Thursday, December 30, 2010

Literature and Movies

I have had extra time on my hands while here. While the Navy and Marine Corps do their share to keep me busy, my evenings are largely free. To that end, I have been taking time to read and watch movies. In both of those, there has been a fair amount of fluff. I am reading a legal novel by Steve Martini right now. Sitting on the bed is the movie "The American President," with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. I have also reread some of the books we all had to read in high school. My reaction to such books as "To Kill a Mockingbird" is very different than it was 25 years ago. Take note: my high school in Norfolk, Virginia closed for a year (1968-9) due to desegregation. There is a history of racism where I grew up. Reading it now, I can see the power in Harper Lee's writing that I missed as a kid. The image of everyone standing up for Atticus Finch at the end of the trial is quite stunning in the few words Harper Lee used. I thought the scene in the movie was gripping.

I also read "Lady Chatterley's Lover." It was quite a radical book for its time, for reasons you all know. It was fascinating though in the concept D. H. Lawrence was trying to convey, that true intimacy cannot exist only in words. On a Jewish level, it is not so radical. Words are not sufficient. We take words and bind them on our arms. We take words and hang them on our doorposts. With so many of those actions, there is a kabbalistic phrase that most of us do not say - for the sake of union with the Holy One. That word 'union' is the same word that we use for a newlywed couple in their first time alone. So to say that words are sufficient to create intimacy is really farcical to me.

I had forgotten how compelling an author John Steinbeck is. Growing up on the folk music of the 1960's, I knew about migrant workers (Woody Guthrie, "Pastures of Plenty"). My mother still has pangs of discomfort when buying grapes, something she did not do for many years. To read "Grapes of Wrath" knowing the lyrics to 'Pastures' by heart was heart-wrenching. It was heart-wrenching seeing the inhumanity of people. It remains heart-wrenching knowing that it could exist for so long.

On the movie side, I just watched "Bridge on the River Kwai" last night. I wonder if it was important to Alec Guiness to be known for something other than the "Star Wars" series. He was brilliant in "Bridge." I have known officers like he one he played in the movie. To some degree, he is right. Unit discipline and morale suffers when the lines between officer and enlisted break down. Morale will improve when people have clear-cut tasks to accomplish.

Other movies have included "A Gentleman's Agreement," "In Harm's Way," a number of James Bond movies, a number of "Star Trek" movies, "Dr. Zhivago," and "The Big Chill."

Having the library in sight of my living room window is a nice thing.

Musings and Amusings

Hi Everyone. I have not written in a while. It has been slow around here. The US Government goes into holiday routine for the two weeks around some holiday other than Hannukah. That means we work half days. It also means that as I type this blog, it is Thursday evening, and we are about to go into what is called a Marine Corps 96. We do not have to be in our offices for 96 hours - really Tuesday morning. I love the Marine Corps 96. I have no clue why the Army and the Navy have not adopted it.

I must thank Jennifer for giving me the credit on purchasing the ring. I guess that I did so, in a roundabout way. I am the only one with an income right now. She ordered it. It lends a certain irony very appropriate to that ring. I must tell you further that it is hilarious that she does not react to the alarm clock quickly. A few years back, we agreed that I would take my day off and sleep in. She would get the little people out the door. Great! The radio alarm goes off...and nothing happens. The morning went downhill from there. It was really quite funny to watch.

I have to move tomorrow. They have been renovating the bottom floor of the lodge where I am staying. They have finished, and now wish to do the top floor. I have to move downstairs. This is not all bad. It gives me a chance to pack up all of my stuff. I need the practice. I am blessed with a bride who is capable of packing the contents of an 18-wheeler into a volkswagen. I, on the other hand, have difficulty packing the contents of the volkswagen into the 18-wheeler. As such, this evening, I am commencing 'Operation Rolling Suitcase.' Naturally, I must start this process by blogging. I thought ahead on this. My orders permit me extra baggage. I have to write that into the orders request, but it always gets approved. I should write in a request for a new car. I wonder what would happen.

Anyway, December 25th has past. This is really good news. Do you know why it is good news? It means that the exceedingly large Hershey bars with the winter imagery (snow-women and frosty trees), you know, the ones people like to hang in their socks while they dry over the fire, and melt the chocolate, are marked down to $0.40. The same holds for the Hershey kisses. I have stocked up. I need vegetables tomorrow. As such, I will likely purchase a few more. Did I mention I miss Jennifer? Oddly, some of the chocolate has specific Christmas imagery on the front. I did not buy that. I wonder though what I would have done if that had been the only option. I must confess that I like chocolate enough that the price and the hekhsher probably would have been sufficient.

You will all be glad to know that I did not get arrested for breaking and entering. I locked my key in my room yesterday. The front desk here is not staffed all night. If we need to get in, they bill us $20, and call someone back in. I discovered months ago that I could just lift the metal sliding gate from the counter, climb in, and get one of the keys. Yesterday, that sliding gate was locked. I went outside and on a whim tried the sliding window into the office. The lady who normally works there had forgotten to lock it. I got a key. You can fill in the details. I also locked the window.

The first step in 'Operation Rolling Suitcase' is in progress. I have to put the laundry in the dryer.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It's About Time!!

Congress repealed 'Don't Ask Don't Tell.' Good! I had hoped that we had put those discriminatory days behind us. I would like to take a moment to clarify my reasons that anyone should be allowed to serve.

1. Jennifer does not care the religion, gender, sexual preference, or even the species of the person who has to pull me out of the way of incoming ordnance. Neither do I. We will both readily say though that no matter those details, the one who does so is guaranteed dinner at our home whenever he/she so desires.

2. Peter Stuyvesant wrote back to Holland to seek advice on whether the Jews in his community could stand guard duty. The answer came back in the affirmative. Perhaps Mr. Stuyvesant should have realized that many of the stockholders of the Dutch West India Company were Jewish. Jews could not serve as chaplains until the US Civil War. We did not have our own corps insignia until World War I. We know as a people what it means to be on the receiving end of discrimination.

3. Good order and discipline has been a constant issue. Well people...if a commanding officer cannot maintain good order and discipline in the ranks, then the powers that be have the obligation to relieve that commanding officer of his duties.

4. So many people have raised the issues of not wanting to share close quarters with people who might consider them as targets of sexual desire. I wonder if those people realize the irony of that worry. It is in my conscious lifetime that women in the US Armed Forces went from being auxiliary forces to full integration. It is my sincere hope that those who have raised this concern realize that the worries of being looked at in such a manner are still a factor, even without 'don't ask don't tell.'

5. The religious implications. It is true that the Torah forbids homosexuality, calling it a to'evah - an abomination (Lev 18). It says the same thing about pork chops (Deut 14). In fact, the Torah uses the word over 30 times in reference to any number of transgressions. My point? Do not cherry-pick. Leviticus 18 exists in a much greater context than our abilities to cite chapter and verse.

6. My oath of office is to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States..." I take that oath seriously. Nowhere does it say to support and defend the Bible. It is an unreasonable beatification of the Constitution to make it withstand the scrutiny of Biblical Correctness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Keeping the Faith with My Friends in Toronto

I understand your travails. It was cold and windy today. I went out this morning in uniform. Thank God sleeves are rolled down for the winter. I almost shivered on the way into work. This afternoon, I had to change to leave base. I put on jeans, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. It was rough out there.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Importance of Learning a Foreign Language

Shalom to all.

I changed some US dollars into yen a few weeks back. I wanted to go to the supermarket out in town. The locals here do not speak English. My Japanese is limited, to say the least. Here, the labels on the packaging are in Japanese. There is no English, or any other language. One of two things happened. Hopefully, I purchased tea. The other possibility is that Japanese society is way more liberal than I imagined and I am going to have an awful time at the airport.

Some weeks back, I wrote an entry to this blog about my first long bicycle ride. I took that ride again this past weekend. I would like to state that I am in better shape now. The weather was much cooler. I have some feel for the streets now. The headwind on the way out was not awful. Any tailwind is welcome. The entire ride was a delight.

I took another ride last night just up and down the main drag right off the base. I have to tell you - it was fascinating to see. It was a Sunday evening, between 7:00 and 8:00 PM. The streets were mobbed. The stores and restaurants were mobbed. It was precisely the time I would have imagined the opposite.