Category Archives: Thought

Star Wars – The Force awakens – Movie review

Non-standard spoiler alert here

Normally I place a standard spoiler alert here because I usually go into a lot of detail about the movies that I review.  This time things are a bit different.  I feel that even 6 months after the movie comes out that if I divulge any secrets that I will get a ton of hate mail.  So with that in mind I am going to review the movie in a fairly roundabout way and discuss the whole of the Star Wars universe and how the new movie fits in.  Even so some details may leak out.

This post will go into details about the movie “The Force awakens“. If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


Back in 1977 I was 6 years old.  My sister’s boyfriend at the time took her and of course her little brother to the movies in the Galleria to see this sci-fi movie called Star Wars.  She had already seen it and advised me not to be scared of the space battles and alien monsters.

I sat goggled eyed for the next hour and a half.  My perspective had been broadened way beyond the horizon.  Any thoughts about growing up to be a cowboy or a fireman or whatever were replaced with being a space faring Jedi knight.

In many ways this was the first “adult” movie that I ever watched.  No simple cartoons, or parables.  This was something complex for a kid to handle.  Please understand, it wasn’t so much the special effects, though they were jaw dropping for the time, it was more a matter of having such a fleshed out and complete story line framing and structuring the entire movie and setting the stage for future movies.

Lucas had been working on and off since the early seventies and possibly since his college days to come up with the basic story.  He borrowed heavily from myth, from the action movies of the 1930’s, and from a wide range of science fiction sources.  What he put together was a complete story package that had a clearly defined arc from beginning to end and it was a story that was very relatable to a wide audience but also contained nuggets of religion and philosophy for the hard-core sci-fi fans to consider.

When the next installments of the story were released, Lucas kept building the basic story line and kept it moving to the climax in the third installment (or what was the third installment back in the 80’s). When Return of the Jedi ended and it seemed that Lucas was finished with the entire story, many fans were left clamoring for more and with a whole lot of unanswered questions.

During the 90’s, Lucas set to work on the prequel series and decided to focus on the roots of the story with the rise of the Empire and in particular, Darth Vader.  The prequels answered many of the fan questions but were generally badly received.

Why?  Some criticisms focus on the story line which was perceived to be badly scripted, clumsy, and un-even.  Others said that Lucas had fallen in love with special effects and neglected the story and others said that he not so much made a movie but made a video game instead.

The story itself wasn’t bad and as I said it answered many of the origin questions in the Star Wars universe but personally I did feel that it lacked the completed feel of the original series and clumsily steered its way to connect up to what was now referred to as Episode 4 from 1977.

After the rebukes that he received, Lucas vowed that he would never again direct another Star Wars movie.  So it was a great shock and somewhat disheartening when the news broke that Lucas had sold the rights to the movie series to Disney for 4 Billion dollars.

At first most fans were horrified that the studio would ruin and “Disney-fy” the series for the sake of making money.  The studio immediately moved to install JJ Abrams as the director and we fans waited with bated breath to see what would happen.

This is where I would give away plot details but I won’t.  Instead I will mention that some movie plot points have been speculated on since back in the 80’s.  Points like, what happened to the Empire after the Battle of Endor in the sixth movie?  Did Han and Leia live happily ever after?  Did the Sith ever return?

The new movie builds a bridge from Return of the Jedi and the future.  The story tellers are not hampered as they were in the prequel series to connect one series to another and having to “artificially” steer the story.  Old cast members are there to reprise their roles but also clear the way for the new cast that will take over.

Storytelling once again takes center stage over special effects.  Overall it is a satisfactory effort.  Not original of course as it was back in 1977.  But overall it is a good starting point for this series to begin with.


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and the bah humbugs

I’ve been on a theater kick for the past couple of years and we are right now at the tail end of the 2015 Fall theater season in Houston.  I just have to say that the theater scene in Houston keeps getting better and better all the time.  Houston has gained a national reputation for its fine dining choices and I can see a time when it gains a name as a live theater mecca as well.

But anyways, some of the local troupes that I follow put on Christmas and holiday related plays to cap the year.  Stark Naked Theater put on “Ho Ho Humbug 2.0“, Bayou City Theatrics put on “The 12 dates of Christmas“, and the Classical Theater Company put on “A Christmas Carol“.

The last is of course the classic Charles Dickens story and I wanted to see it as I’ve never seen it performed live but the other two were contemporary stories set in or near present day America and dealt mainly with how we perceive and deal with this time of year.

For better or for worse, people in this country have come to associate this holiday season with certain things.

  • Religion of course.  This is a christian holiday and at one time this was a predominantly christian nation.  Whether you agree with it or not you can’t deny that there is an influence there.
  • Traditions that bind us to certain European countries where Americans originated from
  • Commercialism which is more of an american tradition.

From the late 19th century till about the Mid 20th century this was the Christmas season (the term “holiday season” wasn’t in widespread use).  Government, Church, and commercial interests helped spread and foster the season and developed it into what we came to know as Christmas time.

But then in the mid 20th century we began to see this change over time.  People started to notice that this time of year didn’t resonate with everyone.

One of the earliest examples was the Peanuts Christmas TV special where one of the characters proclaimed that Christmas was a racket and controlled by some company “back East”.  This illustrated the disconnect that some people had always felt around this time of year.

Mass media began to notice that besides the Christian majority that there were people from other faiths in this country and that more and more new Americans were arriving from non western European lands.

At the same time, commercial interests were moving to leverage the holiday for all it was worth.  Store displays are now put up as much as two months in advance and even though there has been some consumer backlash over this, they don’t seem to care that much.

I thought about all these points as I attended the plays I mentioned up above.

Christmas Carol is of course the original story about someone who has disconnected from the holiday.  Scrooge had consciously made a decision to set himself apart from humanity.  The spirits show him that this was not always the case and that he still had time to fix this condition.

12 dates of Christmas was a story about a woman who loses her fiance at Thanksgiving time and for the next 12 months has disastrous dates with various men.  She reflects on how “family centered” that the holidays can be and how single people can feel ostracized around the holiday season.

Ho ho Humbug 2.0 was the most poignant of the three.  A writer, that hates the holidays, needs a temporary job to make his rent and by accident winds up playing a store Santa Claus.  Through some soliloquies the writer explains that even as a child he had never connected to Christmas and that he felt that this job was a farce.

As the play progresses and he interacts with his co-workers and with the customers, he comes to see that Christmas means so much more than the commercialism, the decorations and customs, and even the religious aspect.  Christmas had a distinct meaning to everyone he met.  In the end he doesn’t embrace all the aspects of the holiday but he comes to find a way that he can celebrate the season and make it his own.

I think that last point is the most important.  I see some people decrying the holidays as being too commercial, too religious, too superficial.  But then I look around at people from other parts of the world cheerfully celebrating the holiday and pretty much just ignoring the bits that they don’t like or understand.

For example, Christmas is huge in Japan for the gifting aspect.  Not many Christians there.  I know some Jewish families that put up Christmas trees and focus in on the gift giving and celebration aspects.  Last year I was on vacation in the tropics at this time of year and I saw some of the locals decorating their hut with a Christmas tree.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you need to make the holiday your own in order to enjoy it.  Most people enjoy the season out of habit.  But for those that find the season to be a chore or a bother, I think that if you look more closely that there is something there for you to enjoy as well.


Merry Christmas

never hesitate

I’m 4 years old and I’ve just been put in front of a thousand pound horse and I can’t wait to get on.  Five minutes later the horse slips in a gopher hole and rolls over me, nearly crushing me to death.  Let me try again.

I’m 22 and alone in the Colorado mountains.  I’m standing in front of a raging mountain stream that I have to cross to do an environmental report.  30 seconds later I’m being washed downstream banging against rocks.  I crawl out of the water and crawl to the road where some rangers find me and take me to the local hospital for cuts and a sprained ankle.  Two days later I’m packed and ready to head back into the woods.

I’m 27 and I’m wandering round a “bad place”.  Montrose was a no-go zone for suburban kids back in the 80s.  Where pimps and junkies would just as soon cut your throat as look at you.  Why go inside the loop when you have everything you need in the ‘burbs?  But by the mid 90s I’m hearing things out in the Richmond strip.  Stories about some clubs and restaurants inside the loop.  Around Montrose and Washington avenue.  So I lock my doors, roll up the windows and drive into the city in my Gold colored Saturn and drive round.  Still plenty of tattoo parlors but no drug dealers or junkies, no roving gangs.  Some of the boarded up brick houses are being renovated.  Just then a rock comes flying from out of the dark and dents the passenger side door.  I floor it and end up lost for the next hour till I stumble onto loop 610 and find my way home. For the next few years I would slowly begin exploring the inner loop one street at a time.

I’m 44 and standing in an overgrown wind tunnel about to try indoor skydiving.  The instructor warns me to be careful and not smash my face against the side of the tunnel.  Nothing happened.  I had a good time. Not all my adventures wind up as disasters.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t just automatically walk into dangerous situations just for the hell of it.  I’m not blind to the possible dangers.  I have hesitated at times before embarking on something new or potentially dangerous.

But overall I never find that hesitation is all that worthwhile.  For the most part I find hesitation in any part of my life has done me more harm than good and being bold has for the most part paid off.

I’ve hesitated about opportunities in life, about business decisions, about personal decisions and rarely has it paid off. You totally should hesitate when you find yourself in a totally unknown situation but if you find that you hesitate because of an imagined danger or what you think might or might not happens then I would strongly urge you to put aside that fear and try.

At the very least you’ll come out with a treasure trove of interesting stories.

The grain

We will believe what we want to believe and doubt what we want to doubt and most of the time there is nothing that can be done about it.

Once a person develops an opinion or idea about a subject then it becomes nearly impossible to dislodge.  I’ve found this to be true more often than not in the sales arena.  A client will have some preconceived notion about a product or service and my job has just become that much more difficult.  A good argument for always making the best first impression.

But is there an argument to be made for being more skeptical and allowing ourselves the freedom to doubt even though it might be easier and certainly less time-consuming to blindly go with our first impression?

Why do we even go with our first impression anyways?  Usually it’s to do with experience.  Our mind goes through examples from our memories and compares it to the present situation and comes up with the closest or most relevant scenario and how that turned out.  An opinion is born.

Early on in life this will usually turn out to be wrong as we don’t have that much experience to draw on.  We add in new experiences over time and as we age that “gut instinct” gets better and better all the time but sometimes it’s still wrong.

Not just a little but totally wrong and that’s when we have to step back and realize that we needed to do some analysis on the situation before rendering judgment.

But how do we develop and engender that skeptical voice in our head without becoming paralyzed with indecision?  I think it’s mainly a matter of putting more thought into everything that we do.  We tend to run on “auto pilot” throughout a lot of our day.  We save the analysis and introspection for the “important” things in life.

Granted there are mundane and thoughtless part of our existence.  For me it’s little decisions like what to eat for lunch or what to wear and I save the analytics for what I consider the worthwhile things like thinking about projects or writing proposals or even writing this blog.

In between is the gray area where that “grain of salt” should be.  Being introduced to a new person or reviewing a phone conversation or digesting a news article.

Think about what was presented to you.  Was it fact or merely opinion dressed up as fact?  Is it a matter of cold and unblinking data or is it a matter of belief and preference?

Not everything is at it seems.  The wise man learns to question.

One last note about skepticism.  It is not cynicism.  Cynicism has a very variable definition depending on who you ask and how it is used but lately I find cynicism in society to be a negative force.  An expression and distrust and frustration of other people and their idealized motives.  I admit that I get very cynical at times about some people’s faith in government as others get cynical about things like religion.

But do we ever really sit down and think that maybe the other person is genuinely motivated and enthusiastic about their ideals and is merely trying to live up to what they believe is right?  Should we be more skeptical about our own cynicism?

The appeal of the stage

I have to say that on the whole I admire actors.  Being able to pull off a performance as they do.  Not just reciting lines but moving to specific places on stage, affecting moods to transmit mood.  Being able to do it over and over on command for several performances and then forgetting it all and moving on to the next production.  It’s quite a skill.

But I think I admire the plays more.  It takes talent to adapt something written on paper and to imagine how you would portray a particular sentiment so that an audience would understand your meaning is a feat.

Miller outdoor theater in Hermann Park

Miller outdoor theater in Hermann Park

It takes a particular type of writer to pull it off.  The act of adapting a story can be somewhat arduous .  In some cases it can prove to be impossible.  Some writer’s styles (Lovecraft for example), some media (some comic books) don’t easily lend themselves to be turned into plays or movies.

So what is the appeal of going to see a live play?  I think when it’s done properly and you have a good script and talented actors that it’s not so much a recitation of the author’s words as much as it is a peek into someone else’s life.  You forget that you’re in a theater surrounded by strangers and the story begins to be transmitted straight into your mind.  You can get involved in this other world for an hour or two and see a conflict evolve to its final climax and resolution.

One thing I never understood about public school is when they would take classic plays and force the kids to recite the plays in class.  It was a ridiculous chore and I could tell most of the kids hated it.  The teachers did it because it was mandated but even they had no real appetite for the material.  The old English text didn’t make much sense to the kids.  The words were dead. I remember at one point a kid had recited a joke in “As you like it” and the professor had to explain that it was a joke.

Instead they should have taken the class on a field trip to see real professionals put life and passion into the words.  Let kids see the anger and confusion in Hamlet, hear Macbeth and his inner turmoil over killing his king, laugh along at some of the jokes in midsummer’s night dream.  That’s how these pieces were meant to be received.

I don’t get to go as often as I like but when I do I find that we have so many options in Houston that you can really find a wide variety of pieces ranging from light comedies to heavy and thought-provoking pieces.  I always feel that it’s time well spent.

The right to be forgotten and the crumbling protection of free speech around the world

Just when you think the crazy train ran out of tracks they go and build an extension out to the crazytown suburbs…

I mean it would have been ludicrous back in the 80s to think let alone propose that blatant censorship and the alteration of databases would be something that we would want to do for good reasons, right?  There’s no such thing as a memory hole after all.

The “right to be forgotten”.  Back in the early part of the century some plaintiffs in Europe found to their dismay that their criminal and otherwise infamous past continued to live on digitally in the form of news stories and articles preserved on the internet and that search engines could magically whisk users off to find these less than savory tidbits just by typing a few keywords.

So a few European plaintiffs banded together and sued Google, the biggest search engine in the planet, and won a case against them and forced them to take down the links to the pages where the plaintiffs misdeeds continued to live on.  The suit of course only worked for search engine results in Europe.  In any other part of the planet you could still find this information.

Not satisfied with this a french government agency called the CNIL has now asked Google to make the results disappear globally.  Google of course gave the CNIL the finger and said no, so the whole thing is going back into court.

This of course is only part of the worldwide epidemic of censorship that seems to be in vogue lately.  Try typing in certain key phrases in a certain country about a certain recent historical event and watch nothing appear.

China, Tiananmen square, 1989.

Happy?  I just lost 1.7 billion potential readers.

Think we’re immune in America?  Look up CISA or SOPA or PIPA or COICA.  All laws supposedly intended to protect one thing or another and all of them curtailing freedom of speech in some form.

The internet, what was once the digital equivalent of the open range and the last wild frontier, is rapidly becoming as closely regulated and monitored as any piece of government-owned property.

All the mad and ridiculous musings of the George Orwells of yesteryear are coming to pass.  They’re not coming in openly harsh and repressive packaging but in soft are ill-defined laws meant as “protection” or “privacy” laws.  No matter what you decide to call them however they are coming.

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Book review

[Author’s note – A little embarrassing to admit but I just read this book even though it is a science fiction classic.  “Canticle” is one of the backbones of post apocalyptic dystopian novels.  Looking back I can see the novel’s influence in books, TV shows, movies, and video games.  As always, spoilers from here on out so if you don’t want to know, stop reading.]



Walter Miller wrote “Canticle” in 1960.  Along with other books such as “Alas Babylon” it represented an attitudinal shift in the American public’s perception of nuclear weapons and nuclear war.  The government and the military had previously sold the American public on the limited dangers of nuclear war and the notion that civilization and the nation could survive an all out nuclear attack.

Miller had served in the Air Force in World War II and knew the effects of conventional bombing on civilian targets and had no illusions about a “winnable” nuclear war.

The story itself is told in three interrelated vignettes spanning about 1600 years after a nuclear war.  Briefly, it follows the gradual re-establishment of civilization over hundreds of years as it relates to a monastic order founded by a religious martyr called Edward Leibowitz.  The order strives to recover and preserve all knowledge and writings found in the wastelands.  They create illuminated manuscripts from innane things such as repair manuals and handwritten notes.  The hope is that this accumulated knowledge may one day help mankind return to what it was before the war.

Over the centuries it becomes clear that civilization beginning to reassert itself but it is also repeating the same pattern that led to its downfall before the war.   Although some members of the order oppose this, the order is powerless to stop it.  In the final story civilization has returned but so has the threat of nuclear war.  The order decides that something must be preserved in case nuclear war breaks out again.  The accumulated monastery artifacts are loaded onto a starship along with some monks and sent away from Earth towards the new colonies in another star system where it is hoped that mankind has finally learned its lesson.

I picked up two themes while reading the book.

Firstly, the way that the rise of civilization seems to travel in an almost predictable course and that even with the best of intentions we will still make the same mistakes over and over again.

Secondly, A polemic against scientists inventing and then releasing new concepts and technologies into the hands of the general public and in particular into the hands of the government.  Do scientists or researchers (in this case the monks) have a moral obligation to consider how their discoveries may be used by those in power?  Are they blameless if someone accidentally or maliciously misuses a technology or do they have an obligation to keep this hidden if there is a possibility of harm being done?

The second point is interesting in that many atomic researchers at the time of the book felt that they had done a grave disservice to mankind by working on the atomic bomb project.  Many wished that they had not done so but now it was too late.

As I mentioned above the novel definitely influenced many post-apocalyptic stories.  Twilight Zone definitely has some influences as do movies like the Mad Max series.  Even video games like Wasteland have “Easter eggs” that give a nod to this novel.

The novel is definitely not a simplistic sci-fi story of the future but a meditation on our possible fate and the decisions that led us there.

Highly recommended.

making do with what you have and making what you have do

It’s not about having what you want it’s wanting what you have.

This is a popular old saying and long ago I used to think this was made up by people who had it all and didn’t want you to have anything.  Then I changed my mind and decided that there was wisdom here.

Now though, I’m wondering.  Wondering whether it’s not having what you want, that’s right out but neither is it wanting what you have.

I mean if you just wanted what you have you’d never get anywhere now would you?  A little bit of ambition is a good thing as long as it doesn’t go overboard and morph into avarice or greed.

It’s more to do with wanting what you have and then taking it and fiddling with it till it’s more like what you wanted or taking what you have and fiddling with it so you can get what you want.

We are the thinking animal after all.  We live not just on this physical plane but in an abstract world of ideas and concepts.  We look at trees and rocks and don’t just see trees and rocks but houses, and wheels, and roads and fire and whatnot.

Very possibly this is a unique gift among animals, maybe not but very possibly.

The thing is though that sometimes we become so frustrated with the process that we begin to despise what we have and focus on what we want and really warp our perspective.

Sometimes those plans just aren’t going to pan out and that thing that we want is out of reach.  Then we have to take a deep look at what we have and decide to ourselves that we can accept this as what we want or that we can use this to get something else we might want.

It’s never clear-cut is it?

W.S.H.T.F #1

[Author’s note:  Put this in the “I don’t really have a topic even though I thought about this for the longest time so here is some filler material” category.  You might also note that I added a #1 to this as I think this may become a series of posts.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.]


WSHTF of course is the acronym for “When (expletive deleted) hits the fan”.  I was on YouTube the other week looking for a link for the Cowboy Bebop post and the search algorithm popped up a series of survival-preparedness videos as something that YouTube thought that I might like.  Apparently there is a whole category with this acronym.  I don’t know. I guess some people are bored and have nothing to do.

But there’s a writing topic here (for at least one post though I am already regretting this and now I’m unsure if I want to write more than one of these), so let’s plow ahead and see what happens.

For our first WSHTF scenario we will deal with the current flavor of the month, zombies.  What will you do when the global zombie apocalypse explodes and your family and friends turn into brain eating ghouls (though that’s disparaging to ghouls as ghouls are much more advanced than zombies and… never mind, another time).

Apparently this topic gets more play than you would imagine as there are various civilian groups of enthusiasts preparing for a zombie apocalypse and even some government agencies and the military use the zombie scenario as a stand in for large-scale civil disasters.

It has been argued that the evolution of civilization can be broken up into five distinct phases: Survival, Building/rebuilding, Expansion, Maturity, Collapse.  In this scenario you are either in the collapse or survival phase.  With that in mind, you can choose to handle this in distinctly different ways.

You can choose to throw out all the rules of modern society and focus on your own survival because in a society in free fall collapse you will only survive by using your wits and by being willing to throw out altruism (preferably from a tall building) and looting as many pre-disaster goods as possible while kneecapping as many people you come across and insuring that the zombies will go for them rather than you.

Or you can choose to stubbornly cling to a few choice shreds of civilization and try to maintain some semblance of law and order as well as fanning the flames of empathy and humanity to rebuild a shattered world.

I think the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.  In a dog eat dog (and dog eat cat and dog eat human and human eat possum and I guess what I’m trying to say is just don’t turn up your nose at it, okay?) world we will have to make some hard choices in order to survive and trying to do the “right thing” may just be one of those hard choices.

Sure, sure it might be easier to hit that guy with a lead pipe and take his box of mac and cheese.  But maybe you can share that mac and cheese with your can of tuna and make a tuna casserole bake and maybe it won’t be as gross as that possum fritter you had for breakfast (I’m just saying maybe it won’t, there’s always a chance).

Sooner or later you will have to cooperate with other humans.  Why not start as soon as possible?

I could go into the specifics of machete versus katana as the best bladed weapon or 12 gauge shotgun versus AK-47 but really those are details.  The important thing in this scenario is your state of mind.  Your philosophy and world view is what you will leave behind to future generations.  Make it a philosophy that incorporates kindness, caring, and forward thinking leadership.


Or you know….


At least hire a good biographer that can edit out all the bad bits.

Birthday lessons

We celebrated America’s 239th birthday yesterday.  To most people it’s a chance to get off work and relax. Most of the population doesn’t sit back to consider the declaration of independence or the revolutionary war or the impact and meaning of these to their lives.

The few people who are paid to do this, social commenters, political writers, and those that make a living speculating about such things will usually crank out the same series of articles every year.  Either the founding fathers were God-fearing capitalist patriots trying to forge a new form of government in a howling wilderness or they were atheist, proto-marxists throwing off the shackles of oppression and  creating universal suffrage for all.  Most of the written pieces fall somewhere along this continuum with some detours delving into the issues of women’s suffrage or slavery. Depending on what websites you visit you will see one opinion voiced more than the other.

Of course not one of these views is wholly correct.  The founding fathers were a mixed lot of idealists and scoundrels, laissez faire capitalists and anarchists, land owning gentry and yeoman farmers, church elders and worldly men.  Each group had its own agenda and reasons as to why they wanted to break away from London’s control and the only thing they had in common was a realization that they would need each other’s support to achieve independence.

One thing that they all recognized however was the need to do something new and radical.  To post a logical declaration of grievances against their existing government and provide a sort of logical proof for the need to break away and to form a new government of their own.

I think that has been a vital part of the American character since before the start.  The urge and ability to try something new and not shy away from it just because it wasn’t something that had been done before.  Of course innovation and new thinking can occur anywhere in the world and at any time in history but I think it’s rare that it has ever been so widely accepted as it was in the early American era by such a large population.

I think it was a side effect of the excitement of being part of a new nation in a new land that allowed people the freedom and flexibility to think about new forms of government, the willingness to gamble on new ventures, the acceptance of new technologies, that sense that over time the nation would “improve” itself and that technology would leverage us all into a new golden age.

I find that somewhere along the way we lost that vital spirit.  Perhaps as early as the late 19th century but certainly after World War II.  We went from being a nation excited and curious about the possibilities and challenges of the future to being a nation in love with a past that for the most part didn’t exist in one way or another.  From being excited at the prospect of change and new thinking to being terrified of the idea and demanding that we stay in a social and mental limbo.  From pulling together in common cause to blaming each other for past and current woes.

Rather than trying to solve situations to find the maximum benefit for all of us we have balkanized our populations into competing and often hostile camps that could maybe pull together and benefit each other but for the most part practice mutual antagonism as a sport.

If we continue on our current route I am certain that we will not see another 239 years.  I don’t see us going past another 100 years.  Either our own inertial forces will rip us apart or competing nation states will begin using our confusion against us and will feast on our self-made misery.

We should respect the past and learn from our mistakes and follies if at the very least to honor the sacrifices of those that came before us.  But we should also remember that they made those sacrifices not for us to stay in the past but to progress forward and up into a better tomorrow.