Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rock On... Kony 2012

The main issue I have in watching Kony2012 is that Joseph Kony's actions have gone on for far too long to adequately condense in a 30 minute film without A) generalizing very complex issues and B) making the film more about the director's campaign than about what Kony has done.

For instance, in regards to point A, Russell refers to Kony's army as the LRA. What Russell doesn't say is that the LRA stands for the Lord's Resistance Army, a Christian fundamentalist group led by Kony to establish a theocracy and rule under the Ten Commandments. Russell completely leaves the religious aspect out of Kony's regime, and that concerns me because, while I don't condone Kony's actions with or without God's help, Kony believes he is doing the Lord's work. Whether one is religious or not, it's easy to excuse someone's behavior if they say it's all a part of God's will or whoever they believe in because it's something we can't fully judge without walking a mile in their shoes. Perhaps that is why Kony has gone under the radar for so long.

As for point B, thirty minutes is simply not enough time to fully understand who Joseph Kony is from an objective standpoint. This works to Russell's favor because not only can he cherry-pick what he wants his audience to see, but in how he wants to present these images. Kony2012 is not fully about Joseph Kony, as seen in the home movies of Russell, his son, and in other shots urging people to make Kony famous. In fact, as the film progresses, the fight to take down Kony becomes more of a social outpouring about awareness of who is Kony rather than what he's done. "Make him famous" is the mantra I recall. And if there's one thing to be said about making an impact, you can only talk for so long before action is demanded. Russell has done a lot of talking, and he's banking on millions of people making Kony famous. But unless they've research Kony's atrocities fairly well, all this film will be is an over-exploited attempt that's had it's thirty minutes of fame in March 2012 before dying out with all the other emotionally-charged causes urging to take a stand or else.

Picture of Kony 2012 poster courtesy of

The Dubious Nature of Timothy Treadwell

If you ever get a chance to watch Grizzly Man, see it if for any other reason because you will encounter one of the most polarizing central figures ever caught on film in Timothy Treadwell. After watching the film for a class earlier in the month, there is part of me that lauds Treadwell's efforts in making peace with the bears in the Alaskan wilderness. However, as the film progresses, I am equally disturbed by his anti-social behavior. His profanity laden tirades near the end practically negate all the good he thinks he's doing. It's one thing to care for certain animals and give them an opportunity to be seen from a more intimate angle, but to go out and blame other people (and God) for not caring enough defeats the purpose of his expeditions. Whether he likes it or not, he's still a human being who needs human interaction. And like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West, it surprises me none that he was mauled to death by a bear. I knew it the moment I saw his years of birth and death at the beginning of the movie. What does surprise me is that through it all, the service and the gradual loss of sanity, he lasted for thirteen summers of living amongst these bears. Just one summer is enough adventure for a lifetime. To go back twelve additional years speaks to the dedication of the human will when fully committed to a task.

Picture of Timothy Treadwell courtesy of MSNBC

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Method Behind My March Madness 2012

Due to my being away in Orlando for the past few days without an Internet connection, I'll keep my post about this year's March Madness tournament brief.

With the release of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament bracket this past Sunday, everyone's got their picks for who'll be the last ones dancing on the court April 2. From the experts at ESPN to practically any office pool, there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 possible combinations of filling out a unique bracket between 68 teams. Whether you play it competitively or just for kicks, there's bound to be some measure you take in deciding who'll advance how far, who'll be upset, who'll be this year's Cinderella story, and who'll cut down the nets in New Orleans at the end.

Last year, I gave a detailed account behind my picks and who I saw going where and how far. Obviously, picking against Butler and VCU in their first game of the NCAA Tournament didn't bode well for me. Heck, I didn't think VCU would get out of the play-in game, much less all the way to the Final Four. However, I at least had the foresight to see eventual champion UConn into the Final Four, and I correctly predicted a few upsets, including Richmond (12) over Vanderbilt (5) and Florida State (10) over Texas A&M (7) in the "second" round.

This year, I hope to improve upon my NCAA Tournament selections. My full bracket is available down below, and this year, in higher quality! Long story short, I pick Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri, and North Carolina to go to this year's Final Four. I like Kentucky and North Carolina to play in the championship game, and I see Kentucky winning it all 63-59, and finally giving head coach John Calipari his first Division I title.

Let's make it happen!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Beginning Of The End (Fiction)

The last meaningful baseball game I played was back in 2003. I was an 11-year old third baseman for my team, the Rangers, which compiled a 14-2-2 record throughout the regular season and cruised into the playoffs. After a dramatic semifinal victory over the Angels, we played against the Rockies in the championship game for my city's Little League organization. Had all gone according to plan, this game would've been the beginning of a bright future in baseball for me. In retrospect, it was the beginning of the end.

I was set to play the game of my life, but I couldn't even last a single inning. In my first at bat, I hit a screaming line drive over the center fielder's head for an easy stand-up double. As I was rounding first base, I twisted my right ankle. I hobbled back to first base after making the turn, even though the center fielder hadn't reached the ball. The pain was too much. Fortunately, I was stranded on first base when the top half of that inning ended, and I was swiftly replaced in the lineup.

For the rest of that game, I helplessly watched from the dugout as my team valiantly competed. Here I was, the team's best hitter, sitting on a wooden bench with an ice pack around my right ankle. Adrenaline helped to dull the pain, but I couldn't walk without limping, much less run. Still, I cheered my teammates on, knowing that it was all I could do. I stopped cheering in the final inning, when a teammate threw a wild pitch to score the winning run for the opposing team. Watching them celebrate and donning championship gear was like a dagger through my heart. I was able to keep my composure long enough to join in a post-game hand shake, but I bawled my eyes out when I got to my parents. When I returned home, I vowed never to like anything related to the Rockies, and I cried myself to sleep.

If I were a spectator watching that game, with a close eye on my younger self, I'd see a pudgy boy who inadvertently matured in front of a group of strangers. He initially was in over his head, trying to do too much in a game where team effort wins out in the end. Watching him at first base with his head down and hands on his knees, wincing in pain, served as an unfortunate reminder that the mind and the body don't always operate in synchronicity. But my perception of him would change as the game wore on. He didn't sulk, he didn't pout, and he didn't shut up. He encouraged his teammates to fight on, even when all hope seemed lost near the end. In a way, it's better than he lost because he showed a lot of character in a time of adversity. That deserves more recognition than any postseason banner.

As for the game itself, it was just a game my younger self believed was life or death. What I should've realized is that sports, much like life, can be real humbling real quick. The following year, I played my final season of Little League baseball. It was an ignominious ending as my team, the Cardinals, went a paltry 3-15. I converted into a pitcher, went 2-7 as the staff ace, and the only reason I had any success on the mound was because I intimidated most of the kids on the opposing teams with my size. My hitting statistics dropped substantially and, after a year of bench warming in junior varsity baseball as a high school freshman, I gave up my aspiration to be a professional athlete. That was in 2006, and the following year, I found myself cheering for the upstart Colorado Rockies in the World Series. It's been an interesting turnaround since that championship game, but looking back, I'm glad me and my team lost. It refocused my priorities, reminded me to be meek, and put others before self. Those principles I learned on that diamond many years ago have proven more valuable in my life than any natural diamond on Earth.