Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week Reflections, Part IV: Judgment

There will be no Ten (or Observations) at all this week. Instead, I'll be doing a reflection on an event that corresponds to each day of Holy Week, all the way through Easter Sunday itself. It is a purification of sorts; to remind oneself that it isn't always about this world and this life. Politics, sports, and culture are all important, but in the end, we aren't taking any of those things beyond. The Ten will resume on Monday, April 6. -- J.L.

Some of the most profound teachings Jesus gave came within a day of the coming of his "Hour." Sitting on the Mount of Olives, he recounted what the day of his return would be like through parables and warnings; for many people, the association is with all of the cataclysmic events - earthquakes, volcanoes, the sky darkening, and so forth. However, the watchword of Jesus' teaching in this matter is preparation.

Be prepared, for we do not know when the Son of Man shall return. And when he does, are we ready to make that full accounting with him, as the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) relays? Are we prepared with what we need in appearance (Wedding Feast - Matthew 22:1-14), substance (Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13), and deed (the aforementioned Talents, as well as doing for the least of Jesus' brothers - Matthew 25:31-46)? Are we ready to answer the Big Questions?

One of the most fascinating parts of what Jesus says while talking to his disciples on the hill overlooking Jerusalem that day was that no one knows the day or the hour in which he will return (Matthew 24:36), not even him. Only the Father in Heaven knows. Presumably he knows know, but this is so very important because it speaks to a failing in us as human beings that goes all the way back to the Fall of Man: the desire for complete knowledge and complete control.

We all like to be in control, and we all want to know when, how, and where everything is going to occur. Part of this is a natural curiosity, but the fundamental larger is flaw is our desire to be God. It's what got Eve in trouble in Eden, and it is what still gets us in trouble now. Occasionally, people are made to be fools in trying to "predict" when the Day of Judgment will be (like that time in 2011), but most of our attempts at control and knowing tend to have a more subtle feel to them. 

Many people know the prayer about having the strength to accept things beyond control and change things that we can control. It's a great prayer to remind oneself of constantly, even as we repeatedly stumble and fall into the trap of believing we can indeed know and control all things.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:8-11).

Kyrie Eleison.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week Reflections, Part III: Questioning Of Jesus

There will be no Ten (or Observations) at all this week. Instead, I'll be doing a reflection on an event that corresponds to each day of Holy Week, all the way through Easter Sunday itself. It is a purification of sorts; to remind oneself that it isn't always about this world and this life. Politics, sports, and culture are all important, but in the end, we aren't taking any of those things beyond. The Ten will resume on Monday, April 4. -- J.L.

After Jesus had driven the merchants and money changers out of the Temple, the conspiracy had heated up and the authorities began looking for ways to entrap him in speech. They attempted to do this through a series of questions that were meant to make him look bad, whether it was asking by what authority he performed his signs, or whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or by posing a hypothetical about whose wife a woman would be at the Resurrection of the Dead.

Each time, Jesus was able to expose their questions for the silly entrapment attempts they were and provide a deeper understanding of the issues involved. It was clear that his authority was heavenly; that we are to give ourselves to God since we are made in his image and likeness; and that marriage is something for the people of this world, not the next.

In our everyday lives, we often tend to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. That is, we miss the point of why we are here and why we exist. We tend to debate the little questions because either we don’t want to address the big ones or we don’t even know what the big questions are!

It is so important to keep sight of those big questions, as uncomfortable as they may be. God asks us those often – “are you ready to follow me?” or “can you deny yourself and take up your cross?” These are not easy questions, and we want to either avert our eyes or change the subject. We need to have the strength to answer them, one way or another – for Jesus himself says that lukewarm followers make him sick (cf. Revelation 3:16). We do not have to do this alone; God will give the strength through his grace to make a positive answer, even when you feel alone.

Stand up for truth, and the answers to these questions become a lot easier for us all. We must avoid acting as the Pharisees and Scribes when they were completely unopened to the Truth who stood right in their midst. We must be open to him who is the Truth, and it is only when that happens that we are truly free to answer those difficult questions that are posed to us.

How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts! Senseless people do not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever (Psalm 92:5-7).

Kyrie Eleison.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week Reflections, Part II: The Cleansing Of The Temple

There will be no Ten (or Observations) at all this week. Instead, I'll be doing a reflection on an event that corresponds to each day of Holy Week, all the way through Easter Sunday itself. It is a purification of sorts; to remind oneself that it isn't always about this world and this life. Politics, sports, and culture are all important, but in the end, we aren't taking any of those things beyond. The Ten will resume on Monday, April 4. -- J.L.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of "Hosanna!" one would have guessed that the Temple authorities (chief priests, the scribes, and so forth) would not be pleased with such a display. They always tended to fear any kind of "popular" movement because it could very well upset the existing power structure that depended upon Roman cooperation.

The next day, Jesus kicked it up a notch by overturning the tables of the money-changers and "cleansing" the Temple of its "marketplace" feel, reminding us of the purpose of the Temple:
“It is written: ‘my House shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of thieves’”
This did much to solidify the conspiracy against Jesus, since he had struck at the heart of a corrupt system that was predicated on kickbacks and mutual back-scratching to the detriment of worshipping the Lord.

While we haven’t experienced as many dramatic scenes in our lives, no doubt we are all guilty at some point of placing something higher than God in our lives. It may be subtle or very upfront, but there is always a point in which we, as temples dedicated to God, need to be cleansed as well. The recognition that we are sinners in need of a Savior can be a tough pill to swallow, but a necessary bit of medicine.

God always needs to be the first priority in our lives. As tempting as it may be to shove him aside and place him in a closet to be taken out once a week like a suit, we need to be mindful of the fact that, for all the things we do, we need to ensure his place within us. We need to make of ourselves that "house of prayer" rather than turning it into the "den of thieves" as the result of our sin and neglect of the most important things in our existence.

Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness (Psalm 29:1-2).

Kyrie Eleison.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week Reflections, Part I: Palm Sunday

There will be no Ten (or Observations) at all this week. Instead, I'll be doing a reflection on an event that corresponds to each day of Holy Week, all the way through Easter Sunday itself. It is a purification of sorts; to remind oneself that it isn't always about this world and this life. Politics, sports, and culture are all important, but in the end, we aren't taking any of those things beyond. The Ten will resume on Monday, April 6. -- J.L.

In ancient times, a conquering king would enter a new acquisition through the gate with the people rushing out to meet him.  Usually, the king would be riding some magnificent horse while his army would be surrounding him in the meantime.  The people would throw down their cloaks to signify that the king was "too good" for the dirt of their "fair" city.

When Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem on that Sunday nearly two thousand years ago, there were a lot of superficial similarities to conquering kings. The people running out to greet him along with throwing down their cloaks  to cover the ground come to mind.  But that is where the similarities end. Instead of a horse, Jesus rode a jackass into Jerusalem, and instead of an army to surround him, he had his twelve disciples escorting him as they shouted "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!"

The Gospel of Matthew notes that these greetings caused a great disturbance in Jerusalem.  No wonder! This carpenter from Nazareth was being given greetings that were supposed to only be for the Messiah, and considering that the Jews of those days expected a radically different Messiah, it makes sense that there would be a lot of confusion among the people of Jerusalem.

The Messiah expected at that point was supposed to be the conquering warrior who would raise an army to take on the evil Roman oppressors. Yet, the guy who was riding on an ass (an animal of peace) with his followers waving palm branches (a traditional symbol of peace as well) was being given the Messianic greetings.  It was a fitting entrance for the One who is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Many were joining in with the greetings and the shouts of joy, but it would be revealed just five days later how fickle the crowds could be.

In a way, this is a challenge to us - as human beings we can be very fickle, but our faith in the Lord demands a particular loyalty that can't just be cast aside whenever it is convenient.  The other challenge is to look for things in places where they may not be expected.  The Messiah was expected to be A, but ended up being B; so it is with many things in our lives and our faith journey. Are we open to the possibility that we may bark up the wrong tree in certain aspects of our lives, or do we allow ourselves to be blinded by our own pride?

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:1-2).

Kyrie Eleison.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/27/15

It's been a fairly eventful week in many ways. Thankfully it is coming to an end. Here are some stories going into the weekend. -- J.L.

I can't even fathom the evil this required. Yes, the man may have been mentally ill, but there is intent and execution in this action. It wasn't a "snapping," it was evil. May God have mercy on his soul, and all of those who perished in this horrific fashion.

A tragic accident (as far as we know) in the East Village has injured many and destroyed the homes and business of many more. Hopefully those people can put their lives together after this event, just as the families of the victims in the plane crash hopefully can do the same.

Read the link. You'll understand. I didn't want to call her a "woman" either, because that might be sexist.

Or a lie.

There is so much that is wrong with the whole idea of allowing for Iran to inevitably have a nuclear weapon. Allow me to rephrase that, allowing for an apocalyptic-minded, extremist, and largest state sponsor of terrorism Iran to have nuclear capabilities. This comes back to one of two possibilities: incompetence or malice. I don't think it is the former, since incompetent people don't release the nuclear secrets of an allegedly close ally. I do think Israel has something up its sleeve, but it won't be anything conventional, or even war-like.

I find it amusing (in a sick and twisted way) that one of the campaign promises of 2008 was since America's standing in the world had been so damaged by the "go-it-alone" mentality of the cowboy from Texas, we needed to elect Obama to heal the rifts with the rest of the world. In the meantime, allies are being threatened and snubbed by the president merely for saying "slow down" in negotiating with terrorists Iran. Stay tuned...

Bowe Bergdahl is a deserter. Deserters deserve to go to jail for the rest of their miserable existence, or be placed on a scaffolding with a rope around their necks. At least that's the way it used to be. Now, deserters get press conferences in the Rose Garden with the President of the United States while said president's minions go on TV and lie with a straight face about how they "served with honor and distinction." I'm glad the Army got the stones and resisted the political pressure and charged Bergdahl with his (obvious) crimes.

And never mind the five Taliban generals that were released to get this deserter back to the United States. With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Harry Reid is going to retire before the next election. This is disappointing in some ways, because who else will go and strip away the dignity of the Senate in order to attack private citizens (I'm looking at you, Dick Durbin)? I'm still convinced that Reid's injuries had nothing to do with an "exercise belt." That was as plausible as Jeff Kent breaking his wrist "washing his truck" or Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina "hiking the Appalachian Trail." I expect the seat to flip now, but the Republicans had made snatching defeat from the jaws of victory into an artform, so who knows?

It is weird to see everything (and I mean everything) portrayed in terms of war/battles. We have wars on poverty, drugs, terrorism, and now...SUPERBUGS! Deadlines are double-edged swords: they motivate to get something done, but they also box in the ones who set the deadline. Since germs are ever evolving, this "Five-Year Plan" is almost doomed to fail from the start. It's a classic version of the "Politician's Fallacy,"since not much else is working, the administration needs to be seen as doing something

I remember my lunches when I was in elementary school - I had a sandwich (always on a roll or a bagel; I never had white or sliced bread), and some kind of sweet snack (whether a Little Debbie cake or a Fruit Roll-Up), as well as a sugary drink (such as a Ssips juice box or a Little Hug). Not ONCE did I need written permission to consume those.

Well, to partake of an Oreo that is used to demonstrate plate tectonics, a student needs a permission slip signed by his parents that says he has the authority to "sample" the Oreo (you know, because they only get a crumb or something).

This. Is. Insane.

If this is about health concerns (i.e. diabetes or allergies), the school should already know about them. In part, I blame the litigious society in which we live. People are more afraid of being sued than anything else. This was nothing more than a CYA moment, which has become a cyclical habit between generations. We are a fearful society that has lost both common sense and a sense of self-reliance. Of course, the State is all too willing to enable this loss of common sense and self-reliance. The lack of both means a greater reliance on...the State. Permission slips like this are demonstrations of that shift in microcosm.

In Wednesday's Ten (#1), the rise of literal "comfort zones" is a cause of concern, since we have made The Right Not To Be Offended™ (The "secret" 28th Amendment to the Constitution, apparently) higher than anything else, including freedom of expression, association, and religion. 

Once again, the story demonstrates that feminism has become a morally empty and bankrupt movement. There are real problems around the world that involve women being enslaved and deprived of (actual) rights in, say, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, China. But no, these precious snowflake college students are more concerned with...a commercial billboard. I found it to be funny. 

I guess that means I just want women to be oppressed and stay in the kitchen and cook me a meal. 

Oh, the sweet, sweet irony!

David Ortiz may be tested more than any player in baseball (a debatable proposition in itself), but that doesn't mean he is worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. He has the classic high peak (4-5 great seasons), but then settles to being merely good. Throw in the inconsistency at times and you end with, at best, a borderline Hall of Famer. I'm not going to go down the DH road, because I have argued many times than Edgar Martinez should be in the Hall of Fame. I don't regard postseason performance as a "clincher," mostly due to the fact that a player can get hot or cold at the right time. Mike Schmidt won the MVP in the 1980 World Series, and then went 1-20 in the 1983 World Series. His body of work spoke for itself. David Ortiz is a very good hitter, but not a transcendentally great hitter (like E. Martinez). He should be on the outside looking in within 6-7 years.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/26/15 (Guest Edition)

Today's Ten is presented by my own beloved wife, who is the expert in our home about things such as saints and the Old Testament. Today, she is writing about ten female saints in the Church about which are worth knowing even just a little bit. Enjoy and be informed! -- J.L.

Let’s face it, there are a whole lot of Saints in the Catholic Church and it is nearly impossible to know something about every one of them. Since it is March and Women in History Month, I thought I would give you a list of 10 women Saints that you may not know anything about, but you should!

Have you heard about St. Josephine? Probably not. I didn't know much about her until I started working at a school in SE Washington, DC where I learned a lot about her. Born in Africa, she was sold into slavery as a child. In fact, Josephine Bakhita is not even her given name. All the horror that she experienced as a child made her forget her birth name. Josephine was given to her later. She showed great humility, sweetness and always wore a smile despite all the hardships in her life. Definitely worth reading further!

Does this saint ring a bell? Probably not off the top of your head. She is also known as St. Edith Stein. St. Edith Stein was born into a Jewish family in Poland. She excelled as a student, and is probably one of the more educated saints of the late 18th/19th centuries. She became Catholic in 1922, and joined a Carmelite order. St. Edith Stein took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from St. Teresa of Avila. She was moved to the Netherlands for her safety, but unfortunately, due to her staunch defense of Catholic morality and the fact that she was Jewish by birth, she and her sister were taken to a concentration camp at Auschwitz, and later died in the gas chambers. She is admired for her faith and courage.

St. Teresa of Avila has a distinction that not many other saints, let alone women saints, have. She is one of the few Doctors of the Church. St. Teresa joined the Carmelite order because she felt like it was a place that could keep her from sinning, not necessarily out of holiness. She was known for her mysticism , and great prayer life which led to states of ecstasy and raised her from the ground. A lot of people felt that it was the devil in which she was communicating with, and not Christ. She also wanted to reform the Carmelite order, to go back to a simple life of prayer and poverty, but many railed against this. She eventually founded the Discalced Carmelites (Discalced means no shoes). What’s not to love about St. Teresa of Avila? She was a simple woman, who grew to love Christ so much, and at the same time, through her love started change.

St. Bernadette was a poor servant girl who was bestowed with a miracle! What’s cooler than that?! The Virgin Mary (later the title Our Lady of Lourdes was given to her) appeared to her in Lourdes on several different occasions. If that wasn’t enough, after her body was exhumed, it was discovered that St. Bernadette was an incorruptible.

St. Katharine is truly an American saint. She was born to a wealthy Philadelphia family. She started helping the unfortunate at an early age. One of her interests were the treatment of the Native Americans. She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in order to fulfill her dream.

I’m sure you have no idea who St. Gianna Beretta Molla is, and as of a few years ago, I had no idea, either. St. Gianna was a normal, hardworking woman. She was a doctor who helped serve those who needed it, she was a wife, and a mother. During her second pregnancy, she developed a mysterious pain, which later, was determined to be a tumor. They were able to remove the tumor, but could not perform the necessary hysterectomy because of the pregnancy. When it was close to her due date, she stated, “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. She died the following week. She fought hard to continue her pregnancy despite what the doctors insisted that she do. She knew and valued human life even at the cost of her own.

Most people have an idea of who St. Maria Goretti is. She is perhaps one of the younger people to be named a saint. St. Maria was a holy and pious young Catholic who lived with her mother, younger siblings and a few family friends. One day, a young man tried to rape St. Maria and she refused, he stabbed her several times for refusing and then ran away. St. Maria was rushed to the hospital, where she suffered awhile longer but forgave the man who stabbed her. She later appeared to him in a dream. After the man’s imprisonment, he asked St. Maria’s mother for forgiveness, and attended her canonization mass. St. Maria is a young woman who knew the value of human dignity, morals and forgiveness.

St.Therese (Therese Martin) is perhaps one of my most favorite saints ever. Her titles also include St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face (lesser known title), St. Therese the Little Flower. She is another younger saint, that followed God’s calling. Most of her sisters entered into the local French Carmelite order (save for one who bounced around in different religious orders until she later found a home at the same one her other sisters were at), St. Therese knew she was destine to enter the Carmelites. She begged, she prayed, and she begged some more until the Pope finally interceded for her, and allowed her to enter the order at a young age. It was in the Carmelite convent that she discovered her Little Way, in which she would do little things for Jesus because she couldn't manage the big things (she had always wanted to be a Martyr). St. Therese’ life and reflections (The Story of a Soul) is an amazing record of such courage, and faith. The other awesome thing about St. Therese? Her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, are set to become the first couple canonized!

St. Catherine is another saint that pretty significant because the Virgin Mary appeared to her three different times, telling her what her mission would be, that she would have lots of suffering, and finally showed her what would later become the Miraculous Medal (medal of the Immaculate Conception). St. Catherine is also pretty awesome because she, too, has an incorruptible body.

St. Joan of Arc was an amazing young woman who, listened to God, and helped her country. She stood up to those who looked down upon her, but at the same time, holding on to her faith. She was tricked into making false statements, but refused to retract statements that she made about the saints that were talking to her. She was condemned as a heretic, and burned at the stake. Her last words were said to have been calling out to God.

Finally, I wanted to give special attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We, as Catholics, believe that she is the Mother of Christ. While she is a Saint, we hold her a little higher in our esteem as the Mother of God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/25/15

Happy Feast of the Annunciation! The most important "yes" in the history of mankind is commemorated today with Mary's fiat to the angel Gabriel. I went to Mass as well, and celebrated by retreated with the sophomore class. Anyway, back to the normal order (or odor, if you prefer) of things with today's Ten. -- J.L.

1. Flip Sides of the Same Coin

We live in a world of feelings, emotivism, and victimization. The subjective reigns supreme, and while the two stories seem to be unrelated, they both come from the same tree. The idea of literal "comfort zones" is completely unheard of in my book. I live in a world where, despite the opinions you see and read here, isn't particularly favorable to said personal opinions. That being said, I am not going to avoid people and places just because I might read or hear an opinion different than mine. That's life. Because if it were the case, I'd never spend any time in the presence of most of my own family. 

I went to Starbucks on Friday and ordered a Dark Roast Venti. And didn't hear a peep about the "Race Together" thing, despite being the only white person in sight. Businesses succeed when they sell a product that people want to consume or use. I don't wish to consume White Guilt. It's not something that most of the world would like to have. Not even the "baristas."

John Boehner is walking a thin line if he wants to keep using Democratic votes to maintain power, which goes to show that the Republican agenda is nothing more than "we can run Leviathan better than the Democrats." It's nothing but a slightly slower turn of the ratchet.

Yes, I'm going to be "controversial" here. The Democratic senators filibustered a human trafficking bill because the right to murder children in the womb (ahem, the right to "choose"...I got ahead of myself) is more important to them than making sure women and children are not passed around for the purposes of prostitution. Seriously, as distasteful as I find the Republican leadership, they ought to be on TV every day reminding the public (I refuse to use that ugly and patronizing term "the American People") exactly what the headline for this point is. Of course they won't do so; invitations to cocktail parties might be withdrawn.

It seems to me that Mrs. Bill Clinton may end up surviving all this e-mail scandals and taking foreign money. I thought Martin O'Taxman had a real shot of making it a race, but that entirely depended upon the Clinton machine being taken out of commission for scrap iron. Stay tuned, and get the popcorn ready.

Net Neutrality is going to be challenged in court. It isn't going to mean anything for us, ultimately. Once our bills go up, they will stay up. Instead of taxes, it will just be higher fees. I think the courts will split the decision in some way. For example, it will be partially regulated to allow for municipal internet to "compete" while allowing for ISPs to charge more for higher speeds (as it should be allowed to).

The Affordable Care Act is now old enough to go to Kindergarten. Upon signing in March, 2010 I made a series of predictions, many of which have come to pass, except for the fact that the Individual Mandate was not struck down. Yet. There's still time. 

I find the funniest part about the whole "zOMG Israel spiiiiieeeed on us!!!!" flap is not about the spying, per se, but rather that they shared the gleaned information with the real enemy of the administration: the Republicans in Congress. I know they can't be complaining about the spying itself, because Angela Merkel will be on the line ready for rebuttal.

Just wait until President Cruz denies funding to states that have abortion on demand. The howls will be heard all the way to the Mountain of Moloch. Unintended consequences, people. Just as the most dangerous words of the ACA are "as the Secretary [of the HHS] shall determine." I hope that someone like Rick Santorum gets to be the HHS Secretary, just for entertainment's sake, so the authors of the ACA can contort themselves into pretzels attempting to say that the above clause means something different than the plain language of the text. You know, like "exchange established by the state."

The NFL finally decided that TV was actually more important than butts in the seats. Now if only they'd get rid of the stupid territorial rules...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/24/15

I'm back today. Thanks again to Nick for taking on the reins here at Lattanzi Land for yesterday's Ten. Being a cultural or non-current events day, I felt like covering ten video games I obsessed over as a kid. These came from different consoles, and in some cases, franchises will be treated as'll see what I mean! -- J.L.

1. Super Mario Brothers (1-3) - NES

The original Super Mario Brothers was the first game I learned how to play well. I did so going across the street to watch my friend David play it when I was living as a kid in New Jersey. It's still to the point where I can beat it in ten minutes (with Warp Zones, of course) without dying a single time. World 8-3 is by far the hardest one, but if you can get through 8-2 with your firepower in tact, 8-3 is a breeze.

SMB 2 is Mario on drugs. I know they complained that the original SMB 2 (now known as "The Lost Levels") was too hard, but using Doki Doki Panic as the prototype just makes it the red-headed stepchild of the entire series. SMB 3 is the most comprehensive, but it also takes the longest to play (and thus beat). I can say I have only beat Mario 3 about a dozen times in my life. Nevertheless it is an absolutely amazing set of games that still are worth playing, even if you have to spend time blowing in the cartridges.

2. Bases Loaded - NES

RBI Baseball for the NES was fun, and I loved playing it because Mike Schmidt was on the National League All-Star team, but Bases Loaded was the game I enjoyed the most for long-term game play. If you wanted offense, you always had to be Jersey; if you wanted pitching, Hawaii or Philly it was. It was tough not to be Jersey with the player named "Paste" whose stat line lived up to the name: .467 average and 60 homers. The constant music could be annoying at times, but anyone who played it frequently could probably still hum it without missing a beat.

3. Contra - NES

If you grew up in the 80's and didn't know the Konami Code, you either were a kid who wasn't allowed to play video games/watch TV/read Nintendo Power, or you lived under a rock. The one thing I still can't do is beat Contra from start to finish on just three lives. Thirty, on the other hand, is generally sufficient. The most annoying feature is being able to steal a life from the other player in two-player mode.

4. Tecmo Super Bowl - NES

How awesome was it to play an actual NFL schedule with real teams and real players (like "QB Eagles")? One thing that people forget about the older games is that with the increasing realism of the various genres (whether sports, platform, or role-playing), the amount of time needed to play has also increased exponentially. For a game like this, a sixteen game NFL season (plus playoffs) could be played in roughly 7-8 hours total. I can't see Madden or MLB: The Show seasons being played in that short a time, unless there is massive amounts of simulation.

5. Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis

Even when I play it now, the colors really stand out. It's still a quality game and beating it isn't cheap, especially since truly beating it requires several Chaos Emeralds. Labyrinth Zone is still a difficult set of levels to beat, and the boss at the end of that zone is one of the most unique bosses out there in videogameland.

6. NBA Jam - Sega Genesis

A true icon. Anyone worth his weight can recall at least one catchphrase from this game. I remember the Big Lie of this game was that if you beat all 27 NBA teams, you unlocked Michael Jordan. On my end, I always used either the Hornets (Grandmama Johnson and 'Zo Mourning) or the SuperSonics (Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf). One of my most vivid gaming memories came as a result of losing to my triple overtime...on a court-length Hail Mary shot. I threw the controller hard and I nearly broke it. It is still the only time I ever lost to him in this game.

7. NBA Action '95 - Sega Genesis

In the heyday of Sega Sports, they made a good line of games such as World Series Baseball, Joe Montana/NFL Football, and NBA Action. The NBA game was a fairly realistic one (and by realistic, I mean I could score over 200 points in six minute quarters) and it was always fun to go 82-0 while winning by 140 points every game. What made the game extra fun was the canned reactions of a pre-recorded Marv Albert and a wide array of stats (don't laugh, this was HUGE in those days). You could even with Dana Barros playing on the Sixers (or Michael Adams playing on the Bullets).

8. NHL '95 and '97 - Sega Genesis

EA Sports ended up dominated the sports gaming environment by the mid-to-late 1990's. It's hockey offerings were probably second only to Madden in entertainment and repeatable gameplay. It didn't hurt that the Flyers were really good in those days, and especially in the 1995 edition, the wrap-around was essentially taking candy from babies. It wasn't as easy by 1997, but the one-timer was played up at that point. I would get pissed off if I allowed two goals in a game, winning only 10-2. 

9. John Madden Football (later Madden NFL Football) - Sega Genesis, PS, PS2

I have owned Madden incarnations from 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008. The early ones were fairly revolutionary in their own way - play calling, formations, and so forth. The mid-90's versions seemed to take a step back, but by 1997 and later, the game play truly was next-generation. In recent years, with NFL exclusivity, the product has slowed down a bit, as monopolies are wont to do. That being said, I can't think of any franchise of games that has matched the longevity and the cultural influence of Madden, not even Super Mario Brothers, or Sonic the Hedgehog. Thank God the recent versions don't have Madden's absolutely horrendously trite commentary:

He knew where he had to go, and he got there.


10. PGA Tour Golf 2 and European Tour - Sega Genesis

My uncle actually owned the former before I had it, and it was my introduction to golf in general. EA's golf games were pretty good simulations of what the pros had to do, even including grids in reading the greens. Dustin still owes me a million dollars for a shot I hit at Scottsdale from 145 yards out. 

I WANT MY MONEY! (Whenever you can get it to me is juuuuust fine!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/23/15 (Guest Edition)

I am still in recovery, and so here's Nick and his guest commentary on the news and views from the weekend for today's Ten! -- J.L.

Nothing to fear, Nick is here!  Welcome to my latest guest post in Lattanzi Land!  This time I’ll do my best to mimic the scathing commentary you are used to reading from the Tonz with a few news items I have found over the last few days. 

OK, I’m just going to put it out there. I’m a Republican, but there are so many levels to these stories (New England is just weird) when really there doesn't have to be. I did a lesson once a few years ago when I had my students write letters to Senators Cardin and Mikulski on Chesapeake Bay issues.  Mikulski couldn't be bothered, but Cardin at least took the time to write back a nice note thanking the kids for getting involved in civic issues. 

Things like kids writing bills proposing state birds and mottoes are completely harmless, and yes, partisan games (like comparing the talons of a bird to Planned Parenthood) are completely nuts. Likewise, the reaction to the reaction is just as strange.  Chill out, people!  This is I think just a microcosm of the bigger issue when the POTUS, who was supposed to be a uniter, has been anything but. Republicans get raked over the coals, but when Democrats raise their voice and complain it’s righteous. The double standard is disgusting (preach it, Hillary!). 

Major League Baseball has completely eliminated paper All Star ballots at the ballpark in favor of 100% online balloting.  I for one enjoyed being able to punch out hanging chads on those ballpark ballots for the All Star Game, but I think Major League Baseball has this all wrong.  I thought they would want to encourage people to get to the stadium, not discourage it.  All this does is give people another excuse not to come…and to stuff the virtual ballot box. 

How much of a schmuck do you have to be to take somebody’s handicapped parking space illegally, find a note politely asking them not to do it again lest you get towed, and respond back with filth like this?  Seriously, sometimes I just don’t understand people. 

Any time you bring up race issues, especially for somebody like me, you’re walking over the proverbial set of hot coals (but aren't we supposed to be having a “conversation” about it?  I digress…). Stephen A. Smith is a windbag and I wish he could hear himself what he says sometimes.  ESPN has suspended him a time or two, but every now and then he says something that makes people think in a different way.  He wants all African-Americans to vote Republican just once, saying (rightly I might add) that the Democrats take them for granted, and the Republicans don’t care because they won’t get their vote anyway.  

My question in response is simple.  Why can’t individuals do their own research and vote based what they individually feel is in the best interest of the country?  Why does anybody have to vote as part of a “bloc?”  I sure don’t.  We are free to make our own decisions, not because a “bloc” of voters is going one way or another.

With the NCAA tournament already down to the Sweet 16, we once again have the annual debate as to what the NCAA really stands for: education and amateurism, or just making money for a lot of old guys with PhDs.  I've argued before on my blog that if amateurism isn't already dead, it's on life support, and the NCAA and IOC are largely to blame. Why else would college athletes want to form a players’ union?  Under the current structure, they ARE getting screwed, at least certain players in football and basketball.  If the NCAA really stands for the STUDENT-athlete, academics should be first and foremost, end of story. 

In my perfect world, there would be no age minimums in professional sports, but if a player DOES go to college by choice and play with an athletic scholarship, they HAVE to stay 4 years at minimum and make significant progress toward a degree (that is WHY you go to college after all isn't it?).  Any money made from athletic ventures (games, advertising, etc.) goes straight to supporting the STUDENT-athlete (be that in academics or other aspects of college life), not into NCAA coffers.  The “entertainment” value of the games quite frankly to me is secondary.  The NCAA Tournament is exciting enough regardless of the final scores. 

You know what’s creepy?  I made a reference to Double Dare in one of my classes the other day, and the kids had NO IDEA what I was talking about.  Granted, I have no idea what’s on Nickelodeon nowadays myself, but anybody my age certainly will have fond memories of the physical challenges, Sundae Slides, and of course the world famous One-Ton-Human-Hamster-Wheel™.  Marc Summers himself has said it would be really cool to do a “second generation” version of the show since the kids on that show now probably have kids of their own.  Heck, I’d lobby to be on it myself.  Old episodes are all over YouTube, including some of my favorites from the family version that used to be on Nick and Fox.  If kids today would watch this, they would realize that our childhoods weren’t all that bad.  Nickelodeon, are you listening?  

This is (seriously) creepy considering I was JUST in that very airport, in that very concourse 3 weeks ago.  Nowadays you just never know who’s got what and what they’re planning to do with it.  Always protect yourself.

By the time you read this this will probably already be official, but you know the Democrats are going to be locked and loaded to do everything they can to destroy Cruz in every way they can.  All he’s done all along is call the Democrats out for what they are and what their true motives are.  Personally, I like Scott Walker more than Ted Cruz for POTUS, but I would pull the lever for Cruz over anybody named Clinton in a heartbeat.

When Chris Borland decided to call it a career after just one season in pro football, it renewed discussion about the effects football and other contact sports have on people, and especially their brains.  I certainly applaud him for making an adult decision to take care of himself and his family, despite the promise of riches.  He understands that football is an inherently violent game and that playing it is a CHOICE (emphasis mine).  He has an education from the University of Wisconsin, and that will serve him far more for far much longer than the fleeting ability to tackle a ball carrier.

So apparently photos surfaced of Patrick Schwarzenegger (Arnold’s son) having a good old time in Cabo with his ex-girlfriend, much to Miley Cyrus’s chagrin.  Remind me why people should care about this again?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Lattanzi Ten - 3/20/15

We're back with the Ten today...happy First Day of Spring, with Snow and 30-35 degree temperatures. Hopefully your day will be a little warmer as it moves along. Now we go on to the news and the views of the past 48 hours. -- J.L.

1. March Madness Might Make Me Mad

This is my bracket, playing along with my students...It. Is. Ass...Behold:

At least I didn't pick Harvard to make it to the Sweet 16...

Stephen A. Smith is much like Bill Maher: wrong an overwhelming amount of times, but on occasion will nail things on the head so hard it renders the subject unconscious. Politics and sports actually trend close together in certain tactics used to gain voters and fans in their respective areas.

The "base" in politics (or the die-hards in sports) is taken for granted as a vote, and as such you begin to see pandering to others who aren't a natural constituency to the party. In sports, the constant pandering is to the so-called "casual fan," who is the equivalent of the so-called "moderate" in politics. In reality, "casual fans" and "moderates" are a moving target that don't actually exist except as a way of making it appear that the party/sport isn't solely throwing fresh meat to the base/die-hards.

Smith's plan would have to be exercised over an entire four-year voting cycle to be effective: two presidential elections, a mid-term, and various local elections (including gubernatorial). The reason is that one single election can be written off as a fluke; a second one becomes a possible trend, and a third almost makes it habitual. Like I said, it will never happen, but would make for an interesting civics project.

I really like Dr. Carson. He's a self-made man, and has accomplished more than most of us can ever dream of, but listening to the interview with Hewitt just made me cringe. It reminded me of when a lot of scientists (Stephen Hawking, et al) try to become philosophers...they sound like complete and total morons. They ought to stick to their field of expertise. Ben Carson ought to be named the Surgeon General or even the head of the HHS in a possible future administration. To be at the top of the ticket would be horrendous as many in the media would not cover up flubs such as "57 states" if Carson made them. It's sad, but it's also true.

As Mrs. Bill Clinton's hopes keep fading with every new revelation and FOIA request being re-opened, the door keeps cracking open wider and wider for Martin O'Malley. Iowa is the next stop, although I really do with there'd be a bi-partisan effort to downgrade Iowa's standing as "first in the nation." It's nothing but a bunch of corn stalks and special interests dominating the caucuses. This is change behind which all Americans can get!

Or, the Curious Case of Kaus. God forbid someone be critical of Fox News! Now, I don't mean critical like Media Matters or The Daily Kos is critical of them, but an honest assessment of where they stand. To make a (modest) defense of the network, it isn't their job to "wage a feisty campaign" against amnesty. Tucker Carlson is an idiot for spiking the column as a sop to his (other) employer, but then again, we already knew he was an idiot.

The IRS has more power than any other agency. And that's a problem, especially since it isn't simply about revenue collection. They are also the commerce police and the speech police.

I have serious moral reservations about in-vitro fertilization (or IVF, if you prefer) due to the (nearly endless) possibilities of manipulating the conception process as well as the wanton destruction and discarding of the "undesirables." The (unspoken) premise of IVF is that children are a commodity to be molded in the image and likeness of his parents, whether a traditional couple or a same-sex couple. In other words, environment is no longer enough to be a standard of raising someone; heredity (and thus, ego) become a determining factor as well.

Anyone who had paid any attention to all the events in Ferguson for the past 7+ months knew the whole "hands up, don't shoot" mantra never happened. But the nature of demagoguery demands that we not let facts get in the way of the narrative. Thank God the Washington Post finally came around on this, whatever would we do without their "fact-checking"? The whole fact-checking business is a notorious example of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (i.e. who watches the watchers) and has become a substitute for lazy journalism.

The answer is thusly:
The problem is simple. None of these campus leaders singles out the content of the humanities as the focus. Only President Reilly mentions a name, George Bernard Shaw, and he rightly ridicules the infusion of “contemporary popular culture” in the Western canon. But as his final quotation shows, that emphasis gives way to what the other three presidents highlight: the cognitive benefits of humanistic study.
We have fetishized "critical thinking" as an end unto itself, rather than the means it is meant to be in discerning the meaning, truth, and beauty of what we call "the humanities": history, art, literature, philosophy, and theology. If the humanities are nothing but a training tool in "critical thinking," then there are sure more cost-effective ways to instill analytical mindsets into people. No one is going to spend $200,000 getting a college degree in women's/gender/white privilege studies if the only goal is to talk about how to think critically. In fact, those aforementioned "studies" do more to formulate a hive mind than anything else. If you doubt me, look at how well "received" feminists like Christina Hoff Summers and Camille Paglia are among those who teach these humanities in most universities.

The university demands conformity, and the humanities are about diversity...of thought, which is the diversity that ought to matter in an institution of learning and thinking.

Mrs. Bill Clinton is talking about "Fun deficits" now, whatever the hell that means. It's pretty pathetic that it even has to be couched in cold bureaucratic terms. All I can think of with this sort of thing is "mandatory fun" I had to partake of when my youth group would go to the beach every June. "Mandatory fun" is one of those delightful oxymorons like "civil war" and "working vacation."

No, thank you.