Soaring into the Night

April 22, 2008

 

Today the United States Air Force will retire its stealth attack fighter the F-117 Night Hawk.  It was secretly developed at Skunk Works over 30 years ago and was the first stealth fighter built (it was designed without right angles).  It proved incredibly valuable and effective.  It saw action in Panama, Serbia and Iraq.

            I can still remember the news broadcasts of the Gulf War.  When young I was into aviation and military history so when my dad found the news coverage of the bombings in Iraq he called me to watch.  It was in night vision green and all around the Iraqis were firing blindly into the dark night.  The news reporter there was explaining that they were being bombed from the air but “There [were] no planes in the air.”  The enemy was in complete confusion.  The Night Hawks were sending their missiles down the ventilation holes and elevator shafts of enemy bunkers.  It was impressive and we were not even sure what it was!

              The Night Hawk will be retired as quietly as it was developed (it’s still highly classified and only those there at it development will be allowed to attend the retirement).  After its retirement the Night Hawks will be taken to a top secret base in Nevada (as reported by the Los Angeles Times). 

            Its retirement is coming with the deployment of the new F-22 Raptor with uses the most modern stealth technology. 

            The Night Hawk has been impressive in its service to the United States and it will be a bit of a shame to see it go.  It is a great example of the creation and innovation that naturally stem from competition.  Seeing the article in the paper reminded me of what I enjoyed about aviation and military history.  It also saddened me a bit to know that the F-117 would no longer be soaring the dark skies unseen.


Think for Yourself

April 21, 2008

The other night I saw Ben Stein’s film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.  The film is a documentary about the battle between Darwinist evolution and intelligent design.  It is less about proving or disproving evolution or intelligent design and more about the active and aggressive suppression of ideas taking place in the ranks of science and education.

            As a journalist I have noticed this trend as it has occurred in the media.  Scientific theories used to be just that, but today if a theory is repeated enough it becomes unchallengeable fact.  And that is how Darwinist feel about evolution and having those feelings they find no fault in oppressing those studying other possibilities.  Scientists have been repeating Darwinism constantly and shushing anything else and the media has been allowing it.

            Stein’s film is refreshing in that it allows and values the freedom of independent thought and of the expression of ideas.  The fact is that the origin of life is still a very live discussion in which there is no one who has any solid idea.  In fact, when the Darwinists are pressed to clearly state an idea they often turned to aliens.

            Where the film triumphs is in its look at the social effects of the debate and the theories being so adamantly stood for and against.  One place this takes the film is in a discussion of the role of Darwinism, evolution and natural selection in the Holocaust and euthanasia.  The film is interesting and worth seeing if only to get a look at a legitimate theory that the people in power are not letting you see. 

 

 


Dylan’s Recognition just beginning to reach his influence: Dylan wins Pulitzer

April 15, 2008

Monday April 7 Bob Dylan once again made history and proved the vastness of his influence on the current culture when he became the first rock star to win a Pulitzer Prize, one the highest honors of written art.  He won the prize for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

            This recognition of Dylan’s seemingly endless and consistent impact on American since the early ‘60s can only hint at his total and true impact.  As reported in a NewYork Times article “Pete Townshend once said of trying to assess it, ‘That’s like asking how I was influenced by being born.’”

            It has also been long argued that Dylan’s mid-‘60s trilogy consisting of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde could be the greatest American cultural achievement of recent generations.  They are not without valid points.  With Bringing It All Back Home Dylan helped create the folk/rock genre and the ‘60s sound that would forever change rock.  In Bringing It All Back Home Dylan also made the first music videowith ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues.’  With Highway 61 he broke free from the two-and-a-half minute love song, opening with the epic six minute, antagonizing  ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ declared by Rolling Stone Magazinethe greatest rock song of all time. 

            With his songs and poetry Dylan has touched the hearts, beliefs and emotions of several generations of people and when you affect the people you affect the human culture reaching far beyond the realm of music.

            I feel that what makes Dylan so great besides the beauty and imagery of his poetry is the real emotion he instills into his songs.  He explores every human emotion writing them into the songs then using his voice to sing them onto the records. His singing voice is always emotion filled.  Listening to ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ it is hard to resist shouting out “How does it feel!!!” yourself.  Also, what I like about Dylan is the variety of emotions in his songs.  Anyone can shout anger or voice distress but Dylan voices desire, lust, regret, shame, joviality and many more just listen to Blonde on Blonde.

            And he continues to expand his influence touring worldwide and releasing new records exploring the many forms of American music.  Read my earlier post “Dylan: Far from Retired.”  He has always created and explored refusing to fall into a rut staying in one place too long.  His 40+ records include very successful ventures into folk, rock, the gypsy sound of Desire, blues, jazz, country, gospel and countless melding of them all.  His greatest achievements are just beginning to surface.

           


Thoughts on Music

April 12, 2008

As I delve throughout the different genres of music, like most people I run across things that I like and things that I don’t like.  Country music for example, makes me groan and frustrates me that anyone can listen to that and enjoy it.  I guess that’s just not my personal taste.

I have long been a fan of the modern 4 piece rock band.  Drums, Bass, two guitars and lead vocals.  This seems to be what the majority of people in the US enjoy.  At least people my age.  There are many different variations to this ensemble, and many different styles that are included within it.  This has been my primary source of music for most of my life.  And it is wonderful.  I love it.  I really do.  While there is a lot of it out there that is pure rubbish, there are plenty of fantastic pop/rock bands that stand out amongst the rest.  Very musical bands that make music for the sake of music, not caring what other people think.

I do not wish to say anything negative about any pop/rock/4 piece group at all, however, as of late I find myself primarily drawn to everything else but this.  I’m a little burnt out if you will.    In the sea of musical monotony, several styles stand out, and each has their specific reasoning.  Here are the 3 types of music that I just can’t enough of lately.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ernie Pyle: “War makes strange giant creatures out of us little routine men who inhabit the earth.”

April 10, 2008

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share a bit about a ‘hero’ of mine (for lack of better words).  I am a student of journalism and love the work and character of Ernie Pyle.  Ernie Pyle was a journalist most influential in his coverage of the front lines of World War II. 

            Pyle started as a roving reporter traveling and writing to his readers sharing his experiences abroad.  Pyle was also an aviation reporter in the early days of flight.

            The reason Pyle was so loved by his readers was the personal approach he took in his reporting and interviewing.  He was soft spoken and a great listener and his interviewees very easily opened up to him.  In his personal style of writing he set his readers in the same place and experience he was witnessing himself.  His vivid, intimate reporting style found its highest purpose in war corresponding. 

            With the war taking place overseas many families were sending their sons, brothers and husbands to far away places and wanted to feel connected to them.  Pyle provided that connection. 

            Pyle’s reporting was more intimate and more focused on the daily lives of the troops than it was on the victories, movements and generals.  He would often comment on the strangeness of war.  Those back in the U.S. needed that connection to their loved ones.

            While reporting on the war Pyle lived and traveled with the troops on the front lines.  Pyle and the troops developed a affectionate relationship.

            Reporting on the front lines has its risks and after doing tours in Italy, Africa and all over Europe Pyle went on to report on the war in the Pacific and was killed by a Japanese machinegun bullet that went through his helmet.  At the time of his death, Pyle was so loved by the American public that it is felt by many that his death overshadowed the death of President Roosevelt just six days before.

            You must read his work.  Here are some samples:

           

                                   “This One is Captian Waskow”

                                   “A Dreadful Masterpiece”

                                   “The God-Damned Infantry”

 

 


See these Movies

April 5, 2008

I know we have not been posting frequent enough and we are trying to change that.  We are all students and our time is easily snatched away from us by school, work and others.  Please continue checking and reading our posts.

 

In order to get something out there I thought I would put together a list of a few films that I highly recommend you go out and see if you are not already familiar with them.  If you have seen them write in what you think.  If you have not, see them and comment on what you thought. I am very interested to hear what others think of these movies.

 

THE FILMS

 

I love old movies so many of these are older and may be unfamiliar to you. See them and comment.

 

Rear Window(1954)– I have mentioned this masterpiece of suspense by Alfred Hitchcock before and it?s always worth mentioning.  Hitchcock being the ‘Master of Suspense’ makes this film like he created suspense, both the feeling and the genre.  It is one of his best if not the best.

       Possibly the best part is that it stars Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Grace Kelly.  Stewart’s character is confined to a wheelchair and his apartment and begins watching his neighbors out of boredom (and he has a great view thanks to an amazing set).  Things begin to get suspicious then tense as Stewart’s imagination begins to run, but is there something to it?

       Hitchcock plays with the natural curiosity that leads us all to be compulsive people watchers and he uses our own imaginations against us.  The film is so well shot and Stewart is so talented that we too are carried off in our thoughts and fears.

       There will be several scenes so tense you won’t be able to decide whether to sit or stand, hold your breath or scream.   

Jaws(1975)-This is just a great thriller.  If you haven’t seen it you must, and the whole thing (I know someone who has not been able to watch past that first scene on the beach).

        What is great about Jaws is that for most of the film you cannot see the thing you fear; all you hear is that ominous score.

         That scene with the scars and Robert Shaw telling the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis is one of my favorite scenes in film.

 

City Lights(1931)– This is a charming, easy to watch and thoroughly pleasant silent film by Charlie Chaplin (probably his best). If you only watch one silent movie make it this one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made. American Film Institute has it at eleventh place.

          One of the things that makes it worth seeing is to marvel at how smoothly Chaplin can communicate, develop a plot and appeal to your emotions.  The appeal to emotions is what makes silents wonderful. Without dialogue silent films communicated through pathos and emotion.

          The movie follows the misadventures of the Tramp as he falls in love with a blind flower girl and does all he can to help her. It’s sweet and hilarious.  The closing scene is also one of the best ever filmed and is so touching it may bring you to tears.  And all without sound, but when you?re Chaplin who needs sound.

 

American Graffiti(1973)– An amazing and important period piece.  It is important because it gave George Lucas the means to make STAR WARS.  It is Lucas’ record of the American car culture of the ’50s and ’60s.

          It is set on the last night of summer in a California town (filmed in Lucas’ hometown of Barstow) and has a continuous period soundtrack of Motown and first generation rock-n-roll.  If you can watch it without interruption it will cause you to lose yourself in the era.

          It follows several friends as they prepare to go back to high school and leave home for college.  It’s a very entertaining and comic look at ’60s adolescence.

          It is also notable for strong performances of young soon-to-be stars like Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford.

 

 

 

007_FXIW1_ITS_WONDERFULL_LIFE~It-s-a-Wonderful-Life-PostersIt’s a Wonderful Life(1946)– If you have not already seen this Jimmy Stewart movie you have been deprived of life and Christmas and cannot afford to waste any more time. Words will not do the film justice so just go watch it. Now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969)– This is a western everyone enjoys.  Staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four of them.

           It is funny, exciting and playful.  The filming makes the movie beautiful and has a great script.  The ‘raindrops’ scene is probably the most enjoyable of the film and has a great song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The African Queen(1951)– One of the (if not the) greatest examples of acting.  It stars Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn at the peak of their careers (and with plenty of experience).  They have natural chemistry and give the script new life as it develops into witty comedy.

          Bogart and Hepburn play Brits who get stuck behind German lines in Africa during World War I.  As they make their way up a dangerous and unpredictable river their focus moves from escaping capture to striking an offensive, their relationship humorously developing along the way.

          Since the movie is set mostly on a small boat with only Bogart and Hepburn aboard their performances are not compromised by lesser co-stars.


Look ma’… no hands!

April 3, 2008

Human ingenuity, or rather… A.I. ingenuity.

I just found, what might seem rather boring for most, a video from NASA that shows the Jules Verne Ecliptic Sunfighter Spaceship (ok. sounds way better than Automated Space Transfer Vessel, huh?!) The cool part is that the vessel is unmanned. No driver… why is that cool? This caught my attention, quoted from Gizmodo.com:

anything with an automated system that can track down an object that is moving at 16,777 miles per hour and attach itself with just a 2-centimeter leeway, is pretty damn awesome in Giz’s book.

Just reminds us what’s coming in the years ahead. The last part of the video has the mission control people announcing the vessel docking to the Internation Space Station. What an age we’re in now,… the video almost has an uncanny regularity to it, no?

The risk taken by these visionaries, engineers, and control room technicians alike… could have failed. What happens if it had missed the mark just outside of the 2-centimeter target? Bumped it the wrong way? Rolled out of its trajectory with a crucial 3.5 ton payload? But no, the risk is taken, committed to. I can see it now. Practical space travel progressing leaps and bounds from this little, but successful accomplishment.

Ok, maybe not, but at least if an Imperial Star Destroyer ever does a fly-by, we’ll know how to take on a little tractor-beam interception, and do it well.