Movie Wisdom – Tom Sizemore Edition

21 May

This afternoon was a good time to watch television. It was hot and rainy outside, which is not a great combination. Flipping through channels, I found Devil in a Blue Dress, a movie that I can always watch. I will not go through the story, but, as it pertains to this post, Don Cheadle shoots Tom Sizemore.

When that movie was over, I went to the guide and found Heat, a great movie starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. It also has Tom Sizemore, and I changed the channel in time to see him get shot.

Therefore, this has been a Tom Sizemore day. I saw him get shot in two movies, and, coincidentally, both movies were released in 1995. Tom had a killer year.

Figuring that all of this was fate, I decided to look for wisdom in the movies of Tom Sizemore.

From Born on the Fourth of July

Thou shalt not kill.

From Point Break

Fear causes hesitation, and hesitation will cause your worst fears to come true.

From Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

Never chase buses or women. You’ll always be left behind.

The right woman can make you, and the wrong woman can break you.

From Passenger 57

Always bet on black.

Trust your instincts.

From Wyatt Earp

I think the secret old Mr. Death is holding is that it’s better for some of us on the other side.

Nothing counts so much as blood. The rest are just strangers.

From Natural Born Killers

Nobody can stop fate.

The media is like the weather, only it’s man-made weather.

You can’t hide from your shadow.

From Devil in a Blue Dress

You step out of your door in the morning, and you are already in trouble. The only question is are you on top of that trouble or not?

All you got is your friends.

From Saving Private Ryan

FUBAR

From Pearl Harbor

There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.

A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.

 

Interview with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb

9 May

If any of you are interested in presidential history, then check out my colleague on C-SPAN this Sunday.

Last month, I had the privilege of sitting down with C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb and being interviewed for his show, Q&A. It was a heady and nerve-wracking experience, not the least because I had been sick for a couple of days before I flew to D.C. (Remember that when you watch the interview.) We talked about Andrew Jackson, Southerner and spent a lot of time on the Trump-Jackson comparisons. It was a great experience, and I want to thank Brian and Q&A producer Nik Raval for asking me to do the interview.

If you’re interested in seeing the interview, it will be on C-SPAN this Sunday evening, May 14, at 8E/7C and again at 11E/10C.

View original post

The Rocket Scientist Next Door

8 May

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Charlie Bradshaw, a man who lives down the street. This is what I wrote about him.

Charlie Bradshaw walked into his professor’s office without knowing what to expect. He had enlisted in the Navy and entered the V-12 program for training, which was why he was taking Calculus at Sewanee and was facing the uncertainty of this meeting.

The professor began by going over the details of Charlie’s C average but quickly put his grade book aside. This was not a meeting of condemnation. Rather, it was a meeting of encouragement. He saw Charlie’s talent and encouraged him to think about Mathematics as a career. About this meeting, Charlie said, “I didn’t know how important it was to concentrate on what you’re good at.” With that, a lifelong love of Mathematics began.

Charlie finished the V-12 program and was shipped to the Pacific Theater of World War II to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He saw action at Okinawa but, like thousands of America’s enlisted men, was spared the dangers of invasion when President Harry Truman ordered the use of two atomic bombs. Six weeks later, Charlie found himself walking through Hiroshima, the first city hit with an atomic bomb. When asked what he thought as he took pictures of the carnage, Charlie stated that “we can’t have another war with these weapons.”

After the war, Charlie completed school; joined the faculty at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; and settled his family in Cookeville. In 1951, a new opportunity arose when he heard about recruiters at a local hotel interviewing people for positions at a new government facility in Huntsville, Alabama. Charlie got a new job but had to delay his departure for two weeks. His wife was about to have a baby. Charlie said, “I always knew I didn’t want to spend a career in teaching, in the classroom, but I loved Cookeville. It had good fishing, and I sort of didn’t want to leave, but it was such a big opportunity.”

That opportunity took Charlie into the world of Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who surrendered to American forces at the end of World War II. While von Braun and his German colleagues built rockets, Charlie’s team calculated their flight times and trajectories with a “slide rule and desk calculator.” Each second of the flight had to be computed, which took two weeks and numerous chalkboards. To complete this job, women were hired. Charlie said:

We eventually hired math aides who were women. They were better at it than men. They were more patient. But, Washington didn’t have a civil service classification for them. We had to get Washington to figure out what to call the job, and they decided on Computers.

In 1953, they launched Redstone, America’s first guided missile, and it followed the path that Charlie’s team had calculated. However, the days of the “slide rule and desk calculator” were coming to an end. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory received the first computer in the South, and Charlie transferred to east Tennessee to oversee its installation. This meant that he was the resident expert on computers – the nonhuman kind.

In 1955, Charlie returned to Huntsville as the Deputy Director of Computation and installed the first computer at that location. By this time, there was an international competition to put something into orbit. Charlie remembered:

We had the capability to put the Redstone in orbit, but Eisenhower didn’t want to use a military missile. That’s when they started Vanguard, and it was a tremendous failure. Vanguard never made it. The Russians beat us. Then 85 days later, we were in orbit. Redstone was ready, and the calculations were all done. We could have beaten them, but we weren’t allowed to.

With a string of successful launches, the Mercury program was established to take people into space. Now, Charlie’s calculations did more than determine the trajectory of a rocket. They determined where to have ships waiting to pick up returning astronauts.

In 1962, the stakes were raised when John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a person on the moon. According to Charlie, this had always been von Braun’s goal, but concerns remained. Charlie explained, “We always knew sending people to space would happen, but we still had questions about whether man could survive on the moon.”

At one point, President Kennedy toured the Huntsville facility and met the administrative staff. He was introduced to von Braun and other German scientists. After meeting a line of people with German names, he was introduced to someone named Charlie Bradshaw. The president immediately responded, “How did you get in here?” Charlie remembered, “I thought since he was president I better not laugh, but everyone else did.”

Charlie got in there by being one of the best mathematicians in the nation and stayed through the Apollo 11 mission that put the first men on the moon. Looking back at that event, Charlie could not help but think about the president who set the goal and the tragedy that befell him. In Charlie’s mind, the assassination of President Kennedy inspired the space community to make his dream a reality. Charlie reflected, “John F. Kennedy’s death made it happen.”

In 1970, Charlie left the space program to direct the installation of the first computer at Vanderbilt University and oversee its operation. He immediately had trouble with the faculty. Charlie stated:

Physics got into the nuclear business, and they thought they owned the computers. That was one of the big battles we had. They didn’t think computers ought to be used for other things. But then the divinity school started using it and eventually they let students use them to do their theses. But at one point, the Faculty Senate prohibited computers on the campus from being used for word processing.

Charlie remained at Vanderbilt until his retirement, then he taught classes at Cumberland University. Looking back on his career, Charlie said that sending rockets into space made him more interested in the universe, and that interest led him to become a stronger believer in God. In fact, he stated, “I become more of a believer the more I learn.” Without a doubt, Charlie has learned a great deal.

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Graduation

6 May

Another academic year has come to an end. Some students have packed up to go home for the summer. Other students have packed up to go on with their lives. They will take their degrees into the world and use the information that they have learned.

Graduation is always a day of excitement and pride. However, it is also a day of sadness because people who have been together for a couple of years leave campus and walk with their families in different directions.

Their lives will also take them in different directions. Some will follow the path of which they planned. Others will take detours along the way. Some of them will stay in contact with their former classmates. Others will disappear from view.

In high school, I had a good friend with whom I used to hang out. Heck, we knew each other before high school. After the high school graduation ceremony, we stood around in our regalia and talked. My mom took a picture of us. That was the last time I ever talked to him or saw him.

That is the story of graduation. It is a time to look to the future. Graduates tell each other that they will stay in contact and talk. Then, they leave campus to go to their family celebration. They busy themselves with getting jobs. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Months turn into years. With all of that going on, it is difficult to stay in contact and talk.

Many of them will stay friends forever. Many of them will move on down the road and never look back.

Yes, that is what graduation is all about.

My iPod Has Issues – NFL Draft Edition

28 Apr

I am watching the NFL Draft, and it is getting boring.

That is why I cranked up the iPod to see what is happening there. Here is what happened.

“Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait

“Spybreak” by Propellerheads

“Mama Feel Good” by Lyn Collins

“Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor

“Little Red Corvette” by Prince

“Big Iron” by Marty Robbins

“Four Walls of Raiford” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Black Betty” by Ram Jam

“If Anyone Falls” by Stevie Nicks

“Lady Blue” by Leon Russell

“Arranca” by Manzanita

“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis

“Heaven and Hell” by Waylon Jennings

“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels

“Tube Snake Boogie” by ZZ Top

“Take Me Home” by Phil Collins

“Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich

“Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton

“Try Not To Breathe” by R.E.M.

 

Should I…?

14 Apr

It is quiet. The only sounds are the hum of the air conditioner; the chimes on the porch; and the clicking of the keyboard. Nothing is moving. The dog is lying nearby on a blanket. Lots of questions are running through my mind.

Should I write about the controversy of moving the remains of President James K. Polk? Last week, I visited his ancestral home in Columbia, Tennessee and met the people who would like for him to be there. The worst part was someone in my group not knowing that he had been president.

Should I be outside? After all, it is a beautiful day.

Should I listen to Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Earlier, I listened to some of it. The album starts with “Grand Ole Opry Song.” Luckily, we were able to attend their 50th Anniversary concert at the Ryman Auditorium. It was a great show.

Should I clean out my emails? Yep, I have a couple of email accounts, and both of them have gotten out of hand. I need to go in and delete some stuff. It is terrible to let spam hang around.

Should I get a flip phone? I have noticed something. Everyone who has a smart phone is always on it. They are addicted to it. I should not say they. In reality, it is we. Anyway, I also noticed that those who still have flip phones are never looking at them. That could be the way to go.

Should I check the mail? Wait, it is a holiday. Have you ever gone to the mailbox before realizing that the mail did not run. It has become a holiday tradition for me.

Should I put up the computer and do something besides type? I believe that I should.

He Journeyed Long

4 Apr

He did not know how long he had been walking. He could not remember where he began. He only knew that he had been walking for a long time, and it had been a rough journey. He was tired. He was covered with mud. The journey had to end, but he did not know when that would happen, either. He just had to continue walking.

His path passed over uneven ground and was covered with vegetation. The journey was slow as he made his way through trees, around rocks and over a trail that really was not a trail. As far as he knew, nothing had traveled this path before.

Suddenly, his surroundings changed, and the green that had surrounded him since the beginning gave way to a flat emptiness. The ground was black and cracked. The surface was hard and tough on his bare feet. Earlier, he spotted a large beast, and he instinctively knew that this was its home. The beast was gigantic and made loud rumbling noises when it moved. It would be best to make it through the desolate wasteland as quickly as possible.

However, there was something out there other than the beast. For a long time, he had the feeling of being watched by some unknown force. As he made his way to the end of the black landscape, he heard something racing from behind. He had to make it to the land on the other side before he was caught.

He made it to a land similar to what he had been walking on forever. Rough, green and untrodden. However, he could not escape. His only chance was to stay a still as possible and hope that he was hidden from this new threat.

It was not alone. He heard language that was foreign to him. What were they saying? Could they see him?

They moved around and looked right at him. He never moved. He had no idea what would happen next. He only knew to stay still.

It worked. The creatures moved away from him, but he would not move until he knew it was safe. That feeling never came because he knew that they were watching from the distance.

Eventually, he had no choice. He had to move. He had to follow an irresistible urge to go forward. Something was out there, and he had to find it. Perhaps it was not far away.