A Millennial’s Evolution to “Libertarian-ish”

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The Compass

Have you ever seen a picture of this above graph floating around? You’ve probably had friends take it and share it, especially around a National Election year. The graph above is my results, and yes, I have taken it a few times over the years and have watched the red dot move a little more to the right and a little more downward each time.

You may be asking “why have you taken it multiple times,” and it is not a bad question to ask. The answer is quite simple, really, and that is I know as a person I tend to evolve. Not majorly, mind you, I do have some corner stone principles that build an unshakable foundation, but I have come under certain realizations.

I want to start with when I first remember taking note of politics. It was 2000, and I remember my at the time Geography teacher, I believe, ask us 6th graders what we thought about the Election that was underway. At that time I recall my mother liking George W. Bush over the dashing, dapper, former Vice President and “lockbox hero” Al Gore. I recall this time frame being the first time I glanced at a President Debate, and not too much sticks out in terms of memories of it or recalling information.

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I guess more than anything, I trusted in my mother, and therefore leaned toward favoring Bush.

Now remember, this was before 9/11, before the wars, before the election debacles. In fact, the “recount” election debacle was what first drew my deeper attention to detail at such a young age. I had questions about that; who made a mistake, who messed up what, did Jeb pulls strings to help his brother out, and so on. It was a controversial subject that I recall living out, and piqued my interest in the political world ever so slightly.

The birth of interest.

But then came a real changing historic point in 9/11/2001. Being as young as I was, the first thing that set in my mind was fear, and honestly, fear probably settled in the minds of a lot of Americans. It was the single most devastating act of terrorism conducted on U.S. soil ever, with nearly 3,000 lives gone in the blink of an eye on a Tuesday Morning that seemed to begin as a beautiful and sunny day.

And here is where I will maybe lose some people…but I believe George W. Bush was the right man at the right time, if just considering what he did to try to bring the country together. This was that pivotal moment where everybody went to the store and bought a flag-hanging kit, nearly every house on every street covered with a flag hanging on the front porch. There seemed to be a genuine unity, and President Bush solemnly declared in front of a Joint Session of Congress a mere 9 days later:

Americans are asking: What is expected of us?

I ask you to live your lives and hug your children.

I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.

I ask you to uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here.

We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.

I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions.

George Bush ultimately in my mind did not live up to those words, albeit it probably was not all in his hands anyway (This includes the controversial PATRIOT Act which was not an executive order so we could shift responsibilities and blames to the congressional/senatorial level, the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq War which could also be shifted that way, but regardless, the figurehead is the figurehead.) Despite all his imperfections, despite all his shortcomings, I did not then believe, nor do I now, that George W. Bush was a bad person. Misguided, with the very wrong key players surrounding him, for sure, but not bad. Not evil. Simply just as most people are, not perfect.

In fact, a little digging into the past and you will find that President Bush, in terms of gallup numbers at least, held both the record highest and lowest job approval ratings.

Needless to say, this is where the birth of my political interest and involvement sparked. The words of the speech are resounding: be calm and resolute; Uphold the values of America and remember why so many have come here; We’re in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. 

The world was changing around me, and really for the first time I took note that being an American (which, guess what folks, is true Privilege) did not mean that bad things would not happen because we’re in the greatest country on earth.

That weird kid…

At that time I would have told you I was a happy, proud Conservative Republican. While I was lost and struggling in my personal spirituality due to several life factors, I was still a devoted weekly church goer. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck were a constant for listening when it came to political discourse.

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What used to be my trifecta in the years 2001-2008; Now I only have respect and listen to Beck, who has more Libertarian leanings, staunchly did not fold in the direction of Trump for popularity, and I will admit, still occasionally wrong about things but has progressed over the years and the difference is day and night. 

My friends and fellow students could tell you; I went to Cab Calloway School of the Arts, and a good to fair amount of the students there at that time (probably safe to bet now as well) I would label today as liberal progressives. I was the kid that went to the GOP Headquarters after school, which was conveniently right across the street. I would stop in, talk with the receptionist, the chairmen, occasionally be lucky enough to cross paths with Former Governor and then-current Representative Mike Castle, who at that time was virtually the only winning Republican in Delaware, and more-so a moderate.

I would grab a yard sign or two, a bumper sticker, a campaign button, and everyone who knew me could tell you I may quite a few “political statement” t-shirts. I recall being on a class trip and one of the patrons of the event actually approached me and had a lengthy discussion, noting that he did not agree with my points of view but had to ultimately respect and even find it a little cool that I was willing to put my own creativity into play to create my own shirts and be so open to talking about politics without being judgmental about it.

At that time, I was firmly in favor of the “War on Terror.” Chalk it up to being young and naive, but honestly, we were targeting at first organizations of oppression and violent tendencies, like dismantling the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. However, in that I was never one to speak out against an individuals faith. I perfectly remember the days following 9-11 one of our teachers asking the class to air out our thoughts. One student said “We should just nuke them. Nuke them all.” I stood firm, saying “No, that isn’t right. There are innocent people there…more terrorized than we ever will be. They need our help, they don’t need that sort of hell brought upon them.

A Political and Spiritual Struggle seemingly lose ground…

It was always important to me to not single out Religious peoples because I myself, even in my struggles, was always considered one of those outcast, fringe, devoted people, and I never liked that feeling, the feeling of so many not even bothering to try to understand what exactly you believed or why, just what they read about your beliefs, or heard, or joked about. I still held to my convictions, and I didn’t want to be treated that way, so I therefore was not going to treat others that way.

…Except I did. Not toward religions, but towards other things. Sexuality, for example, especially in terms of the LGBTQIA+-$&%AndWhateverOtherLettersNumbersOrSymbolsTheyMayAdd…Thanks to struggling spirituality and the dogma laid out…while it was never along the lines of “You have to hate the gays,” it was a “love them but reject their lifestyle” sort of message, one that I truly struggled with every day, because attending the progressive environment of Cab Calloway, I was virtually surrounded by different people, and I always carried that belief of “Not my business, not my life, not affecting my life” attitude.

That was the first political awakening, and maybe even spiritual awakening, that I ever came across in my life. “Who cares what consenting people do in their lives?” I would think to myself. “Why am I debating and discussing if it is ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for someone to be gay?” At the end of the day I didn’t care what a person was, as long as they were respectful of me as a person, and I always had the intention of respecting them as a person. Did not matter if I “agreed” with their “lifestyle” or not.

I did not know it then, but that was the birthplace of a future Libertarian (Libertarian-ish, at least). 

John Kerry, John Edwards, and my continued support for W. 

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The 2004 Election came up and I was truly in deep. The GOP headquarters knew my name, I was attended rallies, they sent me and my buddy on a trip to CPAC in D.C., we had the workings for a Young Republicans club for me and my friend to chair, we were frequently meeting candidate for Governor Bill Lee, who enjoyed our youthful enthusiasm.

At that time, we had already begun the invasion of Iraq, which many were opposed to. At the time, foolish me thought about all the bad things surrounding Saddam Hussein, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the chemical weapons, the people there at the mercy of an authoritative regime…and we had begun already. The respective branches of the Government conceded, so did some key ally nations.

Virtually every student I can remember was in support of John Kerry. In their eyes, George W. Bush was a warmongering doofus who wanted to take all the oil Iraq had to offer and evoke a little revenge on behalf of his father, George H. W. Bush.

There I was, wearing my own self-made Bush shirts, sporting political phrases I came up with, being the fringe, not caving to the popular opinion, still moderately favoring President Bush all the way through, not believing in ulterior motives and actually lacking confidence in people like John Kerry and many of the Democrats, who at that time, a majority favored and voted for in favor of the Iraq War, including Kerry himself, who then continually struggled backtracking and defending himself.

Then along came Obama. 

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Brace yourselves for the hopey-changey-hope.

When Barack Hussein Obama stepped into play, it was against John McCain and Sarah Palin, neither of which I could say I was a true fan of. At this point in my life, I was stepping away from Mormonism, and started becoming a little more socially liberal. At this phase, I started asking the questions “why should Government have the power over Marriage? Why are we having a legal fight over whether or not Gays can be wed? Who cares that deeply what another person is doing with another person, which is virtually not the business of anyone else.

There was many aspects to Barack Obama that were off-putting to me, namely when he declared Universal Healthcare. At that time I was slowly realizing that I did not support the ideas of Government having limitless powers over such unique, individualistic issues such as health care on a wide-scale. At this time, I was still covered by my Mother’s health insurance, but I knew that sooner or later I would be an adult and have to worry about this issue on my own. I took no comfort in the idea that the Government would mandate me into the collective for my own good.

And that is shortly what it became, did it not? People were told they could keep their Doctor, and they couldn’t. People were told they could keep their plans, and shortly some were consolidated and even eliminated. Those who refused to purchase Health insurance on the exchanges because of astronomical pricing or the feeling it was a useless wasteful expense opted to not sign up for insurance and pay a Government enforced penalty for not buying a service they either did not want or could not afford.

And in came rolling the turn toward Libertarianism…

Mind you, at this juncture, Obama had some slight wins in my book. Wanting to get out of Iraq, for one, as I was fed up with the continual struggle, was a positive, even if Obama turned out to be an utter failure in my opinion in terms of being “anti-war” (drone bombings abound, terrible ISIS approach, terrible Syria strategy). One thing Obama was excellent at: using technological platforms to push a message at the time that people felt was needed: Change. Thus in 2008, he narrowly swayed me to pulling the lever for him.

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But the next 4 years were quite lackluster, and I was swayed by Mitt Romney in 2012 to vote Republican, along with a wave of tea-party conservatism. Obama stayed, some promising tea-party Republicans came into town…and nothing happened. Literally nothing happened. Only a few of those tea-party players turned out to be genuine in their character and conviction. It gave us names like Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, Mike Lee, Justin Amash, maybe a handful of others, but the rest were seemingly a charade. The Republican control did nothing…it quite literally sat on its hands, lead by Mitch McConnell, and waited for 2016.

2016: The Year of Insanity, The Final Straw, and the Limited Government Awakening

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Then came 2015, Pre-Election season, the birth of FritzCast. I pretty much had enough, I was done playing games with such serious issues. I began reading the Declaration of Independence over and over again. I started to re-immerse myself in life long passions of American History, of Liberty, Freedom, Exceptionalism. I started off with it feeling promising…I had fallen prey to those sappy dank Bernie Sanders memes with the inspiring things he would say with all the socialism rhetoric seemingly cut out, thinking he was a likeable guy with high odds of beating establishment groomed and hand-picked Hillary Clinton. The Republican Party had 16 (SIX-EFFIN-TEEN) candidates…surely we would come to a head with great debates of different ideologies.

NOPE. Nope nope nope. Turns out Bernie, while a nice guy, was the polar opposite ideology of me, and he didn’t win anyway, so in turn you received a Legacy Name candidate (Hillary Clinton), and an unruly glorified Reality Television Star in Donald Trump, providing three of what I believe are the worst Presidential Debates to ever be aired on Television, two campaigns that were incredibly divisive, an ever more increasingly divided America that is continually losing sight of the ideals and principles that the nation was founded on, brilliantly written and highlighted in The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, all of which are whipped and beaten to the point where they’ve lost their spirit.

Consider this Chapter I, and I have only just begun.

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The Constitution, Rights, and Restriction

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“The constitution is not some list of the limited rights that the people have because in our system the Government is limited, and the People’s rights are limitless,” is a quote I once heard in a video of speech delivered by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. It was a line that really made me think deeply…the constitution is something I often take pride in knowing, take pride in keeping my pocket edition around with me just to read occasionally, and as a more libertarian-leaning millennial, I have comes to grips with some facts about the constitution, rights, and regulations.

The Constitution needs serious respect, especially in a day and age where more and more we find stories in the news targeting the rights listed therein. While to some it may be some aged piece of paper, written by only men in the 17-somethings, and they argue specifically that the second amendment was written at a time of “flintlock muskets,” a gun in which military men could at extreme proficiency fire off three shots in a minutes worth of time, people seem to lose sight of the actual underlying purpose of the constitution.

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The founders in framing this document wanted to declare rights, and it is brilliantly stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident…

We believe that these are facts, and that they are obvious…

That all men are created equal

That every human being is level, sharing a commonality especially at their very birth,

That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights

That whether you believe it be given from a God or simply ingrained in nature itself, every person has rights which CANNOT be taken from them or given to them. They simply HAVE these rights.

That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That they most importantly include an individual’s right to their own life, they have the freedom from restrictions and oppressions from an authority in terms of their life, their behavior, their religious practices and their political views, but also that there are many more inherent and essential rights of the people.

As much respect as I have for the constitution, I have slowly evolved from calling myself a “constitutionalist,” as we all have seen throughout history that the Constitution has not been implemented perfectly, and has been subject to change at the guise of “democracy,” which Plato called “A charming form of government, full of variety and disorder.”

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Democracy is a word I often cringe at, because Democracy is falsely equated to what our system of governance is. Democracy is in all factuality the tired saying of “two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner.” A “majority-rules” aspect should always frighten people, and with good reason; majority rules means that the mob can rule. It was a majority of people at one point who thought it was OK to own individuals and treat them as they saw fit, including rather inhumane things, based on the differences in their skin color; it was a majority of people that agreed that the indigenous people could be taken advantage of, ridiculed, killed, and driven off to reservations, and that was ok; it’s a line from the movie The Patriot that truly is remarkable for a film of loose history and more creative fictionalization, when the main character Benjamin Martin exchanges words with Peter Howard:

HOWARD: We are citizens of an AMERICAN Nation, and our rights are being threatened by a tyrant three thousand miles away!

MARTIN: Will you tell me, please, Mr. Howard, why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as the King can.

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Yes, a majority declaring something does not inherently make that thing a good or a wise or a “right” thing, and part of the idea in the construction of the Constitution was to set barriers in place to try and carve in stone certain things that a Government should have no power over, and you would think with advancement in humanity, that we would be in an even freer state than the years before, but in reality, it has become a sharp game of give-and-take.

Think on the grander scales, but ones that are far less talked about in the media. Thanks to intelligence gathering, Americans Fourth Amendment right to privacy and protection against warrantless search has been eroding. People say you sacrifice it by simply owning a smartphone, but that isn’t necessarily true. As technology continues to expand and dominate our lives, Fourth Amendment battles arise, whether it is the Government trying to force a private company to create a back door access for them or simply mass meta-data collection of everyone’s digital footprint just because.

The first amendment, protecting some quintessential freedoms from Government abuse, include the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, freedom to peaceable assemble to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This is something we have seen battled across college campuses and in political discourse, with safe spaces and trigger warnings and social media alike. It has broadened the debate.

With a rise in school shootings comes the debate over the Second Amendment, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is taking on a very heated debate, in what I described in my latest podcast episode as a “sharp divide” in the people, and that the dialogue taking place has boiled to extremes. Take CNN’s town hall on the matter: An event packed with a local community, with kids and their parents who have been shaken to their core, their lives forever changed, trauma that can never be erased or fully healed. Emotions were at an all-time high.

And when emotions are at an all-time high, sometimes the discussion becomes arguments of absolutes. The dividing lines become sharp: either you agree to our requests, or you hate children and love the fact they die at the hands of guns; a sentiment that simply is not true. The other hand, is a crowd who says “The second amendment is non-negotiable; no we won’t agree to mag limits, to bump-stock bans, to ammo restrictions, in fact we don’t even like the auto ban,” and so on. The “WE WON’T COMPROMISE” crowd. The two clashing against each other creates sharp divides of extremes that leave those of us in the middle, as we are on a lot of other issues, in the dust with no legitimate shot of discussion because of how absolute these two extreme and vocal divides have become. Who wants to try to stand up to a sea of voices yelling, screaming, who won’t even initiate an open dialogue about it, they’ll simply point at the gun and tell you you’re wrong so long as you support the gun; that you supporting a person’s right to own a firearm means you have hate in your heart, that you like killings, that you want to do nothing, that you do not have a genuine care for any of the victims.

This is what I have viewed, and it has left me in a very lost place. I won’t stand atop my soapbox screaming to everyone and over everyone that I absolutely have a perfect idea that is sure fire and will work. I am not going to say that my answer will please everybody. I will not conform to either side of the argument to appease the masses of those sides. The dialogue that should be had is lost in the fray of two volatile groups that consistently find ways to turn the heat up on each other.

 

No Controversy: The Philadelphia Eagles

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Here come the UNDERDOGS!

It has been one of the most unprecedented seasons I have ever watched as an Eagles fan, a journey that began LONG ago, watching Donovan McNabb place in amazing performances with a somewhat lackluster offensive supporting cast. The names were like Freddie Mitchell, nicknamed Fred-Ex, who once said of a LUCKY 4th and 26 catch “I’d just like to thank these hands…”; Or Todd Pinkston, whom I am not sure I could even give you a rough stat line of. That isn’t to say the team was completely void of talent, but The Eagles of the 2000’s leaned heavily on a strong offensive line, the feet and unpredictability of Donovan McNabb, the quick footed and hard to keep down Brian Westbrook, and a STELLAR defense headed by Jim Johnson, with names like Jeremiah Trotter, Jevon Kearse, Lito Shephard, Sheldon Brown, and the icon Weapon X, Brian Dawkins.

The Eagles of the 2000’s I often remember being “close, but no cigar.” Year after year I watched success, playoff games, and stinging NFC Championship losses, all the way up until the acquisition of Terrell Owens, which bolstered the team into Super Bowl XXXIX against The Patriots. Oddly enough, the Eagles faced The Vikings in the Divisional round of the playoffs, and the Falcons in the NFC Championship to secure the Super Bowl trip…this year they defeated the Falcons in the Divisional round and the Vikings in the NFC Championship. But let me not get ahead of myself…this all started at the beginning of the year.

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Carson Wentz

Last season, which was the first year for Head Coach Doug Pederson and Star QB Carson Wentz, the Eagles went 7-9, which in my book was respectable as hell. Brand new coach, brand new #1 draft pick QB…we’re gonna have a little growing pains. I fully expected a better season this year. The Eagles started strong, with Carson Wentz looking comfortable heading into his second year, hell even somewhat dominant. Carson was building up an MVP season. Despite struggles game-by-game, the Eagles kept winning…even in the face of great adversity.

When 9-time Pro-Bowler Left Tackle Jason Peters was injured and lost for the season, many of us Eagles fans felt that it was a heavy hit. Yet somehow, even through a few rocky games, Halapoulivaati Vaitai sealed the deal in the NFC Championship game proving a worthy heir.

But then Running Back and Special Teams god Darren Sproles was lost for the season, an explosive option that often can be the spark to really get the offense burning. The Eagles solicited help from former Eagle Kenjon Barner for the returns, but went a step further with a brilliant stroke of luck nabbing Jay Ajayi from a Dolphins organization that wasn’t liking him, and with Legarrette Blount and Corey Clement, the Eagles Rush game can become quite a handful.

Jordan Hicks, often cited as the Quarterback of the defense, took an injury leaving him out for the season sometime in October, yet the Defense persisted as the ranked #4 unit in the NFL. Kicker Caleb Sturgis also suffered an injury, but his lead to the emergence of rookie sensation Jake Elliot, who most memorably booted a 61-yard Field Goal as time expired against team rival New York Giants.

But all of those injuries were just the tip of the iceberg…Carson Wentz, having a breakout year, shattering Eagles records, persisting, utilizing his heavy X-Factor to make plays that are just quite frankly impossible, you’ve never seen any other Quarterback pull off what this kid pulls off. And in one fatal moment, Carson Wentz too succumbs to Season Ending injury.

The critics had spoken: This was it. That’s too much. You Eagles are done. There’s no chance for playoffs or a Super Bowl now.

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Nick Foles, back-up Quarterback to Carson Wentz, and former Eagles starting QB for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. 

Nick Foles is an interesting story, and truly a victim of circumstance I believe. Chip Kelly waltzed in to the Eagles with Nick, who took off with his offense, produced a 7-Touchdown pass game against the Oakland Raiders, and registered a Pro-Bowl year. Then, for some bizarre reason (Because Chip Kelly was a HORRIBLE NFL coach) he found himself traded to St. Louis, in exchange for Sam Bradford.

I never forgave Chip Kelly for such an abominable move, as I had developed into a pretty huge Nick Foles fan and felt the guy got snubbed by Mr. Know-It-All. I still followed Nick hoping he would find his success, while watching in frustration as Chip Kelly single handedly decimated the Eagles team. When Chip got the boot…I was not the least bit upset. Good riddance.

And here Nick sits, among some of the worst doubters in the media, taking the reigns of Carson Wentz’s Philadelphia Eagles, somehow someway having driven them through the playoffs to Super Bowl LII. In fact, Nick turned in one of the best performances of a Quarterback through his two playoff victories. And his stat line against the Minnesota Vikings, holding the #1 Ranked Defense in the NFL? Look:

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Mind you, the true testament here is the TEAM work. This team bonds unlike most any other football club in the NFL, and a lot of it revolves around faith and spirituality (SEE: https://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/strong-faith-binds-eagles-attracts-new-fans-012818) but also in chairty, not only from Carson Wentz but players like Chris Long who donated his entire salary (https://www.inc.com/brian-hart/philadelphia-eagles-star-chris-long-donated-his-entire-salary-to-charity-heres-what-leaders-can-learn-from-it.html); but also because as you’d hear from most of the players, its all about having fun.

So the Eagles, down-trodden and marked as the underdog in every playoff game this year, including in the Super Bowl show-down against the Patriots, continue to fuel their game with the hate and doubt cast their way.

And this is a big game, and this is a big moment. I am well past where I was years ago in 2004/2005, Super Bowl XXXIX, watching Andy Reid mismanage a clock and Donovan McNabb undergo some sick vibes as the Patriots booted a field goal and took the win.

This whole year has been a different year, this whole team has been a different team, this whole season has been unprecedented…

And we ain’t done yet. There’s one more game to go. And if this team does it…they will forever be solidified as THE team.

BRING ON SUNDAY. I will be wearing my trusty authentic #54 Jeremiah Trotter Jersey, with friends and with family. Never before have I been this pumped for my Eagles. Tom Brady and the Patriots don’t scare me.

We all we got, we all we need!

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FLY, Eagles FLY!

On the road to victory!

FIGHT, Eagles FIGHT!

Score a touchdown 1, 2, 3

Hit ’em low!

Hit ’em high!

And watch OUR EAGLES FLY!

FLY, Eagles FLY!

ON THE ROAD TO VICTORY!

E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES

My True Meaning of Christmas

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This past week on my podcast, in the episode titled “Christmas and Taxes,” I discussed how Christmas was when I was a kid; basically an excitement fueled day on Christmas Eve, with a sleepless night filled with my mini-TV playing 24-hours of A Christmas Story to pass the time til Christmas Morning, when I could wake everyone up at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. There was a genuine magic at leaving the living room Christmas tree, with a barren tree skirt underneath, and trotting down the stairs hours later to see it flooded with wrapped gifts. Being the youngest in my family of 8, it was always a sea of gifts, and Santa Claus somehow knew every year which section of the space around the tree belonged to which sibling (mine was the far right corner, and subsequently also bridged to in front of the television).

As an adult looking back, I wonder if it was bad that I found such joy in that. That pure excitement of gifts, that drove me to the point of never sleeping (and I mean, not even a wink. I never, ever could get to sleep Christmas Eve. Maybe I dozed by 4 or 5 in the morning, but just for that hour before it was actually time to wake everyone up.) But something truly sticks out to me every year, and partly because of how I am employed in Corrections and actually haven’t had a full Christmas Day off at all in my 5 year career. Did I really enjoy getting stuff at Christmas as a kid? Yeah, I did…but more so I enjoyed the entire family being gathered to be together, to give and receive gifts, to enjoy a buffet dinner laid out, and really to not have another care or focus in the world…all the things that I seemingly do not get enough of now.

Ask my wife and she will probably tell you that I have a deep love of the season, but not a moment before thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day or immediately following, however, I bring down all our Christmas decorations. I grab the step ladder, head outside and begin setting up my humble display (Which right now consists of icicle lights that we agreed I would replace after this year, two strands of blue Christmas lights which we agreed I would replace after this year, and a lawn inflatable Yoda, standing atop a stack of Christmas presents, wearing a Santa Hat and holding a candy cane cane, which we agreed I will never replace and will remain forever…)

We sit down and assemble our ever-expanding Lego Christmas Town, each year traditionally buying the new release of the set. We got to the local gardening center and find a fine, real live Christmas tree and a wreath for the front door. I assemble an epic playlist of Christmas Music headlined by The Rat Pack, Elvis, and even my quirkier modern-day likes of The Piano Guys, Chicago, and We Wish You A Metal Xmas (the latter for some reason doesn’t go over well with a lot of people…but Lemmy Kilmeister sings a mean Run Run Rudolph, and what doesn’t beat Ronnie James Dio singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen?).

It is funny, because you would think for someone like me, a struggling agnostic who removed himself from religion but not necessarily the principles he was taught from it, would probably have mixed emotions about Christmas, but I don’t really. It is a season that truly brings a little joy and festivity, a spirit unlike any other in comparison. It is a time for gifts and giving, a time for family and friends gathering, for festivity, for bright Christmas lights and decorations, for classic Christmas cartoons and Rankin/Bass musicals. Yes, it’s even the time of nativity scenes, lit candles, and memorials.

But most importantly, it is the time to recognize how blessed you truly are despite all the little things that pile up and overwhelm you. The things that make you think life is terrible. That seemingly always happens to me around this time of year…really at Thanksgiving and just beyond. Recognize the blessings: Health, family, a house, a car, a job, healthy pets, good friends.

Merry Christmas.

The NOT SPOILER FREE overview of The Last Jedi (With spoiler-free introduction)

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Before we continue any further, did the title mention that this is NOT spoiler free? As in…it has spoilers. As in, if you haven’t seen this film and don’t want something ruined you SHOULD NOT proceed further? Because if it didn’t, allow me to take a moment more of your reading time and say this:

THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE WHEN I GET TO THE LAST JEDI BIT…

Oh, you want a spoiler free edition? Fine. Here: It took me two viewing to appreciate the film, and I suggest you go see it because it was good!

Now I am sure someone is reading this for another take on the film because they’re like me (They watched it, they’ve solidified their opinion, and they’re reading other peoples to see what the fuss is about, or vice-versa).

Leading up until now:

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Star Wars has always held a special place in my heart. It may be because as I was born in ’89, I had older siblings to guide me in the ways of the force through the iconic original trilogy, and I have fond memories of being a kid and watching these epic space battles and moments; Luke stumbling across a random astromech droid numbered R2-D2 and a human cycle relations robot called C3PO; the holographic message of Princess Leia begging Obi-Wan Kenobi for help; Luke learning the ways of the force; Darth Vader revealing to Luke his true origins; the Masterful villain Darth Sidious, Sheev Palpatine, the Emperor of the Galaxy. I feel in love with that universe, and everything about it, and even had a pretty extensive Lego Collection that I wish I still had because I was a dumb kid and ruined them (SPOILER: I have new ones now 😛 ).

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Then came along the Prequel Trilogy, and mind you at the beginning of that I was but a kid myself. Episode I at that time was a true thrill, and a defiant Jedi in Qui-Gon Jinn threw in shades of extended universe lore about grey jedi. Sure, my critical analysis of the film now is it has its cool moments and characters but it is rather lackluster. Same can be said for Attack of the Clones, with the only slight redemption for the entire trilogy coming in Revenge of the Sith, which was mostly solid aside from Darth Vader’s cring-worthy “NOOOOOOOOOO!” scene.

After that I truly believed Star Wars, aside from television forays like The Clone Wars, was done. A big, expandable universe left to expanded universe novelists writing top-tier fan fiction, if anything else. I’m not mocking them, legitimately, but there was no clear course, and book after book after book has piled up. I couldn’t even begin to tell you where to start with it, but there is some epicness to be found, especially in the series about Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Then Disney acquired Lucasfilm Ltd from George Lucas, and before you knew it…NEW STAR WARS was coming to the silver screen again.

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And when The Force Awakens debuted, J.J. Abrams delivered what I felt was a pretty good film that unfortunately relied on homages and nostalgia. It was not supremely epic, but in comparison to the effort put into the prequels, The Force Awakens shines brightly, brightly in the 8.5-9.0 region, for me. The conflicted character of Ben Solo who has turned to the dark as Kylo Ren, the man who murders his father Han, under the strings of a mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, was an intriguing new character who clearly suffers from instability and anger. Rey was a mysterious girl who has some strong, amazingly deep connection with the force. Luke Skywalker was missing, Leia and Han were on a quest to save their son, even if their own relationship couldn’t be saved. New Characters like the cocky risk taking pilot Poe Dameron and First Order dissenter FN-2187 or as he is renamed by Poe, Finn, brought new life.

The Force Awakens brought out my inner-child and sparked dozens of questions.

Then came The Last Jedi.

THERE ARE SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in a dire situation as The First Order has nearly wiped out what is left of the resistance. In fact, the official resistance has been reduced merely to a small fleet of ships, and that is it. Many people questioned this due to the fact that in The Force Awakens, the Resistance takes down the mega-death star Starkiller base (many seem to forget, however, that the First Order successfully used Starkiller to effectively wipe out an ENTIRE system of planets known as the Hosnian system, where the New Republic Senate was headquartered, thus effectively destroying their government AND a significant portion of the fleet.) Princess turned General Leia Organa and what is left of the rebels have just escaped a planet and are being tailed by some of the biggest head-honchos of The First Order, General Hux leading the way. Of course, why not dab in some humor, as ace pilot Poe Dameron pages an urgent dispatch to General Hux from General Organa, claiming its about Hux’s mother.

This instance of humor, which sets a tone that suggests the film will have random bouts of comedy, actually works because of Poe being the cocky, unwavering character that he is. Poe is also going to learn a harsh lesson…you probably shouldn’t risk your entire bombing fleet to take out one First Order dreadnought…which is exactly what Poe does against Leia’s orders. The scene is a little gripping, as it paints a grim picture that the Resistance is on its last legs. Poe is ecstatic they took down such a massive First Order ship, but Organa and other leadership see the last of their bombers destroyed. The resistance now is drifting away with critically low fuel supplies, so they jump into hyperspace, and when they disengage from hyperspace, the First Order is directly behind them, having successfully tracked them, which until this moment was impossible (EASTER EGG: Go back and review Rogue One when Jyn and Cassian are trying to locate the Death Star plans…one of the ones they glance over is a project of the Imperial forces studying hyperspace tracking. Kind of cool). 

Oh, in that sequence, Finn comes out of his Force Awakens induced coma. Why is that important? Because the first question he asks is about where Rey is.

So we sequence over to the scene that ended The Force Awakens, with Rey handing Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber to Master Luke. Luke grasps the lightsaber in his hands, looking at it…then looks at Rey, and abruptly tosses the saber over his shoulder, wholly uninterested in having it back. Another comedic moment, but shortly we will find that Luke Skywalker has very much become a dark, cut off, reclusive character. It makes perfect sense, that is exactly how Master Yoda became once he went into exile. The only one oddly not affected by exile and becoming dark and disgruntled in this series is Obi-Wan…

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This is where the movie truly becomes a waterfall of stuff happening. In classic Star Wars fashion we jump from main plot, to sub plot, to sub plot, back to main plot. Luke is all but finished with the Jedi, and feels the order should die with him, which is why he fled to this uncharted planet. Rey’s persistence makes Luke wonder who she is and eventually begins teaching her lessons of the force and why he believes the Jedi should end.

It’s also revealed what turned Luke this way…a conflict with young Ben Solo that we see in three segmented flashbacks: One was Luke’s perspective to Rey, in which he states he went to confront Ben when he had felt he had been compromised by Snoke, revealing that Ben had in anger and lust for power had tried to kill him.

The second was Ben speaking to Rey in this odd force connection they wander into periodically. Ben says Luke sensed his power and wanted to strike him down.

When Rey finally confronts Luke for the truth, he reveals that in his moment of weakness, his true failure of Ben Solo was thinking he had no redemption and for a fleeting moment thought striking him down would be best. That sparked a fight between him and Ben, where Skywalker was knocked out…and when he came to, he found his Jedi Academy burned to cinders, and all the children Kylo didn’t take with him he slaughtered.

During this time, Luke begins teaching Rey about the force, but also a bitter angle of why he believes the Jedi should come to an end because of vanity and because of failure. The Jedi do not own the force, as he states. The Island has a special force to it as well, and when Luke is teaching Rey to feel it, a supreme darkness is felt, a hole in the island, and when Rey neglects to resist it, caught in a trance…Luke becomes truly frightened. He has only seen that raw strength once before: Kylo. If he didn’t fear it then, he does now.

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Meanwhile, Finn had come to and is on a side quest with a girl named Rose. They’re trying to find a master codebreaker (played by Benico Del Toro, probably so Benico Del Toro could be in the movie…), so they can disable that super powerful tool the First Order has: the ability to track in hyperspace. The whole side quest drags the film into the politics of war and money, and to be honest, it is the least interesting chunk of the film.

Through their force visions, Rey and Kylo eventually touch hands, and when Luke stumbles in on it, he unleashes a powerful force that blows his little hut up, scorning Rey and telling her to leave. He subsequently decides he is going to burn the ancient tree which is holding all the original ancient Jedi texts…and this is where an old friend comes to visit.

The Force Ghost of Master Yoda watches as Luke can’t bring himself to destroy the hideaway of the ancient Jedi word, so Yoda conjures up a lighting bolt and sets it ablaze. Now it’s time for a new lesson for Luke from his former Master; the Jedi order is over, the ancient texts really don’t mean much anymore, and failure can be a great teacher. It is a touching moment to have Yoda be the one to put an end to the past, probably because he is more or less at the level of God in this series.

Rey flees to Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship, convinced Kylo will turn. Snoke shows off his incredible force prowess, able to sling Rey around like a rag doll, revealing that he bridged her and Kylo’s mind, so that she would be convinced to come and redeem him. Snoke takes possession of Rey’s lightsaber (of course, that is Anakin’s, and Luke’s) and places it on the arm of his throne. He then forces Rey in a sacrificial position in front of Kylo, closes his eyes and declares that he can see Kylo igniting the lightsaber and striking his true enemy. Kylo does in fact ignite a lightsaber…Rey’s lightsaber…as he turns it to face Snoke. He falls from his throne cut in half, and Kylo and Rey battle the Praetorian guards in what is a truly epic scene of a dark character and a light character working together.

But once that fight is over, and Rey urges Kylo to turn…Kylo says its time to let the past die, let the resistance die…join a new order of the galaxy. At this time Kylo pushes Rey to release the truth…she knows who her parents are…nobodies. Drifters who sold her for drinking money. Unexceptional except…Kylo accepts her. Kylo feels that his outcast status is shared by Rey, but she refuses to bend to his side. As Kylo reaches his hand out, she tries calling the lightsaber back to her hand, and her and Kylo struggle as the lightsaber shatters in the air…Rey escapes and Hux enters as Kylo comes to. Kylo is angry, Hux is angry…and they’re pushing off to the planet the resistance ran off to, looking to finish them off for good.

THAT BRINGS US TO THE FINALE. A scene reminiscent of the Battle of Hoth, however the resistance is in terrible shape with beat up land ships and a bunker that only allows one way in and out…through its giant blast doors. When all hope appears to be lost, and Leia even declaring that the spark of rebellion has died…Luke shows up. He goes out those doors to confront Kylo Ren, who orders his entire fleet to concentrate their fire on the spot Luke stands…and they do. Except no damage is done, so Kylo goes face to face with Luke. A couple of quick attempts to slash him to bits and Luke turns off his saber, admits he failed Kylo, and tells him that should Kylo strike him down in anger that Luke will always be with him, just as Han is now. With that, Kylo rushes at Luke, slashing his saber through Luke.

But nothing happened. Luke never left the island, and through the force, shows he has mastered some kind of astral projection that allows him to physically touch when necessary but otherwise leaves him nothing more than an apparition. This guise has given Rey enough time to clear an uncharted exit, and the remaining resistance scramble onto the falcon and flee the planet, their distress call unanswered by anyone on the outer rims.

The final scenes ends with an exhausted Luke staring into a binary sunset, and as that same theme song plays, Luke vanishes much like his predecessors Obi-Wan and Yoda, the sun setting on the Skywalker era.

My Impressions

Lets not lie, the film is long with a lot of stuff happening. Luke Skywalker is a dark and hopeless character in the beginning, which is perfect, because at this stage he should be much like Master Yoda. He cut himself off, and he doesn’t care, and most of it is over his own failures.

The humor in this film sometimes is a tad overbearing. Star Wars is allowed to have some yucks, and things like Poe’s opening sequence, it makes sense, but other times it can be rather ill-timed at dark moments. It doesn’t, however, ruin the film.

The side quest that they tried to spin with Finn and a girl named Rose just doesn’t work. You really don’t care about it because the vibe had already been set for Finn liking Rey. Rose is simply someone who lost her sister, who sacrificed herself in the opening scene dropping bombs on the first order dreadnaught. You don’t really become too attached to her, you don’t have development of a love story between them, she is just there.

That hunk of the film is a little…haphazard. A lot of the side-quest was completely unnecessary, even though it was necessary to get this “codebreaker” to crack the First Order’s security to knock out the tracker…except…well, that jump never happens and they get caught, and that leads to Finn fighting Phasma…a character who was honestly terribly developed, underutilized, and now finally appears dead.

Snoke is dead and gone now too, it would appear. The real question is did Kylo best his Supreme master…or did his master WANT him to do that? Remember…the Sith up til now have been weird like that. Sidious, the great screen villain of the Sith, killed his master Plageus the wise…then urged Luke to kill him to complete his transition to the dark side and Vader would train him. Either way, Kylo is a bit of a bad-ass…clearly unhinged, clearly driven by anger and hate and a lust for power. Rey seems to be unwavering in light, and that means all our fan theories of her going evil may and well be dead.

Yoda’s cameo was perfect, and blowing up all the old notions of the Jedi was refreshing and necessary to move forward. I don’t care what anyone says. Also, they totally modeled him from his original trilogy puppet, and Frank Oz was spot on in his reprisal.

Overall, it did take me two viewings to truly appreciate the film and catch all the little symbolic things that were happening. Was it a blow-out? No. Was it Epic? In parts, yet, scattered about in a waterfall of other things happening. Is it the BEST Star Wars ever made? Hell no. In fact, after much debate, my current ranking is as follows:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Rogue One
  3. A New Hope
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. The Last Jedi
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Revenge of the Sith
  8. The Phantom Menace
  9. Attack of the Clones
  10. Probably the Han Solo movie they’re doing…but Ron Howard was picked up to fix all the behind the scenes issues so maybe there is hope…

Yes, I do believe the Original Trilogy outranks anything else…except Disney has shown 3 efforts now that have been GREAT. Rogue One was the best Star Wars since Empire Strikes Back in my humble opinion and is a sign that these side, non-episodic Star Wars films have true potential.

Until then, I’m saying Last Jedi deserves a rating of about 7.5-8.0 out of 10, suffering from its length and how the epic moments are separated. What will be really telling is how JJ Abrams tackles Episode 9. Meanwhile, Rian Johnson was just awarded his own Star Wars trilogy, completed unrelated to anything we’ve seen. Perhaps with the reigns in his hands he can produce a story that can blow us away, because I ultimately don’t feel he did the best effort with Last Jedi.

 

 

The Immortal Nicholas: A Book Review

 

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The Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck

Ask my wife and she will tell you that I definitely do enjoy reading what I define as a good book, but she will also tell you that I take forever to do it. I recently, just within the last month, finished reading a Civil War trilogy consisting of the books Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure. It took me all summer to read through them, and some of that is the fault of work that forces overtime and my taking additional overtime on top of that, and some of it consists of me enjoying a video game for a bit too long.

I’m on vacation this week and next week, and as a rule, I stepped away from my podcast and from listening to my usual podcast episodes. That means that while I’m on vacation, I have some extra time of diving into things like writing and book reading, especially because I don’t have my Xbox on Playstation with me.

So I decided just before vacation started to begin reading “The Immortal Nicholas,” a book that my wife actually bought for me two years ago but I never got around to finishing. That much is surprising considering I ripped through it in just less than a week worth of time.

Glenn Beck may not be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to political discourse, but one thing cannot be argued, and that is that the man can write a story, as he has written many original stories and graced the best selling list a couple of times.

In the case of The Immortal Nicholas, Glenn felt a need to write an origin story tying Santa Claus directly to Jesus Christ, because he feels the world has drifted far and away from the true meanings of Christmas.

Does that mean this book slathers on all this religiosity? Not really, actually.

The main character of this story, Agios, is actually a lost and bitter soul. The very opening pages describes a man who has already suffered loss, and immediately suffers it again, truly becoming a closed-off individual…one that doesn’t like people, feels himself a failure, and often times contemplates ending his existence, though never bringing himself to end his life because perseverance is so ingrained into him.

Agios is taken captive by a group of strangers, for he carries with him frankincense, a valuable and rare to find commodity. He soon earns the respect of his captors, whom he befriends and serves. It turns out the leader of this caravan is named Caspar, a wise man and scholar, who teaches Agios new languages and how to read. Caspar is on a quest to follow a new star that has appeared in the sky, one that he and two of his dear friends, Balthazar and Melchior, believe is the sign of the birth of a new king, a king of kings, one who will redefine humanity.

But make no mistake, this story of Agios is filled with death, destruction, despair, gloom, and even at times compassion, and a constant yearning.

Agios eventually becomes Nicholas, he eventually becomes the legendary, mythical creature known as Santa Claus, but the story leading to that is truly unique. Glenn found a way to create this character and place in in the background of the story of Jesus’ birth, life and even crucifixion. Agios, while at a distance, witnessing some of these events, does not realize the significance of them.

I actually connected with this character more than once, in more ways that one, for most of the story he dedicates himself to a cause, but is never truly sure of the truthfulness of the cause, and at times is left lost and alone, wondering if there really is a God listening to his prayers that he isn’t even certain he’s saying right. Yet he is that character that saw a miracle child, followed a miracle star, has seen a miracle angel, yet through the course of his life, questions those miracles.

The story doesn’t come off as preachy, doesn’t aim to curb the reader toward one way or another, and actually ends up producing a splendid little journey through the life of Agios, and how he goes from broken and bitter man, to caretaker of a disfigured and abused man named Krampus, to lost soul, to joyous Saint Nick.

I recommend a reading of it, and more than likely, it will go by rather quickly.

Modern Day Appliances: Quality Lost

There is a TV sitting in my office, some 3 or 4 years old. It’s a 50″ 1080P Toshiba with 120hz refresh rate. I bought it at a year end sale at Best Buy for a whopping $399, for all intents and purposes a steal price, as the TV was simply a year older model than the brand new ones being pumped out.

The thing is, the TV’s back-light blew about 3 years after I purchased it, and I am not the kind to invest in super extended warranties, because typically my luck with electronics is fairly good. I take care of my purchases, like a good little nerd. I have refused to ditch the TV, as I am fairly confident I can buy the back-light (around $40), and simply swap out the old one. BOOM. Perfectly fixed TV again.

But I must face it, I am also: lazy. Almost immediately upon the back light blowing out, I hopped on my phone to skim through Best Buy’s latest offers, and just so happened to find an Insignia Roku 55″ 4K television for an astonishing sale price of $399; Same price as the old, for an upgraded fully smart TV.

Now mind you I love my 4K television, and there are probably those out there who are going to lob crap my way because it is an Insignia Roku combo and therefore probably lacking in quality, but I will argue, it is the best quality TV I have owned over the past 10 or more years, which includes a 32″ Sanyo 720P (back when they were a thing, think 2006/2007…and yes, it still functions), a Toshiba (two, in fact), and one other Insignia television at 22″ 1080P, which is still rocking hard today with no issues.

Why keep all these TVs you may be asking…

Well my 1080P Toshiba served me well and has a relatively cheap fix. If I ever do get around to fixing it, it’ll be a fully functional HD television to have in some other part of the house or as a backup. Luckily TVs don’t take up much space nowadays. I could have just thrown it out.

But is that not part of the problem today? The “throw-away society?”

So, of course, this week has been filled with working overtime (some voluntary, some forced), the kitchen sink has been leaking, and about 3 weeks ago the washing machine just stopped working. Hit the power button and the start button and it would enter the drain cycle, doomed forever to remain in it and never engage in a wash cycle.

I called a local small business to come have a diagnostic exam. The findings from the brutally honest rep was that the washing machine’s computer board was the culprit, a part that runs somewhere near $130.00 plus for shipping and installation, we were talking a grand total of $315.00.

“What does a washer even really need some souped up computer board for anyway,” he quipped. He told me that a lot of EPA regulations have forced companies to completely redesign their systems to implement those energy efficiency stickers we see, and often times the results are sub-standard.

That fell right in line with something else someone at the company mentioned to me on the phone when I scheduled the appointment. See, every company I called could not send a technician out to diagnose the problem for at least a weeks worth of time.

The company I finally settled on laid it out rather honestly to me, the nice woman I was speaking with noted that the brand of Washer I was calling about, a Maytag, had recently been bought out by Whirpool, and along with that came a redesign. She mentioned that the exact model I was calling about had a spike in complaints and maintenance issues, and sure enough a quick search started stacking up the evidence that Maytag is not a preferred brand any longer.

And not so shockingly I found myself questioning “do I REALLY want to pay 300 bucks to fix this in the hopes it lasts 3, 4, 5 years more?”

Yeah…my wife and I bought another washer. A Samsung Washer. Floor model. New. Light scratches. Bought the 3 year extended warranty that covers everything but purposefully stuffing it full of dynamite and blowing it up.

You want to know what happened when we got it home and hooked up? Oh it powered on alright, and it sang a little jaunty tune, and all the LED’s lit up…so we closed the door, set up a cycle, push start, and…

Nothing. Not a damn thing.

It was just my wife and I, who lugged this brand new spiffy washer that was going to change everything, drug it out of the car, finagled it into the laundry room, connected everything properly, actually excited to do laundry in our home instead of at my mothers house…

But no. It was all shattered. Every push of the start button and just the dinging sound.

I paid for an annoying doorbell, essentially.

The repair came for this one today…

…says it needs a new motor control board.

Thank the lord for that damn warranty. Yet again, however, I am without a washer for another week.

 

 

‘Star Wars’ Will Change Forever

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Image courtesy of Disney / LucasArts

Something irked me following the release of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” and no, it wasn’t the movie itself. It was some of the reactions, how some people wrote it off as a bad rehash of A New Hope, with similar story line being the central focusing point.

How wrong I feel those people are. I walked out of The Force Awakens with a truly rejuvenated spirit and love of Star Wars, and maybe some of that was because of the nod to the old school: the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Tie Fighters, a Death Star to end all Death Stars, a masked villain, tragedy and a lot of open doors for endless questions.

Granted…The Force Awakens did not redefine Star Wars…it was merely the rough beginning of the trilogy that at its close, will have totally shattered what everybody has known about the Star Wars Universe for years.

[Consider this your spoiler alert if you have not yet viewed The Last Jedi’s latest trailer, or do not wish to view it at all.]

The trailer drop for Star Wars: The Last Jedi during Monday Night Football sent shockwaves through the hearts and minds of Star Wars fans who eagerly awaited the chance to view it. A few major things stood out:

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Snapshot courtesy of DigitalSpy.com

1.) Luke Skywalker is scared to death of Rey, who has massive raw ability when it comes to the force. This should be no surprise, as in The Force Awakens we are lead to believe that Rey has no prior formal training regarding the Jedi or the force. She is able to counter a young, powerful, yet undisciplined Kylo Ren, who is so powerful that he can freeze a laser bolt in mid air without much concentration, and with absolute focus can dig into a persons mind and extract their thoughts.

Luke we know attempted training Kylo, and it appears that Kylo’s raw power was enough to wreak havoc and cause Luke to give up and go into seclusion. That is important, because Luke technically is the most powerful Jedi.

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Kylo Ren returns as an angry young man with a wicked scar

2.) Kylo Ren may well just hate everything. When he ignited his lightsaber killing his own father, Han Solo (and quite literally making grown men cry…), it seemed as though Kylo was struggling with every racing thought in his brain. Quite frankly it could have been one of those moments where everything he ever did wrong was running through his head, and his Father sold him one small fleeting bit of hope that it was not too late for redemption.

But much like many of us all do, fleeting hopes of turning things around can very quickly, very easily become dark belief that there is no hope, and nothing you could do could possibly erase or overwrite all the things wrong.

So that trailer shot where he is flying his Tie Fighter straight towards his mother’s ship…are we getting one of the most sinister Star Wars characters yet, a man who kills not only his Father but the revered Princess and General, his Mother Leia?

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Rey, a most peculiar character. 

3.) Rey is no “good gal.” If you will remember from The Force Awakens, there is a little interrogation scene between Kylo and Rey. Kylo says to Rey “I know you still want to kill me.” It may not seem like much, but this is an eerie linking to Luke Skywalker, think when the Emperor taunted and goaded him, near begging him to draw his lightsaber and use his hatred to kill either the Emperor himself or his father Darth Vader.

Luke, if we follow the expanded universe novels, actually struggles heavily with the Dark Side of the force…always trying to remember he is his fathers son and his Father had weakness when it came to feeding off of his own emotions.

Rey is like that. Rey initially did not want to take the Lightsaber, was terrified by the vision she had and ran away, fought Kylo Ren not with focus at first, but with anger.

The trailer alludes to Luke refusing to train Rey, and Rey seeking out knowledge from whomever may give it, supposedly Kylo Ren. Albeit, that could just be the perspective the trailer gives.

Needless to say, the Star Wars Universe is going to change. For all intents and purposes I foresee this being the end of the Jedi/Sith paradigm. Clearly Luke does not hold credence to the Jedi being the good guys, that the force is exclusively a light side and a dark side.

This raises a multitude of questions, including were the Jedi ever really good and the Sith ever really bad? Can there truly be the Gray Jedi who taps the full potential of the force without the notions of there being a Light side and a Dark side?

And mind you, this doesn’t even touch Supreme Leader Snoke, a character who just from this trailer alone seems more focused than that of Emperor Sheev Palpatine, and he was a pretty masterful mastermind.

The Last Jedi is going to shatter it all…and it makes me wonder…

What will Episode IX bring?

The Ugly Truth: Russia Exploits Us All

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There has been some pretty detailed, breakthrough news this past week regarding the comrades of “Mother Russia,” you know, that same lot that is allegedly responsible for propping up and colluding with President Donald Trump while trying to lay waste to the Clinton Campaign?

Well, news broke that Russia actually purchased targeted ads specifically to fuel the fires of division in the American Political Spectrum (See this CNN article). Among the ads they purchased ranged from Second Amendment topics, to Immigration, and even ads regarding Black Lives Matter both in positive and negative light.

Consider this information with the fact that specifically the Democratic Party has been highlighting Russia-Trump ties as the foremost reason to be weary of both Trump and Russia, and what we have drawn is a very clear picture to me:

Russia ran a ploy on us all.

A very simple ploy: exploit massive amounts of already seemingly divided Americans.

It brings back to mind this Men In Black philosphy:

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It is so odd to say that a cult comedy film is oddly dead on the money when it comes to this specific quote. Especially living in the 24-hour News Cycle tech fueled 2017 world where Tweeting your deep, brooding thoughts is commonplace and most information is divulged through memes, people often are very set in their ways, quick to be argumentative behind a keyboard, leave facts to the nerds that will actually research things, and best of all, if someone disagrees with them and they can’t handle it, nearly every forum of communication known to man now has a “block” button.

See, the whole Russia narrative that was cooked up specifically against Donald Trump and not brought to the forefront on a national interest in and of itself was a foolish plot. It is clear that Russia had its hands in nefarious actions all across the board, it did not matter who you were, because their end goal was never to influence the election in favor of a specific candidate, their interest was breeding a chaotic environment because they knew that the American people would do the rest. The fuel was already poured, they just needed some sparks or a fleeting match that was burning out that had just enough heat to set the rest off.

That was all they had to do. The politicians did not take long to play politics over it. The American people are far too busy slinging the poo back and forth to take a step back and realize that the world is not so much as black and white as they wish it were. This whole campaigns were kicked off to impeach President Trump over his “evil Russian collusion,” when in fact as I stated many podcast episodes ago, he could just as easily have been a manipulated victim.

As appears was the Republicans.

As appears was the Democrats.

As appears was Americans.

Russian manipulation need not be assigned to any specific party or politician…they have merely one goal: supply a spark for chaos.

We provide the rest. We’ve been had, as it were. 

How foolish of us.