Monday, December 24, 2012

Top Christmas Movies

I really don't have anything profound or in-depth this Christmas season. Frankly, it's not my favorite holiday - all the joy, charity and merriment sucking the marrow out of delusional lost hope and painstaking self-isolation. Blah humbug; give me a good horror movie and some candy or beer(s) and parade of green and orange! Besides, I always had my doubts from an early age about a boisterously jolly fat man being able to enter (i.e. break into) a house my dad routinely made certain was secure from intruders. (A suspicion finally confirmed while staking out on Christmas Eve.)

For the 12 Days of Christmas, my top 12 Christmas movies to watch each season:

1. King of Kings (1961)*
2. Ben-Hur (1959)*
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. A Christmas Carol (1984)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
6. White Christmas (1954)
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
8. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
9. Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
10. A Christmas Story (1983)
11. Elf (2003)
12. The Ref (1994) 


*Also good for Easter 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Super Friends Unite!

The new trailer for Man of Steel has been released, and I have to say that for the first time in a long while I am actually excited for a Superman movie. Why would I say that? For starters, I am a Batman and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) fan, and not much of one when it comes to Superman. Don’t get me wrong, I like the character and actively watched Smallville; it’s just that he’s all-powerful until…OH NO…KRYPTONITE!!! If I were Supes, I would round up all the kryptonite in the universe and either destroy it or keep it safely locked away for those times when it might be needed against other beings such as General Zod. Rather than allowing, oh I don’t know, EVERY ENEMY TO POSSESS YOUR ONE WEAKNESS.

I digress…

From the looks of the trailer, this Superman reboot is not your typical camp of previous live-action films (sorry Christopher Reeve). It looks dark and brooding, but with a sense of hope the good that one super-powered alien can bring to humanity. It is also possibly the first in a DC Comics Justice League movie series, a la Marvel’s The Avengers and related films like Iron Man and Captain America. Of course, that’s the rub:  in order to do justice to a Justice League movie, you need a few stand alone origin stories of the mainstay DC characters as well. Hence, Superman – the comic book superhero that pretty much started it all and has made comic book collecting a passion for decades. Even before Superman Returns, the franchise has been in need of a reboot.

Naturally, one cannot have a Justice League without Wonder Woman. The warrior princess from Themyscira is a cornerstone of the triumvirate comprised of Superman, Batman and herself. Fortunately, there is talk of a WW movie. And Batman? Christopher Nolan just finished a Batman trilogy; would there need to be a reboot of the franchise so soon? Whether that series would be a tie-in or not – and the end of The Dark Knight Rises alone would hamper that scheme (oh, sorry...*SPOILER ALERT*) – I feel a stand-alone Batman movie before a Justice League one would be unnecessary. A person could never read a comic book, but they know Batman. Rather than yet another rehashing of his origins, all that would be needed is a cameo by an already operating Batman (aka Bruce Wayne, there can be no other *SPOILER ALERT*) tacked onto the other films hinting at their forthcoming alliance, again a la Marvel. This then could lead into a stand-alone sequel/reboot afterward that ONE CAN ONLY HOPE would delve deeper into the later adventures of “The Caped Crusader.” (Hey look, a movie title that would have been more original than…The Dark Knight Rises.) As for Green Lantern, the movie equally could serve as a catalyst for a reboot of and/or sequel to the titular movie starring Ryan Reynolds, again with really no need to have another stand-alone movie tied-in beforehand.


You may be asking, “What about my favorite character Aquaman?” Short answer:  I hate Aquaman. No matter how hard DC tries to revamp the character and make him cooler, he still is no match for Marvel’s Sub-Mariner. Like Wonder Woman, though, there is talk of an Aquaman movie, as well as (it's about freakin' time!) a Flash (Barry Allen) one. That said I do feel there is room for Green Arrow, another of my favorites, who has seen a boost in popularity thanks to the television series, Arrow. If DC wanted to capitalize on it, they could do for their green-clad archer what Marvel failed to do in the underdeveloped characterization of their purple-clad archer, Hawkeye, in The Avengers. (Probably THE major disappointment of an otherwise awesome movie).

What I do know is that with the movies set to come out in the next few years…I am now hoping the Mayans were wrong. 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Concealed Weapons: How The West Can Be Won

Nine years ago, I wrote a post – “Concealed Weapons:  How The West Was Won?” – as a response to conceal-carry laws going into effect around the nation. I am fine with saying that I was wrong about the barbarity that was sure to ensue from such laws. Given that fact and my changed attitude from even four years ago toward conceal-carry laws over the last decade, I considered simply deleting the post as if it never existed. Doing so, however, would deny my evolution on the issue.

To be clear, I still do not feel guns are the answer for civility among humans. Unfortunately, in the name of self-protection, certain humans seem only capable of learning a lesson in civility looking down the barrel of a gun. I also believe in the Second Amendment, which intrinsically guards and protects all other rights (particularly, those of the First Amendment) outlined in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights against those who could seek to take them away – namely, the very government the Founding Fathers had established. It was not designed as an exclusivity clause restricting access to certain types of weapons, but rather as a measure ensuring citizens had access to any and all. Given they had fought for and won independence from a tyrannical government that had sought to oppress their rights, they had the foresight to deem the necessity of such protections.

When an incident like a mass shooting or murder-suicide occurs, we should not have a knee-jerk reaction to dismantle those principles. Instead, we as a society would be better served to understand the root cause of those incidents – mental illness, domestic abuse – rather than assail the nature in which it was carried out.

The sad irony of “gun control” is that it only makes victims out of law-abiding citizens. On the other hand, criminals and the mentally disturbed by nature will not magically comply with the continuous propagation of gun laws politicians pass and agencies attempt to enforce. As my dad stated when teaching me as a kid how to shoot a rifle, “a well-aimed shot is the only proper gun control.” If there were more, not less, law-abiding citizens able to take that shot in times of a crisis, rather than being progressively handcuffed by laws and regulations, perhaps gun-related tragedies could be minimized. It is flawed logic to think that laws can and will end behaviors society deems illegal; from drug use to murder, none in the history of mankind have brought about such a utopia free of criminality.
 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Streamlining Bureaucracy

On this day of remembrance for our U.S. veterans who have proudly served, and as the more-than-metaphoric fiscal cliff fast approaches that realistically could handcuff and weaken our military capabilities around the world, I took it upon myself (because no one asked) to re-organize the Cabinet of the United States (which from now on shall be called "Ministry of the Republic"...because "Cabinet of the United States" has always sounded kind of dumb):

MINISTRY OF DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY

      Department of Agriculture
      Department of Commerce & Labor* [combined/renamed]
      Department of Energy
      Department of Transportation
      Department of Treasury

MINISTRY OF COMMON DEFENSE

      Department of Defense & Homeland Security* [combined/renamed]
      Department of Intelligence & Espionage* [new]
      Department of Justice
      Department of State
      Department of Veterans Affairs


MINISTRY OF GENERAL WELFARE

      Department of Education
      Department of Health & Human Services
      Department of Housing & Urban Development
      Department of Interior
 


Now, granted this scheme doesn't exactly cut down the number of departments. However, there would be only THREE “Ministers” as opposed to the current FIFTEEN “Secretaries.” 3 < 15…and can be counted on one hand (not to mention that combining a few departments reduces that number to 14). Plus, they now succinctly represent the three areas of most importance to the sustainability of our republic – domestic tranquility, common defense and general welfare. So, while these may be the times that once again try our souls, I believe it is a time for streamlining the bureaucracy that will try it as well.

Please see to these changes. Thank you. 


©2012 Steve Sagarra

Friday, November 9, 2012

2012 U.S. Presidential Election Results

 “A government policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.” -George Bernard Shaw

Well, the election did not go as center-right pundits, including myself, predicted; frankly, it was a repudiation of common sense. Indicative of the country's entrenched ideological divide, 26 states (plus the District of Columbia) went Obama and 24 states went Romney. Consequently, the electorate chose dependency over individualism, while expecting different results from the same failed policies of the past four years. What it means is more debt, more unemployment and more entitlements over the next four years that will permanently toss the nation over the fiscal cliff a generation from now, if not sooner.

(Source:  270ToWin)

Not since President Franklin Roosevelt has an incumbent been re-elected with such a dismal economic outlook; only with the onset of World War Two that re-energized the might of free-market capitalism – rather than any prior fiscal policies enacted by Roosevelt’s administration – did the nation recover. If the United States continues on a similar path today, it is the end of American exceptionalism in favor of European collectivism – from the Greatest Generation that stoically fought against socialism to the Welfare Generation blindly embracing it.

(Source:  ThePeoplesCube)

English historian, Edward Gibbon, wrote of the fall of the Roman Empire, that “the decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight.” Let us pray that history is not ripe to repeat.
 
©Steve Sagarra 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

2012 U.S. Presidential Election Prediction

The polls open in twenty-four hours, and it's time for a little prognostication. As many pundits see it, there are nine states - Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida - and 125 electoral votes in play to decide the election. My prediction is Republican-nominee Mitt Romney wins Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, while President Barack Obama wins Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. As they say, the election is more Obama's to lose than it is Romney's to win.

In Wisconsin, Republicans withstood a bitterly contested recall election, and the vice-presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, is poised to deliver the state for his party. In Michigan, where Romney's late father, George Romney, was a respected auto industry executive and former governor, millions of auto workers, though unionized, look to re-ignite an American auto industry still in decline. Although traditionally Democratic strongholds, Pennsylvania's coal industry has seen reductions in production thanks to the current administration's energy policies, while a Romney-governed Massachusetts implemented a healthcare system - however one cares to consider it good or bad - without burdening taxpayers or the state. As governor, he also was able to pass a budget that curtailed the state's deficit, and voters could favor him as president given that record.

In my opinion, this is how the electoral map will shape up:

(Source:  270ToWin) 

©Steve Sagarra 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's The Number For 911?

A week ago, I had an “incident” with my truck as I headed out to watch the St. Louis Cardinals try to clinch Game 5 of the National League Championship Series – which in itself became a disaster. Chiefly, the engine caught fire. In most situations, I am typically calm and collected when it comes to assessing a situation and implementing a plan of action. While I feel I maintained that nature this time as well, it still scared the ever livin’ out of me. Anxiously stunned as I quickly exited my truck to a safe distance, I also had a momentary lapse for the number to dial – ingrained since childhood – in case of emergency.

Once I managed to recall it, this is how it basically went down:

911 Operator:  911. What’s the emergency?
Me:  MY TRUCK IS ON FIRE!!!
911 Operator:  Okay sir, what is the address?
Me:  UM…UM…OLIVE AND MASON. BY THE WALGREENS. DAMN, MY TRUCK IS ON FIRE!!!
911 Operator [barely audible, speaking to another person]: Let’s see, that’s this district. Isn’t it?
911 Operator:  Okay sir, I’m going to connect you.
Me:  OKAY. HURRY. MY TRUCK IS ON FIRE!!!


Okay, so maybe not completely calm. Don’t know why I was screaming into my phone. I’m certain the emergency operator could hear me fine, and there was very little background noise around me. Other than its initial and unremitting declaration, the fire
likely electrical in nature otherwise was silent on the matter.


Photo Credit:  "Bystander" with camera phone

First on the scene were two Creve Coeur police officers, who promptly blocked off the street. Fortunately, I was still on a side street of the intersection rather then the main one, thus mitigating traffic problems. There were still the occasional idiots who failed to comprehend two police cars, a fire truck – all with their lights flashing – and a truck on fire.

Police Officer:  You’re the owner?
Me:  Yes, yes I am.
Police Officer:  And what happened?
Me:  Was just pulling up to the intersection, truck stalled and then flames and smoke started billowing out from under the hood. I immediately jumped out, called 911.
Police Officer:  And was anyone else in the vehicle?
Me:  No, just me.
Police Officer [noting my Bob Gibson jersey]:  You weren’t headed to the game, were you?
Me:  No, just headed out to watch it.


As we waited and watched the Creve Coeur firefighters arrive, calmly setup and extinguish the fire, all I could do was laugh. I thought about getting some marshmallows from Walgreens, perhaps toast s’mores or something over the impromptu bonfire. Though most items in the passenger compartment were expendable, my thoughts turned to my music CDs. Five years earlier, they had survived a car accident; given the flames, I was less confident they would survive intact this time. They did. (Good luck charm, perhaps?)



Photo Credit:  "Me"

Then came the $143 tow…that went half-a-mile back to my residence. Yep, $143 for half-a-mile. This included the initial tow fee, plus scene cleanup labor – which, in most cases, typically is charged to the municipality – and fuel surcharge totaling $40. No longer laughing, I, like my truck, was now angrily on fire. I considered calling 911 again, this time to report highway robbery. Though the police had kindly called the tow company, I could have called one of my two usual – either D&L Towing or Doc’s Towing – for half or lesser than the price McNamara Towing extorted from me on the spot.

Government entities commonly favor and contract with certain companies, largely thanks to “charitable” (i.e. political) donations to the municipality from them. Yet, it immediately brought to mind the towing and impound scandal involving S&H/Metropolitan Towing and the St. Louis City Police Department a few years ago. Accordingly, I immediately contacted the towing company, the city’s public relations manager and the police chief on the matter. As I figured, none so far have responded to my inquiries.

Guess it’s not that big of an emergency.


©2012 Steve Sagarra

Monday, September 17, 2012

Moors S’Mores Summit

My Spanish ancestors fought against the Moors. THE MOORS!!! Before 711 A.D., the Greeks and Romans fought against their forebears in the pre-Islam Mideast kingdoms. Then as now, Islamic extremism cannot be pacified by empty rhetoric; most certainly, it should not be coddled and ignored as anything other than the threat it has been for more than a millennia. They are blindly fighting on faith a centuries-old conflict that can end only one way in their mind:  the eventual destruction of Western civilization, and the world under the rule of a restored caliphate. With the rogue proliferation of weapons of mass destruction throughout the unstable region, such a goal is more achievable than ever before.



Yet, as many including myself have stated, the majority should not be blamed for the few. In my opinion, Islamic extremists are no different than Christian extremists. They are fringe groups that make the whole look bad, each spewing hatred aimed at the other without compromise that neither reflects nor adheres to their overall respective religion. Any generalizations based on their actions are dangerous reminders of a society’s innate prejudices and xenophobia that can cloud our judgment and course of action.

But the belief we can sit around the campfire singing kumbaya and toasting s’mores in harmonious accord is a misguided one. Several past presidents flatly stated that the United States does not, and will not, negotiate with terrorists or their sponsors. Now, they are read their Miranda rights, locked up with three square meals a day and given an apology in an impotent conciliation effort that is steadily disengaging the U.S. from the battlefield and endangering allies. While might may make right, victory, and ultimately peace, can only be achieved by bringing it fully to bear – because you do not bring dialogue and diplomacy to a gunfight with fanatics unwilling to come to the table.

How dumb of a species are we, though, that we are still fighting the religious wars of our ancestors in the 21st century?


©2012 Steve Sagarra

Friday, September 7, 2012

Independent Republic of Bureaucrapistan

Well, this year’s hurricane season has come and gone. No, not the tropical storms – the Republican and Democratic conventions. Naturally, each had a different outlook and approach on governing and leadership. The election, exactly two months away in November, is really no different than any past ones; with healthcare and tax reform the main focus of both party platforms, it should be dubbed the vote for the certainty, indeed, of death and taxes. What was never openly stated, though subtly referred to by several speakers at the former convention, is that the problem with government is, well, government. The solution, even for ineffective government, as seen by some people attending the latter? More, presumably ineffective, government, mainly by way of expanded and additional entitlement programs which can only exasperate an already strained economy and out-of-control fiscal policies. And four more years to continue doing it. 

Frankly, the last thing needed, ever, is added bureaucracy on top of an already-bloated one, which only gets worse as you go up the chain. Between the local, state and federal bureaucracy, that is the true trickle-down of government – because by the time you finish with all three, there’s only a trickle of nothingness left.

One thing will dictate the outcome:  voting, blindly or not, strictly on principles; voting on the direction of the nation as dictated by principles; or voting for the best direction of the country, whether based on principles or not. If it is the first, you are voting for a candidate that best suits your principles no matter party affiliation. If is the second, the choice for the most part is between the two main candidates of either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, but could include a sleeper like Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. If it is the latter – which I believe to be the most important, particularly concerning those on the fence – then it only comes down to either Obama or Romney. In such a scenario, there can be no consideration of a third party candidate – even one as strong as Johnson – that can split the vote in favor one way or the other. It is a shame that our entrenched de facto two-party system has to be this way, but it is a sad truth.

What will really factor in, though, is the level of bureaucracy Americans want in our lives, and how much we want added or subtracted from it. Not to mention how much bureaucratic nonsense from it we are willing to withstand, and, more importantly, are able to sustain. 


©2012 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life As An NFL Scout...Sort Of

The other day, my buddy Bill and I were invited to a St. Louis Rams practice session. Seeking a return to the championship glory of former head coach Dick Vermeil’s “Greatest Show On Turf,” it is the start of another season under new head coach Jeff Fisher. Though only a passing Rams fan but a football fan in general – born to love the “Big Red,” raised on the Dallas Cowboys and eschewing both for my beloved Denver Broncos – it nonetheless was a thrill. While offense and defense ran mini-scrimmages – red-shirted quarterbacks scrambling from non-threatening yet pressing linemen, receivers practicing catches against pursing defensive backs – kickers did…whatever it is kickers do during practice. Typically, off by themselves in their own corner of the field. (Is he seriously just catching the ball and dropping it to the ground, making the slow motion pantomime of kicking??? And what’s the other one doing leaning against the goal post? Barres?)


As we sipped on free water and soda – there was no beer offered, despite a beer truck parked across the way – under the shade of exclusivity, I could not help but wonder...whose wife is she? Er, rather…is there perhaps another Bob Waterfield, Jack Youngblood or Marshall Faulk among the newest recruits? Or will they turn out another Terry Baker, Tony Banks or Lawrence Phillips? (Seriously though…with that body, those can’t all be her kids. Can they?)

Bill’s son, clearly deceived into believing we were going to an actual Rams game, became easily bored from the start. In time, though, he had made friends and started a pickup game of touch football. Some of them, preferring the tackle aspect of the game, not too keen on the touch part. With activity for the main event taking place across the field, we casually scouted the pickup game:

Bill’s son – Positives:  strong field vision, soft hands, opportune speed, aggressive on the ball; Negatives:  overly aggressive at times, sportsmanship needs improvement.
Little blonde girl – Positives:  nice field vision, good pursuit, runs well in a dress; Negatives:  gives up easy, fumbles under pressure.
Little blonde boy – Positives:  good pursuit; Negatives:  becomes bored, mom doesn’t allow him to play for long.
Taller little blonde boy – Positives:  good-natured, aggressive on the ball, demonstrates sportsmanship; Negatives:  overly confident in making team by wearing a “Snow #84” jersey.


Wait…Snow? As in former Los Angeles Rams wide-receiver and broadcaster Jack Snow? Bill and I conclude there is only one reason a little kid in the section in which we are seated would wear such a jersey – clearly, this is a relative, possibly a grandson or great-grandson. We discern that the table next to us is in fact the Snow family, or elements thereof. Quickly, Bill calls his son over, telling him to sit and rest until time to leave. No need for a lawsuit should there be too much aggression in the game of “touch” football, or at the very least banishment from the facilities.

Not much later as the practice session concluded, with players heading either to the locker room, media interviews or to sign autographs for fans, we gathered ourselves and headed to Hooters to scout the talent there…

Clearly, Team All-Americans

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fear Itself, and Overwhelming Panic

Two former high school buddies and I went to see The Dark Knight Rises this past Sunday evening. I do not know how Doug and Tim felt entering the theater, there was no discussion of it, but there was a sense of vulnerable trepidation on my part. As we chatted and waited for the movie to begin, I took periodical note – as I often do wherever I am – of our surroundings. Like the iconic Batman, I prefer to observe whenever possible from on high and in the shadows, figuratively speaking, with everything laid before me rather than prone with my back turned and head on a swivel. It is an internal action/reaction mechanism, as one cannot know what has changed about their environment if one never notices its distinctiveness in the first place. I do this not out of paranoia, but just to have awareness that I feel a lot of people lack when in unfamiliar environs.

As the theater darkened and the movie began, my anxiety slightly increased. Not to the point of distraction, simply a disquieted elevated alert for any unusual activity. I watched the exit door, and people – including staff, who occasionally stood vigil checking the theater – leaving and re-entering the main one. After every action sequence, I found myself scanning the room. Why did I do this? Did I have a plan if, god forbid, a copycat murderous psychopath tried something similar to the events in Aurora, Colorado? I inventoried what we had on us for defense:  full sodas that could be thrown as distractions (probably futilely, and less usable as the movie progressed), belts that could be used as whips (granting being within range, and as long as our shorts did not fall down) and sets of keys that could slightly impale (if flesh wounds counted for anything). Handling these items with precision as we immediately sprang into action – coupled by decades of knowledge on each other’s judgments and reactions, mostly from adolescent nocturnal activities involving toilet paper and bottle rockets – we would not be victims.

At least, that is what I told myself as we sat and watched the movie.


Truth is you never know what you would do in a situation until it is upon you. I am certain similar thoughts as mine entered the minds of patrons in attendance at the Century Theatre in Aurora once the chaos erupted. Stories of survivors echo this belief, with several members of the audience heroically acting without hesitation to screen and protect others – some being strangers – at the cost of their own lives. Batman comics and Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, particularly in The Dark Knight Rises, epitomize the difficulty, but not impossibility, in fighting back when the wicked and depraved who seek to do harm, without a care for the law, are the only ones with the arsenal or a plan. As Alfred told Bruce, some people just want to see the world burn. Violence may beget violence, but only if there are no means – or no one – to counter such evil to its ultimate demise. You have to try in the face of the odds, or the fear can overwhelm in a panic.

That is why it was important to be at the theater, so that a murderous psychopath did not win in disrupting our daily lives. More so that the innocent lives taken and forever scarred in tragedy are remembered.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Spirit of 1776, or 1917?

Recently, I was able to purchase a brand new radiator for my vehicle from an online retailer at an extremely discounted price over that of a “brick-and-mortar” auto parts store. All thanks to the competitive nature of capitalism, which favors consumers more often than not by organically self-regulating prices. According to President Obama, though, I should thank the government – because “if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Is that what he truly believes?

Nobody Else Made It Happen, Mr. President, by Rob Miller (American Thinker)

From this one statement, the president has shown his true socio-economic philosophy – and it is a socialist-leaning one. In his worldview, it was not the individual drive and entrepreneurial spirit of, by and for the people that crafted American exceptionalism; it was, and is, the government. Every business owner – from large corporations to small “mom-and-pop” shops (if they still exist) – should find concern in the economic policies of an administration that portrays itself as the purveyor of economic success. And yet, takes no responsibility for the failed ventures.

Was it not thirteen colonies composed of self-made men – from the daily laborers operating as blacksmiths and cobblers to the autonomous farmers and industrialists – who built the United States after breaking from a government that wished to control and regulate their commerce? Even in the last century, the Apollo Moon landings, though spearheaded by President Kennedy’s call to action, are still a prime example of private enterprise accomplishing great achievements that could not have occurred without the men and women who had the drive and spirit to make it happen.

The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks...if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

When government believes itself king over the investment in ideas and innovation, it is time to hide the money under the mattress – because the politicians are coming for it. Not in the spirit of 1776, but in the spirit of 1917.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sweet November Rain Dance

The election showdown is pretty much set for later this year. Previously, I have endorsed two candidates from different parties who did not pan out. Given that track record, I will not go for a third at this time. Let us not forget, though, what this election – perhaps more so than any since before the Second World War – means for the nation. As “We, the People” celebrate the 236th year of our country’s “birth,” there is a polarized divide that threatens to tear it apart. While we have not reached the austere levels of other countries, there is, hyperbole aside, a tinderbox simmering underneath simply waiting for the proper spark to ignite it. No longer simply “Bleeding Kansas.” Just bleeding.

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” 
-Patrick Henry

The recent Supreme Court 5-4 decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) handed to the federal government one of the largest overreaches into the private affairs of American citizens in the nation’s history. While access to certain privileges is one thing (but not a “right”), governmental coercion that threatens “penalties” for non-compliance is tyranny. Yet, illegal aliens stream across the border everyday without question or consequence, benefiting from our benevolence while draining already-strained resources and taxpayer dollars. In Chief Justice John Roberts' Warren moment, will Obama thank former President Bush and the appointment of Roberts during his administration for the victory?

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." 
-John Adams

Why did the Roman Empire fall? See the preceding paragraph. No longer able to sustain the defense of its borders, a continuous influx of foreigners – some who were once sworn enemies – and the weight of the burden they placed on the shrinking Empire fed its eventual collapse. Around the world, from Asia to the Americas, the same fate is true for almost all of the once great civilizations:  the inability to maintain their culture due to poor foresight by leadership in dealing with the unrestrained pressures thrust upon them. Is history repeating itself, or at least rhyming?


As a nation, we have treaded the precipice numerous times throughout our history. Will we again believe and aspire to what is, and can be, great about the United States, or reflect and mourn the glory that once was like so many past cultures and societies turned to ash by their own hubris? Happy birthday USA…let’s hope it will not be the last, or that history never forgets those who have unselfishly shaped, defended and sacrificed since that first “shot heard ‘round the world.” 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Apparent Affront of Conservatism

Political satirist and television host Bill Maher recently asked why conservatives are mad. Having already expounded upon some of the reasons in a previous post, allow me to again retort. At the core, it is the hypocrisy. Unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, President Barack Obama gets a pass at almost every turn from mainstream media and political lackeys on controversial policy. In particular, economic and foreign policy issues. Likewise, members of the Bush Administration constantly were held vociferously in contempt for alleged failings in their duties. Meantime, Obama’s current Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and Attorney General, Eric Holder, still have jobs, despite an abysmal record in their respective positions.

Domestically, the president’s fiscal policies are offered as beneficial to free-market capitalism, but are in actuality socialistic threats in implementation. President Bush was repeatedly lambasted for bailouts to Wall Street, even as it stemmed the tide from a worse crisis. Yet, the MSM-anointed Savior-in-Chief has been portrayed oppositely despite a larger, taxpayer-funded bailout – ironically, directed by Secretary Geithner, who, as the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, had a direct role in the economic collapse in the first place – that did little more than to further bankrupt the country and expand, rather than limit, the role of government. From Obamacare to Solyndra, the Obama Administration has attempted to inject governmental control over every facet of the economy against every reasonable free-market principle. This has rendered little effect other than to undeniably increase government spending and impel rising prices as productivity and employment continue to plummet. No matter which of the varied reports on the economy one chooses to believe, there are also the taxes and so-called “reforms” that have hurt small business, entrepreneurial investment and genuine job creation at the worse possible time. Quite possibly prolonging the collapse, such measures have stifled any remedy for the nation's still-lingering economic ills. But, all of it is still – almost four years later – the fault of his predecessor.
 


On the international scene, the Apologist-in-Chief cannot keep quiet enough in appeasement as our armed forces end combat operations notwithstanding continued threats against our existence. All of which has alienated allies and emboldened enemies, weakening our national defense and international clout that only a few years ago perched from a position of strength. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “speak softly and carry a big stick.” (Or the Roddy Piper version – “I’m here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubble gum.”) Then there are the questionable, if not unverifiable and unjustifiable, drone attacks against SUSPECTED terrorists. No body, no war crime? Yet, the Bush Administration still faces domestic and international inquisition for spying on and detaining KNOWN terrorists captured as enemy combatants in a war they started with us.

There is also the selective attack on the First Amendment, and the outright assault on the Second. Freedom of religion? Yeah, as long as you keep it to yourself and not be insensitive to other’s religious views…especially Islam. Don’t want to upset our enemies were trying to defeat through appeasement and strategic drone surgical strikes. Or better yet, just be an atheist. Even from the perspective of my self-professed, fence-sitting agnosticism, that way, in your higher-than-thou smugness, you can disparagingly infringe upon the religious views of others as an infringement on your chosen right not to believe. As for gun rights, lawful U.S. citizens have come under increasing governmental scrutiny and stricter regulation, even as Attorney General Holder continues to deny knowledge of, obstruct investigations into and not take responsibility for operations like “Fast and Furious” that put guns into the murderous hands of known drug cartels.

What are conservatives mad about? Though only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, succinctly it is liberals who apparently lack any understanding of American conservatism.


©2012 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No Longer Seducing the Innocent

DC Comics has announced that a major character of their superhero roster previously assumed to be straight will be revealed to be gay. If you follow the comics industry this is not potentially Earth-destroying news necessitating a preventive superhero team-up, as the past few decades have seen a shift in direction for more diverse, identifiable characterizations. After all, comics tend to reflect and comment on current issues, culture and society in general; in fact, Marvel Comics has been doing it since the 1960s, introducing, as example, both the X-Men and The Avengers. However, it is relatively new territory for DC, the most recent character Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, revealed to be a lesbian when re-introduced to the DC Universe in 2006.

There is quite a bit of speculation circulating, particularly concerning the iconic five of the DCU:

Batman

Why Batman? Why not? A womanizing playboy by day who cloaks himself in secrecy, and who has never had, with few exceptions, a solid heterosexual relationship. Does he hide some deep secret under the cowl other than his identity? A lot of people are pointing to his apparent peculiarities concerning his various young sidekicks as evidence. Except, it doesn’t point to Bruce Wayne being gay; it points more to him being a pedophile…which would never sit well with the protective Batman. Besides, as previously mentioned, there already is a gay character – Batwoman – in the Batman family. Plus, in several previous incarnations, Bruce Wayne did have relationships, albeit short-lived, with Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, and Talia al Ghul, which respectively produced a daughter, Helena Wayne, who became Huntress, and a son, Damian Wayne, who became Robin. Agreed, that means nothing concerning sexual orientation. Even in the new continuity, would DC limit themselves in future storylines involving relationships between Bruce Wayne and female protagonists? What would be the point to any flirtatious offerings, other than as a knowing wink to the reader as if to say, “we know you know this isn’t going anywhere.” Of course, if it were to lead to something, than by all measures it at least would make Bruce Wayne bisexual – and a cop out for DC, weakening the whole point.

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner)

An all-American, womanizing test pilot with commitment issues? Hellooo…obviously hiding from a deeper issue. A superhero that knows about accessorizing with costume jewelry and frequently teams-up with the spandex body-suited Flash? Who constantly argues with the first superhero on this list? Jealously will drive you mad, especially if Batman would rather partner with a woman and an alien. Excepting, of course, that Hal Jordan really does love his long-time sweetheart Carol Ferris; he just constantly feels unworthy of her love because of his fear of failing her. On the flipside, Guy Gardner is a stereotypical red-blooded, ultra macho American male who has a chip on his shoulder, constantly trying to prove his worth to other male superheroes…not to mention gain the approval of his abusive father as a teen. Perhaps for good reason?

Wonder Woman

As twice mentioned, there already is a lesbian among the DC roster. How original would it be to take THE iconic strong woman and make her a lesbian? Not at all, as if you needed an answer to the question. Sure, she was born and raised in a tribe of Amazons. Yes, she is an exemplar of the liberated woman, empowered by love and a superiority complex. At times, she has had anger issues directed at men and a world ruled by them. Yet, in previous incarnations, she has romantic affections for Steve Trevor…another limit to future storylines and the potential of having to recon bisexuality into her canon. Another cop out.

Superman

A guy literally from another planet who is also gay? A superhuman guy who becomes a super weakling when faced with green kryptonite? Talk about alienating (pun intended) your apparently targeted readership:  homosexuality is fine…as long as you’re from another planet, and can stand up for yourself. Not to mention that even non-comic fans know of the love affair that is Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

Flash (Barry Allen or Wally West)

Of the iconic five, this is the least likely candidate. There are far too many characters connected by a heterosexual Barry Allen:  his children, with Iris West, Don and Dawn Allen, known as the Tornado Twins, and his grandson, Bart Allen, who eventually takes up the mantle of The Flash. Again, sexual orientation doesn’t dictate the propagation of offspring, but a gay Barry Allen enormously limits the storyline and canon. On the flipside, Wally West had a strained relationship with his parents, often turning to his aunt and uncle, Barry and Iris Allen, for support and guidance. Sound like a familiar story of a teen conflicted about his sexual orientation? Unfortunately, what is true for Barry is also true for Wally – even in a new continuity, a gay Wally West severely limits the storyline and canon in connection to related characters.

So, who will it be? Will it be any of these five? And does it matter? Humans are an evolution, and our attitudes must as well evolve. Comics have always been a rich source trumpeting and revealing that nature.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dangling Thought Vomit

Golf is emblematic of life – just when you want to give up and quit, a perfect shot changes your perspective. It gives hope that all has been worth it…until the next flubbed shot, making you again second guess.

Despite efforts to make it otherwise, everything in life is a privilege. Rights are only certain irrefutable privileges deemed necessitating official mandate and codification.

In a world of 24/7 news coverage, the adage “no news is good news” is no longer viable. Everything is news, even when it is not.

If you read the bible, any version, God – who may or may not be clinically bipolar – constantly is trying to destroy humanity. Not until someone unselfishly thwarts the effort does he mellow and concern himself with building a new sparkly nebula or whatever in another region of the universe. (Perhaps, accompanied by a serene Morrison/Hendrix/Bonham jam session?)

You can root for the home team, and still cheer for the other team.

At one point, being “old school” simply meant doing it the way it was supposed to be done. Whether you attended school or not.

Timing is indeed everything:  time of your life, when your time is up, times that try men’s souls, etc. If you don’t take time to consider the possibility, you may miss it altogether.

Before the age of social media, there were many people we used to know. Now, there are many people we thought we knew.

There are too many stop signs along the journey of our destination, and not enough warnings about the detours that stray us from it.

You really do have the right to fight for your right to party. (R.I.P. Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA.)
 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Friday, April 13, 2012

Kiel Opera House Sings Again


The last time I was inside the Kiel Opera House – newly renovated and rechristened the Peabody Opera House – was during the summer of 1990. On June 1, I along with my buddy Pete and our then-girlfriends attended a KISS concert, part of their post-make-up era Hot In The Shade tour. Consisting of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick, the band had previously “unmasked” themselves on once-relevant MTV in 1983. Carr, before passing away from heart cancer in 1991, had replaced Peter Criss after his departure in 1980, while Kulick had become the band’s longtime guitarist starting in 1984 after the short tenures of Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John. Though a fan of original member “Space” Ace Frehley, who left the band in 1982 to pursue a solo career, and performing without their signature look, it was an electrifying performance of signature songs and stage artistry.

Nevertheless, what impressed the most that evening was the venue itself. Drawn to both its architecture and iconic history, I have maintained since youth an unexplained affinity for the downtown landmark like many St. Louisans. Regardless of subtle yet expected signs of age on the then-56-year old building, it showcased a sophisticated distinctiveness both inside and out:  intricately carved statues that greeted visitors at the entrance, opulently inspired foyers and staircases and a spaciously acoustic main hall combined for an incomparable sensory experience. Such characteristics gave the place a distinguished aura only a few places in the city – The Fox, American (now Roberts Orpheum) – could match, complementing rather than diluting St. Louis’ verdant architectural landscape.

When it was announced only a year later, in 1991, that the Opera House would close as part of the demolition and replacement of the adjacent Kiel Auditorium (currently Scottrade Center), a heartbreaking sense of loss overwhelmed made only worse by the ensuing 20-year redevelopment hell that followed. [Read about that saga in my essay here.] Mercifully, that sad chapter came to a magnificent end two decades later on October 1, 2011, with a grand reopening marketed as “An Encore 77 Years In The Making."

Thanks to the equally radiant Janet Taylor, we attended William Shatner’s one-man show, Shatner’s World:  We Just Live In It, on April 12. Approaching the front of the Peabody, a familiar sight greeted:  the limestone bear statues. A tradition kept, two new beautifully sculpted statues placed at the 14th Street entrance stoically occupy their rightful place alongside their more renowned siblings at the main entrance on Market Street. Once inside, vintage ornate aesthetics and modern enhancements harmonize for a consummate sensory experience:  the marble staircases and pillars, high ceilings displaying original chandeliers and light fixtures matched with updated environmental, plumbing and electrical systems. The scenery is even more breathtaking entering the main theater, the flowing burgundy drapery and fresh plush seating mingling eloquently in the soft light with the cream d├ęcor and retouched gold leaf trim.

Chock full of personal narrative and reminiscences both comedic and dramatic, the evening had an air of direct intimacy between storyteller and captive audience. And like many of the performances that have graced its stage, including Mr. Shatner’s, the reborn Opera House is a masterpiece set to reclaim its place among the architecture of downtown St. Louis.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Friday, March 30, 2012

Three Turns Before Laying Down

Dogs have an awesome capacity for earnest momentary surprise. A condition most often noticeable when asked if they want something – to go out, take a walk, have food. As if in that instant the idea is a never-before-heard concept, and the greatest ever uttered to them. One they never thought you would ask. There is an implicit expectation, and trust, that comes with it, that what has been said is what will happen. And if the action is not taken immediately, there is a sad sense of letdown.

In spite of my general pessimism toward people, my inclination likewise is to accept them at face value. Call it what you will – naivety, gullibility, stupidity – but it comes from the desire to be treated in kind. Who I am on the surface is a manifestation through and through, without apology, of who I am at the core. My expectation is the same of others, maybe hopelessly at times, because without it there cannot be an honest connection. Fortunately, the principle has served well over the years in the development of even the remotest of relationships.


Even so, the most sanguine person still can find reason to re-examine the faults and regrets that can cast their shadow. At times, I tire of thinking about my own – things I should have done, could have done, might have done; people I should have been with, could have been with, might have been with. For the exception of a few instances, it is not a lament of the decisions that made it otherwise. Rather, makes me wonder if I followed the correct path at all, or wandered from it. One does have to consider “if not that then this, if this then not that.” As much a haunting reminder it may be of the uncertain future, the past is indeed the past.

For the life of a dog, there is no such bothersome lasting concern. They frolic from one activity to the next, never conceding to significant reflection on any matters other than the immediate need and/or want. If only our human lives were as uncomplicated, recognizing the importance of turning three times before committing to a comfortable spot. Perhaps only momentary bliss, it is an earnest surprise to find such a state of contentment.

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Veracity of a Raindrop

For some reason, adult hangovers are far worse than those of youth. Perhaps an evolved trigger screaming at us to grow up, a remembrance for next time that we are not as young as we used to be. As I have grown older, my adolescent behavior has not ceased; it has matured. There is still stupidity, still regrets. Yet, I am mature about these setbacks, taking a moment to learn from, and lessen, them rather than continue a path of angst that more often led to more stupidity and more regret.

I find it amazing, if not perplexing, the things one remembers, and equally, what one forgets over a lifetime. The images that flash in my mind from my life are difficult to convey, particularly of childhood. A major reason is that certain events have simply faded with the passage of time, notwithstanding that some events seem wholly separate from the present. There is a real feeling that I have lived more than once within a single existence, each stage of my life seemingly far-removed from the others.

My pre-teen years were, for the most part, typical, with all the peculiarities and traumas that go with growing up. Pre-school showed all I needed to form an opinion about most others – grotesque little monsters running around uncontrollably, wiping runny noses on their sleeves and coughing all over me. It was intolerable, and I hated being there. So much so, I often voiced my opinion to my parents and teachers alike on the matter. It had little effect, and I still had to cohabitate with the obnoxious brats for the few hours during the day.

Elementary school, for lack of a better description, was a mix of both the good and the bad. To put it bluntly, though, I hated it just as much. For varied reasons, most friendships that developed ended by the time I reached high school. A main reason was the closing of my first elementary school, which saw me separated from most of those friendships. While some had gradually eroded transitioning to a new school and others had moved away with no further contact, a few increasingly had hinted at an eventual rift made easier by the change.

My closest existent friendships are those rooted in the seventh grade, spanning three decades and counting. That fact amazes people. In an age where the friend request of a stranger is as easy as a mouse click, there is little wonder as to their surprise. It speaks to the bond that was created, one that continues to ripen even with the increase in distance and time – social networking having only made it easier to strengthen. That is not to say that other equal friendships have not come along since, or that these too will not eventually fade.

The epiphany that continually highlights a measure of my development are those times when I sound like my dad. It sparks the realization that he was correct, and that I had heard even if at times I had not listened. Regardless of accepted regrets lingering still, my youth was well spent. To spend one day in my younger shoes would be a fascinating delight, not to change anything but to re-live and appreciate the moment. I am glad the moments of my youth, strung together, have led me to the maturity from which I can now reflect.

Even if I have yet to grow up. 

©2012 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Proof Is In The Gas Price

As President John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Both the average $3.58 & median $3.63 gas price in 2011 was higher under President Obama than in any year under President Bush, which peaked at an average $3.32 & median $3.40 in 2008. Highly unlikely that it will cease, but there's no one to take blame other than the current administration - because the facts do not lie in bearing that out.

Bush Administration (2001 - 2008):  Average - $2.21 ; Median - $2.05
Obama Administration (2009 - Present):  Average - $2.95; Median - $2.83

"Obama Owns These Gas Prices," by Conn Carroll (Washington Examiner)

Consumer Price Index - Average Price Data








Area: U.S. city average








Item: Gasoline, all types, per gallon/3.785 liters








Years: 2001 to 2012























Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Average  Median
2001 1.525 1.538 1.503 1.617 1.812 1.731 1.565 1.509 1.609 1.442 1.324 1.2 1.531 1.532
2002 1.209 1.210 1.324 1.493 1.508 1.489 1.496 1.508 1.507 1.535 1.534 1.477 1.441 1.495
2003 1.557 1.686 1.791 1.704 1.587 1.558 1.567 1.671 1.771 1.646 1.578 1.538 1.638 1.617
2004 1.635 1.715 1.809 1.875 2.050 2.083 1.982 1.941 1.934 2.072 2.053 1.926 1.923 1.938
2005 1.866 1.960 2.107 2.325 2.257 2.218 2.357 2.548 2.969 2.830 2.387 2.230 2.338 2.291
2006 2.359 2.354 2.444 2.801 2.993 2.963 3.046 3.033 2.637 2.319 2.287 2.380 2.635 2.541
2007 2.321 2.333 2.639 2.909 3.176 3.100 3.013 2.833 2.839 2.843 3.118 3.069 2.849 2.876
2008 3.096 3.083 3.307 3.491 3.813 4.115 4.142 3.838 3.749 3.225 2.208 1.742 3.317 3.399
2009 1.838 1.979 2.000 2.107 2.314 2.681 2.594 2.677 2.626 2.613 2.709 2.671 2.401 2.604
2010 2.779 2.709 2.829 2.906 2.915 2.783 2.783 2.795 2.754 2.843 2.899 3.031 2.836 2.812
2011 3.139 3.215 3.594 3.863 3.982 3.753 3.703 3.680 3.664 3.521 3.475 3.329 3.577 3.629
2012 *3.447










*3.447 *3.447
















Average  Median











BUSH 2.209 2.052











OBAMA 2.951 2.829












(Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index-Average Price Data)

©2012 Steve Sagarra