Monthly Archives: October 2012

‘It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus’

In honor of today being “All Hallows Eve,” here is a collection of clips from One of the Greatest Halloween Movies of All-Time:

Billy Butcherson: Go to Hell!
Winifred Sanderson: Oh! I’ve been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely.

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Red Bull isn’t just for Late Night Studying

“like swimming without touching the water”

October 14, 2012 should be remembered as the day that redefined the 21st century skydiver: A brave soul who dares to defy perceived impossibilities and preconceived limitations. On this day, Felix Baumgartner leaped into that role.

PHOTO: This image provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos, Oct. 14, 2012.This image provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos, Oct. 14, 2012. (AP Photo)

The above picture will become iconic for those who dare to dream big and break down barriers of epic proportions. While it was a jump and not an exercise of floating around space with a personal dock, it was still record-breaking and incredible to witness.

It was 43 years ago when the United States won the Space Race when Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong of course cemented this monumental achievement with the ever-famous words, “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The people of the United States and its government were winners. It was one of those rare moments when the entire country celebrated this successful partnership. We truly were the United States of America.

From 1969 through 2012, a seismic shift in the approach of exploring new horizons has been occurring and in recent years has begun to bear its fruit and is in the midst of a bloom. As a consequence of fiscal uncertainty and debt by the U.S. government coupled with unprecedented wealth and therefore nearly unlimited resources of big thinking millionaires, the art of making historic advancements and discoveries is now in the hands of ambitious and borderline ‘crazy’ individuals.

Richard Branson, Amelia Earhart and Steve Jobs immediately come to mind of Americans who have challenged the status quo and have made the world better as a result with their inspiring actions and visions. For example, Branson has been actively pursuing and preparing commercial space flight in the next few years or so. A seat can be reserved for those willing to pay a hefty down payment.

“…Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson revealed that the company has now accepted deposits for suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo from 529 future astronauts, a number greater than the total count of people who have been to space throughout human history” (Virgin Galactic Reveals Privately Funded Satellite Launcher and Confirms SpaceShipTwo Poised for Powered Flight, Virgin Galactic Online News).

Wow.

One of the most famous explorers in history started his journey with the help of a few powerful allies, some of which were in the upper levels of government:

Christopher Columbus: “Columbus made his transatlantic voyages under the sponsorship of Ferdinand II and Isabella I, the Catholic Monarchs of Aragon, Castile, and Leon in Spain” (Britannica Online).

The commitment to explore new horizons has proven to be a timeless truth for the human race.

“Sky adventurer Felix Baumgartner completed a 24-mile skydive Sunday, wrapping up a five-year effort to shatter a world record set 52 years ago” (USA Today).

“Baumgartner, whose Sunday freefall was watched around the world, was at one point traveling at 833 mph or Mach 1.24, and he shattered the speed of sound during his 4 minute 20 second freefall. He is the only human to do so without the aid of a supersonic jet or space shuttle” (ABC News Online).

More and more stories are featuring individuals who are transforming their big ambitions into actions. The pendulum swing of grand achievements and discoveries is undeniably moving from government sponsorship to private citizen funding. The only assumed anomaly is research and development regarding military advancements, many of which we will likely never see or know about…

There certainly are questions to be asked with this gradual yet undeniable swing. Has the uniquely American notion ‘power of the individual’ entered a new era with regard to exploration? Is this transition one way to more clearly define government’s role in society? Recalling the national pride and success of 1969, is this a good thing?

Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space from inside a personal capsule endorsed by Red Bull Stratos overlooking planet earth instantly altered the modern definition of a skydiver. His single leap from the edge of space has set a precedent for what is sure to come next from somebody who dares to dream even bigger. Publicity stunt or not, Baumgartner and Red Bull proved the thrill we share of just imagining what the next steps or leaps the human race will take. This is part of the American dream and American ideal and its exciting to witness each person’s attempts to alter the world we live in because he or she ultimately was driven by the following notion:

“why not?”

Is Beeman’s Gum Sold Anywhere These Days?

“I trust you”

These three words carry tremendous weight in a relationship between friends, family, loved ones, colleagues and, most importantly, parents to babysitters. Some may even argue these ‘three words’ are on par with the more popular ‘three words.’ In fact, join these six words with an “and” in the middle and that’s a foundation for a successful marriage: “I love you and I trust you.”

Your team is on their opponent’s 13 yard line and are down by 6 points with :03 left and it’s 4th and doesn’t matter. It’s windy and a frigid 41 degrees. The quarterback’s hands are cold and has already thrown two interceptions to his one touchdown in the defensive struggle. Question: Do you trust him?

Married with three kids, two of which are female teenagers. It was a long week of term papers, clothes denied by Dad but approved by Mom, a science project and a missing dog. Friday used to emulate the start of a relaxing and fun weekend, until these ‘kids’ started showing up. Yearning for a night out, the address book of neighborhood babysitters is scrolled through. Why doesn’t one of the teenage girls watch their younger brother? Because they are teenagers and have already grabbed Mom’s car keys and bolted for the mall/friend’s house/party/anywhere but home before the words ‘babysit’ or ‘watch’ leave their parents’ desperate mouths.

A nice girl from two houses down is called for first time duty and, with a handsome tip from Mom without Dad seeing, is there to help wrangle the superhero-dressed, hopped up on fun-sized Nestle Crunch candy bars 7 year-old. Question: Do you trust her? Some will agree and disagree with Jack Burns of Oyster Bay regarding this matter.

There are dozens of examples in our own lives, and movies, that examine a person’s trust (or distrust) towards someone else. Within the past few years, big (and before reliable) institutions have given way to mass criticisms from the public regarding their trustworthiness:

Major universities have failed its local communities and students with publicized athletic scandals.

Big investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers) betrayed its clients with intentionally bad and greedy decisions.

Elected officials in the federal government have failed to solve big issue problems without being pushed to the brink (and even then they’re not resolved).

However, before you deem this piece a depressing encapsulation of our increasing lack of trust in big institutions and people in general, perhaps we need to venture back to a major motion picture that rings true with courage and the guts to do something big and right.

One movie that triggers a nostalgic reaction of pride and an ultimate force for good is, “The Rocketeer.” This Disney masterpiece instantaneously brings back memories of transforming an old garage door opener into the clicker that sparked my jet pack when imagining I was ‘the rocketeer’ at the adventurous age of six. Those were the days…

This is a story of Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot, and his older mechanic friend Peevy whose lives are drastically changed when Cliff sits down in the cockpit of an old plane, “The Fearless Freep” and immediately feels pain from something inside Peevy’s duffel bag. What was inside?

The setting is 1938 California on the outskirts of Los Angeles during the era that would eventually define a group of Americans forever known as, “The Greatest Generation.” This major motion picture follows Cliff/”The Rocketeer” as he flies around with his new personal jet pack, modified in ways unique to Peevy (Beeman’s Gum anyone?). The backdrop being that the rocket was a secret experimental invention of Howard Hughes, which was discovered and pursued by a small group of Nazi’s who had infiltrated the United States.

The end of the film showed the incredible bravery of “The Rocketeer” to risk his own life to attempt to save his girlfriend Jenny from a zeppelin and the hands of the iconic Hollywood actor and traitor Neville Sinclair. Sinclair wanted to steal and sell the rocket that would be used to equip the Hitler run army with personal jet packs to assist in global domination.

After prevailing in a death defying battle on top of a flying zeppelin and using quick thinking to peel off a gas covered piece of gum, Cliff/”The Rocketeer” sent Neville Sinclair to his fiery demise that simultaneously explained the origins of the famous “Hollywood” sign. Saved in just the nick of time by Mr. Hughes and Peevy, Cliff and Jenny escape while hanging over the plummeting and ablaze zeppelin.

A great movie with a great story and great characters.

Whether in popular culture or our everyday lives, people continue to surprise us in difficult situations. No matter if the fate of the free world is at stake with a life altering invention or if a couple is trying to determine whether or not the babysitter is reliable and safe, most people are good and are deserving of being given the benefit of the doubt.

In today’s economy, employers are faced with a barrage of resumes and applications for a single job opening. It’s overwhelming on both ends. A conversation with my childhood doctor at a grocery store recently delved into the economic struggles of so many by explaining that her waiter at a restaurant a short while back was a young man who had successfully passed the bar, but had to wait tables because no legal position was available. His law degree earned him a pad and pen, but not for cross examining the witness. Sadly, this is not uncommon today. This is the era we live in, which has unfortunately redefined a portion of the Millenial Generation/Generation Y as the ‘Lost Generation.’

While businesses slowly recover, young men and women who graduated at the worst time(s) in nearly eight decades have been forced to accept lower expectations and smaller dreams while the economy recovers and brightens for future graduates. Being stuck between a rock and hard place is putting it kindly.

While Cliff Secord is a fictional character from a popular 1991 Disney live action movie, his character’s story just may provide the answer for those in the newly defined ‘Lost Generation’: personal belief. Cover letters and resumes are a dime a dozen these days and therefore a new approach must be established. Or in other words, a new trust must be sought.

In most all cases, a job is given when the boss determines he or she can trust you. With such limited openings, this qualification has reached a very difficult level for applicants despite having an impressive educational background and/or degree. The bottle neck for interviews is the narrowest its been in decades. Today, the three words we should be striving for, sans romance, are not, “I trust you,” but instead have to be, “I trust myself.”

Cliff had to trust himself to defy Howard Hughes, the police forces and life threatening danger to do what was right. Seeing Cliff bravely rocket off towards the Nazi zeppelin beside an American flag to save Jenny caused turned-good gang leader Eddie Valentine to say ambitiously, “Go get ’em, kid.”

Imagine if you will that for those in Generation Y: you’re Cliff, the imperfect rocket is your uncertain career path, Jenny is your livelihood and everybody else represents those who will one day watch in amazement at an entire generation’s rediscovered American dreams.

The ‘Lost Generation’ firmly has its back against the wall. Although the call is substantially less than another group of Americans that faced a dark world with depleted opportunity and a grim future, it still demands an equally grand rebuttal.

Drawing inspiration from “The Rocketeer” may seem foolish and childish, but there is a reason why this movie is still popular today with Gen Y kids: people want to believe…they believed then and want to continue to believe today.

For most in the ‘Lost Generation,’ believing better days are ahead is not optional, but necessary. Perhaps one day we’ll get that shiny new plane of our own from somebody who came to trust us because we first trusted ourselves.

The stakes for a sequel have never been higher.

And Mr. Eastwood Has the Last Laugh

The 2012 General Election for the presidency will be won and lost in the debates.

The first presidential debate revealed the American people are engaged and listening to President Obama and Governor Romney. For both campaigns, the stock price for ads (especially negative ones) in the final month has dropped significantly. Tens of millions of dollars of advertisements were no match for a free 90-minute debate and exchange of ideas. There is a new barometer for winning the presidency on November 6th: words and performances matter and therefore debates are defining.

President Obama was flat, void of new ideas and lacked “2008 inspiration.” Governor Romney was prepared, sharp and encouraging for legislative progress in the nation’s capital. Keep in mind that throughout the debate, Obama rarely smiled or made eye contact with Romney, who in turn did the opposite. As a result, Romney looked better and even more presidential than the current occupant of the Oval Office who was just feet away. The split screen made this blatantly obvious and also exposed Obama’s arrogant refusal to accept any criticism as legitimate. The president looked down at his notes most of the evening and didn’t even look present in Denver. The New Yorker best illustrated this observation:

121015_2012_p465.jpg
Barry Blitt, The New Yorker

Jon Meacham, while on Morning Joe last week, may have said it best. “No one has spoken to him that way — no one has tried to interrupt him — in four years.”

The sheer fact that the impressive debate victory for Governor Romney moved the needle so far with such a small group of undecided voters this close to the election is monumental and, dare it be said, potentially game changing. It will also be remembered as one of the many quiet moments when Super PACs, with their unlimited cash flows, carried little weight to the simple contrast of ideas spoken to an audience of more than 67 million people on a single night.

It was a contest with a clear winner and loser, just how Americans like it.

While this fluidity in poll numbers applies to both candidates, Romney has a significant advantage because the American people, conservatives and Republicans in particular, have been yearning for a clear line in the sand to be drawn regarding distinct policy differences to the current positions that have shaped the past four years. They finally got them.

Is Mitt Romney perfect? No.

Is Mitt Romney the ideal conservative for President? No.

Is Mitt Romney a great campaigner? No.

Can Mitt Romney improve America’s economic situation? More people are starting to believe he just might be able to.

Three more debates remain, one vice presidential and two presidential, and they will determine the winners and losers of the 2012 General Election. This is the final stretch and, as the American people proved last Wednesday night, we will be paying attention and listening intently to the two men on stage.

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams said before the first debate that it will be mostly political ‘theater.’ If that’s the case, then President Obama clearly missed the memo and Governor Romney is writing quite a third act.