Liberty and Immigration

Europe has been very accommodating and accepting of Syrian refugees. In 2014 alone the EU welcomed 283,532 refugees; the majority arriving from Syria. In light of recent events, as well as additional well-documented attacks, why would we want to emulate what the EU has done? Have events of the very recent past not been enough of a warning? As of yet, the left’s strongest argument for America accepting Syrian refugees has been to quote a passage engraved on the Statue of Liberty – a gift to the United States from the country most recently, and savagely, attacked.

Lady Liberty was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the already completed pedestal. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s very first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland in 1886.

The poem in question – written by a foremother of the Zionist movement – was added 17 years later, in 1903.

The Statue of Liberty was originally conceived as a memorial to our independence not a symbol of immigration. However, it quickly became so due largely to immigrant ships passing by and heading toward Ellis Island. It was the addition of Emma Lazurus’ poem that cemented Miss Liberty’s role as unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants.

I find it terribly ironic how the left encourages [demands] that we all be progressive forward thinkers instead of “bitterly clinging to the past”… but then relies on a 112 year old sonnet, written by a staunch supporter and advocate of the Jewish state, to support their argument.

The poem is beautiful – presented as a simple distillation of common sense and provisions for fair dealing that none but the wicked and ignorant could oppose – but it is not the law.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to immigration. The liberty-loving are not defined by ethnicity… but neither is everyone equally liberty-loving as is often assumed by many Liberals today.

President Obama claims that States unwilling to accept the refugees his administration will be bringing into America “must be afraid of orphans and widows“. I’ve seen the video and images of these refugees and it’s largely young able-bodied men. I’m sorry, Mr. President, but that’s not widows and orphans – that’s an army.

Immigration policy, who we allow into our borders, ultimately defines the citizenry [ie: the electorate] of the nation, as well as the political culture and future trajectory of the nation.

You get the immigrants – and the nation – you ask for.

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Americans Have Ruined the Coffee Culture

grings_my_gears

You know what bothers me?

Ignorant people who think they’re smart.

If you lack understanding, legitimately lack it. Embrace your ill proficiency. Realize your limitations and do something to correct it (Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish).

It’s the people that are either too vacuous or too lazy to realize they’re misguided that bother me. This is the variety that will defend their lack of intelligence.

My favorite example of this occured a few years ago. I happened upon a gentleman mixing a packet of hot cocoa with coffee instead of water. Upon noticing me noticing him he looked at me and said (and I quote), “Makin’ a poor man’s cappuccino“.

Naturally, being the coffee snob that I am, I was quick to tell him that what he was making was actually a closer approximation to a mocha.

This person then stopped – he actually stopped what he was doing – looked at me with pity (how could I be so dumb) and replied, “No, it’s got coffee in it so that makes it a cappuccino“.

He was wrong… and willing to defend his wrongness rather than accept his error and possibly learn something in the process.

I smiled back and explained that a cappuccino doesn’t contain any chocolate. Ever. In fact, the only two ingredients in a cappuccino are espresso and milk (steamed and foamed). No chocolate, just equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. A mocha on the other hand contains chocolate, milk, and espresso.

I don’t know what kind of response I was expecting. Maybe I wanted his face to light up with the glow that can only be achieved when someone learns something new. Maybe I figured he’d find the facts mildly entertaining. Quite possibly I hoped for a firm handshake and a hearty thank-you for saving him from his personal combination of arrogance and complacency.

What I got was an apathetic shrug and a “whatever“…. which I figure roughly translated to “the facts have no bearing on what I will continue to call this drink. I’m wrong and I don’t care“.

‘murica.

As a side note, few people know that, despite the very Italian name, the cappuccino actually has German roots. Strange, but true. The Italian word ‘Cappuccino’ is not known in Italian writings until the 20th century… but the German-language ‘Kapuziner’ is mentioned as a coffee beverage in 18th century Germany and Austria. The beverage actually derives its name from the hooded robes worn by monks and nuns of the capuchin order. The drink’s very distinctive color was very similar to the red-brown robes worn in 17th-century Europe. While Francis of Assisi used white wool for his robes the capuchin brothers dyed theirs to differ from Franciscans and many of the other orders.

But I digress.

Truly, there are few things in life quite as glorious as that first sip of fresh coffee first thing in the morning. If you’re a stereotypical American that phrase may be slightly altered to “Few things in life are as glorious as that first 32 ounces of warm chocolate soy milk, caramel, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and barely a hint of coffee in the morning”… and this isn’t a new development. Unfortunately American’s have been ruining coffee for many years.

A little more history for you – the Americano literally did not exist until World War II. American troops stationed in Italy would order a cup of coffee and, after being served espresso, ask for it to be watered down. The baristas became used to this specific request and began mockingly referring to watered down espresso as Caffè Americano (coffee American-style).

If the Italians thought that was funny the newest iteration of this drink would leave them reeling. Instead of enjoying a simple two demitasse Americano we have people ordering 16oz triple-shot Americanos with 2 tablespoons of white chocolate and enough cream to choke a small calf. It’s no secret that Americans like to come up with overly intense and equally ridiculous names for the most banal and sophomoric of objects and so this beverage was dubbed the “White Lightning”.

I suggest a more appropriate name: the ‘muricano.

It should come as no surprise that most American coffee drinkers simply love dumping milk and every variety of sugar (Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Caramel Hazelnut Delight Frappuccino, anyone?) into their espresso-based coffee drinks. What does come as a bit of a shock is that those who drink the ‘muricano boldly claim it contains less than 90 calories!

Allow me to debunk that bit of fuzzy math for you.

1 ounce of espresso has a little less than 1 calorie.

A single shot of espresso is 1-1/2 ounces while, oddly enough, a double shot is 2-1/2 ounces.

A triple-shot of espresso is a double shot plus a single… so, that totals 4 ounces; equaling about 3 calories.

1 oz (2 pumps) of Ghirardelli White Chocolate Flavored Sauce is 110 calories.

2 tablespoons of half and half is another 40 calories.

Graciously (and to the surprise of many Americans) hot water contains no calories.

This bad boy now tips the scales at 153 calories… for a cup of coffee. Outrageous when compared to a more traditional 10 ounce Americano with one sugar and a spot of cream at 30 calories. You could drink five of those (50 ounces for those not quick enough on the calculator) and still not total the calories in one 16 ounce ‘muricano.

If it’s the sweetness and sheer volume you desire, try a 16oz cold press with a pump of caramel syrup and some cream (only 75 calories). Even a 12oz skim Café Cubano (cappuccino with raw sugar and cinnamon) comes in at less with only 94 calories.

It’s not about being accurate. It’s not about basing your claims on facts. It’s about getting what you want.

In the words of Miike Snow’s excellent 2009 song, Cult Logic, “I’ll believe it even if it’s not true“.

However, based on the financial stability of Starbucks, Caribou, Dunn Bros and nearly every other variety of American coffee shop with hordes of consumers eagerly lining up to consume their next Venti Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte… I might be prepared to accept the possibility that this maybe bothers me more than it should.

Shake Like You Changed: Remix

I’m not all up in your face about it but I also don’t hide the fact that I’m a Christian. It’s also no secret that I really can’t stand that new hit song by MercyMe.

I’m pretty open about it.

In fact, I regularly voice my musical opinions. Anyone who spent any amount of time around me last year knows how much I gushed over the new Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories. The day after you could stream it on iTunes (May 15, 2013) I was telling anyone who would listen to me that Daft Punk’s newest record would win album of the year.

I don’t mean to say I told you so, but…

Anyway, I digress. Back to the original reason for this post.

If you’ve never heard of the Christian band MercyMe it’s probably because you’re under the age of 40. For those unfamiliar, MercyMe is a small group of balding, overweight, middle-aged, men who have recently decided they’d like to go Pop.

Some say that sounds ridiculous. I say, why stop there?

My personal suggestion is this: if MercyMe really wants to take their art to the next level they should go ahead and do a club remix coloboration with Daft Punk. They may even want to add a hashtag to the song title. #thatSHAKE

Bart Millard, if you’re reading this, I encourage you to really branch out, explore the studio space, and market toward that young NextGen audience who wouldn’t listen to you anyway. And if you still can’t reach the youth at least try to light a [holy] fire under the grey-haired DJ’s working at those easy listening stations you’re currently overplayed on.

I think it would go a little something like this (performed to the tune of Daft Punks “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” from their most excellent sophomore album, Discovery).

Twerk it. Shake it. Move it. Change us.

Broken / Better / Shamed, no longer.

More than ever, shake it brother.

Even after church is over.

Twerk it. Shake it. Move it. Change us.

Broken / Better / Shamed, no longer.

Shake it harder. I am better.

Move it faster. Faith is stronger.

Naturally, the key is going to be dropping a supa’ phat beat while maintaining MercyMe’s profound and prolific lyrics (like those abundantly on display in “Shake”). Now, they do have to be careful not to give people the wrong impression. The goal should always be to encourage the Christian-folk to “get out’cha seat an’ shake what the Father gave ya!”… and, of course, to let the worldly-folk know that Bible bangers can bust a serious groove for Jesus.

Can I get an Amen?

Please, don’t misunderstand! I’m not some sort of prude and I don’t mean to suggest that every single Christian song must reach a level of reverence and artistry equal to Bringing in the Sheaves, Amazing Grace, and/or How Great Thou Art. There’s nothing wrong with most Christian Rock, R&B, or Pop music – in fact, I own and enjoy a great deal of it. Hillsong: Young & Free comes to mind; as do TobyMac, Shawn McDonald, and Lecrae.

There’s just something about this particular song that bothers me… and it’s probably the lyrics that require each listener to ask the simple question: How does one shake like they’re changed?!

Are we supposed do the Jerk, the Twist, the Funky Chicken, or some combination of all three? Maybe we just stand there and vibrate. It’s just not clear.

There’s always the chance it’s a new and improved sort of gyration we’re not yet familiar with (you know how these things move up and out through the circles of popular influence).

Is this song some kind of a viral campaign to encourage a super-spiritual version of the Harlem Shake?

We. Just. Don’t. Know.

A friend recently offered the suggestion, “It’s open ended. Whatever you were shaking like before – just change it.”

The song’s only clear instruction is that I must move my feet (‘cause I’m free). Well, in that case, the lyricist might be instructing all of us to clear out immediately after the service ends. “Finally! That sermon lasted forever. Move yo’ feet, we free!! I’m out! #PEACE”

The change is in your posture – that much is self-evident (you were slumping in your seat and now you’re standing) but what exactly does that have to do with shaking…?

Of course! They meant I’m supposed to shake the pastor’s hand after the service. “Good message, Reverend. I’m a changed man!”.

Vacate you’re seat immediately after prayer. Nice firm handshake. A genuine smile. Compliment. MercyMe is cryptically telling us to invite our Pastors out to Perkins after church.

Well, that’s not so bad! I guess it’s a pretty good song after all.

#SmileEmoticon #BreadbowlSalad #HopeAndChange

Humorous Revelation, Too Long to Tweet (plus more!)

As some of you know I can also be found on Twitter @1seat_theater where I post my humorous micro-blogs.

However, sometimes I come up with something much too long to tweet (as Twitter cleverly limits its users to 140 characters). Below is one such recent idea:

I have now reached the age that I always imagine my parent’s perpetually stuck at. Being a male, I will sometimes take notice of an attractive woman my own age – then chide myself, “No Shane! She’s old enough to be your mother!”

Getting older sucks.

In other news, sorry for not posting anything for a while – it has been crazy busy and I’ve had very little time to fine-tune my posts. As it stands right now, I currently have no less than 6 drafts awaiting final, personal, approval.

As an author of considerable fame once said (so famous that I can’t recall their name), “the first rule in writing is to write”.

Meaning, rather than try to perfect your novel – or blog entry – upon taking pen to paper… just write as it comes to you. Even if it doesn’t make perfect grammatical sense. Even if it’s out of order. Even if it’s complete and utter rubbish.

The idea is to fine tune it later – that’s what I do anyway. I write the very basics, then fill in the details, and finalize by correcting errors (and boring parts). Sometimes it works, other times… not so much.

At any rate, all of that to tell you this: there’s more coming soon. Stay tuned and thanks for your readership!

Oh, The Humanity!

Men: you’re not truly married until, with your pants around your ankles, you yell a request across the house for more toilet paper.

I have no sons, only daughters. If the four women I live with (varying in age from two up to… my wife) represent any kind of accurate sampling of the entire gender’s habits then women are disgusting and evil.

At the risk of using even more generalizations – no man would ever leave a single square of toilet paper. Never! At a bare minimum we leave a replacement roll precariously perched on the back of the toilet. Women will run that roll down to nothing but a few tattered shards sadly clinging to the glue strips on an otherwise empty paper dowel.

To compound the severity of this crime – and correct me if I’m wrong – every visit to the ladies room requires the use of this rolled 2-ply tissue. With guys it’s kind of a 50/50 deal. There’s a pretty good chance a visit to the men’s room will not necessitate the use of toilet paper. The same is not true for women.

What this means is that women are knowingly screwing over 100% of future visitors to the ladies’ lavatory.

That is evil.

Ladies! Have the common decency to, at the very least, look out for your own kind!

Sure, in a public restroom, a guy might shut the lights off – knowing full well that he’s leaving another man to grope around in the dark. Rest assured ladies, it’s never done with a malicious spirit. Men equate this act of hazing with blindfolding a cadet and asking him to successfully field strip an M1 Garand Rifle. A well-trained man can do it. Besides, it’s not like we’re leaving the poor sod without the proper tools to complete the task at hand – we’re just upping his game. Taking him to the next level. Sometimes we men refer to this as Call of Duty: Black Ops number 2.

Okay, only I call it that (but other guys might start now).

A second item worth noting is that, in our house, we have two bathrooms. One upstairs, the other downstairs. Since we purchased our house brand new I was able to design and finish off the bathroom myself – and I chose a brilliant design. Sensible, functional, and efficient. The shower is too small to accommodate the shaving of legs and the lighting does not lend itself for the application of makeup. Furthermore, there is not adequate counter space to hold said cosmetic products. In other words the women stay away from it and that is fine by me.

This last week I came home to find the ladies’ bathroom door shut with no one home. All at once, I became that idiot in the horror films who hears a noise behind a closed door… and opens it anyway.

I found what can only be described as either a horrific crime scene or the discovery of an ancient civilization. Either there was an attack, a struggle, and Cover Girl was subsequently dragged off site for a gruesome back alley disposal or the women of the house were unexpectedly called away while using tiny brushes (and other unidentifiable archeological tools) to unearth the Lost City of V Vivaudou.

Every surface was covered with bottles of wildly diverse shapes and sizes and an equally bizarre assortment of plastic containers. Upon no surface could I rest my eyes without locating a motley of miscellaneous equipment. Brushes of varying sizes. A colorful assortment of polyhedral sponges. Some sort of tackle-box full of warpaint. An arrow that points true north. Something that can only be described as brown. Possible sifting screens and a spoon excavator.

Towels were draped from everything (except the towel bars). The rug was thrown askew and the mirror had freakish streaks of unknown origin. I eased the door open further and the subsequent breeze made a large ball of snarled hair roll across the floor not unlike a tumble weed.

I was alone and I was afraid.

Slowly I backed away and reminded myself: I have my very own bathroom (insert smug smiley face emoticon). Sometimes in life it’s the little things; and having a bathroom all to myself is a special and cherished thing.

Time for a Complete Overhaul – Part I

What Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland needs is an enema.

In the early 1990s it was decided that Tomorrowland should be rebranded as “The Future That Never Was”. While I might agree that an overall retro-futuristic concept is a decent way to avoid this particular section of your theme park from looking dated too quickly… how exactly does Stitch’s Great Escape, Monters Inc Laugh Floor or Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster fit into that theme?

It’s almost as if two groups were working on ideas and concepts for Tomorrowland in secret of each other – or maybe Team Disney Orlando didn’t reveal to each group that the other existed.

Scattered here-and-there you’ve got odd quasi-futuristic (but completely useless) additions like the metal palm trees and lifeless robot news stations. But, how exactly do those lend themselves to the obvious Pixar overlay everywhere else? The closest anyone can come to a single unifying theme is that Tomorrowland currently represents a Sci-Fi extension of Fantasyland.

Every square inch loaded with characters from, and references to, Disney’s feature cartoons? Check.

Rides and attractions that stimulate thoughts of “the challenge and promise of the future”? No Check.

Really, hasn’t Tomorrowland just become that one area in Fantasyland for boys?

It’s become increasingly more obvious that Disney’s main goal is to eek out as much profit as possible from each and every one of their intellectual properties – even at the cost of cohesive theming and storytelling. Gone is the type of suspended disbelief and escapism Disney used to be well know for; replaced instead with garish reminders that you should be making memories, now! And the best place to buy those memories is right here!

While I would love to dive headfirst into a discussion on how Disney has embraced and encouraged materialism and instant gratification (“purchase expensive add-ons to improve your vacation as well as your social status here in the most magical place on earth!“) I choose instead to begin a multi-part blog detailing how I would completely overhaul Tomorrowland – starting with the main entry point.

Admit it: the transition from Main Street USA to Tomorrowland is, at best, harsh and disjointed. The two don’t mesh at all. The segue from Main Street to Adventureland is truly remarkable, with the Crystal Palace standing as the midpoint in the subtle metamorphosis. You see, the palace is designed as an homage to the original New York Crystal Palace; itself being inspired by the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London. Both of which were built to house international expos in 1851 and 1853. International. As is a world wide, multi-national, global bazaar. Again, this is a brilliant choice for making a muted changeover from Marceline to Mozambique.

Tomorrowland Sign

So, what if Disney was to replace that horrible “Tomorrowland” sign, bridge, and defunct waterfalls with something subtle and brilliant? What if that something were an entire building – a turn of the century, quasi–steampunk inspired, observatory (which also happens to be a retail store)?

Imagine entering from Main Street USA into an inspired passage that fits the turn of the century era and exit out the other side into a newly designed and updated Tomorrowland. Maybe we’ll call it the Hale Observatory (so named for George Ellery Hale, 1868 – 1938).

Submitted for your approval: the Sydney Observatory, built in 1874.

I feel this is a unique choice because it features a sort of Italianate or Gothic style of architecture – both of which were hugely popular in United States during the mid-19th century – and also turn of the century items and instruments that would have been considered “futuristic” at the dawn of the 20th Century. Personally, I think this fits quite nicely in that distinct juxtaposition that is Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, and Cinderella Castle. Additionally, the domed copper roofs would mirror nicely the iron and glass dome atop the Crystal Palace.

If not this style, I feel confident the Imagineers could do wonders with reference material such as this.

Lessons from a Road Trip

I grew up taking road trips – often two per year (usually one lengthy family vacation and one weekend trip). Flights were, and still are, very expensive so we drove everywhere because it was what we could afford.

There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in planning a trip and then successfully making it back (alive) from your destination. Maybe that point was 1,500 miles away from home, but you pointed your car in that direction and found it… then turned around and successfully made it back. Before you left it was just a point on a map; and you drove to that point. Now it’s a real location filled with real people and providing real memories. You filled that point – you lived there for a time. Now that area (and all points in between) are no longer just names and dots and lines on a map. They’re as real as anything and you proved it.

There truly is a joy in the journey.

Not too long ago my wife, our children, and I returned from a week-long vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Here are some poignant lessons we learned while on the road.

· I have a question for all states south of Iowa: which comes first, the McDonalds or the Waffle House? You never see just one; they’re always right next to (or right across the street from) each other. Maybe they build them at the same time?

· 9-year old girls leave their stuffed animals in Knoxville. 14-year old girls leave their purses in Clarksville.

· Country Inn’s gladly pay the FedEx shipping charge. Hilton’s do not.

· While 72 degrees is a pretty nice air temperature, it’s an awfully cold water temperature.

· My parents used to get upset when I wouldn’t take notice of a different state’s scenery. I now understand their frustration.

· I drove around California for two weeks this year. Minnesota drivers are bad; but Illinois drivers are painfully inept.

· Paying the toll to enter Illinois feels like a rip off. By comparison, the toll you pay to leave the state feels like a bargain.

· If the United States had an armpit it would be Gary, Indiana.

· Cracker Barrel knows comfort food.

· The closer you get to the actual “south”, the better the Chik-fil-A.

· Even though your destination may be 1,500 miles away you can only see about 500 feet in front of you. Take each mile as it comes. Slow down and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.