Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The 2008 Live Oaks Awards

It is relatively easy to find fault with many things within our culture. But it is also important to identify and recognize the many individuals, events, and experiences that provide inspiration, make our lives better, and bring enjoyment. These are men and women who bring joy to our lives and improve our standard of living. These are experiences that make us laugh, or show us beauty, or express the sublime. Below are some of my Live Oaks for 2008.

I started this blog in late April, with the express purpose of defending property rights in Houston. While that remains a primary interest and purpose, after several months I began to realize that there are many other topics of interest to me. In addition, writing on property rights issues in Houston can get rather repetitive, and that could seriously quell my enthusiasm. Writing a blog post six days a week can be a burden at times--I'm not always in the mood. But forcing (I use "force" in the sense of will power) myself to write has become easier, and the overall experience has been one of the absolute delights of the year. I owe a special thanks to Gus Van Horn for his support and suggestions in developing this blog. And his gumbo is pretty good too--I had the pleasure of sampling it at the Houston Objectivism Society Christmas party this year.

Yaron Brook
Yaron seemed to be everywhere this year, in print, on the air, and in person. While many Objectivist intellectuals had successful years, Yaron was a dynamo. His efforts served as my greatest inspiration in 2008. His articulate, insightful, and positive leadership gives me more hope for the future than I have experienced in many years.

Fantasy Football
I played in my first fantasy football league this fall. (I know I say below that I'm not a big football fan, but it sounded like it might be fun.) I invested 20 to 30 minutes per week on the league, and it gave me a much greater appreciation of the decisions that coaches must make. Identifying the skills and weaknesses of each player, the opponent he would be facing, and other factors was an interesting and enjoyable experience.

The Houston Astros
I have long been a fan of the 'Stros. They have had good teams and bad teams, but for more than a decade they have always been a classy team. The owner--Drayton McLane--does not tolerate aberant behavior, and he sets the tone for the entire organization. As an added bonus, this season I had the pleasure of attending the retirement of Craig Biggio's jersey.

Mamma Mia! The Movie
I was never a fan of ABBA, but a friend insisted that I see the movie. Within two minutes I was smiling; within five minutes I wanted to sing along (but I didn't know the words); within ten minutes I wanted to get up and dance. This is not a movie with an intricate plot. But it is a movie that is unadulterated joy. The best way to summarize the movie is from "Dancing Queen":

You can dance, You can jive, Having the time of your life.

I had the time of my life watching Mamma Mia, twice.

Aaron Neville
If I could choose a singing voice, I would choose Aaron Neville's. He is scary to look at, but his voice defies his physical appearance. I attended his Christmas show in Houston, and for nearly two hours I was delighted to experience the pure joy of a beautiful voice.

Mario Williams
I am not a particularly avid football fan. I enjoy watching an occasional game and follow certain teams in the paper, but I do not live and breath for Sunday afternoon.

Several years ago the Houston Texans drafted Mario Williams with the first pick in the NFL draft. This selection was widely criticized in the local press and by fans, who thought local football hero Vince Young should have been picked. Texans Coach Gary Kubiak and Williams were mocked and derided before Williams played his first game.

Now in his third season, Williams has been named an All-Pro. Despite the merciless criticism he received, Williams has remained a class act. He has never lashed out or spoken ill of his detractors. Williams remained confident of his ability, and chose to allow his play on the field to speak for itself. Here are a few comments Williams made after being named All-Pro:

That’s life, he [Williams] said. But you can’t satisfy everybody. If you’re going to go through the world saying, you know, ‘I hope they don’t boo me,’ or worry about what people are going to say, you’re not going to make it too far.

I hold grudges, but I don’t hold too many grudges, Williams said, laughing. It’s a great honor (being the No. 1 pick), but then it’s a lot of responsibility just for the fact that you were the first pick.

I told you so.
Yes you did Mario. Congratulations for a well-deserved honor.

There are many others who have brought me joy and improved my life during 2008. My failure to mention them in no way diminishes my appreciation of their efforts.

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