Aug 21 2008

Crazy Dreams

Last night I dreamt that I rejoined the Marine Corps and went back to Iraq for another tour.  During my time there I ended up losing my right foot and arm in an RPG attack.  Immediately after I lost my limbs I woke up, and I stayed awake for a long time thinking about how in the fuck I would play video games, jack off, throw a baseball, and many other daily tasks without the aide of my right arm.  It’s weird I wasn’t too concerned about losing my right foot.  I think I’d be fairly normal with a prosthetic foot, but losing my right arm really bugged me.  It took me a bit to finally sort it all out in my head and go back to sleep, but now I wonder what the hell, if any, the dream meant.  Most likely nothing, but I have been entertaining thoughts lately about going back to the Raq one more time.  Maybe it’s a warning then.  I did roll the dice once, and came back unscathed, maybe this is fate telling me not to push my luck.

Aug 11 2008

Generation Kill

After watching this superb mini-series on HBO I decided to pick up Generation Kill.  I took it with me to Houston, and I was able to pretty much read the whole book in the airport because of all the delays that came from Tropical Storm Eduardo.  As good as the mini-series is the book, for me, is even better.  Evan Wright goes step-by-step in his journey with First Recon, and events that get cut short in the show are more fully explained in the book.  The greatest strength of the book is the fact that Wright doesn’t try to turn the book into some treatise into why the war is bad, or good, or any other crap like that that usually gets in the way.  Instead he makes it unpolitical, and just tries to relay to the reader what life is like for the these Marines in a war zone.  He doesn’t hold back with the language or in any of the events that happen throughout the march to Baghdad.  I really found it to be a fair and impartial account of life in the Marines during the invasion.  This book is an incredibly smooth and easy read, and as long as you can handle reading a book with often times filthy language you should be able to cruise through it no problem.

One of the best parts of this book was that my old battalion got a little shout out, and I found out something that I have been wondering about for a long time.  This chapter was cut down a bit in the show, but in the book it goes more in depth.  The set-up is that a Marine is killed, and his body is taken into the town of Ash Shatrah and mutilated by the populace.  My company was called in, along with others, to look for his body.  The CIA was also called in, because supposedly Ali Hassan al-Majid or “Chemical Ali” was hiding out in the town.  Probably one of the most bittersweet moments of my life leading a patrol to find this Marine and getting complimented by the CIA, but yet not being able to find the Marine.  We didn’t not find him for lack of looking though.  We tore up the hospitals and other locations, and ended up finding intel on other terrorists, but not the missing Marine.  We were told by some of the elders that his body was taken out to the desert, and given a Christian burial.  However, we all knew this was bullshit.  Unfortunately we didn’t get Chemical Ali either, and after looking for him, and looking for the lost Marine again we had to leave for another mission.  I have often thought about the guy since then.  Who was he? was he ever found? does his family know how hard we looked for him?  Things like that, and then I read:

The body of this Marine is discovered a week later by other American forces.  They find him buried in Ash Shatrah’s trash dump.

Over six years later I finally find out what happened to the missing Marine.  That alone makes the book worth the read for me.  It feels good knowing that he was found, and that his body was brought back to the US to his family.  It’s just too bad that it took six years for me to find this out.

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Aug 8 2008

Harry Ballkowski

I have finally returned from Houston and what a trip it was.  The good part of the trip was that I got go to two ball games at Minute Maid Park and watch the Mets vs the Astros, I partied a lot, and I ate some great Texas BBQ and Mexican food.  The bad part of the trip was that the Mets showed their ass and I had to listen to a bunch of hick-ass Texans taunt me repeatedly.  Thank you very much Billy Wagner, you can now add another log to the fire of my burning hatred for you.  The entirety of my trip was one big blur of drunkenness, and amazingly nothing crazy or out of the ordinary happened.  I was kind of dissapointed, because I was hoping for some random encounter to happen that I could write about.  Plus it had been awhile so I knew I was due for something weird to happen.  Well lucky for you, my readers, I did have a crazy random encounter.

My original flight out of Houston was canceled because of Tropical Storm Eduardo so I ended up leaving a day later than I was supposed to.  I got dropped off at Hobby airport around 8:30 and I was through security by 9:00.  I still had over two hours left until my plane was scheduled to depart so I decided to grab some breakfast.  The breakfast restaurant was called Pappas and it was decorated with the typical southwestern style decorations: horseshoes, saddles, western paintings, and other paraphernalia.  It was also on the complete other side of the terminal from where I was supposed to be, but, like I said, I had plenty of time so I wasn’t worried.  I walked over to the restaurant and got a table all the way in the back of the restaurant where I had my back to the wall.  I already knew what I wanted so when the waitress came over I ordered the Trail Blazer–eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and toast–and coffee.  The waitress brought me my coffee, and I started to zone out on my coffee just looking down at it staring as the steam came rolling off of the coffee.  I was really into this because I was tired and bored, but then I noticed someone approaching the table.

I didn’t think much of it because there were a ton of empty tables so I just figured they were going to sit at a table nearby.  I kept watching the steam roll off of my coffee when the chair in front of me was pulled out, and someone asked “is anyone sitting here?”  I glanced up slightly and saw a black woman pulling out the chair across from me.  She had dark skin, a broad flat nose, she was kind of chunky, but without being fat, she had fucked up dyed red hair that was half-braided, but nevertheless looked trashy, and she had a few inches on me.  Plus she had what looked like National Geographic flap-jack titties–which is never a good thing.  However she was not a complete hag, she had some nice qualities, but she was definitely not the type of girl you bring home to mommy.  She carried herself in a very skanky way.  Anyways I told her no that no one was sitting there, and then my face looked visibly upset when she actually decided to sit down.  I looked around and noticed that there were at least 50 other possible empty seats in the restaurant, and immediately I knew something was up.  At first I thought that maybe she wanted a piece of my Harry Ballkowski, but I quickly changed my mind, and figured it was some sort of scam.

“So what are you up to?” she asked.

“Well,” I started to respond visibly perturbed, “I’m waiting for my food and then I’m going home.”

“Where’s home?”

“New York.”

“Are you here by yourself,” she quizzed me.

“Yep, just me.”

“Sooo no wife or girlfriend here?”

“Yeh, like I said I’m here alone.” It was here that I changed my mind again and decided that this was some type of airport sex thing, but I started thinking it was a set-up, and that maybe she was a cop.  She didn’t have the physique of a cop though, but you never know these days.  They let just about anyone become a cop.  It was also at this time that my breakfast came, and I noticed that I had completely lost my appetite.  Regardless I started to pick at my eggs, pushing them around my plate, and once in awhile actually taking a bite.  “Are you angry” she asked “because you look angry.”

“No not angry, that’s just how I always look.”

“Well you really look angry.”

“I can’t help it I have an angry face.”

“So you like to drink,” she abruptly changed the subject.

“Sure I do but it’s 9:00AM.”

“So that doesn’t matter.  You want to start drinking?”

“Naw it’s a little early for me today, and I’m still recovering from a long week of drinking,” I stated.

“Do you mind if I drink?”

“Knock yourself out, you don’t need my permission.”

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Jul 29 2008


McKrang! Strikes Again.

McKrang! Strikes Again.

Ok so I have been trying to create a nickname for McCain, and today out of the blue, as I was thinking about this blog I wanted to write about him, it came to me, McKrang.  I think it’s perfect as his sums up his personality, and his temperament, but you may disagree with me, which is ok.  However if this nickname blows up, well then, I will be taking full credit for it, because I do not believe I have seen it anywhere.

Ok now onto the actual topic that I wanted to discuss.  This week Obama canceled his trip to Landstuhl military base in Germany to go see wounded troops there.  The McKrang camp contends that Obama would rather go to the gym or travel around sightseeing than actually visit wounded troops.  The truth, however, is different than what McKrang states.  Via The Daily Dish:

“A Pentagon spokesperson confirms to me that because of longstanding Department of Defense regulations, Pentagon officials told Obama aides that he couldn’t visit the base with campaign staff. This left Obama with little choice but to cancel the trip, since the plan to visit with campaign aides had been in the works for weeks. [...]”

We have longstanding Department of Defense policy in regards to political campaigns and elections,” Pentagon spokesperson Elizabeth Hibner told me. “We informed the Obama staff that he was more than welcome to visit as Senator Obama, with Senate staff. However, he could not conduct the visit with campaign staff.”

After being told this, the Obama campaign announced yesterday that it had decided it was “inappropriate” to make the visit as part of a campaign trip.

It’s unclear how Obama could have made the visit at all, given the Pentagon’s directives. No Senate staff was on the trip, and the Obama camp says they received the Pentagon’s directives on Wednesday, after they were already abroad.”

So it seems that the Obama camp, and the Pentagon had a little bit of a snafu.  I am beginning to think, however, that no matter what went down Obama was going to be screwed regardless.  It was a no-win situation, if he went McKrang would have attacked him for making the wounded troops part of his campaign, and since he didn’t McKrang attacks him for not having the time to visit the troops.  Personally I understand where Obama is coming from on this one, but I would think that it would have been better for him to kick the media, and all his advisers to the curb, and just make a visit on his own.

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Jul 22 2008

Caprica Trailer

Over the past year I have started watching the Battlestar Galactica series on SciFi, because I kept hearing about what an outstanding show it was.  The first couple seasons of the show were utterly fantastic, and really delved into some serious issues in the way that good science fiction can.  The last few seasons even though they haven’t been as good, have been great, and are still better than most of the other options on TV.  With the series finale all done, even though it won’t air until 2009, work on the prequel series Caprica is in full force.  This trailer has whetted my appetite.  Although I didn’t have too high of hopes for this new show, my opinion is now starting to change, and I am looking forward to this.  Like BG it will start off with a two hour TV movie, and then the show will pick up from there.  According to Ronald D. Moore, Caprica, will explore many of the same issues that made BG such a good show:

“Well, we’re still going to be dealing with things that are similar, in that there are still going to be issues of terrorism and security and how society should protect itself or not protect itself,” Moore said. “You know, what is the line between civil liberties and protection of the homeland? We’re still going to be dealing with a lot of those things, because they’re going to be spiraling out of certain events that happen in the pilot. And, you know, but you’re also dealing with ethical responsibilities. You’re also dealing with things like, you know, what is a person? What does it mean to be a sentient being? Does that being have rights? What are you allowed to do to something that you’ve created out in a laboratory? … Does it have a soul?”

Like I said I am now officially looking forward to this new show, and if you haven’t seen BG, you should start Netflixin’ them.  They are well worth your time.  Until then check out the Caprica trailer.

YouTube Direkt

Jul 22 2008

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic pirate adventure story.  Although Stevenson didn’t create the whole pirate genre he helped define it.  Treasure Island became the standard bearer in the adventure story genre becoming a best-seller, and staying a best-seller for over a hundred years.  The story is fairly straight forward.  There is a treasure map, where X marks the spot, and rivaling factions of buccaneers are battling for the map.  What makes this work is Stevenson brings plenty of realism to the characters and the story through his writing, and by filling the story all kinds of real world knowledge of pirates and sailing.  Unlike Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, however, Stevenson doesn’t allow these facts to hijack and become his story, otherwise we would have had a story filled mostly with pirates sailing around the ocean being piratey but never actually doing anything.

Instead Stevenson puts just enough of these facts and nautical jargon in to help immerse the reader into the story even further.  Otherwise Stevenson omits all the superfluous details.  For example there are long sea voyages in this book, but instead of telling the reader about tacking jib sails, or of the doldrums, or any other boring stuff, he just skips it and has the narrator fill in any important details.  What this does is it allows the action to stay center stage, and it keeps the novel moving at a furious pace.  Each chapter is like its own self-contained story, and every chapter is like an episode of a TV show.  It really reminded me of those old Saturday morning serials that were on TV back in the day.  This set-up keeps the reading moving along at a fast and easy pace.  This is one of the most readable books I have read in a long time, and plus it’s a lot of fun to read.  I had a ton of time to read this weekend, with all the trains and buses I had to take, but the time flew by while I was reading.  Then again how can you not enjoy reading about pirates and treasure?  This is a highly influential book, and in reading it I can see how many archetypes came from this book.  Like I said before much of the pirate lore and mythology was codified by this book

Jim Hawkins – is the narrator and hero of the story.  He is the one that initiates the adventure by getting his hands on the treasure map.  His ensuing story is not only one that appeals to young boys, but to anyone who has ever had dreams of sailing the open seas looking for adventure.  Jim Hawkins can be added to the short list of child narrators in literature that work.  For me the only other one that worked was Huck Finn.

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Jul 8 2008

The Brothers Karamazov

I should begin by stating that I absolutely love Dostoevsky, and Russian Literature.  This is the fourth major novel of his that I have read.  The other three are Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Demons (also alternately titled The Possessed ).  This novel I would rank after Crime and Punishment and probably just in front of The Idiot.  Although The Demons is a good book is lags well behind the others.  Reading Dostoevsky is daunting.  Every time I start on page 1, and realize that I have 700+ pages left, I feel that I will never finish.  His books are long, methodical, and incredibly verbose.  For many people this is unacceptable, and they can’t stand reading books that long.  I, however, really enjoy long, well written books.  In this day and age of instant gratification, even in modern novels, it is nice to read a book that takes its time.  Like his other books, this one starts out slowly plodding along like an old horse.   It is his prose and his ability to write consistent, believable characters that makes his books so enjoyable.  He is a true master, and I learn something new about writing every time I read his work.

The Brothers Karamazov, in my opinion, is a much more lofty and mature work.  It is rightly considered his greatest work, because it is his most ambitious.  It seems as if he took everything he learned from his previous novels–including the grand themes from each–and combined them into one glorious masterpiece.  Dostoevsky’s greatest strength is how he writes his characters.  He is able to take the reader into the mind of these fabulous–and many times dark–characters.  In Crime and Punishment the whole novel is about the inner workings of the mind of a murderer before, during, and after his murder, and subsequently into his path to redemption.  Dostoevsky was able to expand on that, and other themes that he had explored in previous books.  He brings in his ideas of God, science, nihilism, corruption, good and evil, and many others from The Idiot and The Demons.  Like in The Idiot, an epileptic character plays a major role in this novel.  The Brothers Karamazov is about so much more than parricide.  The book was published during 1879-80, and during this time science really started to conflict with religion.  Dostoevsky uses this book, in part, as a treatise on the fundamental questions of the relationship between religion and science.  Can they co-exist?  Does God exist or is he just a construct of man?

These are some of the questions that are raised in the book, and these questions help to drive the story.  One question posed is if God doesn’t exist, and is just the creation of man, then there is no sin.  Sin only exists if God exists, and therefore, if God doesn’t exist, then everything is legal, and nothing is prohibited.  Dostoevsky writes convincingly in favor of each stance, and shows a real knowledge about both topics.  (Dostoevsky, in fact, knows deeply about both topics.  He was sentenced to death for his radical socialistic views–a sentence which was rescinded.  He ended up spending four years in exile, in prison, in Siberia.  It was here where Dostoevsky renounced his radical and subversive views, and became deeply religious.  It was also here in Siberia that Dostoevsky’s was in the company of the worst sort of people: murderers, rapists, robbers, and other corrupted men.  It is through his close proximity to these people that allows him to write about these characters so convincingly.) These ideas of religion, science, and reason are characterized by the three sons of Fyodor Karamazov: Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexey (who is the hero of the novel).

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Jul 7 2008

The VA Strikes Again

I wish I could say that news like this surprises me, but I would be lying if I did, in fact, news like this, just ends up reinforcing many of my beliefs.  The Washington Times has done an investigative report called “Disposable Heroes.”  In this report they find evidence that the VA has been testing drugs on veterans without telling them of the potentially severe side-effects.  I guess the only surprising fact of this is not that they were testing this drug on veterans, but instead, it is the brazen audacity of the government.  They act as if there will be no recourse, and no consequences, and unfortunately, they are probably right.  For years now there has been an ongoing controversy about Anthrax shots.  It is still unknown if there are long term side-effects to these shots.  The effects of these shots may not be known for years to come (if there is any.)  However, the effects of this new round of testing are known:

the drug may cause serious side effects, including “anxiety, nervousness, tension, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted and completed suicide.”

The drug in question in Chantix, an anti-smoking drug.  You would think that if the potential side-effects include killing yourself, and potentially harming others, that they would exercise more caution.  They don’t, and they don’t care.  I’ve been told personally by people inside the VA that the VA has been taken over by pharmaceutical companies, and that priority number one is to medicate the veterans.  Anytime you go to the VA the first thing they try to do is put you on some sort of drug.  That way the veterans are medicated, and the pharmaceutical companies have a constant stream of test subjects, and a constant stream of government money.  This of course is heaped on top (or maybe in conjunction) with the VA covering-up the suicide attempts and completions of Iraq War veterans.

John McCain has been conspicuously quiet about this subject, and I have yet to hear him address it.  Maybe that is because McCain doesn’t really care.  He has shown time and time again that he is not on the side of veterans.  Obama, however, has addressed the issue:

I was very concerned to read this morning’s Washington Times and learn that the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has yet again failed to take appropriate steps to
safeguard the health and well-being of veterans participating in drug trials.

According to a Washington Times/ABC News investigation, the VA took three
months to notify patients about severe side effects from the anti-smoking drug Chantix.
Almost 1,000 veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were paid
$30 a month to participate in a study examining ways to end smoking. A total of 143 of
the study participants took the anti-smoking drug Chantix.

Last November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert
regarding reports that Chantix led to hallucinations, suicide attempts, and psychotic
behavior. Even though almost 40 suicides and more than 400 examples of suicidal
behavior were eventually attributed to Chantix nationwide, the VA waited three months
after the FDA advisory to alert its study participants about the mental health risks of the
drug. And when the VA did finally notify study participants, it failed to mention the
most serious side effects of suicide and suicidal thoughts. According to the Washington
Times/ABC News investigation, 21 veterans have reported adverse effects from Chantix.
In addition to Chantix, the VA is testing other drugs on veterans with PTSD that carry
warnings of suicidal side effects.

Read the full Obama letter here. We will have to see what happens from here on out, but this seems to have become standard operating procedure for the VA of late–cover-ups and abuse.  The VA has their excuses about bureaucracy and rules, but of course, those don’t apply to the actual people’s lives they are ruining.  They only serve as an excuse for their immoral, and outrageous actions.  Words can’t describe the betrayal I have felt over the last few years, at this current administration and the VA, and those feelings of betrayal (by my own government and country) continue to mount, and I continue to grow more and more bitter.  With actions like these it is no wonder that veterans are paranoid, and mistrustful, and tend to ostracize and segregate themselves from society, because the institutions that are supposed to be there to help and protect us, instead mistreat and abuse us.  Again I implore you to read the article, and to spread the word, the fact that this isn’t on national news daily is a travesty.  Our society is more interested in the celebutards, than in actual important issues.  Of course if a soldier does something wrong in theater then it is all over the news, but when there are thousands that are mistreated it is a blip on the radar.

Jul 3 2008

Musings on this the day of my birth…

Twenty-Nine years ago today, I scrambled out of my mom’s vagina ready to take on the world.  As I look back on the last twenty-nine years of my life I feel that I haven’t accomplished all that much in this world, and that all the promise that was wrapped up within that babe have been wasted.  Yet, in reality, I have accomplished quite a bit in my life, but just not as much as a believe I should have accomplished.  I’m not sure what it is about birthdays–and really any holiday–that makes me feel depressed, and morose.  I usually feel some sort of premonition of doom on days like today.  I just expect bad things to happen, and I’m not really sure why that is.  Gone are the days of my childhood innocence where I would count down the days betwixt my birthday and Christmas, now it has been replaced with the cynicism of life, where experience has taught me that birthdays aren’t special, magical days just for me, but instead just another day, and usually something bad will happen invariable around my birthday.  Of course there are things to celebrate, life, healthy, family, friends, etc, all of which I have in spades, and am genuinely thankful for.  In the end, I’m just one more day closer to my death, and I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, so to speak, but I never thought I’d make it to live this long, and here I am one year away from thirty.  I think the worst part of the today, however, is that I am seperated from my family and friends, and if I want to party, and get drunk, or whatever, I am going to have to do it without the people that mean the most to me.  Oh well such is life, and I’m lucky that that is the biggest problem in my life today.  At least I’m not in Iraq.

Jun 30 2008

The Never Ending Nightmare

There are certain events, that happen in the course of day-to-day life, that are like a kick to the nuts, to put it bluntly.  Some of these events, if you’re unlucky enough, will repeatedly kick you in the balls.  I am that unlucky, and today I was kicked in the balls once again.

It all started, innocently enough, about a year and a half ago, when I went out for a few drinks with a friend.  It was a grand ol’ night, and we got good and drunk.  Walking back to my abode, however, we noticed that there were firetrucks on my street.  We hurried towards them with curiosity, until we were almost there, and we noticed that the firetrucks were at my apartment.  This immediately sobered me up, and I felt an incredible sense of doom surround me.  My worst fears were realized when I got to the front and saw my door broken down, and firemen with their hoses inside my apartment.  I was further crushed when I found out that the fire, by some unlucky accident, had been confined to my room.  When I saw the damage I was floored.  Everything I had was gone, and it wasn’t so much the loss of possessions that hurt–although there was that–it was the loss of many irreplaceable items.  (Fortunately, the fire wasn’t my fault.  It was a freak electrical fire caused by a lamp, and faulty wiring).  I finished out the night by punching a brick wall until my knuckles started bleeding.  That was the first kick in the balls.

The next kick was when I found out that even though the owners were going to get insurance money, that they were unwilling to pay for any of the items I lost–which probably amounted to five thousand dollars.  Not only weren’t they going to pay, but I later found out that I ended up paying for the clean-up of the apartment, because I left my burned possessions there (mind you they told me to leave everything I didn’t want there, and it would be thrown out when they started to repair the apartment).  So in the end all I received was a refund for the week of rent left on the month.  That was number two.

A few months later, just before I moved to New York, I found out that the owner was suing me for over nine thousand dollars.  She claimed that her gorilla-insurance company inspectors had decided that the Fire Marshall was incorrect, and that it was my fault, and that I owed her the cost of all the repairs.  Luckily, for me I have legal insurance, so even though I am a man of modest means, I had lawyers who backed me up, and got her to back down.  That was number three.

Today, over a year and a half later, I received a letter from the owner’s insurance company.  They are now suing me for over eleven thousand dollars–it’s amazing how the amount keeps going up and up–this is fourth, newest, and hopefully the last kick in the balls.  Thankfully, I still have my legal insurance, and now I am represented by one of the best firms in NYC.  I don’t know if I will have to pay, or whether I will have to go to court, but I do know, that I am sick and tired of this issue.  I still haven’t recovered completely from the fire, and these bastards keep finding new ways to try and stick it to me.  It is in situations like this where the common man can feel insignificant and powerless.  It is also in times like this where I can begin to understand why people go postal and react in violent ways (note I do not feel violent, but people can only take so much.  Eventually even the smallest, most docile dog will attack when pushed repeatedly).  I still retain some hope that this will work out smoothly, and that maybe, perhaps, I may have the last laugh.