Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Not News

Whatever happened to reporting that was factual and straight forward. In my opinion no one reports the facts fully anymore. There are always inadequacies, misdirection, prestidigitation of print; reporters omit the substance inside of truth leaving us with just a frame, to fill with our own opinions. I hate it.

Did you know 500, 000 people showed up in Washington D.C for a war protest. I did. But I didn’t know the magnitude of the protest until today. The one protest clip they showed on the Fox New Channel, when the march occurred, included a stage full of grandmothers protesting by singing a ditty and a few people holding creative signs. There was no mention of the size of the crowd or who even sponsored it. In a flash the story was over and done with. Later that evening Fox rehashed the same clip. Frankly, there was more coverage of “The Day without Latinos” that took place in March of 06’, than the peace rally. I thought of it no more until today and honestly I became upset.

Speaking out against our government is a right guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment. This ability to be heard without the consequence of disappearing into a secret prison, tortured and then executed is our right. We have the ability to vote with impunity without being threatened at the polls. But while most American news channels acknowledge our right to protest, they choose to show teenage girls beating the tar out of each another, the latest restaurant to switch to trans-fat free cooking oil and the 12 Democratic Senators who are running for President in 08’ (The next President will be a Democrat, provided all twelve don’t get caught on film taking bribes.) instead. It would amaze me to know that the people who live in a traditionally red state are incensed about this war. Hopefully they are scraping off those pretentious black and white “W’s” and wondering which Democrat they are going to vote for. That is the kind of reporting I want to see.

I want to see news that makes me ponder a thought not change the channel. Some of the stuff they report on makes me want to listen to static all day. Report on global warming not Anna Nicole Smith and her drug induced interview. Show bio-diesel and alternative energy concepts not which movie star grossed the most money in 2006. I’m sorry I didn’t make the millions so I DON’T CARE. Give me an expose’ on illegal immigrants who work for major home builders not Paula Abdul and her freakish antics. Then I will watch until my eyeballs fall out, but until then I will furrow my brow in anger and grit my teeth in disgust.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Oh Babylon

I know what you are saying gentle reader, my title is too eccentric, too biblical, but somehow I think this title works. President Bush has authorized our military to kill---yes kill Iranians plotting against Iraq, and now he has taken the dictatorial stance that he makes the decisions on U.S. troop levels. What in the sweet land of liberty is this really about? Let’s review, we went to Iraq to intercede and destroy all weapons of mass destruction. We made it to Iraq but haven’t found one WMD, 3031 U.S. troops have been killed during this operation, the Republicans got their butts stomped because of their faux pas and the U.S has become the laughing stock of the entire world. I don’t like it one bit.

The question is how do you really tell an Iranian bomb-maker as opposed to a Sunni mill worker or a Shiite baker? That would be like trying to tell the difference between someone who resides in Shelby County, Alabama versus someone who lives in Shelby County, Iowa. Of course the accents would be different, and I know we Alabamians would pick up on it in a heart beat. But let’s say the person who was doing the deciphering was from New Deli, India. This is truly what we are facing with this proposal to kill Iranian experts.

On a diplomatic approach to the problem that is Iraq we should understand Iran has a vested interest. Like our vested interest in the U.S/ Mexico border. These two have been neighbors for a long time with strong cultural ties. If we have not learned anything since “Operation Iraqi Freedom” began, we should have learned this; we are not loved in Iraq. IED’s go off daily and these dastardly things are remote operated, so that means Iraqi citizens drive pass them with impunity. Those citizens don’t have to worry about the roadside bombs, because there’re friends and neighbors of the bomb planters. Abu Ghraib styled prisons have ruined our reputation and it’s a solidifying battle cry for all those who want to kill our troops, now add the benefit of haphazardly identifying Iranian “experts” and then the Hezbollah gets directly involved, instead of just showing how to build bombs. Bush in my opinion is pushing the envelope. He has to know that the U.S is “militarily impotent” as one of my other favorite bloggers put it.

The United States used to have the reputation as peace brokers, food aid suppliers, the first to help in disasters, the country you least wanted to piss off next to Russia, the most developed and civilized of nations, the most honorable of nations and a nuclear superpower…with passive aggressive tendencies. But somewhere between September 11th and the day we invaded Iraq, something went awry. Sensibilities were lost to paranoia, paranoia led to secret prisons, warrant-less wire-taps, no fly list, gas prices through the roof, terror alerts for gas odors, three ounces of liquids as a carry on, and a President who believes that 21,500 troops will put down the violence in a place known through out history for the evilest of cities named Babylon. I will be glad when 2008 gets here.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Super Kids

I am a true child of the seventies and eighties. I enjoyed television shows like, HR Puff N’ Stuff, Name That Tune, Tarzan, American Bandstand, Hee Haw (and the corny corn field jokes) , Bear Bryant’s Golden Flake and Coca Cola T.V. show (even though I turned out to be an Auburn Fan),and the Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up playing outside with my Evel Knievel motorcycles (repeatedly crashing it into any object, just like he did), water rockets, Frisbees, footballs and bugs, lot and lots of bugs. My favorite games were Sorry, Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders and one well worn Rubik’s Cube. Then when electronic games hit the market I was the proud owner of a Simon, a Merlin, and a Classic Electronic Football Game, not to mention countless quarters fed into PacMan, Galaga and Asteroid machines in an Arcade. And it was only until Sunday, when I watched my 4 year old son navigate through a Playstation 2’s Socom 3, did I realize that I was as old as my children say I am.

My son’s tiny fingers manipulated the buttons flawlessly as he found each one of his digital targets then summarily fired his weapon. I cringed. His little eyes were locked on the television in a concentration I could not explain. I became unnerved and kindly took the controller from him, and turned off the game. I then gave him a blank piece of paper and a pencil, so he could practice writing his name. After about two minutes my young son asked, “Daddy, can I use the computer to write my name, it’s faster?” However his oldest sister was updating her Myspace page, as his big brother changed his play list on his MP3 player. I told him, “Your sister is using it right now.” His response, “well how about your laptop?” Needless to say I stood in awe as this 3 foot tall child looked at his pencil with disgust then sat down quietly.

Somewhere between writing, working and trying to stay fit, my old folk switch has been activated. I listened to some of the music my teenagers were listening to, and wondered who actually listens to this mess. The answer was… they do. They love MTV, and I can not bear to watch that channel because they don’t play music anymore; MTV has evolved into shows about prima donna 16 year olds and 20 year old pseudo-rockers who are professional drug users. (That previous sentence made me feel even older). I feel as though I am loosing touch with my children. I try to stay in style, but not the cool dad, because cool dads can do more harm than good. Kids have become hyper-savvy to the ways of the world, especially my kids. To them there is more to think about than going outside to play. They have to worry about way more than scraping their knees or busting their lips. To them outside means the West Nile Virus, Amber Alerts and a Terror Alert stuck on yellow, not fun and exploration. With that I will sit and watch them grow up as I hold on to my Allman Brothers music and diet Coke filled with peanuts and try not to rust away.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Occam's Razor

Watching the sectarian conflict escalate in Iraq, has brought me to the understanding that President Bush is over compensating for the most simplest of answers to the question which is Iraqi Freedom. 21,500 soldiers in my opinion will not reduce or even slow the sectarian violence in a country roughly the size of Idaho, but will provide more targets for the insurgents. President Jalal Talabani knows America will not stay long enough to clean up the mess it has created, and he will be forced to create political relationships that are unsavory, but necessary for Iraq to have any future. He understands Occam’s Razor. The expression on President Talabani face says it all; on camera Talabani appears tired and unshaven his movements almost mechanical…he is out of options. He knows his country is falling apart. He knows the killings will get even worse before any slowdown is possible. After all there is a power struggle all the way to the top and they will try to kill him when they get there.

A report released by the UN that aired on NBC Nightly News that an average of 100 Iraqi civilians died each day during 2006. Meanwhile our beloved country is loosing on average 100 service members monthly, not to mention the grossly wounded causalities. What really would be the harm in withdrawing from Iraq? Would it be more sectarian violence, more terrorist involvement in Iraq’s daily activities? Would the Iranians march across the border to commandeer the country? Do the Iranians really want the headache? What really are we waiting for? What should we really be concerned about? Personally I believe we should not waste on more American life because of a Bush’s belief in ambiguity. A hail Mary of sorts, as if our ball is in the 30 yard line and one more play will put our team on the board when we are 40 points behind. No sir. Bring our kids home.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Boutique Medicine

Once I worked with a millionaire who called his doctor whenever he had a medical question. After becoming annoyed at this I asked him one day, “Your doctor doesn’t get angry when you call him?” He replied casually, “He is not talking to me he is talking to my money.” I struck upon an epiphany with his response, the only good health insurance to have is cold…hard…cash. Imagine having the ability to call your doctor anytime you want, as well as see him or her at your convenience. My local television station WSFA Channel 12 News did a segment about just that, called “Boutique medicine.” A Montgomery doctor by the name of Johnnie Strickland had decided to reduce the number of patients he saw from five thousand to five hundred. Those remaining 500 patients paid 89 dollars monthly for unfettered access to his services. I did the math, 500 patients equates out to 534,000 yearly. Dr. Strickland has not stumbled upon a new idea, but he has the right idea. In my opinion Dr. Strickland is probably fed up with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medicare and Medicaid and decided to take a stand. There is no “Competition trick billing” for routine services and he is definitely not loosing money. This is the way insurance should be. Once it catches on Boutique healthcare in my opinion will usurp regular healthcare insurance and hopefully change the way things are done in America.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Can you remember the Oscar winners for best actor in 1987? How about a television show that took the most Emmys in 1997? Can you remember the price of gas in 1988 for unleaded self-serve? Can you even remember where you were today twenty years ago today? Now the preceding question I can actually answer. The day was a Wednesday and it was a cold Alabama day (before global warming and El Nino). I had already signed up for the U.S. Navy and was eager to see the world at Uncle Sam’s expense. I was a bored high school senior sitting in my first period class wishing that the year would fly by so I could graduate and head to sunny California for boot camp.

In May of 1987, a man named Saddam Hussein would accidentally kill 37 of our U.S. sailors on the USS Stark by missile attack. In 1990 I would be deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 2nd Marines as a combat medic assisting in kicking Saddam’s army out of Kuwait by February of 1991. Combat and the memory of burning oil fields would change my life forever.

Ten years later in 1997 I was a husband, a father, a homeowner, and a taxpayer. One fateful day in 97’ I looked back over the last ten years and felt like I had done absolutely nothing with my life, or so it had seemed. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that I was not thankful. I wasn’t a movie star, or a doctor or an epidemiologist or an Army Captain. I didn’t belong to Kappa Alpha and I wasn’t a Shriner. I was just a tired husband and father who paid bills and tried to raise a family. Later in life I would learn there is beauty in mediocrity and consistency in being average.

On 30th August of 97’ Princess Dianna lost her life at the hands of a drunk driver, five days on September 5th Mother Teresa a Nobel Prize winner and the head of Missionaries of Charity died of natural causes (people lined up to kiss her feet at her funeral). Guess which one got the most press. As a Paramedic I had seen plenty of people killed in drunk driving accidents and didn’t understand why they praised a woman on a date but not a future Saint.

2007 hasn’t unfolded but I feel it will be different. I understand what my parents meant when they said, “One day you will wake up old” they did not lie. I have learned the lessons of the last twenty years of pain and achievements and I am finally thankful. I have learned, there is no reward without risk, money cannot buy everything, nobody remembers celebrity’s achievements, learning how to fall down is just as important as getting back up, and when it is your time to go there is no hospital on the planet that can stop you. Just imagine what I will know twenty years from now.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

I Wonder Who...

Said that relationships are easy? There is such a thing as being incompatible and I wonder why some couples don’t get it? As a writer I consider myself an excellent listener because stories are found in conversation with other people. It is when I am listening to someone complaining about their relationship I throw out the proverbial question, “Didn’t ask enough questions in the courtship huh?” That one question has caused a few raised eyebrows in several conversations I have had with forlorn lovers. They always seem to be totally oblivious to asking enough questions during the “interview stage”. So I created…

Alex’s Pre-Relationship Checklist

These questions should be asked up front.

10. Are you married? ASK THIS FIRST and if they say no follow them home to make sure. You really don’t want an angry spouse tracking you down…do you?

9. Are you bitter? Oh boy! Bitter people (more often than not those who are divorced) take their anger out on the most genuine and innocent of potential mates. Thus creating another bitter person, this cycle never ends believe me.

8. Are you needy? If you are not a nurturer then needy people are not for you. It is as simple as that.

7. Are you insane? Crazy people sometimes sneak into sane relationships thus causing a relatively sane person to need Zoloft, Prozac and Jim Beam.

6. Are you Jealous? This question is more serious than a police roadblock. Jealous people do not trust you and will kill you. Don’t believe me? Pick up a newspaper and look in the crime section.

5. Are you compulsive? Or in other words, “Are you a stalker?” Yes this question is extremely relevant. What if you had OJ for a mate? Refer to line two of question number 6.

4. Do you have warrants for your arrest? Imagine sitting in an Applebee’s eating blooming onions and sipping on sweet tea, then suddenly you are thrown to the floor along with your date and handcuffed. It is called guilt by association…look it up.

3. Can you provide? This is a uni-sexed question. This can mean, “Can you cook?” or “Can you support a potential family?” This question is often missed and becomes a real problem in the, “Headed to the altar” phase of a relationship. IF your mate can’t hold a job with a bucket, or if they have a tendency to burn ice cubes, then some real arrangements need to be made in the beginning.

2. Do you like children? If you have children make this question number one.

Sometimes people are attached with children and this understanding needs to be established in the pre-relationship checklist. IF neither one of you have children still ask the question because birth control sometimes fails.

1. Are you good in bed? I know this question sounds shallow and it really is, however it is a supreme deal killer. A relationship is as much physical as it is emotional. I couldn’t tell you how many times the phrase; “They are such a wonderful, loving person with admirable qualities…” has been uttered, by people who are severely missing something in the bedroom.

Just look at this list, if you are laughing then you can probably relate. If you are not laughing you are either lonely, or crazy. I think this list might just help that dejected boyfriend or girlfriend avoid another relationship failure.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Book Review: The War of Art

The War of Art is a dynamic book penned by famed author Stephen Pressfield who happens to be the author of “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Gates of Fire”. The War of Art caught my eye simply because of the title. Having a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War in my personal library I was more than interested. After reading a couple of pages (as well as being a self confirmed bibliophile) I purchased the book.

First off there are no chapters. The War of Art is broken into three books and under each book are several essays pertaining to the theme of that book. The first book entitled “Resistance Defining an Enemy” personifies, demystifies and deconstructs an enemy of achievement called “Resistance”. Pressfield flawlessly peels away the layers of Resistance and shows up the one thing in everyday life that prevents us from reaching our personal goals. He shows that doubt, fear, anxiety, remorse and procrastination are forms of “Resistance” Believe me I had to read further.

Titles like “Resistance and Fundamentalism” and “Resistance and Criticism” will have me delving deeper between the pages. My personal favorite is on page 68 entitled, “How to be Miserable”.

The second book is entitled “Combating Resistance” Pressfield teaches us ways of counteracting Resistance by defining “Professionals and Amateurs”. Then by the way of his own personal discoveries and downfall he pulls you along until you understand the techniques it takes to be consistent and successful.

The third book is entitled “Going Beyond Higher Realm” uses Homer’s opening to the Odyssey for professional writers and other artisans alike to reach to a higher plane of professionalism.

O Devine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me

this song of the various-minded man who, after he had

plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made

to stray grievously about the coast of men, the sport of their

customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-

faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his

company safe home. Vain hope---for them. The fools! Their own

witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the

most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of

their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings,

O Muse…

I cannot go any deeper into the book, but I can tell you it is a fantastic read. If you get a chance to buy it and believe me you won’t be disappointed.