The Token Bad Guy: Osama bin Laden is Dead

From Ben Linus to bin Laden, evil has a name.

Now that President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden is officially dead, it makes me think about how there always how to be a “bad guy”, both locally and world-wide.

In Judd Apatow’s Jewish comedy (a franchise he has specialized in for the past decade, based on a strategic formula including Seth Rogen and/or Paul Rudd, a good dose of bromance, a classic soft rock soundtrack, mostly ad-lib dialogue, a heavy and almost dark dramatic element somewhere in the plot line, a running time of at least 2 hours and 15 minutes, an unpredictable ending but no “twist”, and constant references to reproductive organs) Funny People, there is a scene where Adam Sandler’s character is babysitting his ex-girlfriend’s two young daughters. As they play, one of the girls takes him captive like he’s a dragon, while the other has come to rescue him. He looks up at them and says to each one, “Are YOU the good guy or are YOU the good guy?”

While in cartoons and children’s own made-up playtime storylines the antagonist often takes pride in knowingly being evil, in real life the Bad Guy usually doesn’t realize that he’s the Bad Guy. It amazes me that there always has to be a handful of countries in the world that serve as a current Bad Country. It’s been England (watch the movie The Patriot about the Revolutionary War). It’s been Germany (the Nazi’s). It’s been Russia (watch Rocky IV) and still kinda is.

Why can’t the evil leader of a country think to himself: “Oh no! I’m ‘that guy’. I’m the bad person that’s causing problems with the rest of the world. I need to start with the man in the mirror and change my ways”. From what I’ve read about Adolph Hitler, in his own mind he simply was carrying out an ultimate version of Charles Darwin’s concept of “survival of the fittest”. He was only advancing what he saw as in the inevitable. He wasn’t a sadistic tyrant, not the way he saw it. He didn’t see himself as the Bad Guy.

From each holy war ever fought in history, down to the elementary school bully, the true villain is doing what is right according to his own view. The Bad Guy is dead wrong, yes. But he doesn’t see it that way.  While obviously I don’t have the potential to become a radical tyrannical leader of threatening foreign country, I still can find myself in a similar scenario as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, by simply being the Bad Guy on a much lesser scale in everyday situations and not realizing it. If only Bad Guys always realized they’re the Bad Guy… well, it might help a little.

“We’re never gonna win the world, we’re never gonna stop the war. We’re never gonna beat this if belief is what we’re fighting for.” -John Mayer (“Belief”)

*Some bad guys, like this one, may or may not repent of their evil ways in the end.

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Climbing the Family Tree

At some point, it starts to become irrelevant.  Which part of your family tree actually matters?

Fort Payne, AL in 1976- my mom (bottom), her Italian dad and Mexican mother above her

Every family’s got one- the “family tree enthusiast”.  It’s ultimately the person with the most natural motivation to find out where the family came from- not the people who simply say, “I’d love to know more about our heritage…” but instead, the one who actually gets to work on it.  And after I found myself spending hours sometimes researching the origins of last names I had heard of in our family, I soon realized I was appointed by destiny to be the “family tree enthusiast.”

Since last May, my grandmother on my dad’s side has been helping me with the research.  Her last name is Clowers; which last year when I looked it up was an English name and meant “people from the hills”.  But this weekend after sitting down with my grandmother again, I discovered that “Clowers” was changed from “Klauer”, and that was changed from “Clore”, which was changed from “Klaar”, which was not English at all, but instead Dutch.

Chattanooga, TN in 1946- my great-grandparents on my dad's side: Francis Clowers & Madelee Wiseman

The highest I could climb up my family tree was to a Dutch Lutheran named Hans Michael Klaar (born in 1630) who married a Greek woman named Ursula Sybella (born in 1635).  When I Googled the last name “Klaar”, I found more Jewish ties to it than anything else.  It’s possible that further up the family tree the Klaar’s were Dutch Jews, but that would be near impossible to confirm.

Climbing back down the family tree, the next woman being married into the family was another Greek woman, Anna Barbara Maria.  Then Dorothy Kaifer (German), then two more presumed German women (no last names given but I’m assuming they were German since the family had by that point moved to Germany), then surprisingly a Jewish woman named Nancy Ullman (it translates as “rich man”), then Mary Harris (English), then Emmaline Lunsford (English), then Polly Katherine Green (English, Jewish, or Irish), then finally, my great-grandmother Madelee Wiseman (typically a Jewish-German last name which translates “white man”).

same great-grandparents 37 years later

Then my grandmother (maiden name, Clowers) married my grandfather, John David Shell.  All I know so far about his family tree are of Scottish (Scrimsher and Johnston), Cherokee Indian (name unknown), and German (Miller) origin.  But the last name Shell has a potentially interesting origin:  The Jews living in Germany were often given their last names by the Germans, who would insult them with last names translating to things like “stinky” and “ugly”.  Shell used to be “Schell” and literally translates “loud, noisy, and clamorous”- which I would say is an insult.  Plus, by Googling “Schell”, it’s Jewish people that pop up.

So what am I on my dad’s side of the family?  Dutch-Greek-German-Jewish-Cherokee-Scottish-English.  But I’m starting to come to the conclusion; what does really it matter anyway?  At the top of both sides of my dad’s family tree are Dutch, Greek, and German.  In the middle are Jewish and Cherokee.  At the bottom of the trees are English and Scottish.

The Clowers-Wiseman family in 1953- my great-grandparents in the middle, my grandmother on the far right in the black dress

Which is more relevant?  Am I more English and Scottish because those are the most recent?  Am I less Dutch and Greek because those are at the top?  Am I equally all of those things?

And that’s not to mention my mom’s side- she’s half Mexican and half Italian.  But because of the rumors that my great-grandmother Mary Vite was Jewish (there are Jews with the last name Vite), I may not be ¼ Italian after all, but instead 1/8.  Or what if she wasn’t half Jewish, but instead half Greek?

I will always be fascinated by ethnic backgrounds of people, but in a way, I am satisfied with what I know now about my own mysterious ancestors.  Because what is most relevant in a family tree is not found by looking up, but instead by looking down and all around; it’s the people that still influence you, that love you, that care for you, and vice versa.  That’s the part of your family tree that matters.  And to be honest with you, I’m pretty dizzy after spending all that time so high up the family tree.  It’s good to be back on the ground, with family members who are just as alive as I am.

Under the family tree: my Italian (and possibly Greek or Jewish?) grandfather Metallo; my mom's dad

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of LOST

Italians?  Check.  French?  Check.  Koreans?  Check.  Jews?  Oddly, not so much.

When the creators of LOST were in the casting process, they knew they wanted an “international cast”.  Well done.  Who wants to see another show with a bunch of white people and one African-American thrown in for good measure?

The ethnic diversity on the show adds so much to the characterization and even their storylines.  I have gone through the painstaking process (for most, but for me was a lot of fun!) of searching and studying the ethnicity of the entire cast of LOST.  While I won’t bombard my fellow Losties with every single cast member ever, I will feature most of them.  The phrase in (parenthesis) tells where the actor was raised.

Matthew Fox as “Jack Shephard”: Italian-English (America)

Evangeline Lilly as “Kate Austen”: English (Canada)

Josh Holloway as “James ‘Sawyer’ Ford”: Scottish (America); rare in that he is one of the few Southerners on the show- from Georgia in real life, on the show he was born in Jasper, Alabama

Jorge Garcia as “Hugo ‘Hurley” Reyes”: Chilean-Cuban (America)

Naveen Andrews as “Sayid Jarrah”: Indian (England)

Daniel Dae Kim as “Jin-Soo Kwon”: Korean (America)

Yunjin Kim as “Sun-Hwa Kwon”: Korean (America)

Terry O’Quinn as “John Locke”: Irish (America)

Dominic Monaghan as “Charlie Pace”: English-Irish (Germany); he speaks both  English and German

Michael Emerson as “Benjamin Linus”: English (America)

Emilie de Ravin as “Claire Litteton”: French (Australia)

Henry Ian Cusick as “Desmond Hume”: Scottish-Peruvian (both Scotland and Peru)

Sonya Walger as “Penny Widmore”: Argentinean-English (England)

*oddly, married couple “Desmond and Penny” are both in real life half British, half South American

Alan Dale as “Charles Widmore”: New Zealander (New Zealand)

Ken Leung as “Miles Straume”: Chinese (America)

Francois Chau as “Dr. Pierre Chang”: Cambodian-American-Chinese-Vietnamese (America); random fact- he played “Shredder” in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze

Andewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as “Mr. Eko”: Nigerian (England)

Nestor Carbonell as “Richard Alpert”: Cuban-Spanish (America)

Elizabeth Mitchell as “Dr. Juliet Burke”: English (America); another rare Southerner (from Dallas, TX)

Jeff Fahey as “Frank Lapidus”: Irish (America); though his character his Greek-American

Cynthia Watros as “Libby Smith”: Greek or Czech (America)

Michelle Rodriguez as “Ana Lucia Cortez”: Puerto Rican-Dominican Republican (America)

Tania Raymonde (Katz) as “Alex”: Jewish (America)

Mira Fulan as “Danielle Rousseau”: Jewish (Croatia)

Katy Sagal as “Helen Norwood”: Jewish (America); played Locke’s love interest, also known as “Peg” on Married with Children

Titus Welliver as “Man in Black (Esau): Irish  (America);  though he looks like Billy Joel, who is Jewish

Mark Pellegrino as “Jacob”: Italian (America)

Since Jews only make up 1.7% of the American population, the three confirmed Jewish actors on LOST accurately and proportionately represent themselves in the large number of actors on the show.  And that’s rare.

Of course, as usual, in the strange case there are no Jews or hardly any Jews on a show or movie (like Family Matters or Family Ties), the producers and/or writers are Jewish.  So it goes without saying, that in fact, LOST creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof are both Jewish.  Along with Jeffrey Lieber (who most likely is based on his name and physical appearance).  Same thing with LOST writer Adam Horowitz.

It’s safe to say that LOST truly has the most international, most diverse cast of any show in American history.  We as Losties have invested years of our lives in these characters.  They’ve become like real people to us.  I’m so glad this show is made up of such a randomly planned cast of characters and actors.

Read more about the astonishing number of Jewish actors in American film: The Funny Thing about Jews

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

 

People are the Meaning of Life, Part 4

The funny thing about enemies is that sometimes they end up becoming our friends later on. Once we trudge past the hurt, forgiveness, awkwardness, new beginning, and a block of time that helps wash away the instant stigma that used to come to mind when we would think of them, we can find ourselves in a situation where we almost think to ourselves, “What did we use to fight about, anyway?”

We as a nation have hated England, Germany, Italy, and Japan in past wars. But now it’s hard to imagine considering any of those countries as enemies, because in my lifetime, they have only been friends of America. Ironically, our country now depends on our relationships with them- not just in military alliances but also in trade.

I feel like I’m the only person in history who actually saw Mel Gibson’s 2006 movie Apocalypto, in which the concept is “there will always be an enemy, whether it’s within one’s self, in his village, in his nation, or outside his nation”. That idea is something I have kept in mind when I find myself brewing against a person who doesn’t see things the way I do, whether the other person is clearly wrong or not. Knowing that on any other day, it just as easily could be me that’s a hazard to myself, because I woke up that morning subconsciously deciding that day would suck because I thought it was Saturday but it was Thursday instead.

Ultimately, the lesson I have learned from dealing with “enemies” is this: It’s always a humbling experience. Being humbled is painful and uncomfortable, like be pushed into a swimming pool in the winter with my clothes on. And to be humbled is to be humiliated, to some degree. Because sometimes the only way to move past the antagonistic part of a relationship with a person is to stop trying to show them that they really are wrong and instead adopt this new branding of “we’ve both been wrong/we’ve let things get out of control/this has just been a big misunderstanding”. That goes against everything inside of me, but has proven the most effective way for me to have one less enemy and gain one more ally.

The Enemies we encounter in life, for the most part, are here to enhance our lives. As we learn to deal with them, we learn to better communicate and react to Bigger Enemies, along with treating our family and close friends better as well. People are the meaning of life, and annoyingly, even our Enemies help that to be true.

dog rat cat