Did you know that being married is like being nibbled to death by a duck?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Television Nonsense

I'm currently watching the Kennedy Center Honors on CBS and it's every bit as self-indulgent for those involved as you can imagine.

Right now they are paying tribute to Bruce Springsteen for singing three songs with different words over the course of 30 years. Sting is singing a song about children dancing in the sky...or something. I'm not sure because his beard is leaving too big of a carbon footprint for me to hear the words clearly. People like Edward Norton and Philip Seymour Hoffman are dancing in the audience and that is every bit as nightmare-inducing to my eyes as you are imagining it could be.

Melissa Ethridge sang a tribute to him a minute ago, which was fitting seeing as how her whole career was based on ripping him off. Oh what's that you say? She also sounded a lot like Bob Seger? Well yes, but what is Bob Seger but a poor man's Bruce Springsteen? And that's pretty sad because Bruce Springsteen is really just a poor man's Bob Dylan, who was just a poor man's Jack Kerouac. Which really puts us in a bind because Kerouac was a raging alcoholic who never made that much money. Wow, I'm depressed now. Imagine how Miss Ethridge feels...

Anyway, before the Springsteen tribute was one for Mel Brooks and then one for some opera singer. Yawn.

I'm going to make a pretty obvious statement here: Television is downright awful. Even what passes for "news" is just plain lame. Fox News, which praises itself on being fair and balanced, apparently thinks part of being fair includes giving air time to Charlie Sheen's attempt to impersonate Ike Turner (for the younger crowd, that is a domestic violence reference which, in my opinion, is pretty darn funny. So just insert some cool, hip, new guy who beats his wife in place of Ike to make the joke work if you don't know who that is).

Honestly, aside from South Park -- a poorly drawn cartoon -- I don't think there is a single weekly-airing show geared toward adults. Even the Discovery Chanel is running shows like "Ghost Lab." Really? Ghost lab. Yes I can see that being very educational and thought provoking, what with all the lab work involved...with...ghosts...

I could go on about entertainment these days, but I think that the sinus infection from which I'm currently suffering is substantially more interesting at the moment. Maybe I'll continue this another time. Then TV will be better. I just know it.

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

A great movie all the way around. Robert Downey jr. is without question one of the best actors alive today, so generally speaking if you see a movie with him in it, the acting is going to be at a higher level than most. It seems that not only does he do well in the pictures he is in, but those around him seem to be better than they normally are.

That being said, the movie itself is pretty entertaining, as well. Slightly on the long side (for those of us who now have the attention span of an OIF zombie-movie-watching veteran) but mostly fast-paced throughout. I was especially fond of the complete lack of blue-faced aliens who are at one with their environment. Their absence gave room for a gritty and humerous look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous character come to life on the big screen.

I was also impressed at the relatively small use of CGI in the film and how few transforming robots there were. That's quite rare these days, I've come to find. Apparently the budget didn't allow for that, but I think the movie benefitted in the end.

And speaking of things absent from the movie that made it infinitely better, there were no rappers-turned-actors, schlocky political messages, or even a hint of "corporations" being the end-all be-all of evil. That's downright amazing, given the last half-dozen movies I've seen.

Oh and neither Hugh Grant nor any member of Sex and The City made a single appearance. High marks received on that note.

Worth your time on DVD for sure, and possibly a trip to the theater, as well.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Non-Politically Correct Post About the Military

If you are looking for a touchy-feely, congratulate-the-military kind of post, then you should probably look elsewhere because this one ain't it.

A friend of mine, who we shall refer to affectionately here as "Big Pappa," did a post on this article and how women returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan feel that they are not treated fairly.

While Big Pappa does a fantastic job of shredding the author of the article -- starting with the first line and continuing throughout -- I want to focus on a couple things more specifically (and with less swearing for the family). Namely, lines such as this one:

More than 230,000 American women have fought in those recent wars and at least 120 have died doing so, yet the public still doesn't completely understand their contributions on the modern battlefield.

You know what? I've been deployed and *I* don't completely understand their contributions on the modern battlefield. In our Detachment in Iraq there were approximately 20 soldiers (dependent on the day/week/month/), one of which was a female. Guess which person worked the least, slept the most, and caused the most drama over the course of a year? Guess who broke down and cried when told to do their job? Guess who dropped hints of suicide when forced to get out of bed before noon? Guess who played the sexual harassment card when completely unwarranted?

Yes, this is what we call anecdotal evidence, and is in no way indicative of the entire Army taken by itself. But here's a test: Go find a soldier who was deployed with women and see if they don't have the exact same story. I will even bet you that if you talk to a female soldier she would tell you that the women were the cause of many an issue.

Do women contribute to the cause? Absolutely. Are there women out there who do their job and don't cause problems? Most assuredly. But the aforementioned article raises some serious questions if not looked at through the corrective lenses of sensitivity training. I'll show you what I mean by comparing and contrasting.

Take another line from said article:

"People didn't come up to us and thank us for our service in the same way. They didn't give us free beers in bars in the same way when we first got back," said Williams, 34, of Ashburn, Va. "Even if you're vaguely aware of it, it still colors how you see yourself in some ways."

Now compare that with this article on Breitbart about soldiers getting better gear:

Soldiers are being issued a rucksack made of plastic that is not comfortable or effective in combat situations...Troops carry heavy loads on their backs and the plastic straps cut off circulation to their hands and arms, "making it virtually impossible to fire their weapons," they told Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Now, let's think about this for just a minute. Female soldiers are complaining because they aren't being bought free beer at bars and dudes are complaining because they need a better way to carry heavier loads into combat.

Yes, these are only two articles that are talking about different subjects. But this is a perfect example that reflects current trends of thought in the Army today -- kinder and gentler folk who signed up to get college money and "find themselves" want to be treated fairly (i.e. more fairly than everyone else) and for people to stop being so darn mean to them, while rough dudes want better gear and training to kill bad guys.

To many of us, this is not a new revelation; to many who have had their heads up their rears, it certainly is and I'm quite sure that they will be "shocked" if they read this. But the simple fact is that there is more than one Army in reality, even though they all wear the same uniform and adhere to the same rank structure. Women talk about being treated "fairly" while at the same time having lower standards; sexual harassment classes are more common than weapons handling drills, while rape is statistically lower in the Army than it is on an average college campus in the United States. And if you think that women "can do everything men can do" when it comes to soldiering tasks, go hang out with the boys of the 75th for a day or two and then tell me that.

While I have known two women in my life that were most definitely capable of hanging with the boys when it comes to physicality, both were a very, very rare exception and their case does not do justice to the argument at hand. Which is, in essence, there needs to be a defined difference between separate sections of the military. There is far more to this topic than just the physicality of military service, and the AP article shows exactly that.

Horribly bad reporting and even worse fact checking aside, the article misses something huge that the Army is actually addressing: one of the big reasons why women come back from theater depressed is because, while deployed, they were mostly the center of attention for 12 months due to a disproportionate ratio of males to females. Upon return, men reintegrate into society and see their wives/girlfriends/other women and the deployed females are suddenly left with a huge lack of male attention comparatively speaking. We saw this first-hand.

I'm not saying it makes women weaker or worse as a person. On the contrary, I think guys would be just as bad if the situation were reversed (imagine a guy deploying with a group of women for a year then coming back to a bunch of other dudes). What I am saying is that the integration of sexes in uniform spells trouble when deployed. That's the nature of the beast that I think everyone knows deep down. But, more importantly -- I may make a thesis out of this part -- what people need to realize is that the overwhelming majority of soldiers don't see "combat" while deployed. Now factor in how many less women there are than men, and the percentage is very, very minute.

Are there women who have seen combat and been injured and/or killed? Yes, and they are and shall always be remembered as patriots. Is there a need to recognize their contributions? Absolutely. But should we bend over backwards and go out of our way for them differently, given that the very nature of the complaints are flawed and coming from soldiers who already don't have to live up to the same standards as their male counterparts? I think you know my answer.

I served with two women, albeit in a limited capacity, who seemed to keep the drama to a minimum and just did their jobs (one of which was actually deployed with and lived with her husband, so take that into consideration). My hat is off to them for doing so. However, and as I have repeatedly mentioned here and in the past, they don't meet the same standards as men. So if they Army itself does not treat them equally, why should male soldiers be subjected to countless hours of being told that they are?

This whole subject is indicative of a larger problem in the Army, some of which I mentioned in my previous post on MAJ Hasan. No, I'm not likening women to terrorists (although there was this one girl I knew...), I am simply reiterating my point about political correctness taking hold of a government bureaucracy where it should have little or no place at all. The military and its people are a subject near and dear to my heart, so when I see nonsense being spewed about them, I feel it should be addressed.

Now take the aforementioned bureaucracy, multiply it by a thousand, and you would have nationalized health care. Sounds like a treat, don't it?

Update: There are (or were, in this case) good leaders in the Army. When can I vote for this guy??
To be continued...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some Thoughts On MAJ Hasan

While people like Jonah Goldberg at National Review are doing a far better job of "reporting" this incident than I ever could (or intend to do), I have decided after reading a fair amount about this event that a perspective from a (former) soldier is needed. After all, what I have seen in a bulk of the reporting on this issue needs to be sliced down the middle by Occam's Razor.

Simple facts first: He is a Muslim. As much as some media outlets seem bound and determined to ignore, this is a well established fact. And because many try to ignore it, something huge gets left out of the issue; namely, that because of the overwhelming lean towards political correctness and tolerance in the military today, "extremists" are increasingly difficult to weed out. There seems to be a loud cry about "how could he have continued to be in the Army??" Another question that could be asked, eliciting nearly the same response, would be "why do good people get out of the Army?"

The answer to both of those questions revolve around the ridiculousness of Army policy in the day and age of a "kinder, gentler military." Soldiers are constantly bombarded with class after class of "awareness" of some kind; whether it be sexual, racial, or suicidal in nature, that is a constant in Army life.

Please don't misunderstand me, some of this is a very good thing. Understanding signs for suicide prevention is never bad, for instance. However, after so many classes, a bulk of the Army is left with one overarching conclusion: that heterosexual, white males will, as a mathematical certainty, rape someone, hurl a racial epithet, and persecute due to religious preference. Possibly all at the same time, while carrying a rebel flag and burning a cross.

A few years back, in my other Army life, I remember a Ranger Instructor saying "all this political correctness is going to come back and bite the Army in the ass." It's tough not to think of that statement after the last few days. And while a lot of people don't see the connection, those of us that have been in for more than a day and have some common sense most certainly do.

Think about this: his own superiors quoted him as saying things that were totally inappropriate. Yet they did nothing. Why? Some will look at those superiors and fault them. I don't. At least not from what I understand. Simply put, I would imagine their hands were tied from doing what they probably thought in their heads as the right thing. Don't think so? Try this headline on for size:

Army Major relieved of duty for holding on to Islamic ideology.

Think that would fly over well in Washington? Think those officers wouldn't lose their retirement? If you don't, think again. The Army is one massive gravy train, and those who stay on it for life aren't getting off until they absolutely have to. If that means letting some nut-job psychiatrist run his mouth about jihad and the Great Satan, when the alternative is losing that cushy retirement check, then hell no they won't stop him. Nor would most people in the corporate world. Which is why everyone is "shocked" when Bill from accounting shows up with a MAC-10 hosing people down because he just couldn't take it anymore. No one wants to be the person who goes on record and says "oh yeah, I knew he would snap. But I didn't say anything 'cause I didn't want to lose my job."

But the Army is supposed to be different, right? Right?!?! Well yes, but it's not. Point of fact, it's much worse simply because people can't be fired. Yes, it's hard in corporate world too, but... In the Army, one has to...well, one would have to do basically what MAJ Hasan did to get fired. And here we are.

What I'm getting at here is that the Army is not what most people think it is -- there are little to no repercussions for one's actions. I have seen people who, by all tests of logic, should not have even been allowed to wear the uniform be promoted into the ranks of both the officer and non-commissioned officer corps. Part of it is a need for bodies. There just aren't enough people to fill the ranks. But an even bigger aspect is what we see with people like MAJ Hasan. I would bet my bank account that there are over 20 soldiers who have been in contact with that guy in the last 6 months uttering a phrase that is similar to "they promoted that guy???" Yet, as stated earlier, one could be punished for expressing said discontent more so than a MAJ Hasan would be for stating his "religious views," even if they include beheading of the same men he shares a uniform with.

So that I don't appear to be complaining without a solution, here is what I propose:

1) Knock of the tolerance crap in the Army and trade it for good, hard training. If people are focused on doing their job, they are much less likely to invent problems like complaining that so-and-so made fun of them for whatever reason. The person doing the whining will either be too tired to complain, or they will not be there. Whiny people tend not to make it through hard training, if (leading me to the next one)...

2) Enforce the standards. Across the board. In other words, if someone fails a physical fitness test, they don't get a pass because they are a Muslim. Think it doesn't happen? Think again. As stated above, the type of person who causes the most problems generally doesn't have what it takes to make it through tough training. Conversely, those who do make it through tough training tend to be more focused on the real problems at hand.

3) Accept that, by the strictest definitions and interpretations of the Qu'ran, Islam is a violent religion. Yes, I'm putting myself on a hit list here (which would, in effect, prove my point), and yes there are many millions of peaceful Muslims. But there is way, way too much tolerance when it comes to this subject. It needs to stop, and it needs to be accompanied by a good, hard look at the religion and doctrine taught by way more of the Islamic world than many think. Using "there are millions of peaceful Muslims" as a defense is both inadequate and intellectually hollow. There are a lot of Catholic priests who diddle little boys, too. That doesn't mean they are following doctrine when they do it.

4) Also accept that when a Muslim man yells "Allah akbar" as he is shooting people, it is, in fact, an act of terrorism. And it's "OK" to call it that. The PC Police won't arrest you for being intolerant. You may get called that by people like Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, but I would consider that a win for me anyway.

Oh and do yourself a favor by doing some reading on the Muslim clerics people like MAJ Hasan studied under. Then come back and tell me that we need more "tolerance."

This is a subject which I hold near and dear to my heart, so it will be covered in greater detail later. For now, however, I thought it important to get some thoughts down in the written form.

Movie Review: State of Play

State of Play, staring Russel Crowe and Ben Affleck, is the story of a United States Congressman who is going after a private military contractor and an old-school, gum-shoe reporter who happens to be the congressman's old roommate and how he is tracking the story down.

The movie fails completely because of two main flaws: One, that it forces the viewer to assume that Ben Affleck could be both a US Congressman and also a legitimate actor. Second, that it follows along with the latest trend of demonizing the "evil, greedy private military company." Both of these are what's called a "disconnect from reality."

I won't bother with all the details of the movie. Namely because it is just too painful (watching Russel Crowe try to be both Woodward and Bernstein at the same time is pure agony). Suffice to say I am growing ever more weary of the plot lines involving "evil private contractors." I could write a whole post on that subject alone, but I will sum it up by just telling you not to bother with this movie. Unless of course you think Ben Affleck is remotely talented, in which case you should probably stop reading this blog.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Drunk, Moonwalking Ewoks on the Today Show

I don't think you need any more explanation than the title to make you go watch this clip. It pretty much sells itself and is well worth your time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Is Evil

The Vatican (which I think is...Hindu...?) released a statement in their newspaper this week that Halloween is "anti-Christian."

Where to begin.... First of all, they are saying this now? Pretty sure kids have been Trick-or-Treating for a good number of years, so is this a subject that the Vatican finally said "hey, wait a minute....we should look into that!" or did they just get fed up with little kids dressed up as Transformers and begging for junk food at the Holy City's door, so they figured declaring it "evil" would put a stop to all the shenanigans and eggings.

Second -- and this is the big one -- seriously, how can the Vatican, of all places, label a holiday evil because it is based in the occult? Umm, have you ever looked up the history on Easter? That seems to be a rather big one for the Roman Catholics, last time I checked. But I guess borrowing customs and traditions from pagan rituals is OK when it's convenient. And doesn't involve giving out free candy.

If one ever wonders why organized religion is frowned upon for lack of serious thought, look no further than instances like this. Message to the Pope: Stop worshipping rabbits and don't be such a candy jew. People might start taking you more serious.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Charles Manson Is a Genius

I am currently watching an MSNBC (best news site ever!) special on Charles Manson and the "inner workings" of the man who, by anyone's fair assessment, is quite the deep thinker.

Charlie (as I like to call him) gave an interview in 1997, and MSNBC is now analyzing this interview with the help of a "criminal profiler" from the FBI. Whoa. The FBI? That is some serious stuff. Those people don't mess around. I've seen every episode of the X Files and if there is one thing I've learned from that, it is how incredibly professional and competent the FBI is. For serious.

But watching this interview with ol' Chuck is quite enlightening, I have to say. Why was this guy put in prison? I think he's got some pretty good ideas.

"Hodge-podge of psychoanalytical podge-o-rodge-o-ramma-lamma crapola."

I don't care who you are, that's pure genius.

"I've been with prostitutes, bums and winos my whole life. That's the real world. And if I started murdering people, there would be none of you left."

See where the genius is? It's all in the transition. He went right from living like Jesus to killing anyone and everyone. That takes talent to be able to make that leap so quickly and -- most notably -- so smoothly.

"I told the judge years ago what was coming. He didn't care."

I care! Tell me where I can sign up!

"When you turn young kids into Rambos and lead them into strawberry fields, you're gonna have to answer for what you've done."


"I'm still a little kid. I don't read too well, and I don't mind being stupid. But I can't get a away from politics."

This where we play the game of "Who said it: Charlie Manson or Ted Kennedy."

"Would you tell jokes about me if I was in the same room with you?"

I don't know, your 5' 1" 95 lbs frame is pretty imposing, so....?

"He portrays a profound disconnect" says the FBI expert. Really? No foolin'... I wish I had the ability to be in the FBI. They are so smrt.

Apparently California state law was changed so that there can be no more televised interviews with inmates. Which is really too bad because I could watch this kind of thing every day.

I saw this show today about rich kids having their "Sweet 16" birthday party and the ridiculous amounts of money their parents spend on them. Seriously, I think Chuck Manson has a more realistic and valuable world-view than a Beverly Hills teenager. How sad is that? Yet, here we are. I can more closely relate to a guy who is doing life in prison for his insanity than I can to, what MTV calls, today's youth.

What I think is most interesting -- and possibly scary -- is how much he sounds like Al Gore. And I'm not sure if that speaks poorly of Al or well of Charlie. Either way it makes us all realize how wrong we were to criticize An Inconvenient Truth. Not because of the poor research and abuse of science, but because Al could end up in your bedroom writing "Helter Skelter" on the wall and stabbing away like a race-war gone wild. Tragic, I say. Tragic.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Zombies AND Midgets: The Best Post Ever

Because it's not about "if" a zombie apocalypse will happen so much as it is "when," I feel the need to post updates I find regarding the subject.

Jonah Goldberg at National Review posted this yesterday. I think he makes some valid points, not the least of which is that he would rather be with a team of Navy SEALs than with a bunch of gamers. That is an interesting phenomenon when discussing a possible zombie apocalypse; gamers think that somehow they have more knowledge and ability to survive than the average human. How so? Clearly they are missing out on some of the most important aspects of survivability (like finding hot chicks, rescuing them, and being all macho and stuff with lots of guns).

I won't get into details just yet, since this is a short post. So here is a starting point to educate yourself on possible zombie types. We can discuss more of this later.

And yes, the title was correct -- we have midgets as well!

I blame my sister for this particular funny (she laughed. I didn't. I find it horribly offensive. Totally).

This one was linked off of the same page and is just too good to be true. Why had I not thought of that....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Napolitano Is Some Sort of Genius

"Napolitano Says Al-Qaeda-Style Terrorists Are in U.S."

Wow. She must be some sort of highly trained expert with access to top secret documents or something to know that.

"It is fair to say there are individuals in the United States who ascribe
to al-Qaeda-type beliefs," Napolitano said in an interview with Bloomberg
Television today.

I for one am grateful to our amazing government for providing such expertise on a subject no one has been talking about at all for the last ten years or so.

Seriously, where do I apply for her job? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I can do it based on the few things I've seen out of this woman. At least it's been a few months since she insulted veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That's something.

Friday, October 09, 2009

X Men Wolverine: A Live-blogged Review

Why pay $4.99 when you can read a summarized, semi-coherent rant-version of the newest-to-DVD blockbuster right here at your favorite blog? Ok, second favorite. No? Give me something here, people. I'm struggling. It's the economy.

I'm anticipating this to have some hard to follow plot lines and deep story telling, so be prepared to keep up. I'm not waiting for you.

We begin our story in the year 1840...something. Great, I'm already lost. Wolverine is a little kid and sprouting claws out of his hands already. And who does he use his newly acquired tools on first? His father, of course. I'm sure that won't cause any psychological issues down the road.

Whoa, it's a little early in the film for a montage, but here we are. Cruising through history seeing Wolverine fighting in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. I'll bet they can file one heck of a PTSD claim, if nothing else.

Montage is over and Wolverine and his brother -- who has the same ability -- are part of a special unit on a special plane with some special people doing special things for a special secret government organization. I am guessing something special is about to happen.

I was wrong. They flew to Nigeria. And unless they are there to get the millions coming to them from the Nigerian bank, nothing special happens in that country.

Emergency alert system?!?!? I just paid $4.99 for this movie and they interrupt it for a TEST of the Emergency Alert System?!??!?! Oh that is super. And now that the test is over, does it go back to my movie? Hell no. It went to Star Trek. This is going to get ugly...

On the phone with the ever-knowledgeable computer voice at Comcast Cable. They are telling me I can access the movie through my DVR.... LIES!!! "No Listings Available" it says. Wait... we may have something here... "Error Retrieving Data." Of course there was. When has data ever been retrieved without error? We'll give this one more shot and then it's fire-setting time.

As hard as this is to believe, it didn't work. So with my Bic lighter in hand, I'm back on the phone with Comcast and currently jamming out to whatever passes for hold-music these days. Crazy kids and their rock music! Let's take this time to bet on what I get for a Customer Care Representative. It's a given that they will be someone for whom English is a second language, but there are a few choices within that realm. Will they be A) India/Paki-based, B) Spanish-based, or C) Ebonics-based. When in doubt, choose C on any multiple choice test, they always say.

They were... wait, the movie is back on! Regardless, I'm staying on hold just so I can find out who wins the bet.

The "special" team has infiltrated some building in Nigeria. Hopefully to get those millions they were promised in an email. Oh look, Wolverine developed a "conscience" and has a problem with genocide now. That's the problem with superheroes these days. They have no stomach for the really big projects.

So he moves to the Canadian Rockies to pursue his life-long dream of being...a lumberjack? Sure you betcha. At least he lives with a supermodel and he's not a carnie like this guy. Wait a second, that's Pippen from Lord Of The Rings. Or Mary. A hobbit, at any rate.

By the way if you didn't guess C on the bet, you all owe me money. Ha!

Wolverine is sharing sentimental moments with his hot girlfriend. I'd say that pretty much seals her fate within the next 5 to 10 minutes to be...oh it was much less than 5 minutes. Wolverine's brother is taking a keen interest in her. I think he likes her. Whoops, she must have fallen down. Or maybe she's just tired and wanted to take a nap. Blood loss will do that to a person.

Of course they fight, and of course Wolverine gets hit by a semi-truck. Just another day at the office for a mutant. And of course this leads to Wolverine getting his super-duper metal endo-skeleton. Oooh that's gotta hurt. I remember the last time the Army put indestructible metal onto all of my bones, it was no walk in the park. It's not as bad as sitting through an hour of the Rachel Maddow show, but it's pretty bad.

It was bad enough for the hero here to end up naked in a barn -- which is slightly better than in a van down by the river. But with some sage wisdom from an old man (and some free clothes courtesy of 1984), he takes off on the old man's Harley. I guess the old man didn't need it seeing as how he got blown up by the helicopter.

The Army is chasing him with what must be the fastest Humvees ever built. I've personally never seen one that can go over fifty, but they have three or four that can out-run a motorcycle. This really is a special unit. Quick question: has there ever been an action movie made without the main character walking in slow motion away from a fiery explosion? If you can name three I'll give you my Durango.

Working towards the big, climactic finish now (there wasn't much to blog while they tried to develop plot-lines), which is taking place on 3-Mile Island.

Mutants flying, sprawling, generally doing mutant things... It's an orgy of special effects. With the result being, of course, the reason why 3-Mile Island blew up. How convenient.

I'll save you the craptastically boring details of the ending. Don't you just love it how prequels try to tie everything together for you at about a third grade level? We get it. These are the same characters from the other movies. But no, they have to beat us over the head with an attempt at being "clever."

Overall a decent movie, and probably the best out of the X-Men series. I'm sure the ladies love it because Hugh Jackman is on the screen for 98% of the film. I'm guessing he had that in his contract. Like the other X-Men movies it's great for some mindless entertainment, or as a more intelligent alternative to Keith Olbermann. I wouldn't suggest running out and renting it, but it's not bad for a slow Friday night, either.

If Ever There Were Any Doubt...

...about the validity and relevance of the Nobel Peace Prize.... Well, check the news today.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

ZOMBIES! (Live-blogging 28 Weeks Later)

Ok, so I have seen the first 20 minutes of this movie three times. We started watching it in Iraq and every time we did, somehow it was interrupted by something so vastly important that it took us away from what I am continually told is an entertaining zombie flick. With the luck I've had, I expect my apartment to catch on fire about twenty minutes from now, seeing as how I just started it...

Well, the beginning starts off with some people boarded up in some cottage (that's what these snooty British people call a "shack" don't ya know) and... zombies attack them. Well, not "zombies" per se -- they have the "rage virus" -- but basically, they are zombies. And are they ever ragey. Full of rage, they are. Biting, clawing, running... they are fast. And do these Limeys have even so much as a shotgun? Nope. Why would they? They are hiding from people who have become raging mutants intent on consuming human flesh, why on earth would they need firearms? Why, doesn't the British government take care of all problems that guns could solve?

It looks like the main character bailed on his own wife and some small kid. Left them to be lunch. Maybe he wanted a divorce, anyway? Who are we to judge, really. Have you ever been left with a choice of fighting zombies with your hands or leaving your wife? Then stop pointing fingers, smartie pants.

Fast forward to 28 weeks later (whoa! That's where they got the title!), American military forces have quarantined mainland Britain and are pulling security while they rebuild. Hmm, I hope they are better at this rebuilding game than certain Middle Eastern countries I have recently visited. Either way, the Americans have guns. Lots of guns. That's what we do. No one ever sees Americans show up to a crisis and then says "Aww, they should have brought more guns."

Heh, the American forces are still wearing full protective equipment. Would you need a bullet-proof, Kevlar vest and helmet if zombies are the number one threat? Hmmm... No matter, it's the Army! We know how to make even the coolest of apocalyptic scenarios painfully lame.

The main character is back, and he is being reunited with his kids. The kid who became a Happy Meal earlier in the movie wasn't his; these kids were...somewhere. Away. They were away. And that's all you need to know. One is a girl, about 14, and one is a...boy? Yeah, we'll go with a boy of about 10. A really wimpy looking boy with long hair. Now there is a female Army officer who is some sort of medical "authority" complaining about...something. The kids. I would complain about kids too, in this situation. You know they are going to slow you down when running from zombies, they can't shoot (they're British kids. If they were American kids there would be a strong possibility of them knowing the ins and outs of a Glock, at least), and they whine a lot when they're hungry or have to pee. Basically a huge liability in a zombie Apocalypse.

In addition, kids ask things like they are asking now in the movie like "what happened to mom?" Well, he could tell you the truth -- that he sacrificed her to save his own skin -- or he could do what he's doing now and say that he fought gallantly until she was "bitten." What are the odds that Mom is going to show up later as a special, hybrid revenge-zombie? I say strong to highly likely.

Here we go, American sniper teams on roof-tops spying on people. Only a matter of time before the...oh, there it is. The gratuitous sex scene. That's what sniper scopes are made for! Oh and also for checking out the American doctor, who is obviously going to be of some importance because she is "wondering" what they will do if the virus comes back. I wonder, too. But for now, I'm sure everything is fine. So fine, in fact, that the kids will assuredly run into nothing harmful at all on their little "foray" out of the quarantined zone. Who saw this coming? Kids, getting into mischief? Never! And on a moped, even!

The kids are now exploring their old house and I have officially made it further than I have on the previous three occasions trying to watch this movie. And... the apartment is not on fire. Sweet! Ok, so back to the movie...whoa. Mom is back already! And alive! Sorta...maybe... ooh she is trying hard to control the zombie urge to eat the boy. But they have Mom in the decontamination chamber now, giving her one of those cool showers where instead of soap they use steel wool.

They dropped the bomb on the main guy that his wife is still alive. The kids are slightly peeved at Dad 'cause, well...'cause he just told them last night that he watched her die. Oooh boy, talk about awkward... And so what does he do when he goes to see her? He kisses her. Genius. You are a bright one. Of course she's carrying the virus. Now he is...slightly upset. And a zombie. So of course the only logical solution is to eat her. Which he does. And then claws her eyes out and goes on a zombie rampage. Are you following this? I hope so 'cause it's really complex. I mean the plot-lines are running deep, man. Deep.

Code red. That's where we're at. You heard it right -- code red. When the Army goes to that level, things happen. Things like...zombies going crazy and eating people and not a single shot has been fired yet. Man, I swear, put me in the zombie Apocalypse and I will, if all else fails, let bullets fly. Oh and the Dad is back, clawing more eyes out and turning other people into zombies. This guy is nothing if not productive. More than I can say for the Army. He's turned about ten or so people into zombies and the soldiers are busy doing a rape awareness class.

Pure pandemonium, now. Tearing and eating of flesh, people screaming... this is like a Hannah Montana concert. At least the snipers are engaged. They're the only ones shooting so far. And shooting they are. Bless their hearts. Elevated positions with scoped, semi-automatic weapons brings nothing but good things, really.

The main sniper has now hooked up with, you guessed it, the kids and the hot doctor he was spying on earlier. They have to escape the area because F-16s are fire-bombing the whole quarantined zone. See, now that is how to take care of zombies. Ominous music aside, I see this as a win for the good guys. Sure, some non-zombies probably got cooked, but that's kinda how the Army works. Finesse isn't one of the paragraphs in an OPORD.

The movie has slowed down a bit, so I would like to take this time to tell you that I watched Zombieland yesterday and highly recommend it for your viewing pleasure. I would write a full review, but honestly this is more fun and I don't think there is much point. Woody Harrelson plus zombies equals a good time.

Back to the movie, in one of the coolest zombie-kills I've ever seen, a helicopter just tipped it's rotors down into a whole group of zombies and made mince-meat out of about 30 of them. I think that qualifies as "zombie kill of the week" for sure. The sniper is toast. Literally. So my theory that he would hook up with the doc is shot. What can I say, I'm out of practice for watching movies. I'm having a tough time following the intricate nature of story development that our cultural and moral superiors in Hollywood develop throughout the course of a movie. But what I am having a really hard time understanding is that why the doc, who is now the only one with night vision -- which is on top of her M4 -- is having the kids go in front of her in the dark. Here's a thought, lead the way and have them follow. Too late, the Dad is back and he just beat the doc to death with her own M4. Which, sadly... is about the level of competence most soldiers display with their personal weapon.

In a not-so-surprising twist, the girl just capped her dad with the M4. Of course not until after he had bitten the boy. Who has the special "immunity gene." I have that, too, but it only applies to when I talk to crazy liberals.

And all live happily ever-after with the boy and girl being flown over the Cliffs of Dover to safety on an Army helicopter. Except that now there are zombies in Paris. But really, if there were zombies in Paris, would you be able to tell?

Until next time...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Is Off Limits: A Retort

I stumbled upon this article by Rich Santos today and realized about 30 seconds in to reading it that A) the guy is an idiot and B) I would like to punch him in the face. But I can't 'cause I've never met him so instead I will just write a blog about how much better I am than him.

First of all, Rich -- or can I call you Dick? -- is obviously what we would call "Testosterone Challenged." His lack of male hormonal production therefore inhibits his ability to think clearly and rationally, making it difficult for him to, well, to not suck so bad.

I would say his article starts off on a bad foot, but that would imply that this guy can even take a step on his own without fear of offending someone.

Some work friends and I were recently discussing things that men
can not criticize their girlfriends about. It was astounding how incorrect us
guys were when trying to lay out our "rights" in terms of constructive
Good job, Dick. You managed to completely emasculate yourself within the first two sentences of your article. Next article you write I would also encourage you to apologize to everyone of different races for being white.

He then proceeds to make a "list" of all the things that are supposedly "off limits" to talk about with girlfriends. Which I'm guessing Dick has never had, so in his world this is all hypothetical, anyway.

Weight: There is no friendly way for a guy to tell a girl that she's put on
weight. Even if there was a friendly way, most of the women I've talked to about
it said they would not want to hear it from a guy.

Most of the time, there is no friendly way to karate-chop people in the throat for being stupid, but sometimes it has to be done, right?

Outfit: I think I'm only allowed to say someone generally looks nice,
because I'm a big sissy and only do what I'm "allowed" to do.

Dude, do you wear a leather mask and get chained up at home? Are you allowed to speak unless spoken to? Go dunk your head in a tub of water until you see the wizard.

Friends and Family: We've all dated people with annoying friends. But,
people consider their friends as extensions of themselves so if you criticize
friends, you're criticizing your significant other indirectly.

You know what's a great way to go through life? Let annoying and rude people continue on with their habits, let them walk all over you, and then apologize to them for getting in their way. That way they will like you and respect you more. And you will be able to run for President.

Then he goes on to write some stuff about driving, blah blah blah... Look, the simple fact is that this guy is sadly indicative of the common modern man -- this belief that we can't "offend" women or...fill in the blank with whatever group you want permeates the thoughts of a good portion of our society. People like this guy are bending over backwards every minute of every day of their lives so that no one will be mad at them. The idea of confrontation scares them so bad that the alternative -- placating everyone in sight who isn't a white male -- seems to be a wise and logical life choice.

Here's a tip for people like Rich Santos: grow a pair. Stop worrying about how much you are offending people if all you're doing is telling the truth. And for the people who get offended at hearing the truth? Get some thicker skin and stop whining. Yes, there is a difference between criticism and people being mean. That's where this thing called your brain comes in; if you have an IQ higher than that of a shoe-box, you should be able to tell the difference.

We worry far too much about offending people. I think it's time to turn the tables on people like Rich; they need to worry about people like me slapping them in the face with a cold, hard dose of reality when I come across them. There is no such thing as "off limits" when discussing the truth. There is a time and a place for everything if it is done correctly. And if you aren't afraid of your own shadow like Mr. Apologize-for-being-alive-guy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

USA Is Better Than The Rest of the World

To the tune of the new Brad Paisley album American Saturday Night.

Well, it's official, I'm back in the good ol' U.S. of A. And let me just state for the record, this place is soooo much cooler than the Middle East. Really. I know you are probably having a hard time believing that, but I'm serious. So serious, in fact, that I will now give you a list so you can follow along (people like lists, I'm told. It's all the rage).

1) Air Quality: You know what I can see here in the US? Everything. Call the airport here in Colorado and they will tell you that the visibility is only impeded by the curvature of the earth. Get that same report in Iraq and they'll ask if you can see your shoes. If the answer is yes, it's a good day. My friend got lost coming back from the shower for crying out loud, simply because he couldn't see the road our house was on.

2) Travel: Moving from point A to point B seems rather simple now. I jumped in my gas-guzzling SUV and drove -- all by myself, mind you -- 250 miles without even filling out a trip ticket with my blood type and weapons serial numbers. Nor did I have to call in my "check-points" to command. Even crazier is that I traveled over 35 mph for an extended period of time without wearing a helmet or doing a COMSEC check (shhhh, don't tell anyone).

3) Food: Well, the one downside to the food here is that it isn't free anymore (and no, I'm not just talking about the kids I beat up to take their falafels). Having three free meals a day does have its perks, but I have to tell you, food has never tasted so good as it does here. Places like Old Chicago and Chili's seem like gourmet now. What's that you say? You use an oven to make pizza? Well, sign me up. And you will bring it to my table? Well this just gets better and better. I just had a spinach, artichoke and salmon quesadilla today. Yeah, you read that correctly. You know what? I loved it. Probably because it tasted like America being awesome (and possibly because an attractive young waitress served it to me, leading me to point 4).

4) Women: Holy smokes, girls! Everywhere! And they're not in uniform or wearing a burka! Don't get me wrong, I was starting to really dig on the ninja-style fashion of Middle Eastern women, but it is really quite something to see attractive American women dressed... well, like women. And bless their little hearts for doing so. Especially this demographic known to scientists as "college girls." While not the most engaging when it comes to conversation, their uncanny ability to giggle, flirt, and wear a mini-skirt is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Most notably the Middle East, where a woman is measured by her ability to carry a load on her back and drive a donkey cart. While important qualities to be sure, they are still second-tier in comparison.

5) Communication: I wanted to talk to someone today, so you know what I did? I picked up my cell phone and called them. Yeah. Believe it. I didn't have to stand in line or pay for extra minutes or anything. I just called them and talked until the conversation was over. No one told me my time was up, the line didn't fail, and I didn't have to walk home after the call was over. Then I jumped on the internet. How cool is this? I can click on things and things happen. I don't have to plan other events like reading a book or warming up food in the microwave around loading an web page. I just click on it and poof! There it is. I can write an email of nearly any length and I will still be connected to the internet. Fascinating.

6) Movies: Yeah, we watch movies in Iraq, but something weird happened to nearly every guy I know over there -- we developed some kind of strange attention deficit problem, so movies have to be either really, really entertaining or we will make our own dialogue. Although I still have the urge to do the same here (probably to the annoyance of some), I am able to sit and relax and just enjoy the movie. I don't feel the need to swear violently at the main characters for doing something I don't like and... oh who am I kidding, I still feel that way, but that's just because most movies are really bad. Let's be honest with ourselves, there just aren't that many movies out there that don't make you want to punch the actors in the throat, are there? Exactly. Now, where were we? Oh yeah, while our movies aren't that great, they are about 18 billion times better than Middle Eastern movies. And that's not cultural bias, they will tell you the same thing over there. Have you ever watched an M Night Shamylamayayamayamayn movie? Ok, now watch it sober. Middle Eastern movies are still worse than that. True story.

7) Family (best for last): There is simply no substitute for family and their appreciation of you. Well, unless you have some kind of weird, David Koresh-type thing going on, in which case that's just wrong and you should probably get out of that situation as soon as you can. There are people out there who can help you. But seriously, I am truly blessed to have a family that genuinely enjoys spending time around one another and is grateful to have that time together. That is an under-appreciated thing, to be sure, and I am finding out how important it can be. Family and friends (those few, close friends which can be synonymous with family) and the love and support they offer can not be quantified; through the magic of technology (it's voodoo, I tell ya), service members in Iraq are able to maintain communication with their loved ones back home better than at any time in history, but the fact is that it isn't the same as being here. There is no substitute for quality time being spent with your support network (even if it involves gorging yourself with cake to the point where you can't talk to them). Time and presence supersede activities; especially after a long absence.
Oh sure, I guess they have "families" in the Middle East. Who knows. I guarantee they're not as cool as ours. We don't have to dress Mom up in a hijab to get her to make cookies, so right there we are way ahead of their standards.

At this point right now, I am trying to decide what to do with all of the stories I have about the last year. While they would make for some interesting blogging, I find myself torn regarding this being the best place to present them. Truth be told, I think that shouting them from a mountain top would with an eagle on my shoulder and a giant slab of dead animal carcass at my feet would be more appropriate, but also possibly too much for most people. So over the next few weeks I will be arranging my thoughts (shut up, I have like four or five of them) into printed text and seeing where that leads. Your thoughts and opinions are appreciated. Unless they are negative, in which case you are clearly inferior and should be subjected to a strict diet of Kenny G records.

Oh and I'm also moving into my own apartment shortly, which should provide some entertainment, seeing as how I don't have a lick of furniture. Or dishes. Or... crap, I don't have anything! Man I hope people with extra stuff are reading this so they can feel sorry for me and give me free stuff. Did I mention I literally saved freedom over the last year? It was dangerous stuff, I tell ya. But I did it. For you. No, no. Don't worry about me. I'll just be the maladjusted veteran who digs holes in the backyard because you didn't give him a bed. But I'll be fine.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why doesn't he write?

Seriously, I feel like the jilted, scorned lover who has been ignored and left hanging out to dry by...well, by me. 'Cause I haven't been writing. And I should be ashamed of myself for not writing, but I'm just so angry with myself that it's hard to be ashamed. Or something like that.

Ok, so what's happened since I last wrote? Well, that's a good question because I don't remember when I wrote last, ok? Geez, get off my back! I'm checking...April 10? Good gravy! I should have my writing credentials revoked. Too bad I don't have any. And if I did, are you going to come to Iraq to take them away from me? Good luck, they're presently in the process of kicking us out of this place. And we have some serious firepower.

Anyway, back to what has happened since I last wrote. Oh yeah, NOTHING. This place is like a black hole of time. Everything reduces to a singularity of slowness (that's pure science terminology there, boys and girls) while we tick off the days on our Marisa Miller calendar (we're past navel level!) and watch the temperature rise. I guess it's a positive when viewed at the strategic level that we're bored; the alternative is obviously much worse.

So, to pass the time, I've actually created at least one job for myself by doing a daily "Islam 101" lesson over secure-line Internet for a bunch of people I work with. It was started mostly to educate myself and I figured if other people can benefit, that's cool too. And I have to tell you, this Islam stuff? Wow. Seriously. I mean sure, they've got some great ideas like everything being the fault of the Jews, but who doesn't know that already? In all honesty though, I've learned some pretty interesting things that at least help me realize why certain things are the way they are over here. Maybe I could do an entire posting on the wackiness of Islam. Maybe I could also find out where that Salman Rushdie fellow is hanging out and join him.

Other events: Apparently Kung Fu died in a closet in Thailand with rope wrapped around his neck and his junk. Sad as that was to hear, let's be honest, we all laughed. Don't lie.

The Denver Nuggest finally realized that they are...well, that they're the Denver Nuggets, and lost in the playoffs.

Iran is holding a presidential election. So they can choose between....?

The movie Taken, with Liam Neeson, came out on DVD here in Iraq. Much to the enjoyment of pretty much every guy I know. And now we are all karate-chopping each other in the throat as a formal greeting because of it. Thanks, Liam.

Kim Jong Il launched a nuke. No word on if the UN wrote him a nasty letter.

Oh and I found out that white men are not as capable of understanding constitutional law as latina women. So that was interesting to learn (shot my dreams of a career in Law right down the tubes -- R.I.P. Matlock!!!).

I think that about covers it. I wish I had more to say, but the reality of it is, I have to wait until I'm done in the Army to say a lot of what I want to say. It's not that it's "classified" per se; it's that I don't want to go through the hassle of getting the Army's approval of my blog. I've seen how long it takes to fill out paperwork just to get pay straightened out, so I can only imagine what that would be like.

My plan is to write something for this whole deployment once I'm done. Possibly a multi-part series, or maybe something else. I'm not sure. Obviously hundreds of publishers have offered me millions of dollars to tell my amazing story, but it's really about the people, you know? I just want it to be told right. And by told right, I mean I don't want to leave out the part about how we painted the cat to look like Braveheart and then the next week used magic marker to give it glasses. And also how our detachment committed an unspeakable atrocity, sadly known as "moustache month."

But until that time, I will try to keep Iraq classy by smacking around as many locals as I can. In-sha, Allah, as they say...

Friday, April 10, 2009

It's Easter Weekend, And Apparently, I'm Still in Iraq

To the sound of various surf-tune instrumentals.

I woke up this morning after having a rare chance to sleep in (let's hear it for Catholicism!) and, for an ever-so-brief moment, forgot I was in Iraq.

Then reality came crashing back down and I remembered where I was and what I was doing. Don't get me wrong, we actually have it pretty good here. I have my own room in a house shared by only five people. Having a house is rare enough, but a room to oneself is almost unheard of, even for most officers. Which, by the way, I have taken a great amount of satisfaction in mentioning to them whenever the chance presents itself.

That being said, we are still in Iraq. Away from all the goodness that is America, and that can be felt when we have to miss out on the excess that is something like Easter weekend. No, I didn't grow up Catholic, nor do I plan on becoming one any time soon. However, once you have gone to some one's house who makes it a point to celebrate Easter to the fullest, it is something that will be missed when it is so far away.

One of my closest friends has a family who does just that; his mother runs what may be a "house" or her "home," but to us it is "the resort." I'm pretty sure that what goes on there is exactly what Constantine had in mind when he took three parts Christianity, three parts paganism, mixed well and served to the public. It was a recipe that worked well in a popularity sense, at least. But people like NJ took it to the next level because, while they may include the whole hide-the-egg thing for the kids (and, let's be honest, I have fun, too), it's all about family, friends, eating ridiculous amounts of ridiculously good food, and probably a fair amount of chocolate, as well. Wait, I already said good food...But no matter if you were invited or show up as a surprise guest, not only will you be welcome, you will probably have a present waiting for you as well. I think I got a yo-yo last year, and I'm pretty sure it was way cooler than the gifts everyone else got.

When I was younger I struggled with the question of how pagan rituals could be tied in to Christianity and have it still be "ok." Obviously there comes a point when you learn the story of The Resurrection and, as you sit there painting Easter eggs you say "right, and this has...what to do with Jesus dying and being resurrected?" Depending on your age, you may get answers as varied as "just paint your egg and have fun, dammit" to "it's kinda complicated, and, er...well, uhh, see..." and you never really get an answer. While this does make for some comedy gold (South Park, giving you the nod here), it also allows people to grow up with more than a few unanswered questions.

If at this point you are thinking I am going to answer those questions for you, go ahead and take another drag from your bong and go play XBox (like I'm going to do in a few minutes. The XBox part, not the bong part. See, I'm in the Army and...oh, sorry. Kinda getting off track...). What I will tell you is that if painting eggs, hiding them, then eating and drinking yourself into a stupor is what brings your family and friends together, then as the Aussies say, good on ya. On the other hand, if you think it means beating your wife or children, well then my friend, that means you are living in the Middle East somewhere and you are celebrating the wrong holiday.

So, in short, make the most out of a holiday weekend. Eat some creme-filled chocolate eggs, watch The Masters, and mess with little kids' minds about the Easter Bunny being hunted by the FBI for steeling children and making them work in sweat shops. In other words, celebrate the holiday to the fullest.

Happy Easter.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Radio Blah-Blah

To the tune of the Brad Paisley song "Cluster Pluck" which I feel fits this piece perfectly. I wrote this back in December and it has been "hiding" on my older, weaker, more broken computer.

A quick note for today: I am in the process of formulating a new method for training soldiers. Part of it will involve drunken chimpanzee-grappling and the return of the catapult, but I’m not going to get into that right now. What I would like to discuss, albeit briefly, is proper instruction of radio procedure. And, more specifically, that the use of “ebonics,” regardless of rank, is unacceptable on any radio transmission, but especially those used during a convoy outside the wire. Seriously, where do people think that it’s ok to talk like this in a formal setting? Or is it wrong for me to “aks” that question…?

Today was pure agony, as we sat and listened to the team who was running the convoy trying to communicate with one another, made particularly nail-biting by a certain female E-7 who apparently learned to use secure-line communication in a crack house. The saddest part of the story is, of course, that she was one of the “leaders” of the operation. It made me weep for humanity.

So, a few quick pointers for radio novices who are going in to the military or already there:

1) The use of a “break” during a long sentence when speaking on the radio was originally designed so that enemy forces could not triangulate your position because you were on the net for too long. As we are currently fighting an enemy that doesn’t even use radios, on top of the fact that EVERYONE knows where you are, this is a completely unnecessary technique, and very, very annoying (e.g. “We are loaded up, break”… “and ready to roll. Break.”…”let me know when, break”…” you are ready. Over.”). After two or three minutes of that, you will want to shoot someone in the face.

2) If you are inside the wire, the use of “break” is doubly annoying for – what I should hope would be – obvious reasons.

3) If you are having difficulty communicating between trucks and you are still inside the wire, it may be beneficial to just, I don’t know, perhaps walk the 20 meters over to the other truck and talk to them face to face. Just a thought.

4) As previously mentioned, ebonics, regardless of the setting or rank held by the communicator, should not be tolerated under any circumstances. This includes the above referenced “aks,” as in “I need to aks you a question,” as well as such gems as “fo” and "yooz,” the latter referring, of course, to one or possibly more people, as in “whut yooz need dat fo?”

Somehow this type of nonsense has become not only accepted, but somewhat normal. The Army somehow finds endless hours which can be dedicated to useful things sexual harassment classes, yet most don't have a clue as to how to use simple radio procedures. But hey, we're six months into this tour and I haven't raped anyone, so...

Since my spell check is now shooting fire and making strange noises, I think the lesson will end there. Tune in next time when we will cover muzzle awareness, Iraqi style. What, you mean those things aren't supposed to just randomly fire?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Why Does Marisa Miller Hate the US Army?

To the tune of "Dirt Track Date" by Southern Culture on the Skids... don't ask.

Dear Marisa Miller,

Why do you hate the US Army? And, more specifically (and certainly more important), me?

I speak of course of the recent issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, 2009, and more importantly, your COMPLETE LACK OF PARTICIPATION IN SAID MAGAZINE. Seriously, what's the deal? I will tell you what my deal is: I'm a soldier currently serving in Iraq. I don't have much to look forward to besides emails from friends and family, coming home, and of course, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue which, apparently, you are too good for now.

Is it too much to ask for you to say "hey, you know what, I wasn't going to do SI's Swimsuit Issue this year, but by golly, that cool dude who I haven't met yet but I'm sure I would really like is still in Iraq, so I'm going to sacrifice for my country just like he does." Well, you wouldn't be sacrificing like I do, 'cause....well, you're hot and rolling around in waves in a bikini while I'm sucking up the brunt of a sand-storm, all while saving you from evil Russians and zombies and aliens, but you get my drift. Oh and also did I mention that I'm single-handedly protecting your freedom? Well, I am. It's just me out here between you and the Mongol hordes of Vikings (it's history. Look it up).

In conclusion, Ms. Miller, you owe it to your country, to the men in uniform (probably some women, too), to the very cause of freedom and, most importantly, you owe it to me to make up for this most egregious of errors concerning your career path. So, call your agent, pull some strings, do what you have to, but get into that bikini and start taking some pictures, pronto. The very freedom you take for granted is hanging on by a thread thinner than your bikini string already, don't make it worse by shucking your duty and saying "someone else can do it." Step up and take charge; show those younger models how it's done, and fight the good fight. Your country -- and I can't stress enough that by "country" I mean me because I am representing said country and literally winning this thing all by myself -- is depending on you. Being in the water with a bikini. Thank you.


Mr. Twisted.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On Traveling

Stealing an idea from my good friend Jason, I will put up the names of the songs I have in my head while writing. This is done to the tune "Glitter in the Air" by Pink. One of the more beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. This one is a bit of a departure, but it seemed right.

Traveling. To travel. It means different things to different people. To some it may be a simple trip to the grandparents' house for holiday dinner; to others a trip to a foreign country, and for a select few, maybe even a trip off of the planet. No matter what it means to others, it is a way of breaking from the norm; a trip to somewhere one doesn't go all that often. It is often an overload of new experiences and the thoughts they inspire. It can be a dangerous event or a completely sublime one that does this, and what is exciting and dangerous to some may be normal and boring to others.

The first trip I took away from the United States -- Costa Rica, 1996 -- was everything I hoped it would be and more. I saw a new land and learned how similar and yet different a culture can be to our own. It was exciting and relaxing at the same time. I enjoyed every second of it, yet I enjoyed (and still do) telling others about the experience probably more than the trip itself. Subsequent trips were equally enthralling and gave me exponentially more points of view I could draw from in my every day life. There is not a single part of me that regrets the money I spent on these trips and thinks maybe I should have bought a car or house, instead... Every penny was worth it.

Then I came to Iraq. I stopped thinking travel was cool or fun. In fact, all I wanted to do was go home and go to college and never go anywhere but the bookstore and maybe out for a bite to eat and a movie. I wanted to be home, desperately. It robbed me of that traveling experience and told me I was wrong for thinking that way. Other countries aren't cool -- they suck. Everything is dirty, you can't get what you need all the time, and sometimes people don't like you at all. Sitting on my couch and watching Telemundo sounds infinitely cooler than doing this ever again.

Two things happened in the last month that reminded me how great traveling can be. One was a trip to Australia, and the other was watching Long Way Down and Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. Both of these brought me back to that first trip and the ones after by showing me that going to Iraq with the US Army does not equal "travel" or being a traveller. Shocker, I know. But there is more to it than the obvious. When I use the word "traveler," I am describing a person whose nature it is to seek out new experiences just for the sake of doing so. One who has the desire to break from the norm but for no other reason than just shaking things up and because "it" is....out there. Somewhere. And whatever "it" is does not matter. What matters is the search. The journey. The people you meet along the way in that journey are invaluable to the growth of your soul. I learned that years ago and had it taken away from me by the big machine. Cancel that, I let myself forget what was important. It wasn't taken away because it is always there. That desire and will to seek and learn; the ability to be mobile in every sense of the word and let that ability take you wherever it can. Sometimes that is a road trip to Mexico or Canada, sometimes it's a month-long stay in Thailand, and sometimes it is giving yourself to a really crappy organization for a year so that something bigger can be accomplished. At any rate, "it" lurks inside a traveler and it can't be satisfied. I learned that again recently, and I'm glad I did. Because it was always there, it just needed to be awakened from it's hibernation.

Now, yet again, I am a traveler. This land I am in, like those I have been to in the past, is one that will shape the person that I am. It will remind me of how small I am and how big this world is while letting me remember that I am chosen to walk this path as much as it chose to let me on it.

I am reminded constantly of how little of this world I have ever seen on a daily basis. My hat is off to those of you who search out the new places, because you and I will meet in some of those places and we will be forever changed because of our paths crossing. That is traveling. That is being a traveler. It is what we do. That thirst we have in our soul will not be quenched by this trip or the next, but our lives will be better for it because of who we have met and what we have seen.

Don't stand still. Walk, run, ride, drive, and fly. Go. See all that you can and let it see you. That is who we are. We are travelers.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Leaving A Beautiful Corner of The World For...

The armpit? The butt-crack?

Yes, tonight I start the journey back to the Middle East, lovely land of opportunity that it is, and leave Australia behind. Dang it, that hurts more to write out than I thought it would... Heh.

The truth of the matter is, while I am not at all looking forward to going back to Iraq, I am ready to get on with it. Knowing that I have to go back there takes a lot out of a vacation like this, as opposed to just going "home" after.

That being said, I am grateful to have the opportunity to come to this wonderful place and enjoy the hospitality shown by some great friends. I have learned a lot on this trip, both about a different country and by doing some good ol' fashioned soul-searching while being here. Tropical beaches are great for that.

To summarize, Australia is a fantastic place filled with hopes and dreams where the roads are paved with chocolate, there are always rainbows, and the children all have gum-drop smiles. A bit like an Obama rally, to be honest... Seriously though, this is a great place, and it is made even better by the people. It is very laid back here, and everyone I have met has been more than willing to open their home to me and feed me. No one offered me their daughter, though, and I must say I'm a bit disgruntled about that. I mean, is that really that much to ask? Yes? Well that's not saying much from a country started by thieves!

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, Australia is really cool. And way cooler than Iraq, for many reasons. Most of which are too lengthy to go into here, but I think the key point to touch on with this presentation is the complete lack of WAR seems to be a huge selling point for this place, as opposed to the other one. Which I am already getting sick of talking about. See what you made me do? Now I know why celebrities go crazy; the fans can be so demanding...

In short, I would like to mention that politics seem pretty similar here to America, the food is about the same -- save for the beet root they put on hamburgers... yes, really -- and "football" consists of way more people on the field trying much, much harder to pummel each other just for the sake of pummeling. Oh and in no way, shape, or form do I understand Cricket. At all. Nor do most Australians, from what I have gathered. When I ask them to explain it, after about 6 intelligible words they just kinda trail off...and...mumble...a lot. Then they try to pass it off as being the accent. Yeah, right. Fess up, ya wankers!

So my next post will be from the joyful land of Iraq, and with any luck they will reassign me to the bikini-model escort/protection detail I requested. I filled out all the proper paper-work, so I really don't see how they could deny me. I am that good, people.

Until then, think how much fun I will be having as you complete a full day of work and houshold chores, as well as probably watch a movie, and realize that I am still on a plane.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Carry On My Wayward Bulldozer, There Will Be Peace Down Under

Ok, the last couple of weeks is a bit of a blur, sot this one is going to be quick and dirty.

When I left Iraq, I was having trouble sleeping due to nightmares involving bulldozers. It's a long story that will be recounted soon enough, but suffice to say for now that when one gets stuck in a marsh near the Tigris, it's not exactly an easy fix to get it out. The lesson to be learned here is to call for an extraction crew when it gets stuck, rather than after 3 unsuccessful hours of trying to extricate it. I mean, seriously, what's the worse that could happen if you call early for help? You get it out and tell them to not come? Whoa, that's crazy talk. And definitely not the Army Way. Instead, we turn what could be a good idea -- flame throwers and heavy equipment are mega-cool, right? -- and turn it into a 17 hour version of The Oscars: a lot of glamor, but no substance and poor execution. And way too few Sean Penns on fire. Have you ever used a flame thrower? I haven't either, and after seeing one in person, I am, to say the least, hugely disappointed. Perhaps my vision of another Sodom & Gomorrah was a little presumptuous...

But all is better now, because I am relaxing for my two weeks of leave on the warm, Sunshine Coast of Australia. It is a wonderful place where people talk all funny and don't know how to use a correct system of measurement to save their lives. Seriously, "liters of petrol." What the blarney... Get with the times, mates. And I'm about tired already of trying to cross a road on foot and nearly getting run over for not looking the "right way." I'll show you the right bloody way...

I do think, having seriously studied the idea, that the Army should grant me extra leave to study the effects of American Soldiers on....Australian.... girls. Yeah. That sounds right. I think an extra, say... 16 weeks should cover it? Call your Congressman. I think I've got something here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Aches and Pains of Bichegan.

Yes, that is really a place name here. Whether it came from a huge fan of the state which actually claims Detroit as its own or from someone too retarded to spell – or speak – it correctly, I do not know. What I do know is that when a semi-retarded guy who lives in the village of “Bichegan” tells you that he has a weapons cache to take you to, take heed, for it is probably a waste of your time. At least it was for me, as we waited many, many, many hours after we found this “cache” for EOD to come and take it. And all I get for my troubles is a neck with lightning bolt shots of pain arching down it for my trouble. At some point in the past year I believed that my previous injury wouldn’t bother me that bad if all I were doing was wearing body armor. Well, shame on me, I say. Shame on me.

That is all for now. Too much pain for me to continue to write. I will attempt to spin a wonderful version of today’s non-events when I am feeling better. Toodles.

Oh Those Golden Hills

November 28, 2008. Yet another trip to the area known as Golden Hills. This is the same general neighborhood where I “walked” my first mission, and also the one place in this particular AO (Area of Operations) that has the biggest potential to kick off in an orgy of violence at any given moment. Today I wasn’t walking, however. I was back to my regular spot in the gun turret of our Humvee. While it isn’t the most exciting place to be at this point in the war, it does give me a better view of the countryside and, on days like today, helps create a burning desire within me to kick small children in the chest.

It works like this: our vehicles pull into a neighborhood and set up 360 degree security. Then everyone except the drivers and gunners of each vehicle dismount and do whatever it is that particular day’s mission calls for – usually talking to sheiks and local leaders about general concerns. If this happens to be in a regular neighborhood where families live, it is then the job of the children to come out to the vehicles and harass soldiers by begging for whatever it is that pops into their cute little minds. And in case you are picturing a bunch of cute little street urchins similar to what could be pulled from the pages of a Dickens novel, scratch that thought. I would sooner draw a parallel to a horde of Urokai from Lord of the Rings.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids mean well and they are always very happy to see American Soldiers. They wave and laugh and are eager to talk to us. They are also eager to beg for…anything. And everything. But mostly pens. Man oh man do they ever want pens. Why, I do not know. And if you gave them each a pen, it would be about four seconds before they asked for another one. As another soldier remarked, we could open an Office Depot on every street and there still wouldn’t be enough pens for these little rapscallions. But they will take other stuff, too. Oh yes, they would be more than happy for some food. Or candy. Or water. Or bullets. I had one small boy today ask – by way of pantomime – if I could shoot at his feet while he ran away with the machine gun. Sure, I could see that being fun and in no way dangerous or counterproductive to our mission here. But that doesn’t stop them from asking. Repeatedly. And regardless of whatever answer was given them. I was probably asked for pens and candy no less than fifty times by the same kids. Persistent little buggers, I tell ya. What’s funny is their reaction to us saying no; a frown, followed by approximately four seconds of pouting, and then some sort of time-matrix, worm-hole phenomenon occurs and it goes back to the beginning where they ask the question as if it is for the first time. Scientists could make millions by studying this, I am sure.

What I find most interesting is that the parents allow this to happen. I am not amazed about allowing children to ask strangers for free goods (in the U.S. we call this “welfare”); I am intrigued by the concept that a foreign Army has vehicles on your street with machine guns manned by guys who are dressed like urban-camouflaged Storm Troopers and the guardians of these children see no problems in allowing them pester the soldiers to no end. Let’s suppose that the Russians had invaded the United States. After a few years of being there, they pull their vehicles into your neighborhood to talk to your local police chief who they have helped put in power. The soldiers pulling security are on edge due to years of danger, they are in a bad mood from not enough sleep and wearing indescribably uncomfortable gear, and they are itching to unleash thousands of rounds of ammunition upon any possible threat. Do you as a parent tell your child A) ”go and play on the other side of the street, away from the big scary guys with guns,” or B) “go ask those soldiers for everything on their body and in their truck, and if they say no, cry for a second and then ask again. A lot. Over and over. Then get mad at them when they say no and point at their guns and make fun of them.” Seriously, what the hell?

Perhaps it is that, after the regime of Saddam and a threat of al Qaeda, nothing scares them. Maybe they know that Americans are good guys with “rules” they actually obey. Or it could be the culture, the Middle East has known so much war and they place so much emphasis on the Will of Allah that they figure, “hey, let the kids play with that bomb. They will live if they are meant to.” Hence the phrase “imsh Allah,” which means, in essence, “if God wills it” follows nearly every sentence in a conversation. But whatever it is, this is a land of children with no fear. And maybe that is a really good thing. I suppose that if children ran away screaming every time we came by, it would be a sign that we were failing, or that the bad guys were near. Either that or they found another way to get pens.On a side note, one of the places we stopped today there were no kids. It was at a security station located on the side of the main road – route Tampa, the main road through most of Iraq. It was here that I witnessed what was probably the most disturbing thing I have seen since I have been here. With no kids to watch, I was being mildly entertained with a dog on the side of the road who had been nursing its puppy. Then it became hungry and started sniffing for food, which it found quickly and began devouring. And what a meal, it was. Complete with all the trimmings of a post-Thanksgiving Day meal, too. If, that is, your definition of “all the trimmings” means eating something that looks exactly like yourself. Seriously, you know a place is bad when even the dogs are messed up. It would be one thing if it was, say, a German shepherd eating a Chihuahua. But the “meal” for this dog could have been its twin. How wrong is that? Probably not as wrong as us taking pictures of it and showing to everyone, but still pretty wrong, I say. At least it didn’t get mad when I didn’t give it any candy.

Thoughts on being here:

Iraq. Just the name is likely to bring up several different knee-jerk reactions when mentioned. It has been a talking point of our culture for long enough now that the images it conjures can be as varied as the people talking about it. So, does coming here give me an “enlightened” perspective that is somehow more valid? Doubtful, but I can tell you what I think.

My original opinion on the United States coming here remains the same: it was the right thing to do at the time, and I believe that, although not perfect, the justification was valid. I wrote an entire paper on the reasons we came here and I still stand by the reasons given (I did get an “A” on it, anyway…). I will not go into those details here; suffice to say that George Bush led a country into doing exactly what he said he was going to do, and the public crucified him for it. I believe he was right, even in some instances when he may have been wrong (the whole being greater than the sum of its parts). However – and this is a big “however” – what we are currently doing here in this country as of November 2008 is, in my opinion, somewhat pointless.
Let me qualify something here: when I talk about things being pointless, I am not speaking from the standpoint of a liberal, bunny-hugging college professor who got his PhD in Smug by looking down his nose at those less educated. On the contrary, I speak of things being pointless from the perspective of a guy who has seen the inner workings of the United States Army in many of its forms and has come to know a great deal about how it operates. And the talking point to be gleamed from that knowledge is: it doesn’t.

Let’s take, for example, my current occupation in the beloved US Army: that of a Psychological Operations ATL (Assistant Team Leader). Our job in PsyOp is to first, analyze the perceptions of people; second, to then assess their vulnerabilities; and third, to use those vulnerabilities to persuade them in some way. Now, if that sounds high-speed or secret-squirrel to you, that’s because you are not where I am. Because I can tell you what that really is. It’s called “marketing.” Seriously, we are an advertising agency for the Army.

And how can that not be a good thing, you may ask? For several reasons, some of which are quite obvious when you think about them from a different point of view. Let’s look at where we are in this war: There is no defined enemy, per se; we are essentially fighting the equivalent of gangs who wander from village to village, staying with various relatives and friends. They have no base of operations or tactical command center to take orders from, they simply…exist. Much like a criminal who goes from town to town robbing liquor stores, these people do not operate from some pre-planned, maniacal scheme to usurp the great Satan; they just…do.

This leaves people in my position two options. One, we can analyze the perceptions and vulnerabilities of the bad guys (good luck), or we can do the same for the general populace and hope that their idea of security is the same as ours and they will turn these dudes in when they see them or find out where they are. Surprisingly enough, this works a lot of the time. But here is where I get to the pointless part. Earlier on in this war, PsyOp’s job was relevant; they gave out numbers of who to call to turn in a bad guy, they told the public who the bad people were, they even told the public what the Army was doing so they wouldn’t be scared. They did all of this while the Infantry was blowing stuff up and kicking in doors, so that we could “win the hearts and minds” of the general populace. Now, five years in to this thing, everyone knows who to call, the most wanted list here is probably shorter than the one back home, and everyone already knows what the Army is doing (which, even in the case of the Infantry, is centered around winning hearts and minds). To top all of that off, whenever the Army does whatever it does, it essentially takes credit away from the Government of Iraq (GoI) and says to people “yeah, we’re still running the show.”

Most of the problems we are facing here are no different than the problems we face back home, and if we try to fix them, it actually prolongs the problem. Let me give you an example. If I were to ask the average Iraqi “hey, how are things going for you and what do you think needs to be done,” they are going to tell me that they want more security, they want better schools for their kids, and the roads in their neighborhood suck and need repair. Well I’ve got a hundred bucks for you that says you can go into a city council meeting in Anywhere, U.S.A. and hear exactly the same complaints. But the funny part is that it doesn’t matter if you fix it or not, because those things will always need to be better; it will never be enough. The difference here in Iraq is we are screwed either way. If we fix it, people see us as still being in power and it invalidates the GoI. If we don’t fix it, people are pissed off and blame the U.S. for coming here and ruining everything (never mind the fact that we actually fixed quite a few things that people just weren’t allowed to complain about under Saddam).

One would think, then, that what PsyOp should be doing is teaching the Iraqi government how to do its own marketing to convince their people that they are doing the right thing and are large and in charge. Well, that’s what my idea is, anyway. But we are not doing that. What we are doing is walking out on patrols and interviewing people so that we can hear them tell us the same things over and over again. Handing out any kind of printed product at this point in the game has little effect because they have seen so much, and even if they hadn’t, it takes us a month to get it printed up and sent down here due to all of the red-tape we must march through just to get tangible work produced by our own people. The loudspeaker on our truck is equally worthless because the Infantry and Cavalry units have discovered, get this, bullhorns. They are easy to use, weigh about 2 pounds, and don’t require an entire vehicle to carry around or an engineer to run (because I’m pretty sure that our loudspeaker was built by Thomas Edison as one of his, uhh, early projects). A novel concept, to be sure.

Now take what I have just given you and extrapolate it into the rest of the Army. Except (and here comes the scary part) the Big Army works much, much less than we do. We of the small FOB tend to actually go outside the wire on a regular basis; there are several thousand soldiers and airmen at a few big bases in this country who not only never leave the base, but exist in one of those “limbo” environments where no one really knows what it is they do. Maybe nothing. Or maybe they exist and get deployed just so the rest of us who are doing nothing outside the wire can feel as though we have a big support network behind us.

I came here believing in what we are doing. And although I still believe that the US coming here was the right thing, I have had a change of heart regarding us being here now. In my own, humble opinion, we could leave this place five minutes from now or five years from now and it would have the same result for this country. The only difference being the result it would have in ours. I, for one, am still in favor of us pulling out of here and taking over Haiti. It’s never too late to make that place a tropical casino-island. Until, that is, someone else does it first. (To be continued…)