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Dinosaur tracks found in Australia August 24, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Science.
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Australia is traditionally a relatively latecomer when it comes to dinosaur discoveries.  The first dinosaurs discovered were Iguanodon and Megalosaurus in England in the early 1820s.  We found herds of Hadrosaurs outside of Philadelphia in the 1840s (the significant finds out west started in the 1870s).  Compared to all that, the first dino finds Downunder not coming until the 1900s and 1930s seem quite recent.  It does not help things that Australia, even during the Age of Reptiles, did not have all of its land accessible to dinosaurs, as much of the present-day continent was covered by a shallow sea.  But it also was connected to both Antarctica and South America during this era, and as such, the part of Australia not covered by said shallow sea (try saying that three times fast!) was a crossroads of sorts for a number of species.

Despite the decent diversity of dinosaurs found in Australia, the actual number of species found Downunder are relatively few, for a number of geological reasons, one of which has already been mentioned.  But any dino discovery in Australia is significant because of its crossroads status, but also because it can give us clues to dinosaur migratory patterns as well as potential behavioral patterns during a unique time of when A) Australia was located further south than it is today, and B) despite the southern part of the continent’s almost polar latitudinal position during this time, a huge saving grace was that a major warming period occured at that same period, about 105 million years ago.

Hence the significance of the discovery of dino tracks along the coastline of Victoria dating to that time.  A research team led by Emory University Paleontologist Anthony Martin discovered what appear to be Therapod tracks from Australia’s polar period.  Keep in mind that dinosaurs were not discovered in Antarctica until the late 1980s — pre-dating the ground-breaking documentary on dinos hosted by Christopher Reeve in 1985.  But given that geologists surmised that the continents were at one time joined together, there were thoughts that finding dino fossils at the bottom of the world would be a matter of time.

Martin also found the first dinosaur trace fossils of a burrow in Australia back in 2006, so his track record for these finds is well-established.  This current find was in a location called Dinosaur Dreaming.  With a name like that, it sounds like Paleontologists ought to do more digging in that point on the map!


What is Federalism? August 21, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
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What is Federalism?  It is, quite simply, a system of government that involves shared and divided power between a governing central authority and constituent political units — in this case, individual states.  In other words, the Federalist system requires that some defined, limited powers be delegated to the central government while the rest be delegated to the states.  This concept was central to our nation’s founding during the Federal Convention of 1787, and is just as crucial today, as a critical mass of our fellow citizens have forgotten this key concept, thus leading to our country’s existential crisis.

In the beginning, America’s government on a national level consisted only of the Congress, then a differently-composed body from the Congress that became part of the federal government that was later to be designed.  From 1777 through 1788, the guiding document for the Congress was the Articles of Confederation, whose very title shows that America was a confederacy at that time, not a federal republic.  But the Articles failed because they were too weak.  The 13 states that declared independence from Great Britain had to be brought together very quickly in order to keep an army in the field and to keep it fed and clothed.  At this they almost merited a failing grade, since General George Washington constantly found his army to be under-fed, his soldiers’ payments chronically late, and horribly clothed.

After the war, even bigger problems arose, since the Articles of Confederation brought the states together too loosely, particularly when it came to settling states’ debts or having a stable currency, to say nothing of lack of uniform commercial regulation from state to state.  It therefore comes as no wonder that the “several states” were in economic chaos by the 1780s, some 150 years before the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Enough key people realized the problems with the Articles had to be corrected, first at Annapolis, Md., in 1786, and a year later at Philadelphia in 1787.

One myth that pervades some people on the right side of the political spectrum is that the Framers convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to cut government down and make it weaker.  The opposite is actually true:  they got together in that city and year to strengthen government.  That said, it would rankle those on the other side of the political spectrum that they did not strengthen it for the sake of amassing more power or control for themselves, let alone create a modern European-style welfare state, but rather, they saw it was a means of creating a more stable system that would encourage a stronger economy.  A stronger government meant the ability to regulate interstate commerce and have the only power to coin money — two powers absent from the previous government (Reference Article I, Section 8).  Basically, the Constitution — pre-1791, at least — was originally meant to be a blueprint that would allow for more people to secure for themselves the blessings of liberty by being able to earn their own money more easily than before.

Through much rigorous debate during the Federal Convention of 1787, a federal system of government was decided upon, where there would be a government at the highest level with a relatively few defined powers, and the broader powers would be deferred to the “several states.”

One example of shared power is, alas, no more.  The original way in which the new Congress was composed was one of the most sterling examples of Federalism, and how power separated was indeed power checked.  The method of people directly electing their representatives in the lower chamber has been in place since 1788.  But the way United States Senators were elected was quite different.  The original method of their appointment was election via state legislatures.  Such election was predicated on the idea that once elected, the members of the Senate would respect state sovereignty, and not allow for the federal government to usurp power from the states.  The 17th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913, made it so that senators were elected to Congress directly by the individual voters instead of the state legislators.  Effectively, this turned Senators into “supercongressmen,” and were no longer operating under any constraints to respect state sovereignty with their pieces of legislation, unless the voters stipulated such, yet they never did until a critical mass of voters in some states have made that a priorty in very recent years.  An archived article by Bruce Bartlett goes further into this important issue.

Federalism is not without its occasional peculiarities, to be sure.  To ensure that states would be given equal representation on one hand and given proportional representation on another, the Congressional make-up as we know was fashioned whereby the lower chamber would satisfy the latter concern, and the upper chamber of Congress (the Senate) would satisfy the former.  Article I is very explicit in that each state, no matter how big or small, shall be represented in the upper chamber by two senators; no more, no less.  Today, the average Congressional district represents a little over 700,000 people, yet the state of Wyoming, just slightly over half a million in population, has two senators.

True, some delegates initially did call for a national government, not a federal government, but after the requisite debate, that particular proposal for overhauling the central authority of government in the U.S. was quickly rejected.  Much debate and compromise took place before it was agreed upon by the majority of delegates that powers between a central government and state governments should be shared.  Such a mutual conclusion was the happy median between those who wanted a stronger central authority and those who wanted to preserve more vestiges of the older confederacy.

When the Federal Convention concluded on Sept. 17, 1787, two opposing camps sprang up, practically overnight — the Federalists (those in favor of the Constitution’s ratification) and the Anti-Federalists (those who opposed the Constitution’s ratification on the grounds that it gave too much power to the central government).  A large majority of states had to ratify the document to make it the supreme law of the land (effectively, this meant nine states out of 12, since Rhode Island did not send any delegates at all to the convention).

Many prominent patriots such as George Mason, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams were Anti-Federalists, fearing that their efforts to secure independence would come to naught if the central government were delegated such a degree of power.  The Anti-Federalists were understandably concerned that without additional built-in checks on Congressional power, their worst fears of a central government amassing more and more power at the expense of everyone’s liberty would come to pass.  The solution proposed by prominent Federalists such as James Madison — the acknowledged “father” of the Constitution and one of its key authors — was to add a Bill of Rights to the Constitution to ensure that rapacious politicians would be prohibited from passing laws that would infringe on our God-given liberties.  The Bill of Rights, of course, consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constititution, and was ratified in December of 1791, during George Washington’s first term as president.  In it, one particular amendment — the Tenth — stands out as an enduring testament to the principle of Federalism and to the importance of shared powers and the respect of state sovereignty.  It simply reads:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Translation, for those of you who went to public school (or graduated from IU):  If it doesn’t specifically say that the central government has the power to do something, then the central government lacks the power to do that one thing, and if that one thing is to be done, it is up to the states (or even the counties) to take care if it in their own way.

The Tenth Amendment reminds us of something implicit though crucial to Federalism.  Given that it is predicated on shared powers between the central government and the states, it compels its citizens to prioritize as to what government can effectively do nationally vs. locally.  Since one of the most basic jobs of government is to protect its citizens from theft and violence, that job on a state and county level amounts to “law and order,” while on the national level, it means providing for the national defense.  When it comes to “establish Post Offices and Post Roads” as is enumerated in Article I, Section 8, that means that it’s quite alright for the federal government to build national roads (interstates, anyone?) and post offices, but the states can build their own roads on their own dime, too.

If ever We the People are to solve America’s current existential crisis of whether we are to perpetuate America as we know it, or to degenerate into another bloated welfare state like western Europe, the former cannot be achieved without the explicit acknowledgement of what Federalism is and why our Founding Fathers intended for the central government to remain strong enough to provide economic and military stability on a national level, but to leave the rest of the minutiae to the states.  It worked before, and shall work again.  As we are witnessing today, there can be no substitute.

Mayor Michael Nutter to black youths: “You have damaged your own race.” August 18, 2011

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It’s about darn time that somebody said this.  As a community college instructor, the majority of students I have had in my business and general education classes have been African American.  Many are single mothers.  Many, regardless of sex, have tattoos (a fine example they are setting for their children!).  The college where I teach has had to enact new classroom regulations over the years to bring some semblence of civility, such as the banning of wearing of hats in class, as well as the banning of clothing that is, er, too revealing, or too unprofessional in general.  The wearing of hoods is also banned.  I applaud these regulations, as they promote civility, but also set the expectations for what it takes to provide a more professional appearance, something important if the students wish to get a job once they graduate.  Some students get it without having to be told, and much to their credit.  Others quickly get it once they see the importance of what these rules are trying to instill.  Others need to be reminded several times, as nobody has ever shown them before the basic tennants of civility.

Much has been said about the difficulty many African Americans, particularly the youth, have had in finding work.  Over the past several months, black unemployment has been almost twice the national average, around 16 percent.  While those who prefer to deal in hysteria are quick to cite ‘racism’ as the reason behind this statistic of great concern, the real reasons, from my own personal observations, are more basic.  Many young black people are not attractive candidates for hire because of their unprofessional appearance and demeanor, something that Nutter tried to bring to their collective attention in a recent speech.  Given that Mayor Nutter himself is African American, he can say these things with impunity without retribution from the self-appointed, politically correct thought police.

The point of mentioning this is, if the hyper-degeneracy within the black community is to be erradicated, ultimately such needed erradication will have to come from within.  That approach always works the best, as it is ultimately the most self-reliant solution, in perfect accord with the “little platoons” that Alexis de Tocqueville observed was secret to America’s strength.  Kudos to Democrat Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia for saying what desperately needs to be said.

Here is a clip that covers the high points of his speech:

Leave it to the brilliant Dr. Thomas Sowell, however, to broaden the scope of the problem and put it into a context that ordinary people can readily understand.  His angle of attack is the different behavioral patterns will lead to different degrees of success, or degeneracy, depending on how constructive or destructive that behavior may be.  If you’re new to columns by Dr. Thomas Sowell, he often follows up with subsequent articles on the same subject, such as this fine example, which reminds us that racism is a two-way street, contrary to the politcally-correct mantra that it goes only one way.

Cowboys and Aliens: An awesome film August 14, 2011

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Many reviews have not been the most flattering about the recently released film Cowboys & Aliens.  The average rating has been around 2 stars — not terrible (“turable,” if you’re Charles Barkley), but not necessarily good, either.  After seeing the film, my conclusion is that the 2-star treatment is an error, for it merits a better assessment than that.

Full confession time:  I had actually been anticipating the release of this movie for most of the year, practically since I first saw the posters for it around December or January.  The title itself sounded intriguing — aliens in a wild west setting.  Then I found out the top-billed cast, and it hit me.  Director Jon Favreau came up with the right ingredients that when combined — at least, on paper — would make for one of the coolest ideas for a movie in recent memory.

What are the ingredients?  The setting, the top cast, and the story itself.  The setting is obvious, and has already been covered.  What about the cast?  The two big names are Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  What is Daniel Craig known for playing these days?  Why, he’s the latest James Bond, with Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace already under his belt, and Bond 23 due to be released in 2012.  What is Harrison Ford best known for playing?  Puh-leaze:  Indiana Jones!

With all of this in mind, how do things add up?  As mentioned previously, it adds up — again, on paper — to the coolest idea in recent memory:  James Bond and Indiana Jones team up to fight aliens in the old west.  Can a movie idea get any more awesome?  I submit ‘no.’

From there, things can only go in two directions:  either the movie lives up to such expectations of awesomeness, or it flops completely.  Usually, a film that potentially cool sounds too good to be true, and that was my primary concern going in to see it.  The concern was alleviated within the first minute.  Craig definitely brings his swagger and brutality that he used to portray Bond, and Harrison Ford brings his A-game as well.  One scene was particularly tantalizing in that it made many a movie buff wonder ‘what if James Bond did try to take on Indiana Jones?’  Craig plays a desperado trying to remember who he is and what he was doing.  His fighting style and cowboy tough guy talk definitely remind folks ‘in the know’ of 007.  Meanwhile, there certainly are times where Ford’s occasional glances and smirks are as if he inadvertantly let Indy seep into this role of Civil War army officer-turned-tyrannical town overlord (think Indiana Jones with a dark side).

So why the relatively low reviews?  Lots of critics expect every film they see to have the dramatic value of MacBeth or Death of Salesman, and when it does not deliver under such a false premise, then the film is to be panned.  Moreover, lots of critics do not understand some of the pre-requisites of westerns.  The beauty of the film is that it is a western first, a sci-fi flick second (albeit a close second).  As a western, you know going in that there are going to be cliches, and heaven knows, the film is rife with them.  If that bothers any would-be viewer, then he or she is apt to detract a star or two from their own personal rating.  But if they are of no consequence to others, then the others will be more apt not to be distracted from the film’s overall awesomeness.

As a western, it also delivers satisfaction.  A lone stranger with a more-than-checkered past comes into town.  The town’s overlord dislikes him, to say the least (Why, you ask?  Watch the film!), until all hell breaks loose, well, you get the rest.  Like most westerns, the emphasis is on actions, not words, though to be sure, the film is not without the occasionally choice dialog.

The object of the story is even somewhat cliche, that of disparate forces having to band together to overcome a foe with a host of advantages.  The action sequences are pure awesomeness, and the ending is very satisfactory, as is the character development taking place throughout the film.  Moreover, Olivia Wilde (who played Quorra in Tron: Legacy) does well as an unexpected helper in the protagonist’s cause, and it was a nice touch to see Adam Beach (who played the part of Ira Hayes in Flags of our Fathers), whose character becomes a needed ambassador as the story unfolds.

If you’re looking for a good movie for a “Saturday (or Friday) night out with the boys” occasion, this film is perfect.  It is perfect for a father taking is son and son’s friends* for a fun time, or for a band of college buddies getting together for movie night.  If this film were made and released during my undergrad days, the boys and I would still be talking about it today:  it delivers that well.  James Bond and Indiana Jones team up to fight aliens in the old west.  A movie like that is so awesome, it’s worth repeating.

*Bear in mind that with a PG-13 rating, there is some violence — mostly modern western-style shooting violence, etc., so it is always wise for parents to exercise discretion accordingly.

Newly discovered planet is darker than coal August 11, 2011

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According to this article, more than 500 extra-solar planets have been discovered since 1995.  That does not count one of the first-ever extrasolar planets discovered back in 1992; a planet roughly four times the size of Earth, orbiting a pulsar.  But it does not matter how many new planets are discovered, it’s always a neat development.  What makes this one stand out consists of a couple of things.  For one, it is another gas giant, much like Jupiter.  But unlike Jupiter, which orbits about 483 million miles from the Sun, on average, this one, TrES-2b, orbits a mere three million miles from its star.  To put things further in perspective, Mercury’s mean distance from the Sun is about 36 million miles.  Furthermore, unlike Jupiter, whose alternating color stripes make it one of the most visually distinct planets in the solar system — its size notwithstanding — TrES-2b is, according to reports, “blacker than coal.”

Rioting in England the end-result of the Liberal Welfare State August 11, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
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The headline to this article by Max Hastings of the Daily Mail says it all, how the liberal welfare state produces feral human beings who see no moral compunction at all in this senseless violence and destruction and theft of other people’s private property.  Keep in mind that London is supposed to host the Summer Olympic Games in just a little less than a year (I just thought I’d toss that one out there).

Many on the left erroneously think that “poverty” is the root cause of violence and related crime.  Cal Thomas, however, chimes in by reminding us that years of amoral teaching and spiritual bankruptcy are a huge part of the blame.  Lack of proper religious grounding can lead anybody to think that theft and violence is okay, regardless of economic status.

Did anybody notice that most of the perpetrators of this violent spree came from single-parent homes, mostly without a father figure in their lives to provide them needed guidance in their formative years?  Ann Coulter certainly did notice, and it is not much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out that the problems that infect the urban ghettos in America have similar root causes of massive welfare causing fatherless homes.  If nothing else, pride on one’s ancestral accomplishments should be enough incentive to preserve the dignity of one’s own homeland.  But when politically-correct elites browbeat you into abandoning pride in your own country, non-thinking hooligans are left with the default position that nothing is worth preserving.  Congratulations, leftists:  your lasting accomplishment is that you have produced amoral, aimless, indolent, entitlement-addled, feral beings who do not even merit the title of human.

Addenda:  Jonah Goldberg chimes in on the recent riots in Great Britain, pointing out that those who rationalize said riots miss the mark by a considerable margin.  As usual, he also reveals some keen insights.  Among these insights are that the left has effectively replaced “income inequality” with “poverty” as the “root cause” of such violence.  On the other hand, if those on the right are correct in pointing out the lack of morals and proper religious grounding are the cause of such degenerate behavior, there is not much government can do, except do away with the coddling social programs that breed indolence and thus moral atrophy.

Speaking of shrinking government in Britain, how is that going?  George Will offers his analysis of the ongoing challenges PM David Cameron faces in that important endeavor.

Meanwhile, if anybody has read Jonah Goldberg’s take on these events by now, one paranthetical aside that stands out is that what could have helped the storeowners and other business owners more than a more assertive police would have been gun rights, thus allowing them to defend their own rightful property.  Therefore, another important memory-refresher from these disgusting events is the importance of the 2nd Amendment.  Such is the main thrust of Doug Giles’ comments on the riots in Merry Old England.

Purdue debuts new football uniforms August 7, 2011

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As a former student manager for the Purdue football team, I, along with a handful of other lucky souls, have more than intimate knowledge about Boilermaker football uniforms, and college football equipment in general.  Needless to say, whenever I receive news of a total redesign of the Boilers’ gridiron game unis, my interest is more than a little engaged.  At first glance of this redesigned series of gameday garments, part of me says “neat!” while the other part of me says “what on Earth were they thinking?”  First off, I get it.  Young players these days love the latest and greatest football fashions.  It’s the marketing, stupid, and fresh uni designs have been smartly used as a recruiting tool these days.  Hey, it worked for Oregon.  Meanwhile, has Penn State gotten this memo?  Will they ever?

Before further discussions proceed, a full gallery of the new Purdue uniforms can be seen via this link.

First of all, here is what I like, either sort of, or all the way.  Let’s start with the numbers, which I sort of like.  Of all the number designs, do I find this font to be the most aesthetically pleasing?   No, I do not.  Frankly, the traditional jersey numbers have worked just fine for traditional powers such as Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, and so on, so part of me asks, ‘what makes Purdue so special?’  That being said, the press release on Purdue’s athletics website points out that these numbers are in the “DIN” font, a typeface first developed in 1923, and since the mid-Twenties has been adopted as the standard font for engineering applications.  It also became the typeface of choice for metal stencil applications in trainyards.  Seeing things along those lines, the engineering and train connection to the DIN font makes this a very appropriate choice.  Plus, a font that’s almost 80 years old, when applied in a new way (new jerseys) can still look current; further proof that what is old is new.

Speaking of the numbers, another thing I love about the new design is the all-gold numbers on the black home jersey.  Those familiar with earlier eras of Purdue football will no doubt recall that “back in the day,” Purdue had a long-standing history displaying gold numbers on black jerseys.  Iconic photos of players in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, as well as the 1960s attest to this (check out some of the photos of Bob Griese and Mike Phipps as Boilermakers, and you shall see what I mean!).  While that started to change in the 1970s and espeically in the 1980s with the introduction of white numbers on Purdue’s black jerseys, gold numbers were still not unheard of as recently as the ’90s, but have been no more for about 14 years, until now.  Kudos to whomever had them brought back, as they are a nice, throwback touch.

Dare I say, I also applaud the choice to go back to a plain black stripe on the helmets.   To be sure, white and thin double-black stripes were a unique touch, one that was without precedence when Coach Tiller had them implemented on his new design (that template essentially being a carbon-copy of his Wyoming uni template, one that he transplanted with him in 1997).  But the single black stripe on the gold helmet again speaks to some of Purdue’s glory days, such as the ’60s and the Mollenkopf era — another nice, traditional touch.

Now on to the more unpleasant matters.  Let us start with the stripes.  To preempt any misunderstandings, I am very happy that stripes stayed on the pants.  I abhorred the 1990s fashion trend of stripe-less pants, and I am glad to see that we in the football community have moved on, with some exceptions.  What I do not like is how the stripes changed.  I absolutely loved our thin, double-stripe pattern.  It was a direct throwback to our older styles of uniforms from the 1940s through the 1960s.  The black pants with the gold stripes looked like an army general’s dress uniform — very classy.  Plus, we, along with Alabama, were the only teams to use such stripes.  I understand that times they are a-changin’, but if marketing is going to modify the stripes on the pants, can they at least have the decency to make sure those stripes are complete?  These new stripes fail to go all the way up the pants, for goodness sake!

In another matter, there is no earthly reason why Purdue should ever be wearing white pants.  Ever.  Period.  The only time I would condone it is if we had a black road helmet to provide the proper aesthetic contrast, say, a black helmet with a metallic gold “P” and a metallic gold 1-inch center stripe.  Then the get-up wouldn’t look half-bad — for a road uniform, at least.  In the meantime, though, my advice is, forget the white pants ever happened, and stick with the black pants on the road.

One recurring issue that nobody seems willing to address is the terrible shade of gold to which Purdue has been chained in recent years.  A simple looking up of our official school colors will show the inquisitive individual that Purdue’s school colors are Old Gold and Black.  Got that?  Old Gold and Black.  Sadly, the last time the Boilers had a real, old gold in their helmets was 1996, and the last time their pants were the genuine old gold was 1995, Mike Alstott’s senior year.  Since 1997, the gold in Purdue’s pants has been a watered-down, urine-specimen shade of gold, and it’s downright pathetic.  The ghastly pale shade is made all the more evident when mated with the white road jersey.  One would have hoped that a total redesign of uniform would have given occasion to rectify this problem.  Yet nothing has been done about this glaring weakness.

Whether the marketing wing of Purdue’s athletic department is at fault for consciously picking this sickly shade of gold, or Nike is being a less-than-responsive provider in imposing a one-size-fits-all shade of gold on all its clientele that use that hue, or both, the bottom line is that it remains unacceptable.  Check out UCLA’s gold pants some time.  They still have a substantive gold in their uniforms, which is proof positive that the proper shade is available.  Get it together, you guys.

Captain America: A Great American Film August 5, 2011

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If you have not seen Captain America in the theatres yet and are looking for a good film to see this weekend, look no further.   This is a film that delivers.  To offer a small confession, I have seen more than a few superhero flicks in the theatres since the New Millenium began, and on the whole, I have not been disappointed by them (Hulk from 2003, however, is another matter entirely!).  Upon hearing the news that Captain America was to be released in the theatres this summer, I was more than interested, given my past moviegoing experiences for such fare, as well as with my admiration for the character and his patriotic attitude.

Moreover, as somebody who is a sucker for period pieces, I was all the more enthusiastic about seeing the film, since it takes place during WWII.  One of the great things about such movies in recent years is, given the high level technology and sophisticated techniques of filmmaking, each period piece tries to out-do each other with providing details of authenticity of past times, from the architecture to the clothing fashions to the cars and music of those respective eras.  The WWII-era backdrop in this movie is both nostalgic and convincing, so much so that it could show many of us who were born way after that time why that period was looked on as the “good ol’ days” by those who lived it.

Chris Evans plays the main character, who starts out in the story as Steve Rogers, one’s classic image of a 90-pound weakling, who, despite his skrawny body and sickly appearance, is nevertheless driven by a deep sense of patriotism and duty to one’s country.  Furthermore, despite these glaring weaknesses, he’s also resilient — somebody who quickly gets up no matter how many times he gets knocked down.  Rule no. 1 of any movie story is that the audience must be able to sympathize with the main character.  If you’re a red-blooded American, you cannot help but love Steve Rogers.  As Captain America, the hero is quite formidable yet still sympathetic.

Obviously, his weaknesses prevent him from passing physical muster for military service, despite trying to enlist several times.  This determination catches the eye of an immigrant scientist — played by Stanley Tucci — who is conducting a secret military experiment, offering him a chance to help his country in a special way.  Rogers takes the chance, and the story really takes off from there.

On the other side, the arch-villain Red Skull is played convincingly by Hugo Weaving.  No doubt moviegoers would instantly recognize him for his memorable work as Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy.  FYI, he also supplied the voice for Megatron in the Transformers trilogy, so clearly Weaving has had experience in these sorts of roles!

The love interest is supplied by a charismatic British intelligence agent played by Hayley Atwell.  The romance that eventually develops between her and Captain America has an appealingly old-fashioned feel, as if it were straight out of a real 1940s movie.  Tommy Lee Jones turns in yet another reliable performance, this time as a tough army commander, and the rest of the supporting cast is solid, too.

I was especially pleased to learn before attending the film’s showing that the movie was directed by Joe Johnston, whose previous credits include The Rocketeer, which I still contend is one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s.  One of the reasons I am so fond of that film is that it takes place in 1938 Los Angeles, and shows the sumptuous art deco architectural interiors of that time, the classic propeller airplanes, the 1930s cars of all sorts of makes and models, the period attire (gotta love those double-breasted suits and fedoras!), not to mention that 1938 was the height of the Swing Era, and I was able to identify at least three different Artie Shaw tunes.

Suffice it to say, Johnston pays just as close attention to detail with the WWII period trappings of Captain America that he did to that similar period in The Rocketeer.  If the viewer were to pay a few extra bucks for a 3-D showing, he or she would be all the more apt to be immersed in that era, particularly the artwork, the wartime propaganda posters, the clothes (always the clothes!), the cars, and more.

My only criticism of the film is that I found it rather light on contemporary recordings in its soundtrack.  I was able to make out I’ll Remember April by Woody Herman and Jersey Bounce by Benny Goodman, but that’s it.  As a long-time Goodman afficionado, I can vouch that Jersey Bounce is a decent record, and since it was recorded in 1942, it’s quite appropriate, but Benny and his band did other records of the time that were even a bit more peppy that could have provided the right mood and contemporary backdrop during some other scene, namely Yours Is My Heart Alone from 1940.  Surely they could have squeezed in Glenn Miller’s American Patrol (1942) some place, or an early ’40s Artie Shaw ballad, say Moonglow (1941), or even Stardust (1940) during one of the more tender scenes between Evans and Atwell.

Much credit is due to whomever chose to have the movie take place in the era when the character Captain America was created.  World War II provides the perfect patriotic setting where the true essence of the character can be appreciated by viewers of all ages.  In subsequent decades, namely the 1960s, the bleeding-heart comic book writers essentially perverted the character by superimposing their post-modern claptrap onto this paragon of patriotism, as Mark Steyn so eloqently observed.

They say that the numbers don’t lie.  That is especially the case when it comes to box office receipts.  It is no secret that Hollywood has been guilty of producing more than a few anti-American (or, at least anti-U.S. military/CIA) films in the recent years.  Ben Shapiro offers a laundry list of examples, such as the Bourne Ultimatum, Lions for Lambs, Shooter, Grace is Gone, Rendition, and The Torturer.  He could have also added Jarhead and Syriana to that list.  No doubt this sort of muddying of the moral waters appeals to post-modernists and other supposed sophisticates.

Yet the average public has chosen to favor other sorts of films, which explains why superhero movies have done so well at the box office since the beginning of the New Millenium.  X-Men grossed $157 Million by late 2000.  Spider-Man grossed $403 Million by late summer of 2002.  X2 tallied almost $215 Million by early fall of 2003, Batman Begins tallied $205 Million by October of 2005, Superman Returns rang up $200 Million by late October of ’06, and The Dark Knight set a record with $533 Million in box offices receipts.  In just a couple of weeks, Captain America already has brought in $130 Million in domestic sales alone.  The message is clear:  people like to watch movies where good and evil are easily defined.  Captain America not only delivers on that message alone, but it delivers with an unabashedly patriotic message that America stands for ideals that are worth fighting and dying for, and does so with fantastic period panache.  If you’re a red-blooded American, this film will give you your money’s worth.