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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

HEADING OUT

I'm getting packed up right now and I'll be heading out in an hour or so for Arizona and the Fiesta Bowl. Actually, I'll be staying with a friend of mine in Hesston tonight, then he and I will go on to Wichita to meet my roommate and another friend of ours and all head on to Arizona together.

MapQuest and Yahoo! both say the trip is between 16 and 20 hours - it just depends on which one you ask. With four of us going and switching off every few hours or so, it shouldn't be too bad driving straight through.

Wish the Wildcats luck and watch for us on TV! We'll be in one of the lower sections (#35) - that's in one of the corners of the stadium, but I'm not sure which direction. Maybe we'll make a sign...

THE LAST SAMURAI

I went to Salina yesterday with some friends and watched "The Last Samurai". Based on previews, I didn't have a lot of high expectations for this movie, but I was surprised by it. It turned out to be quite good, and if excessively violent battle scenes don't bother you, I would recommend seeing it. Here's a brief plot summary from imdb.com:

American War Captain Nathan Algren ([Tom] Cruise) trains and leads a group of Japanese soldiers to defeat a rebellion of the countries remaining Samurai. Algren is captured by the Samurai and soon becomes part of the village he is being held hostage in and finds that his true warrior is becoming unleashed as he trains to become a Samurai with the very people we once called his enemies. Soon, the Japanese forces begin to search for the Samurai again... ready to begin a war with them that will soon determine the fate of Japanese traditions, and their lives. (written by ravon80)

Tom Cruise, who isn't one of my favorite actors, did a really good job. The storyline is solid, and the battle scenes are wild and convincing, and though not quite on par with those of "Braveheart", they're darn close.

I also stopped by Wal-Mart to use a couple of gift cards that I had received for Christmas. I picked up two good movies there: "Finding Nemo" and "X2". "Finding Nemo" is really an excellent movie, for kids or adults. Plus, it's hilarious. "X2", the X-Men movie sequel, is also a really solid movie that doesn't cling to the original to tell its story.

I'm a bit of a DVD hog, and between the two of us, my roommate and I probably have over 50. I won't buy one on a whim, though. It has to be a movie that I have seen, know to be good, and know that others will enjoy it as well. I've never liked having people "test out" movies on me: picking up a movie they've never personally seen but heard was good and then roping me into watching it as well. Therefore, I never test out movies on anyone else - I can usually guarantee that they're decent. Some of my most recent purchases were "The Hulk", "Holes", and "The Italian Job", all top notch films. "Bruce Almighty" is also an excellent comedy that features a good message within it as well.

For Christmas I received "Pirates of the Caribbean" - if you haven't seen it yet, I would recommend it. Though it was torn apart by critics, it did extremely well at the box office. I've noticed that movies that are unpopular with the critical world usually do quite well with normal audiences. "Pirates" is one of those movies: it's got a good solid story line, and as far as I'm concerned, the acting was great. Johnny Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow perfectly, and Orlando Bloom has been appearing in every other movie released since his role in "Lord of the Rings". Keira Knightly rounds out the top-billed cast as the governor's daughter, which she plays extremely well - surprisingly, she's only 17 years old.

So, those are my movie recommendations for now. I've also seen "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" recently, and though it was a good movie, three-and-a-half hours is a LONG time to sit in the theater. I'm going to wait until it is out on DVD to see it again.

Monday, December 29, 2003

TERROR ALERTS

During the holiday season, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert level from elevated (yellow) to high (orange). A lot of people have really ridiculed the government's alert system and their continuously issued warnings to the American public about possible terror attacks. Recently, a whole slew of Air France flights were cancelled.

I've realized that the government (specifically the Bush administration, but I think it would apply to either a Republican or Democrat administration) is damned if they do and damned if they don't. The government was blasted for not knowing about and preventing September 11th, but now they are mocked for having a system designed to help prevent such attacks. The Department of Homeland Security is merely said to be a ploy by Bush to take attention off of his other policies and highlight his post-September 11th success.

Would it take another September 11th to make people realize that such steps such as canceling flights, installing guards on others, and a public warning system may in fact be helpful and necessary? It's kind of sad that a government that may in fact be keeping us safe receives no accolades for its protective services and is accused of doing too much, while a government that allows terror attacks to take place is accused of doing too little. The typical American, sitting on the fence and too ill-informed of a majority of issues, seems unable to be pleased.

A POLITICALLY CORRECT CHRISTMAS...ER, HOLIDAY

I was flipping around channels the other day and noticed that CNN was featuring a discussion about how politically correct the Christmas season had become. I didn't watch much of it, but the debate is not one that is confined to the musings of a few major news anchors - political correctness is invading every aspect of everyone's lives, and Christmas is no exception.

Manhattan, being a college town and home to some of the most liberal of thinkers, naturally raised a ruckus about Christmas this year. The first ordeal happened nearly two months ago, when Manhattan's mayor and this city council began planning the annual Christmas parade. Calls began to pour into the mayor's office from well-intentioned and all-inclusive college students and professors, asking that the mayor change the name of the parade from the "Mayor's Lighted Christmas Parade" to the "Mayor's Lighted Holiday Parade". The reason was so that the diverse population of K-State would feel welcome at the parade no matter what their religion.

The debate started with a few poor written but nice-sounding emails and letters that were published in the Manhattan Mercury and the Kansas State Collegian, but it quickly degenerated into a very nasty exchange between the mayor, who stood his ground but was unable to clearly articulate why, and the PC campus liberals, who didn't want someone else's point of view pushed on them, but were so fiery mad when they didn't get their way that they resorted to petty personal insults.

There were a couple of things that I noticed about this debate that were absolutely ludicrous. First off, the push to have the parade "neutered" of any religious connotation whatsoever was led by a group of people that I affectionately refer to as "white knights": A group of upper-class, Johnson County white kids raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition that have thrown off their backgrounds and are trying to be people that they aren't. This group usually makes every effort to suck up to minority groups while damning the majority, whether the majority is doing anything wrong or not. In their book (and they practice and preach this), it's wrong to be white, it's wrong to be Christian, and it's wrong to be in any type of group that constitutes a majority. It's a sickening perversion of what tolerance is all about - a group of people that turn against the majority merely in an attempt to please the minority.

The second huge issue concerning the parade was this: never did a Jew, Muslim, atheist, or member of another minority religion request that the parade be stripped of any ties to Christianity (which was only by the use of the word Christmas, mind you). It was those that have become obsessed with political correctness - the white knights - that insisted that the word Christmas be dropped from the parade's title. They were fighting a battle on behalf of minority groups that didn't want a battle to be fought. Not to mention, if a Jew, Muslim, or other minority did have a problem with the parade's name, are they not perfectly capable of fighting their own battles? The PC liberal white knights have further offended minorities, in my opinion, by assuming that they are unable to stand up for themselves and need alternative leadership!

The Christmas Parade (yes, it kept its rightful name) came and went. A few weeks later, however, another debate arose in the residence hall where I live. The 8th floor Residence Assistant had put a Christmas tree in the lobby, and our Multicultural Assistant (a white knight, to be sure) raised holy hell about it. The tree was "forcing Christianity on residents". Within a few days, the 8th floor lobby was bare. Nevermind the tree's purpose - the 8th floor had adopted a child through the Salvation Army, and students were donating presents and placing them under the tree.

The pro-Christmas tree camp became enraged at the pure stupidity of our Multicultural Assistant's argument, and thus a hall-wide debate took place. I didn't attend for fear of lapsing into a stupidity-induced coma from listening to those who somehow equated a tree, some lights, and material possessions with the birth of Jesus. However, it was voted on and agreed that the tree would go back up - without lights, without ornaments. This time, it was bare, standing alone in the lobby's corner with a giant disclaimer posted at its side: "THE GIVING TREE IS NOT MEANT TO OFFEND ANYONE NOR TO PUSH ANY CERTAIN BELIEF ON ANYONE". I thought, "You've got to be kidding me!!!" This is what Christmas has degenerated into!? There's going to be a battle everytime someone wants to put up a tree now!?

Once again, no one but our resident white knight had complained that the original incarnation of the tree was "forcing belief" on anyone. No Muslims, Jews, atheists, or otherwise complained. Only our all too well-intentioned, politically correct, tree-hugging Multicultural Assistant - fighting battles that few people want and nobody asked for. I do wonder how he would have coped if an RA would have placed a menorah in a lobby somewhere - I doubt he would have asked to have it taken down, but would have instead praised its diversity.

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for diversity, but I'm for it as long as I don't have to sacrifice my own beliefs...my own uniqueness. Why couldn't the Mayor's Christmas Parade have just been an opportunity for minorities to participate in a diverse activity different from what their own religions could provide? (Not that the parade boasted a religious theme - the word Christmas was the only religious part about it.) Why couldn't the tree have just been a symbol of universal giving instead of being equated with a religion? Since when is a tree a strictly Christian symbol - moreover, to most Christians, Christmas is about materialism and has no religious overtones whatsoever anymore.

This, I think, is just the tip of the iceberg. Today, our PC friends are complaining about mere words, but tomorrow, I may be told not to wear a cross around my neck because it forces others to see what I believe in. My professor of Christian history is one of the smartest, and one of the most liberal, professors that I know. Despite his liberalism (which usually derides Christianity), he warned our class that Christianity will become an increasingly oppressed religion, simply because it isn't politically correct to be in the majority anymore. Other zealous religious folks will be hailed as unique and diverse, yet fervent Christians will be called extremists and outcast from society.

My professor also thought that the debate over the tree was absolutely ridiculous - a waste of many people's time - and requested a picture of the bare pine tree with a disclaimer!


Sunday, December 28, 2003

FANTASY FOOTBALL

The Kansas City Chiefs won their game against the Bears 31-3 earlier today, and (unbelievably) the Arizona Cardinals just beat Minnesota 18-17. The Cardinals are 4 and 12 and near the bottom of the complete NFL standings, only above San Diego. Their win is really surprising considering that the Vikings, with Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss are a more than capable team and beat the Chiefs 45-20 last week.

I played Yahoo! Fantasy Football for the first time this year. I'd never done it in the past and always thought that I just didn't have enough time to do it. Well, it is what you make of it: you could spend hours per day researching and analyzing which running backs and wide receivers are going to score you more points, or you could put in a few minutes per week like I do and have a lot of fun with it.

Our league started the playoffs early, and I ended my regular season 9 and 6. My team is fairly good: Trent Green and Brad Johnson for quarterbacks, Stephen Davis and Deuce McAllister as my running backs, and Randy Moss leading my troupe of wide receivers. Kansas City's Morten Andersen kicks for me, I use New England's defense, and through a trade, Terence Newman - a former Wildcat - is one of my D-backs. All in all, plenty of big names backed up by solid players, all perfectly capable of bringing in plenty of "fantasy points".

Points are awarded based on what the players did in their respective games that week. Six points for a touchdown, one point for 50 passing (or receiving) yards, one for every 20 rushing yards, etc. Defense is awarded similar points based on tackles, sacks, and interceptions. At the end of the day, you'll end up scoring much more than any football team would - usually between 130 and 170 points (although the amount of points given can be changed from league to league - some leagues give points on the number of carries a player has; our league doesn't).

My team has been pretty good so far, but never performed extremely well when I needed it to. When a game would come up that I was positive that I would win no matter what, several of my players would have outstanding games and I'd score more than anyone else in the league. The next week, I'd have a game against someone with a better record and a team on par with mine: my players would have weak performances those weeks and I'd be handed a loss. But I've done well enough to make it to the playoffs and I'm playing for 3rd place overall this week.

Since I've been playing Fantasy Football, I've kept up with the NFL a lot more thoroughly than usual. That's one of the keys to winning fantasy games: know what individual players are going to consistently get you points and do everything you can to pick them up for your team. The other key to winning, I've decided, is luck...Dante Hall hasn't had a decent game since I picked him up!


Saturday, December 27, 2003

NEW YEAR'S EVE ON THE ROAD

I'll be packed into a car and heading to Tempe, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl on the 31st, so I won't be attending any New Year's Eve celebrations this year. If I were staying around, there'd be a couple of different options.

Every year, Chant and Gladys Koralek have a New Year's Eve party of sorts at the Koyote Den in Kanopolis. Mountain oysters are the main course on the buffet, and there's plenty of beer to boot. That's where I spent New Year's Eve last year and really enjoyed getting to see a lot of local Kanopolis residents ringing in the new year.

Now Peg has let me know about the party at the Midland Hotel in Wilson which sounds like it could be a lot of fun, too. It may just become a tradition.

I do think it will be worthwhile to miss both of those get-togethers this year though. The chance to see my Wildcats clean-up in the Fiesta Bowl is irresistible.

Friday, December 26, 2003

BACK FROM THE WEST

I just got back to Kanopolis just a few minutes ago from celebrating Christmas in western Kansas with my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew. We all had a really good time, ate some really good food, and of course, the kids really seemed to really enjoy Christmas.

Reilly, my seven-year-old nephew, got quite a haul - video games, movies, cars and race tracks, and of course lots of attention from his grandparents and uncles. Mackenzie, my niece, came out just as good with lots of new Barbies and clothes to dress them in. Their Uncle Mike gave their family a portable DVD player, so now they can watch their movies at home (hooked up to their TV) or when their on the road. Shrek, Air Bud, and Stewart Little are a few of the new movies added to their collection, while Pirates of the Caribbean was added to mine.

I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2003

FINISHING TOUCHES (FOR NOW)

I've been playing around with this blog creator off and on this afternoon and evening, and working with it has almost refreshed my memory concerning computer code. Once upon a time I was semi-good with HTML and could create a website that, if nothing else, looked good. Messing around with this blogger has peaked my interest once again.

I've added a couple of links to the menu on the left just for practice, and I decided to give this blog a decent name. "Jesse's Blog" was far too generic, so I've picked "Shooting from the Lip" for now. Sorta catchy, eh?

Christmas Shopping is Over

I was lucky enough to start and end my Christmas shopping on one day. I was at Wal-Mart before 9:00 this morning, so the crowds weren't too bad, yet. Of course I saw a ton of people that I knew from both here and Manhattan. It seems like last minute shopping is in vogue.

YET ANOTHER BLOGGER

Starting well over a year ago, I began reading Ellsworth native Peg Britton's blog on her Kansas Prairie website and became hooked. Peg kept me updated on a variety of issues around Ellsworth county - everything from her day-to-day activities to controversial issues that have come up in the area. While I'm at K-State for nine months out of the year, Peg's blog has been an excellent way to keep up with activities and happenings back home. I usually check her site a few times a week now, and I've even contributed a few things for her.

I also started writing a history of Kanopolis for her site not too long ago. Naturally, school has prevented me from spending too much time on that project which will have to be tackled piece-by-piece when I've got free time. Peg did encourage me a few times to set up a blog of my own and continue writing...so here it is.

I've always loved to write. You'll probably see a variety of different writings on here - K-State football, historical information (since that's my major), political ramblings (that's my second major), and the occasional rant when something irks me. Maybe, following in Peg's footsteps, you'll even read about some more down-to earth things, although I don't have any kids or grandkids to talk about yet!

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