Saturday, December 31, 2005

Getting ready to head back

My leave is up tomorrow (New Year's Day, the bastards), and I'll be flying back to Louisville in the afternoon. Since I had to switch rooms at the last minute before departing for New York two weeks ago, all my stuff is in hideous disarray, and the Innernet People say they don't schedule hook-up appointments for 2006 yet. So it might be a little while before I'm back around online.

Leave has been good, save for one or two ugly scenes that happened downtown (only partially my fault in any single case). But to spare the reputations of everyone involved, I'd rather skip the descriptions and just point out that sometimes it's good to get away from a certain area -- it gives the bouncers time to forget whatever stunts you may or may not have pulled after they let you in.

Anyway, happy New Year to everyone who stops by here. Mine will be fairly quiet -- I'm driving BroAnimal down to the Poconos in a couple minutes and will get to say hello to a few old friends from university. But I'll be turning around right after that to come home for a low-key fondue & champagne New Year's eve event, and we might wander downtown and watch the Cortland New Year's Ball drop the three stories down from the clocktower on Main Street.

And that's it from my end. Thank God this rotten year is over.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Meandering, subject-less, self-absorbed nonsense

I'm home, and everyone else has gone to bed. It's left me with a glass or two of red wine to sip, and a dog-eared copy of The Proud Highway to mull over.

Perhaps one of the most interesting news items I've come across lately is the Red Sox selling Johnny Damon to the Yankees. My brother told me about that two days ago, and since then, it's been a media madhouse in Boston.

Later, I watched my brother pull on a Yankees ballcap and told him that only half the people in New York State would hate him, but everyone outside the state would definitely hate him were he to wear it in public. The reaction to this latest move is going to be drastic and will definitely have long-term fallout (an apt term, since it'll likely be able to be measured in half-lives). And Sox fans undoubtedly have already turned on Damon, who will be hated like Roger Clemens for the rest of eternity. However, some hard-core fans have called on Red Sox nation to be calm, since it's supposedly easy to forget that Damon has the throwing arm of a "girl throwing lefty."

It doesn't matter, though, since everyone everywhere outside the City can't wait to add another reason to hate the Yankees to their already well-notched stick, and this'll definitely be another king-hell notch. It goes to show that the Yankees can have whoever they damn well want -- Steinbrenner just has that much money to throw around.

Speaking of Steinbrenner, it'll be weird to see J. Damon without his trademark Jesus-cut -- how long has it been since anyone's seen him without the beard and Fabio-do? Frankly, I think that's worth the price of admission. Well, that, and the look on Denis Leary's face.

I didn't even mean to get off onto sports here. At all. As I write this, though, there's no title in the Title box, and I have no idea what I'm writing about -- I just had the compulsion to write. Which is good, certainly, and which I attribute completely and fully to Dr. Thompson's letters.

(Finch, if you're reading this, I owe you 10 Kuwaiti Dinars. Apparently you used a bank note as a bookmark while you were in that godforsaken country. I'll send you the equivalent in Won as soon as I get a chance.)

What I'd really meant to get into tonight was that I'm reinspired. Not only from the Thompson book, but from the prospect of maybe -- just maybe -- being freed up to do as I please in 18 months. I'm starting to become excited at the prospect of writing professionally again, despite Thompson's constant warnings about the destitution that neccessarily accompanies an early-stage freelancer. The incredible part is that once you've found someone interested in what you're doing (okay, that's a big step), your limit is basically what you can fit into your imagination and, in many cases, an expense account linked to any guarantee the publication can offer.

If that's not clear... well, shit. It makes sense to me, and I'm excited. Ideas are rocketing through my head, and the only problem is that it throws my current situation -- as an Army "journalist" -- into high-relief. I'm not doing the kind of work I ought to be, and I'm certainly not devoting the time or energy to it that I ought to be. But that's because I simply can't... there are too many limitations on my writing and movement to allow me to cover things properly, or to really flex whatever ability I have.

However, it doesn't change the fact that I've got some good ideas in mind already -- provided they're not stale by the time my active-duty contract expires. Starting from here, I can look at some issue I actually care about and ask the questions I want to find the answers to -- "Where does the money come from?" "Why do people care about this movement and what draws them to it?" "Who's profitting from all this?" "What caused such a huge change?"

And I can ask the people who matter. And have them contradict each other. That's a freedom a lot of writers take for granted. I don't have it, at the moment, and I'm yearning for it.

Enough on my own vague interpretations of my recent motivation. While I'm home, I also have to sift through the past year's contributions to The Turret and figure out what I want to submit for the yearly Army journalism competition. Maybe something on the Company E trials, maybe a commentary. I don't really know -- nothing's jumping out at me at the moment as something I want to pit against everything else Army writers have produced. Few, if any, contain the words "Iraq" or "insurgent," so I figure I'm scuttled from the get-go anyway. We'll see on that count.

Now to come up with a title for this meandering, subject-less, and self-absorbed nonsense. Selah.


EDIT: Yeah, if you didn't believe me the first time, Red Sox Nation is pissed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From the Good Doctor with love

Since I've no new inspiration since yesterday's angry rant against O'Reilly and the people who love him, I thought I'd supply a little Hunter S. Thompson material for the benefit of those unaware of his contributions to English and America outside the school of psychedelic self-medication:

Far from being freaks, the Hell's Angels are a logical product of the culture that now claims to be shocked by their existence. The generation represented by the editors of Time has lived so long in a world full of celluloid outlaws hustling toothpaste and hair oil that it is no longer capable of confronting the real thing. For twenty years they have sat with their children and watched yesterday's outlaws raise hell with yesterday's world... and now they are bringing up children who think Jesse James is a television character. This is a generation that went to war for Mom, God, and Apple Butter, the American Way of Life. When they came back, they crowned Eisenhower and then retired to the giddy comfort of their TV parlors, to cultivate the subtleties of American history as seen by Hollywood.

-- Hunter S. Thompson, Hell's Angels, 1966

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The War on the War on Christmas is worse than you think

Until very recently -- five minutes ago, actually -- I had been relying more or less on second-hand accounts of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly's outrage over the supposed "War on Christmas." Using the time-honored tool of the researcher, Google, I came across this at Media Matters:

O'Reilly: "War" on Christmas part of "secular progressive agenda" that includes "legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage"

There's a video; please watch it and feel free to sneer while O'Reilly and John Gibson, also a Fox News anchor and author of "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought," make fools of themselves in front of millions of television viewers.

Who knew? Little Johnny isn't going to go running into the Toys 'R Us store full of greedy dreams of giant robots and shiny trucks and have a clerk remind him that it's "Christmas" time any more -- which is sure to leave plenty of room in his tiny brain for the insidious ideologies of Marxists and queers.

Toward the end of the segment, O'Reilly even brings this up, in a way. He says, after discussing the public schools' reference to the inter-semester break in classes as a "winter break,"

"No kid's gonna come home and ask Mom what 'winter break' is. But a kid might come home and say, 'Hey, what's this Christmas thing all about? Who's this baby Jesus guy?' So look, that's on a very intellectual level, and it's behind the scenes, but these retailers are just killing... they're shooting themselves in the foot. They're just killing themselves. Because millions of people are just not going to shop in these places."
So, according to Bill, the onus of "Christmas education" is on the shoulders of our nation's retailers. This is news to me -- I was under the impression that they were the ones who'd already undone Christmas with their unending calls to crippling consumerist binges. Now that they've suggested removing even the farce of mentioning the Christian holiday, they've really become the Bad Guys.

Shouldn't it be Mom who told little Johnny about Christmas? I'd probably report myself to Child Protective Services if all my kid knew about Christmas came from Geoffery Giraffe, and I'd deserve to be arrested.

That's what really, deep down, bugs me about this entire movement: it attempts to make the public schools and private retailers responsible for what is and should remain a parental responsibility to educate their own children about faith and morals.

I certainly wouldn't trust my kids to get their religious education from anyone else... particularly not from Bill O'Reilly.


Another year grinds its way into the dust

Anno Domini 2005 is nearly finished, and thank God. I'll apologize again for lackadaisical posting, but at the moment I'm home in upstate New York and I've little motivation for doing much in the way of anything, apart from reading and going on the occasional bourbon bender.

Speaking of which, my apologies also to anyone I ran into Monday night. If you were there, you'd remember, and if not, so much so the better. Enough on that.

I've been re-reading Hunter S. Thompson's collected letters in "The Proud Highway," which contains exerpts from his extensive correspondence between 1955 and 1967, during which he joined and left the Air Force, traveled to South America, wrote a novel (unpublished until recently, "The Rum Diary") and generally lived as a starving writer, prowling the expanses of the western hemisphere.

It's been good to get some new perspective on journalism, because frankly, I've been feeling pretty burnt-out on the stuff. There's little at Fort Knox that feels significant anymore, and even the important stories can't be covered the way they ought to be: with a cynical eye cast toward anyone holding important titles and spouting optimistic nonsense.

The trick, I'm sure, is to keep writing -- for publication and otherwise -- and make sure to stay sharp. That way I'll be ready for when I finally hang up the uniform for good and get on to bigger and better things.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for a vacation adventure story or two.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Has the music died?

I took the automatic re-direct out of my last blog and was browsing through the last 10-or-so entries. I'm pretty amazed -- I actually took time to look stuff up for blog entries, I made them current, and I tried to add something to whatever public discourse was going on about a particular issue.

What the hell happened? Why did I quit writing current stuff? I mean, aside from the weekly column I repost here, there's little on this blog that deals with current events anymore.

So what's going on? I used to get comments from people who said they left A Healthy Alternative to Work well-informed and entertained. I'm not drawing that kind of response any more.

I can blame myself for at least part of my malaise here. I'm just not as motivated to write at the moment, and it's something that bothers me on a daily basis. I love writing -- or I did -- and I've pretty much committed myself to it for the long-haul. It's a bit late in the game to switch gears now. And it's not as if I've lost any of the abstract love I have for it... I just don't do it as much as I ought to be.

The other problem has been a complete disappointment I've felt in society. Politicians all seem horrible, and any move they make now seems to me to be clouded by devious, behind-the-scenes machinations that no one talks about but everyone sort of knows is going on anyway. We've come to a point where we actually swallow the bullshit fed to us on national issues, and the public debate takes place on that level: bullshit and buzzwords. If it can't be distilled into a three-minute video package, it ain't worth talking about.

So I've pretty much given up. I watch what's going on in the world around me with a sort of grim disinterest, sort of like a kid might watch an ant farm disintegrate after a week of neglect. It feels like I should care, but I just can't seem to muster up any passion about it.

Maybe it's time to recharge, which for me, involves two things: first, going out and getting inspired. That means heading up to Louisville to see the cultural scene -- anything to break through the doldrums of life in rural Kentucky. Second, it means staying in and getting inspired -- and that's by reading other people's work. I just finished Robert Mason's Chickenhawk, which I thought was great. I'm about to start Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, which I sure hope is better than I Am Charlotte Simmons. In between, I've been picking up short pieces by David Sedaris (for a nice, cynical holiday read, try Holidays on Ice.)

A change of scenery's on the horizon, anyway. I'm about to head home to my family home in upstate New York. I leave Friday, and I'll be gone for two solid weeks -- definitely a good chance to get caught up on reality, since it seems to come in occasional spurts, at best, here.

I've also got a couple Thompson books I've been saving for just an occasion such as this -- more collected letters and essays, not the weird but structured narratives he's famous for -- and I think the Good Doctor may supply a much-needed dose of muse.

Wish me luck, friends. I'm not calling a hiatus or anything -- but I figured I'd let you know why it's been a bit on the dry side in here.



Friday, December 09, 2005

The BCS: It just won't go away

So here's the column I did for this week. Everyone whines about the BCS when it comes time for Bowl season, but I needed to throw a couple more sticks into the fire.

The BCS: It just won't go away

Turret Sports Editor

It's that time of year: sports fans nation-wide are once again bemoaning the Bowl Championship Series.

So much time has been devoted to deriding the BCS for its non-playoff system that it feels slightly redundant to rehash. This horse has been dead for a long time... but I think I'll give it a couple more kicks for good measure.

ESPN Classic ran a special last month in its "You Can't Blame" series which gave five reasons not to blame the BCS for a lack of college Division I-A football playoffs. Summarized, they are:

5 - The U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 ruling that colleges had the right to determine their television contracts, and that the NCAA had no say in the matter.

4 - That the BCS is an improvement over the old conference tie-in system, where, for example, the Rose Bowl would annually host the Big 10 and Pac 10 champions. While there may be no clear winner in the current BCS system, it at least removes the possibility of there being five or six teams crowned as "champions."

3 - Under the current system, the regular season acts as a sort of double-elimination playoff, since one loss may mean a team is out of the running for the national title, and two losses means a team is out almost for sure.

2 - The bowl games generate a lot of income for the participating schools.

1 - University presidents don't want to give up that money, and since the decision as to how to sell their contracts is up to them, the NCAA and BCS organizations are powerless to change anything.

I might be way off base here, but I think these five reasons are, without exception, lousy excuses.

Working from the top down, let's look at them one by one:

The first reason is a clear cop-out on the part of the NCAA. As an independent body, can't it determine who is granted membership? The NCAA certainly used that leverage when it came to renaming teams with names and mascots that were supposedly offensive to Native Americans.

Second: just because the BCS system is better doesn't mean it's good. The art of cooking certainly improved when humans started heating things over a fire, but we still had a fair way to go after that before we had the cheeseburger.

Third: The "season-acts-as-a-playoff" argument is little consolation to teams that wind up being ranked lower than they might thanks to the polling system. The fact of the matter is that polls are subjective, and it makes college football a lot more like a beauty pageant than it ought to be.

Fourth: The mafia made a lot of money during Prohibition by illegally selling hooch and having people murdered. How is revenue a valid excuse?

Lastly: University presidents claim they don't want a January playoff because it might interfere with academics. Nonsense. They have no problem with March Madness, and besides, they recently approved adding a twelfth regular season game to Division I-A football. The reason they don't want a playoff system is because they don't want to stake the revenue from the bowls on their teams' performances each year.

It's not hard to tell that it all comes back to money. You don't have to look any farther than the names of some of the bowl games: the Champs Sports Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and the Outback Steakhouse Bowl. With that much cash at stake, don't expect major changes to the BCS anytime soon.


I found this on my desk this morning in the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise: "BCS head: Football playoffs could be done, but we've chosen not to" (Associated Press, via the San Diego Union-Tribune). Confirmation, perhaps?

(Rep. Joe) Barton (R-Texas) questioned the concern about academics, citing a recent report that said 41 percent of this year's bowl-bound college football teams fall below the NCAA's new academic benchmark.

"Let's don't use (academics) as an excuse not to have a playoff system -- and then ignore it," Barton said.

He also wondered aloud whether money is the biggest reason there isn't a playoff.

"Doesn't it really boil down to that the major bowls ... don't want a playoff system because you think it's going to impinge on the money that the big bowls make?" Barton said.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Direct link to "The Opening" appearance

Having trouble finding "The Opening" clip? Here's a direct link.

Ann Coulter hates you

Among the ranks of arrogant blowhards who do nothing to advance the ideas of conservativism in the grand scheme of things, Ann Coulter holds a special place -- she's sort of the print media's version of Bill O'Reilly.

A quote:

STORRS, Connecticut (AP) -- Conservative columnist Ann Coulter cut short a speech at the University of Connecticut amid boos and jeers, and decided to hold a question-and-answer session instead.

"I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am," Coulter told the crowd of 2,600 Wednesday.
Of course, the whining reaction of the student body just shows how few testicles are actually left in this country:
"We encourage diverse opinion at UConn, but this is blatant hate speech," said Eric Knudsen, a 19-year-old sophomore journalism and social welfare major who heads campus group Students Against Hate.
Someone call little Eric up and give him some attention. And a pair. Here's the story on CNN.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I want my MTV...

... and I want my chicks for free. Well, for better or for worse, MTVu sent a production team to Fort Knox to follow me around for a day last month. You can see how it turned out by going here. Click on "Watch the Feature" when you get to the page. Note: You'll need to use Internet Explorer to open their player.

It's a sort of "day-in-the-life" of an enlisted Army journalist. The sports event - a swim meet - that I had initially intended on covering that day was cancelled, so I took the guys to some tank training out at a nearby range. We got to walk around in the mud, which I thought was a pretty good Army-type activity.

Anyway... check it out. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder where your last three minutes went.


UPDATE: I had problems getting the MTVu player to load properly. The video ran like a slide show. After much futzing around with Flash, I finally tried increasing the Windows Media Player buffer size to 20 seconds... worked like a charm. If you're having the same difficulty, just go into Media Player, open up Options, and go to the Performance tab. You can adjust the buffer setting there.

And you're still S.O.L. if you want to run it in Firefox or Netscape. Or on a Mac. In other words, it's Bill Gates' way or the highway for this one.

ANOTHER UPDATE AND SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MORE TRAFFIC: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette. Check 'em out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Happy birthday, Rizzo

Head over to Welcome to Earth and wish BroRizzo, my brother, a very happy birthday. I won't tell you how old he is, but I will say this: he's being carded for alcohol sales less and less often. He's not quite as old as me, but the age difference is becoming more moot with every passing day.

Happy birthday, Brother. My the forces of evil become confused on their way to your home.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Peep The Darkness' new album, yo

Head over to The Darkness' MySpace page. They've graciously placed their new album, One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back online, and you can give it a listen. That's what I'm doing right now.


Friday, December 02, 2005

An Army of One Guy

Went to the ribbon-cutting and "live-fire demonstration" of a new range they've just finished up here. I was excited -- thinking maybe I'd get to shoot some more Big Boomy pictures, like in Korea -- until I found out we'd be watching the live-fire via a feed from a FLIR camera. Damn.

But I did get this shot, which I liked. I call it, "An Army of One Guy."

Actually, I should probably call it "An Army of One Guy. And a tank. An Army of One Guy and a Tank."


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bad "News"

This certainly isn't a good item to find in the Early Bird:

WASHINGTON -- As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

Read the rest here, at the L.A. Times.