos must go to Bill Murray as Big Ern. He is the comedy villain that you love to hate, and quote his lines. For those who enjoy gross out humor and sports, Kingpin is going to be on your top five list.

Things to Watch for-

Roger Clemens in a rare cameo
The landlady

"It's a small world when you have unbelievable tits, Roy."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Utah Jazz Musings

The NBA Draft Lottery was last night, and my team, the Utah Jazz, lucked out and got the 3rd pick. I was happy, because the last time they drafted that high they ended up with a guy named Deron Williams, who turned out to be a pretty good player- until they traded him. According to all the pundits and experts, this draft is thin and contains few NBA ready players. With that said I am hopeful that the Jazz can get a player that will help them get back on track soon.

The main candidates for  in the early going are Arizona forward Derrick Williams (another D-Will?) and Enes Kanter, a Turkish center who spent last year at Kentucky. The Jazz also have the 12th pick, and many here in Utah (not me) are hoping that they draft BYU scoring machine Jimmer Fredette. If they do, fine, but don't be shocked if he isn't putting up 30 points a game in the NBA. Some guys just don't have games that translate well to the NBA, and I fear that Jimmer is one of them. My hope is that the Jazz don't get sucked into the hype and instead pick the best player available. If it happens to be Jimmer, so be it. With all that said I am glad to see my team getting back on what appears to be the right track. It would be pretty hard for things to get much worse than how last season ended. Yikes, I hope I didn't just jinx us.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part VI

Blogger was down earlier this week and it unposted this entry that I had already posted. Here, for the second time is part six in my series on the Nazi personality.

One man who Hitler trusted not to attempt to seize power was Rudolf Hess. Unlike the other top Nazis, Hess was not ambitious, and far less intelligent than Goebbels or Himmler. For that reason Hitler could treat Hess more like a friend than a subordinate. Hess possessed a duality in his personality like his comrades, but it was a different kind of duality. He had a dark brooding nature that made him look far more sinister than he actually was. While the reverse can be said of Himmler or Heydrich, Hess was the shy younger brother that tagged along with the older boys. Hitler played the role of older brother to Hess, by giving him power even though there were other more capable men in the regime, and in return Hess showed Hitler the utmost devotion. An adolescent in many ways, Hess survived the cutthroat Nazi power structure only due to his closeness with Hitler. To men like Himmler and Heydrich, Hess posed no threat, and he cooperated with their initiatives, especially the Final Solution.

By allowing himself to be swayed by the people closest to him, without giving up power, Hitler allowed for his most ambitious and ruthless subordinates to achieve great things by competing with each other for his favor. Each man carved out a niche for himself, and in many ways created his own job or jobs. Goebbels was officially the head of the Propaganda Ministry, but his influence extended into film, radio, newspapers and books. At any given time he had the power to intervene on any film being made in Germany. Hess was placated because of his secure post as the Deputy Fuhrer. Himmler, following the emergence of the SS and Gestapo, was the second most powerful man in Germany, and his rise to prominence was not opposed by Hitler. In fact, Himmler had done so much work to besmirch the SA and its leaders, that Hitler was grateful to him, and enabled his SS empire to out grow any other entity within the party. Like Himmler, Heydrich was able to make his job more vast by acquiring power inside the SS organization. Goering was also able to garner many different leadership positions; he was the head of the Luftwaffe and the head of German national parks among other things.

The Nazi personality centered around a quest for power and a need to do good for the advancement of Hitler’s plans, by any means necessary. Albert Speer was one of the few Nazis who were not overly ambitious. As the armaments minister to Hitler, Speer was not as much a part of the internal power struggle like Himmler and Goering. Not perhaps as sinister as the other leading Nazis, Speer did retain elements of the Nazi persona. Speer’s connection to the party was not like that of the others in Hitler’s inner circle; he was not bound to it in such a way that he could not bear its demise. Like Goebbels and Himmler, it was the party that brought Speer success, and Hitler liked having him as a key component to his staff. More than just another lackey who sucked up to Hitler to get ahead, Speer, like Hess, felt he actually had Hitler’s respect and friendship. In many ways Speer was at odds with much of the regime, and did not buy into the strange, dysfunctional camaraderie of the Nazi regime.

Undoubtedly there were others like Speer who joined the party and never gave it their full allegiance, but he is the one who had the most access to Hitler. Speer bared few similarities to his fellow Nazis, but his appearance was, in fact a deception. At his trial following World War II, Speer claimed to have not been in on the atrocities committed in the Holocaust. While he may not have had much to do with the actual carrying out of the Final Solution, Speer was able to use the Nazi trait of manipulation to save himself from the hangman’s noose.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

ROCKY III (1982)

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Mr. T

Other than the original Oscar winning film, this is the best film in the Rocky film series. Before Sly jumped the shark by battling Russians and his own craggy catcher's mitt of a face, he gave us this fun, emotional and star studded battle royale. After beating his rival Apollo Creed (Weathers) in the thrilling climax of Rocky II, Rocky Balboa is now a rich, well groomed and popular champion, having won ten more title defenses. He lives with his wife Adrian (Shire) and son, as well as his trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young). Everything is going well for Rocky, until a new challenger rears his mohawked head.

That challenger is Clubber Lang (Mr. T) a brutal bruiser who has one goal, to take Rocky down. Rocky is more than willing to accept the challenge, but finds out that his last few fights had been against lesser opponents that Mickey had handpicked. Mickey cautions Rocky about taking on Lang because of his ability and hunger, but they agree to the fight anyway. Things go awry and Rocky loses on multiple fronts. Deep in despair, he turns to Apollo to help him get back his 'eye of the tiger' in order to defeat Lang in a rematch.

In a way, this film should have been the last in the series because it brings the story full circle. The two former rivals teaming up and working together to defeat a bigger, badder opponent would have made a great ending. The cast all bring their A-games, and Mr. T proves to be a powerful villain and has some of the greatest lines in sports movie history. Try to forget the silly, and sometimes awful chapters in the Rocky saga that follow, and pretend, just for a moment that it all ended with Rocky and Apollo, as friends, in the ring for one last bout.

Things to watch for-

Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips
Sly's brother Frank as the groovy training singer
The great song 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor
Many a training montage
Rocky's many endorsements

" I'm gonna torture him. I'm gonna crucify him. Real bad."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Like You

As the karmic antithesis to my Schmohawk posts, I offer up some people that I wish to compliment and recognize for their awesomeness. Here now are three more people that I like.


This guy is funny. Really funny. He has been in some sub par movies, but his performances never fail to make me laugh. His best work is as the writer and star of Eastbound And Down. As ex-pitcher turned P.E. teacher Kenny Powers, McBride is a wisdom spewing, mullet sporting, steroid taking party animal. It isn't often that an original character comes along these days, but McBride's Kenny Powers is one of them.


These two are the masterminds behind radio's best show,WNYC's Radiolab. They are flat out changing the way radio is done with the way they play with sound. The show is built on science-based topics that are the brainchild of NPR's science reporter, Krulwich,  and then Abumrad edits the stories and layers them with effects and music to create an audio tapestry that is unlike anything else out there. I am hosting my own podcast and trying to emulate these two as much as I can because they are the new gold standard in public radio. Need more proof that they're good? They just won a Peabody Award.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

STAR WARS (1977)

Starring- Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

In honor of Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you) I am going to complete my reviews of the saga with the first film in the original trilogy. If you've been following my work on this blog, I have made a list of the top ten things I like best for Empire and Jedi. In case you've been in a coma since 1977, I'll quickly nutshell this movie. This kid learns that he has special powers from an old man and they go on a trip with the guy from Witness and a hairy thing to take out this floating sphere and rescue the gal who wrote Postcards From the Edge. Here now are the Top Ten things I like best about the film that changed sci-fi forever. The tradition continues...

10. Blue milk.

9. Tashi Station. That place has the best power converters on Tatooine.

8. The new scene that George Lucas added with Jabba the Hutt because the dialogue is no way the same as the scene that Greedo and Han have just minutes before.

7. Vader's force choke skills. Don't diss him at the conference table or you'll be sorry.

6. Grand Moff Tarkin. He's a skeletal and menacing partner for Darth Vader. What is a Moff, anyway?

5. The ability for Leia to keep that outfit white with all the crawling through garbage and gunfights and whatnot. I guess Mama Organa has the magic of Clorox 2.

4. The droid that has a bad motivator. Think about how different things would have been if his motivator hadn't been bad. I just blew your mind didn't I?

3. Porkins. I'm sad he dies, but I bet the rest of the rebels are kinda happy because there's more food left for them at the buffet back on Yavin.

2. Han Solo. That is all. P.S. He shot first.

1. The Millennium Falcon- she made the Kessell Run in less than 12 parsecs. I don't know what that means, but it sounds impressive.

Stay tuned for the special editions of my reviews of the Star Wars trilogy. They'll have new material and sweet special effects that I couldn't do because of limited technology.

Things to watch for-

Aunt Beru
Jawas- "Oooo-ti-di!"
Han has a boring conversation

"The force will be with you...always."

Sunday, May 1, 2011


There was a modicum of closure tonight as the death of Osama Bin Laden was announced. The man who was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is no more. To all our men and women who serve our country, I salute you, and to all those who lost loved ones on 9/11/2001, I am sorry for your loss. To President Obama, who gave the order to go ahead with the operation that eliminated an evil man, I thank you. 

The terror that Bin Laden unleashed was horrific and changed the world in a profound way. While his death cannot undo what was done, and nothing can bring back his victims, there is some closure tonight of a violent chapter in our nation's history. The unity that we felt as a country ten years ago was born of sorrow and anger. Let us hope that unity will once again sweep the nation in the face of a great accomplishment. I am proud of the U.S.A. tonight and moved by the scenes of people gathering in our cities. 

A great deal has happened in the last ten years, and I can say that for me, tonight marks a welcome bit of solace that I thought might never come. There will likely be violent repercussions for this act by our military, but perhaps America will have a renewed sense of pride and togetherness that can help end some of the bitterness we have felt of late and overcome the other obstacles that stand in our way. U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!