Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day photos

Subtitle: A Day Late and a Buck Short.

Anyhow, here are two shots I took over the Memorial Day weekend.

salute battery

A 21-gun salute battery was fired during Fort Knox's Memorial Day ceremony Monday.

Louisville Memorial

The local VFW left a wreath at Louisville's WWII memorial.


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Summer's here

I'm sitting in my room under a ceiling fan that's on full blast. It's 11:20 p.m., and I'm still sweating.

Earlier this week, my roommate and I found a notice on our garage. It seems the Vine Grove natives are unhappy with our rainforest project (they call it a "lawn," and they want it mowed). We've been working to fix that problem for the past few days, and with nearly two and a half acres of three-foot grass to take care of, it's taking us longer than we had expected.

I went out around noon today to do a segment, and after an hour I was drenched. I hate summer.

This, of course, is peanuts compared to the 100-plus degree weather my comrades are suffering through in the Sand Box. I can't imagine that's much fun. A year of constant heat, dust storms, and sniper fire.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, and I'll be shooting the Fort Knox ceremony. More later. I'll be here, sweating profusely.


Terri Blair wins by knockout

I snapped these photos from one of the white corners during the Terri Blair win tonight.

2nd fight2

I probably won't use this one because of the blur, but the action is intense -- punctuated by the sweat flying off the left fighter. Since my flash sucks, I was betting that there would be little to no chance that I'd be able to get it to fire at the right time, so I used available light and the fastest lens I could manage. Naturally, a lot of the photos came out pretty blurry.


Here's Terri -- I think this was during the first round. I was seriously unsure of how things were going up until around the seventh, when Blair definitely had her opponent reeling.


Strangely, while I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to get my own ancient flash to fire in time, I did somehow manage to snap one in sync with a different photographer's flash. The effect is neat.

The ninth round was brutal -- it started off with Blair's opponent lunging forward and losing her balance, hitting the mat. She got up and decided she was still in the fight, but trying to regain lost ground with sheer ferocity wound up costing her. Blair kept her at a distance, and when she'd lunge, Blair would come in for a crushing left. Here, she's down for the third and final time.


Here's another one I won't be able to use in the paper... but again, the effect is nice. Basically, this was an instance where I tried to make my resentful flash work, but it didn't go off. The highlight from the spotlight creates another neat image. It sort of says "Million Dollar Baby," doesn't it?


I'll have to go over my hastily-scribbled notes for more details on the fight. But the most important facts are that Terri Blair defended her title, winning by three knockouts in the ninth round.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Thursday night musings

My roommate drives a beat up old Chevy pickup. It has a new engine, but the driver's side windshield wiper falls off regularly, the front end has been hit by something large, and the tailgate is missing.

We were heading up to a place called TK's Bar in Louisville. It had just finished storming, so the streets were slick with hot rain. I had rolled the passenger window down so I could smoke, and I watched the lightning flash in the angry clouds headed east. We passed by the Dixie Highway's usual suspects -- low-rent strip clubs, redneck bars, abandoned used car dealerships, bait shops, body shops, fast food joints, and other monuments to dreams gone sour.

The bar was a nice place -- apparently, a happening joint, as the DJ pumped up some popular club anthems once the karaoke requests dried up. I ordered a beer and leaned on the bar, sipping the familiar Newcastle.

Lately, it's been hard not to think of things here as transitory pieces of scenery. I've finally reached the point where the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, even if it's still more than a year distant. "This too shall pass," I've heard. It makes sense now.

I joined the Army because I thought it would offer a unique first experience in journalism, which it most definitely has. But now, as I head into the final leg of my military tour, I wonder what the indelible mark it leaves on me will look like. Have I grown overly resentful of the U.S. government? Have I developed an undue contempt for people in general, thanks to being an enlisted soldier? Was it my joining the Army that has so radically altered my perceptions, or was it the times I've lived in? Does it matter?

The girl my roommate drove to TK's to meet finally showed up. She was beautiful, but hammered, and 19 years old. I looked at her, with her tight black shirt hiked up over her belly showing off the bejeweled navel piercing and thought about how she was two years older than my little sister. I turned back to the bar and ordered a Bass.

Jeffrey Gettlemen is two years older than I am. He works for the New York Times. Where will I be in two years? Where will my little sisters be? I've missed out on seeing them grow into young adults already.

It's like being part of a big entropy experiment... the elements of my life I thought I'd never be without have continuously spread apart just as I've drifted away from our original point.

My roommate's drunk young friend left us for another table of her friends, and we headed out to the parking lot and climbed back into the beat-up old truck.

It's time to focus. I'm not old, yet. But I'm not getting any younger.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

I always thought this was a stupid slogan

We really walked straight into this one:

NG on the border

Mike Peters, Dayton Daily News.



Television advertising campaigns are generally shaped not only by the product being pushed, but also by the whims of small groups of shaved monkeys who corporations keep in locked rooms called "focus groups."

Focus groups are shown numerous ideas, which are generated by teams of lobotomized writers who work deep within the musty bowels of advertising agencies. The ideas the monkeys react most positively to (the formula is: [feces throwing + screaming] * time) are processed into sitcoms, new products, and advertisements.

Evidently, this month the monkeys have determined that we will buy things when companies appeal to our desire to be masculine. At least four companies have adopted campaigns that reflect this:

Burger King: "I Am Man, Hear Me Roar." A musical number that depicts men everywhere shuffling off the coils of feminine oppression by, among other things, throwing a minivan off an overpass and into a large dump truck, which is being pulled by a strongman in a unitard who is struggling to reach a cheeseburger dangling at the end of a fishing pole -- which is held by a busty model wearing pink. This is to the tune of something called the "Manthem."

Miller Lite: "Man Laws." Comedian Eddie Griffin leads the "Men of the Square Table," whose number includes the likes of Burt Reynolds (too bad Charles Bronson couldn't have made it) and ex-Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. The men hammer out the details of various Man Laws, such as "It is forbidden to name any pet 'Fluffy,' 'Snowball,' or 'Mr. Whiskers.' "

TGI Friday's: Something along the lines of "We've got the meat you've been craving." Four dudes sit at a Friday's table and get their orders -- one screams, "BEEF!" Another chimes in, "PORK!" The third roars, "RIBS!" The fourth loser picks up some broccoli and sings "VEGETABLE MEDLEY!" The others look at him as if he just said he'd like to make out with Elton John. Realizing his mistake, the fourth picks up a different item from his plate. "SAUSAGE!" he screams, and everyone seems pleased.

Dodge: A fairy flies around a cityscape, trying to turn things into crap from Candyland. Everything transforms until she encounters the new Dodge Caliber, which resists her efforts at sissification. A hard-assed looking dude with a pitbull shows up and makes fun of her, and she zaps him with her wand, changing him into an effette Easter-season J.C. Penny model and his dog into a poodle.

It's weird that these ads have all come out around the same time. However, I for one am glad that the focus group monkeys have finally told me what products I need to purchase in order to be a true man. Pass the Mitchum!


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I've been promoted... sort of.

No rank has been gained -- I'm still a lowly specialist, which is Army for "shitbag." Instead, I've garnered some new real estate on the paper's masthead: "Section A Layout and Design Editor."

The other interesting fact is that the title comes with no new responsibilities; since our associate editor (colloquially referred to as the "ass ed") was sidelined after an automobile accident last Thanksgiving, I've been taking on her duties.

Those who read this space regularly know that I gripe a lot. I need you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and believe me when I tell you that I'm not a very complaintive person -- the last thing I want to do (other than, maybe, be covered in venomous tarantulas) is bitch about the recognition I get. I'm a pretty agreeable person in real life. No, seriously. Scout's honor.

Basically, it took six months of doing the job for me to wind up talking to the Boss about this title issue, and it only happened then when another staffer sort of forced my hand during lunch last Wednesday.

The end result of this is that I've got a new unwieldy title. The awkwardness of it comes from the fact that the people I work with are all GS-7s and GS-9s, and while I have only a vague notion of how civilians work out their rank structure, it seems pretty apparent that 9s don't tend to work for specialists.

Hence the invention of my new name.

Don't get me wrong, though. I used to work with this guy, who is now in Taji, Iraq, and will be for another 16 months. Like I said, the last thing I want to do is bitch about the place I work.


Monday, May 22, 2006

'Tis the season

Take a deep breath. Can you smell that? Yes... it's the sweet aroma of Religious Boycott Season.

Not to be outdone by the Catholic Hierarchy's call for a boycott of Ron Howard's movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, the Church of England is calling for a boycott on Madonna's current tour. In her show, Madonna appears on a gigantic glam-rock cross to kick things off.

If you listen closely, you can hear human brains all over the world liquefying. Frontal lobes are collapsing into pools of grey goo and oozing into the sinus cavities of people everywhere.

This must be the case, because no other phenomenon could possibly explain why people need to be told that, say, not everything you read in popular books is true, or that maybe a pop artist who calls herself "Madonna" is going to do something to piss off Christians. This is the same artist, many of you might recall, who pantomimed sex on a stage to her tune "Like A Virgin" and later released a photo album (mostly of herself) titled "Sex." This latest caper is not exactly jaw-dropping.

And the call for a boycott is probably so much wasted hot air. I think it's probably safe to say that anyone who's willing to take the Church of England's advice on what to boycott probably wouldn't be interested in going to a Madonna show, anyway.

Speaking of English, how's about this current debate over the effort to make English America's "National Language?" This is where stupid political compromises get entertaining. Our nation's senators have a capability for mental gymnastics that is second only to the supporting cast of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said the idea of English as the national language is "needlessly divisive."

Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed and added that it is "mean-spirited." Oh, and also "racist."

In the face of this faultless logic, a deal was struck. Instead of calling English the "national language," we're going to call it the "common and unifying language." What's next? A referendum on whether or not it sucks to step in dog poop on the way to a job interview?

The really amusing thing here is that the differentiation between "official, national" and "common and unifying" as regards the language is almost a non sequitur. Arguing for one side or the other is just that absurd. Calling the prevalence of English "racist" or "divisive" is basically just an advertisement to the rest of the world that you are insane, and have no grasp of the language you're talking about.

On a third note, also unrelated from my initial subject, Glenn Reynolds has penned a paper examining the dearth of libel litigation in the Blogosphere (which the Instapundit deems capitalizeable). Take heart, those of you who gravitate toward the ad hominem! Chances are, you won't be prosecuted.



I shot this Saturday morning at the 5K run I had to help out with. It had just rained, and the clouds were breaking over the sunrise.


I was wicked ticked to have gotten robbed of Friday night revelry, but at least some good came out of it.


Sunday, May 21, 2006


I was just reading through my first blog, which I started on LiveJournal August 11, 2003. I was a pretty major shitbag in Korea, but hey -- at that point, I was just a year into the Army and the idea of someday being finished with it was too far distant to be real.

Now I've got about 14 months left, and I've calmed down a lot. It's been good to be here at Fort Knox, where things are at least a bit more like normal life than they were in Uijeongbu. It's Sunday, which means the Simpsons are on. The episode is interspersed with advertisements for the upcoming finale of "American Idol," where the last two contestants will face off in a sword battle to the death, where the victor will decapitate the loser and absorb the power they've been amassing over the untold ages... wait, no... that's "Highlander." I always get those two mixed up.


Thursday, May 18, 2006


Hey, I have some advice for everyone who's talking about The Da Vinci Code:

Shut the fuck up.

It's not news, so keep it out of the damn papers and off the networks. And for all you people at the Vatican -- you would have done a better job of keeping people from seeing the movie if you'd just followed my advice from day one.

Yeah, now I'm talking about it too, but here's the thing: just like the whole circus that was Tom Cruise's spawn coming into the world, there's no way to avoid this story. It's everywhere. And every knuckle-dragging dittohead manager on television is perpetuating the plague.

This is why I don't bother voting. You people who pick up the latest copy of Time just because there's a close-up of the Mona Lisa on the cover or a back issue of Us Weekly for ANY reason at all are the same morons who are lining up at the polls. There's not much I can do in the face of that, except to drag you by the hair over to a map of the world and smash your face into the general area of Iraq.


Postscript: I thought of this while on a four-mile run this morning -- this whole thing reminds me of the historical docu-drama that came out about 20 years ago called Raiders of the Lost Ark, where we learned that the Ark of the Covenant, in which the Jews stored the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, also has the capability of melting the faces off of Nazis. It is now stored in a secret government warehouse.

You know what? No one thought that story was true (with the possible exception of Jerry Falwell). That means humanity in general has gotten measurably stupider over the course of my lifetime.

How the magic happens

Many of you have written in asking, "Ian, just how do you manage to put together such a top-notch newspaper every week, and still have time for such scintillating blogs?"

Well, even though no one has ever actually asked me that, I'll answer the second question first: I blog by dictation. My Norwegian secretary Ingrid writes down my thoughts and musings, which she then types while I get back to doing all the Important Stuff that fills my days. This explains any and all typographical errors that may (or may not) appear in this space.

But maybe you all would be interested in learning how the Turret is put together anyway. It's the job I do for the Army, and while it's not quite as sexy as, say, "Infantry Squad leader" or "G.I. Jane," it still has its place.

Our newscycle begins Thursday, which happens to be when each week's Turret is printed and distributed. We start off by trolling our vast network of informants, tipsters, experts, and analysts, who keep us abreast of what's happening in the Greater Fort Knox region.

Actually, all this means is that we check our e-mail.

Once our Editor in Chief (He Whose Name We Dare Not Speak, or HWNWDNS, for short) determines what new assignments need to be doled out, he gives the list to yours truly, who diligently updates the assignments list from the week before. This sounds like a lot of responsibility, since basically it involves distributing assignments to our crack team of expert journalists. Who'd be best cut out to handle the upcoming court-martial? Will so-and-so's photography skills be up to the task of shooting a general making a speech at a podium?

Actually, using my own management philosophy (which is a combination of "hands-on" management and "not managing at all"), I usually read each story idea aloud at high volume from my post in the newsroom. I listen for a response, and if I don't get one, I give the story to a staffer who's not around.

Just kidding. Right?

Truthfully, it's a collaboration. If someone's interested in one of the stories we've got for the week, they'll usually speak up, and by the time we've gone around the room once or twice, all the assignments have been snapped up. I'll update the weekly story list to reflect the changes and send a copy to all the writers, stringers, and of course, the bosses.

After that, it's off to the races. Notepads, pens, cameras, and tape recorders in hand (although this last, I feel, is for rank amateurs -- okay, yeah, I use one too, sometimes), we'll cross the breadth and width of Fort Knox, digging up interviews, photographs, and breathless descriptions of traffic patterns.

Friday through Tuesday morning are normally solely devoted to the process of generating content. We also routinely receive submissions from overseas, and we use services such as ARNEWS and DefenseLink as our version of the Associated Press/Reuters wire services (which we are not, by Defense Department mandate, allowed to use).

By Tuesday, we've got a pretty good idea of what exactly will be running. Stories will sometimes fall through, others will crop up late, but Tuesday afternoon is the cutoff. Around 3 p.m., I'll get a phone call from our publisher in Elizabethtown, and one of their advertising staff will tell give me the "ad lengths" -- how much space is devoted to advertisement, as well as where they all go. These lengths I'll copy onto blank dummy sheets. The remaining space is where our content will go.

HWNWDNS then hands me the content list, which has all the stories we've collected that week, divided into various categories -- "must run," "editorial," "page one," etc. Staffers will have placed all their photographs into a shared hard drive, so I'll have a list of those as well. Once I know how long each story is (another call to the publisher), I can start laying the paper out.

The toughest pages are the open ones -- Page 1, of course, but also our regular photo pages, such as "Spectrum." They're tough, yeah, but they also offer the best opportunities for creativity. The vast majority of the rest of the paper is dictated by adspace, and often, there aren't many options as to how text is going to flow on the page. It's just a matter of figuring out what goes where. For covers, I usually head over to the Newseum for inspiration.

Once the dummies are done, I send them by FAX down to the publisher's layout team. They have a Quark expert down there who's been working on the Turret since long before computers were used in pagination, so she's able to get things done pretty quickly. I'll make sure she's got as much content as I can possibly send her before leaving Tuesday night, which usually ends around 7 or 8 p.m.

Wednesday morning we convoy down to the publisher, where we make tweaks to the layout and correct errors by reading proof sheets -- smaller print-offs of pages as they're being assembled. Wednesday is also headline-writing day. HWNWDNS will eventually determine each page to be either "good" or "COS," which means "Correct On Screen." A COS page can have whatever errors that remain fixed on the computer screen and then sent to the plate machine; no further proofs need to be printed.

Once all the pages are proofed, corrected, approved, and sent to the plate machine, we've got a paper. It rolls through the presses that night, and we have a new edition on our desks the next morning.

So now you know how I justify my consumption of your tax dollars. Aren't you happy I told you?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Immigration? Nah, how about nun-chucks

I was going to watch the president's speech on immigration last night, but I opted instead for crazy ninja head-chopping action courtesy of my dusty old Xbox. For those who are interested, Xboxes are even more sensitive to second-hand cigarette smoke than the average Denny's waitress, so I haven't been using mine much lately -- it seems to have developed the digital equivalent of black lung.

I did catch a little bit of the speech, however, and I plan to read the transcript. First reports seem... well, pretty lukewarm. Seems as if Bush is working to try to broker a compromise between the two sides (side one being mass deportation, and side two being "let 'em all stay as long as they want.")

One of the biggest developments, it seems, is the planned mobilization of 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the Mexican border. Evidently, they'll be freeing up border security agents by providing security, surveillance, and administration.

I was pretty unimpressed by the one of the figures -- something to the effect of, "We've increased the number of border security agents from 9,000 to 12,000." Like that's the problem. And even if it was, would a 33 percent increase really do all that much to stave off the flow of illegal immigration?

Hang on, let me check the Magic Eight-Ball... "Signs point to no."

It's hard to avoid thinking about the fact that this is still an election year, which means that every issue that's discussed on a national level is colored by partisan politics. Even the choice of issues addressed is political... election years are when we rehash issues such as flag-burning and gay marriage. I imagine even the fact that we're talking so much about domestic espionage is a product of partisan bickering.

Just remember, folks -- there's still a war going on.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Spy vs. Spy

After a rather lengthy vacation from the public spotlight, our nation's intelligence community has been the star of the show for the last couple years, thanks to stories like the New York Times' expose on the National Security Agency's warrantless electronic surveillance program President Bush instigated after 9/11, and, more lately, because of the newly-discovered "data-mining" program whereby the NSA collects telephone records of millions of Americans with the cooperation of the major telecom networks.

My initial reaction to the entire works was negative. The whole idea of "warrantless wiretapping" seemed to me to fly in the face of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, since American citizens are constitutionally guaranteed privacy except when law enforcement (or another government agency) has "probable cause" and obtains a warrant.

Using the ongoing "War on Terror" as grounds for disallowing congress from "hampering intelligence collection," the NSA's domestic spying program no longer requires a warrant from a FISA judge -- since, many will argue, obtaining a warrant takes too long in today's age of lightning-fast communications.

This also, at first glance, seems to violate the constitutional separation of powers America was founded upon. If the NSA, an arm of the Defense Department, is allowed to determine on its own who is and who isn't worthy of surveillance, then we've lost the judicial oversight that was put into place to protect citizens' right to privacy.

The more recent data-mining operation, whereby the phone records of millions of Americans are monitored electronically to purportedly search for patterns in phone usage, seems to invade privacy less. But does the fact that only phone numbers and the calls associated with them -- not the content of calls, nor the names attached to the numbers, necessarily -- mean that the program doesn't invade privacy at all?

My dad and I frequently butt heads about this on the phone. We'll catch up on the latest events, but we'll wind up talking national policy and civil rights almost invariably. It's great to talk with him, especially since we both hold such opposing viewpoints on the issue.

If I understand him correctly, he says he believes that regular Americans have nothing to worry about from the surveillance program, and that if the government decides to listen in on his phone call (after a computer at NSA headquarters raises a red flag after "hearing" the word jihad, for example), then such is the price of safety, and it doesn't bother him at all.

Me, I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with the idea that any communication of mine is potentially subject to monitoring. It's not that I'm worried about being prosecuted for having been caught, but more the fact that the decision is left in the hands of a government agency whose mission is basically the equivalent of a national-level District Attorney: the NSA has no vested interest in presuming anyone to be innocent.

But maybe Nineteen-Eighty-Four is too fresh in my mind. It seems, after doing a little reading, that the NSA's warrantless surveillance program is not automatically directed at domestic communication; rather, the system searches international calls and calls from known al-Qaeda sympathizers, then determines from the content of those calls whose domestic communication should be monitored. This, however, goes on without the need for a FISA judge to issue any warrants.

So where do you strike the balance? Does the lack of judicial oversight of the program make it sufficiently unconstitutional to justify resistance? Or do the threat of terrorism and the ongoing war provide sufficient grounds to cooperate?

I initially intended to use a Benjamin Franklin quote -- "Those that would sacrifice essential liberty to purchase temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" -- but as it turns out, this quote is very likely misattributed. Such are the ways of the Internet.


P.S.: Dad, please feel free to chime in here and straighten me out if I'm misrepresented your stance on this thing. I know you drop by here every so often.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Voice from the past

An old friend of mine called tonight. I hadn't spoken with him for a long while.

"I miss you, man," he said. "When are we going to get together and ram our heads into walls again?"

Next August still seems a long way off.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Today in the World

Today's post is brought to you by the positive energy of Zoloft.

Ann Coulter is, as always, beating the war gong; predictably, she's using Rep. Patrick "Bumper Kars" Kennedy as a mallet.

My favorite part of her latest column is the part where she wonders where the sorely-missed angry mob of of club-wielding skinheads is when it comes to the "Talibanist" who's enrolled at Yale.

I'm also thrilled to see that our cell phone providers have been cooperating so fully with the National Security Agency's efforts to figure out who's been calling who for the past six years. I've heard all the ridiculous whining about this, so I went and checked out Ye Olde Constitution. Sure enough, there's nothing in there that says personal cell phone records can't be turned over to a government spy agency. See? The great people on "Fox & Friends in the Morning" are right!

(Note: I did see a part of something called the "Fourth Amendment" about searches and seizures and some legalistic thing called "probable cause," but I'm pretty sure it doesn't apply.)

Since things in Iraq are going so smoothly, by the way, we should probably deploy soldiers to our borders to keep the Mexicans out. Because, you know, we have troops to spare.

Well, that's it for me. If anyone needs me, I'll be drinking Victory Gin in Room 101. Remember: the word of the day is "Zeitgeist."


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weird ways to get here

People find their way to A Healthy Alternative to Work a number of ways, but search engines wind up being some of the strangest. Here are a couple weird searches that have brought innernet people here:

A couple people have made their way here looking for bird flu bullshit. Congratulations, you have found the truth depot.

Lately, many of you have arrived looking for Pearl Jam. You are my friends.

Someone came by looking for "slippery fingers" baseball definition. I'm not an expert, but I believe it has something to do with having fingers that are slippery.

One health nut is trying to find a list of healthy alternatives opposed to tobacco. I've heard whole sticks of unsalted butter work wonderfully.

Slightly creepy is a search for ben roethlisbergers girlfriend photo. What do you want that for? He just won the Super Bowl, I don't think she's going to be on the market for quite some time.

And for all of you looking for the author of the song with the lyrics till the sweat drips from my balls, let me clue you in. Your mom wrote that song. Go cry yourself to sleep.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


There's no other way to describe it. I go to work every day and try to sort through the unmanageable pile of old newspapers, notes, messages, and post-its on my desk; trying to figure out where my next contact works, what his or her number is, and what the last thing I heard about the issue was. Meanwhile, emails pour into my work inbox, letting me know of upcoming ceremonies, asking for back issues, or trying to find out how to place an ad in the paper. It's chaos, and every week, somehow, I manage to turn it into a 30-page, informative, weekly newspaper.

What's frustrating is that I'm currently billed as "staff writer." Our associate editor was seriously injured over Thanksgiving, and currently is unable to come in for enough time each week to perform the duties that go with the title, which leaves me holding the bag.

I don't mind the extra duties -- in fact, I'm inclined to think they'll change very little when she does come back. I can whip through an A-section layout relatively quickly, and doling out weekly assignments is hardly more than a weekly chore.

However -- it's frustrating to be performing all these functions (and, additionally, writing the stories I'm assigned as if I were a regular staff writer) without any of the recognition. Enough of that.

Suffice it to say, I'm busy.

What I want to do is write stories. It's been great to learn photography, and my old short-time supervisor will undoubtedly grouse that my focus is too narrow, but I went to school to write, and that's what I want to do. I've grown accoustomed to not only interviewing colonels and generals and other persons of significant power, but also to asking them relevant questions. And I've been fortunate enough to build up a rather good reputation among the brass here because of it.

But the time I might spend talking to more principals about interesting topics is unfortunately curtailed by the fact that I need to be constantly collecting and tracking the information that goes in the paper. Tuesdays, I spend the greater part of the evening designing and laying out the paper on dummy sheets and transmitting all the relevant content to our publisher. That's time I could be spending putting the finishing touches on in-depth pieces on the latest court-martial, or translating something from the "Future Combat System" into plain English.

Sorry to bitch.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Bruised, not beaten

I survived the Derby -- I'm not exactly sure how. Barbaro won handily, but at that point I was wandering around outside Churchill Downs with a head full of bourbon and breath that smelled like pollution after an evening of smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes.

At any rate, it was one hell of a weekend.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hail, Hail: Pearl Jam returns

Pity all of you who missed Pearl Jam's live webcast from David Letterman's set.

The band is clearly revitalized, and if you missed the performance -- which could have easily been mistaken for a recording from their initial heyday -- it's obvious from their new self-titled record.

As usual, Pearl Jam start off the album with an ass-kicker, the raucous "Life Wasted," which works much better than their previous two studio openers. And Vedder almost alludes to the more introspective, less-accessible time he spent on those two (Binaural and Riot Act), "I have faced it... a life wasted... And I'm never going back there again."

"World Wide Suicide," the album's first single, is second on the playlist, and is just as punchy and lyrically present. Vedder laments the loss of life in Iraq: "Medals on a wooden mantle; next to a handsome face; that the president took for granted; writing checks that others pay."

The song culminates in a vocal buildup worthy of 1993's Vs.

Pearl Jam stays strong and reminiscent of the band's early years through "Marker in the Sand," which stays uptempo and keeps with the societally-relevant lyrics: "Now you got both sides... claiming killing in God's name... but God is nowhere... to be found, conveniently."

The pace slows up considerably with "Parachutes," an almost folksy return to roots in John Lennon. But unlike other slower Pearl Jam tracks, "Parachutes" is less depressing than wistful, and it's a beautiful break from the raw energy of the album's opening five tracks.

Bringing in Pearl Jam's "third act" is "Wasted Reprise," which with it's opening blast of church organ almost spooked me out of my chair. In an penitent but powerful tone, Vedder re-emphasizes the point he made in his opening number: "I have faced it. A life wasted. I am never going back again."

Strong and poignant from start to finish, Pearl Jam takes a brief break in relevance with "Big Wave," in which Vedder explains that his love of surfing was determined by evolution.

Perhaps coincidentally, protest albums happen to be something of a hot-button topic in the news, and after hearing Tucker Carlson whine about Neil Young's latest anti-Bush disc, it's great to hear a musician who can protest while simultaneously making a heartfelt appeal to humanity -- which, on his best days, has always been Eddie Vedder's forte.

To those who have "missed" the "old" Pearl Jam, come forth and be converted. Pearl Jam is both a step forward and a triumphant return to roots. Hail, hail.


Postscript: It occured to me after I posted this that I hardly said a word about the band's live webcast. It was incredible. They opened the set with "World Wide Suicide," played through a few tracks off the new album, then moved into No Code's "Present Tense," one of the greatest Pearl Jam songs you've never heard.

After that, it was a trip through memory lane, puncuated by a vital performance of "Do the Evolution," which featured a clever twist of lyrics -- "I am a thief, I am a liar, I am the president that sings in the choir." Next up was "Why Go," and an electrifying finale with "Porch."

If you missed it, and you're a Pearl Jam fan, go cry yourself to sleep, right now.

UPDATE: So, you were a jackass and missed the live webcast? Well, Dave and Company are going to run an encore. Check it out by clicking HERE.

UPDATE 2 (Because I am a Pearl Jam geek):

Some insights into the new record:

ANOTHER UPDATE: Via the Ten Club, I found another video presentation of the new Pearl Jam record -- The AOL Sessions. Great video quality, and the set includes two great, obscure B-sides: "Hard to Imagine," a Ten B-side, and "Sad," a B-side from Binaural that's as good or better than the all songs that actually made the cut. Check it out.

Seems something stuck in Chad's craw a bit

Well, that e-mail I sent to the Worst Columnist in the World finally made it into his paper. The five of you who read this blog regularly may remember -- a couple months ago I finally got fed up with this guy's godawful copy and sent him a nastygram. He responded, and I wrote back. I declared the war over and claimed victory.

Mr. Hutchinson, however, decided he wanted to revisit the exchange... publicly, in his latest "Hanging Chad" column for The Eastern Progress. Please read this, it's hilarious: "Giving Back."

Seems the going theme of this week's paper is numbers. The 10 best this, the five best that, six things etc.

Well I think the number one job to have at the paper is mine.

I get to talk about what ever I want. Every week I could spill my soul, write for a laugh or just plain talk about stupid stuff. (Which I sometimes did.)

I think it's time to address some of my fans now.

"The self-serving drivel that you put your name on is, in short, the hands down worst writing I have ever come across," my number one fan Ian Boudreau wrote me once in an e-mail.

He then went on to state the world was coming to an end because I write, and then gave me what I think may be the best compliment anyone has given me about my career: he called me the "Kevin Federline of journalism."

That was it -- he didn't offer any rejoinder or defense. He just quoted my e-mail. I guess I still win. But the funniest part of his column wasn't his mention of my angry letter, it was the fact that he claims some kind of Fourth Estate defense, as if he were an actual journalist. Checkit:
I would have loved to respond to one of the political groups on campus who wrote a letter to the editor saying The Eastern Progress doesn't write enough stuff in support of that party.

We are, by what the Constitution set up, supposed to be a watchdog of the government, not its guard dog. Buy an ad if you want to get your message out there, and if you still think we are unfair, watch Fox for your fill.

Keep dreaming, Chad. If your interest in Facebook and your own "chiseled abs" are any indication, you're not coming close to any kind of "watchdog" status. I'd feel differently about this if he'd actually been covering something relevant, but as it is, his column was simply a space in the paper devoted to the inane inner thoughts of a very forgettable man.

I'd like to write him again to say thanks for mentioning me in a column. It would also be a nice touch, I think, to enclose a copy of Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style."


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Basic Training redux

Coming tomorrow, a new edition of The Turret!

The "media day" held by the 46th Infantry Regiment was covered by the local newspaper, a television station, the Elizabethtown news radio station, and the Associated Press.

I was pretty happy with how mine turned out. Since we're a weekly, I've got some extra time to put together my stories. For me, the assignment was just to shoot photos for a photo page and get enough to provide the News-Enterprise with some shots, since their photog was tied up that day.

As it worked out, my camera card -- an ancient magnetic version -- decided it was going to succumb to the terminal cancer it developed a couple months ago, so about half the shots I took that day were mysteriously missing when I got back to the office. I said several bad words in the newsroom.

On a side note, immediately after that I headed to the office kitchenette and opened the 'fridge to find the coffee tin. When I opened the door, about 671 cans of Diet Coke came tumbling out onto my feet. I bellowed "SON OF A WHORE" at the top of my lungs, and next door, in the newsroom, everyone burst out laughing.

Back to the point, I didn't wind up minding that the photo page fell through, because there was more than enough material to write a decent story. The officers in the 2nd Battalion's command group were eager to help, and I wound up interviewing the battlion commander over the phone this morning.

I asked him what the most fundamental change to basic training has been, and without hesitation, he said that it's the drill sergeant's new role as squad leader. This is in contrast to the "old way," where he was a... well, a drill sergeant. You've seen Full Metal Jacket.

We'd spoken Friday during the media day, and he'd asked me about my own basic training experiences. I just said that four years ago it had been a bit different, and that I'd gone to Fort Benning. Today, I asked him how he'd respond to someone -- and there are many who'd say this -- who suggested that basic training had "gone soft."

The colonel said anyone who said that should head over to his battalion and make a judgement for themselves. He'd gone through basic in 1983, and he said that basic is actually harder now, not easier. When I thought back to the happy two months I spent in Company D, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry, I realized he was probably right -- there wasn't a single task that was in and of itself difficult. The cadre -- and to a large extent, the idiot members of my platoon, D Co.'s 4th -- were responsible for making those weeks a period of time I would never want to repeat.

Well, them and the fire ants. They're bastards.

So keep an eye out, I'll post the link to the story as soon as it's up. As John of Arrgghhh wrote me once, I'm involved in advocacy journalism, not critical journalism, so bear that in mind.


Also, Pearl Jam's new album, Pearl Jam, came out yesterday. I must have it.


Monday, May 01, 2006


I've written next to nothing about the illegal immigration issue. As usual, it's tough to get simple facts -- everything you read or see or hear about the issue is usually sensationalized or filtered through whoever's providing it.

So instead of making ill-founded pronouncements about illegal immigration, I'll pose a couple questions I've been left with.

First, how does the point that "we are a nation of immigrants" constitute an argument? I'm a first generation American myself -- but my parents came here (from Canada, which we aren't as worried about, apparently) legally. They're registered as "resident aliens," which my siblings and I thought was hilarious when we first heard about it.

The point is that there's a real difference between immigrants and illegal immigrants. The latter term, it seems, is a little misleading. Couldn't we justifiably refer to illegal immigrants as "people who sneak into the country"?

Hey, calm down. Let's not play the moral equivalency game and pretend I'm some kind of xenophobe. I'm all for immigration -- but I don't think it's fair to the folks waiting to enter this country legally that we should give special consideration to those who have deliberately "cut in line" and broken the law.

Now, as far as the "Day without a Mexican" demonstrations go, I can see the point. American industry is dependent on illegal labor -- which is a nice way of saying that there are lots of companies here who cut corners on wages and workers' rights by hiring people they don't put on the books. Who exactly is getting treated fairly here, and should migrant workers be "demanding" these rights?

Isn't the answer to this particular facet of the problem a re-examination of our immigration policies? It's often brought up that we "can't just deport" the 11 million illegals here already. Okay, but whatever solution we come up with as far as legislation goes should be applied equally to everyone seeking residence in the United States, right? Anything else amounts to special treatment for those who have broken the law by entering illegally, and that equals amnesty.

Maybe I'm way off base here. Are there aspects to this issue I haven't considered? Experts, I know you're out there -- clue me in.


At least something in the world makes sense

One of the last columns I did as sports editor was called "Vick II won't do the NFL any good."

Things are screwy in the world right now. Iran is threatening nuclear holocaust, illegal immigrants have held a huge boycott, the ice caps are probably melting... but you know, all the NFL teams apparently agreed with me, and did not draft Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's shitbag younger brother, who was a quarterback for Virginia Tech until his shitbaggery got him canned.

On an unrelated note, I have a hard time taking Law & Order: Criminal Intent seriously, because Vince D'Onofrio still looks like Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket. So, it's hard to believe that this sharp detective character isn't mildly retarded.