Friday, May 30, 2008

Quick Takes - 5-30-08

Been on the road all week but still managed to gather up a few random links for your consideration:

Based on the results of the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries, it looks like Senator Barack Obama hasn't been able to put the Reverend Jeremiah Wright problem to rest. I think that's at least part of his problem and may prevent him from being elected in November.

Joel Belz agrees with my previous assertion that recent judicial activism in California will be an issue in November.

Enviromentalism is the new religion of America. I consider myself more a conservationist. God created the Earth. We are only stewards of his creation.

An interesting fact: the road has been unusually unkind to baseball teams this year.

Why people love to watch House, M. D. Count me as one of the faithful viewers.

I've always been a fan of space exploration and the potential that it holds for mankind. But ever since the end of the Apollo program we haven't really had any real goals for space. It's too bad none of our current presidential candidates have been willing to step up and share a future vision for NASA.

Speaking of space, this year is the 50th anniversary of NASA. The Discovery Channel will mark the anniversary with a brand new series entitled When We Left Earth that premieres on June 8th. I just received a preview copy in the mail this week and it looks like it will be a terrific series. Stay tuned for a review here next week.

Four generations of Eagle Scouts met with President Bush this week. Amazing.

Carol Platt Liebau on Scott McClellan's new book: "The fact is that when you offer two versions of the truth, you make it clear, at least one time, you were lying." Well said. Based on what his former colleagues are saying, it sounds like he may be lying now. Of course, the fact that McClellan's publisher is a far-left liberal outfit may explain what's going on. And I tend to agree with Matt Lewis that this endorsement doesn't improve one's opinion of McClellan.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DVD Review: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

The intrepid treasure hunters from National Treasure are back for a second adventure. But this time it's not just treasure that is at stake. This time, the Gates family must clear their family name just as they were starting to receive respect in the academic community.

The film opens on April 14, 1865. The Civil War has just ended. Two men walk into a saloon to meet a man who can help them solve a puzzle: a playfair cipher that provides a clue that leads to Cibola, the lost city of gold. The man is Thomas Gates, the great, great grandfather of legendary treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage). Thomas Gates quickly discovers that the men who approached him were members of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society that wanted to continue the efforts of the South to secede from the Union. Gates quickly burns the pages that were given to him and ultimately is killed for it.

Fast forward to present day where Ben Gates and his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), are giving a lecture on the diary of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assasain. At the end of the lecture, Mitch Wilkerson (Ed Harris), comes forward with what he claims is a portion of one of the missing pages of the diary. The page, Wilkerson contends, lists Thomas Gates as one of Booth's co-conspirator's in the assasaination.

In order to clear the Gates' family name, Ben and Patrick must solve the clues to prove that the story of the Knights of the Golden Circle seeking Cibola is true. The clues eventually lead them to the Book of Secrets which is a book written by Presidents for Presidents which contain all of the nation's most closely guarded secrets. To get to the book, Ben Gates must get to the President. His grand plan: kidnap the President and hope that he will be allowed to see the book.

Like the first installment in the series, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets intersperses history into the story. The writers go to great lengths to incorporate numerous facts into the narrative which adds to the credibility of the story.

The other remarkable thing about these movies that in an age where it's easy to generate locations through computer animation the producers insist on filming at actual locations as much as possible. This is a much bigger film than its predecessor in part because of the locations used in the film: Paris, London, Washington, D. C., the Librayr of Congress, and Mount Rushmore. One of the most exciting parts of the film is a car chase actually filmed on the streets of London.

In addition, all of the principal characters from the first movie, both in front of and behind the camera, are back in this movie. The on-screen chemistry is evident throughout the film.
There are also a couple of notable additions to the cast. Ed Harris makes a terrific villian in Mitch Wilkerson. Bruce Greenwood makes a terrific and thoroughly believable President of the United States. But the best addition is Helen Mirren as Emily Appleton, Patrick Gates' ex-wife and Ben Gates' mother. The chemistry between her and Jon Voight is wonderful and it's thoroughly believable that they were married.

Disney has, as with earlier titles, offered a 2-disc collectors' edition that offers additional bonus features not available on the single disc. It's absolutely worth the extra money to purchase the 2-disc edition as the wealth of bonus featurettes add to the enjoyment of the movie. In the featurettes we learn how different aspects of the film were completed including the extensive City of Gold sequences as well as the aforementioned London car chase.

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets does a terrific job of picking up where National Treasure left off providing another exciting bit of cinematic escapism. In many respects, National Treasure 2 is a bigger adventure with more exciting locales than the first film. Watching the movie again made me hope that we haven't seen the last of the Gates family adventures. These movies may be the best movies ever made but they are certainly are a good way to spend a couple of hours. Let's hope that there are more of these films to be made.

This article originally appeared at Blogcritics.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.

~ Ted Williams

Friday, May 23, 2008

Quick Takes - 5-23-08

A few random links for your consideration:

What will be the fallout from the recent same-sex marriage ruling in California? I'm not sure whether the state will go red but the Supreme Court sure made the job of California Republicans a lot easier. Related link: Rick Santorum doesn't regret sounding the alarm on marriage in '03. Also, Senator Obama still hasn't figured out how to win votes in the heartland.

I had been meaning to post a review of Prince Caspian (we saw it last weekend), but this review sums up my thoughts about the movie much better than I could.

Memo to Maxine Waters: the word you are looking for is nationalize, a la Hugo Chavez. Pretty scary stuff.

This is no surprise: a Texas court ruled that the state had no right to remove 400 children from a polygamist cult's compound. Once the dust settles and the courts figure out what to do with all the kids, expect numerous lawsuits to be filed against the state.

Instant replay in baseball? Say it ain't so!

VP Sweeps: the candidates begin looking at possible running mates. I'd be willing to get Obama doesn't offer Hillary the spot no matter how hard she tries to muscle her way onto the ticket.

Finding hope in the aftermath of natural disasters. And tragic events. Our prayers go out to those affected by these recent events.

Finally, a reminder of what we celebrate this weekend. Here's one way to support the troops.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not Ready For Prime Time?

I'm not a fan of Barack Obama and certainly don't intend to vote for him in November. But I can't help admire him for what he has been able to achieve: to rise from political obscurity to becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to (quite possibly) the next President of the United States in just a little over a year. That is a remarkable achievement for any candidate. Yet I keep getting the feeling that despite all that the Senator has achieved, he is not ready to be President.

Yesterday, the Senator lashed out at the Tennessee GOP for posting a video that criticized his wife, Michelle Obama, for saying "For the first timein my adult life, I am really proud of my country." The Senator said to them, "Lay off my wife" in a television interview.

As a husband, I understand that you're first impulse is to protect and defend your wife when she is criticized. I respect him for his desire to protect Michelle. But implied in his response is that his wife is "off limits" and that it would be wrong for anyone to criticize her.

Traditionally, political spouses have remained in the background in campaigns. If they came out to make a speech, it would usually be no more than simply encouraging people to vote for their significant other. That political dynamic changed in 1992 with Bill Clinton's first campaign for the White House. By voting for him, voters were told that they were getting "two presidents for the price of one" and that Hillary would be as central a figure in a Clinton administration as Bill would. We certainly saw this when Bill appointed Hillary as head of his health care task force in 1993.

When politicians' spouses start making political statements such as the one Michelle Obama did when she said that for the first time in her adult life she was proud of her country, they insert themselves into the campaign and become fair game for criticism. Theresa Heinz Kerry learned this lesson the hard way in 2004 when she said that Laura Bush had never held a real job.

Senator Obama is a very gifted politician and perhaps one of the most talented to come along in a long time. His meteoric rise has been due not only to his extensive skills but also to a fawning media that has been willing to give him a pass on tough questions. As a result, the Senator seems to have become used to being treated with kid gloves on the campaign trail. His reaction yesterday to criticism of his wife gives further evidence that he is perhaps a little too thin-skinned to be President. After all, if you want to be elected to the toughest job in the world, you need to be prepared to deal with the criticism that comes with it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Two Different Candidates With The Same Problem

2008 is shaping up to be an odd election season. For the first time in recent memory, both parties' nominees for President will have secured their nominations without winning an overwhelming majority of their respective parties' votes. Both Barack Obama and John McCain will have a lot of work ahead of them to unite their parties. But they also share another similarity: both of them may need to select a running mate more conservative than they are in order to win the election.

According to National Journal, Barack Obama is the most liberal member of the U. S. Senate. As last week's resounding defeat in the West Virginia primary showed, Obama is weak among values voters and middle-class workers. He's also had trouble winning votes among women. In order to win over the center and right of his party as well as appeal to independents, he would be well advised to select someone more conservative than he is. Obama's inexperience will also be a liability and so he may want to look for someone with more experience. Of course, he can't rule out the possibilty of selecting a woman as his running mate to help his appeal among women.

Meanwhile, John McCain has his own set of problems. Throughout the primaries, more conservative members of the Republican party gravitated towards Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Fred Thompson. McCain has long been perceived as having too much of an independent streak to suit Republicans. His age also becomes an issue. So picking someone who is younger and more conservative would be a wise move for McCain.

While the Vice-Presidential nominee normally doesn't add much to the ticket, 2008 could prove to be an exception to that rule. With both parties' nominees carrying significant weaknesses into the fall campaign, the choice of running mate could be the most critical decision these two candidates make during this election season.

Baseball Quote of the Week

I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it.

- Carl Yastrzemski

Friday, May 16, 2008

Appeasers and Activists

Yesterday was a big news day with two unrelated events occurring that will each have an impact on this fall's elections. While on the surface the two may seem unrelated both spell trouble for Democrats.

President Bush, speaking at The Knesset in Israel, used the opportunity to launch an unmerited attack against Senator Barack Obama. At least, that's what Senator Obama, aided and abetted by the left-leaning media, would like voters to believe. Here's the paragraph that got Democrats' collective undies in a bunch from the transcript of the speech:

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,
as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.
We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in
1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

The truth hurts, doesn't it? The reason there was such wailing and gnashing of teeth among Democrats yesterday is because President Bush made it clear that he thinks they are appeasers of terrorists, which of course, they are. Senator Obama didn't help himself by making such a big stink about it, either. Trying to refute the charge that he's an appeaser merely reinforces the idea in the mind of the voters.

The second event was the decision yesterday by the activist judges of the California Supreme Court to overturn the ban on gay marriage that was enacted by voters back in 2000. A move is already afoot to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in California in November and supporters shouldn't have any problem getting the required signatures.

While most Democrats no doubt applaud the court's decision they surely must hate the timing. This will put traditional values back in play as an issue in the election and the decision will no doubt motivate Republicans and other values-voters to turn out in huge numbers both in California and elsewhere.

All of this, combined with the continuing bloodbath that is the Democratic nomination process, means that November is looking better for Republicans every day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Podcast: Interview with Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn

I had the privilege to chat with Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn, founders of Christian Logic and authors of The Fallacy Detective and The Thinking Toolbox. Nathaniel also just published Hand That Rocks The Cradle: 400 Classic Books For Children (which I reviewed here). We covered a wide variety of topics and I hope you will find the interview enjoyable. Click here to listen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Seeking Balance

Author's note: This is a post from November 2004. As I was glancing over it I realized how much I still need to learn now what I was struggling with then.

A few years ago, I subscribed to a wonderful magazine (now defunct, unfortunately) called Life@Work Journal. The magazine was a Christian publication geared towards believers in the marketplace. Each issue would focus on a particular subject. One of the most memorable issues was the issue on balance.

In an article entitled "Juggling Life" (Life@Work Journal, November/December 2000), authors Thomas Addington and Steven Graves contend that we operate on an incorrect definition of balance based on ranking priorities of God, family, church, work and leisure. They contend that "balance is the ability to continually recognize and juggle the multidimensional assignments and opportunities of life". When we feel overwhelmed or stressed out because there isn't enough time to do everything on our "to do list" it's because our life is out of balance.

They go on to explain that balance is not a static issue. In other words, it is something we have to constantly strive towards. We also cannot do it alone as we each have blind spots that prevent us from seeing the total picture. As a result, we need accountability from family, friends, business associates, fellow church members, and others to help us see where we are out of balance.

They also contend that each individual has five multidimensions of life: family, community, church, work, and self. Each of these dimensions competes for our attention and energy. These are the balls that we have to juggle. Within each of these dimensions are assignments and opportunities.

An assignment is "something that we have no control over or that we cannot say no to without violating a Scriptural command or principle". For example, I am a father and husband. I'm also the breadwinner for my family. As a believer, I also must be involved in a church. These are all assignments that I have been given. Assignments are not necessarily the same for every person. Opportunities, on the other hand, are optional items. They are things that I can choose to do or not to do. Sometimes an opportunity can help someone fufill an assignment. For example, if I go to a parenting conference it should help me be a better father. However, an opportunity can become a problem if it interferes with my ability to fufill my assignments. A good example would be spending so much time watching football on television that it takes away time I should be spending with my family. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I don't spend much time watching sports anymore is because it takes too much time away from my wife and children.

When my wife and I were first married we moved to suburban Chicago. While we were there I got involved in a golf league with some of the guys at work. At least every other Saturday (and sometimes more often) I would be off playing golf with the guys at work and leaving my wife at home alone. Although it was a great opportunity, my marriage suffered because I was not devoting time to my wife and our marriage the way that I should have.

Juggling assignments and opportunities is not easy. It requires constantly evaluating where time and energy are being spent. It also takes a willingness to sacrifice my own desires in order to meet the needs of my family.

My wife once did this in a very practical way by taking Post-It notes and putting up on the closet doors everything she was doing. She started by putting every one of those notes on the left side of the doors. Then she would move the notes over to the right that represented the opportunities she was involved in. Once she was finished she realized she was involved in far too many opportunities and it was interfering with her assignments as a wife and mother. After praying over those opportunities for a number of days she decided to make some changes.

The bottom line is this: in order to keep our lives in balance we must first grasp what assignments God has given us. Then each activity we are involved in needs to be examined closely. We should be asking ourselves whether the opportunities we are pursuing are interfering with our assignments. If an opportunity is keeping us from completing our assignments then it's an opportunity we don't need to pursue.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Baseball Quote of the Week

I see great things in baseball. It's our game -- the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism, tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.

- Walt Whitman