Oct 1 2011

With The Old Breed

Ever since HBO’s The Pacific came out last year I’ve wanted to read the memoirs that the show was based on. I started with E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. If you know anything about the Pacific Theater or you’ve seen the show then you know that Peleliu and Okinawa, along with Iwo Jima, were some of the most brutal battles of WWII. To make things worse Peleliu was never really used during the war for any purpose during the war so it was a battle that was unnecessary.

Sledge begins the book as he is in college preparing to become a Marine officer. Early on, however, he decides that he does not want to finish college and then become an officer. So he and some others in the program quit and join up as enlisted Marines. He then goes on to describe his boot camp experiences and his training to become a mortar man. Throughout his narrative Sledge sprinkles in his personal insights as an older man looking back on the experience. These insights help foreshadow events setting up the reader for what is to come. More often than not though the insights tend to be a bit contradictory. He definitely sees war differently than he did as a fresh faced young kid. These contradictions are a good thing as it allows him to speak frankly about his experience but to also comment on his actions, other Marines actions, or the war in general from the perspective of time.

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Sep 6 2011

Nine-Eleven Plus Ten

Apparently, this is the thing to do now with the anniversary so close. So I will jump in and add my two-cents to the cacophony of 9/11 essays (two particularly good ones are Andrew Sullivan’s and Christopher Hitchens‘ love ‘em or hate ‘em they will make you think). However, in order to properly formulate 9/11 I have to go back a few more years to set the stage for where I was personally at that time. In 1999 I was working at a television studio, doing something that I thought I liked. I hoped that it would turn into something more. Well surprise, surprise things didn’t quite go as a I wanted. Being that I was young and dumb I only exacerbated the situation and proceeded to burn some of the first bridges in my young professional career. I didn’t give a fuck though. I was young and feeling cooped up and I badly needed a change–or so I told myself. So towards the end of 1999 I moved on to a construction supplies delivery job which I half-heartedly worked at (sometimes when I was tired I’d just pull over in a housing community and take a nap). When I got bored with that job I quit. Then my brother started talking about going into the Marine Corps. As he discussed it with me it planted the idea in my head which over the course of the next few months sat dormant in my head but just percolated subconsciously biding its time. About mid-2000 my brother was accepted to Naval flight school in Pensacola, Fl. A fairly difficult school to get into especially when your grades aren’t the best and you’re not a legacy kid. It was about that time that he decided he didn’t want to join up anymore. It was also about that time when I decided I did and I voiced my desire to my family.

I think it’s too harsh to say it was met with outright derision but there was a large amount of skepticism from my father and brother. I mean I was the less athletic brother, I was lazier, and avoided hard work like the plague. But their jokes just strengthened my resolve. I wanted to join not only to prove them wrong (and my ‘friends’ weren’t any more supportive, their mockery was even more infuriating) but because this burgeoning desire to serve my country. I’m not exactly sure where this all came from but I have my suspicions, and I think a large portion of this desire came from my reading list as an adolescent, which ran heavy on titles with Epic poems like Beowulf, The Illiad, The Odyssey and with a different kind of epic like The  Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. It was definitely a confluence of events though as all these ideas and feelings came together at the same time. Add to that the mockery from a lot of the people close to me and my resolution was set. If there is anything about me that’s true it’s that I a stubborn son of a b.

So I quit my job and went to work at UPS part-time and the rest of my time was spent running and working out. I quit drinking (seriously I’m not lying) and even though I didn’t eat a lot of junk food I quit eating the little that I did. My singular focus was to continue my regiment throughout the winter and go to boot camp in March. But alas, the best laid plans…, as it turned out I never made it to March. Instead, after some poking and prodding from my recruiter, and finally being given some more financial incentives I left at the end of January 2001.

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Apr 9 2011

Time Flies

It’s hard to believe that 8 years ago today I was chilling in Baghdad watching a bunch of Iraqis looting and setting shit on fire. Seriously, time flies and days like today make me feel really old. Good thing I got my boy Jim Beam to keep me company.

As an aside, wars suck. Now that I’ve seen one I’m not in a hurry to see another or to send others to fight in stupid meaningless wars. If only more of our politicians felt the same way.


Jan 9 2011

Jumping To Conclusions

Yesterday I spent a good part of my afternoon watching the coverage of the assassination attempt of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Obviously a ridiculously awful event that as it gets sorted out of the next few weeks I am sure will get even worse.  (Hopefully the fact that she’s Jewish didn’t factor into her being a target.  Although the fact that the kid was a fan of Mein Kampf and Hitler doesn’t bode well.)  This kid has serious problems and as time goes on the missed warning signs are going to become even more blatant with hindsight.  However, I want to talk about something that happened at the beginning of the event right as media and individuals were trying to deal with the events that had just occurred.  One of Rep. Giffords friends was on the phone with CNN and stated that she heard the shooter was “an Afghan Veteran.”  The commentator corrected here saying, “you mean, a Afghanistan War Veteran?”  To which she replied “Yes,” and it was left at that.  The shooter was a veteran.

Of course that was speculation and hearsay and it has come forward that the shooter is not a veteran or even someone with military training.  He’s someone who looks to have mental problems and is probably not affiliated with either party.  My problem is that the speculation that this person was a veteran of Afghanistan (or Iraq) was seen as totally plausible.  CNN and the interviewee did not mind blatantly throwing veterans under the bus by inferring that only a deranged veteran would do something like this.

The problem as I see it is that we have this meme that veterans are crazy, unstable people.  We venerate them out of one side of our mouth and out of the other we infer that they are not mentally stable and are prone to flipping out and going crazy.  This is something that I have been personally affected by and it is one of the reas0ns why when I meet people for the first time I don’t tell them I am a veteran.  People automatically assume that you are a bit off if you are a veteran.  It’s an unfair assumption and one that does further damage by perpetuating the stigma that is attached to PTSD.  This stigma only means that those with it are less likely to seek out help, increasing the likelihood that they are going to have to struggle through life by themselves without seeking help.  This in part explains why suicide is so high among veterans.

This idea of veterans being highly unstable is further perpetrated by Hollywood and their portrayal of veterans, which in many situations is unfavorable.  Movies like Rambo, Brothers, The Hurt Locker, and others show veterans that are detached, unprofessional, and on the verge of going completely insane at any time, for any reason.  Also to blame is the lack of care that veterans of the Vietnam War were given, and the fact that many veterans from that war are still struggling to come to grips with what has happened to them.  It is over 30 years since that war has ended and many of those veterans have been struggling with these issues on their own without the help of medical professionals, family, or friends because of the stigma that is attached to PTSD.

People tend to think that people with PTSD are unsettled and incapable of taking care of themselves.  It’s like we sit around in a pile of our own feces throwing it at people all day long.  The reality of PTSD is that the things that most people take for granted we struggle with e.g. sleep.  Day in, day out certain parts of life that most people have no trouble with we have to work a little harder (and sometimes a lot harder) at.  However, everyday we get up go to our jobs or school and work just as well–and many times better–than others.  We take care of and look out for our loved ones more than others because we understand the fragility of life and how fortunate we are to still be around.  For every one veteran that has a problem and gets in trouble there are thousands who–even though they have problems–are working through them and still are contributing to society at the highest levels.  It’s unfortunate that we think that the one is normal and to be expected whilst the thousands are thought to be rare.  Maybe that is why while gay jokes and racial jokes are not acceptable in many arenas–like workplaces–it still is completely acceptable to make these kind of statements about veterans (and don’t think that this is a random statement not based in fact.  This is a statement I make knowing that it is true because of the experiences I and others I know have had).

So the next time you meet a veteran instead of treating them like a rabid monkey try treating them like a normal person because that is what we are.  While you are at it instead of watching some ridiculous movie take the time to watch something like Restrepo.  There you are going to see that veterans are not crazy, but just regular people who performed extraordinary acts in extreme conditions; people who are just looking to restart their life and keep doing the things that many people take for granted.  If you’re feeling particularly gracious or pro-active support organizations like IAVA and The Wounded Warrior Project.  Those organizations are working to ensure that the politicians that sent us to war keep their promises and give us the care we need now that we are home.  They also help veterans out on a more personal level.  Hopefully, in time as people become more educated we will begin to see these issues in a new light and the stigma that is now attached to them will start to fade away, and also, let’s try not to jump to conclusions so quick–especially in situations like this.


Nov 11 2010

Arts & Crafts

I’ve been procrastinating on finishing up my shadow box for the last few months.  Today, however, is Veteran’s Day and I have nothing to do but drink beer and watch The Pacific, so I figured it was about time to get it done.  I’m not even sure why I got the bug up my ass to make up one of these, but about three months ago I decided I wanted to do it and now it’s done (with a big thanks to Pheebs for doing the heavy lifting and creating the actual shadow box).


Dec 24 2009

Avatar

It’s been around 24 hours since I have seen Avatar.  I have let it percolate in my head and I have also had the chance to to hash out some of my thoughts with fellow geeks.  What follows will be spoiler heavy so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t wish to know anything then stop reading.

First I’ll start with my gripes.

One of the biggest annoyances in the movie was the lack of any character development for the villains.  They were all just evil dudes who were bent on destruction no matter the cost.  In the case of Col. Quaritch he was just a Marine that was hell bent on kicking ass and killing whomever, or whatever, was in his way.  Understandable but he was like a person devoid of any human emotions who seemed to hate the Na’Vi for no apparent reason.  If he was the only person in the movie like that I would let it slide.  However, virtually all the Marines (except for two) in the movie were also one-dimensional characters devoid of any moral compass or any semblance of a human emotion.  I find it hard to believe that out of the thousands of people there 99.9% of them were completely on board with massacreing the aliens just because they wanted to get some unobtainium (stupid name btw).  Besides I don’t think there is a need for anymore stereotyping of Marines as crazy, evil whack-a-doos.  There was just too much black and white in the movie, and rarely were there any shades of grey–morally speaking.

Secondly, I get the whole allusions to slavery and the plight of the American Indians, but it was a bit much.  Actually it wasn’t even an allusion it was pretty much a straight up comparison to the westward expansion of the United States.  The unobtainium is gold, and the Marines are the evil frontiersman who murdered and pillaged their way across the west.  Now is not the time for a moral or historical debate about that time period.  What bugged me was the ham-fisted attempt to wed that time period with the modern one.  Throwing in phrases like “shock and awe” and “fight terror with terror” took me out of the movie momentarily.  I get it you’re against the Iraq War, slavery, and westward expansion.  Good to know, but unfortunately it was all shoe-horned into the story.  Plus there are other movies that have done a better job with those themes–namely Return of the Jedi.  The ending of both movies is basically the same.  The peace loving simple people defeat the technologically superior, but moralistically inferior people–except in Avatar there is the added element of a Deity that interjects and helps out.

Ok now you may think that with all that griping and complaining that I hated the movie, but if you thought that you’d be wrong.  Watching this movie I got the same feeling I got when I watched Jurassic Park, Star Wars, or Terminator 2.  This movie is a game-changer.  All the work that was done by ILM over the years in creating digital sets and characters was put to spectacular use in Avatar.  The interaction movie is virtually seamless in blending all the real with the digital.  Watching this movie totally blew my mind.  (And despite my gripes with the story, the story was actually pretty good.  There is a decent and simple plot line to follow, there’s a bit of a love story, and there are some moral themes that could have been powerful if I wasn’t beaten over the head with them.) The 3D was great because it wasn’t a gimmick.  The characters weren’t breaking the fourth wall trying to engage the audience.  There wasn’t an overabundance of spears, vehicles, or whatever coming directly at the camera.  Instead the 3D was used as a way to create a more immersive environment.  Pandora felt more real.  There was more depth to the world, and this helped to draw you in.  This is how these technologies were meant to be used.  I finish by restating what I’ve already said.  The movie is a game changer, and it must be seen in 3D.  This movie should become a blueprint for how 3D and CGI should be used to create new immersive worlds.  If it does and other directors keep improving it then there should be a lot of exciting movies in the future.  It’ll be amazing to see where this all leads too.  So if I was going to give this movie a grade I would say it’s a solid 95%, so go see it now.


Mar 30 2009

It’s Official!!!

Today I had a nice surprise waiting for me on my front porch.  It was a wrinkled, rain warped manila envelope, inside of which was my official Honorable Discharge certificate from the Marines.  I’d like to especially thank the postal service for doing everything in their power to make sure that I got this envelope in terrible condition.  So thanks guys you really earned your pay.

honorable-discharge


Mar 19 2009

Anger Management

I woke up this morning seriously pissed off.  I didn’t really know why, but I figured after a nice cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal I would be good.  Unfortunately, I was out of milk so no cereal, and I drank way too much coffee on an empty stomach so I was feeling queasy by the time I got to school for work.  Things spiraled down from there as I had a new project waiting for me at work which pisses me off because I seem to be the only research assistant that actually does research.  The rest just sit around doing their homework.  So I stayed grumpy and became even more irritable as the day wore on.

Ugly Baby Exhibit A

Ugly Baby Exhibit A

By the time I got home around 5pm I was bristling with anger, and I told neverbesocial that if there was a baby in front of me I would punch it in the throat.  (I have to clarify that statement, however, as most babies would probably melt my heart–like the sap I am–but I would have seriously thought about punching an ugly baby in the throat.)  Be that as it may I kept getting more angry because I couldn’t figure out why I was so angry all day long.  Then I took a look at my calendar and saw what day it was.  Today is March 19th and it is–along with the 20th–the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.  I quickly realized that that was why I was pissed all day, even though I didn’t realize the significance of the day until after about 9 hours of being a real grinch.  I guess my body is just on its own program.

Like I said everything started to make sense after that, but I ended up getting more pissed off because I was thinking about how I hate these wars and how I can’t wait for them to be over and for the troops to come home.  I also was pissed at myself for being such a whiny complaining bitch because someone had the audacity to ask me to do my job, whilst there are other people over in Iraq and Afghanistan separated from their families performing a thankless arduous job.  I decided that it was time to hit the gym and go for a run to burn off all of my anger.  I went to the gym and really killed myself.  Running whilst angry is great; anger is one of the best motivators out there.  After a good two hours at the gym I was feeling really good and as I was walking home and just as I was getting ready to cross the street I noticed that there was like 3 cars at each stop sign waiting for me.  I figured I’d be a nice guy and jog across the street so that these people could get on their way quicker.  Bad idea.  This is the first time something like this has ever happened to me.  I took two steps and both legs cramped up and locked themselves in a bent position.  I came crashing down in the middle of the street in absolute anguish.  I managed to get up and hop to the sidewalk where I laid on the ground writhing for the next 5 minutes as cars drove by staring at me like I was a circus freak.  To make matters worse some people on the other side of the street were walking by and had seen the whole thing and were laughing their asses off.  Salt in the wound.

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Feb 23 2009

Taking Chance

HBO has had quite a few shows lately dealing with the war in Iraq, and they have all been well done and even-handed.  Taking Chance is the newest HBO film that revolves around the Iraq war, and like the others it is non-political and just tells the true story of one Marine escorting another Marine home.  I don’t want to try and deconstruct this film like some film nerd, instead I will just say that it is well worth your time.  I watched it last night–instead of the craptastic Oscars–and it was an emotional movie.  If you can watch this film without tearing up then you must not have a soul or maybe you’re just a cynical hippie (or both).  Anyways watch the trailer then check it out:



Feb 16 2009

Mr. Magness’ Top TV Picks

Here is the last (for now) of Mr. Magness’ guest posts, with his best TV picks of the last year.  Since I watch more TV than I do movies I will also add in a couple of my top picks at the end.

1. The Presidential Debates/Election with the Daily Show Commentary

Just like back in 2000 and 2004 Daily Show seems to cover politics the best throughout every Presidential Election. This year Jon Stewart and “The Best F*#@ing News team” would just tear any candidate a new one with great insight and impressive wit. It is great to have people like Jon Stewart around to call bullshit on everyone and anyone in the public spotlight who make fools of themselves. As a government teacher it is nice after reading and watching news all day from CNN, the Post, and our local paper to watch the Daily Show and get more truth then the rest combined. I can’t wait for 2012.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/

2. Summer Heights High

If the election had not happened this year this show would have easily been my number one new show of the year. This show is shot like the Office in documentary style and tells the story of three people at an Australian High School, Summer Heights High. Chris Lilly plays all the main characters to perfection and is the creator of the show. The characters are Mr. G (director of performing arts), Jonah (Puck you, Miss) and Ja’mie (Hot AIDS nurse). I put this show as amazing as Arrested Development and The Office on rewatchablity and just pure genius. From the moment you meet the characters you don’t even realize they are all played by the same actor. Lilly has an amazing story line and I hope we will see a lot more of him in the upcoming years.

http://www.hbo.com/summerheightshigh/

3. How I Met Your Mother

It amazes how much I have fallen in love with this show over the course of three years. A couple years back Brooke’s brother Paul told us about this sitcom and how it was on before Two and a Half Men. Now I HATE/LOATHE Two and a Half Men and believed any show that is on near it would suck just as bad but this show has blossomed into one of the funniest and wittiest shows on TV today. I equate this to being a more modern FRIENDS type show with better story telling and better inside jokes. The story is based on a father telling his kids about the events leading up to how he met their mom but the show is much more then that. Also Peter Segal (Freaks and Geeks) and Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) are absolutely amazing and funny. Free episodes are after the link…

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/how_i_met_your_mother/

4. The Office & 30 Rock

These 2 shows are put together as one for a very good reason…This is the best hour of television on every week. These comedies keep getting better every year and now 30 Rock is getting the acclaim it deserves. Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan are so funny and Tina Fey has really come into her own as an actress on the show. But The Office is no slouch either when it comes to comedy brilliance. Steve Carell is still up their as one of the best around because of his performance as Michael Scott. I wish he would be able to win some more awards for his spot on impression of stupidity with heart. What makes both these shows great is that they always live up to the hype that surround them every single Thursday.

http://www.nbc.com/30_Rock/

http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/

(Because I am not a big fan of Alec Baldwin I refrained from watching 30 Rock so I have to thank Mr. Magness for enriching my life by almost forcing me to watch 30 Rock with his constant praise of the show.  So thanks, now it’s one of my favorite shows and I can’t believe I wasn’t watching it.  And I am starting to come around on Alec Baldwin.)

5. Lost

This show will always be in my top ten because it is the best drama on television every single year. If you have already tried to watch LOST and it wasn’t for you then there is not much I can say to convince other then YOU ARE MISSING THE BEST SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION.PERIOD. (then why isn’t #1 you ask..because they make me wait 7 months at a time for a new season)

http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/index?pn=index

(I watched the first and part of the second season of this show and quit after I realized it was a pointless endeavor.  In my opinion JJ Abrams is the hackiest hack in hackdom.  I really hate his stuff and I refuse to watch anything that he is the creative force behind.  I have so many issues with him and his shows but recounting them would take too much time and is not the topic of this post.)

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