Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Very Muppets Post

Well, I'm sure that most of you are aware that I'm a Muppets' fan and so in honor of the latest Muppets' movie release I give you ten great Muppet moments. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

10.) It only seems right to start with the classic opening theme to the original show:

9.) Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody:

8.) Koozebanian Mating Ritual:

7.) Veterinarian's Hospital-Bread:

6.) Treasure Island Roll Call:

5.) Muppet's Christmas Carol Scrooge Song:

4.) Muppets try out for Star Wars:

3.) Muppets Take Manhattan Wedding Song:

2.) Great Muppet Caper: Happiness Hotel Song:

1.) And of course the classic Manamana:

And since it is Thanksgiving here's a bonus video from the Swedish Chef:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Eclipse of World War I

Several days ago the nation celebrated Veteran's Day. I had planned to write on that day but it coincided with the day of my grandmother's funeral. Now even before I became a veteran I've always been uneasy with the fact that this country celebrates its war veterans annually on Nov. 11th. Originally, this day marked Armistice Day, the day in which WWI unofficially came to an end with a cease fire between the Allied and Central Powers. My concern is that by celebrating all veterans of every US war on this single day risks obscuring the memory and significance of what once was universally called "The Great War".

To a large degree this has already happened. The relegation, indeed subordination, of WWI to other events of the 20th century, specifically of course WWII, can be readily observed by visiting your conventional US bookstore. On average there are only a handful of books on WWI compared to dozens of books on WWII and the Vietnam War (As an aside I should note that the Korean War gets the shortest shrift of all with at most two or three books on that often neglected conflict.) Moreover, there is only one memorial in D.C. dedicated to the fallen soldiers of WWI and it is in a state of disrepair.

Why the neglect? Well, there are many reasons but only a few worth mentioning here. For one, it must be recalled that though the US was an eventual participant in the "Great War" it was so only very belatedly. WWI began in August of 1914, the US did not declare war on Germany until April of 1917, and even then didn't actually start contributing troops to Europe until May of 1918. The war was then mercifully over about 6 months later. Thus compared to the horrible costs paid by Britain and France after four years of a literal hell on earth in the trenches, the material and spiritual investment of the United States to that war was nearly negligible. This lack of comparative sacrifice was then exacerbated by the combined naivete and idealism of Woodrow Wilson's preachy diplomacy during the peace process with the other three principal world leaders (Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando). In short, aside from the late and brief role played by the US, WWI was essentially from beginning to end a European war. And except for the inculcation of an unfortunate isolationist mindset, the Great War left very little of an impression on the minds of the American people partially reflected in the eventual refusal of the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles.

Another factor, related to the previous point above, in the eclipse of WWI has to do with the relationship often assigned to that war vis a vis WWII. Often, WWI is seen, at best, as the prequel, or, at worst, as the prologue to WWII. Indeed, most interpreters of WWII believe that in many significant ways WWI was the cause of WWII. Largely this has to do with the causal value given to the peace treaty that officially ended WWI, namely, The Treaty of Versailles. Subsequent Germans, most notoriously Adolf Hitler, often cited the "cruel and harsh" peace inflicted on them by the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles (specifically concerning the so-called "war guilt clause" which supposedly forced the Germans to accept full blame for causing the Great War) as justification for their grievances against the other powers of Europe. (Many historians have bought into this argument. I for one am skeptical of this view....a post for another time though.)

Also, WWII is a war that's a bit easier for people to understand both in terms of the causes of the war and the cast of colorful characters that were involved: Hitler, Stalin, FDR, Churchill, etc (Yes, Churchill was involved in WWI but not as centrally.). In contrast, apart from Woodrow Wilson, most people wouldn't be able to tell you whom the world leaders were during WWI. Additionally on this score, the "evil" of WWII was something much clearer from a moral perspective. Nazi Germany and Japanese aggression were lucid factors that led to WWII and therefore easier to grasp as opposed to the myriad of components (secret alliances, foolish treaty obligations, naval arms race, Prussian militarism, Austria-Hungarian designs on the Balkans, Russian concern for the Slavic races, etc) traditionally said to have created the conditions for WWI.

Lastly, though I've already hit on this point, WWII unlike WWI featured the US prominently, decisively even (though it didn't officially enter until late 1941 when the war began in September of 1939). Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Yalta, Iwo Jima, etc. were all major events which involved the United States. In most every way then WWII was demonstrably a United States war whereas WWI was essentially a peripheral conflict that the US only very lately contributed to.

And for all of these reasons WWI becomes eclipsed by WWII and later US events of the 20th century. For my part I think this is most unfortunate. WWI in my opinion still deserves, as the British and other Europeans continue to call it, to be known as the Great War. Its significance should not be understated and in a future post I will seek to lay out just how important of an event WWI really was for the 20th century and not just in the limited sense that it was the cause for what most people see as the greater of the two world wars.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

RIP Grandma

Typically, I try not to write about personal events on this blog but I want to make an exception for this post. Today, I lost my last grandparent, Grandma Elder, my maternal grandmother. It wasn't a huge surprise since she had been in the hospital for about a month fighting an infection. Still, I think we are all experiencing grief...especially those who were holding out hope that she might recover. I will miss her greatly....and not just because of the excellent home cooked meals that I would receive when visiting her or staying the night. She was a very generous person who lived a very difficult life. Nevertheless, she was always willing to help out her kids and grandkids. This included me. Before I deployed to Afghanistan I was in a bad financial position because I had left my job in Chattanooga at the time to come home to get ready for mobilization. But, as is the Army way, they kept delaying my mobilization which squeezed my finances. It was my grandmother who loaned me some money that enabled me to get through until I did finally leave the country. I will never forget that.

Another thing I will always remember about Grandma Elder is her sharp mind. Everyday that I was there she would be working on crossword puzzles and usually finished them completely. And though her memory often failed her towards the end of her life she still knew if the slightest thing in her kitchen was out of place! I have no doubt that had she been born in a later time period where women had more opportunities to advance that she would have gone on to great things. Wait...that's not fair. Raising six kids and many, many grandkids is a testament to the fact that she did do great things in her life.

Over the last several years my religious worldview has gone through some drastic changes...."refinement" is the way I like to phrase it, though that's probably a bit disingenuous. But I'm still a theist who believes in a just universe and therefore a just creator. And if I believe such then it seems to follow (though not necessarily) that there will be an "afterlife" of some kind...though I intensely dislike that word. I care not really to fruitlessly speculate on what it might be like but I do hope that it would be something akin to the classic Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) belief in the resurrection of the dead (Yes, I know those choice of words conjure images of zombies stumbling out of their graves to walk the earth. Still...) and redemption of the created order....much more appealing than the now popular (among modern day evangelical Christians at least) conception of an eternity floating about "heaven" as disembodied souls.

Nonetheless, if my vestigial Christian belief turns out to be well founded then I truly look forward to the day when I see my grandmother again at the Day of the Resurrection. I will severely miss you, Grandma. Rest in peace...for now.

"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed." (I Cor 15:52 KJV)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I have been a viewer of a website called which is basically a place where many different kinds of personalities do reviews of their genre of choice. Most of them are reviews of bad films and games which is where it is easiest to extract humor. For years I've had a passion for two things: video editing (that I've been doing since VHS days) and Martial Arts films. I've combined the two in the past but I wanted to try and do something akin to those reviewers that I watch. So for the past month I've been working on my first video. I don't really know if this is the kind of forum for presenting this project and it is doubtful that I will continue to link to these reviews if I should decide to do more of them because this blog is meant to be my sort of intellectual sphere. I have a lot still to work on, principally learning to be more natural and casual with the narration and not so "professorial" or stolid. Anyways, here are the links to my first video. Hopefully, those of you who choose to watch it will be at least moderately entertained.