Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Celebutard is a Cool Word


ce - leb – u – tard (suhLEByutard) noun:

1. A famous person with a grandiose notion of his/her own importance and contribution to the known universe.
2. A human being of sub-par intellect, oversized ego and colossal bank account, whose existence represents a drag on the food chain, waste of oxygen and severe annoyance. Its habitat is found in the entertainment industry, mansions of trust-fund children, and occasionally in the sports industry.
3. An egregious moron. (Origin: from the Latin celebutardus Paris Hiltonus maximum Baldwinus)

For the above definition, a shout-out to author Andrea Peyser. Here is an excerpt from her just released Celebutards which is available for purchase at Amazon :

"Celebutards. They walk among us but they are not of us. They eat, sleep and breed just like ordinary humans. But at some magic moment — between the time, say, a movie script wanders into the hands of a world-class celebutard such as George Clooney, and the words travel through lilting vocal chords to land on unsuspecting ears, something terrible occurs. They start to believe in their own ignorance."

"A dull thinker such as Madonna becomes, in her mind and in the eyes of devoted fans, a self-appointed sage. Veritable moron Rosie O’Donnell transforms from a shrill, gay mom into a rocket scientist. Sean Penn boldly breaks bread with tyrants and enemies of his own country, vapid pop singer Sheryl Crow calls for rationing toilet paper to one sheet per sitting, and earth avenger Al Gore forgets he lost an election. Give a celebutard a microphone and a little encouragement, and suddenly, without warning, that talented performer says and does things that are really, incredibly, grotesquely dumb."

Why am I sharing this? First of all, when I saw I the word celbutard, I laughed! I knew instantly what it meant, and that doesn't happen often. Secondly, after the Oscars were on, and Sean Penn won an award, I realized that the Oscars were political, not objective and apolitical as they should be. I don't get America bashers, and I don't get him. I wonder if his friend Hugo Chavez allows his citizens to speak about Venezuela in such a manner? And, live to tell about it. Don't get me wrong, I support Penn's right to say what he feels he needs to say, but I am not obligated to agree with it. That's just one thing, out of many, that is great about America. By the way, in her book, Peyser skewers Penn, and rightly so.

Teachers: Do you strive to provide insight, and a balanced perspective to your students? Do you teach them enough information in matters of government, history and social sciences that allows them to formulate their own opinions? As we are influenced by who we grow up with, ask students what the adults at home discuss, politically or socially. Do they agree with them? Maybe some students would be reluctant to discuss this topic, maybe better as a written assignment.

Afghans Have Two Faces

I recently took pictures of some of the Local National (LN) workers as a favor to them. LNs are workers hired from the neighboring villages, brought onto the base daily to do a variety of jobs. They typically work as a unit, and are supervised by either military escorts or civilian contractors who supervise their daily duties.

They saw me taking a picture with my digital camera, and asked if I would take one of them. It was an interesting situation because the way they asked was as if children pleading with a parent for a new toy, eyes serious with anticipation. Before obliging, I asked their military escorts if taking a picture would be breaking any rules. I was told it would be all right.

I took each worker's picture, printed them out on some card stock, and handed them out the next day. I was amazed, because they looked at the pictures as if they had each just received a $50 dollar bill. To say they were appreciative and grateful is an understatement.

At the time, one of my translator friends was having a smoke. He saw that I had given them the pictures. After being shown the pics and complimenting them on their newly acquired prizes, he went to his office. I followed. He proceeded to tell me something that burst my bubble. He told me that he advised the LNs to put their pictures in a safe place and to be careful with them. Why?

Seems once the LNs are back in their own environment, they need to be careful of Taliban who may question them about possessing anything "Western". The translator explained that Afghans have two faces; one for the westerners, and one for the Taliban. This made sense to me. I saw how the LNs were thrilled to have their picture taken, even though they know it's something the Taliban strongly discourages. In their homes, or among fellow villagers, they must be ready to wear the Taliban face, not that they are believers in Taliban tenets, but rather, out of fear for their lives. Some Afghans understand that having two faces is a prudent coping mechanism.

I understand now, and am sad for them. I saw, and briefly shared their joy over the pictures. Yet, something so simple and common in my world, is potentially complicated, and dangerous, in theirs.
Teachers: Talk to your students and ask them if they have ever used a "second face". Are they one way in front of their friends, but another at home/work/school? This discussion could lead to an art project, or a recollected example of a character they've seen in a movie or book they've read.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nancy Pelosi in Afghanistan

Saturday was a busy day here. Nancy Pelosi and other US Representatives traveled to Afghanistan to speak with Afghan President Karzai (in Kabul), then flew here to be briefed by our two-star general, my boss. It was kind of a fluke that I knew they were here. On my way back from lunch, entering our secured area, I noticed two buses driving past that usually carry dignitaries. A list of names was on the side of each bus, and I saw the name Rep. Pelosi as one of the names.

I asked around, and people in the know said she was on her way in, flying on a C-130 (slumming it?). Long story short, I work in the area where our command is, so any dignitaries passing through usually come here for their briefings. Although her politics are not my cup of tea, I still have respect for her position as an elected official, as do I for our President, B.O. Besides, there were enough people making comments about her that quite frankly, surprised me. But I digress! If you ever want to ask me what they said, you can ask, and I will share their musings. If you are with the military, I will graciously and respectfully decline to answer!

Anyway, it was a quick visit, maybe two hours. She, the other Representatives, and staff, made their way into the JOC (Joint Operations Center), then made their way into the briefing room. I stood in the hallway and heard someone say, "She'll be a minute, she's 'powdering her nose'". So there I stood, waiting anxiously, thinking since we are both from CA, she would extend a hand, maybe ask me a few questions or, say hi. But no! She walked by, smiled, briefly glanced at me, then continued to the briefing room. I guess her smile meant she knew I was a fellow Californian. Shucks!

I left, went back to my office, Oops! I mean foxhole (with weapon and helmet). And they ended up being briefed for an hour or so. I left my foxhole, M-9 in hand (making sure there was no enemy in sight), and was on my way back to the room when I noticed the buses were still there. As luck would have it (if you want to call it that), they were just coming out to get on their transportation back to the flight line, then back to the C-130 low-riding Hercules. I'm assuming they were headed back to the US, after swapping out planes, and.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Teachers: Have a discussion - who is Nancy Pelosi? Who are the House of Representatives and how do they compare to the US Senate? Is Pelosi a Republican or Democrat? What do both parties believe in as their political doctrine? Why did they meet with Afghan President Karzai? Check out the aircraft through the supplied link, compare all the different aircraft and their capabilities.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Afgahnistan Resource for Teachers

Teachers: Thought I would share a site with you to use in your classroom if you, or your students, are doing research on Afghanistan. This resource and worksheets are compliments of the British Royal Geographical Society . Hope the site is useful to you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lesson in Fact Finding

A high school friend sent me this email today for a laugh, because he knows I am in the Air Force:

A story with a happy ending! This nineteen-year-old ex-cheerleader (now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper) was watching a road that led to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target (i.e., she shot him). Turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers. The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot went through his butt and into the bomb which detonated; he was blown to pieces.

The Air Force made a motivational poster of her:

Here's another side of the story: Snopes

Teachers: This is a great example of not accepting the written word for face value. In your classroom, do some brainstorming on stories that newspapers, websites, TV, magazines, etc. tell us are true. Have students research the results and verify whether they are in fact, true, false, or contain insufficient evidence to make a determination one way or the other.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Future Taliban addiction?

Would like to add something to what I shared previously concerning Viagra as a way to fight the war. Seems an ex-Taliban member was interviewed by a reporter recently and admitted that he was "addicted" to his iPhone. Hmmm!

Lets see, we are considering Viagra for certain members of the Afghan population, which I'm all for (see prior post). So that covers the middle aged (and above) testosterone laden, violent males. But how about iPhones? A whole other segment of the population could be blanketed and introduced to its wonderful capabilities. Can you say "Afghan stimulus"?

Like many countries, we could wire up the cities and countrysides using those ubiquitous cell-phone towers via satellites, and could easily help make a country dependent on iPhones. Talk about being distracted from the war! As in the US, we could cleverly disguise the towers as trees or other "natural" looking edifices so they wouldn't even know they were there.

I can see it now, the Taliban learning to write apps for their propaganda machines, frantically Twittering - "Here's the plan Karim...", or reciting their PDF'd holy scriptures - all online! Don't like what some nut is spewing, (or trying to sell you), just block them! It beats murder.

Granted, they would probably have to step out of their caves to do so, to get better reception, i.e. "Can you hear me now?". That should flush them out into the open! Wonder if Oh Bin Laden has one? How about donating one to him Apple? You get credited for his capture, and your stock goes through the roof! Ahh, the wonders of technology.

As for the ex Taliban leader referenced above - isn't it just a little bit hypocritical that what you impose on others, doesn't apply to you? Now where have I seen that concept before? (Hint - think Global Warming)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ban the Taliban (Mentality) Part 2

A co-worker sent me a NY Times story today regarding the Taliban. At first I wondered why he deemed the item important. Fact is, I read about death every day. Fortunately, it usually concerns dead bad guys.

Here's what happened - Taliban insurgents, warriors, terrorist low-lifes (Am I being too mean?) decided to kill a political official from a provincial village, which they did. Thing is, the villagers found the killer, detained them, tied them to a tree (must have been a dead tree, cause I don't see many round these parts), then beat them to death! Can't tell you if it was an equal opportunity beating, as the news item did not say if there were any women, competing religious sects, or diverse ethnicities involved in the revenge killing. Inhumane savagery, or justice? Comments?

The reason my colleague sent out the news was because this seems to be a possible significant turn of events. This type of justice is considered unusual, considering villagers killed a Taliban member. Usually, it is the other way around, and villagers live in fear of antagonizing the Taliban . Significance? Is this a small sign that some Afghans are ready and willing to stand up to the hated aggressors, or did they just happen to be some of the first in Afghanistan to watch the revenge fantasy movie, Taken? Will keep you informed as I find out more. I have to admit, my translator friends were very happy with the news - they HATE the Taliban.

Teachers: Especially History and Social Science teachers - have your students consider wars where the populace stood up to their aggressors/invaders. Brainstorm on the board then have groups research the results and post-out to the class. Any similarities between the rebelling populaces? What was their "last straw" to have them join the fight?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ban the Taliban (Mentality) Part 1

OK, this will be a quick one but had to get it into a post while fresh in my mind:

Was with the translators this afternoon and they shared a news item that was local, not in the Western press. A barber had a grenade thrown into his shop by a Talib (Taliban is plural). Why? Because the barber was accused of shaving mens' beards! Fortunately, the barber was not killed, but he was injured. Seems not having a beard is a no-no in the Taliban's eyes. Have you read The Kite Runner or Michener's Caravans? Makes more sense now.

Another story the translators shared - seems a man was not able to grow facial hair. People can relate to that, right? It's just not in their genes. Under the Taliban, he was in constant fear for his life. He was beaten because he was regularly asked when approached, "Where is your beard?" Guess he could not explain why to the satisfaction of the Taliban.

Just needed to share these examples with you. We are comfortable back in the US and could not imagine fearing for our lives on a daily basis (unless driving through rush-hour traffic to get to work).

Local justice, as you get farther away from civilization, is meted out with a swift brutality, away from the eyes of Human Rights groups. It is accepted/reviled and serves as a warning to others, an eye for an eye...

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