Friday, September 28, 2012

People Make Politics Too Personal

It's pretty well known that two subjects that people tend to get riled up about faster than anything else are politics and religion.  Conservative or liberal, religious or non-religious - people get fired up and passionate about their beliefs, regardless of which side of the table they sit on.  Because of this, I avoid preaching my religious and political beliefs as much as possible.  My close friends and family members know my beliefs, and even if they disagree with them we can still agree to disagree.  And it's fine.

I've never taken issue with anyone whose philosophies differ from mine unless they refuse to accept the idea that I may disagree with them.  Unfortunately, such a case happened earlier today.  I recently reconnected with an old coworker of mine on Facebook through my girlfriend.  We all remember one another from our days working together, and he sent me a friend request a couple months ago.  My girlfriend told me he's extremely outspoken about his political views, and they are polar opposite from mine, so I knew what I was getting into when I had accepted his request.

 Boy, my girlfriend was not kidding about his political views.  

During the political conventions a few weeks ago, he posted numerous times each night bragging about his views and why Romney was completely wrong to be President.  At one point, he posted up a picture of a quote supposedly from Romney about how he could relate to the black community in the U.S.  I did some looking on my own to find out if Romney had actually said some of the things the post claimed he did.

Turned out it was a completely bogus quote, made up by a satirical website similar to The Onion.  I posted a comment under the picture and said it was fake and included a link showing it was phony.  When I went back to check on the comments a short time later, I noticed he had deleted my comment and others had commented about the photo.  Fortunately, someone else said it was fake and included another link proving it.  To his credit, he chose to delete the photo all together and admitted it was a fake quote, but still said he was supporting Obama in this election year.

I still felt like it was a real slap across the face to delete my comment since it proved he was wrong.  I wasn't being obnoxious about anything at all, just wanted to set the record straight.  If the situation was reversed, I'd have no problem with being told I was wrong by others if they had the proof to back it up.

Yesterday, this same guy posted something about a tragic shooting in Northern Virginia earlier this week.  (Coincidentally, it was in the same area in which I had lived when I had lived in NoVA.)  A man shot and killed his wife and his two teenage sons earlier this week, and then turned the gun on himself afterwards Here's the story if you want to read more about it.

In my old coworker's post, he claimed the shooter was terrified of what would happen to his family and the rest of the country if Obama was re-elected.  You may notice that in the link I had included above, there was no mention of Albert Peterson fearing Obama's potential re-election.  There was a lot to suggest he had suffered much emotional and mental anguish from several sources, but nothing Obama-related.  I asked about that, and also asked if Peterson was the guy my coworker was referring to. In response, he posted this link to make his point. A few minutes later, he also deleted me as a friend on Facebook.

I have to comment about both his actions and his link.  First of all, his link to prove his point came from a British news outlet, which had cited an unnamed family friend.  No other news outlet I have read on the story has corroborated the idea that Peterson had such a fear of Obama being re-elected.  I'm not necessarily challenging the validity of the claim, but to take this one unnamed source as gospel over other news outlets is a fairly large leap in faith and logic.

Then there's his deleting me.  I'm more amused at his actions than anything else, but here's what blows my mind: I had the audacity to prove his original claim about Romney as inaccurate, and then asked a question about his claim on another story.  The fact that I even questioned his claims - forget openly challenging them, since like I said I try to avoid such political arguments - led to him deleting me.  So he couldn't handle the fact that I actually had different political views than him?  How absurdly immature is that?

The irony to his actions is that I recall him posting something on Facebook during the Democratic National Convention, bragging about the amount of diversity in the audience.  For someone who takes such pride in diversity, he couldn't handle the fact that I had a different opinion than him?

I suppose I sound like I'm taking something as trivial as being deleted on Facebook as personally as he took the idea that I had a different view than he did.  I'm more surprised and amused than anything else, so if he wants to only associate with those who share his political beliefs, that's his business.  My aunt is another such person who takes her political views much too seriously, and will openly challenge anyone who dares to express a different opinion.

Why people can be so shortsighted into thinking they're right and everyone else absolutely has to be wrong will always be a complete mystery to me.  In my opinion, the far left and the far right are equally out of touch with society; reality is somewhere in between.  Extremists are the reason how wars start (see: Hitler, Adolf), and the likes of Howard Dean and Pat Robertson personify why each extreme side cannot tolerate the other.    Such intolerance of other potentially valid views and ideas are exactly what has led to this country finding itself in the predicament it's in.  It's unfortunate that so many people on both sides of the political spectrum can't see past themselves, since that could end up making a big difference in the long run.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Last Resort

My girlfriend called me an awful blogger last night.  It was actually the second time in a week that she's said something about it, so I figured I needed to write something.  I had originally planned on writing a weekly series of posts to wrap up the weekend action in the NFL, but that never got off the ground.  There's other stuff in the ongoing saga among my family too, but I'm going to hold off talking about that for a little while.

Instead, I'm going to talk about a new series that premieres tonight.  It's called Last Resort.

The pilot episode has been available online for a couple weeks now, so I checked it out when it hit the web.  I've actually watched it a more than once since there are some scenes where it's easy to miss a few details, and the episode actually gets better with subsequent viewings.  I'm even planning on rewatching it when it finally airs on broadcast TV tonight while the Ravens play (GASP!)

When I first heard about this series being put into production, I had really high hopes for it.  Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) plays Marcus Chaplin, captain of the U.S.S. Colorado, a submarine far out at sea.  His first officer is Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), and they receive sudden orders to fire their nuclear arsenal at Pakistan without warning.  Since this action would incite World War III, they want confirmation from their superiors, but no such confirmation is given.  Instead, the Colorado is attacked by another U.S. submarine, and the crew is forced to fend for themselves.

Meanwhile, people in DC think the sub has sunk, and they're trying to piece together what happened.  Chaplin decides to secede his boat from the U.S. and sets a course for a NATO base on an island in the middle of the ocean.

( ABC drama series featuring a remote island and a submarine.  Where have I seen this before?)

Once the crew reach the island, Chaplin announces his intentions to the rest of the world.  If any invading force comes within radius of the island, he will launch his nuclear missles at a target of his choosing.  He declares the island a nuclear nation with his 18 Trident warheads, and he's ready to make use of them. 

I know it sounds like I've spoiled most of the pilot, but there's a lot more going in DC that I glossed over.  Plus, once the sub gets to the island, they meet a few inhabitants there who aren't exactly happy at having U.S. military personnel taking over.  There are plenty of threads for the series to develop beyond the crew creating their own new independent nation.  The conspiracy of who ordered Chaplin to nuke Pakistan can only be drawn out for so long, but dealing with the other inhabitants of the island could present all kinds of stories and conflicts.  And make Last Resort somewhat similar to that other ABC series I had alluded to earlier.

Last Resort's pilot is the best pilot to any series I've seen in years.  It's intense, the characters are drawn well so far, and it doesn't rely on cliches to push the plot forward.  The show was created by Shawn Ryan, who had previously put cop shows on tilt with The Shield.  He knows exactly how to write an anti-hero, and Chaplin walks that very thin line between patriot and madman throughout the pilot.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where this show goes in the coming weeks, but I'm pretty concerned that because it's heavily serialized, it won't last more than a year or two.  I'm heartily sick of procedural shows featuring doctors, cops, and/or lawyers, so Last Resort is exactly the kind of show that I'd like to see succeed.  I'd highly recommend checking it out when it premieres at 8:00 tonight on ABC.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Viva La Chaos!

One of my tasks from my list was going to a playoff game for a professional sport.  I've never been to one before, despite knowing there's a much different feel in the air of being in the playoffs than the regular season.  I suppose I could've gone to a Ravens playoff game since they've been in the playoffs several times in the last decade or so, but those tickets are quite expensive and hard to come by.  I've resolved to having to wait for a baseball game to see what the playoffs feel like.

Up until a few weeks ago, that last sentence would've probably resulted in a lot of laughs, and comments like, "Hope you're okay with waiting, because the Orioles may be better this year but they are still a way off!"  Now it's pretty clear: they're going to make the playoffs this year.  I had mostly expected them to get one of the two Wild Card spots, and I would've been perfectly happy with that.  Being in that one-game playoff would be incredibly exciting, and even if they didn't advance beyond it I would still come away feeling like the season would be a monumental triumph for the O's.

As of last night, the Orioles are tied for first place in the American League East.  There are about four weeks left in the regular season, so barring some absurd collapse on their part, the Orioles are going to make the playoffs.

This entire situation is foreign territory to me.  My attention has usually turned to football by Memorial Day, so baseball has never held much more than a passing interest for me during most of the summer.  Now the Orioles have shown how relevant they can be, and I would jump and down if they won the division.  (I should note that no matter how excited I would be at seeing the Orioles make the playoffs, my best friend would make my celebration look like a tea party)

It's one thing for the Orioles to even be in the position they are now, but how they've managed to do it is another story all together.  The first thing people like pointing to is their negative run differential for the season.  They've scored 19 fewer runs than they've given up, yet they are 17 games over .500 and share first place in the division with the Yankees.  It's worth noting that in their last two games, they scored 16 runs while shutting out the Blue Jays in consecutive games, so until Monday they were at -35 in their run differential. 

The other thing worth considering is just how long the Orioles have been completely irrelevant.  They haven't had a winning season since 1997, so I think most of Baltimore is still waiting for the shoe to drop on the team this year.  They're so used to waiting for football to get around just like me, that they don't know what to do about the Orioles.  I still hope that once the O's make the playoffs, Camden Yards will be bathed in orange and black.  It's a sight I don't typically see except on Opening Day every year, and if the Orioles can unveil a banner next year that reads "2012 AL East Champions," I think a huge chunk of the fan base will come running back.

But before I get too ahead of myself, I plan on enjoying the next four weeks.  I will never count out the Yankees, but they will be in Baltimore for four games this weekend, so this weekend could go a long way towards determining the Orioles' chances at winning the division.  So here's to the chaos that will be September.  May it be one for the ages in Baltimore, and one that we'll be talking about for a very long time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I'm a sucker for a good human interest story.  I'm sure that doesn't set me apart from many other people out there, but the irony to my gravitation for human interest stories is my aversion to reality/non-scripted television series.  I generally despise them for an overall lack of creativity behind them.  They typically are either a dating show of some kind, a talent competition, or last man standing.  Give me a scripted drama like Lost or The Shield over a non-scripted series any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

The one exception to my distaste for non-scripted TV is Chopped on The Food Network.  I could easily watch a six-hour block of this show without thinking about how much time I've spent watching TV.  You've got four professional chefs competing for a cash prize in each episode, and along the way they have to use mystery basket ingredients that most regular folks like myself have never heard of before, much less actually eaten.  It's ridiculously addicting.

Getting back to my original point, the irony to disliking most non-scripted series is that they are completely built upon human interest stories, so you'd think I'd be all over them.  For me, most non-scripted series tend to idolize the contestants in order for the American public to buy into them (see: American Idol, if you excuse the pun).  That really ruins most stories for me.

Then I watched tonight's new episode of Chopped.

Tonight's episode featured a chef who had built his cooking career while he was serving time in the big house.  For 35 years.  For drug trafficking.

Talk about pulling a 180 on life.

By Chopped's very nature, it's impossible to get to know these chefs beyond the surface much.  There have been chefs who have beaten cancer, been broke and homeless, fought addictions, and had kids fighting various illnesses.  It's easy to root for people who have stories like those, and I love getting little flashes of what their lives are like outside the kitchen.

Tonight, however, I was particularly taken with this chef who had formerly been a drug trafficker.  He said by the time he got out of prison, no one would give him a chance at all, so he had to build his career in cooking himself.  Unfortunately the show didn't have the time to go into how he got himself to the point where he is now, but that's a story I'd love to have heard.  I'm sure he had to take a lowly job in some small diner or fast foot joint and slowly work his way up.  He still doesn't own his own restaurant yet, and I honestly don't know if he's been able to secure any kind of business loan for himself (he didn't talk about that during his private interviews in the show at all).

People with stories like this chef make for great inspirational stories to share with other people.  Lots of them turn out to be motivational speakers.  One of my girlfriend's favorite speakers is a guy named Eric Thomas, who has short videos of himself speaking on YouTube.  He's a great story too, one that I would encourage anyone who likes this story of stuff to read more about him.  I'll post one of his videos below for you to check out for yourself as well.

Coming back full circle, the chef on Chopped didn't ultimately win the cash prize, but he's already come so far that I'd have to believe that he will still be okay long term.  He pushed himself to change his life, and for a long time I'm sure he was stuck in the bottom of the barrel.  He probably even wondered if his life would ever change for the better, but he really has made his life for the better.  I don't know if he has a family, but his story was clearly one that could affect people of all ages, including me.

Eric Thomas's video: