One man's view of the world, from the top of this great big rock somewhere in the middle of God's Country, with an eye toward freedom....or at least some way to get back down without goin' over the edge.

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Location: West Virginia, United States

Former U.S. Army, SPC E-4, Veteran of Operation Desert Storm. If you are or have ever been a soldier, you have friends in my house.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stander's Screening Room: I AM LEGEND

First off, I've always liked Will Smith since the first inkling we had of him in his "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" days.

Admittedly, that show wasn't much of a stretch for him; "young rapper makes good" kinda thing. Pretty cool, but I generally got the impression that he wasn't doing much more than simply being himself, a skinny street-wise kid from West Philly, and having a blast doing it. (I mean, come on, they didn't even bother changing his NAME.)

Then he started making movies. Specifically, his first real starring role came in "Six Degrees of Separation", and he pretty much gobsmacked everybody with his performance.

In my humble opinion, he's never looked back since. (Well, okay...there was that "Wild Wild West" turkey. Even HE'S embarrassed about that one.) His ability to mold himself into whatever role has been put in front of him, coupled with a work ethic that would put a stable full of plowhorses in traction, has enabled him to become a one-man Hollywood powerhouse.

There's one thing he hadn't done, though, at least as far as I know...a one-man MOVIE.

I've always wondered what he would able to do without a cast to bounce off of. Would he be able to carry almost an entire film on just his own skills as an actor?

Enter the answer....I AM LEGEND.

If you've ever read Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, you have a reasonable understanding of what's going on here. A great plague has stricken the Earth, rendering nine-tenths of the world's population dead as doornails, and most of the remaining tenth reduced to mutated, vampiristic, not-so-dead doornails monstrosities...with the exception of one survivor, whose genetic structure has rendered him luckily immune from the plague. The movie strays a little from the original work as far as the cause of the plague (it's basically a viral strain of super-rabies) and the nature of the monsters (sorta "28 Days Later"-ish), but you get the idea.

The setting here is New York City, circa 2012, completely devoid of sentient life as we know it (with the exception of Will's character and his dog, Sam) for the three years since the initial spread of the virus...and, folks, it is almost seamless. The thoroughfares are overrun with the detritus of people gone missing (abandoned cars, road construction projects dropped in mid-jackhammer, etc.) and also deer, birds, and even lions (hey, zoo animals gotta eat too), and beginning to be overgrown with wild grasses and weeds. In short, this is a very realistic picture of what the place might look like if us biped-types just picked up and moved out all of a sudden, and nature began the process of reclaiming the city.

Will Smith, in the guise of Robert Neville, is the ghost in the shell of the once-bustling NYC machine. And in Will's hands, Neville is a human being who has been handed the ultimate double-edged sword.

During the day, Neville is the King of New York City. We're talking blank-check-of-the-gods here. The city is his supermarket, safari, department store, and entertainment center all rolled into one, and he recognizes it and uses it to keep himself fed, safe and -- above all -- sane. (Hey, I'd put up mannequins in the video store, too, if only to have someone other than my dog to talk to once in a while.)

He has also apparently managed to visit the local hospital enough to outfit a pretty decent-looking microbiological laboratory in his basement, where he can be found when not foraging for food and supplies. His ultimate goal (and the driving plot of the film) is to find a cure for the virus's effects on those it did not kill, and Will does a masterful job of portraying the frustrations of a scientist trying to hammer a viral nail that just won't go down.

Which brings us to the other side of the "carte blanche"...He is, indeed, the only human being he has seen in over three years -- for all he knows, he may be the only one left on the planet -- but he is also not alone. And Will's performance during the nighttime scenes carry well the juxtaposition of the two extremes: When night falls, the erstwhile kings of the castle become just a guy and his dog, boarded up in his house, praying that the horde of slavering, howling monsters patrolling outside will pass him by unknowingly, just once more.

I won't blow anymore of the movie for you. I will just say, before releasing you to see this for yourself, that Will gives the character of Robert Neville a range of emotion, strength and weakness that totally sold me. I cared about this character enough to forget for a while that I was just watching a movie, and found myself jumping at the scares and appreciating his attempts at normal life in the daytime like I was standing there with him. (Friends, there are one or two moments of absolute sadness in the movie that I defy you to watch and remain unmoved.)

Ladies and gentlemen....I AM LEGEND, Francis Lawrence director.

Just plain POWERFUL.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Forgive me, folks...I just couldn't stop myself.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

July 26, 2007: Teflon Don and the Apaches

Words fail me.

Well, yeah...they do that all the time. I'm not nearly the writer I think I am sometimes.

But this time is different.

This morning, I read a very special post by Teflon Don, owner and proprietor of the invaluable soldier's blog "Acute Politics", concerning the events of one day last year.

I'm just gonna shut up and let you read it for yourselves. I've supplied the link to his main page below. Start with the article entitled "FRAGO - 26 July 2007" posted on Friday, March 7 of this year. Scroll down from there. There's a very important link in the midst of that day's postings that you must not miss.

You have your orders. Proceed.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Points of Interest: March 4, 2008

As most of you are probably already aware, this last week or so has seen a few changes in the conservative blogosphere. Bryan Preston, an able netwriter whom I have referenced more than once in these pages, has left the stable over at Hot Air to take a position with Laura Ingraham's radio show. I wish him all the best with his new venture.

Concurrent with the above news, blogger extraordinaire Ed Morrissey has consented to join the Hot Air crew to fill the void left by Bryan's departure. Alas, this change of scenery also means that Ed's former virtual abode, the indefatigable Captain's Quarters, is no more. CQ has been a mainstay of the right-sided 'sphere for some years now, and it will be missed. Godspeed to all aboard, says I.

Finally, Michelle Malkin, the head honcho of the aforementioned collective, has another reason to mourn a passage today (along with anyone else -- myself included -- who ever spent an Mountain-Dew-and-Doritos-choked weekend in their mom's basement hack'n'slash-ing their way through a never-ending mob of ghouls, goblins and other assorted long-leggedly beasties)....Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the grandaddy of all role-playing games, has rolled his last saving throw. (As one of Michelle's commenters put it..."Where's a level 7 cleric when you need him?" Where, indeed.)

Warriors, rogues and mages all -- join me in hoisting a flagon of the finest to the honor of the Grand Ol' Wizard. (QUAFF) Excelsior!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Note To Self: Grow Up, Dude

First, a big thank-you to all those who have been asking after me in my absence...I'm fine. The surgery went off without a hitch, and I now basically have a clean bill of health, aside from some cholesterol issues that are being dealt with.

I will say,'s an unusual state, me watching my own health as closely as I am now. I mean, I ain't no Adonis, but I've never really noticed myself aging all that much. I've been told by some that I seem to have a more youthful outlook on things, and I suppose that's true to a certain point.

But I'm learning rather quickly now that I am no longer the young buck of days gone by.

I've been getting clues here and there for some time now, of course, my recent health issues notwithstanding...the occasional click in the knees getting out of bed in the morning, the leftovers on my dinner plate speaking to an appetite that used to be a lot bigger (ask my mom what I was like as a teenager -- she swears I had the metabolism of a blast furnace), the first glimmerings of a spare tire....little things like that.

But you wanna know what really drove the point home this last week or so? (Sure you do. You know you do.)

My 20th high school reunion is coming up in October. This year.

Twenty years. I have been a grown-up for twenty years.

How the hell did that happen? Time used to be that I couldn't see anything in the future past my 25th birthday. Just couldn't see myself as being some old guy (that's what 25 looked like to me, don't-cha-know).

Now I have absolutely no idea what I could have been thinking back then. I have a loving wife (who also happens to be a helluva good cook), I have a fine young kindhearted-smart-ass 11-year-old son (that's right - there's ANOTHER one of me out there! Hide the china!), a good house, a working car, and a steady job that lets me give me and my family everything we need (and even, now and then, a few of the things we want).

Sure, things can get tough now and again...but in the long run, I guess me and mine are doing alright.

I'll be back later on with more of the usual drivel, I promise. I just thought I'd get that off my chest first. (It was getting pretty heavy.)

It makes me think...what if I could say "Hi" to that young buck now? Would I tell myself to avoid or change something in my own future, on the risk that doing so could wipe out the good things I have now?

Naw, probably not. Some of the bad stuff was instrumental in my finding the good stuff. In the end, I'm pretty happy with how things have worked out.'s a pretty cool idea.