Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What Is A Good Funeral? Big O War, Alpine Triathlon, Movie Reviews

Sad is only a three letter word; however when sadness enters your life it packs a big bang. It seems to come in many different ways and the tone of one sadness does not always fit with the tone of another sadness. Let me clarify that statement: when my neighbor from across the street was struck down by lightening and died immediately at the age of 63 that has been one form of sadness. On the other hand when the Big O decides to have his own(of course he says that war belongs to the .w man) war in Afghanistan, while winding down .w’s war in Iraq I find that sad, but a totally different type of sad. So, I use these two examples of sadness to illustrate my point of how one little three letter word can be so powerful and effective. While I will mention the Big O war in more detail later, what I really want to do now is mention some of the sad but humorous things that have resulted from my neighbor being zapped from this earth so very swiftly and how it has created a sad feeling within me. Stan and I had what I call a curb side friendship, meaning we really didn’t do anything social together or even take the time to sit down and talk about any of the activities that were going on in our lives. While he had a great passion for working in his yard, I had a great passion for having someone else do my yard work, while I trained for triathlon or rode the motorcycle. As I would come around the curve after a long bicycle ride or motorcycle ride, I could depend on Stan being out in the yard blowing leaves, dust, dirt, bugs, and whatever out of his yard to whatever direction the wind was blowing at the time. With the gusto of a Southwest wind and his blower he could easily fill up my curb side and yard with all of his yard trash or if the wind was from the East he could fill up the yard of his neighbors to the West, and vice versa for all of the other directions, except winds from the North would take his stuff directly into the lake. The funny and good thing about all of this is that it never made any of the neighbors mad and I knew when I rounded that bend he would be there and it gave me kind of a reassuring feeling that he was a good neighbor and a good man. When we would take the time to talk I would harass him about doing too much yard work (making all the rest of us look bad) and he would harass me about training all the time and not doing any yard work. We would then trade a few opinions about the current state of the world, really never solving anything, but at least rendering our sacred opinion on everything that was currently going on in the world. Now these curb side visits were not every day and sometimes not every week, but when they did happen they were great for both of us. Sometimes we would just keep the conversation on a local subject trying to figure out what our city government was smoking when they contracted to fix our roads and completely screwed them up, then on to vast subjects as to the amount of hot cakes the volunteer fire department cooked in their last fund raiser, or what the current water temperature was in the lake. The reality now is that when I turn the corner Stan is not in the yard, mowing, blowing, pulling weeds, putting down fertilizer, or anything. I have seen a hired gun (yardman) go in and mow it down to the proper length, but not with the same loving tender care that Stan gave it. I know that when time marches on Marty, Stan’s wife of 38 years, will make sure that all of the yard work is done properly and Stan will be proud. Another thing that he used to do was celebrate the 4th of July with a great parade of flags around the yard. He also had flags for Texas Tech and when they had a big game the Red Raider flags would be out. See what I mean about the word “sad?” While there was not a traditional funeral for Stan, since he dedicated his body to science, there was a great celebration of his life that was conducted in the town hall of Ransom Canyon. The building was filled to capacity and lasted two and a half hours. While it was conducted by a friend of the family Catholic Priest, it was really cool with members of the community who had known Stan for many years speaking, and of course the family spoke, including the grand children. At the same time a slide show featuring Stan in his youth, and up to the modern day. What a great tribute to a great guy and a leaf blowing fanatic. It almost inspires me to do my own yard work, notice I said “almost.”

Later on in the week I attended a traditional funeral for a friend of mine’s grandfather. He was 91, a CPA by profession, a military war veteran and a really neat guy. By traditional I mean the casket was in place at the front of the chapel, “Amazing Grace” was the feature hymn, and there was no slide show, just the facts as spoken by the Baptist minister that conducted the service. Last year I went to a funeral that had two screens, one on each side of the pulpit, fashionable rock music and it was like a Hollywood production. Over the years I have taken note to evaluate funerals and give them a rating, kind of like the movie ratings, one star to five stars. One of the things that I have noticed is that no matter what kind of person the deceased was, there is never anything bad said about them. Kind of like they are laying there dead, or laying some where dead, or maybe in an urn in gray ashes, so let’s be kind to them, after all they have now paid the price to enter into heaven. Reminds me of the song, “Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven, but No one Wants to Die to Get There.” So, I evaluate the over all setting of the service, what was said from the pulpit, if it is an open casket or not, how the family dynamics appear to be, and how long it takes. While I always take in to consideration the circumstances of the death and consider that when the service lasts over 20 minutes. In the case of Stan the Man his two and a half hours was time well spent, he went way before his time (but wait that actually was his time) and his family and friends needed this time with his spirit to bid him farewell. Only I have to live with his passing on a daily basis as I turn that blasted corner. In the case of the 91 year old dude his service lasted 20 minutes and we were out of there. But, the minister handled it very well, he was given a great farewell, and his USA flag draped the casket and was very representative of his service to his country and his loved ones. I attended a funeral in Arkansas one time that was for the God Father of Arkansas agriculture or maybe the John Wayne of Arkansas agriculture. I had met him through my own company that sold him his cotton module hauling equipment. He would only deal with me, so I had a great opportunity to know a really dynamic guy. Funny thing is that he was so dynamic that they had 3 Baptist ministers conducting his service and his daughter sang a country version of “Amazing Grace.” The ministers represented three different influential times in his life, one was for his childhood and early teens, while the other one was for his young adult wild swinging days, and the concluding preacher was his minister after he quit his wild ways, repented, found Jesus and became the God Father of God, in addition to the God Father of Agriculture. One great dude and I am glad I knew him. There were over 75 family members present, and I got the distance travel award to the funeral(not really official, I just made that up even though I would have won it if it had been real, since I didn’t see any one else from Texas). Now you ask, well what were these funerals rated? Glad you ask, these funerals were rated with five stars, even though they were all very different in nature and the deceased parties were all very different. I have attended a one star funeral before and it was really gross. The preacher decided to hold us all to repentance since he had a captive audience and we had no choice. It is the only funeral I have attended that I started to get up and walk out.

It seems as though every president has to have some kind of war to attach themselves to, except of course James Buchanan (always the coward and worst rated president of all time). After all the campaign promises of getting the USA out of Iraq, by the Big O, we are now learning that the reason for this is not to end the war but to fuel the new war in Afghanistan with more troops and more money. Now today the Big O is saying that is not his war but left over from the .w man. While I have rated the .w very low in the ratings I am getting tired of him being blamed for everything by the Big O. Without a doubt he goes down in history and the only president who continually criticizes the past president. I plea, let it go and do the job you were elected to do. Of course with the media exposure the Big O gets he has to have something to talk about. Now we are told that the Taliban has fled Iraq and now has established their summer homes in the beautiful mountains of Afghanistan while commuting back and forth to Iraq and Pakistan. So we trade tic for tack, just doesn’t figure. While I know it would be too much to ask the Big O to consult with the good book and read about this war in the Middle East that has been going on since the beginning of time, i.e. the two man original war between Cain and Able (which didn’t make any sense either). History is supposed to teach us two things: what the story is all about, plus DO NOT REPEAT THE SAME MISTAKES!! But, I do realize we have to feed egos, and give our president his war. But, wait a minute, what about Mexico??? That would be an original matter, the cost of travel much less, but the only down side would be that it might cut down on the flow of the weed to the USA and that would be bad for the drug Lords economic base and then we would have to bail them out. Damn, we can’t win for losing!!

The first triathlon of the season, a sprint in Alpine, Texas (the Gateway to the Big Bend Country), and one tough course, was held last weekend and it was great seeing our friends from the Republic of El Paso. Balls, Marianna, Christa, were a positive sight for sore eyes. We all had great races, took away some hardware, ate some good, and had a friendly beer. Then on the road to home. In checking my finishing time from last year I noticed that I had done the event 3 seconds slower than in 08, must be the change in diet from Wheaties to Corn Flakes. So, got to get to work and shave those 3 seconds off.

Movie Reviews: “Juno”, ***, While I didn’t get to see this movie on the big screen I watched it on satellite. A very good movie about a teenager who gets pregnant while still in high school. Very good acting, good story, and happy ending. Rated: PG—Some graphic detail, but actually the movie was done in very good taste.

“Duplicity”, **, The only thing four star about this movie is the two stars, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Some times during the movie it appears that they are both star struck with each other, but not really part of the movie. Regardless, their characters are two former spies who team up together to make millions from two feuding corporate giants. The dialogue is good, but the time sequences are kind of stupid and the suspense that could have been there is just drowned out with stupid, childish, love sick dialogue between Owen and Roberts. The ending was not worth waiting for, but I did anyway. Go see at your own risk, you might find something out of it that I didn’t. Rated: PG-13 for language and some sexual content (you mean when they were naked in bed together?)

“Knowing”, **** (My local critic gave it *****, but I don’t agree). Starring Nicolas Cage as a MIT professor, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, Lara Robinson, and D.G. Maloney(these last four actors were new to me) who discovers a strange sequence of numbers that, with the proper interpretation, will predict future disaster dates and how many will lose their lives. Cage had lost his wife a few years ago in an accident and was raising his young son alone, so there are two dramas going on here, but no love life drama. These sequences of numbers were buried in a time capsule 50 years prior to the current time (2009) and when he discovered what the numbers meant he embarked on warning the disinterested public. Then the final sequence happens that is surprising but really didn’t make much since to me. It almost personified a replay of Adam and Eve (yea, that A & E from the good book). This mission of the space aliens was hard to figure out and I wonder if I missed something with my faulty hearing. Go see!! I would like to have another opinion. Rated PG-13 for disaster sequences, disturbing images (you mean people running around in flames after the aircraft crash? Duh!) and brief strong language (this was not a “golly gee” type movie).

“Race to Witch Mountain”, **, Dwayne Johnson(no longer the Rock) is the star playing a displaced cab driver who picks up some aliens(they look like mature teenagers in disguise) and is enlisted to drive them to their lost space ship. A little action, but really not worth the time and money. Since it was a Disney movie it was quite calm. Rated PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and some thematic elements (what the hell is that?)



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