Thursday, January 31, 2008

Odd Things Seen

"Lightspeed Champion
Since the break up of his critically acclaimed rock band Test Icicles, Devonte Hynes has re-invented himself as Lightspeed Champion. Listen to his new album, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, exclusively on MySpace."

I couldn't make this stuff up.
I could ridicule this, but it's just too easy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Editorial: The Saga Begins

I haven't forgotten you, loyal readers. I'll be back with more to say very soon. In the meantime, here's the first part of a story...

The government can't do anything right. Some people can't seem to get that into their heads. People say "All you have to do to get a green card is get married, right?" and they seemingly forget that the government is the one in the control of the big mess that is immigration. Just like a trip to the DMV you might leave there happy, or it might turn into a giant nightmare.

When my wife and I decided that we wanted to be together, in America we had to take a look at immigration. Marriage wasn't the first option. We both would have preferred to get married simply because we chose to, not because it was what we were required to do to be together. After looking into things we came to the conclusion that we had no other valid options. It seems that the legal ways to immigrate legally are primarily broken down into being rich, being from a certain country or through family. Legal immigration is hard, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is a system of loopholes.

One interesting part of getting married to a immigrant is that you're not really allowed to plan it ahead of time. The only time my wife and I could have been married in America without violating the law was the first time we met. Ironically if we had done that my wife could not have returned to Germany before all the paperwork was in order and she had a green card or else they would not have allowed her to reenter. They can and will deny entry to the United States because you are married to a American. Marriage has to be spontaneous, you can't tell customs that you plan on getting married in America, they will bar your entry.

We found a way that did not break American law. We were married in Germany. This was not the only reason we chose this route, Direct Consular Filing allows for the immigrant to arrive in America with virtually instant working permission and with almost all documentation in order. We married in Germany and fought our way through the paperwork. It wasn't always easy, even a lawyer we talked to seemed to be unaware of how DCF filing worked. We had to make two trips to the consulate in Düsseldorf and eventually two trips to Frankfurt.

The paperwork required is intentionally blind. They didn't care that my wife had TOEFL certification as native proficiency in English. They didn't care that she was self-reliant financially, or was a college graduate. However they did require her police record, proof that she was healthy and as important proof that she was not going to be on the public dollar during her immigration to America (in truth I believe it extends beyond her immigration, up to her first ten years in America but don't quote me on that).

While her path was already in stark contrast to the path illegal immigrants take, this is the point that it really diverges. Illegal immigrants and people that choose to bludgeon their way into our immigration system are spared meeting these types of criteria. Hell, if they make it far enough they might even have the luxury of voting in their native language, we shouldn't trouble them to go so far as to even learn English. You can even take your written driving test in Korean in some states, for example. I'm not sure how you can read the road signs with words if you don't know English but you can damn sure get your driver's license.

All the while my wife had to jump through hoop after hoop, fill out forms, pay fees and go far out of her way to stay within the law. We needed another sponsor since I, in part through my frequent three month trips to Germany and my lack of working in permission couldn't come close to having enough income to prove I could support my wife without her getting any public aid (illegal immigrants somehow qualify for some forms of public assistance, why obey the law when the system rewards breaking it?). My brother agreed to become a sponsor. He managed to find enough time between military exercises to fill out the appropriate forms and get them notarized. The first time he made a tiny error that common sense and white out would have fixed, but since it was noticed by the fine folks at the consulate he was required to fill out, notarize and mail us the completed forms again.

The final step in Germany was easier than we expected. We knew we had a interview, and if they wished they could (for any reason) deny us. We had one minor problem, we needed new photos since my wife's head was turned the wrong way or something. Fortunately they had a photo booth there. Otherwise things went well. Our "interview" turned out to be by a guy behind the glass. We expected to be invited into a room and have a conversation. Instead a person that could have just as easily been giving us our change after we paid for gas started asking questions. We didn't even know it was a interview until he told me I couldn't answer the questions. It is worth mentioning that despite the process going fairly well, it still took around a year from start to finish.

Our arrival in America was primarily nerve wracking because the long lines we had to go through. The paperwork was fairly easy and straight forward. Starting anew in a country is never easy though. No car, waiting for important papers to arrive in the mail. You have to take it one step at a time, social security number, working permission, green card, license, etc...

After being uprooted once for circumstances beyond our control we settled in Alabama and tried to make the most of our situation. It came time for my wife to file her I-751 to remove conditions on her green card and we approached it with a relatively nonchalant attitude. We'd been married for a few years, living in America for a couple years and didn't have so much as a parking ticket between the two of us. We didn't anticipate having much trouble...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ultimate Disclaimer

Courtesy of a string of good blog-folk, we find this. I am chagrined only that I did not pen it myself.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cowboy Love

I watched 3:10 to Yuma a few days ago. Russell Crowe plays an outlaw that a rancher (Christian Bale) must escort to a train.

Crowe and Bale often play characters well, and this movie is no exception. Crowe's Ben Wade is magnetizing, by turns charming, hypnotic, and coldly efficient. Rancher Dan Evans is a real hard luck case, and as the film is watched, the viewer cannot help but wish he would unleash the stone killer that must certainly be lurking inside him. Ben Foster plays one of the most interesting characters, as Wade's lieutenant with an obvious crush. Foster must believe doing odd things with his voice is important, because his mumble in this role is as distinctive as his squealing tone in Thirty Days of Night.

3:10 to Yuma has a great cast, and is well acted. I subtract half a star for stretching my suspension of disbelief a little, and I'll give it back just because Ben Wade is such a wonderfully bad man, as he plays his life with enjoyable zest. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Here's the review I know you all have been waiting for: Brokeback Mountain. In all likelihood, you've already seen this cinematic masterpiece. If not, minor spoilers follows.

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play young men with ranching backgrounds who meet while working herding sheep on forestry lands during the summer in the late 1960s. One thing leads to another, and romance follows.

Ledger's Ennis Del Mar takes a string of get-by ranching jobs while entering a doomed marriage, while Gyllenhaal's Jack Twist eventually squanders a marriage to Lureen Newsome (played by the toothsome Anne Hathaway). As a child, Ennis saw a gay couple horribly killed, and when Jack Twist keeps driving down to "go fishing" with him, he refuses to leave to set up dude ranching.

The scenery in the mountains is often gorgeous, and the two actors play their roles well, but the story is dreary. Perhaps director Ang Lee meant to show how persecution of homosexuals can ruin lives, but the movie often seems to mostly exist to show two hot young male commodities having angry man-sex. Heath Ledger seems to have lifted Billy Bob Thornton's grumble from Slingblade, but it's good enough that I'll give the film an extra half star. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

LOL Cats

Courtesy of Doug (all peace be upon him), I find this.

Go here. And be amused.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy '08

Well, the New Year is here.
The Nook is cozy with the gas fireplace on, but we've been "challenged" by having a poor electrical system that throws a breaker with virtually any load. This makes using our electrical heaters problematic.

The beginning of a New Year is supposed to be a time for comtemplation and hopeful planning. I can honestly say that 2007 was a difficult year for me. I was, if I recall correctly, in six firefights. (Described more accurately, I was attacked by rockets and then did my best to do in my attackers before they could get away. I was sometimes successful.) I was also involved in a few pre-emptive fire mission strikes.

I came back to the United States, which filled me with joy that it's difficult to describe. We should continually strive to make our country a better place, but it IS wonderful, and it's our home. A country is some combination of place, people, and ideals, and I love mine dearly.

I faced the challenges of reintegrating with civilian life, and finding transportation, employment and lodging. I went back to school, taking my first graduate courses.

I tried to do too much. My buddy Matt warned me, but I was superman. And I couldn't do it. Working full time along with a heavy school load and other personal challenges broke me, taking me to my lowest emotional ebb in about nine years.

I'm coming back. I've had to accept some compromises, like being willing to take a loan to handle my expenses to complete my MAT program so I won't have to work full time, and I still am behind on my schoolwork and finances, but I'll do it. I actually have quite a gift for analyzing situations realistically when I let myself use it, and I really can do this. Well.

I have just had another birthday, and I find myself 36, with so many goals still unrealized. This is often a source of frustration for me- I have yet to hold my first child in my arms, and haven't made really decent income since my last year with Nextel before joining the Army in 2001- but I do have friends. Somehow I have managed to find a group of friends more wonderful than anyone could imagine. I have mentors and "laugh buddies" and folks who have my back, and just plain good folk who love me for no good reason. And I love them.

Not every part of the journey is fun, but I'm learning. Thanks for taking the time to share part of this trip with me. Happy 2008.