Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Reviews: Four classic comedies from the Golden Age of Film that you probably aren’t familiar with.

I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas and is looking forward to 2010 getting the heck out of Dodge. I know I am, although the chances of 2011 being an improvement are rather slim.

Anyway, it seems traditional around the Intertoobs that everyone will have an “End of the Year List” of some kind. I think I have done something similar in past years. I certainly don’t want to go revisit politics, so I will pick a favorite subject of mine, classic movies! I don’t know what I would do without TCM.

Now, there are a huge number of classic comedies that I could pick to highlight. Some of the classic comedies are my absolute favorite movies. I could pick films such as any of the Marx Brothers films (except The Big Store, that is, which rather stinks), The Philadelphia Story, Arsenic and Old Lace (which was, if my memory serves, my very first exposure to classic comedies and also Cary Grant), W.C. Fields, the Road pictures with Bing and Bob, Some Like It Hot (which some say is the best comedy ever filmed, althoug hI am not sure I agree)… All of those are very worthy of attention, especially in these days of the big budget blockbusters (in 3D!) where subtle humor, satire and really witty dialog are not held in great esteem.

However, those films would be too easy. Everyone who is a fan of classic films knows about those. So, I picked a few films that may not be terribly well known but should be. Perhaps this will inspire you to go out and look for these. I will try to stay away from the big time spoilers, but I can’t be assured that I won’t say something that can be categorized as a spoiler. So, you have been warned! Sort of…

So, with that overly lengthy explanation that I could have probably done without, here is my End of the Year List of Fairly Unknown Classic Comedies that You Should Check Out Immediately, If You Like Such Things.

Murder, He Says: This one may sound like a film adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, but it isn’t. This screwball comedy is from 1945 and stars Fred MacMurray as a door-to-door pollster that gets caught up with a family of crazy and murderous hillbillies. Marjorie Main, who is famous for her role in the Ma and Pa Kettle series, stars as the matriarch of the crazy Fleagle family. Fred falls in the middle of a quest for a huge amount of stolen loot, as well as some dark scientific experiments by the step-father of the Fleagles. There’s a cute girl masquerading as a long lost cousin, in order that she can help clear up her father’s name who was wrongly implicated in the bank heist. There’s the twin boys, Bert and Mert, who look to be straight out of Lil’ Abner, except for the propensity of wanting to shoot most anything that moves. The climax of the picture, with Fred and the imposter Fleagle trying to evade the rest of the family, is worthy of a Marx Brothers picture. Although this has been seen in a number of cartoons like Bugs Bunny, I think this is the first actual film where I have seen real people fall into a hay baling machine and end up coming out where they are all nicely packed up in large bales of hay.

This one is worthy of a look. It is also interesting in that this role for Fred MacMurray came not long after his role in Double Indemnity. That’s quite a difference, and it shows MacMurray’s versatility. There’s even a very interesting direct reference to the Bob Hope film, The Ghost Busters, that I found particularly amusing.

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037931/

Merrily We Live: From 1938, this one could be classified as one of the early screwball comedies. This film reunites Constance Bennett and Billie Burke, in almost a reprise of their Topper roles. Constance Bennett successfully plays Jerry Kilborne, a high society debutant who isn’t as shallow or as self-satisfied as her friends and suitors might think. Burke is at her ditziest best. Of course, everyone is familiar with Burke as Glenda, the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. However, that particular role seems to have been an aberration for her, as she usually played, with extraordinary energy, high-class society women that have a very tenuous grasp of reality.

In this one, Billie Burke plays Mrs. Kilborne, who has an intense desire to rescue all the “hobos” around and reintegrate them into society. The film opens with the family discovering that the last bum employed by Mrs. Kilborne has just made a fast getaway with not only the fine silver but also the kitchen silverware. The breakfast scene where everyone is attempting to eat slices of cantaloupe with large mixing spoons and strainers sets the mood for the film. Bonita Granville, who gained fame as the first film version of Nancy Drew, adds incredibly energy to the proceedings as the younger sister.

Of course, a dashing young man who appears at the front door, looking to use the phone, is taken to be a hobo and inserted into the position of head chauffeur without his understanding how it happened. All sorts of mayhem ensues, with Jerry falling for the handsome Wade Rollins, who has taken to his role in the family a bit more than was expected. Of course, it turns out that he wasn’t a hobo at all, but a novelist on a vacation, but played along because it suited him. The entire premise is very much like My Man Godfrey, which was a bit hit only two years earlier. I like this one much better.

Give it a whirl, if you can find it or the next time it shows up on TCM. The jokes and witticisms are fast-paced to the point of barely being able to react to one before another one comes zinging at you.

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030442/

The Palm Beach Story: From 1942, starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McRae. This one is of the best of the Preston Sturges screwball comedies. Rudee Vallee has a great role as the straight-laced J. D. Hackensacker III, a society tycoon who has fallen for Ms. Colbert. Unfortunately for Mr. Hackensacker, although she and Joel McRae are presenting themselves as brother and sister, they are actually married. The comedic set-up comes from the fact that the two are very much in love, but Gerry Jeffers (Colbert) is trying to divorce her husband Tom (McRae) and then marry a millionaire, so that Tom can achieve his dream of designing and building a flying landing field for airplanes.

This film has some of the funniest one-liners around, usually delivered in a dead-pan style. It also features some great support from what would normally be considered to be bit-players. Robert Dudley as the Weinie King and William Demerast as a member of the Ale and Quail Club are perfect in their roles.

Gerry Jeffers: Isn't it wonderful?
Tom Jeffers: Sensational. But you haven't quite answered my question yet.
Gerry Jeffers: What question, dear?
Tom Jeffers: Why this alleged old man gave you - how much is it?
Gerry Jeffers: Seven hundred dollars.
Tom Jeffers: Seven hundred dollars. Why?
Gerry Jeffers: No reason.
Tom Jeffers: Oh, is that so? He just - seven hundred dollars? Just like that?
Gerry Jeffers: Just like that.
Tom Jeffers: I mean, sex didn't even enter into it.
Tom Jeffers: Oh, but of course it did, darling. I don't think he'd have given it to me if I had hair like excelsior and little short legs like an alligator. Sex always has something to do with it, dear.
Tom Jeffers: I see.
Gerry Jeffers: From the time you're about so big and wondering why your girlfriends' fathers are getting so arch all of a sudden. Nothing wrong - just an overture to the opera that's coming.

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035169/

Beat the Devil: From 1943, directed by John Huston and has a absolutely blockbuster cast of Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Robert Morely, and Peter Lorre.

I can’t figure out why this one isn’t better known and appreciated. Perhaps it is the fact that Bogie really isn’t known for his comedic roles. I think this is one of his best films, for no other reason that he kind of plays the same tough character as in his other, more well known roles, but in a way so tongue-in-cheek that it is hard not to laugh out loud.

Morely and Lorre are part of a criminal gang on their way to South America to try to get a claim to a what could be a substantial fortune in uranium ore. Jennifer Jones, who is cute as a button as the wife of a very dour and proper Englishman, constantly invents a fantasy life for herself and anyone she meets (including Bogie), such that it becomes difficult to tell what is reality and what is her dreamworld. Bogie and his wife (Ms. Lollobrigida) get entangled with both sets of characters while waiting for their ship to get repaired so they can resume their journey.

The plot almost doesn’t matter with this. It’s situational comedy as its best. There is an interesting story associated with this film, as recounted in the IMDB link below. Bogie has a serious accident during the filming of this move, which knocked out several of his teeth and made it difficult for him to speak some of his lines. Peter Sellers actually provided some of the dubbed dialog for Bogie. I would have never guessed that one.

Don’t let some bad reviews scare you away from this. It certainly isn’t what might be expected from a cast like this. But for unusual humor and a change of pace from all the actors and actresses (who would ever think that Gina Lollobrigida would end up as about seventh on the billing), you may not be able to find a better film to spend an evening with.

IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046414/

Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of the Year Blogpost: Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out, 2010!

What is to be said about 2010? Certainly not much good on the political side, if you consider yourself to be a progressive. Mordor appears to be gathering its forces once again to unleash all out war on the forces of Truth and Light…. Which is a totally over-the-top metaphor, but it encapsulates the way I feel about things.

On a purely personal level, though, I really can’t complain. My career seems to have “arrived”, in that I have a good (albeit very frustrating at times), stable job that pays pretty well for engineering. I am actually held in good esteem by my management and I am considered as something of a knowledgeable expert on several subjects. We finally finished up the four year long process which saw our family adopt our new daughter, which culminated earlier this year in getting her a U.S. passport and social security number. She’s getting settled in with her new high school. The finances are in good shape, we will have the house paid off in less than a year, and we have our health (with the exception of a pre-existing condition which may or may not ever cause a problem). So, on that front, life is probably as good as I have ever experienced. Given where I have been in my life, both literally and metaphorically, I have no reason to complain and every reason to thank both myself and Lady Luck (or whatever deity who would like to be thanked).

When I started this blog a number of years ago, I imposed a rule on myself and the occasional guest bloggers that I might coerce into making a post now and then that I would not talk about me. This wasn’t going to be personal therapy disguised as a blog. I wanted it to be about topics that people might actually be interested in looking at, at least for more than about 45 seconds. The use of the personal pronouns “I” and “me” were not allowed. Politics, humor, history, movies, interesting visuals, those were all part of the game. But this wasn’t going to be about me as a blogger. Opinions were to be expressed as some “greater truth”, because opinions that don’t really belong to anyone aren’t really opinions, are they? I wanted this blog, whenever, someone did stumble along, to be interesting. I don’t find myself a very interesting topic….

But over the last few years, and especially 2010, I have become more and more despondent over the entire sorry state of affairs that is The United States. I have come to the very unfortunate conclusion that a very large percentage of the population of this country is comprised of complete and utter ignoramuses. Oh, many are ignorant because they don’t have the education, which is not always their fault. You certainly can’t pick the life circumstances into which you are born. You have to play the hand you are dealt. It’s a tragedy, of course, that you only get one hand per life. You can’t really say, no, I don’t like this hand. I fold. I’ll get it on the next hand. Sorry, but as we all know, life doesn’t work like that. But I digress… Which is a nice way of saying that I am blabbering and forgot my main point. The point I was making is that many people in this country incredibly gullible and are easily manipulated (let’s just call them, for the sake of a label, IGEM) by the more intelligent, the more devious and the less moral. And those people make up another large percentage of the population “Greedy, Egotistical Assholes”, or GEA. The rest of us, although we still make up a substantial percentage of the population of this country, just feel overwhelmed by the others. It feels as if we are being sucked down into a black morass of stupidity, greed and hubris, a’la the La Brea Tar Pits. The more you fight against it, the deeper it sucks you in.

This is where it has become increasingly difficult, to the point of total rigor mortise, to write anything resembling a rational, unemotional blogpost. I can’t keep myself out of it anymore. I have never felt so despondent about anything in my entire life. Oh, I went through some extreme depression in high school and college. But that was focused inward. It was me. This is about the country, where it is going and where we might end up. I can’t help but feel that this country is on a long, downward trajectory. I don’t see a soft landing anywhere. It could be very bad and end up in some nightmarish scenarios envisioned by writers like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. At the very best, I see the U.S. sliding into irrelevancy and becoming the largest Third World Country on earth, with lot of nukes and a huge, undereducated, largely unemployable mass of people that will make up the non-privileged class.

I won’t bother going into detail on all these various scenarios I could possibly envision. It wouldn’t mean anything and would probably just depress me further.

It is possible, I suppose, that 2011 will see the beginning of a slow return to rationality. It’s possible, but not very probable. Fox News will still be with us, as will Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc. etc. The GEA’s will still be in control and more than willing to do whatever they can to manipulate the entire setup such that they will become even that much more rich and more powerful. There will be many people, both big and small, that will try to fight back but ultimately, they will fail. Just ask all those Saber Tooth Cats at the bottom of the La Brea Tar Pits. Oh, you can’t. They’re extinct.

There are many aspects of our current society that are contributing to my despondency, but I think one of the biggest ones is the fact that we, as a country, are purposely devaluing learning in general and the importance of science in particular. We are purposely becoming a nation of dumbasses. Education is now something we don’t aspire to. We now snort derisively about education and use it as something to show our distain for “elitists.” Our social and political discourse reminds me of nothing more than those knuckle-draggers everyone knew in high school, those “good old boys” who sat in the back row, never paid attention in class, usually got failing or near failing grades and yet, found it within themselves to ridicule the “eggheads” in class, saying that we might “have good book learnin’, but don’t know nothing.” That’s what this all reminds me of. There’s no use arguing with people who don’t even know enough to understand how stupid they really are.

If you profess a believe, say, of global warming and climate change, what you normally get in return is a response that contains nothing but utter contempt and a retort comprised entirely of made up “facts” and even louder opinions. Fundamentalist Christians are doing their part, of course, to undermine science, because anything that might cast any sort of doubt on their interpretation of a book written by a large number of people over the period of several hundred years, based on verbal stories handed down from generation to untold generation, and has been edited and revamped on who knows how many occasions, cannot possibly be accepted without extreme pushback. Many people are more than willing to rewrite history in order to suit their particular reality. Reality, facts and conclusions reached by the scientific process no longer matter. All that matters is opinion. This is what I find most disturbing. We are actively trying to become ignorant, and we are succeeding. We are even demanding ignorance in our elected officials. I find this inexcusable. We might as well all go to the local hospital, en masse, and demand a frontal lobotomy.

Sarcastic humor and satire just aren’t funny anymore. I can hardly watch The Daily Show anymore. This isn’t because Jon Stewart isn’t funny. It’s because of the subject matter, the idiocy that is this country, seems to be beyond satire. It’s like trying to satirize Through the Looking Glass. The truly absurd and nonsensical is beyond satire, and any attempt at it is, by definition, absurd and nonsensical by itself. Who could have possibly imagined scenarios such as sitting senators complaining about being asked to vote on a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, because it was somehow sacrilegious to be voting on that during December, which is also the month that contains Christmas? That is just insane, but yet, it happens and hardly anyone blinks an eye anymore. The ridiculous is now so commonplace that hardly anyone blinks an eye anymore.

Another aspect of our society that appalls me is that the quest for every greater “profits” is paramount. Nothing else matters. Oh, I am not so blind as to not know this has been true for every single year this nation has existed. That’s the entire point of capitalism, as far as I can tell. Let the drive to make money be the primary purpose of the country and everything else that is good will follow along. The personal well-being of the population isn’t the primary reason our economy exists. It just sort of is expected that it will happen as a result, sort of the way a large boat generates a large wake wherever it goes. It’s a by-product, not the point. But now, anything that takes away one single iota of “earning potential” from those who already are very well endowed is something to be banished by whatever means. Minimum wage law? Must get rid of that! Protections and safeguards that protect workers and investors, not to mention the entire well-being of the economy? Too much of a burden on free enterprise! Begone! Pensions? Can’t afford them, too expensive! But if we would like to try to close some legal loopholes, such as not allowing giant corporations to locate their shadow headquarters offshore with the sole purpose of not having to pay taxes, that’s strictly verboten! Increased tax levels for millionaires and billionaires? Heavens, what are you trying to do, destroy the economy?

I really hate this society. We swallow camels and strain at gnats as a normal exercise. We fixate on the truly trivial and are oblivious to the truly horrific. State-sanctioned torture is now a fact of life. We are still involved in two wars that no one understands the purpose of. It is likely that many thousands of Afghans and Iraqi civilians have been killed, many on purpose, but since only American lives matter, then it is not a problem. You can’t have a war without breaking some eggs, you know. Global climate change may be the most single significant issue that this country will have to deal with in the future, and yet, it is treated as some nefarious plot by evil liberals to destroy the economy. Why liberals would want to actively try to destroy the economy, I have no idea, but that’s how it is portrayed these days. I feel like a good historical comparison for this particular time might be Rome during Nero.

So much for the rantings of an aging Boomer. I have a few more years until I can realistically consider retiring. I hope the fabric of society holds together until then. Perhaps I can then just check out, sit back on my proverbial porch and watch the show from a dispassionate place. I also might try looking in to relocating to another country. Who knows what this place might look like in eight to ten years? Even retired, I might not want to reside here. Until then, I have a feeling I am not really going to enjoy the next seven years. And, as things stand, I will be one of the fortunate ones. There will be many people who will experience significant pain and anguish for no other reason than that is how our society is set up. This doesn’t sound like a place I will really want to call home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miss TSA Pinup Girl! (NSFW, sorta....)

Given the new "security" screening procedures at airports, I suppose this was rather inevitable.

I suppose I could make a really crude remark about boners here. But that would be totally out of character and beneath my dignity.....

I also just realized I am going to have to do another post soon, to get this thing off the top of the stack.

I am actually thinking the unthinkable. It might be better to have the Republicans in charge of everything.

Now, before progressives go ballistic, let me explain.

I have come to the conclusion that the overwhelming priority of the Republicans is to block everything that Democrats want and do to everything they can to upset Democrats. That seems to be the only thing that makes sense. They are voting against many of their own proposals, for God’s sake. “Obamacare” was pretty much lifted from what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. The “individual mandate” that requires individual to have individual healthcare coverage was proposed by a bunch of Republicans, including Chuck Grassley. Check out this very pointed segment from Jon Stewart, via Washington Monthly. This is pretty insane. And Republicans have been doing the same thing, over and over again, since President Obama was elected. Say one thing, do another. No shame, all hypocrisy. I am pretty much absolutely convinced that the biggest reason Republicans are such devout non-believers in global climate change is because it IS a big deal to Democrats and progressives. That’s THE reason behind their stupidity and myopia.

So, my theory now goes like this. O.K., let these assholes run the country again. Perhaps, once we’ve removed the “Go Absolutely Fuckin’ Insane At All Democrat ® Ideas!” dynamic, then maybe some sanity will come back into their thinking process. Oh, sure. The U.S. will probably do something really stupid like drop bombs on Iran. But hey, what’s one more war among friends? At least, someone might actually start thinking that maybe giving huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires isn’t really all that they thought it was back when Democrats didn’t like the idea. Or maybe they will stop trying to give the farm away to the giant insurance companies during the healthcare debate. They might actually have to explain some of their actions to their constituents. Maybe we might even NOT privatize Social Security.

Hey, it’s just a thought. Nothing else seems to be working. Because, you know, I was just thinking that this country really can’t stand to have one of the major political parties go absolutely nuts when the other party does so much as clear its throat.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

And now, a word about American Exceptionalism.

There are many incredibly silly political conversations that are going out there right now, but I find this one about how exceptional America is to be one of the more silly ones.

Apparently, anyone’s patriotism and ability to be an effective leader can be called into question, in no uncertain terms, if that person does not express his or her heartfelt belief that the United States of America is the best country on the planet, both in the present and in the entire history of human civilization. Anything that falls anywhere short of that kind of unequivocal declaration can questioned on national television and in print without any hesitation or sense of embarrassment.

I have several thoughts about this. First, this seems like a different flavor of the same kind of thing that went on before the 2008 election where politicians were heavily criticized for not wearing a label pin of the American flag. That was enough to question the non-wearer’s patriotism and love of the flag. This is not some over-the-top charge on my part. I heard my older brother say exactly this.

This is just so extremely silly, I can’t find it within myself to come up with a serious attempt at refuting this nonsense. How can we people put such stock in such a superficial measurement of patriotism? Of course, the truth is that this is, yet again, one more blatant and transparent attempt to smear President Obama and Democrats with anything that Republicans can lay their hands on. If not this, then it would be something else.

The second point is that, even if all this stuff about exceptionalism is true, does that mean we should go around trumpeting it whenever we get the chance? Doesn’t that sort of fit the definition of a braggart? Whatever happened to being humble? Can’t someone (including a country) be great and humble at the same time? Going around, telling everyone who will listen about how great and exceptional you are seems to me have the stink of desperation and, more than likely, a deep but strong inferiority complex. Who, exactly, are we trying to convince that we are exceptional? The British? The French? All of the Arab world? More than likely, they are all laughing at us. No, it is much more probable that we are desperately trying to convince ourselves that we are exceptional and will go after anyone with a steel bristle scrub brush who doesn’t come out and say exactly what our pride demands. Our self-image must be maintained at all cost. Otherwise, who knows what might happen if people really started asking questions?

But here is the aspect of this stupid argument that I wanted to comment on. What, exactly, have we got, right now, to feel so damn exceptional about? What? We have a huge military, of course, with a yearly budget that is larger than all the countries of the rest of the world combined. So, with that, we could claim to be the biggest bully in the schoolyard, giving proverbial wedgies to anyone who might question our claim to superiority. But past that, what have we got?

Here’s where I think we are. We have a massive deficit. We owe many countries in the world lots and lots of money. Our country’s infrastructure, while once impressive, is now crumbling to the point of bridges falling down and electrical grids suffer massive failures because of relatively minor events. Some of our water and natural gas pipes are approaching their second century. There is hardly any investment going on in the country itself. All profits are funneled toward already rich owners and less rich “shareholders.” Everything is geared in this country toward making money for individuals. There is hardly any investment going on. What investment is occurring might actually be criticized as “pork.” Or it is said that the economic stimulus money has never produced a single job? Stimulus money from the federal government intended to kick start the economy and provide some badly needed upgrades in our infrastructure – such as high speed passenger trains or new tunnels between New York and New Jersey – are being turned down by state governments who believe that scoring political points is more important than investing in the country’s future by upgrading our infrastructure.

What do we have to be proud of at this moment? We have a scientifically illiterate population who think that loudly shouted opinions are better than facts and science is somehow the same as reading of palms or astrology. Most of our manufacturing base in this country has disappeared, and some on the right were arguing that we should let our domestic automobile industry fail, in order to placate their God of the Free Market. Our production of raw steel is very low now compared to the rest of the world. We have been surpassed by countries in Asia and elsewhere in the manufacture of electronic devices, both assembled ones such as flat screen televisions and the integrated circuits that drive them. We don’t produce cameras.

The only thing that we seem to be good at is building houses and selling them to each other. And, because of greed, hubris, mismanagement and lack of government oversight, our housing industry drove our financial system to the brink of total meltdown, which requirement immediate government intervention. We have no more customers for houses.

Certainly, there are some things that America still does that are world leaders. Boeing makes pretty good jet airplanes, although this last attempt has been pretty much a fiasco to this point, once again to due myopic fascination with the bottom line. Our automobile industry has certainly recovered and produces much better cars than it did in the 1970’s. We do really good military weapons. Lots of them, and at very expensive prices. And I will admit we are very good at building multi-million dollar sports palaces. The American people must have their circuses to go along with their bread, as long as the circuses are equipped with luxury boxes for the rich and powerful. So, I will agree that there still are areas where American ingenuity and productiveness are still cutting edge. But those seem to be getting pretty few and far between.

So, I will repeat my question. What, exactly, have Americans got that we should feel so self-confident and smug about? What? The rest of the world is eating our lunch in a number of other areas. Our attempts at being “the good guy” on the world stage haven’t done too well since Vietnam. I can’t see that anyone but the totally na├»ve or those with a political agenda could argue that our ventures into Iraq and Afghanistan have been anything but unmitigated disasters. We have spent over a trillion dollars in our wars with very little to show for our pains, other than thousands of American and ally causalities and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. Because those didn’t work out, we apparently have people like Bill Krystal who argue that we should go bomb yet another country in Iran.

Cities like Colorado Springs are so strapped for cash that they are letting parks fall into neglect and can’t afford to run street lights at night. Some places are replacing paved roads with gravel roads, because gravel roads are cheaper to maintain. A fire department in Florida sat and watched a fellow American’s house burn to the ground because he hadn’t paid his yearly fee to the fire department. Our colleges and universities are cutting staff and programs, yet charging more to the privilege of getting a higher education. Many conservatives are openly advocating defunding or abolishing outright the Department of Education. There is almost no interest in trying to upgrade and improve what is admittedly a sorry state of affairs in our public education system. A very large percentage of our post-graduate slots are filled with foreign nationals who will take their education back to their own country to improve it, rather than improve the United States of America.

What have we got to be proud of? Our constitution and democracy as a form of government? Many people on the right seem intent on tearing that apart while, at the same time, accusing Democrats and President Obama of doing just that. Many in our population cannot understand a simple, fact-based argument, or refuse to if it doesn’t fit in with their preconceived view of the universe. The earth is 6000 years old and mankind lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Global climate change is some nefarious plot by the left-wing of America, which has also apparently enlisted many environmental and climate scientists from England, Germany and many other countries. The irrefutable truth is based on an observation that it continues to snow and be cold in the winter in places that are usually cold and has snow.

Misplaced pride is a very ugly thing, and this “debate” we are having in this country is an indication about how ugly and divisive it can be. I think I am paraphrasing this, but remember that saying, “Pride goeth before the fall”? That certainly seems like, to me, to be very applicable for the United States at this point in our history. Yes, we probably did have a lot to feel rightly proud of in our history. I think both World Wars are a great example. Although we did have a stake in the global picture, we also got involved where we might not have had to. The United States armed forces were a major player in helping to defeat Hitler’s Germany and all the atrocities is held. As an aside, we always seem to forget that the biggest battles were on the Eastern Front, between the Soviet Union and Germany. If those battles hadn’t happened, if Russia had fallen or had sat on the sidelines, there probably wasn’t any way the Allies would have beaten Germany. But that’s a different story for a different post that probably won’t get written.

My point was that, even if the United States was very damn exceptional in the past, that does not automatically bestow greatness upon us from now to eternity. Super Bowl champions must try to repeat their success every single year. Why should we assume that we, being once-exceptional, will always be exceptional? And how in God’s Name could anyone use that to beat upon their political opponents? It just makes them look like opportunistic, narcissistic morons who are too blinded by their own self-righteousness to see how silly they look.

There are several ways that the once-great can become less than great. One obvious way is for a total collapse due to some catastrophe, such as famine or war. Another one, less sensational but no less effective, is a long, slow slide into total irrelevance all the while believing they are still great.

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”