Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back For More

The last edition was a warning.

They crawled into the newsroom, waves of agonized staffers unable to cope with the layoffs, the downsizing, the outsourcing, the gas prices, the mortgage payments, the campaigns, the Iranians, the Chinese, and the current season of "So You Think You Can Dance?"

They slithered up to the editor's desk, each raising a stapler in their right hands and pledging allegiance to the noble cause of smart-aleck journalism, whatever cause that might be, vowing to get back to work taking low-cost pot shots at anything rolling off the teletype. Of course, they forgot we ditched the teletype about the same time people started asking, "What's a Macintosh?"

"You don't understand," I tell the aggrieved masses. "We don't have a budget anymore."

It doesn't matter. The cause is important enough to warrant its own version of Skunk Works. So we shall carry on, laboring when we can, striking while the inspiration is hot. As for a paycheck, Larry's Sub Shop is hiring down the street.

GO DEPORT YOURSELF! The INS has got a deal for illegal immigrants: turn yourself in during most of August, and avoid arrest and detention. As always, you have to read the fine print, as the Arizona Daily Star explains:
The program doesn't offer any monetary compensation or a path to legalization.

"The benefit is not being detained and being allowed to make arrangements for their families and themselves to join them or to schedule their departure," [ICE official Jim] Hayes said. "But there is very little chance with an individual who has a final order of removal, that they are going to be eligible for any other type of benefit."
With a lack of discernible benefits other than a clear conscience and a shame-free return, your Lightning Round wonders if illegals will opt instead for the government's repatriation program, which includes a free flight back to Mexico.

(No, wingnuts, you can't self-deport Isabel Garcia. Please get real.)

AND YOU THOUGHT MORRIS WAS BIG. "Princess Chunk" is turning into the new poster-cat for the foreclosure crisis. The story of the 44-pound cat has bubbled up from the kicker block to the first segment now that its owner has come forward, saying she abandoned the cat because she was losing her home.

The obvious question: Was the cat eating her out of house and home? Even Garfield had to go on a few diets.

We don't know, but now the cat will surely get a new home in light of all the television exposure... and possibly a lap-band.

BIPARTISANSHIP George H.W. Bush accused future President Clinton of trying to be on both sides of an issue. Might he say the same about California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's backing John McCain but praising Barack Obama?

As the AP reported:
"I would take his (Obama's) call now, I will take his call when he's president—any time. Remember, no matter who is president, I don't see this as a political thing. I see this as we always have to help, no matter what the administration is," he said.
Even if that call came at 3am?

GOING, GOING... It's looking less and less likely that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be Obama's running mate, killing any hope of a dream ticket. She'll have to settle for a convention speech, according to a message from Hillary backers disclosed by the Boston Globe:
"We hope you are as pleased as we are that he has tapped Senator Clinton to deliver one of the most important messages of that crucial week—the very role that Barack Obama had four years ago," the message says. "Regretfully, this means that Senator Hillary Clinton is no longer under consideration as Senator Obama’s running mate."
Pleased, maybe, but still grumbling under their teeth and driving a bus with Bill's name on it. We'll let you figure out where they're going with it.

SEX, LIES, AND THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT. The Fellowship of the Interlocking Rings will be checking the gender of athletes at the Beijing games using lab tests, because looks aren't enough.

From The Guardian:
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced sex testing in 1968 at the Olympic games in Mexico City, after the masculine appearance of some competitors, many pumped up by anabolic steroids, had started to raise questions about the gender of athletes in female events. Unsurprisingly, gender-determination tests were seen as degrading, with female competitors having to submit to humiliating and invasive physical examinations by a series of doctors. Later, the IOC decided to use a supposedly more sophisticated genetic test, based on chromosomes. Women usually have two X chromosomes; men an X and a Y chromosome. So, according to the rules of the test, only those athletes with two X chromosomes could be classed as women. However, many geneticists criticized the tests, saying that sex is not as simple as X and Y chromosomes and is not always simple to ascertain.
And in the age of the "meterosexual," that's the understatement of the year.

Conduct yourselves as ladies and gentlemen, dearest readers, until we return... whenever that may be.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Hope He's Not Expecting WMD

The following actual email scam letter arrived in my box tonight. I've stripped the sender's name and address, but the body should tip you off.
    With due respect,

    We desire to purchase the below lited products in large quantities,for use in all over our 18 governorates provinces) as the task of re-building Iraq covers every single sector and facet of our society.

    We'll submit your products information to the agency for internal development in charge of Iraq economic governance control IEG of the Iraq Development Program. They will examine the propriety and neccessity of your product and approve the purchase of your product for bulk supply and contracting relationship.

    With my connections in the corridors of power, we are quite confident of securing approval. Also of note is the issue of different financial regulations between my country Iraq and your country. What is acceptable mode of payment from outside your country? We prefer to send you 100% T/T from our own side.

    When you've received payment, we would be expecting a monthly supply; as the sum budgeted for product may be quite enormous as to outstrip your capacity and capability to supply.

    A consideration also is that your quotation must be CIF Port of Umm Qasr (or the Jordanian Port of Aqaba). I will reveal more procedural information to you upon your re-confirmation.

    Best regards,

    [name redacted]
    Consultant Iraq
    Al Thawrah Street, [redacted] Al Basrah, Iraq.
And here's the funny part -- our "Consultant Iraq" never mentions what products he's after. The best I can do for you, sir, is some junk in my closet. Interested in an ancient TRS-80 Color Computer? A box of 3/4" videotapes, maybe? Could you take an Epson dot matrix printer off my hands? An old Realistic amp? Name your price!

Monday, July 28, 2008

God, Gunfire And "Dem Lib-ruls"

Police say the man who opened fire in a Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church had plenty of blame to go around for not being able to find a job, as Reuters reports:
Suspect Jim Adkisson, 58, who was being held on $1 million bond, had previously worked as a mechanical engineer in several states. He described his violent plans in a four-page letter found at his home, which also explained that his age and "liberals and gays" taking jobs had worked against him.
On the other hand, he would've made a great talk-radio host.

My fear now -- and I am praying for this not to happen -- is that right-wing, neo-con Christians will use this incident to take cheap shots at the Unitarian Universalist church, which is known for liberal beliefs. You may not hear it in public, but I have no doubt some hard-liners think God lifted His protection from the UU church because of liberalism. That's just as ridiculous as Pat Robertson's assertion that God lifted His protection from the U.S. before 9/11. (Incidentally, I was raised in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., which isn't known for being hard-line conservative, either.)

R.J. Eskow at The Huffington Post points a long angry finger of blame back at the right:
Who really killed those Unitarians? Was it the preachers who spread hatred and intolerance? The politicians who court and flatter them instead of condemning their hate speech? The media machine that attacks liberals, calls them "traitors" and suggests you speak to them "with a baseball bat"? The economic system that batters people like Jim Adkinson (sic) until they snap, then tells them their real enemies are gays and liberals and secular humanists?

If you ask me, it was all of the above.
Kindly resist any temptation to throw stones. Many more people could have been killed in this unbelievable act, and the fact that so many survived is proof to me God protects His Own.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reel To Reel: The Dark Knight

Dark, indeed.

How It Rates: ****
Starring: Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Fisticuffs and Copious Explosions -- too disturbing for young children

I'm not sure people would be talking about giving Heath Ledger an Oscar if he were still alive -- it seems people want to recognize his entire body of work and they don't have any other option that's good enough -- but he is frightfully, psychotically compelling as The Joker in what people will consider his official last picture, any salvageable work for Terry Gilliam nonwithstanding.

The Dark Knight veers the new Batman saga into heavy and heady territory, turning the comic-book movie into film noir. It requires your absolute attention to digest all its nuances and social commentary, and no doubt people will see it over and over again just to make sure they get it. It clouds the definitions of heroes and villains. Victory against crime comes with a huge penalty, and even the best, most well-equipped super-crimefighters are powerless to stop the unpredictable chaos of a madman.

Enter the Joker. Save for a few gutwrenching speeches, we don't know what turned him into a clown-faced terrorist. But we do learn that he derives his control from the uncontrollable, a fierce hatred for any semblance of rationality or code of conduct. You don't play chess with a guy who sweeps the pieces off the board. Yet the Caped Crusader (Bale), tries his best, aided as always by the insightful Alfred (Caine) and R&D whiz Lucius Fox (Freeman). Love interest Rachel Dawes (Gyllenhaal, replacing the Scientology-zonked Katie Holmes) is back as well, only she has a new flame -- charismatic D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), who's trying to shut down Gotham's criminal underworld. It's laundering money through Gotham banks, one of which is hit by the Joker and several clown thugs in the opening scenes.

The mob soon finds out police are on to their operation after irradiated bills are found in the bank vault. The Joker appears and offers a solution to their problems: "Kill the Batman," for half of the mob's money, of course, which happens to be controlled by an Asian businessman trying to do a deal with Wayne's company. This touches off a series of unforeseeable, twisted crimes with Batman, Lt. Gordon (Oldman) and Dent in a precarious alliance plagued by uncertainty and distrust as they try to stop the Joker's plan to kill Gotham's citizens if Batman doesn't reveal his true identity. But the Joker's crime spree keeps growing, getting bigger and crazier and forcing the good guys to think outside of their ethical guides. The picture runs at a breathless pace, leaving you little time to muse upon its disturbing truths.

Ledger's Joker makes Jack Nicholson's 1989 version look, well, clownish. And this sequel makes the entire first Batman movie series look like Shazam. It doesn't care about catering to a kid-friendly audience, or even the comic-book geek. Director Christopher Nolan clearly made the movie he wanted to make, venturing into art-film territory. However, art films don't do $150 million plus at the box office on opening weekend. Nolan may very well have created the perfect blockbuster, combining just enough action, chills, and insight to pull in people who don't see popcorn movies.

An Oscar nomination for Ledger is a given. Perhaps one for screenplay and Nolan's direction are in the bag, too. Another given: we will see a third Batman picture, and as some on the Internet have said, please, please, keep Robin out of it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where Did All The Money Go?

All right, we get it: the economy stinks. But beyond that simple truth lies a mystery that has us scratching our heads, if not our wallets, wondering how dollars and cents can simply vaporize.

THE OLD GREY LADY, SHE AIN'T WHAT SHE USED TO BE. The New York Times Company's second-quarter earnings are down 82 percent compared to the same quarter last year. The company blames the usual suspects: bad economy, shrinking advertising. However, we get this curious quote from the AP:
Chief Executive Janet Robinson says business was hurt by the "U.S. economic slowdown and secular forces playing out across the media industry."
Does she mean news people aren't saying their prayers?

HANGOVER. President Bush has an explanation for the sour economy: "Wall Street got drunk." According to The Hill, that's what he told people at a closed-door fundraiser last week.

He elaborates, in true Bushian:
"There's no question about it," Bush said. "Wall Street got drunk, that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."
Fancy Financial Instruments? Gee, maybe we should go back to the abacus.

See it for yourself:

MAKING MONEY THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY. An Orlando Wachovia Bank gave counterfeit money to one of its customers, who found out about the funny money when another bank wouldn't take it.

As WKMG-TV reports:
A Wachovia representative said it will not refund any money because it can't verify the $1,000 in counterfeit notes were the same bills [Ulises] Garcia was handed by their teller.

But weeks later, Wachovia did refund $40 to another customer with a similar story, Local 6 has learned.
Garcia is now going to the feds, who wonder if it was an inside job.

With Wachovia losing billions, you figure somebody might've gotten desperate.

DROP THAT CHANGE! Desperation will lead to criminal activity, as police in Naples, Florida cuffed a man accused of stealing 42 cents from a fountain.

As the Naples Daily News reports:
It is not unusual for police officers to arrest people who steal small items from local retail stores, [Police Capt. John] Adams said. Police officers have arrested people for stealing change from fountains before, Adams said.

“He shouldn’t be taking change out of the mall fountain,” Adams said. “It’s not found money. It’s money that’s destined for charity.”
Your Lightning Round wonders how much it will cost to prosecute this case versus simply asking the accused offender to put the money back. A good guess: it's a heckuvalot more than 42 cents.

THE $42 MILLION VIEW. At least Candy Spelling still has money, according to the L.A. Times, describing the hefty going rate for her new condo in Century City. But wait, she's actually downsizing:
After all, the 62-year-old heiress with a reputation for embracing opulence will be moving out of Los Angeles County's largest home -- a 123-room, 56,500-square-foot mansion on six acres in the Holmby Hills neighborhood off Sunset Boulevard.

Her new home will be less than a third the size of the old one -- just 16,500 square feet -- but with a killer 360-degree view spanning the horizon from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Catalina Island.
That's sort of like the government adding only $40 billion to the deficit instead of $80 billion and calling it savings.

Don't take any wooden nickels. We'll see you again when we have time... and money.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fine Malfunction

Court sanity is putting the FCC in its place. Today an appeals court threw out a $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the hand of Justin Timberlake. This fine, I remind you, came for less than one second of bared breast in a wide shot that made it hard to see.

From the AP:
"Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing," the court said. "But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."
In other words, changing your mind is okay. Regulatory multiple-personality disorder is not. The FCC cannot suddenly start fining "oops" moments after letting them slide for decades.

But the whole uproar over Janet Jackson's bare bosom wasn't about the breast. The breast was merely the topping on a rotten halftime Super Bowl show which featured pelvic grinds, Kid Rock, and an American Flag displayed less than honorably. MTV's entire attitude towards the viewers stunk of hormones and edginess for the sake of cool, because boundaries aren't cool anymore. If the FCC wanted to fine something, it should've fined the entire production for being wack. But that's not an actionable offense, nor should it be.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"This Is Journalism To You?"

KTLA Reporter Eric Spillman tells people waiting for the new iPhone to, in essence, get a life, throwing in a nerd stereotype along the way. Watch as one of the crowd subtly lets him have it:

Spillman later apologized... kinda. Let's go to the tape:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

More Proof Life Isn't Fair

Tony Snow dies of cancer.

Sudden heart trouble recently killed Tim Russert and George Carlin.

Harvey Korman and Sydney Pollack left us too soon.

And here's Amy Winehouse, mysteriously still alive after smoking crack and cigarettes.

Monday, July 7, 2008

We're Shocked, Shocked

You know full well things have been pretty sleepy around LR's world headquarters. The official claim is high gas prices and its inhibiting factors on the commute. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We caught the layout editors sitting by the Rillito River the other day, waiting for that first big wave of monsoon water to wash downstream. We're hearing bets on whether it will contain dead trees, an SUV or a certain Tucson political figure, but that beat's for our gossip columnist -- if he'll ever get off the phone.

Otherwise, we recently came across these items in regards to your personal security... or lack of it.

FASTEN YOUR BELTS BEFORE FLIGHT. The Department of Homeland Security may be looking into a shock bracelet for airplane passengers. According to the Washington Times...
The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?
Your Lightning Round editor already hears frustrated passengers begging to bracelet the guy in the seat behind them. And I'd be careful about asking for the whole can of soda, too.

I'LL COME QUIETLY OFFICER, BUT COULD YOU TELL THIS GUY IN MY HEAD TO SHUT UP? A new ray gun in development is supposed to make you think people are talking to you inside your head -- handy for riot neutralization.

Short for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, MEDUSA creates the audio effect with short microwave pulses. The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that's detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you're going [bleep!] insane. The MEDUSA can also "produce recognizable sounds" and is aimed primarily at military uses, but New Scientist revealed there are other uses in the works, too.
Gizmodo worries about possible abuses including subliminal advertising. Your Lightning Round also worries about what happens when you take a group of crazy people and just make them crazier.

ZAPPING THE OPPOSITION. A court fight is underway in Denver, where the ACLU wants to know more about hush-hush high-tech weapons planned for demonstrators who don't behave during the Democratic National Convention. CNN and The Raw Story learned about a couple of them:
Weapons such as the sonic ray gun, which emits a head-splitting frequency and deafens large groups of people. Also rumored for the conventions is the goo gun -- which shoots a gel that can coat and wrap people whole, or stop a moving vehicle in its path -- and a microwave pulse emitter -- a radio frequency device that makes one's skin feel it is on fire, previously deployed in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq.
The goo gun sounds intriguing to us. What does one do after getting "slimed?" (Somebody brought up that scene in Fantastic Voyage where sticky green antibodies wrap themselves around Raquel Welch's top-heavy figure.) We gather it won't be as easy as hosing somebody down. Maybe somebody at Nickelodeon can help; they've dealt with slimy kids for years now.

AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS... Sid and Marty Krofft may have come up with an effective crowd-control ray gun.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Step Up!

Going 4th in Victory on Independence Day with We Make History means walking and talking... and walking the talk.

From the journal of Private Christopher of the Continental Line

Stockings -- check.

Linen shirt -- check.

Waistcoat -- check.

Wooden Canteen -- leaks. All that sealing wax melted in the trip from Tucson.

Regimental coat -- check.

Tricorn -- check.

Cartridge box -- check.

Haversack -- stocked.

Hidden Gatorade bottle -- check.

Breeches -- working on it. My calves are growing or the linen is shrinking. It's 7:45, fifteen minutes before mustering time and I'm fighting the Battle of the Bottom Button on the left leg of my breeches. I just moved that button to avoid this. I suppose I could just leave it loose, but I'm not that kind of a soldier. His Excellency wouldn't tolerate any substandard dress and I won't either.

My Queen Mother re-enters the hotel room and finds me hunched over my leg.

"Could you help me with this?"

She has it buttoned up in less than a minute, and hopefully I won't cut off my circulation through myriad blocks of marching. We rush to the formation point, running behind. I jump out of the station wagon, whip my French musket from the gun sack, fumble it, and watch it drop to the ground in the much-maligned tradition.

Flagstaff's Independence Day Parade ranks as the largest in the state and one of my most exhilarating times of the year, portraying a soldier of George Washington's Army. I am under his command, accompanied by our 1st Sergeant and dutiful flag-bearer, followed by the sharply drilled Confederates of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry and surrounded by the ladies and the children handing out fliers in hopes of enticing some new recruits. We can use some more Revolutionary War soldiers.

We form up for a group photo before arranging ourselves into parade formation. The musket wants to knock off my hat as I shoulder the weapon. Maybe I can adjust the corners --

"Quit playing with your hat," our 1st Sergeant orders, kindly but firmly.

Cameras click off and I can only hope that silver barrel looked flattering.

"Shoulder arms!" the Sergeant commands. "With the lock out," he adds when he finds it facing the wrong way, to my muted embarrassment. No detail shall escape his eagle eye. And as the only Continental infantryman besides our flag-bearer, those eyes will be planted squarely on my back.

So my challenge is obvious: stay in formation, flanking the colors, and stay soldierly fer cryin' out loud. Last year I cut loose with my displays of patriotic mirth, working the crowd but losing proper cadence with my fellow patriot soldiers. The impression I envision is akin to Archibald Willard's "Spirit of '76" minus the fife and drums.

"Forward, march!"

Left... left... left, right, left. Eyes forward. Musket shouldered. Lock out. Lined up with the colors.

We encounter spectators almost immediately, dressed in a patchwork of red, white and blue. I notice a few sparkles from glittered hats. Flag t-shirts are en vogue. Kids are up front, sitting in parents' laps. General Washington elicits responses. A few wave. A few clap. A few cheer. I spot a few characters: children from karate classes in their standard-issue white outfits, a few people wearing Viking hats. Indiana Jones is weaving up and down the sides. Indiana Jones? American Hero, we can argue.

But a disturbing absence sinks in. This crowd doesn't have enough juice. Maybe 9am is still too early. Walking past them, it's getting harder for me to restrain the urge to crank up their patriotic fervor. Mere waves are not enough, so I finally capitulate to habit.

"HUZZAH!" I cry, lifting my tricorn to the crowds. I don't care if I have to wear the "Insubordinate" sign later. I'm going to get these people into the spirit.

To the right and left I look, scouring the crowd for cameras and making sure people are getting the desired shot.


My Mother and Father have staked out their spot. She's got the Nikon. He's got the Sony. And both of them should get the money shot.

We make frequent stops as vehicles make turns and participants in front of us pause. The recruits of the 1st Virgina show off their drill, turning to face one side of spectators and going through a few routines from the manual of arms before marching on.


"Huzzah!" a lady to the side responds. "That's the right word!" she replies to a girl with her. "When somebody says 'Huzzah!' you're supposed to respond 'Huzzah!" I'm not taking you to the Renaissance Festival!"

His Excellency wants us looking good as we approach the first reviewing stand. He commands me to fix my bayonet. It slips on with hesitation, but it's there to glisten in the morning sun and intimidate any redcoats. It rattles as I march.

My fellow patriots are picking up on the need to stoke fervor. "A cheer for General Washington!" the Sergeant commands, drawing out more applause and cheers from his side of the street. Our flag-bearer calls out the occasional Huzzah, but they leave the boisterous call-and-response duties to our commander and myself.

"Huzzah to the people on the top row!" I call to the crowd lining the balcony of one of Flagstaff's historic hotels, the people with the best vantage point in town. As is custom, the men of the 1st Virginia pause and drill for them, saluting them with another display of precision.

"He's drilling them hard," our 1st Sergeant observes of his Confederate counterpart.

We round another corner to discover a massive crowd staked out in the generous shade of downtown's tallest building. Their enthusiasm needs little assistance. My feet will need it climbing up the last hill of the march like the British Regulars at Bunker Hill. We pass two more reviewing stands and at least two TV news crews. And at last, the people are pumped up to my satisfaction.

The crowds thin. Our part of the parade is over. A look to the left reveals groups and vehicles still waiting to start the journey. I dig into my haversack for a large, long swig of Gatorade out of the sight of any spectators when a fire engine from the parade rolls by, inhabitants waving.

"Huzzah!" I cry, one last time before returning to the mustering point for some post-parade thoughts, and a Prayer of Thanksgiving for Liberty... from tyranny and from our own sins.

* * *

"Do you want to go back to the room?" my father asks as Mom, Dad and I reassemble at the car.

"I think he wants to go to the tree," Mother interjects.

The short journey to Northern Arizona University's Old Main takes mere minutes. My family is the first to arrive. I waste no time finding the Washington Oak, the tree born of a sprig from the original oak under which General George Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in 1775. It is tall and sturdy, oh so green and beautiful. I stand silently gazing at it as the other We Make History families arrive. My parents encounter the people they've heard so much about, but have barely seen.

I pose for a couple of pictures, hastily wiping away a few tears, an emotional response I still struggle to understand but refuse to suppress.

Our commander asks me to call the group of mingling adults and playful children to order.

"Attention!" I command in my best attempt at a Sergeant's voice. "Gather at the tree!"

"Which tree?" someone snickers.

"If you have to ask..." I say to myself as everyone aligns themselves around the beloved NAU Washington Oak

"Private Francis," our leader says. "Perhaps you'd like to share a few thoughts."

I walk up to the tree again, surveying it and letting my heart spill out of my mouth.

"It's hard for me not to become emotionally involved as I look at this tree," I begin, launching into a discourse of where the tree came from, of how people planted sprigs from the original all over America. I feel the connection to George Washington every time I see it, I say. It's a connection I can't get from books.

"I have to feel it here," I say, pointing to my heart. "Reading history simply doesn't do it for me."

Under Washington's leadership, I remind people, the Continental Army improved disciplined and learned how to win, and they learned to win in a way that would earn them the respect they needed to win independence.

"You may have heard the expression, the Revolution was won by hiding behind rocks and trees. Not true!"

But His Excellency was more than a good soldier, I add. He was a man of honor, penning rules of civility now attributed to him, "a great self-help guide for lack of a better word. He was a great dancer as well. If you want to model yourself around somebody, why not pick Washington? As you look at the tree, think about the man who assumed command under it. Think about the kind of human he was. Think about the leader he was. Think about the kind of leader you can be and the way you can live, because Washington was all of those things. You can be, too."

I silently stroll away from the tree, hoping my words have penetrated a few hearts. Applause tells me I have.

Our commander offers his thoughts next about General Washington, challenging us all to use our imagination and picture Washington taking command of an army with very little organization.

"He had every expectation that the likelihood was that his reputation, not to mention his fortune, would be destroyed, and that was true of all of the Founding Fathers, who pledged their lives, their liberties, their fortunes. They stepped up to the plate, and they didn't go for a bunt. They swung for all they were worth. They put everything on the line."

After all, Britain was both an economic and military superpower. Nobody beat the British, except for that one day at Yorktown when the French bottled up the Royal Navy.

"If you don't believe in Providence, you need to ponder just that one fact."

Now, our commander challenged us, it's our turn to step up for our families and our country. We have to be the leaders, even in reluctance. God's Providence will be there for us if we answer the call to serve.

We close with more prayers of Thanksgiving before dismissing to our cars.

"Why didn't you tell me you were going to make a speech?" Mom asks, noting she only caught a bit of it on video.

"I didn't know I was going to make one... until then."

My entire talk on Washington was unrehearsed, unscripted, and unexpected. But I'd heard the call and stepped up, somehow pulling words and sentiments from the attic of my mind. And it reaffirmed my belief in Providence. I gave thanks to God on the trip back to the hotel to change out of my uniform. I still have much to learn about history, about Washington and the myriad others who wove the fabric of this nation. But after all those prayers for guidance, God just delivered.

"Do you all study history?" a parade watcher asked me, placing a dreary vision of bookworms into my head.

"We live it!" I replied.

And thus, we make it.

More from the happy marchers here.

NEXT: The White Cockade