Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on 2010


I know, I know I've been slacking; maybe one of my New Year's resolutions will be to ACTUALLY blog every day...maybe. Still, I started this little hobby in September and am pretty happy with how many times I've posted and the feedback I've gotten so far! Naturally, my final blog of 2010 will be a reflection. Looking back on what has undoubtedly been the best year of my life!

Chronologically:

1. January 29th, 2010 - My 21st birthday. Oh my god. From what I remember, it was epic. A great time out with close friends, my first time at the bars, and (relatives cringe now) waking up cuddling with the toilet instead of my girlfriend. It all added up to make for a very memorable, ridiculous, extremely fun birthday. I feel as if I definitely lived it up, as it should be. My favorite story from that night was actually told to me because I was...imbibed by then...but apparently outside the bar, I calmly told my friend Laurissa "I'm going to your house now. I'm going to go throw up in your bathroom," and proceeded to start walking the complete opposite direction from her house. Luckily she sent me the right way, leading to my hug-fest with the toilet. A crazy night, to say the least.

2. January 31st, 2010 - JUNO! Something people might not know about our pursuit of Juno (well, if you don't know already, Juno is our house puppy at Washington State!) is that it started with a random dog following Garrett home one day from class. We named her Sophie and kept her for a couple days until we located her owners. That kind of sparked the desire to actually have a puppy, and so I found some Aussie Shepherd/Border Collie puppies on Craigslist in December of 2009 and one short month later we were bringing little "Uno" home. Of course, we didn't want to keep the old name so we went out on a limb and made a big change to "Juno." I can't tell you how awesome it has been to come home from class every day at school and have Juno jumping all over me and constantly being excited to play and run around. I highly recommend getting a dog to all college students, it legitimately lowers stress levels on a daily basis!

3. Mid-March, 2010 - Spring Break in La Penita, Mexico. I went to Mexico with two roommates, my girlfriend (at the time) and two of her good friends (all 6 of us were already friends, though). We spent a week at the beach, in downtown Puerto Vallarta, eating authentic Mexican food, etc. It was a lot of fun, and it was especially cool because we were staying in an actual local house in an actual little Mexican town. There are far too many quotes and memories to reflect on from that trip, but my two favorites are as follows: First, we went on a "booze cruise" one day, which basically consisted of a ferry boat ride (free drinks!) to a snorkeling spot, then a stop for lunch on the beach and a horseback ride up to a swimming hole and waterfall, then the ride back with more free drinks and karaoke. And second, of course, was..."Bear? No, gracias. BEAR!" I can only hope Matt, Garrett, Jaime, Breanna or Kayla read this so SOMEBODY knows what that means...

4. Mid-May to Mid-June, 2010 - Six-week summer session in Pullman. I took three classes for the first summer session up at school, and it was so much fun. I had never experienced a Pullman summer, but just the fact that it was different than winter was something to be celebrated. It was really warm, there were a ton of people there, and I spent a lot of time hanging out OUTSIDE with them.

5. August 8th, 2010 - Rafting Cherry Creek. I work at All-Outdoors, a whitewater rafting company, every summer. There is everything from Class I (easiest) to Class V. I had rafted everything over the last three years, but never took on the mamma jamma of them all. Cherry Creek is actually the upper portion of the Tuolumne River and is just constant Class V's. I'd rafted a few class V rapids on other big rivers before, but never anything like this. There is a Miracle Mile section on the river which is five straight Class V rapids with hardly any time in between, and they were all HUGE rapids! It was unbelievably fun and horrifying and amazing, and I can't wait to do it again next summer!

6. November 1st, 2010 - SF Giants win the World Series. This is painful to put on my list. I hate the Giants more than anything in the world. The fact that they are World Champions still kills me. Hence, why it is one of my major reflections of 2010. Between this and the 49ers being a massive letdown, it was an awful, no-good year for sports as far as I'm concerned. It really couldn't have gotten worse!

7. December 12th, 2010 - http://jamblin-man.blogspot.com/2010/12/tribute-to-uncle-pete.html. My Dad's brother, Pete passed away. He will be greatly missed and always loved. Click the link for a full tribute that I wrote about a week ago.

8. Late August to Mid-December, 2010 - First semester senior year, in general. I know this is a very broad category, but it was the best way to do it. I discovered Rico's, Taco Tuesday, ways to have a ton of fun any night of the week at school. I met a ton of new, awesome people and I plan on staying in touch with most of them for a very long time. I can't even describe how much fun I had meeting people, partying, and just hanging out in general these last four months. It's senior year, and it's setting in that I might come back to California after this Spring and not see all the great friends I've made for quite some time. That being said, I've honestly tried to go out, do something fun and meet people at every single opportunity. Despite 18 credits this coming semester, I plan on doing the same thing again. Get ready, Pullman. Get ready.

Overall, this was definitely the most crazy, fun, memorable year of my life. BUT, 2011 is going to be even better. Last semester in Pullman, New Orleans for Spring Break, Semester-at-Sea...it's going to be a great time. I can't wait to live it up again and I'm even a little bit excited to graduate and be a full-time adult. Here's to a great 2010 and looking forward to an even greater 2011! Thanks to everyone who made this year what it was...you know who you are!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tribute to Uncle Pete

I've been away for a while. Distracted by finals, the beginning of Christmas vacation, etc. Almost two weeks since my last post, but I haven't had room for thinking since then! My blog tonight is dedicated to my late Uncle, Pete Dorn. The Sunday before finals week, my Dad called to tell me his oldest brother had passed away while working in his beloved yard. It's been a rough ten days or so since for everyone, especially my Dad, his other brother John, sister Dinie, niece Shelley (Pete's only child), and sister-in-law (Pete's wife and high school sweetheart), Jeanne. We drove down to San Luis Obispo this past Sunday and attended a beautiful service in Uncle Pete's honor on Monday, and I wanted to write a few words of my own here tonight:

For those of you that know my Dad, imagine an older version with a little more bald and a little less beard, but the same great sense of humor and goofy smile that lights up a room. That was my Uncle Pete. To my sister and me, he was the playful, happy-go-lucky Uncle who always had the awesome orange trees in the front yard and a joke in the back pocket.

I remember climbing those trees, or playing catch in the backyard, or even hopping the back fence to go play on the real field at San Luis Obispo High School. I was "J-bird" and my sister was "Lexie-doodle-dandy" no matter how old we were. Whenever I did something funny, stupid, annoying, etc. when I was younger it was, "J-bird, you turkey!" And I can still remember my astonishment watching Uncle Pete eat an orange, and I mean the WHOLE orange in front of me, and saying "it's good for you" as the last part of the peel went down the hatch.

As I got older, the visits to see my Dad's family got fewer and further between. We made it down once or twice a year for a couple days, but high school sports, and eventually college made it difficult. Even so, whenever we pulled on to Cazadero St., Uncle Pete was there, smiling and ready to see his little brother, his wife, and little niece and nephew.

In the last few years, Uncle Pete's "End Cancer Now" campaign through Team in Training has gotten bigger and bigger. It really is a tribute to the man, who dedicated the last years of his life to volunteering and making a difference in people's lives. According to the Team in Training representative who spoke at the service, my Uncle Pete accomplished something astonishing to me: he single-handedly raised over $1 million dollars toward cancer research through fundraising and marathons. To have the determination, patience and personality, even, to raise that much money in a lifetime is astounding. But to do it all with the intention of helping people who really need it? That's just admirable and amazing, and in a league of its own.

This last Thanksgiving break, we made a last-minute detour to go to San Luis for turkey dinner. Call it fate, call it luck, call it what you will, but either way we got to see Uncle Pete in his element, one last time, and my family could not be more grateful that it happened. On Thanksgiving morning, we managed to be dragged out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:00 a.m. (for those of you that know me, this was a big deal), to run the 8-mile "Turkey Trot" that Uncle Pete put on every year. It was our first time running it, and Uncle Pete's last.

Lexie and I finished in just over an hour and 15 minutes, muscles aching and stomachs cramping (okay, maybe that was just me...Lexie is in far better shape than I am). My parents, the last two people to finish the race, took an extra hour enjoying the scenery and taking pictures together along the route. At first, I was annoyed that we had to stand and wait that long, but looking back, we got to spend an extra hour we wouldn't have normally had, catching up with Uncle Pete and shooting the bull one last time. Most importantly, my Dad got to spend another day and night with his brother. He told us about how he had got up that morning at quarter to five to post signs to make sure drivers knew there would be racers on the street. He spent another hour after the race making sure he pulled them all down and cleaned up the racing area. No complaints, as usual.

And when my Mom and Dad finally strolled to the finish line, he was still standing there, holding the Turkey Trot Finish Line sign, yelling and smiling and cheering, as he had for the 250 previous runners.

At the service, it was standing room only, including tightly-packed people who could probably hardly see the stage. There were people from Team in Training, neighbors, family, former football teammates, other members of the local Kiwanis club, and probably a few hundred guests who had at some point enjoyed a classic Pete Dorn barbecue (just to name a few groups present).

My mom always said he was the "unofficial Mayor" of San Luis Obispo. Aunt Jeanne and Shelley were approached by so many random people who knew Uncle Pete when they went downtown last week, that they were overwhelmed by the unending condolensces and had to return home. As my Dad said when he spoke toward the end of the service: "The impact that someone's life has on the world can be measured by how many friends he had."

My Uncle Pete, whether volunteering with Team in Training, leading a Turkey Trot, attempting to end cancer, or just being a great father, husband, grandfather, brother, uncle, and everything in between, was loved and cherished by a large population. An entire town, even. The people of San Luis Obispo, certainly, and many more, will remember Uncle Pete forever for the great man he was. I think it's safe to say "the great man he is" because even if he's no longer with us, he had a memorable impact on all of us, which will never die. Dad, if the impact a man has on the world is measured in friends, I think your brother ruled this kingdom.

Uncle Pete is definitely the closest family member to me to have passed on. And in a way, that means I'm lucky, because I've survived almost 22 full years without knowing the pain of losing someone near and dear to me. And I think that reflecting on Uncle Pete's life has definitely stoked a fire inside of me; to be better in everything I do, like he was. I can be less selfish. I can be more friendly. Heck, I can learn to put together a better barbecue! But, this blog is not about me. It's about celebrating the life of a man who lived life with a purpose, who lived life selflessly, energetically and lovingly. Uncle Pete, the great man he is, can teach us all a few things about life and love.

Rest in peace Uncle Pete, you will forever be loved and missed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 9

I have a weird problem where I combine words. Maybe it's because I inherently want to save time or breath. Maybe I think I'm clever. Who knows? Anyway, it's such a problem that my roommate (who has had to live with me for three years now) has coined them as "Jisms" (Jeremy-isms). The reason this is the topic of my blog today is because I really couldn't think of a blopic (blog topic). I'll be honest, it's very rare that a Jism is actually funny or smart. But it's like getting an M&M in a handful of trail mix - it's hard to find, but it's awesome when it does.

That's all I've got for today. But if I ever start combining words too often and it starts getting annoying, feel free to give me a swift groin kick (or, grick).

Nap time.

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 8

For the second day in a row, I'm doing a late-night/early-morning post, hoping it will pass as yesterday's TITITALA! Anyway, I think this will be a pretty obvious post: Washington State 81 Gonzaga 59!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another day, another marathon waiting in the rain and snow and cold to get in early to a Cougar sporting event. This time, I got up at 6:00 a.m. and set up camp. We got in early and got the second row behind the announcers. But nobody cared about getting on TV tonight - this was about redemption. After heartbreaking losses all weekend, we needed a win. Especially against the other big program in Eastern Washington. Regional rivals. We hung tough with #5 Kansas State five days ago, and this was a big game to see if we could actually measure up to the big boys. Granted, Gonzaga is not it's usual self, but they are still a solid program. We had a +4 line going in, but that was a bit generous; personally, I thought Gonzaga and WSU matched up really well. Until tip-off, that is.

Despite a slow start on offense for both teams, Washington State was playing stifling defense all game, holding Gonzaga's star scorer Steven Gray to 7 points on under 20% shooting. It really never was close. Three-pointer after three-pointer went through for the Cougs, and Klay Thompson (now ranked as the #4 shooting guard in the nation according to Rivals.com) just went off tonight. His final line: 24 points, 7 steals, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 block.

Let me take a second to go where many men have gone before. I want to step back and take a closer look at Klay's amazing game. Obviously, the 24 points are impressive in themselves, as that total came in just over his team-leading season average. But, he was also 4-7 from beyond the arc, including two HUGE momentum-killing threes in the second half. The thing I was most impressed with was the defense though - seven steals is absolutely ridiculous, but what the box score doesn't show is two things:

1) He was everywhere on defense tonight. He covered anybody and everybody, was hustling harder than anyone on the court, and got to the ball at least five more times than the stats actually registered. Basically he was just a huge spark on both sides of the floor.

2) Remember those momentum-killing threes I mentioned? He swatted away a lay-in by Gonzaga on a huge block, came down the floor, passed the ball off, got it back and hit a perfect three-pointer right in the defender's eye. Not only that, but he ran back down the court with arms raised, yelling...dare I say it: Klay Thompson was showing emotion on the court. That pumped up the crowd more than anything.

Anyway, an overall amazing game for the Cougars. And it was really worth every second I stood in that freezing cold line. We should be getting a few votes for the Top 25, although I don't know if we'll actually sneak in yet. With a 6-1 record and a quality win under our belts (the only loss being to Kansas State of course, who is a top-5 team and only beat us by five!), we may be on the cusp!

Anyway, I'm still on edge from the epicness of the game (although the Rockstar I drank might be adding to the jitters...) and really can't even formulate anything more to say right now. All I can say is Go Cougs, and I'll see y'all tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 7

Okay, I know it's technically Wednesday...but I'm posting Vol. 8 later today and because this is an ungodly early hour, I think we can count this as Tuesday's post. Anyway today's (OKAY, yesterday's...geez) topic is my 2011 Spring Break. I'm now booked to travel to New Orleans through WSU's Center for Civic Engagement. My good friend Amy convinced me to apply for the program, and we had our first meeting yesterday. And let me just say, I am PUMPED.

First of all, we'll be staying at a pretty nice Holiday Inn on the French Quarter, two blocks from Bourbon St. We will have activities planned Monday through Friday; volunteer and community outreach projects, parades, tours and lunches. One day we get to help rebuild a house through Habitat for Humanity that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Another day we will help create "green space" and take care of a large city park. On Friday, we will be going to the marshes and helping with the "clean-up of the clean-up" of the oil spill. That means that many native endangered plant species were displaced and/or destroyed by the clean-up effort, and we will need to remove the invasive species and re-plant the domestic ones.

Those all sound like so much fun. It's a great way to discover and experience the New Orleans culture while simultaneously lending a helping hand to the people down there. Another awesome thing will be the Thursday of the break. It's St. Patrick's Day, and according to our trip leader, it will be like Mardi Gras, Jr. He said there will be a huge parade, music, festivities, all on a route that goes directly past our hotel. ("Heads up for flying potatoes, the people on the floats try to peg tourists!") In addition, we have our nights free to explore the French Quarter, Bourbon St., and/or any other area of the city. I foresee a LOT of jazz clubs and jambalaya in my future!!!

One last thing I'm jazzed about (BAHAHA sorry, had to) for this trip, is there is a group tour where we go through the swamps and on a paddle boat getting an education about New Orleans. Then later that night, we will be touring a New Orleans cemetery (artistic and rustic, according to our trip leaders) and have the option of going on a real voodoo, ghost hunt that night.

Obviously, I have a lot to look forward to! I'm extremely lucky to have this opportunity and plan to take full advantage of every minute. I can't wait to have the best Spring Break ever down in N'awlins!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 6

Hello large audience of loving, devoted readers! I have a couple things to share today:

1. I am essentially finished with my first semester of Senior year of college. AHHHHHHHHH!
2. Is there any more ridiculous workout than swimming? Maybe it's because I'm not a swimmer.

I can't believe how fast this semester has gone by. It has been a whirlwind of unbelievable fun, boring (sorry, it's true) classes and endless parties. I've met so many awesome new people, and rarely passed up an opportunity to go out and have fun. Taco Tuesday has been a revelation. My only regret is that I didn't take advantage of these things last year too! Anyway, it's a really weird feeling. I am honestly sick and tired of classes, especially the majority that are uninteresting to me. But, I am nowhere near mentally prepared enough to be done with college, done with Pullman, done with this grown-up-but-still-allowed-to-be-irresponsible transitional period. I definitely wouldn't complain about another year or two in this awesome town. At the same time, I'm really excited to see what happens in the "real world." Mom, if you're reading this, try to suppress the tears!

Seventeen school weeks from now, I'll basically be done. Technically, I have a few more credits to take care of on Semester-At-Sea in the summer, but that's going to be much, much different. Looking back at this semester, I can honestly say that I only enjoyed one class. It's not for lack of hard work or even disinterest, despite being required to take every class. It just really was unfortunate; every class but my "conditioning swimming" class was either boring, poorly taught or had frustrating assignments. Anyway, let's just talk about how awesome the swim class was. Someone might read this and wonder how I could enjoy a class in which I simply get there, swim laps for an hour, and leave. Well, first of all, it was a hell of a lot easier than getting my lazy butt up to the actual gym on a regular basis. But, more than that, the teacher (DeDe!) and a lot of the kids in the class were awesome too. It's rare that I look forward to waking up for my first class, especially one where I physically have to work. So, as to #2 from above, is there anything more ridiculous than a swim workout? I felt like I was going to die after every class (for a little bit, then I felt refreshed when I got hydrated and got my breath back!), but the thing that killed me was today's final class. We had a class swim meet and I swam a 50-yard freestyle as the last leg of a relay, the 50-yard backstroke, and the third leg of the 100-yard freestyle relay. That's five laps total, and I was winded. Granted, it was sprinting, but after usually swimming anywhere from 75-100 laps in the hour class, I could not believe how dead I was after just FIVE! Anyway, because of this strange ratio, I've decided it's one of the best workouts ever. Never should have quit the swim team!

Other news tidbits from today:
- MTV is the worst channel ever made (it's been on our TV all day for some reason)
- Go out and buy Inception on Blu-Ray tomorrow!!!!!!!!
- My buddies and I from the football game are in the Daily Evergreen!!! (WSU student newspaper)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 5

The day after the crazy weekend. Luckily, I had a warm bed, Coach Carter, Sporcle.com (do NOT, I repeat, do NOT go to this website if you need to be productive...), football and great company all day to keep me sane...but after the torture I put my body through (little sleep, body parts exposed to sub-freezing temperatures, etc.) the last two days, let's just say I'm a little whacked out.

I can almost walk pain-free finally, after having my knees locked for nearly 4 hours on a tiny ledge at Martin Stadium for the football game. I haven't quite caught up on my sleep. And I think I have the beginnings of a cold. I have large, matching, bruised bumps under each knee from the small railing they were pushed up against during the game. But all in all, I'm surprised at the physical state I'm in. Unfortunately the 49ers or Warriors did nothing to help ease my woes of a loss-filled weekend, but I did have a nice relaxing day to recover. Sorry, I don't have much to say today, but I do want to share a link! Yesterday, I posted about how my friends and I became mini-celebrities due to our ridiculous get-up at the football game (or lack thereof, I guess). Check out the picture I found on the Tacoma Tribune's website:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/static/photo/sportsgallery/sports.html#id=album-168362&num=content-3170208

Pretty cool, eh? I'm the one closest to the camera...with the goofy, but incredibly warm hat on. Until tomorrow...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 4

Today I was a minor celebrity. After a hectic day yesterday of camping out for the (HEARTBREAKING, by the way) basketball game for over 12 hours, I was at it again. Up early to go to the Apple Cup - for those of you that don't know, that is the in-state football rivalry between my Washington State Cougars and the evil Washington Huskies - and painted from waist to forehead as the representative letter "S" in "GO COUGS!"

It's no Red Sox/Yankees or Duke/North Carolina, but the Apple Cup is a pretty damn big deal. Especially up here. Despite a 2-9 record, the Cougars were looking for the upset, and even sweeter, to knock the Huskies out of bowl contention. To paraphrase the disappointing result, Washington pulled it out on the road 35-28. But that's not the point...

Let me remind anyone who's reading that it was averaging around 23 degrees here today, with some icy wind and light snow. And I was shirtless. For almost 5 hours. It's a miracle I'm alive, but my friends and I received more than enough attention! We had multiple pictures taken of us, were on the big screen at least five times, and were on live TV a few times as well. We made friends with the security guards and the crowd management staff, my roommate (the "space" between "GO" and "COUGS") made out with a girl who claimed she "just had to make out with one of the people they saw on the screen," and even got a passing Husky fan to stop flipping off our fans and hold his hands up in respect at the sight of us. Not to mention, I think my hands (wrapped in 2 pairs of gloves, including heavy snowboarding gloves) are bruised from the literally hundreds of high fives I received from the Cougar faithful passing by who were admiring our bravery, dedication, and no doubt our beautifully-sculpted male bodies.

Despite the loss and the awful weather, it was one of the most fun times I've ever had at sporting event. While it killed me to watch Washington celebrate on our field, I had a great time being "one of those guys" that the entire city surely saw during the game. And I have never been more excited to leave the stadium...I still can't feel my nipples...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 3

Hey, there we go! Back on track with this whole blogging thing. Today: we discuss my thoughts on why pulling an all-nighter to get in line for my school's basketball game is NOT the work of a crazy person. First of all, the background...I have an Anthropology test at 2:00 this afternoon. I am studying for it right now. I am studying for it outside of Beasley Coliseum, where the Washington State Cougars will attempt to knock off the top-5 Kansas State Wildcats in men's basketball at 8:00 tonight. It is freezing cold out here. I slept in a 2-foot long nook with a worthless pad, sleeping bag and pillow. I look like an eskimo. I will stay in this line until they let us into the game around 6:00 tonight (other than when I'm taking my test). I'm sure people reading this are shaking their heads and muttering about me being a crazy dude. In fact, I'm sure of it, because even some of my friends at school have told me this to my face!

But, there is no offense taken, don't worry. In fact, I take pride in this craziness. IN FACT, I wish they hadn't instituted a "no camping" policy so that I could have staked my claim in line days ago! Seriously. Anyway, let's get to the point here: I am a Coug. I love Coug sports (yes, even the football team...). I especially love Coug sports that have potential for postseason play. Hence, why I put so much effort into going to the basketball games, frostbite be damned. There is nothing better than sitting front row, getting on TV with fellow ZZU CRU members, and (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully) storming the court after a huge upset! Been there, done that? Rushed the field two years ago in the Apple Cup after the double-overtime win? Rushed the court two years ago when Taylor Rochestie hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer against Arizona State? Well, I did. And let me tell you that never gets old.

I'll be realistic for a second here; Kansas State is a REALLY good basketball team. They are far better than Washington State. But, until the final buzzer sounds, we are in it. And that's enough for some crazy fans like me to risk life and limb, hike through treacherous tundra, and...okay sorry. Overly dramatic. But really, win or lose, if we play well, it will be worth the 12 and a half hours I sit here. And Kansas State? Well, I hope they don't get too cocky...they haven't had to deal with the ZZU CRU lately. They haven't had to deal with an improved, older Klay Thompson. Or Reggie Moore. DeAngelo Casto. Faisal Aden. I'm not going to be bold and predict an upset, but the way these guys are shooting lights out right now, it's possible.

So, call me crazy, but the Cougs have a big game tonight. The biggest of the year, no doubt. And there is no way I let something stupid like sleep or schoolwork get in my way. I'm going to this game, and I'm going all out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 2

Okay...remember A MONTH ago when I said I was going to make this a more regular, possibly daily thing? Well, oops. I've been very busy (okay, unenthusiastic, uninspired...). Anyway, I'm back with a thought for today. It was brought on by a movie I watched last night, after making the best purchase of my life ($5 DVD box at WalMart...gets me every time!). It's actually two thoughts. Lucky you!

First, is there any better contrast between evil antagonist and lovable protagonist and has it ever been portrayed in a more amazing, human way than in The Green Mile? John Coffey vs. Percy Whitmore. They don't exactly have a natural rivalry until the end, but I don't know if I've ever seen a movie that made me hate a character with more of a passion than I do Percy and love a character more than John. That's my first mini-thought. Every time I see it, it's just the most amazing job of acting and scripting.

That also got me thinking: How did The Green Mile not win Best Picture in 1999? (American Beauty took the award home)...I haven't seen American Beauty, so I can't have much personal input, but I do know that The Green Mile is a cinematic masterpiece. So, naturally, I googled it. Turns out, I've never heard of a single calendar year in which more awesome movies were released than in 1999. Check it out:

The Green Mile
Fight Club
The Matrix
American Beauty
Star Wars Episode I
The Boondock Saints
Toy Story 2
American Pie
The Sixth Sense
Office Space
Ten Things I Hate About You
Wild Wild West
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
The Blair Witch Project
October Sky

And really, the list goes on...I just wanted to share this with everyone because it's so ridONKulous! Doesn't it make you wanna watch at least half of them right now?

"He kill them wi' their love. Wi' their love fo' each other. That's how it is, every day, all over the world." - John Coffey, The Green Mile

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things I Think I Thought A Lot About: Vol. 1

I am trying to make this blogging thing more regular. So hopefully I can put a new "thought" up every day. Just a short blurb, maybe 250 words, about a topic that's on my mind. Check in for new ones, you never know what you might find!

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

When I have children of my own, and they ask, "Daddy, why is Pete Rose on the top of the list, but not in the Hall of Fame?" what the hell do I tell them?

"Well, um...he...was too good! Ah yes." Nope. That won't work.
"He really screwed the pooch and bet on baseball." Won't cut it.
"Because every Commissioner since Rose retired has been a f*&$%!@ idiot!" Whoa. No. Calm down.

So, I guess I try to explain. Honestly, this might be harder than the sex talks, or the puberty talks, or the first-time-caught-drinking talks. Which I might add, hopefully happen at three separate times.

I think I would sit down and say:

"Son. Daughter. Pete Rose is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, and he was punished for it. He got a lifelong time-out from the baseball gods, and he doesn't get to play with the other kids now."

"But why?" they would ask.

"Well, he paid money to people to do certain things behind everyone else's back. And that was against the rules," I would answer.

"Like what you said Uncle Joe did to Aunt Vic---"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa kids. Time for bed."

Man, this is gonna suck.


Book Review: Blasphemy by Douglas Preston

Every time I write a book review, I feel a strange similarity to a journalist writing a newspaper article. That is, newspaper circulation is dwindling with the industry and it seems that the amount of book readers seem to be decreasing too. Darned kids. Now, the last book I reviewed (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak) was an instant classic for me. So reading Blasphemy by Douglas Preston was a little like seeing Ke$ha perform after Celine Dion (I assume...uhh...). That is, Blasphemy is entertaining in it's own way, but can't touch the class of a legend.

The basic idea of Blasphemy is centered around a multi-billion dollar particle collider, "Isabella." It is operating in the mountainside of Red Mesa, Ariz., right in the heart of Navajo country. It is under the operation of Nobel-prize winning, widely-proclaimed smartest man in the world, Gregory North Hazelius and his team of elite scientists, mathematicians and psychologists. They are attempting to re-create the Big Bang by circulating particles in opposite directions through the collider and clashing them at certain high energies and recording the results. Wow, that is too much science for me - my head is spinning.

Most novels have a problem or two; an antagonist or two. This book seems to be chock full of them. Preston does a really impressive job with character description and development, especially because there are so many major characters. The main character, or at least the main protagonist is ex-CIA agent turned monk turned private investigator, Wyman Ford. He is sent to Red Mesa as an undercover "anthropologist" to figure out what's behind reports of trouble coming out of Isabella. Things get complicated when he realizes that the assistant director of the operation is his ex-love interest Kate Mercer. If you think a side love story is complicated, just wait.

The U.S. government, who is financing the Isabella project, has made plenty of enemies. They alienated the Navajo tribes by failing to keep promises made in agreements over use of their land. They angered devoutly religious groups by essentially trying to prove that science was the real method of creationism, not Genesis. And one particular deranged preacher in general, Pastor Russ Eddy, has a personal problem with the Isabella project, which is situated just miles away from his small, local church establishment.

So, once Ford is sent down to investigate, things really start getting crazy. A Russian scientist is found dead, mysterious messages begin to appear in the process of recording information on Isabella, Pastor Eddy takes a cue from a popular television evangelist and calls for a complete Christian overthrow of the operation and it's "Antichrist" leader (Hazelius), and the Navajos are constantly protesting. If you're getting lost, I totally understand. It's a lot to take in. It's hard to follow just from the summary, but it makes sense when it's all put together in the book (big props to Preston for making that happen).

At the peak of the action, the Isabella team has locked themselves inside Isabella and shut out all communication. An apocalyptic Christian mob has formed and started charging the base. Military personnel has been deployed to respond to the loss of communication inside Isabella. And the Navajo people are spying and plotting ways to get what they rightfully earned. I can't tell you any more than that, but hopefully that gives you an idea of the epic, climactic action that takes up the last third of the book.

The first two thirds are no slouches either. They are imperative to the development of the story and give us the opportunity to meet tons of new, unforgettable characters. I really enjoyed the way Preston was able to display the action scenes with vivid imagery; I could totally picture them on a movie screen. The only major complaints I have with the book, and the writing for that matter, is there is a really cheesy, almost pointless love story going on the side with Ford and Mercer. Also, there is a very shocking twist at the end, that is poorly developed. It still surprises you, but leaves you saying something along the lines of: "Really? That's kind of lame."

In no way do these things detract from the book overall. As I mentioned, the story is very enthralling, very brave and well-written. Preston seems to hold nothing back as far as political correctness and actually uses current issues to demonstrate the characters and scenes in Blasphemy. Also, there is a good portion of the book that really gets you thinking (as a title like Blasphemy would suggest, no?). It gets you thinking about creation, the meaning of life, destiny, etc. And if I had to choose one aspect of Preston's writing in the novel that really stood out, it would be the ways in which he worded the parts that get your brain moving like that. Extremely impressive.

Overall, Blasphemy is a fantastic read, and if you can get past a couple small, glaring weaknesses, you will really enjoy this book. If you like conflict, intensity, and deep thinking, this is definitely a book you should pick up. Don't hesitate at the controversial nature of the book or the possibility of it being over the top. I promise you, Preston finds a way to make it work well together. Ignoring this book on moral grounds would be blatant, well, blasphemy!

(Oh, and just on a side note, I picked this book up for $1 at Pike Place Market, shoved between two shelves...not a bad purchase if you ask me!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Top 25 Videos of All-Time

My generation has produced a new phenomenon: watching videos online. YouTube is almost as much a part of our daily lives as Facebook and e-mail. I've wasted my fair share of time watching videos online, and I've collected my 25 favorites here. There is no criteria for making the list. If it was awesome, funny, stupid, or just plain interesting, it got consideration. I did try to avoid the globally known viral videos, though. So no “drinking out of cups,” no Charlie, and no double rainbows, for the sake of repetitiveness (apparently that's a word! Who knew?). And honestly, once you get to around number twelve, the order doesn't really matter either. As long as you're left in shock, inspired, or in stitches, I've accomplished my goal. Tell me what you think, and if I've made any glaring oversights!

I think most browsers will take you straight to the clip in this window, so make sure to click the "back" button afterward to get back to my countdown! Now, without further ado:

25. Soulja Boy: Girl U Stank (Take a Bath)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-xAFrL2FDU The reason this is on my list (and god forbid, starting my list), is not to drive people away. It is simply to point out how atrocious this song is. I could tell my dog to take a crap on a newspaper, and then make a song out of the words that it landed on and I guarantee it would be better than what Soulja Boy came up with here. New contest: who can make it the farthest through this clip without exiting out?

24. Carl's Jr. Commercialhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq25qD44hC0 I've always liked this commercial, since it came out when I was a kid. Such a simple concept, but so effective. It's a stupid joke you would make up with your friends at lunch, but to see your stupid idea displayed on TV gave it legitimacy. Okay, maybe that was just me.

23. Gunther music video: Ding Dong Song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbYtqAWDF2U An absolutely terrible, but hilarious song by Gunther. The close up on his face during the chorus kills me. It will leave you in shock. For more ridiculous Gunther videos, check out this other classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eyGLtT4b3o

22. Spray Paint Artists - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMbCnumPr90 Another pretty long video, but really entrancing. There are tons of these videos on the internet, and each and every one is incredible. I can't fathom the art that these street vendors make using just spray paint, tin cans, newspapers and other small tools. I'm lucky enough to live close to San Francisco so that any given weekend, I could go to the Embarcadero and see one of these performances in person. I actually bought one last time I was in the city (only $5, none were more than $20) and it's hanging on my wall right now!

21. Boneless babyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y66UgfLZGsg Creepy? Yes. Sad? Yep. In bad taste? Sure. But there's one thing you can't argue: this is freakishly funny. This one makes me laugh really hard.

20. This is SportsCenter: Manny being Mannyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0LjnqtSPps This one might need some context. First of all, Manny Ramirez is hilarious. He's widely-hated for various reasons, but still, he's hilarious. This is a long-running SportsCenter ad campaign featuring different athletes, mascots and SportsCenter personalities claiming kooky behind-the-scenes look-ins at the ESPN offices. Anyway, “Manny being Manny” is a phrase coined to describe Ramirez for his crazy antics both on and off the field (for example, taking a break during a game to go pee inside the Green Monster). Hopefully that will make you readers realize why this commercial is so funny.

19. Top 10 soccer goalshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq5wdDJFi9Q Even non-soccer fans can appreciate these beautiful shots. For those of you, like me, who have played soccer, understand how difficult it is to put it in the back of the net. Making it look this good is why they are paid to play! I think #5 is my favorite, but #3 is definitely my favorite celebration.

18. Backflip catch on trampoline - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0rVZGL33Xg This is another video that may or may not be real. Because it looks real, I'm going to play dumb and just accept it as truth. That being said, this is amazing. Every guy dreams of making this play, but few have the balls to try it. Even fewer can actually pull it off! It may be lucky, but still takes a high degree of insanity and athleticism to make it count. I mean, come on! A backflip alone is hard enough! Also, let's take a minute to give the QB some props. That's a long, long pass, and it's right on the money.

17. College Humor: Half-court shot prank - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI7AUgp5fPI College Humor is another great viral group and this is the best prank I've seen on their website so far. How devastating. Sorry if you have to suffer through a YouTube ad before seeing it, but it's worth it! To explain, briefly, these two guys in the video are in a prank battle that has been raging for years. They put all of them online, which you can see at www.collegehumor.com.

16.
Improv Everywhere: Grand Central Station - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo This is so cool. Over 23 million views on YouTube makes me think you've seen this. But enjoy anyway. Improv Everywhere is a really cool group and I hope that I run into them sometime while I'm walking around town. Very creative.

15. Christian the Lion - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btuxO-C2IzE I'm pretty sure most people have seen this by now, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. Take a few minutes to watch it! I wish I had a pet lion.

14. “World's most insane knockout” - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlLGWYvcnoE I don't know what kind of fighting this is, but the knockout is incredible. Raw athleticism. I'd love to see Brock Lesnar try this in the UFC (yeah, right). (And two honorable mentions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgfgLnFrvxs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt4LrZO9z8k)

13. Gladiator quotehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvAbGbFYAuk&feature=related Crappy quality, annoying screen size, unnecessarily long clip...worth every second. This movie (especially this part) pumps me up beyond belief! Best line from one of the best movies I've ever seen. If you're impatient, fast-forward to about the 1:15 mark. And if you don't know what's going on, or you've been living in a hole for ten years and haven't seen Gladiator? Get on that immediately. You'll thank me.

12. Japanese baseball catch - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8a33v1EQ5c Man, if I ever made a catch this amazing, this athletic, this coordinated? I'd retire after the game, because there is no way I could top it. Coolest catch of all time, made by the aptly nicknamed “Spiderman” in a professional Japanese baseball game.

11. Cal St. Fullerton slamhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjqtJptW0Bk&feature=related One of the better dunks I've seen recently. Very clean. Tell me this wouldn't pump a team up! Solid defense on the other side of the court to lead to the dunk. And that poor guy on the other team's face probably smelled like Gerard Anderson's crotch for a couple days. (Also, see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp6qJ7LZNlg and this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tq9mMZQCqg. Two of my other favorite dunks.)

10. “Em-bear-assed” on 1,000 ways to die - http://www.spike.com/video/em-bear-assed/3107893 For those of you not familiar with this show, it's on SPIKE and is basically just the craziest and most random ways that people have died. I know it's bad to laugh at people for dying, but this show makes it hard not to. The reason I chose this particular “way to die” is because the re-creation of the death and the SPIKE narrator's script is worthy of this list itself. Not to mention how the guy dies. Check it out. Oh, and apparently the "fornicating furries" he runs into? Real. Yikes.

9. Home video of Junohttp://www.facebook.com/video/?of=639957370#!/video/video.php?v=319582122370&subj=639957370 This is a video that probably only people who are friends with me on Facebook can actually see. But considering almost everyone who will read this is, it shouldn't be a problem. Tell me this isn't the cutest thing you've ever seen! If only she was still this small and innocent...

8. Shaq commercial - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo0ncg-2zPY It's widely-known that Shaquille O'Neal is both a dominant athlete and one of the funniest, most animated celebrities of our generation. This may not be his best video clip ever, but it's still one of my favorites.

7. 100 cheesiest movie quotes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTiAS7cdsYc This one is about 10 minutes long, but it's worth it if you have the time. A collection of the cheesiest movie quotes ever, and they are really hilarious. The best ones are quotes where you didn't realize how cheesy the quote was when you saw the movie, but in the context of this countdown, it's like a hilarious revelation. (As a bonus, I don't know if this quote is on the countdown but it's really in a class of it's own. You don't have to see this movie to appreciate how bad the line is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5eVcXhHN9U)

6. Morgan State catch - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhN0OZA3aIs I don't know if this is a doctored video, but I don't care. The most athletic football play I think I've ever seen! The fact that Morgan St. wide receiver Edwin Baptiste was able to turn, dive, catch the ball one-handed at full extension, and hang on to the ball as he lands, is just unbelievable to me. You can really see on the slow-motion replay that he was literally horizontal to the ground, extended from the tip of his hand to his toes.

5. Mark Buehrle flip play - http://vimeo.com/10713200 Mark Buehrle, one of baseball's good guys, makes a play on Opening Day 2010 that can't even be described. It might have been luck, but damn, does he make lucky look good! Mercy!

4. WSU vs. ASU 2009 Senior night basketball game - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq42BbLfgDE This is at my school, Washington State University. It was the seniors' last home game, when fan-favorite point guard Taylor Rochestie downed Arizona State in overtime on this long three pointer. Great moment, and even greater that I'm one of those red-clad ZZU CRU psychos running on the floor afterward. And don't bash the music, because it makes it just that much more epic! Go Cougs!

3. Robot Chicken Gummy Bear - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0w5oGVwJ_Q Okay, I know that Cartoon Network and Adult Swim have pretty awful shows in general. But anyone who has seen Robot Chicken and claims it is not funny is a liar! My roommate and I saw this sketch on that show at three in the morning in the dorms a few years ago and it's still one of the funniest things either of us has ever seen. Who thinks of this crap?

2. Do you Believe in Miracles? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTev5pSuYLk This is one of the most inspirational sports highlights of all time. I still get chills watching this, even though I'm hardly a hockey fan (not to mention I was -9 years old when this happened). The context of the 1980 Olympics and the unbelievable, emotional call by Al Michaels is absolutely unforgettable.

Before we get to #1, here's one I added in last minute. It's also extremely funny, but I didn't want to part with any of my other top 25. So...bonus!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfym8MdKNNY


Now, back to the countdown. The "winner" is...

1. SNL “Great Day” shorthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48BdEecEON8 Saturday Night Live is a classic. Andy Samberg is absolutely hilarious. I don't even try to figure out where they come up with this stuff, but this is definitely the funniest one I've seen. The reason for it being #1? Recently discovered. It's just plain ridiculous. Enjoy! And thanks to my good friend Abbi Olson for showing this to me!

Hope you enjoyed all these clips! See ya next time, and follow me here at http://jamblin-man.blogspot.com/ if you liked it!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Intelligent Design: Should it be taught in public schools?

I wrote this for my English 301 (Rhetoric) class and presented it today. My partner presented the argument that Intelligent Design should not be taught in public schools under any circumstance. Honestly, we both rocked it. I got an A+ (only the + because I "won" the argument by a vote of the class 9 to 6, but we both did solid A work). I'm curious to see what people think about the issue...feel free to comment, question, tear apart, do whatever to this...I'll look forward to the feedback!


My argument is that teaching Intelligent Design, which is currently prohibited in public schools in America, absolutely should be taught, but outside of a science classroom setting. To explain quickly, the theory of Intelligent Design is basically an effort to discount the accepted scientific explanation that natural selection acting on random variations is the cause of creation. Instead, it proposes that creation is best explained by an intelligent cause, although it essentially avoids identifying a specific designer. Intelligent Design offers to close the gap between the notions of the Creationist viewpoint and the Evolutionary viewpoint. The middle ground kind of implies the thought that God may have created the universe and then let nature take it's course.

The separation of church and state, the teaching of religion and evolution, and all its surrounding controversy has made this discussion a point of contention among the public for over a century. On one hand, the First Amendment states that the government cannot limit freedom of speech or religion, including personal displays of either. On the other hand, the Establishment Clause in that amendment also states, the government can not force religious beliefs or establish a religion in public schools because they are owned by the government. So, students at public schools have the right to have their own beliefs and demonstrate their religions, but they can't learn about different theories of creation.

The most recent development in this debate was in the case Kitzmiller vs. Dover, PA in 2005. The case arose because t he local school board voted to require teachers to read a statement about Intelligent Design prior to discussions of evolution in high school biology classes to assure both viewpoints were established. Parents of eleven students challenged the decision, arguing that it violated the Establishment Clause. District Judge John E. Jones issued a decision that said, in summary: “Intelligent Design is not science. It is a religious theory that had no place in the science classroom.” He came to this conclusion because he found Intelligent Design violated the scientific method of experimentation and testability, and because it was “relying upon a supernatural explanation for a natural phenomenon.”

While Judge Jones did side with the Establishment Clause, he never mentioned that the idea of Intelligent Design should cease to be studied all together. Rather, he went by the Constitution and found that Intelligent Design in itself was not a scientific theory, but a religious theory, so it could not be taught in public schools, especially in a science classroom. But, comparative religion courses and even Bible study courses aren't prohibited in public schools. Knowledge of all different beliefs, theories, religions, etc. is important to a student for many reasons, and should be taught in classes outside of the science discipline. Surprisingly, polls have shown that most U.S. Citizens support the teaching of evolution in public schools, as well as the teaching of intelligent design and creationism as alternative theories.

Personally, I agree with the law, when it says Intelligent Design is not appropriate for a science class. Science does need to have testable hypotheses and experimental subject matter. That being said, Intelligent Design is still a theory of creation that can be studied, and needs to be understood. As I just mentioned, comparative religion classes can be taught in public schools as long as all religious texts are covered and one religion isn't promoted over the others. As long as a school studies the broad, general scope of religion and doesn't try to indoctrinate its students to a specific belief over any other, everything is kosher.

So, let's say in a class where society, theory, or comparative religion is the main subject, that a teacher pursues a unit on religion and creation. It is absolutely, 100% legal to teach Intelligent Design, to teach the ideas of religions, and so on. But, many religious groups feel that teaching views that contradict their own is offensive. Therefore, comparative religion courses have a rough go at staying in the course catalog.

In 2007, an incident involving a high school comparative religion class in Lake Stevens, Wash. made news because a Christian student and her parents publicly complained that the teacher was offending their religious beliefs. This came after the teacher, who is admittedly atheist, assigned the same critical thinking assignment to a Navajo creation theory and the story of Genesis. Basically, the student and her parents contended that he was challenging Christianity, when really he was simply trying to teach his students to look at both theories of creation objectively and from an outside perspective.

Banning the teaching of religious theories hinders a student's ability to have thorough knowledge of all options, therefore restricting “freedom” of religion. Assorted theories should be taught, and considered cultural and historical influences on the progression of humanity, but not advocated or instructed to be absolutely true or false. That would qualify under the First Amendment, and still give students a broader range of knowledge. As a field of study, the idea of a religious orientation being simply and only that - an orientation, will send many people who find their identity closely linked with their religious belief system, into a frenzy.

Obviously, as is the case in the Lake Stevens incident, many students have a prevailing religious belief by high school. But to make this work; to allow Intelligent Design to be taught, people need to set aside their own convictions and biases and embrace the study of comparative religion. The same people calling for Intelligent Design to be taught in science classes can not banish it from all courses simply because other theories would get equal time in the unit. Unfortunately, it seems that when people's belief systems are threatened, they protest anyone who dares suggest that there might be more to consider than what their religion says is right. Sometimes the protest is violent. Welcome to justification for war, slavery, and all kinds of horrific actions man has done to each other.

A thought process that considers the abolishment of religious study in public schools does not take into account that ignorance may hurt more than it helps. If the theory of Intelligent Design is to be understood by the general public, then we must allow it to be taught in a classroom. There is a certain context in which the subject must be taught, but if our young students are to get an objective chance to consider and learn about different perspectives, theories and religions, we need to allow the freedom for them to develop personal beliefs based on what they've learned. Every option needs to be laid out evenly in front of them, so they are free to ask questions, discern preferences and ultimately develop a belief system that is based on objective information and unbiased presentation.

Banning the teaching of any theory is unfair to students; our government's goal should not be so much about separating church and state in this situation. It should be to allow our students to learn everything they have the ability to learn and to broaden their perspective. It's not about whether or not it's okay to teach Intelligent Design and other religious theories; but rather should focus on what students are capable of learning.

I know that, as an atheist, I would have loved to take a class about the theories of creation and different models of religion in high school. That isn't to say that anything I would have learned would have changed my views, but I definitely find other ideas and theories interesting, even if just for the cultural aspect. But right now, the American government is denying high school students the chance they deserve to learn everything to their fullest abilities. They need to stop letting groups and organizations determine which subject matter is “right” or which book is or is not blasphemous. Not to mention, that the United States already has low standardized test scores, so limiting learning opportunities in any way contributes to the validity of those results.

Learning about religion is also to study how human beings acquire religious beliefs and what value they find in them. There are certain obvious aspects that appeal to people such as community, comfort, even coherency. But there are also darker issues. For example, being part of a community that repels others can potentially offer insulation wrapped in arrogance. It can also lead to disdain towards others, which can lead to the mindset that people outside of a certain group need “saving” for their own good. Which can then justify destruction, murder, rape, etc of those being “saved.” In this context, it is absolutely a viable, legitimate topic to be studied: how human beings react to religion.

Creating a curriculum that allows for the theory of religions to be learned would, in the right hands, offer a platform for discussion of how we come to be religious and how that both benefits and creates problems for human beings. Intelligent Design is a possibility in the world of creationst theories. It needs to be considered and understood. It does not need to be “the answer,” nor does it need to supersede any other religious beliefs. As we continue evolving as a race, who's to say that God might not be revealed in ways we can't even fathom? Who also can say that there may not be a God? Until either is proven, every possibility should be given a chance to be studied.

If the government denies students their freedom to learn about every and all possibilities, they are effectively denying them the choice that the First Amendment preaches. Sure, anyone can still choose to believe in anything, but the fact is that if information is only made readily available about certain government-selected theories then it is not only contradictory, but pushing students toward certain ideas.

While I support the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause, and the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover, I believe there is room for a change in the law, so that Intelligent Design is a part of public school curriculum. Ideally, science would be strictly experimental, and comparative religion would be an elective that covers Intelligent Design, Genesis, evolution, Native American creation theories, and everything in between. Not only does this invite freedom of religion by literally allowing people to choose their personal beliefs based on what they've learned about all available options, but it would quite possibly create more tolerance and understanding across religious groups. Students would graduate public school with more of a global viewpoint and be better prepared citizens to engage in society as a whole. As an elective course, only those who are interested in learning about all the different theories and religions would do so. Nothing would be forced nor required.

One may argue that allowing Intelligent Design to be taught in any scenario in public schools is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. One may also argue that doing so would force students to believe in what they are taught rather than have the freedom to choose their own religious paths. To counter, I must admit that yes, technically Intelligent Design in public schools would violate the First Amendment, but the violation would hardly cause harm; in fact, it would be pushing toward general improvement. It is in our country's best interest to allow young students the right to study the theories behind why we exist. Nothing has yet been proven, so prohibiting them from learning about every possibility is actually pushing them toward one accepted viewpoint, which almost perfectly contradicts the First Amendment; the Amendment that almost strictly controls unspoken social, political and cultural rules, the Amendment that has been responsible as the basis for war and violence, the incongruous Amendment that is setting back generations of young Americans.

What's more important than right or wrong is the actual debate. Not about which group owns the truth, but about what religion means to us and why it is so important. About how it shapes who we are as individuals and members of the global community. And ultimately, how we can hold the same elements within different religions and then say “but our way is the right way.” Public schools should offer the questions of religions in a way that lets me and my Buddhist neighbor examine the respective theories, concepts, and history of our religions so that we can learn from each other and evolve with each other both spiritually and practically. Banning Intelligent Design from public schools gives students no such chance.

In conclusion, the debate will continue to rage on. To teach Intelligent Design or not to teach Intelligent Design? The answer is Intelligent Design must be taught. Religious theories must be taught. Creationist theories must be taught. Meet in the middle and allow these things to be taught in a comparative religion elective course. Keep it out of the science classroom and base it strictly on the study of different cultures. Everyone involved in the debate must be willing to open up and understand that we are tweaking the Constitution to improve the education of our young students, build tolerance and acceptance for different beliefs, and increase the general public's breadth of knowledge. Not allowing each and every theory to be evenly and fairly presented in an educational context would contradict everything the First Amendment stands for: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of choice. There is no free will, there is no free choice without the full disclosure of the belief systems represented around the world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Calling the Wambulance: Jonathan Papelbon

Everyone who watches sports, plays sports, used to play sports; they have all had problems with officiating. Fans and athletes (humans in general) are inherently biased. If the 49ers have a pass interference penalty called against them, I ignore the actual rules and list all the reasons why Nate Clements was not at fault. Naturally, if it's called against the other team, I comment on how fantastic the officiating has been this game.

Major League Baseball may be the toughest league to umpire in, and despite being harshly scrutinized, statistics show that MLB umpires do an unbelievably accurate job making calls every season. Still, one missed call can change an entire at-bat, which can change an entire game, which can change an entire series, which can change an entire season. But, human error has been a part of the game forever and despite the possibility of the expansion of instant replay, I highly doubt that umpires will ever be completely replaced by emotionless machines.

That being said, there is a fine line between complaining and protesting. And even when considered a protest, there better be a damn good reason for it. After Sunday night's game against the Yankees, Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon criticized home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, placing partial blame on him for a blown save that led to a 4-3 extra inning loss. From Yahoo! Sports, via the Boston Globe:

Really rough tonight, considering the fact that I'm not only pitching against the hitter, I'm pitching against the umpire,” Papelbon said. “When you've got to do that against this lineup, you'll never be successful.”

Yes, the pitches were close and he didn't get the calls. But Cuzzi's strike zone was consistently tight all night, as manager Terry Francona acknowledged in the original Boston Globe article. Regardless of the calls made in the at-bat in which Alex Rodriguez walked to load the bases, prior to Robinson Cano's game-tying single, a few questions burn in my mind for Papelbon.

First, how did the first two hitters get on? Whoops. Second, after the close call that took the count to 3-2, why didn't you strike A-Rod out, or induce a ground ball, or do anything but walk him to put the winning run in scoring position with an MVP candidate coming to the plate? Right. Third, once the bases were loaded, why didn't you shake it off and just make a good pitch to get Cano out? Hmm. My point is, while you can complain all you want about the umpiring in that at-bat, Paplebon is the only person at fault. He has a history of failure against the Yankees and has had a rough season, by an established closer's standards. This makes me think that the end of a subpar season against arch rivals in a difficult place to pitch got to Papelbon, and he simply blew the save.

Complaints about officiating is all well and good. It's a part of sports. But it's a matter of sportsmanship and respect that we're dealing with here. If Terrell Owens had publicly-criticized an NFL official, he would have been fined an arm and a leg. If Papelbon had a problem with the umpiring in the game, you rant about it to a teammate or a coach in the clubhouse after the game. You call your friends or family and complain about the unbalanced strike zone. It's totally understandable for him to feel slighted, but as a professional athlete he has to know the limitations. He has to know that in the end, he didn't do his job. Going to the media was absolutely ridiculous and embarrassing. All that comes out of complaining to the Boston Globe is a loss of respect among other players, pure annoyance of the fan base, and a potential punishment from the Commissioner’s office. Papelbon already blew a save and essentially lost the game for the Red Sox. Don't rub salt in the wound and turn it around on the umpires.

Let me contrast Papelbon's situation with a now infamous event that happened mid-season, on June 2nd. Tigers starter Armando Galarraga had a perfect game through 9 2/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians. The 27th batter of the game, Jason Donald, hit a routine ground ball to first. In picture-perfect form, Galarraga covered first base and took the flip from first baseman Miguel Cabrera in time for the out. Fans and players threw their hands in the air to celebrate the third, and most unlikely perfect game of the 2010 season, until first base umpire Jim Joyce yelled, “Safe!” Replays clearly showed that the runner was out and that Joyce had just accidentally altered baseball history by missing a very easy, average call.

Joyce tearfully admitted later that he blew the biggest call of his career and denied Galarraga a place in history. Now that is a reason for a player to call out an umpire. Galarraga, after an initial look of shocked disappointment, cracked a smile, took the mound and got the next batter out to complete a 1-hit, 3-0 win. After the game, no ill will was directed at Joyce by Galarraga or any of his teammates. He had every right in the world to bitch and moan to the media about how he had been screwed, but instead he talked about how good he felt after throwing the best game of his life. Not once did Galarraga throw Joyce under the bus or blame him for blowing his perfect game.

Fast forward to Sunday. Realistically, the Red Sox are out of the playoffs. The Yankees are in. All that remains to be determined are whether the Yankees will be the division champions or in as a wild-card team. It was a game with far less meaning than Galarraga's gem. This Red Sox vs. Yankees game would not have gone down in history, and was hardly an out-of-the-ordinary news story. Until Papelbon summoned his inner, spoiled 10-year-old and opened his mouth to reporters about the incompetence of a respected, veteran umpire. My guess is that if Papelbon had done his job and secured the win for the Red Sox, he never would have said anything about the umpiring. Something more along the lines of, “I didn't have all my stuff tonight, but fortunately I was able to keep making pitches and get out of that jam” would have been in order.

Papelbon didn't throw a belt-high fastball against Rodriguez and not get the call (of course, if he had, the game would have been over before Cano had a chance to come up...). Cuzzi didn't call anyone safe when they missed the bag. Things just didn't go Papelbon's way, and he let it get to him. Mariano Rivera blew a save on Sunday as well, and you would never hear him blame it on a bad call. That's part of the character that makes Rivera so likeable, so well-respected; a complete professional, who will eventually be enshrined forever as one of the greatest.

Papelbon has a lot to learn if he is still placing blame for his failures on the officials enforcing the rules of the game. He had no good reason to question the strike zone of Cuzzi and should be fined, justly. My only hope is that Papelbon grows up and starts taking credit for his own mistakes. From now on, the only people who should hear those kinds of gripes are his teammates, friends and family, all in private. Stay away from people with microphones, recorders and notepads. Because next time Cuzzi is behind the plate, you might find yourself with an even tighter zone to operate in.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood

As usual, give me a minute here to annoy you readers who like the writer to jump straight to the good stuff. I have a couple background issues to cover before we get to the actual review. So, first of all, you must know that Gladiator is one of my all-time favorite movies. Some people listen to Metallica to get pumped up. Some people do steroids. I watch Gladiator. If Mark McGwire were listening to Metallica, while being injected with steroids by Jose Canseco who was simultaneously listening to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses, it would almost equal the amount of adrenaline output I get from watching one scene in Gladiator. In fact, though it's unlikely, if a girl ever quoted my favorite part (Russell Crowe: "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."), I would literally propose to her on the spot. I know, I know it's tempting ladies; but please refrain from trying this the next time you see me.

The reason I bring up Gladiator is that it has a whole lot to do with Robin Hood. Ridley Scott returns to direct Robin Hood, Russell Crowe again takes the leading role, and the dynamic duo again creates an absolutely awesome film. Everyone loves the story of Robin Hood. Everyone loves Ridley Scott. Everybody loves Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. If a + b = c, and a + c = b, and...the square root of...or...nevermind. What I'm trying to say here is that if all the main elements of a movie are fantastic, there is very little chance that the movie won't be fantastic.

With that in mind, let me finally proceed to the actual review of Robin Hood. BUT, before I get there, two very quick disclaimers:

1. Don't be like me. Don't assume that Robin Hood will be Gladiator 2. Similar elements, similar personnel and a similar style does not a sequel necessarily make. Luckily, I had a revelation before watching Robin Hood and decided not to unfairly hold it to the standard of what I believe to be one of the greatest movies ever made. I still had unbelievably high expectations, and while I wasn't exactly let down, Robin Hood didn't get a fair chance.

2. This is NOT the classic story of Robin Hood. Don't go into it expecting to see Robin stealing form the rich, giving to the poor, etc. I made that mistake, and while it also didn't change my feeling on the movie, I was surprised and felt a kind of awkward anticipation the entire movie. As a species, we do not like surprises, we don't like to stray from the norm, so prepare yourself for this movie adequately.

Without further ado, the story before the legend we all know and love as Robin Hood:

Russell Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a common archer in the army of King Richard the Lion Heart. King Richard is on his way back from his Crusades, and sacking and pillaging French castles in the process. At the last castle before sailing back to England, King Richard is killed by an arrow. After hearing the news of the King's death, Robin and his band of merry men decide to ditch the army instead of continuing back with them. On their way, they see English knights who are in charge of delivering the crown back to London, get ambushed by a French squadron led by an English traitor named Godfrey (played by Mark Strong - Sherlock Holmes, Body of Lies, RockNRolla).

Robin and his men decide to take the deceased knights' armor and try to pass themselves off as the procession in charge of returning the deceased King's crown in order to be richly rewarded by the new King. Although they make it to London, the new King is Richard's incompetent youngest brother John, who refuses to give them any type of reward. Godfrey, who slayed the knight Robin is impersonating, happens to be at the kingdom when Robin returns the crown, and recognizes that the imposter "knows too much."

Robin's next quest leads him to Nottingham to return the sword of the knight he is puppeting to his blind, dying father, Walter Loxley. Merrian Loxley (Blanchett) is Walter's daughter-in-law. Walter convinces Robin to stay at their home and pretend to be his son so as to provide temporary stability to the family. All is good and well in Nottingham, until word gets out that Godfrey is on a rampage with a French army through England, "collecting taxes" for the unsuspecting King John by mercilessly raiding every town he passes through.

The brunt of the story is based on Robin leading the English army in a surprise siege upon Godfrey and his arriving French troops. Along the way, the audience learns to love and hate many characters with a passion. Robin must protect his people, lead in a way that King John can not, and uncover a surprisingly un-cliche mystery about his own father. I'm a big fan of not spoiling movies, so that's what I'll leave you with as far as plot goes. But, I can tell you that the acting, for the most part, is impeccable in Robin Hood. The directing is impressive, as is typical with Ridley Scott films. And the storyline is thankfully brilliant, as so much could have gone wrong trying to backtrack through Robin Hood's life.

Blanchett and Crowe make a great acting team in the film and have terrific on-screen chemistry. The lesser actors are perfectly suited for their roles and rarely acted poorly. The best thing for me is that in a couple instances, you get the epic, stone-faced Russell Crowe-delivered line, reminiscent of Gladiator. In the end, Ridley Scott managed to squeeze in a perfect sequence of events that leaves you hanging and begging for a sequel: the common Robin Hood tale.

My anticipation for a sequel is built up very high now, and I have to say I'd be severely disappointed if there wasn't one. I really believe that this could be one of those rare instances where the sequel has the potential to be better than the original film. While I won't spoil the events leading up to the end of the movie for you, I can safely tell you that in the sequel, Robin will be referred to as "Robin of the Hood," and he and his allies will have a bounty on their heads, considered thieves living outside of the law. And all Robin Hood leaves you with is the wonder of what in the world they are all doing in the depths of Sherwood Forest right now.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes action, adventure, Robin Hood...heck, anyone who enjoys a well-made movie. Robin Hood is to Gladiator as Eli Manning is to Peyton Manning. Solid, entertaining, surrounded by a good cast...just not quite as great as the big brother. Either way, I give Robin Hood a B+ overall and would expect a real classic out of any potential sequel.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The. Billy. Breen.

Raise your hand if you've seen Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? How about Man vs. Food? Best Thing I Ever Ate? No? Then, first of all you're a loser. All great, very entertaining shows on the Food Network. Just don't watch while hungry. A quick recap: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is hosted by Guy Fieri as he tours certain cities around the country looking for the best unknown cafes, diners, restaurants, etc. I've personally found a couple really delicious, random places to eat from watching that show. Man vs. Food is about Adam Richman traveling the country to find insane food challenges to take on (5-pound grilled cheese, 72-ounce steak, 12-pound cheeseburger challenges, among others). Best Thing I Ever Ate is just as it sounds - a bunch of Food Network personalities describing in vivid, mouthwatering, unfair detail what the best _____ they ever ate was.

Anyway, back to business. I've had my fair share of amazing, memorable meals...orange chicken or chicken bellagio at The Cheesecake Factory, lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang's, In N Out Burger, my mom's taco salad...but this weekend in Spokane I ate something that topped them all. This one would qualify for all three shows. An old-school diner in downtown Spokane, a serving too big to handle, and by far the best burger/sandwich/dinner/MEAL I've ever eaten. I can only hope that some day the Food Network sees this review and heads straight for Spokane, Wash. to test it out.

The place: The Satellite Diner
The subject: Hungry, hungry ME.
The meal: "The Billy Breen"

Picture this. Take your normal cheeseburger and fries and put some mutant steroids in them to cover a gigantic, oval plate. Then, take everything off the burger except for the meat and cheese. Replace each bun with something real special. The Billy Breen's claim to fame is that instead of your typical burger buns, there is an entire grilled cheese sandwich on top and bottom of the meat. I know by now most of you are drooling. BUT, it gets better! When you are grilling up the top bun, don't forget to throw a couple strips of delicious, juicy bacon on with the cheese. When grilling the bottom bun, don't forget to throw a handful of warm, steamy french fries on with the cheese. When both sandwiches are done, you have your buns. Place the cheeseburger on the french-fry-filled grilled cheese, and top it all with the bacon-filled grilled cheese. Call over another cook to help you lift the gargantuan meal from the grill to the plate. Cut it in half, and serve with a far too large helping of seasoned steak fries.

This is not a joke. It really happened. One half of that burger and I was toast (no pun intended). I couldn't stop though. I wolfed down the second half and all the fries en route to raising my cholesterol 100 points and gaining 18 pounds in one meal (statistics not based on real fact). You can imagine the happiness, fullness and resulting wonderful sickness that this meal bestowed on me. I can still taste it. And I would honestly make the 90-minute drive RIGHT NOW to get another.

Take my word for it. If you are ever in Spokane, stop by The Satellite Diner and ask for The Billy Breen. Better yet, tell them Jamblin' Man sent you. It won't make any difference, but at least it will confuse the server for a second. Good night and good luck.

Rockstar Hangover

Energy drinks are my generation's form of uppers. Liquid crack, if you must. Anyone who tells you that energy drinks don't affect them is lying to your face and should be justly punished. Obviously, there is a physical effect. But mentally, you receive an unlimited supply of focus. Unless of course, you overdose. There are especially strong energy drinks. Rockstar is the standard...I purchased a gigantic 24 oz. "tropical punch" (more like blood) Rockstar to study for my test last night. First of all, I should not have started drinking it at 10:00 p.m. I can usually count on an energy drink working it's magic for around five hours. Perfect timing to study for my test! But, I failed to factor in two things:

1. It was a gigantic 24 oz. Rockstar...
2. The five hours don't really kick in until the whole thing is gone (which for me, was around 1:30 a.m.)

Anyway, I did okay on my exam and didn't piss red, so all in all the night was worth it. The main complaint I have is how un-freaking-comfortable I was trying to fall asleep. I have a huge, soft bed. Perfect amount of darkness. Warm blankets. Snoring puppy curled at my feet. But I was basically in a void of nothingness. I was nearly unconscious. I was experiencing INCEPTION! Just kidding...although it did feel like I was having an out-of-body experience (does the warning on the can's label say anything about THAT? Didn't think so...)

If a computer that is "shut down" is a human "asleep," then I was a computer asleep. Does that make sense? I was just laying there, existing; nothing else. Humming. My heart was beating extremely fast and everything about me felt tired, but the actual act of sleeping just wouldn't happen. Finally, around 5:30 a.m. (wake up call at 9), the buzz faded and I was able to sleep. Needless to say, waking up was not fun. I'm still not having much fun as I write this, sitting through my fourth long class of the day. One paper and two more tests to go this week - let's hope I survive.

Moral of the story: if you must drink liquid crack, or as it is more commonly referred to, "Rockstar," start early and drink in moderation. You'll thank me.