Tuesday, April 24, 2007

EbertFest Beckons

The weather is finally gorgeous and spring is in full bloom. So, what better time to spend 5 straight days in a dark building with 1200 other people watching underappreciated movies?

Yes, it is EbertFest time again, and I'll be huddled in the Virginia Theater tomorrow night through Sunday, enjoying the festival. I'm also going to guest blog again at http://ebertfest.blogspot.com/ with some friends. However, this year I'm not going to try to post reviews for most of the festival movies like I did last year, which was simply too much work, and frankly, cut into my enjoyment of the movies. This year, I'll only post when the inspiration hits. That's probably good practice anyway.

I'll add links to this post (below) as I post them over at the ebertfest blog.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Supporting the Troops

Last Friday, NPR reported that injured soldiers are being taken advantage of by the military with injury ratings. Soldiers who are injured and cannot perform their duties get a disability rating when they leave. If the rating is less than 30%, the military doesn’t have to pay them a monthly stipend (they get a small one-time severance instead), and they don't get to be part of the military health care system (they go into the VA system instead). One guy had a serious head injury in Iraq where they had to cut out part of his skull. He received a 10% disabled rating. In order to get health care, he has to fight long delays at VA hospitals. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. Vets are continuing to have troubles getting the health care they legitimately need.

This hits home for me because a very good friend of mine is in this exact position. He wasn’t in combat, but has debilitating back pain from an injury he sustained while in the Air Force. He had 16 years in towards a 20 year full retirement, but had trouble standing for much of the day (he was a teacher), so he was forced out of the Air Force with a 20% disability rating. He got a severance, but no monthly stipend, and because his back pain is so bad, it is hard for him to work and support himself.

The Mennonite part of me has nothing but compassion for the injuries soldiers sustain, regardless of whether they are physical or not. They are the ones bearing the cost of lessons not learned a generation ago by those running this war, and deserve to be taken care of. Actually, the Mennonite part of me thinks everyone should be entitled to quality health care, even if one’s health issues are not the result of arrogance or greed on the administration’s part. But that is probably a Minor Mennonite position.

The Liberal part of me wonders how in the world Conservatives can accuse us of not supporting the troops. They are the ones who put soldiers in harms way for no good reason, underfund their body armor and medical care, and whose contempt for government makes them seemingly unable to run any part of it. The idea that we are not supporting the troops by attempting to put a time-limit on the amount of blood they must spill is ludicrous.

The Snarky part of me (which often undermines the Mennonite and Liberal parts of me) wonders why NPR wants military health care to fail. After all, if reporting bad news from Iraq undermines the war, then reporting bad news about health care must threaten health care. Why didn’t they choose to interview people with serious head injuries who do get monthly stipends and reasonable health care? I would even bet that some hospitals have been freshly painted. No wonder NPR is constantly being threatened with its funding. What's a government-run organization useful for if it isn't to trumpet the success of those in power?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

I’m in Florida this week for spring break, and am pleased to report that I’ve found a sign that now qualifies as my all-time favorite:

The other side of the sign contains the exact same message, and the exact same scene of countless sunbathers enjoying a nice sunny day on the beach. There is no indication as to what is designated about this area, why this particular spot has reached its limit. It is quite literally a useless sign plopped down in the middle of a beach, saying essentially nothing, and yet saying it in an awkward way.

This sign now replaces my previous favorite, which has lasted 20 years and dates back to my time living in Maryland, where on the side of the road near some paint stripes they warn motorists:

Paint Test
Drive Normally

That sign leads to all kinds of easy jokes about what constitutes normal driving in Maryland, and why the people of Maryland need to be reminded every day to drive that way. But, it does meet the minimal qualification that a sign convey intelligble information of some kind, even if it is just say that you should be acting normally. The Limits sign conveys information, but it is known only to the committee that designed and placed it.

For an even easier joke, here is my favorite made-up sign: