Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trendiness, Not Truth

The Coolest Kids in the World

America has seen its share of young radicals in the past fifty years.  From the anti-war protests of the 60s, to the anti-nuclear rallies of the 80s, to the “I have no idea why I’m here” protests of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the past year; any excuse for a protest gathering will suffice. All of them have in common masses of college educated mostly White kids from affluent families. 

There is also a barely hidden strain of Socialism, anti-Americanism, and an ever-present hint of smug superiority.  These kids and their organizers believe that anyone who really knows what’s going on is on their side.  Any opposition is merely proof of your ignorance.  Other countries have their protest-otaku but they also come from the same social strata.  The truly spoiled among them share international causes like helping “the poor, oppressed terrorists” of Palestine.  Almost invariably, the international target is the Unites States or Israel.

If questioned directly most participants will admit they don’t fully understand their position either.  But they are certain of the rightness of the cause.  Why?  Because all the “cool kids” are supporting it, therefore they become cool also, by extension.  In the long run it doesn’t matter what is being protested, as long you participate in the latest protest trend it counts in your social standing on campus.

The targets of domestic protests have commonalities as well.  They are always pillars of American society.  Whatever is traditional, good for, or beneficial for the majority of Americans is a perfect candidate for protest.  The Civil Rights protests are an exception.  They were a just cause for a significant portion of the population and did not originate on college campuses.  The Trendy White kids didn’t even acknowledge the cause until it was almost fait accompli.  Everything that makes American unique and honorable (therefore special) must be torn down.  The overarching term is Counterculture.

Molding young minds

High school is supposed to be a time of maturing.  It is the time when we finish the journey from childhood to responsible adult.  At least that is what it used to be.  Since WWII American affluence has afforded younger generations the luxury of delayed development.  Immature students arrive on campus unprepared for the realities of life beyond the hometown.  I think that was the plan all along.

Well-educated high school seniors with a firm grounding in history, patriotism and traditional values were once the consistent product of public education.  Liberal professors with their socialist doctrine could not persuade them nor could they survive for long outside of a few private Eastern universities.  The steady decline of public education now leaves young people unprepared to meet these social engineers on an even plane.  Their indoctrination begins without having to overcome resistance.

College professors belong to a class of nonproductive citizens known as the Elites.  These are men and women who possess two consistent characteristics: they believe they know better how you should live your life and they hate our shared way of life.  They hate the country and laws that provide them with a high standard of living and comfort so much that they are determined to destroy it.

The Means Justify the Ends

The United States is a good country and a great place to live despite all of the protestations from the anti-Americans hear and around the world.  There is only one proof needed; most of the protesters refuse to leave it.  America’s borders are always open to her citizens.  Anyone desiring to leave need only make travel arrangements.

Contrariwise, Socialist countries in any part of the world spend the majority of their energy trying to control their populations.  High walls, guard towers and spy networks labor full time to prevent “citizens” from escaping.  Where do most of those “blessed workers of the State” dream of living?  In the US of A, of course.  They know viscerally what esteemed professors on American campuses do not; tis better to live poor in America than to live than to life anywhere in a Socialist state.

That is the fallacy of most protests; the thing they champion cannot bring about the improvements they profess.  Real world evidence and multiple dialed experiments prove that.  The Soviet Union, Cuba, Nicaragua; every place Socialism has taken root has resulted in misery for the population, starvation, death and deprivation.  There is no reason to believe any form of Socialism can succeed in America and certainly there is no reason to believe that it could possibly improve the lives of the average citizen.

But that will not deter the protesters.  It doesn’t matter the cause or the effect; what matters is looking good while being arrested on television. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Shaken, Not Stirred" No more


James Bond 007 returns in SKYFALL later this year.  The suave, sophisticated secret agent, possessing a license to kill and a Walther PPK from the British MI6 is making his 23rd movie appearance.  He was created by Ian Fleming to be the perfect secret agent.  Based on exploits of a real-life agent Fleming met during WWII.  He took outrageous risks, romance beautiful women and tweaked the noses of Nazis while skating on the Death’s razor-edge.

Many of us have grown up more with the movies about the life and adventures of the Fleming 007 character. We know him inside and out; we expect him to find away when there seems no way out—and to look good doing it. That iconic agent is all but gone in the new Bond movies.  After SKYFALL Bond will likely never be the same.

Wussification of Bond

Another common factor in all of the early Bond movies was the Bond Girls.  Some of Hollywood’s and the world’s most beautiful actresses have made an appearance in bond movies. Their main role was to act as eye candy for the male audience and provide an element of romance for Bond.  Some were helpless bimbos; others were razor-sharp foreign agents like Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin in TOMORROW NEVER DIES).

Starting in the 90’s, perhaps earlier, the writers made an effort to make the female actresses more relevant – hence the Wai Lin character. More often than not they were fellow agents, competition and even villains to match wits against.  More and more of 007’s traits were exported into the female character.  His depth of knowledge in esoterica started coming from the women.  Critical data came from the ladies when in the past he figured things out himself.  They were the ones downloading the villain’s secrets while bond stood by holding his “pistol.”

Finally in the latest CASINO ROYALE Daniel Craig cannot even dress himself properly.  Eva Green (as Vesper Lynd) not only holds the purse strings over Bond, she picks out his suit so he doesn’t look bad when he sits down at the high stakes poker table.

Rebranding Bond

James Bond has certain clich├ęs associated with him; the Walther PPK, the British-built Aston Martin cars, and his martinis – “shaken, not stirred.”  Once before the studio tried to change a factor in his character (driving a BMW in GOLDENEYE) and the fans erupted.  The Aston Martin returned in CASINO ROYALE.  So far fans are tolerating the blond Daniel Craig (all previous Bond’s had brown hair or darker).

Another change appearing in the upcoming SKYFALL will have the cantankerous 007 hoisting a Heineken  brew in place of the iconic martini. Already fans are reacting.  The Facebook fan page is aflame with unfavorable responses. Time will tell if the studio will listen to the fan base or charge ahead with what is likely a marketing stunt.  Generally, upsetting your target audience is a poor business strategy.

The Future for Bond

The producers have altered the Bond character significantly in the past decade.  “M” is now a woman (heartless bitch that she is as played by Dame Judi Dench).  Q is portrayed by the sarcastic British comedian John Cleese.  Bond himself has lost most of his wit, all of his knowledge base and his smooth swagger. He has turned into a two-dimensional action figure fit only for car chases and shoot-outs.

The final betrayal of our childhood hero will come in this movie or no later than the next two.  Look for James Bond to have a homosexual romantic interlude.  No matter how it is rationalized as a necessary part of his cover, it will sound the death bell for 007.  How do I know? Nothing definite yet, just Hollywood’s tendency to push the LBGT agenda in every avenue. It’s in most television shows, many movies and even in commercials.  Disney, Nickelodeon and Sesame Street all have openly Gay characters in programs aimed at children.  How long before James Bond, 007, curls up at the end of the movie with the first “Bond Boy?”

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life After Lottery Letdown

If I Could Have One Wish . . .

Right now Sunday morning is dawning across America.  Tens of millions of citizens (and illegal aliens) are still recovering from the fact that they did not hold one of the winning tickets in this past week’s Mega-Millions lottery.  Three tickets will split the jackpot that finally reached 640 million dollars; that is $640,000,000.00 nearly two-thirds of a billion dollars.  Who wouldn’t want a piece of that – or all of it?

Of course, the sobering reality is the real chances of hitting the winning combination are ridiculously small. The fact that three tickets did seems to fly in the face of statistics, but they don’t.  Mathematicians who created the game give the odds of winning as 1:176 million.  As the pot was over three times that size it almost works out to the three winning tickets.  Nicely done, government bean-counters, nicely done.

Meanwhile the many millions of us who did not win return to our normal lives, somewhat deflated after inflated expectations.  It was hard not to catch “Lotto Fever.” Instead of covering the high gas prices, the Iranian nuclear program, the impending Israeli raid to stop such, the latest Muslim terrorist attacks, the Republican primary and the myriad of other important news items, the mainstream media spent as much as a third of their daily programming talking about this lottery.

I watched the talking heads muse about what they would do with the money.  They chatted about it as they broke for every commercial, dragged the sports and weather personalities into it on their segments, and called in lottery winners, psychologists and statisticians.  It was a full court press like as reserved for major war stories, hurricanes and elections that matter.  No wonder the lottery was on everyone’s mind.

Now back to reality.

“All you need is a dollar and a dream.”

That’s how the lottery is sold in many states.  Who doesn’t have the occasional dollar to spare?  When you get change at the convenience store, it is very tempting to try one’s luck with a ticket or two, maybe a scratch off; hey, somebody has to win, it might be you!  Are you feeling lucky?

Everybody has a dream of how they would spend so much money but the dreams of normal people are inadequate to the task. Consider that each winning ticket will actually be worth only 150 million in lump sum payouts. After Uncle Sam dips his monstrous hands in the pot (again) you will be left with 100 of the 640 million that had you panting breathless Saturday morning – a big step down.  But still it is more money than you and likely everyone you know have ever held in the totality of their lives. And it’s all yours.  Now what?

You can’t spend that kind of money

You can blow through that money, many lottery winners end up broke in a few years with nothing much to show for their winnings, but people of our level cannot spend that kind of money properly.

Back in the 80’s I did this experiment with a shipmate on the ENTERPRISE.  Earvin “Magic” Johnson had just signed a 40 million dollar endorsement contract and my fellow sailors were alternately complaining and dreaming about what that must be like.  I told them, “You can’t spend that kind of money.”

After the protests died down I took out a piece of paper and began to ask specific questions; what would you do with that kind of money.  I listed each purchase a person had.  House, car, bills paid off; the usual things people say when asked on television after a big win. But be specific; what kind of car, how big a house, where are you going to build?  Gifts for mom and dad, share with the siblings – yeah I wrote those down too.

Some big numbers piled up.  We moved into extravagances like jewelry and luxury travel while the big house was under construction.  The Riviera is nice in the spring.  First class tickets and beach front rentals are not cheap.  Eventually that first year winds down and you want to settle into something a little more normal, so you go home.

I totaled up the bills from that big blowout and it came to 2.5 million or less for everyone!  My estimate still holds true today.  A money manager who advises those who are suddenly rich from the lottery or a big athletic contract to take three million in “mad money” and go do their dreams and leave the rest to start working for them.  Thirty years later, just three million can cover the average person’s dreams.  Bill Gates can burn that much money every day of his life and the fire would never go out.

You Can’t Go Home Again

But home isn’t what it once was.  Your friends still have money problems and you want to be generous but you start to feel taken advantage of.  Eventually, money envy turns into resentment.  People think you just got lucky (which is true) and you are no more deserving of such wealth than they are.  One thing the money did for you quickly was reveal who are your real friends. It’s time to move into your new home – and get an unlisted number.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though.  You can find friends with approximately the same standard of living you now possess in your new neighborhood.  And you don’t have to fear bills coming in for a few years – if you are handling your money properly.  Taxes won’t even scare you.

In the long run money in any amount cannot make you happy.  A pundit once opined that big money only makes you more of what you are.  If you are a jerk, you will just become a rich jerk with enough money to be a more noticeable jerk.

But a wise person will still be wise no matter the balance of their bank account.  A fool goes broke in a few years, a wise person does all he or she wants to do in their lifetime and leaves an inheritance to their children.

I didn’t play the lottery.  I don’t play no matter how big the pot gets because I can do Math.  I prefer to work for what I get and, being a Christian, I prefer the odds I get investing my spare dollars in God as opposed to a government run lottery.

But I still dream of a life different from my own. A nice house in the country, a couple of new cars paid off.  I will get them, too.  It will come through effort, through training myself and disciplined investing of time, money and faith, and possibly a little luck.  But I like my odds.

No need to worry about Magic Johnson either. He didn’t win the lottery – except the genetic lottery that made him freakishly tall and talented – but he also got where he is today through hard work, careful investing and wise spending.  Even the rich have dreams.