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Showing posts from June, 2004

Young Life: a good cause to support!!!

Like to briefly profile one of the cool members of the FOR. FOR = friends of Rene ... is it too self-agrandizing?

RM works with youth in Hollywood through an organization called Young Life. She grew up in Ohio and came out here a couple of years ago to work with young people. I met her through my church's "Diner's Club" which is a way for people in our 500+ church to meet other people. Thus, one of the dinner events was at her apartment.

She lives right in the thick of things in Hollywood and spends her days there with youth.

For readers who don't live in Los Angeles, you may have a picture of the motion picture industry and all its glamour and glitz. That is indeed on aspect of Hollywood.

But the reality of Hollywood, the place, is that of a rough neighborhood and the kids need all the help they can get.

And so rare people like RM are giving their all to help.

Let's see if we can't help out a little bit by supporting their work financially. If yo…

Inspirational quote

"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out where the strong man stumbled, or where a doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, and who comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. The man who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who never knew victory or defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt.

How capable is NATO?

Saw this item over at Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds) as he cites this item over at OxBlog (Patrick Belton) that says NATO really can't do much outside of Europe.

Excerpt:Of 1.4 million soldiers under Nato arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. Then there are the problems of interoperability: there is a recurring problem of coalition-wide secure communications which can be drawn on in operations. Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater …

At every age

In the past, I have helped out at church with college and young working adults. I did do a 3-month stint helping with pre-schoolers last summer. Each age has its own distinctive flavor.

Being with junior high these days has been a stretch as it was a number of years ago for me when I was that age. As I look around at what they face, they see so much more so much sooner at such an intense level that in many ways it is a different world then when I was their age. Yet, some things in life are universal no matter what age.

I was introduced to Jesus and Christianity when I was a junior high student. The notion that God loved me sounded so good because as a shy nerd kid I didn't have a lot of acceptance and affirmation.

Thus, God loves me? Wow, that is good!

I can imagine some of our student's level of faith is right there.

I believed that God honors any and all small steps of faith. God worked with me when I was that age and I'm sure God is doing so now with the bundle…

@ the movies: 1000 months

Went to a the LA Film Festival and saw "Mille Mois" (1000 Months) a Moroccan movie by Faouzi Bensaidi.

Here are some web pages that mention the film:
Arabic News report on the film.
Review of film during Palm Springs Film festival.
Another review from England.
Summary from Hollywood Reporter.

The film revolves around the life of a young boy during the month of Ramadan in a rural town. It is a slice of life kind of film that maybe too slow for American audiences. The story is also somewhat sad as you watch the difficulties the poor people of the town have to face. I have to wonder how the government of Morocco feels about the film as it is far from a rosy portrait of life there.

I very much liked the young boy, his mom and his grandfather. They played roles of simple dignity amidst their difficult circumstances. In some ways, that aspect of the film is very universal and reaches people.

The film also touches on some aspects of Islamic faith and practice which is very edu…

Last gasp?

The latest news from Iraq is dreadful. But could it be desperation on the part of the foreign fighters and of the dead-end Baathists?

In reading the article, most of the dead and wounded are Iraqis and not American troops. The insurgents are going after targets that can't hit back so easily. Hopefully, the Iraqi armed forces will stand up and take the fight to the insurgents with the help of the US forces.

The June 30 transfer is fast approaching. Bush had warned that violence could escalate and it definitely has. The key is how the average Iraq feels. Do they realize it is the Hussein loyalists teaming up with foreign fighters to take away the freedom they have garnered from the old despotism. Will they fight for their freedom?

Freedom is not free.

How will the media be spinning this? Anybody hear "Tet Offensive" analogies?

Winning is hard work. Sullivan reports this item on how the 1st Division defeated Al-Sadr's forces.

Now is definitely the time to s…

Worst kind of evil: done in the name of god

South Korean hostage has been slaughtered by beheading. Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Paul Johnson and now Kim Sun-il.

The Jihadists kill people in all sorts of way but these are particularly grisly because of the videotapes.

On the Dennis Prager radio show today, Prager wondered why are they doing this in such a public manner? It could only stiffen the resolve of the US and others who are trying to help Iraq.

The guest suggested these videos aren't just to scare people out of Iraq but they are recruitment videos too.

A very radical brand of Islam actually believes they will be rewarded for killing Infidels (non-Muslims) and these videos will induce glee among those who subscribe to these notions and garner more recruits.

Many people want to avoid speaking of this as a "war of civilizations." In one sense it isn't because only a segment of Islam actually holds a theology that demands and defends such actions. But in the minds of these Jihadists, they believe it i…

West Wing: a man falls into a hole story

As a fan of the show, there are some moments I remember rather fondly. One is the story Leo tells Josh as Josh struggles with the after affects of being shot in one of the cliff hanger episodes.

The story was told in Noel which aired in the show's second season. And you follow the link to this page for the story from Leo."This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.
"A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
"Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
"Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend sa…

Sounds like a lot of money

This item in the NYT says Americans gave $240.72 billion in 2003 to charities!

To see the original press release go here.

Who was Cain's wife?

Most anyone who has read the Bible or hangs around people who read the Bible is likely to run into this question.

That question is the formulation of one of many criticisms of Genesis.

The critique goes like this: Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel. Abel is killed by Cain. Cain goes on to get married and have children. So where did Cain find a wife?

Logic says Cain would have to have married his sister or a niece.

An internet search of "who was Cain's wife" yields LOTS of web pages. Some use that question to trash Christianity and others come up with a response defending Christianity. Check it out if you have the curiosity.

Below are summaries of three explanations I read and discussed with a few theology minded friends.

One defense is that indeed INCEST was OKAY in the initial phases of human existence because genetic damage as a result of the FALL had not accumulated to the point of being a problem. Thus, Cain would have married a sister or a niece. Such additi…

Unity beyond demographics

What divides teens from each other these days?

What divides people from each other these days?

That is what the youth group at my church talked about a little while ago.

Probably more or less the same things in past generations but it sure seems like things are more pronounced: rich vs. poor (economics), outgoing vs. quiet (psychological), intact families vs. disrupted structures (social).

The rich vs. poor thing, we have had for all time I suppose. But with today's media advertising and hyper consumer society, I suspect the difference seems more in your face. I don't know if the income disparity today is greater than in the past. Some say it is. I think what is clearly different though is the accessibility of the glamour look of the rich and famous, of the movie stars and popular musicians made instantly available by TV, print media and the Internet. We simply can't escape the "rich and famous" and the "handsome and beautiful." Thus, the desire …

LA Film Festival

It is that time of year again for the LA Film Festival. I suppose if I was in "the industry" I'd be all over it. I'll have to look over the schedule and see if anything strikes me and falls at a time I can go see it. As a molecular biologist, I only have a passing awareness of it. I've gone to one film once since I've learned about the festival a few years back.

I sent the link to my friend in "the industry" in Hong Kong who is on top of Asian films in particular. Here are his comments:For the LA Fest, a lot are American independents which I'm not familiar with. I notice "Pyaasa" is playing which is the classic of Indian cinema. "Hero" from China is beautifully made, but most people here can't buy its political standpoint. The Korean films are always interesting and feel fresh though they may not always be that well made. But I always enjoy the experience of seeing them. "Untold Scandal" is a re-make …

When do you order the airstrike?

A few days ago, I speculated on if and when torture might be "okay."

What about an airstrike on a target where you have indications that terrorists are located in the midst of civilians?

The latest news from Iraq is that several houses in Falluja were hit killing 22. The reason the location was targeted was because some people in the Zarqawi's network were believed to be there.

How do you decide?

If you wait for a totally clear shot, you may never have the shot?

Then given that the terrorists know that the American public and the Iraqi public will be outraged at innocent civilian being killed they will ALWAYS put their headquarters and hold their meetings in the midst of civilians.

So when do you give the order?

How many innocents do we kill going after the guilty?

In our legal system, we have a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard which means it is possible that occasionally the guilty go free in order we do not imprison the innocent. Of course, in prac…

What we are up against

Heard the news on the radio that the terrorists beheaded their hostage, Paul Johnson.

Went to the web and saw the newsflashes on the major news web sites I checked: FoxNews and CNN.

Went to Sullivan to see if he had the story and a comment. He did and he links to Drudge where there are photos.

This is what we are up against.

Angel's #2 in average home attendance!

Check it out.

Only the Yankees have a higher average home attendance in the MLB....   that new owner must really be pleased and his marketing team is doing a great job.

The dream of home ownership

Seems so much a part of American life. But here in Los Angeles, home prices are so high that it is largely out of reach.

Postrel shares about an article she saw from the SF Chronicle. She quotes from it and I'll quote a portion of the quote she used:Leamer calculated the average P/E for homes in several California metro areas by dividing the median price for a single family home by the average annual rent for a 2,000- square-foot apartment in each region. (You can get more and better data for apartments than rental homes, and the two tend to track each other.)
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When the economy is booming, investors are willing to pay higher prices for stocks and houses because they think the earnings from these assets will grow faster than normal. Occasionally, they throw common sense out the window and start believing that earnings will continue upward in a never-ending spiral, untouched by forces like competition and economic equilibrium.Her advice: If you're buying for the…

Late night blogger

Can't sleep. Just can't. Listening to the radio. Organized the cupboard. Wrote two snailmail letters. Still can't sleep. So I'm blogging now. Is anybody reading out there at 2:30AM PDT?

Lakers steamrolled by Detroit

What can you say? It was no contest.

Losing game 1 was understandable. It happens. Lakers had too many days off; they were out of synch. They took game 2 so all was looking okay but the fact that it took a miracle shot made fans nervous.

But after the defeat of game 3, it became obvious, the Lakers were done. Detroit was the better team. It was theirs, they would only lose the NBA Title if they beat themselves.

I watched only until the 2nd quarter of game 5 and I knew. I switched to the Dodger game.

The trouble with torture

Honestly don't know what I would do if I was a field commander.

My guts tell me that torture is wrong and that 99.9% of the time you don't do it.

But what do you do if the person you have in custody might have information that may save lives?

Suppose he knows where the cache of roadside bombs are hidden? Suppose she knows which apartment building has the communications headquarters that is directing rocket attacks? Suppose he knows the next time and place a bomb will go off in a crowded shopping mall? Suppose she knows where the car where the nuclear bomb is parked?

These kinds of issues face our soldiers and intelligence agents in the current climate of terrorism.

I got introduced to the TV show 24 while flying back from Geneva. They showed 3 episodes from season one. I eventually rented the DVDs to see the remaining episodes of that season.

I went on to view season two and decided to start watching 1/2 through the season with episode 13.

In the 9pm to 10pm episode, s…

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code

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I finally got around to reading The Da Vinci Code which has inhabited last year's bestseller lists and created quite a stir. I heard there is even talk of a movie. So the buzz will re-ignite if the film actually gets made and released.

Have you read it? Have some of your friends read it? What do you think? What do they think?

First, I'll write about it in entertainment terms then tackle it theologically.

It is a great detective story page turner. Really fast paced, neat little puzzles, lots of little cliff hangers at the end of short chapters, a conspiracy nut's dream, twists and turns here and there, likeable if thinly drawn characters, all in all an easy read and lots of fun.

I'll be curious to see who gets cast for the movie. Will they land a big star like George Clooney for Prof. Langdon? Will they cast Jennifer Garner as Sophie? I have no idea who they are going to cast but those are my choices.

Anyway, top notch entertainment for a breezy fictional read…

More Reagan Remembrances

Postrel is probably similar in age to myself so as I read her analysis, I couldn't help but feel as if she was speaking for my generation.Those young people aren't young anymore. We're middle aged, and the world bears little resemblance to the one we grew up in. It is, despite its obvious ills, a lot better.

Whatever impressions nostalgic TV shows may leave with those too young to remember the real decade, the late 1960s and 1970s were a scary time to grow up. The world just kept getting worse and worse, and nobody seemed to know why.
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Many of his conservative allies, taught by the terrors of the 20th century, firmly believed that history is a tragedy, that the best we can do is to fight a long, twilight struggle. They believed that evil is as strong as, perhaps stronger, than good, and that tyranny is more powerful than freedom. At the time, I believed them too.

Reagan believed in the triumph of good and the strength of freedom. He acted on those convi…
Jerusalem by William Blake
A search yields many pages so here is just one.And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
I heard it before I ever read it. It appeared in the film "Chariots of Fire" and today, it was sung at the Reagan Memorial at the National Cathedral.

I'm inspired by these words.

Each of us has something we can do to make this world a better place. Each of us can help advance the Kingdom of God.

Reagan did his work on a large and public st…
@ the movies: Chronicles of Riddick
It was a free promotional movie night so why not? Riddick is kind of Matrix (lots of hand-to-hand combat and gunplay) meets Lord of the Rings (multiple races and hints of mythology) meets Star Wars (high tech spaceships and some mysticism). I am guessing the audience was loaded with Vin Diesel fans because beats me what gets people in to see a movie like this aside from it being free.

Anyway, the special effects are not bad but clearly they don't have the near unlimited budget Jackson and Lucas work with. The fight scenes though vigorous don't have the detailed ballet quality of the Matrix. And as for establishing a mythology for the Riddick world, I didn't see the first film so I don't know the set up and to be honest the "hero" of the story is not clearly good nor bad and thus lacked the emotional punch that a more direct moral tale like Lord of the Rings had. I don't expect my movie heroes to be flawless but D…
Two Brothers
Went to an audience test screening of Two Brothers. I'm told by industry friends that they want to measure audience reaction like laughter, cheering, clapping and any obvious reactions to what is going. The film goes into general release at the end of the month; thus, I'm told, the final edits maybe guided by this kind of test screening.

As a condition of seeing the movie for free, I can't say anything about the film in terms of details. I will say though that I liked it. I wondered how you can make a movie so dependent on animals and they did a remarkable job.

Doing the DVD rental thing: Lost in Translation

It sure had a lot of hype last year. People were raving about it. Sofia Coppola nabbed an Oscar for her screenplay.

Did you see the film?

I finally got around to seeing it on DVD.

I'd give it 3 stars out of 4.

Some of the ethnic stereotyping was a little tiresome. But other than that, I was intrigued by the film.

The sound of the film is mesmerizing; the sounds of the city and the pulsating music score. There is also the karoake and lounge singers setting the emotional contours of scenes. Try watching the film with the close captioning ON -- it helped make the film so enjoyable for me. The music playing in the background isn't just for mood but the very lyrics of the songs are integral parts of the scene. Astute viewers can catch it without the captions but they helped me.

As I watched, I wondered how is Sofia getting away with a movie with so LITTLE dialog. It is easy when you have songs that say what you want the audience to know about the characters. Also credit Bill …
A weekend of history: Reagan passes from the scene and D-day is remembered
News on Saturday started with various stories about the D-day remembrances in France but by the afternoon, attention switched to California as the report came in that President Reagan died. As the weekend progressed, plans for how the memorials will be scheduled took shape.

My first presidential ballot was cast in 1984 and it was to re-elect Ronald Reagan. Many will write about his contributions far more eloquently and with greater detail than I. I voted for him simply because he took a stand regarding the danger posed by the USSR, pointed the way toward a more modest role for government and restored America's sense of its place in the world.

60 years ago, the danger was Nazi Germany and America stood up to take on the great challenge of liberating Europe. Be sure to take time to read at least some of the stories of heroes and details of D-day. When I read the accounts of what it was like to storm the …
Thank you for your service
One of my friends has a child graduating from the US Air Force Academy. Well, that child is now a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and serving our country. I made sure I sent an email note to say thanks.

Here is the graduation speech from President Bush given on June 2, 2004 at the USAF Academy. Excerpts:This is a week of remembrance for our country. On Saturday we dedicated the World War II Memorial in Washington, in the company of veterans who fought and flew at places like Midway, and Iwo Jima and Normandy. This weekend I will go to France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day, at a place where the fate of millions turned on the courage of thousands. In these events we recall a time of peril, and national unity, and individual courage. We honor a generation of Americans who served this country and saved the liberty of the world. (Applause.)

On this day in 1944, General Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in the English countrys…
LA County Seal controversy
The ACLU threatened to sue LA County because of a small Cross on the county seal. The County as of now plans to remove it.

Dennis Prager is calling for people to call the Supervisors. Volokh is on the story, here and here.

This is just unbelievable. If you look at the seal, the biggest item is the goddess Pomona. So anybody want to sue the county for promoting paganism?

Just leave the seal alone, it is fine the way it is!!!

UPDATE: I faxed my support for the seal and encouraged the supervisors to resist the ACLU. My supervisor is Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (2nd District)
Office number 213-974-2222
Fax number 213-680-3283

Here is text of what I sent:

Dear Supervisor Burke:

I'd like to register my support for the current county seal and encourage you and the rest of the board to resist the ACLU's attempt to selectively erase a part of our city's history. Please do not allow this kind of pressure from the ACLU to succeed. It is a highly selec…
@ the movies: Shrek 2
Saw the film a few days back. In brief, 3 stars out of 4 and a thumbs up.

Sequels are tough and they did a wonderful job with a nice story, humor, fun music and great computer animation work.

However, I have to say, I felt the first film had more charm.

This go around they larded it up with a lot of pop culture references. I got some of them but it was pretty clear I am not as in tune with things as the rest of the audience. That kind of wink-wink in-the-know humor works up to a point but is lost on people who aren't as culturally in tune.

Also, having seen the first film, I could guess how this film would turn out.

Nonetheless, go out and see if you want a feel good romantic movie.

Myers, Murphy and Bandaras are pretty funny.

Not as much time for Cameron Diaz and she was definitely a highlight in the first film.
Al-Qaeda October Surprise?
One has to wonder what UBL and his braintrust have in store. It is likely that they carried off the major terrorist strike just before the Spanish elections so that the Spanish people would vote out the incumbent party supportive of participation in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda has to be eyeing the US November elections.

Kerry is making noises in his speeches that he would be tough on terrorism and the opposition in Iraq. However, would a President Kerry stick to that if there were to be more casualties in Iraq? When more deaths occur, would he be able to resist the wing of his party that wants to pull the troops out of Iraq?

Al-Qaeda has to make a political calculation about the US elections: would a terrorist strike on American soil help or hurt Kerry's chances to become president?

If the attack is foiled or partially foiled or of relatively small impact, would that strengthen Bush's re-election? What if a large attack proves successful, would the US ral…