Saturday, November 21, 2015

Even More Random Thoughts

At every stage, there always seems to be the need for further credentials. Diploma to Bachelor, Bachelor to Master, Master to Doctorate, and so on...but where does it end? How expert does one have to be before being “the expert” in the room? Is it when there are no longer challenges, or when the challenge is no longer? (And is this why The Master and The Doctor are archenemies?)

There are people going to and in jail for ambiguous matters, while there are public officials who should be going to and in jail for unscrupulous matters. Thus, there seems to be ambiguity about what is unscrupulous in today’s society. As such, nothing really has changed since the time of Marie Antoinette allegedly voicing her famous line about frosted baked goods for the people.

My idea for a “cookbook” is The Pantry Cookbook©. This is an improvised cookbook that contains no specific recipes, or at least those to which you must strictly adhere. The concept is to create meals simply using only random products found in your pantry or refrigerator; this can include leftovers, and does not involve heading to the store for any missing ingredients. In other words, you use what you have on hand. I would write such a book, but, in reality, it would be very short with no included recipes.

Chicken or egg; chicken crossing road; playing chicken; everything taste like chicken...what is our obsession with chicken? There is even a tuna brand called the "Chicken of the Sea." And thanks to an insurance company and a football player, we all have chicken parm on the brain and in our bellies...because, truthfully, it really is tasty. (FYI Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish pair nicely with a fish sandwich.)

A Philly cheesesteak does not use Philadelphia cream cheese, cream of tartar (a by-product in wine production) is not an ingredient of tartar sauce (mayonnaise and tarragon-based) and, unless your bartender or vodka is from Russia, no Russians actually are used in the making of the Black or White Russian cocktail. In fact, the latter are attributed, respectively, to a Belgian barman, Gustave Tops, at Brussels’ famous Hotel Metropole in 1949 and an advertisement in California’s Oakland Tribune on November 21, 1965. That abides, dude.

In most instances, as the saying goes, the book always is better than the movie. For a few, though, I have found the opposite to be true. Why is this? Perhaps the story is enhanced or simply told better in visual form, or maybe the cast brings it more to life. There simply are certain actors and actresses who can have that affect on a movie by their mere presence - even if it is a brief cameo or nothing more than a voiceover. (Think Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman or Jack Lemmon...see, you already like the movie better.)

In principle, I am not a fan of prequels for established characters or storylines. I dub this “The Anakin Skywalker Rule,” which dictates not ruining the preeminent characterization of a lauded incarnation with a potentially censured one later in a prequel (which this mainly applies, but can be used for sequels as well). In rebooted franchises like James Bond or Star Trek, it can work, to a degree, because they are a different interpretation/alternate universe not constrained by previous incarnations. But, generally, not at all. Think about a character - good or bad - who you liked, thought genuine, etc, when first introduced. Did they make a prequel? Did the character still hold up to what you already knew about them or who they would become? Chances are, no. For example, the portrayal of Anakin Skywalker in the sequel-prequels to the GREATEST TRILOGY EVER CONCEIVED is a joke and betrayal of the iconic character of Darth Vader introduced decades earlier; in my opinion, it is inconceivable that whiny, sniveling punk becomes the intimidating, force-choking Lord of the Dark Side. (That said, I will be seeing the proposed Han Solo prequel...but good luck finding someone to live up to Harrison Ford's legendary performance of the character.)

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Coalition of Meh

During the Second World War, a real fear existed of infiltration by Nazi spies and saboteurs among fleeing European refugees. There is nothing wrong to guard against the same - or worse, suicide bombers - with Middle East refugees‬. And it is deja vu all over again. No one with common sense or decency is arguing to not aid refugees; it is a matter of national security from a volatile region swarming with those who seek our destruction and who openly threatened to use the refugee crisis to infiltrate regions. Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, even concedes that it will be a challenge to vet all of them. And as newly-elected Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, also stated, “the ultimate solution to this crisis is a strategy to defeat ISIS.”

There's Hysteria When It Comes to Syrian Refugees, But Some Concerns Are Valid

Those who have talked about doing something for years and have failed to act or address the threat are the same delusional ones who continue to endorse the current failed “containment” strategy (ironically, a holdover mantra of the not-so-bygone Cold War) as working. With no plans to alter them, they still are unwilling to acknowledge, prioritize and fully commit against the threat and eliminate it with forthright and overwhelming military force so the refugees can in fact safely return home. All despite recent current events, and especially calls for action and help from the likes of the Jordanians and Kurds who actually have been doing something for several years now. It is a welcome sign that French president
Franรงois Hollande is trying to organize a coalition that might finally unleash such a response.

Weak World Leaders Are to Blame for Rampant Islamic Terrorism

As usual, it is unfathomable that there always is constant blathering of never letting something like this ever happen again...until it happens again, and we yet again repeat the whole cycle to the brink. It has happened many times before, and it will unquestionably happen again in the future given the continual ascension of feckless leadership throughout history.

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fighting Tigers Fight For Mizzou

Need to speak my piece concerning generalized disparaging and negative perceptions about my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Columbia a.k.a. Mizzou. What I have heard and read over this past week in the media and by pundits has been both disheartening and enlightening. Though other options were considered, I chose Mizzou because of my love for the school and growing up a born-and-bred Missourian as my dad's “Missouri Tiger” (all of which you can read about in my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life, among other in-depth topics). As a proud graduate of the school, I, like my fellow Tigers in their respective fields, have had a rewarding and successful career as sort of a jack-of-all-trades historian, journalist and writer - albeit, perhaps not as financially desired (*cough* buy my books *cough*) - thanks to my college education.

Other than when my buddies and I gather for our annual trip to a football game, I have not been on campus on a regular basis in decades. Thus, it is difficult for me to comment on the current daily activity that happens on it. When I was an undergraduate, I can recall several incidents and protests that occurred aimed at the administration concerning discriminatory acts and student hardships. For the most part, though, they were few and quickly addressed without further calamity and broader upheaval. To concede a point, maybe my friends and I simply were insulated from these occurrences tucked away in our isolated enclaves and alleged privileges.

Since the American Civil War, Missouri has had a dualistic and volatile history. Yet, indicting the entire university, faculty, staff, students and alumni for the actions of a few is no different than blaming all gun owners for mass shooters. I was born (figuratively) and raised (literally) color-, gender- and, to an extent, orientation-blind. My parents taught me not to see the world in such terms (the latter, honestly, never an issue raised in my formative years), but on character and merit - which, full disclosure, makes me cynical toward and hate on all of humanity equally in general. Perhaps, ironically, this also has blinded me to the biases and prejudices apparently still prevalent even today in the 21st century. Either way, please do not insinuate or presume to define and equate proud, successful and, especially, tolerant Mizzou alums based on current events.

We fight not only for Mizzou’s soul, but also for the hearts of all Tigers; the same can be said for this nation as a whole. Thank you for reading, end rant...MIZ!!!

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Friday, November 6, 2015

Rising to the Occasion

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
-Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862

We are a year away from the next presidential election. In the most recent ones, I unsuccessfully endorsed John McCain, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney - endorsements I vehemently evermore regale given the current administration’s seven years of devastating failure and disastrous performance both in domestic and foreign affairs. Yet, I am hesitant to outright endorse a specific candidate this time around. Precisely because no one ever seems to listen until it is too late; much like Butch in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I never get sick of being correct. That said, I do lean toward and favor Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio.

I always have held an ardent reverence for Carly, a strong woman who helmed and shaped several Fortune 500 companies and overcame hurdles, tragedy and sexism to achieve it. She also can rock a pair of jeans or look elegant dressed to the nines. More importantly, she has a record as a pragmatic and stout decision-maker who does not pander to her base simply to garner votes unlike some other candidates. In the media, her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, unsurprisingly, has been maligned by those who oppose and dislike her. Why? Because she made decisions that did not sit well with some of those same people affected by those decisions in order to save the company - one that stands today as a leading technology company. That is business, and this country desperately needs to get back into business with a president who will lead from the front - unlike the current one who does so from behind, no less in his mom jeans - no matter who might be upset by their decisions and policies.

Then there is Marco Rubio. The current junior U.S. Senator from Florida, and former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, he has the political acumen without the Washington entrenchment of most of the other candidates - especially the two leading Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, whose tenures date back decades as bureaucratic insiders. A Cuban-American, a characteristic personal to me having a Cuban-born grandfather, he is the son of immigrants who came to cherish and relish in the dream and promise of the United States. As the president, this is a trait important to upholding the fundamental values of the nation - juxtaposed to the current one who regularly chastises all that is grievous with it rather than celebrating all that is worth preserving about it. By all accounts, he also is a regular, middle-class family man who understands the burdens and struggles of average Americans.

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, a smug, unethical opportunist with a closet of pantsuits - among other things - currently under numerous federal investigations and a cantankerous, doddering socialist advocating funding everything with unicorns and fairy dust lead the Democratic candidates. Quite the distinctive pairing of diversity politics, and both completely out-of-touch with reality. The one candidate I admired, Jim Webb, came across as honorable, principled and unassuming. Unfortunately, he, literally, was forced to leave the party because of those traits - illustrating all that is needed to know about the state of the Democratic party. As such, we are on a precipitous divide in this country, in which those with any modicum of common sense want to continue being the beacon while others, for no other explanation, apparently wish to see it broken.

To paraphrase the knight at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, choose wisely this time around America.

©2015 Steve Sagarra