Perseverance is Everlasting

“He who stops being better, stops being good.”

– Oliver Cromwell

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Unconventional Experiences and Their Relevance

Paragon Dreams

This post is not about politics or public policy, but about life.

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I got my early morning rolling to an essay from Foreign Affairs written by Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of many books on military history and national security. The essay is titled “More Small Wars” and it speaks on 10 lessons that the United States should learn and remember in order to be successful at the inevitable counterinsurgency and nation-building conflicts of the future.

However, that is NOT what this post is about. This post is far from matters of defense policy and national security. In Boot’s post, opinion article, or essay (whatever you feel comfortable calling it), he mentions how General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, two men who succeeded in their goals and efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, were two people, out of…

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Romans 1: Discipline That Leads To Certainty

Paragon Dreams

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes:first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'”

Romans 1: 16-17

Sparks

I hope this is the first of many future posts over the next couple months. The young adults-young professionals ministry at our church is going through the Letter to the Romans and I decided to take small sections of each chapter in order to share some thoughts on them. It is my hope that my analysis and introspection doesn’t take the verses out of context–I believe that would be counterproductive. Without further delay, here we go.

I ask myself a short yet precise set of questions on…

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Best Friend Test: Take at Your Own Risk

21 Jump Street: best bros

21 Jump Street: best bros

I have plenty of good friends. I thank God that I have always had good friends throughout my life to be there for me—except during middle school and that sucked. However, because of how much middle school absolutely sucked, I am eternally grateful for all the friends that God has blessed me with, especially the ones that were there for me when I needed them the most in very challenging phases of my life (that’s you Andrew during high school, and you Tim during undergrad).

However, the other day I was thinking about what kind of test I would give someone who would like to apply to be one of my best friends. Well, it isn’t perfect but here are some questions I would include in a test for someone applying to be a best friend (talk about being a borderline narcissist):

BEWARE: If you are not a nerd, or have no sense of appreciation for nerdy and geeky stuff, you should stop reading and go to the gym…or something.

1. If there was to be a duel between Lord Voldemort, from the Harry Potter series, in his fully restored form, and Darth Sidious aka Emperor Palpatine, the Dark Lord of the Sith, who would come out of that battle victorious? Please expand on your answer.

2. One of your other, more ignorant friends makes the following statement: “Man, I love Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT and I truly believe that GT is the true end to the Dragon Ball series.” How do you respond to this?

3. What is the greatest branch in the United States military? Actually never mind that. Let’s be more specific. What is the greatest branch within the United States Army? BONUS POINTS if you can tell me why God loves this branch the most?

4. If you had to name one video game whose multiplayer experience revolutionized multiplayer gaming forever, which game would you pick? [Hint: If you are about to pick a game published on a PlayStation system you are INCORRECT—just give up now]

5. Back to Star Wars [Knowledge of Expanded Universe is a must]. Name the only two characters in the Star Wars universe to start out in the Light side of the Force, go to the Dark side, become full “Darths” of the Sith, and then redeem themselves by coming back to the light? You may research this question for ½ credit.

6. What is the greatest musical that was turned into movie that was also a musical? You will lose much respect if you get this one wrong.

7. Yes or No. Did you cry at any point in the last 45 minutes of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King?

8. What is the greatest ethnic/national cuisine? For half the credit you can answer what is the second greatest ethnic/national cuisine?

9. What is the greatest country on the Earth? For ½ credit, what is the most evil country on Earth?

10. Do you agree with the final Confederate charge at the Battle of Gettysburg being named after General Pickett (“Pickett’s Charge”) or are you of the opinion that it should be “Pettigrew’s Charge” since the North Carolinians at Gettysburg, under General Pettigrew, outnumbered the Virginians under General Pickett at the very same charge? State your case.

11. Who was/is the greatest president in American history? This one is a deal-breaker.

12. Who was the greatest statesman in world history? Even if you are wrong, you may receive partial credit if you defend your answer well.

13. Do you lose all control and laugh out loud when you watch the movie “21 Jump Street” starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum? Do you have a soul?

TIE-BREAKER [you always need a tie-breaker]: What is my favorite color?

I will release the correct answers to these questions next week (or later this week if I get the time).

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The Wars on the Big Screen: 7 years of Hollywood & GWOT

About two weeks ago my wife mentioned that there was a movie called “Lone Survivor” coming out. She mentioned it to me for two reasons: (1) I love Mark Wahlberg (he is the man), and (2) its a film inspired by a book that I’ve read and own which inspired the film. The film and book tell the story of a real Navy SEAL team mission into Afghanistan in the early phases of the war. So, once I knew the film was coming out soon, I went ahead an added the release date to my calendar, just to remind myself to go watch in case I miss the marketing campaign for it.

Thinking about this film got my mind on a thought tangent. In my head, I started thinking about all the films I had watched that were connected and related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I realized that the list was long enough to be worth writing down. I ended up diving into Wikipedia and Google tracking down names, release years, etc. I became fascinated by the fact that the extensive list I put together were all films that wouldn’t have existed had the Iraq and Afghanistan wars not happened, which in part are by-products (one could argue) of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

I decided to cut the list down to films released by major American studios with at least some sense of star casting. Why do this? Well, my hypothesis became that we can get a better sense of how much impact the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has had on the film industry by the willingness of major studios and actors to be invest, produce, and act in such film projects. My hypothesis may be flawed, but the truth is that the market for documentaries, B-movies, and foreign films is a much more selective market than what a major American studio is aiming when they invest into a blockbuster.

I decided to break down the list into four categories. Even though I may have missed a few films here and there, this is the list I ended up with given the margins above:

Beginnings: These are films that deal directly and primarily with the events of 9/11 and the immediate impact. They may extent up to the beginnings of the War in Afghanistan. The only two films I have accounted for are the following and both were released in 2006:

WorldTradeCenter (2006)

United 93 (2006)

The Frontlines: These films have plots that put them right in the center of the firefight. They are very military-focused and war-centered. These films show us the minds, souls, and actions of the frontline war fighters. Zero Dark Thirty almost didn’t make it in this category but the fact that OBL is the focus of the film and the depiction of the special operations raid made it “frontline” enough for me. I excluded Act of Valor because it didn’t fit any of my margins above:

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Lone Survivor (2014)

The Homefront: These are films impacted by the war and the deployment of troops. Some of them are comedies; some are love films. Some are psychological thrillers; some are political thrillers. And there are others which are none of the previously mentioned. I debated about including some of these but this is the final list I felt comfortable with:

Home of the Brave (2006)

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Grace is Gone (2007)

Stop-Loss (2008)

Brothers (2009)

The Messenger (2009)

Taking Chance (2009)

Dear John (2010)

Warrior (2011)

The Lucky One (2012)

The Extension: In many ways, these are the most vague of the films inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These films could have been made without the mentioned events taking place; however, the writers decided to make the Global War on Terror (GWOT) crucial parts of the plots. These films are inspired by the much wider theatre of operations that the GWOT includes. Zero Dark Thirty could have fallen under this category but I stated above why it didn’t:

The Kingdom (2007)

Body of Lies (2008)

Rendition (2007)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Green Zone (2010)

Fair Game (2010)

I found it interesting that no major blockbuster is released until 2006 when United 93 and World Trade Center come out in theatres. For those who have followed the wars in detail, you will connect 2006 with one of the toughest and worst years for the troops in Iraq and one of the toughest times back home for the Bush administration and the economy. However, it isn’t until 2008 that a blockbuster is released that dealt directly with combat operations, The Hurt Locker, which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Film over Avatar (thank God). Even though the B-movie market is full of movies about combat ops in Iraq/Stan, the major studios seemed to have refrained from such projects for the most part, possibly not knowing if such films would succeed or fail.

Finally, the Homefront and Extension films haven’t been shy about exploring the war on terror as a topic for inspiration. My conclusion is that these films, even though inspired by the wars, deal with themes and concepts that can exist and do outside the wars. The wars and the deployments are catalysts for the plots and settings that are used, but they aren’t the plots and setting themselves.

You can easily find dozens and dozens of films about World War II, great ones and bad ones. Looking at this list makes me wonder whether we will see a deeper and different exploration of the Global War on Terror as the years go and the major combat operations draw to an end in Afghanistan a year from now.  I welcome any of your thoughts and ideas regarding this post. Thank you for reading.

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