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...