Monday, August 29, 2005

Photoblog - Football, grilling

I had a busy weekend, which is why I didn't post anything. Here's what I was doing.

The Fort Knox at Fort Campbell football game was a rout for the Eagles, although not as complete as prognosticators might have predicted at 46-10. I got home at 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning...

... after some sleep I headed out for the Wolverines game that evening. I haven't gotten the results yet, but from the looks of things at half time, Hardin County was getting ready to snap their two-game losing streak.

Sunday, we barbequed out in the rain. We had some of the best burgers and brats we've ever cooked up. Anyway, it's Monday again, so back to the grindstone.


UPDATE: The Wolverines beat the Evansville Vipers 38-20. Sweet - I get to write a winning story for this week.
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Over There" is getting better

I caught the latest episode in the much-derided FX Army drama "Over There" last night. I think the show may just be on its way to exonerating itself.

The action in last night's program centered around the inclusion of an embedded television journalist who had linked up with the main characters. He was played by Zack from "Saved By The Bell," which was distracting, because I expected Screech to pop up over a berm at any moment.

Zack is treated with suspicion from the onset -- mostly by the College Boy character, who calls him on his "interviewer's tricks" of leaving awkward silences for his subjects to fill.

However, Zack's character seems to have pure intentions -- he wants to show the American public the "truth" about what's happening. Unfortunately, the footage he sends back to the "wire service" of an assault on a village is cut together to show American troops killing an "innocent" boy and his mother, causing an uproar in Arab countries and a negative public opinion backlash in the states.

Zack tries to make amends with the soldiers of the squad after the footage airs, but when he enters their tent, he comes very close to having his ass kicked. It's here we learn that it was his editors who re-cut the footage he submitted to skip shots of the boy running out into the fire fight and throwing something that looked like a grenade at the American soldiers. His mother ran out to pull him away, but they were both caught in "Smoke's" automatic rifle fire from his SAW.

Together with the combat film, material from an interview with Smoke was included in the package -- where he hefts his weapon and says he's a "hardcore killa."

Smoke becomes an instant anti-celebrity, and a bounty of $500 is placed on his head by leaders of the insurgency. For the folks back home, he's the equivalent of a Lynndie England.

Later on, Zack somehow wrangles a face-to-face with the leader of the village's insurgency, and he talks back enough to get himself taken hostage. His own face winds up on television sets in the United States -- with him wearing an orange jumpsuit and surrounded by masked Jihadists with rifles and a machete near his neck.

For all its faults, "Over There" tried last night to show how the events in Iraq are distorted by media outlets interested in packaging the war into marketable chunks that'll boost network ratings. It may be slightly unintentionally self-referential, but I think the show as a whole is getting better and is working hard to redeem itself.

Furthermore, the show's exciting and entertaining, even if the characters are still stereotypical. The action sequences are well-shot, I'm always impressed to see correct uniforms and equipment.

It's not as if anyone should expect to get a working knowledge of the Army from watching "Over There," any more than one should expect to learn plastic surgery techniques from "Nip/Tuck." Sure, they're part of the show, but only insofar as they can advance the story or action.

One of the several soldiers watching the show with me said, "I wish Michael Mann had directed this show."

"Michael Mann?" I asked. "You mean the shithead who directed Pearl Harbor?"

"Oh, he directed that? Well, he did a good job on Miami Vice."

I wonder if the show could have been better if Don Johnson played their battalion commander.

Either way, I'll be tuning in again next week.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette. Thanks, Greyhawks.

Dispatch from Michael Yon is up

Go read Michael Yon's latest dispatch, "Gates of Fire." It's an incredible read and is accompanied by remarkable photographs. I'd quote some of it here, but it wouldn't do his piece justice.

Yon is an independent journalist in Iraq, and he's doing amazing work.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

From the photo archives...

... a photo of my old pal Mac. We had many strange adventures together in Korea, which is where I took this picture. It's at the traditional Korean village near Seoul.Image hosted by


Houston Chronicle: Sheehan's free pass has expired

I've ignored the big non-story that's been grabbing lots of headlines and blog commentary these days: the Cindy Sheehan brouhaha in Crawford. I've found the whole business to be about as interesting as an audio commentary by Carrot Top on the Alaskan fur trade.

For those of you outside the United States who live in countries whose press corps have been original enough to avoid the incomprehensible bandwagonism of the Sheehan story, this Houston Chronicle piece by Kathleen Parker sums up the action, such as it is, nicely. Parker also finishes with one hell of a conclusion:

No human being has absolute moral authority on this or any other issue, though I think I know what [New York Times columnist Maureen] Dowd meant. That parents who bury their children have a right to complain and to have their voices heard. That's the theory, anyway.

In practice, of course, it means that people lost in their emotions get a pass from the usual standards of debate and fair play, as Sheehan has. That's about to change. As others arrive in Crawford who share Sheehan's grief and her moral authority -- but not her politics -- her free pass expires.
Hat tip to RealClearPolitics.


UPDATE: Open Posting at the Mudville Gazette!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Why I hate clubs

There's no better way to start this out than to say that I really hate dance clubs.

Yes, I've covered this before. Yes, I've complained about the degeneracy and atavism of dance clubs and the people who frequent them.

But it works like this: Every so often, I feel myself compelled to "go out" and see the town, do what normal, civilian-types do on weekends. While I'm generally happy to hang out in the barracks, act like a nerd during the day watching movies and reading conspiracy theories on the Internet (AP style demands capitalization), and quaff a few brews with whoever's around during the evening, every couple months I have to go and remind myself firsthand why I don't usually "go out."

This weekend was just such a time. On my way home from a football game north of Louisville, I called up some friends back on post to see if anyone was up for meeting in the city. I had wanted to see what the Rudyard Kipling was all about -- it's an off-beat, counter-culture bar that's a haunt for punks, hippies, and anarchists; tattooed folk with whom journalists generally feel a vague -- if sometimes strained -- connection.

That was a bust, and I wound up with my old pal Numb-Nuts up at Louisville's corporate owned and operated night life scene, Fourth Street Live.

There are six main clubs/bars in the Fourth Street Live complex. There's Felt, a slickly-decorated pool hall that looks like something out of a rejuvenated Cigar Aficionado spread, and its compatriot, Lucky Strike, a souped-up and classy bowling-alley/sports bar. These are the places I like, but the people I'm with rarely if ever want to go in.

Then there's Howl at the Moon, a "dueling pianos" bar. It has a pricey cover charge and expensive drinks, and the playlist gives it away as a hangout for the set that can't quite tolerate the "three martini lunch" routine, but wish they could because their teenage children drive them insane.

The heavy-hitters on Fourth Street are Saddle Ridge, Parrot Bay, and The Red Cheetah. All three are perfect places for folks like me to, in the words of Bill Hicks, fill up my camel-hump of hatred.

We walked into the Red Cheetah, since they used to let military in for free, and Numb-Nuts said he knew a bartender there who, he said, once gave him six drinks for four dollars.

The Cheetah had expanded since I'd last been there, and it now comprises the spaces formerly occupied by the comedy club's bar and stage room. A shame, since I would have had a lot more fun listening to loonies on an open mike than I did watching the decline of Western civilization.

Social interaction has certain rules we've all agreed to follow. Some are written, some aren't, but what they have in common is that they're all tossed to the wind inside the walls of a dance club. Women complain about sexual harrassment in the workplace, but when they head out on the town on Friday and Saturday night, they're completely transformed -- much like Doctor Jekyll or Optimus Prime.

I watched the crowd as a song by Li'l John came on. The throbbing beat from the previous song melded into the new track seamlessly...

"To the window, to the wall, till the sweat drips from my balls!"

Women throughout the crowd went wild. They leapt to the tops of tables, bars, and other structures specially-designed to hold gyrating bodies. They shook their barely-concealed breasts at the undulating crowd. They turned around, bent over, and shook their asses, which were generally covered by tight, low-slung jeans held up by belts covered in gaudy faux jewels and chrome.

Above the crowd, they moved as if to say, "Here's what I'll be doing if you're the one I go home with tonight." Elsewhere, couples were dancing -- if that word can be applied to mimed versions of the sex act set to the beat of a song about sweat dripping off balls.

It should come as no surprise that I don't generally dance at dance clubs. I hate dancing because I look like a moron when I do -- just like approximately 90 percent of the rest of the male population, also known as "all straight guys."

That many straight guys do dance explains the sale of alcohol at places like The Red Cheetah. Let the record show that I am not a tee-totaler. Anyone who's known me probably is well aware that during college I worked hard to perfect my Ted Kennedy impersonation, at least as far as boozing goes. But I drank to loosen my lips, not my hips. I hate dancing. So when I went out to a bar, it was to have a good conversation and get hammered while listening to Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin on the old-style jukebox, not to grind my pelvis against complete strangers.

Which, as it turns out, is precisely the method used to say "Hello" when the bass beat is turned up too loud to hear yourself think. That's what I mean about conventional rules of society being thrown out the window in a club (figuratively speaking, of course. Clubs don't actually have windows).

But let's back up for a minute. Singles don't really go on "dates" anymore. They head out in groups with their same-sex friends, and try to meet groups of the opposite sex. There are different approaches for men and women.

Women, it seems, will often go out specifically "to dance," or at least that's what they seem to tell themselves. They'll dance with each other and have a blast, but the underlying reason is to fill the role of "prey."

Which necessitates the role of "predator," which is where we guys come in. The girls begin dancing, flaunting their assets, and it's up to us to demonstrate to them that we're interested. If they reciprocate, we'll be rewarded, and the rewards increase in direct proportion to the price of the bar tabs we've begun working on.

This particular evening, I was the designated driver, so I was sucking down placebo waters as fast as I could, smoking cigarettes while I followed Numb-Nuts around. I was curious to see what his technique was, since, as much as I've derided him here, he seems to regularly bring girls home with him. This has always seemed to me to be something that pretty much disproves Darwinian survival of the fittest, so I wanted to study his habits. And I really did feel a bit like Jane Goodall while I was in The Red Cheetah.

I wandered around for hours, trying to keep an eye on Numb-Nuts, who was swallowing Captain Morgan and Coke at an alarming rate. As the night wore on and club patrons got drunker, the pantomimed sex got more and more realistic, with guys pressing girls' heads down to their crotches, girls bent over with their legs spread and asses pressed against their dance partners' pelvises, others with their tongues shoved down each other's throats...

I don't think I'm prudish. But I resent what happens at dance clubs because it's the text-book definition of atavism. Conversation is impossible due to the ubiquitous timpanum-rupturing bass beats, so you can't "get to know" someone before you drag them home with you in the back of a cab. So everything's reduced to high school genetics, and regardless of what you've got to offer upstairs, it's the exterior that matters when it comes to scoring.

There's no subtlety when it comes to the music anymore. Li'l Kim (why are they all "li'l"? I always think of "Li'l Archie" and "Li'l Abner" when I hear that word) sings about oral sex without so much as a single metaphor or double entendre -- her lyrics are almost clinical.

I guess all this put together is why I wind up sitting on barstools in clubs, sipping water and chain smoking, thinking apocalyptic thoughts about the end of society as we know it -- Romans with their vomitoriums and decadence, France's royalty before the Revolution... all of it winds up looking like a scene out of Mad Max.

And eventually I realize that this is what's done with the much-vaunted "freedom" I'm supposedly busy defending. Don't jump to conclusions and assume I'm anti-American, because I'm not. I can't be -- I wear a flag on my shoulder to work every day. But I'm losing faith in American people, because places like The Red Cheetah are perfect demonstrations of how stupid society in general is and how "freedom" is squandered on it.

I drove a very drunk Numb-Nuts home at 5 a.m. after we got lost in Indiana while I tried to follow his booze-addled directions to the home of one of his booty-calls. My teeth hurt from clenching my jaw so much through the evening, and I went to sleep angry, tired, and depressed.

It's always temporary. I cheer up the next day while I listen to the radio and read things written by people on whom freedom isn't wasted. But you don't meet those people in clubs.


UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Common Sense Runs Wild. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at bRight & Early. Thanks!
UPDATE: Open Post at Outside the Beltway. Thanks! And yes, I'm unabashedly seeking exposure. What of it?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Unexpected show of troop support

After a tour of Louisville yesterday, during which we saw many of the historic districts of the city and some of the most beautiful housing subdivisions I've even seen, CJ and I stopped by the Mall of St. Matthews in the northern part of the city. I still hadn't gotten around to using the $50 Aeropostale gift card I'd gotten for Christmas from Gonzoma and Gonzopa, so I figured I'd pick up a new pair of pants and maybe some T-shirts.

We went into Champs Sports, and I saw that they had a 2-for-1 deal on basketball shorts, so we both got a couple pairs. At the register, CJ mentioned to the clerk that he'd been sold when he saw that they had Eastern Kentucky University shirts on sale up front, which had sealed the deal for him.

"Yeah, they went to the big dance this past year, and that's probably the one and only reason we've got them," the clerk said.

"I actually drove up to Indianapolis to see that game," said CJ, who got his degree from EKU.

We all talked a bit about NCAA basketball, and I mentioned that I'd seen Syracuse win the championship the night before I left for Korea.

"You're military? What branch?" the clerk asked.

"Army," I said.

"Thank you, man," the clerk said. "I mean it."

I never know what to say in situations like this. It doesn't happen a lot, but I've never worked out a response I like for expressions of gratitude.

"Well, hey, thank you too," I said, scratching the back of my head in a futile attempt to stimulate my brain.

"Just so you know," the clerk said, "anyone on active duty gets 20 percent off here. You just have to show your ID."

I don't know if it's a national promotion or just something they have at the Louisville branches, but if you're looking for new running shoes, check out Champs.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Soldier's Bible" draws flak over 1st Amendment questions

I did this story for the Turret this week.

'Soldier's Bible' draws flak over
1st Amendment questions

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret Staff Writer

Just about every Soldier has, at some point in his or her career, had the opportunity to receive a book of scripture, usually from a representative at a Military Entrance Processing Station or from a chaplain in basic training.

But a recently-published edition of Christian scripture has drawn fire for possibly violating the First Amendment Establishment Clause, which bars the government -- including the military -- from endorsing a specific religion.

The Holman Bible Publishers' military editions of Christian scriptures have drawn criticism for using Department of Defense symbols on their covers. Some believe this is a violation of the First Amendment's prohibition of government-established religion.

The publications, called "The Soldier's Bible" and "The Soldier's New Testament," are published by Holman Bible Publishers in Nashville, Tenn., which is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, headquartered in Nashville.

Each contains gilt-edged pages bound in attractive faux-leather and bears a gold-embossed Department of the Army emblem on the front cover.

"That's a problem," wrote National Public Radio Online's Jeff Brady, in a July article titled "
'The Soldier's Bible' draws fire."

Brady wrote that the DA emblems on the Bibles -- which are also published in editions for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard -- make the Bibles and New Testaments appear as official government publications.

Use of the Army's emblem is controlled by the Army Institute of Heraldry, and permission for use is granted by Stanley Haas, chief of the institute's Technical and Production Division.

Haas told NPR that permission to use the emblem wouldn't normally be granted for anything religious. But Haas is thanked by name in the acknowledgements section of each copy of the scriptures.

A disclaimer, set in small type on the third page at the front, reads, "The Seal of the Army is used by permission but in no way carries the endorsement of this product by the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the Government of the United States."

"Proper permission was granted to use the respective seals of each branch of service," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Beale, the chief of Fort Knox's U.S. Army Recruiting Command Chaplain Recruiting Branch.

However, a disclaimer is not a sure-fire means to avoid First Amendment litigation.

"The problem with it is there is no clearly-defined test or mark," explained Ronald Eades, a professor and First Amendment expert on the staff of the University of Louisville School of Law.

"Disclaimers help, but they're not a perfect solution," he said.

"During Desert Storm, there were paperback Bibles with the desert BDU (pattern), and (they) had all four branches' seals printed on the front," Beale said. "So this is not the first, and I trust it won't be the last, (such) demonstration of support of our troops."

Such support has been taking place in the U.S. military for a long time.

"There is a long tradition of chaplains distributing scriptures of a variety to Soldiers," said Fort Knox Staff Chaplain (Col.) Hugh Dukes, who worked as the director of personnel for the Chaplain Corps for more than four years before coming to Knox.

Dukes explained that while he served as a unit chaplain, he would have on hand books of scripture for Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and Muslims alike, and would make them available to the Soldiers in his unit before a deployment or exercise.

Beale pointed out that the Holman Press Soldier's Bibles aren't stocked by the Army, and are instead purchased by or donated to individual chaplains and Soldiers.

"This is a purchasable item," Beale said. "It is not out there on DefenseLink."

He said that chaplains are allowed to purchase devotional material with non-appropriated funds, such as money taken up in service collections.

"I've heard that many chaplains have been able to get these merely for the asking from the publisher to be able to distribute. This is not... purchased and stockpiled like the Army does pens," he explained.

Beale said it's not uncommon for publishers to make religious-themed material available upon request to military personnel, and cited Presbyterian author D. James Kennedy's book, "Why I Believe," which is published in an Armed Forces edition along with Kennedy's DVD, "Who is this Jesus?"

Eades pointed out the U. S. Supreme Court's recent split decision regarding displays of the Ten Commandments, okaying a display in Texas and nixing another in Kentucky.

"People want a clear answer on this, but the problem is the Supreme Court sees it in terms of factors they can analyze," Eades said. "I can see why some people might say that this looks like establishment (of government-endorsed religion)."

"Different people get upset about different things, or ask questions about different sorts of things," Dukes said, refering to concerns that the Soldier's Bible might violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

"That (the Soldier's Bible) has a seal doesn't bother me, whether it's the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force... so long as it's properly licensed and the disclaimers are there to say that it's not used without permission.

"It's not an issue of faith."

Eades said it isn't quite that simple.

"Often, the only way you really know is after litigation has been carried out," he said.

Dukes, whose work as personnel director for the Army's Chaplain Corps made him familiar with the First Amendment argument, said "The chaplaincy has been established based on free exercise -- that part of the First Amendment. So that's the foundation. The balance to that is the Establishment Clause."

Dukes added that chaplains have to be aware that showing favoritism toward a particular religion would constitute establishment, and that chaplains are tasked with providing for their Soldiers as well as they can under those parameters.

Favoring one over another, he said, would be just as bad as not providing for free exercise of religion.

"As long as we live in the tension of providing free exercise and avoiding establishment, we're going to have that debate," Dukes said. "And we ought to. There ought to be a tension that we continue to work in as faithfully as we can, both to the needs of our Soldiers and the limits of our Constitution."

The Bible, Beale said, is "among the arsenal of chaplains' armament."

"We don't carry bullets," he said. "We carry Bibles."


UPDATE: Open Post at the Indepundit.
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.
UPDATE: TRADOC has picked my story up and run it in the TRADOC News Service wire. Hooray!

Catching up on "Over There"

Monday I finished reading John Crawford's "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell." It's a quick, real, and compelling read -- Crawford writes from his position as a junior enlisted infantryman, pulled from his honeymoon and just two credits short of his bachelor's degree into the invasion of Iraq, where he and his Florida National Guard unit stayed for more than a year, jumping from one division to the next.

I'm sure Crawford's book will be subject to some derision when it's given a look-see by the conservative blogosphere, but I think the book should be taken for what it is, and in that context, it's got a lot of merits.

Crawford doesn't write about the reasons the United States is in Iraq. He doesn't talk about the "big picture" or the greater purpose for which soldiers are fighting there. In his book, he writes about the visceral experiences that soldiers go through.

Part of that, of course, is the horror of warfare -- the blood, gore, and fear. But it's been said that war is interminable periods of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror, and many of Crawford's thoughts revolve around the former.

Soldiers, after all, are simply people, and to deny Crawford's characters the defects and mistakes they make during his narrative is to blind oneself to the failings of the flesh experienced by young men everywhere in our society. The soldiers barter for cheap Iraqi whiskey with the natives, and Crawford himself enjoys handfuls of Valium to keep his nerves from fraying during long guard stretches.

He's resentful toward officers, who, from his standpoint, seem to be distanced from the actual doings of the war and more interested in submitting recommendations for awards -- usually for themselves. This is probably not completely accurate, but anyone who's been around a lot of junior enlisted guys will probably be able to confirm the latent hostility toward just about anyone who's paid more. I certainly can. As a junior enlisted guy myself, I'll admit to have done my own fair share of bitching.

At any rate, I'd recommend Crawford's book, not as a commentary on this war, but as a memoir of any war. It's one man's experiences in a war, and the anecdotes that make up the book range from hilarious to horrifying. All are very well-written.

Now, in the name of research, I figured out a way to see the episodes of the FX Network's war-drama "Over There." When the show premiered, I wrote a post responding to several comments left on Blackfive's blog -- but I hadn't had a chance to actually see the show's pilot.

I've caught up now, including last night's episode, and I think I know what the show's about.

"Over There" does indeed take a lot of missteps in its pilot -- military members must have been appalled at the technical glitches, such as the usage of ranks and names in radio communication, the Huey helicopter (I guess the Army isn't letting anyone other than Ridley Scott use Blackhawks) for the MEDEVAC, etc.

The characters were almost cartoonishly stereotypical, particularly "Sergeant Scream," the salty NCO who yells all the time and is permanently pissed since he's been extended 90 days to watch over a squad of "virgins," the clueless lieutenant who's far too attached to the letter of the law, and most amazingly, "Pfc. Smoke," the rebellious black street punk who constantly damns "whitey" and seems as if he was lifted directly out of the phony and forced racial conflict of "Hamburger Hill."

And the premise of the program, as it's progressed, is rather simplistic. The show focuses on various missions, which provide action in the form of gun battles, explosions, death, and destruction, and in the context of these missions the audience gets to see some of the "moral dilemmas" supposedly facing soldiers in war.

The good news is that the soldiers aren't evil. The worst of the lead characters is probably "Smoke," with the rest ranging from gung-ho to fatalistic. Most seem to have a vague sense of pride in what they're ultimately doing, even if given opportunity to question it in the face of the horrors they're witness to.

Here again you'll see the distrust between officer and enlisted -- in one ridiculous example from last night, a general wants the squad to find a mortar spotter in a village so he can move a convoy of container trucks through the town. They're carrying the American Standard toilets he says he needs, and he's willing to put men into a position where they have to "draw fire" to accomplish this.

Whatever tension actually exists between real-life enlisted soldiers and officers, it's played up to Wile E. Coyote levels in some places in "Over There."

The acting is a mixed bag. Sergeant Scream seems to hit his stride by episode three, Dim's freakout at the roadblock in episode two is enough to ruin any suspension of disbelief, and Smoke's still Smoke.

The theme song "Over There" is a study in the underwhelming, and I couldn't help but wonder if they'd deliberately tried to rip off M*A*S*H's "Suicide is Painless."

All the same, I'm interested in where they'll go with the series. It may be one of those shows where it takes them some time to strike a balance between drama and accuracy, but it's piqued my interest enough to keep watching, despite its gaffes.


UPDATE: Check out the Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol for a great roundup of military news.
UPDATE: Blackfive's got more on fictionalizing the war in Iraq.
UPDATE: Open Post at the Indepundit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sports Commentary - Mascots don't Bite

Here's my column for this week.

Mascots don't bite

By Spc. Ian Boudreau

The NCAA decided last week to ban the use of any team mascots or nicknames deemed "hostile or abusive" to American Indians in its postseason tournaments, and has named 18 teams whose insignia must change.

Included are the Florida State Seminoles and the Illinois Fighting Illini, who will have to alter their logos, mascots, and nicknames or be ineligible for tournament competition.

Now, I can get behind changing hostile or abusive names, but so far, I haven't actually seen any. So far, all I've seen are just plain names.

In fact, the Seminole tribe of Florida passed a resolution supporting Florida State's use of the name, and while other Seminole tribes around the country disagree, it's hard to see how the mere usage of the name "Seminoles" counts as either hostile or abusive.

I read in Tuesday morning's USA Today the opinions of several readers who were slightly confused with the NCAA's ruling on team names, including one who asked where the line might be drawn if names like Illini and Seminoles are offensive. He suggested that the NCAA should examine names like Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish," since it stereotypes Irish immigrants as compulsive brawlers.

Think beyond the NCAA to all the professional team names that might eventually have to change. The Oakland Raiders, for example: we can't go around stereotyping people as a bunch of lawless marauders. Even the team's logo has crossed sabers and a player wearing an eye-patch. As if all pirates wore eye-patches! That's blatant stereotyping!

Or how about the Minnesota Vikings? Much of Minnesota was settled by Scandanavians, but I've yet to hear complaints about how the state's NFL team has slighted the region's settlers by portraying them all as blond-haired, bearded warriors who wear horned helmets and slaughter Christians.

And if simply using the name of a specific group of people counts as hostile, then the Boston Celtics will have to change, since the term clearly refers to Irish, Scottish, and Welsh people.

So would the San Francisco 49ers: obviously, a reference to a very specific socio-economic group of 1849 gold prospectors who had a place in California history. The New York Giants and Yankees would both have to alter their imagery, since both are names of actual groups of people, and therefore must be hostile and abusive.

In hockey, we'd be without the Vancouver Canucks -- a slang term for Canadians, and we certainly can't have that.

I don't want to be termed racially insensitive, but I think perhaps that the NCAA's current standard is a bit hypersensitive.

The point is that teams aren't named after things people hate or despise. Ever hear of a team called the Las Vegas Vermin? How about the Seattle Slugs? One of the few things I harbor hatred for are spiders, and I've never seen a team named after one of those.

Far from it -- teams are generally named for animals or groups that exemplify some admirable or loveable quality. The Fort Knox Eagles might not have as much motivation if they were called the Budgies. And I just can't imagine how Florida State fans would cheer if their team was known as the Beach Combers.

Besides, when it comes down to it, team names are just names, and that's all. There are plenty of other, real indignities suffered by minorities to be offended about, so let's take care of those before we worry about the damage college athletic mascots allegedly are doing.


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville.
UPDATE: A Turret reader wrote in to let me know that the University of Richmond's team is called "The Spiders." I stand corrected. Uhhgg. I hate spiders.

Monday, August 15, 2005

NYT: Byrnes disobeyed order to end affair

Okay, now this is making a little more sense:

Via the New York Times, General Disobeyed Orders to End Affair, Officials Say:

A major reason the general, Kevin P. Byrnes, was dismissed as head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command was that the inspector general found that he had violated the direct order from the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is still being adjudicated.

Army officials disclosed the details of the inspector general's inquiry to explain the unusual decision to relieve a four-star officer with a distinguished record.
While adultery is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, most people are scratching their heads wondering why it would merit relief of a four-star command. Disobeying a direct order from the chief of staff, on the other hand, is a better fit for demotion.

Anyhow, on to other more hilarious matters, the Ferret Olympics have been forced to change their name after the United States Olympic Committee threatened a lawsuit. Apparently, the olympians are worried that... what? That the "Ferret Olympics" will steal their thunder?

Whatever the reason, the competition's new name is the "Ferret Agility Trials," which aside from having the acronym "FAT" is also an incredibly funny term in its own right. There must be a lot of people who actually spend their time training their domestic weasel to escape from a paper bag (yes, that really is an event).

Now, you may be asking, "Bro, what do these stories have in common?" Well, that's a very good question, and I'll let anyone who has an answer to that address it in the comments section, because I have no idea.


UPDATE: The Centrist at JAG Central is following this issue closely. Check out his latest treatment here while I send a trackback ping.
UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville. Thanks, Greyhawks!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sunday evening rain

It's raining now. Thunderclouds rolled in over Fort Knox quickly, and you can hear them rumbling as the lightning gets closer.

Just over an hour ago it was sunny and clear, and I was out for an afternoon run. I've decided to buckle down heavily on running, since there are no other soldiers in my section anymore. Not a single other person wears a uniform to work, which in my mind sort of defeats the purpose. I've never been crazy about running even on good days, and without additional motivation, I tend to avoid it. But I can't let that happen, so I adopted my own additional running PT regime.

This afternoon I ran up past the elementary school, past Fifth and Fourth Avenues where all the colonels and their families live, and around Brooks Field, the central parade grounds for the post. It was hot, and sweat started rolling down my face almost immediately.

As I got to the far corner of the field, running alongside the Garrison Headquarters building, the bugle sounded -- fifteen minutes till Retreat. Two MPs pulled up across the flagpole as I headed back along the south side of the field, and one hopped out with the blank artillery round they were to fire off from the antique tank near the pole. I stopped and watched for a few minutes while one of them clambered up the side of the brown tank, popped open the gunner's hatch, and slid inside. The five-minute warning sounded, and I turned back toward home and began running again.

A group of soldiers were playing frisbee in the field in front of Recruiting Command, and as I reached the road that leads back to the barracks, I noticed that they'd all come to attention, facing back toward the flagpole. There it was, retreat. I spun on a heel and stood at attention. I couldn't hear "Retreat" and "To the Colors" being played, but I knew they were sounding, since the distinctive BOOM of the artillery blank roared over the treetops and roofs.

Now I'm back here, and God is sending his own thunderous booms down on post, along with driving rain. The air has that eerie, electric, yellow quality that happens when everything is ionized by a storm. I've taken a shower and changed, and I'm thinking about what will go on this week. There are sports teams to write previews for, a column to whip up, paper to lay out... bills to pay, a coolant system to flush...

And maybe a set of orders to look at. My orders to Fort Bliss were unceremoniously cancelled about a week ago, and now I have no idea where I'll be heading next -- only that I'll be going somewhere. We'll see what happens.


Friday, August 12, 2005

USA Today: Gen. Byrnes dismissed over "romance"

Looks like everyone's having a go at the General Byrnes situation. Speculation is rampant. I've seen suggestions ranging from "maybe the affair wasn't with a woman" to "he was part of a coup."

Here's USA Today's latest treatment:

WASHINGTON -- The four-star Army general who was fired this week had been romantically involved with a civilian woman while separated from his wife, his attorney said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Dave Robertson, the attorney for Gen. Kevin Byrnes, said the woman was not connected to the military and the relationship has ended. He challenged the severity of the punishment for Byrnes, 52, who was three months from retirement when he was fired as head of the Training and Doctrine Command. He had served for 36 years.
One thing you may notice in many of the stories on this subject -- lots of people are writing almost the exact same lede:

"In a rare move, the Army said..." USA Today
"The Army has abruptly relieved the four-star general..." New York Times
"In a rare move, the Army relieved a four-star general of his command..." Washington Post
"In an extraordinary move, the Army sacked a four-star general..." CBS News, Associated Press
"In an unusual move, the Army relieves Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes..." Daily Press
"In a bold move, the US Army has fired a four-star general..." Capital News 9

James Joyner of Outside the Beltway thinks there could be more afoot than simply an affair:
"I can't imagine that a separated man having a consensual relationship with someone not under his command would be cause for relief, let alone at the 4-star level. I suspect something else is going on here, although I have no idea what.

One possibility--and this is pure speculation--is that the relationship in question was not with a woman. I note that his attorney's language was gender neutral as was the reporter's."
However, language used in other releases seems to make it clear that the alleged (a wonderful journalistic butt-covering word) affair was with a civilian woman, and that the general had been seperated from his wife for nearly a year and a half.

"Socialite" and non-native English-speaker Arianna Huffington is certain that it's a moralistic message from the Bush White House that "bad sex" will not be tolerated among top officers, and uses the occasion to point out that it's more fun to refer to top administration officials with a "long-E" sound at the end, as in "Bushie" and "Rummy." Maybe it's the several semesters and Army training in editing in me, but I find use of such weird, familiar terms in a "news" item to be grating.

And of course there's this theory:
Russian Intelligence Analysts are reporting this evening that an apparent coup is taking place in the United States and that both Russian and Chinese Forces have been ordered to their highest non-nuclear defense status...

One of the Coup Leaders in the United States, General Kevin P. Byrnes, and who is also one of their top Military Generals, has been arrested and taken prisoner by US Counter-Coup Forces, and as we can read as reported by the Newsday News Service in their article titled "
Senior general is relieved of duties as commander of key Army training organization."
The best part of this whole story is that Byrnes was scheduled to retire (after 36 years of unblemished service, it's said) just two months from now. I'm sure he'll still get to appear on the cable news networks as a "military expert" even if he did engage in some indiscretion, and he'll still be getting boatloads more in retirement pay than I'm making right now.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Army Photoblogging

While I'm admittedly a Class-A pogue at the moment, there are definitely times where I get to go out and take pictures that are very Army. Here are a couple I did this past week:

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These guys are lieutenants taking a dinner break during the final FTX (field training exercise) for the Armor Officers' Basic Course. I liked the sign in the foreground, because it's evocative of a personal rule I have: if there are tanks rolling around doing stuff, move in the opposite direction.

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This soldier is working on a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a Humvee. I'm pretty sure he's probably cleaning it out, since Checkpoint 37 isn't an actual range.

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Tanks, as invincible as they look, do break. I've heard it said that some folks have had more reliable Fiats. Anyway, this mechanic was giving directions to the driver of the M88 engineer vehicle (on the right) so he and his buddies could get at a broken piece of some kind in the tracks. Also, another rule is that tank repair must take place in about two and a half feet of mud.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New book!

I got my hands on a copy of "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell / An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq" by John Crawford today. Working for a military newspaper definitely has some perks.

I'm looking forward to reading it -- the first few pages have been gripping, to say the least.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Luna Moth

I found this luna moth outside the barracks on my way home from football practice yesterday evening. I shot it with a manual fixed 50mm lens at an aperture of f2.8, I think.

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Army relieves general of major command


AUGUST 8, 2005: On Aug. 8, the Chief of Staff of the Army directed the relief of Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes from his position as Commanding General, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. The investigation upon which this relief is based is undergoing further review to determine the appropriate final disposition of this matter.

No reason has been given yet. Keep an eye out for mainstream media reports on this.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.

UPDATE: Reuters reports Byrnes is being relieved for an investigation into "personal misconduct of a sexual nature."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Shameless Plugs

Check out these blogs -

My old next-door neighbor and supervison, Sgt. Salemonz presents Salemonz News Service. He'll be deploying to Iraq from Fort Hood, Texas soon, so be sure to keep up on this guy.

Another (anonymous) pal of mine has started Muzik-Amanto, and has asked me to contribute. He goes by the name of Jan Korda.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blogging.


Football season once again

It's football season again, which means it's time for me to spend some quality time in the Road Shark. The poor car's been causing me no end of problems since I've had it, but I think it's finally healthy again. It just took two guys (one, not me, with a working knowledge of Chevy engines), a floor jack, and a Leatherman with a large flathead attachment, plus an hour on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I reregistered the Shark Friday, and then saved a bunch of money on car insurance.

Saturday, I pointed the Camaro's nose out U.S. Route 60, through places called Hog's Wallow, Garfield, and Hodgensville to Breckinridge County High School, where the Fort Knox Eagles were scrimmaging against the homestanders. It wasn't a serious game, just the coaches working their teams out on each other.

They were running goal line plays when I found the high school, and the locals were out in force, sitting in the shade on the home team's side. The Knox contingent had set up on the opposite side of the field in the bleachers, some holding green and white umbrellas to stave off the midday sun.

"Do you know much about cameras?"

I was putting my office-issued D1H together, putting the 200-meter zoom onto the body. A middle-aged football mom was holding a Canon and looking at me quizzically.

"What are you having trouble with?" I asked.

"Well," she said, looking at her camera. "They turn out okay when the games are during the day, but the ones during the nighttime games always turn out blurry."

"Not much you can do about that," I said, trying to line up the rings on the camera body and the bulky sports zoom. "Try buying higher-speed film, like 800 or even 1200. It's always going to be tough."

She laughed nervously, and I said, "Well, time to go make some money."

I ran into one of the assistant coaches, who spends duty hours as a staff sergeant in Fort Knox's 1st Armor Training Brigade. He gave me a half hug when he ducked off the field.

I shot a series of photos on the next couple plays, caught the new quarterback running a pump fake, and one of the senior wide receivers breaking left with a catch and running into the end zone.

Parents in the booster club came by while I was jotting down notes and got their say in on upcoming fundraisers and the latest season gossip.

Translating what you see on a football field into some kind of usable information for a season preview can be difficult and touchy. Without knowing what calls coaches are making, without knowing what kinds of instruction they're giving their guys, how are you supposed to decipher what happens between two sweaty lines of sun-baked high-school kids wearing plastic pads and numbered jerseys?

Today, I caught the end of the Knox team's practice. The head coach was invisible when I first sat down by the practice field, surrounded by the exhausted piles of bones and sweat forming up around him. Other coaches took up positions around the line, backing a player up here, getting a lineman down into a better crouch there, showing a receiver the route he was to run over there.

I wrote this on my notepad while I waited on the bleachers:

The team set up for a short pass play to the left... at the whistle, both offense and defense snapped into action. The quarteback threw a short-range bullet to his receiver, whose arms stretched out during his grab as he dodged around a guard. As the defense swarmed the wiry receiver, their hits knocked the ball from his hands.

"Fumble!" The call came from several places at once, and free defenders piled on the errant football.

"You've got to protect the ball!" The coach's voice boomed across the field, and I could clearly hear both patience and weary frustration in his voice from my seat in the overgrown bleachers on the sidelines.

The other coaches made some on-the-spot corrections to the teams' plays and positions, and three staccato whistle blasts announced that it was time for a water break.

Afterwards, I sat down with the head coach in the locker room for a run-down on what to expect from Knox this season. He spoke in his interview voice -- distinct from his on-field coaching voice, or his joking-with-other-coaches voice -- and explained the team's youth, the handful of experienced players, and a couple of the hard games coming up early in the regular season schedule.

It's been a long summer, and I'm glad football's back. It's going to mean my Friday nights are taken up with traveling, which I don't mind, and football, which I like. This'll be my second season covering Fort Knox, and I'm hoping that I'll be better-equipped to handle a sports beat this time around. I'm definitely more excited than I was this time last year. Wish me luck.


Photographer shot outside Britney Spears' home

Via Drudge, dateline Malibu:

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) - A photographer was shot in the leg with a pellet gun outside Britney Spears' home Saturday evening, authorities said.

It was unclear who fired the plastic pellet as the photographer was staking out an event at the pop singer's Malibu home, Sheriff's Department Lt. Steve Smith said. He said firefighters bandaged the man's leg and he went to a hospital.

"It could've been somebody driving by, walking by, we have no idea where it came from," Smith said.

The photographer, identified as Brad Diaz, was about 200 yards from the home and outside Spears' long driveway when he was hit, Smith said.

A message left with Spears' publicist was not immediately returned Saturday night

Okay. When you quit laughing, let's take a moment to examine this story closely. The guy was shot with a plastic pellet gun, and the projectile struck him in the leg. This, poor old Brad clearly thought, was a serious enough event to call 911 (why else would firefighters have bandaged his leg?).

Look, Brad. If you've wound up at the bottom of the journalism tide pool that is candid celebrity photography, I'd say you'd better be willing to put up with the risks involved. Anyone staking out Johnny Knoxville's house, for example, should be ready to put up with being chased around by half-naked men piloting souped-up golf carts with cow catchers on the front end.

The only reason people who write and shoot for those loathsome tabloids you find at the checkout aisle in the supermarket aren't busy having the pants sued off them is because a lawsuit makes whatever lies and unflattering pictures they've published a matter of public record. Celebrities don't want to deal with the hassle of taking these morons to court.

Of course, while Mr. Diaz certainly deserved a pop in the leg with a pellet gun (buddies and I would do the same thing at work to each other with the frighteningly-realistic pellet guns you could buy off-post in Korea), I think Britney Spears deserves whatever happens to her, as well, for subjecting us to years of poppy "noise" that only barely fits the definition of music and which only ever served as vehicle for her pederast-inspiring videos.

They're all just another good argument for nuclear holocaust, as Bill Hicks might have said.


Friday, August 05, 2005


A Healthy Alternative to Work just recieved its 50,000th hit! The visitor is from New York State and uses, and he or she found my humble home through Blackfive's post on Over There.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Thursday morning ramble

I typed the subject of this post before writing it, since I know I've got no particular thesis to explore or advance. This blogging thing can get frustrating, particularly when there's so much going on and only finite opportunities to talk about it.

First -- the news from Iraq, at least according to the NPR reports I've been listening to on the radio back in the room, are dire.

Steven Vincent, blogger and freelance journalist in Iraq, has been murdered, execution style. Probably by those he criticized in his July 31 article (free subscription required) in the New York Times.

Twenty-three Marines have been killed in the past three days in Iraq, 14 of whom were killed by an improvised explosive device (or roadside bomb) in the Euphrates River Valley.

Be sure to check out Blackfive and Greyhawk for the good news coming out of the Middle East.

On the political front, I've steered well clear of the Robert Bolton/John Roberts nominations. Not only are both incredibly predictable, they're also boring enough to make one's ears bleed. However, I did see this article in USA Today on the possibility of an opposition-supported pseudo "Religious Test" in the case of John Roberts' nomination. Check this:

Summing up near the end of the lengthy story, The Post took note of a fact it considered remarkable. This is an exact quote: "Roberts certainly looks the part of a conservative. He had a priest over to his home for Christmas Eve." Aha! Gotcha! Imagine The Post printing this: "So-and-so certainly looks the part of a liberal. He invited a gay man to his house for Christmas Eve." Editors would have gone screaming up the walls at this juxtaposition. But consorting with a priest -- that's suspicious.
Wow. I guess it's understandable for the public to be afraid of Catholics. After all, there are all those bishops and cardinals who, when they see how most Americans eat meat on Lenten Fridays and use contraception, issue decrees exhorting their followers to kill those offenders who dare slight the Catechism.

Oh, whoops. That's not Catholics. It's someone else... I can't remember who, though.

I rag on Christianity in politics a fair bit, but I think the rules are pretty simple. Anyone should be allowed to hold and practice his beliefs -- as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's. Roberts has been working as a lawyer and in the government for quite a while now, and I'm reasonably certain that he knows where and where not to voice his own religious beliefs.

And besides, the fact that the opposition to his nomination is raising hue and cry over his religious beliefs at all seems to me to indicate that they're incredibly ignorant of what a judge or justice is. I was under the impression that justices -- particularly the Supreme Court kind -- made decisions not based on their own personal beliefs or feelings, but on the preponderance of evidence put before them by the parties involved. I'm no lawyer, so someone with more schooling in this is welcome to correct me. But isn't that why we haven't had a ruling on why green is better than purple?

I'm not a huge fan of Republicans. But there's no way to head to the other side when Democrats are behaving like toddlers having a tantrum. The Senate majority wants to do something? "NO!" The president wants to do something? "NO!" Do you want to know what those things they wanted to do were? "NO!"

Here's something by NR's Byron York on this issue.

Politics are really becoming intolerable. I'm really glad football season is starting up again.


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville. Also, I've added the "Email Post" tool into the byline, so if you read something here you really enjoyed (or hated), you can email it to your friends and share the moment with them. Won't that be useful?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro - A Babe Amongst Wolves?

Okay, here's the commentary I wound up doing for the actual sports section.

Palmeiro must have
been led astray

What to do with Rafael Palmeiro?

The Baltimore Orioles first baseman, who testified before a congressional panel five months ago that he had never, ever, used steroids, has changed his tune -- now it's "I've never knowingly done steroids."

The new line came Monday, after Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days for coming up positive for steroid use in the Major Leagues' new drug-testing program.

Can we coin a new phrase here? Let's call it "pulling a Bonds." It goes like this:

"What? There were STEROIDS in those syringes I was injecting into my pectoral muscles? I thought it was vitamin C!"

These poor Major League Baseball players are clearly being victimized. Someone is tricking them into using illicit substances, and I think I know who it is.

It's Jose Canseco. After the congressional hearings on steroid use in MLB, he needed to make sure all those crazy accusations he made in his tell-all book "Juiced" were accurate, so he got himself a black Chevy G20 van and has been driving around ever since, looking for naive players and offering them candy and rides.

Can't you imagine Canseco pulling up to the Baltimore locker room doors, opening the side of his van, and asking the doe-eyed players to help him search for his lost puppy dog?

Who could blame them?

Yes, these helpless, innocent professional athletes don't know any better but to accept Canseco's invitation into his van, wherein he hits them with the chloroform and drives them off to Oakland, where he starts them on a cruel and slavish regimen of anabolic steroids.

At least, that's how the "I didn't know" routine would have to run.

Is it really possible to believe, given the media and political spotlight steroids are currently in, that any professional athlete, let alone one with Cooperstown hopes, could be so blase about what he's using as a dietary supplement or exercise booster as to not care to find out where it came from or what was in it? Signs point to no.

It seems the primary concern at the moment is whether this suspension will hurt Palmeiro's chances at induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some prominent sports writers are saying they'll vote for him anyway, based on the strength of his influence and his 3,000-hit, 500-home run record.

Three thousand hits is certainly a lot. But stats and numbers do not a Hall of Famer make, at least not completely.

Sorry to break out the sepia-toned lens here, but baseball is still considered to be "America's pastime." The Baseball Hall of Fame should be reserved for those players who truly embodied not only the ideals of baseball, but of everything good about America, too.

All politics aside, cheaters aren't people we've traditionally looked up to (at least not for the fact they cheated). And when it comes to steroids, it's a simple formula: steroids are against the rules of the game, and if you break the rules to get ahead, then you're cheating.

And if you cheat, you aren't someone I want in the Hall of Fame. The same goes for lying or passing the buck, and Palmeiro looks guilty on both counts. But he's hardly the first, and will by no means be the last potentially legendary player to have his record tarnished by drugs.

"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Major League that day..."


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville, and Greyhawk oughtta like the final poetry reference.

Monday, August 01, 2005

To all you Lord of the Rings fans out there...

Peter Jackson, who created the acclaimed movie versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, didn't always deal in hobbits and fairies. No, my friends... the rotund and bearded New Zealander is also responsible for some of the most demented pieces of cinema ever to grace the silver screen.

One of those is "Dead Alive," which is considered by some to be the most gruesome movie ever. Gallon upon gallon of red syrup was used in the making of this much-darker version of "Army of Darkness," and it certainly shows the director's influences - which, after having watched the hilarious zombie splatter-fest, would have to be primarily the gorier sketches from Monty Python and Italian horror progenitor Lucio Fulci.

It's certainly gross, but it's not the kind of horrifying movie you might expect if you've been (like me) watching a lot of George A. Romero movies lately.

Normally, in your stock-standard, playing-by-the-rules zombie movie, the only way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain, or at least sever it from the rest of the body. This has given other zombie directors an opportunity to use copious amounts of offal, red corn syrup, and explosive prothesis. This wasn't good enough for Jackson. In "Dead Alive," each bit of each zombie must be liquified in order to be quelled in its search for living flesh.

Yes. That means that there are zombie pieces -- sometimes the parts you take out of the turkey before Thanksgiving -- crawling around trying to waylay our rather Oedipally-challenged hero, Lionel.

Fortunately, after Lionel's mother is bitten by a hideous Sumatran rat-monkey, he's eventually given a chance (after a creative and gruesome use of a lawnmower on his uncle's former party guests) to work out his Freudian mother-fixation and commit to his strangely prescient girlfriend. At least by the time the movie's over.

And by then, we, the audience, have seen Lionel take a zombie baby for a socially-awkward walk in the park (at first, he finds himself unable to do away with the zombies, and instead keeps them sedated in the basement, feeding them custard, which doesn't work too well for the zombies with nasty neck-wounds), a Catholic Kung-fu priest, the worst case of facial rug-burn ever, and the largest, most hideous ass ever to be committed to celluloid.

Gore and guts are crucial elements to any zombie movie, and they're usually used to convey to the audience how fragile the human being really is in the grand scheme of things. For Jackson, however, the blood and gore is used more for, well, interior decorating.

And it's not just the over-the-top rivers of goo that make this movie so outrageous as to be funny. The music, editing, timing, and dialogue all propel "Dead Alive" far beyond "Army of Darkness" into the ranks of the best horror farces ever.

Which, come to think of it, is a pretty sparse formation, really. Oh well.

I wouldn't exactly call this a date movie. And you'll need a very dark sense of humor (and probably a good dose of '80s desensitization) to get through this one laughing. If you qualify, it would be a lot of fun over a case of beer with five or six of your closest pals. But skip the Paul Newman's Own Salsa when it comes to choosing snacks.


Possible sports commentary

This one really isn't very sports-related, but I whipped it up this morning after a couple cups of gravelly coffee. It's still a draft, but hey.

Truth in advertising getting scarce

Over the weekend, I saw a television commercial for a toothbrush that is going to change oral hygiene forever.

At least, that's what the computer-generated animation would have me believe. You see, this particular toothbrush has special flanges that reach deep between each tooth as the user drags it back and forth across his dentition.

Deep within the handle (as is clearly illustrated by the graphics) is a device that sends some kind of electronic "pulses" into the head of the toothbrush. I'm not sure what these pulses do, but my theory is they're designed to confuse and terrify the bacteria and other gunk that cause cavities and halitosis.

I'm thinking the next model will come with an MP3 player and a satellite uplink. It'll cost as much as an iPod and Linkin Park will be in the commercial.

This isn't the first commercial to use these ridiculous animations. Many razor companies think they can improve on the classic design of the shaving razor by adding blades and "sensor strips."

You can watch the accompanying animations to see what these strips do: as they run along the user's face, they pull each whisker gently up out of its follicle, preparing it to be sliced by the blades that follow in its wake. Each subsequent blade chops off a bit more of the whisker (in the commercial, whiskers are very cooperative), which then recedes below the surface of the skin.

Apparently, this means anyone who buys this razor will get a closer shave than Batman's sidekick Robin.

One unique, but no less phony, approach was taken by a deodorant manufacturer. MTV's oh-so-lovable rebel, Bam Margera (who spends his time tormenting his family when he's not shilling DO) narrates as average guys in bright green t-shirts link arms to show the stink-stomping power of this company's latest brand of underarm deodorant. With the product's electrifying power, they are able to clothesline NFL players -- like Terrell Owens, who still isn't making enough money.

The energy drink Red Bull, I've heard, is capable of giving its drinkers the power of flight.

The worst offenders in the obviously-fake computer animation department are skin and hair care products. Have you seen these? As you shampoo with (insert name of new product here), magical globules made of vitamins, minerals, eye of newt, and Echinacea float down into your scalp, which absorbs them and in turn energizes each strand of hair with golden, life-giving energy. Go from Twisted Sister to Gwen Stefani in seconds.

I know we all have come to expect a certain amount of falsehood when it comes to advertising, but this is getting out of hand. It's as if we have to become members of some kind of hygienic cult in order to be convinced by this stuff.

"Magical globs floating into my skin and aggressively rooting out the dark, evil gunk in my pores? Where do I get in line?"

"The Smurfs like this cereal? How do I get my hands on some?"

Pharmaceutical companies are required to list the dire side effects taking their medication could cause. If there isn't a council in the market that can fine advertisers when their commercials look like scenes out of "The Neverending Story," then consumers should do their part and quit buying their products. Lies should not be rewarded with marketing base.


UPDATE: It's going to run, but in the A section. I'll have to think up something else for sports.
UPDATE II: Open posting at Mudville and The Indepundit.