Archive for April, 2008

History Revised

Posted in Sounding Off on April 19, 2008 by Irish Bison

Because of my background I am an avid fan of video games. I don’t play as much as I would like to as I have a number of other responsibilities, but when a spare moment offers itself I will take a shot at some of the newer games and so it happens that I have tried to play Assassin’s Creed. An extremely well crafted game and very challenging with a compelling story… a story that, over the long term, got downright annoying. For some reason today if the ties are Christian and involve secrecy it must be bad.

In assassin’s creed you play a young man who is the ancestor of a member of the Hashashin, an Islamic order of assassins (assassin comes from the term Hashashin, which also relates to the order’s fondness for hashish) that operated out of Syria and was made famous by some of their brazen acts during the crusades. The Hashashin were actually quite an honorable order outside of their major practice in that they did not inflict harm on the innocent and were very protective of the general populace. They did practice their skill indiscriminately as many fell by their practice on both sides of the crusades, Christian and Muslim alike. The authors of the game actually point this out quite well.

What torqued me over time was the decided effort to vilify orders such as the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitallier and Teutonic Knights. One writer has even gone so far, when questioned about the history represented, to state that the Templars controlled so much that they re-wrote much of history. This idiot needs to have his head examined.

I could spend all day pointing out the nature and history of the Templars and Hospitallers (the Teutonic Knights did not appear until after the dates of the game so I will leave them out), who protected pilgrims on their way to the holy land, set up banks and hospitals (Hospitaller/Hospital) to aid the same and were both respected and feared men by their peers and enemies. I could point out that even the mysteries of the Templars have come to light in the nature of new records released by the Catholic Church that show the persecution of the Templar order as unjust, so much so that Pope Benedict has absolved the order of any wrongdoing, and pardoned them, 400 years too late. But I would rather point out the fact that Islamist Extremism has remained the same for 1000+ years and for some reason that’s ok, but for secret orders such as the Hospitallers and Templars, well they must be inherently evil.

So, here we go. The first crusade was actually a response to a request from the Byzantine Emperor because the Saljuk Turks were taking over Byzantine Territory by force. Any argument that this land belonged to the turks initially is bunk because prior to the byzantine empire it was a roman colony and prior to that asia minor was primarily greek in origin (remember troy?) In addition the Saljuks were not overtly Christian friendly, slaughtering Christian Pilgrims en route to the holy land. Also the Caliph of Egypt, Sultan Hakim, was slaughtering Christian Pilgrims in the Holy Land and destroyed one of their foremost religious and holy symbols, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I think these two would seriously be considered Extremist Muslims today. Now, imagine today if Mecca were in western hands and muslim pilgrims were being put to death and the al-Haram (Great Mosque) destroyed. The cry to liberate the land would be deafening, if you dispute that simply watch the demonstrations against Geert Wilders of Holland and his anit-Koran film. But for some reason Christians and the west are seen as the bad guys of the crusades today.

Now during the crusades there were atrocities on both sides, I am not attempting to ignore that fact, whole towns of Muslim women and children put to death, and whole towns of Christian women and children put to death (in the latter a lot of the children were sold into slavery). The interesing thing is none of the Christian atrocities involve the Templars or the Hospitallers. But hey, they must be evil.

Ok, many of you will say that I am being a petty whiner, so be it, but I would like to enjoy a game without some idiots uninformed indoctrination. Dennis Miller would certainly chastise me for such whining and hey, I played the darned game, but lets re-arrange and make the Hashashin the bad guys and the Templars the good guys, you don’t think the outcry would be deafening?  If you think not, go get your head examined.

An Era Has Passed

Posted in Animation on April 15, 2008 by Irish Bison

On an old blog I wrote about the passing of Luciano Pavarotti, his music was a favorite of my father’s and was in the background of most of my youth. Even as a head banger in the eighties I would venture into my room for a moment of serenity and listen to his incredible voice singing from La Boheme, Tosca and the like. I often feel that ties to those days are disappearing at a rate of speed unfathomable. I do not cling to the past but there are so many things that we should recognize as formative and seemingly indelible that in the end must past and they catch me off guard. Pavarotti was one, we have now lost another.

Oliver Martin Johnston, (October 31, 1912 – April 14, 2008, was the last living member of Disney’s Nine Old Men. Along with his lifelong friend Frank Thomas (1912-2004) and the 7 other members of that august group, Ollie was responsible for the developing the core of the animation world. Those men inspired me to become an animator and I owe so much of my skill and understanding to them. In a documentary on the friendship and work of Frank and Ollie, as Johnston was known, Historian John Culhane speaks about their abilities; “For the first time, moving drawings had become… moving.” These men poured their heart and souls into the medium and everything we enjoy about animation today owes itself to these pioneers. I am deeply saddened by the passing of the last. They will all be missed.

Anyone who wishes to become an animator should study these men.

The New Barbarism

Posted in Sounding Off on April 10, 2008 by Irish Bison

I made the mistake of watching the video of the young girl getting beaten by a number of her classmates last night. What has gone wrong in our country? The father of the victim was asked the same question by a news reporter. When he answered that our country has removed the decent things from society and taken God out of the school systems the reporter cut to a break before he could get the last part out. The truth hurts, and no one wants to hear it. While I did grow up outside of the US for the most part, my father was stationed here in Wash Dish for a short three year period. Back in those days there were fights, usually fostered by some sort of hierarchy in the school, and generally carried out by the kids who came from troubled families. I was jumped almost every week for two years because I was the kid from Russia (previous post for my Father). Fortunately my father insisted that I learn how to defend myself so often the result was someone learning a powerful lesson in humility, but there were a few who felt that in beating me they would somehow gain in social prominence so they would keep on trying. Again, all of them came from “troubled” families. See a pattern here? Back then “troubled” families, for the most part, consisted of single parent families where the child had less guidance at home, either because mom or dad had to work all day, or they simply did not care about the children. A few were kids who had a parent, usually dad, locked up for some issue that he committed as the result of being from a troubled family in his youth. Some were children of parents so worried about personal gain that they had no time for their kids. Today troubled families are the norm. 50% of American families end in divorce, add to that the number of orphans and children of convicted criminals and the single parented kids become the norm. Coupled with the material desire of our nation, make more money, drive the biggest car, etc, etc, most kids are left by the wayside while moms and dad vigorously engage in the pursuit of happiness. The problem with that happiness is that it is fleeting. Even the APA (American Psychological Ass’n, emphasis on the first three of the last four letters) show that the pursuit of material desire is a never ending cycle because one cannot get enough, and who gets left behind? Our children. Now we look back at the father of the poor young victim of that heinous crime and his comment. Perhaps he is right.

So who am I, being a self righteous soap box preacher? I fully admit I have the same failings that we all do. Four years ago I fell into the modern trap, working my derrière off spending 10 plus hours a day at the office and spending little or no time with my wife and kids so we could have two nice cars, two motorcycles and a sailboat, close enough to happiness to almost end in divorce. Providentially I learned that true happiness isn’t who dies with the most toys wins, but that happiness is the family I have now, my wife and children. These things are taught in the scriptures of our Judeo-Christian faith. Because we have removed the text book from our learning, the true meanings of happiness are lost and misguided young girls will brutally damage another for a chance at attention and fame, something they probably are not getting from Mom and Dad.

He Said What?

Posted in Sounding Off on April 10, 2008 by Irish Bison

I wonder if, at the beginning of the American Revolution, George Washington and the boys put an “end date” on their calendar? Or perhaps Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle sat down and said, “Hey, if it isn’t finished by this date, we withdraw!”

There can be no argument as to why we are there anymore, we are there, get the job done. WWII ended in 1945, as I recall there a still American Troops in Germany and Japan. Korea, hindered by political quarreling, still housing the U.S. Military circa 1950. Both took a while to stabilize at after the cessation of hostilities.

Some may point out that Vietnam may be doing well, but they still have a strong single party government that disallows any dissenting opinion. And their economy is growing due to the realization of the “single party government” that a free market economy might be better than a socially controlled one, passing such reforms in 1986. So their prosperity is founded on a capitalist base.

There will be lots of rants and raves against such info, just folks angry with reality.