Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Dragonfly II

I saw another little buckaroo in the garden today; this time a red one. This time I got smart and used the sky as a backdrop. I had to keep slapping the cat away because he wanted to eat the dang thing. Luckily the dragonfly came back a couple of times after I administered feline discipline.

Update: The cat still nuzzles up to me like a French whore, so I trust that my nose smacking has not damaged him physically or mentally.

2nd Update: No, I do not mean PM Jacques Chirac...it was merely a colorful metaphor.

And the Verdict Is...

I just finished listening to Rush's Feedback CD. I can say it kicks a*s. The covers manage to successfully synthesize the flavor of the original tunes while still having that Rush bite. In this day of the 70 minute CD, it is kind of short (35ish minutes, LP length) but what the heck. I will be seeing them on Saturday so this is a nice bit of spice before the show. Okay, back to work.

Monday, June 28, 2004

24th Steinbeck Festival

For those wishing to travel to new destinations, set your sights on the Salinas, CA area, for the 24th Annual Steinbeck Festival, Aug. 5-8. There will be seminars, walking tours, bus tours, discussions and theater. This year has two themes, "Steinbeck and the Environment", and "The Politics of Steinbeck". The Title link will take you to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas (a stone's throw from Monterey). You can access lots of info through its website, and there are lots of resources about Steinbeck's works.

The whole area is very interesting, and as long as you don't stay in Carmel or Monterey, you'll find reasonable accommodations. The food prices are high however, even at local food stores, so bring your costco card, or Entertainment book. If you have a car, try running up the coast to Santa Cruz for a day on the boardwalk, or driving down to Big Sur for beautiful hiking and camping. Try kayaking around Monterey Bay, you'll love it!


I took this picture of a dragonfly in our garden today.

Rush: Feedback

While I wait for a database to transfer...

Those guys from Canada are back with an album of sixties remakes called Feedback. It will be released tomorrow in the US and C-eh-N-eh-D-eh. Rush, celebrating their 30th anniversary, is on tour and they seem to be having fun. The little bit I've heard on their web site sounds pretty cool (a remake of Summertime Blues). Click the title link for details.

Update: Thanks to MM for this article on Rush and their new album...
Rush for cover
After 17 albums, Canadian rockers record the hits of their favorite bands

I think we've all had a "shocking reality sandwich" at some time which, by the way, is a great name for a rock band.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Better Beer in Oregon

The Oregonian has an interesting story on the McMenamin's chain of brewpubs: The chain of microbreweries has grown large while keeping the personal touches.

I liked this quote:

The company, in fact, has grown during the past decade more or less in lock step with the region's growth in microbrew consumption. More than 10 percent of the Oregon beer consumed in 2003 was from craft breweries, three times the national average of 3.25 percent.

That means less Budweiser poisoning and that's nice.

I like how they try to expose the dark side of McMenamin's too:

Historic preservation purists, though, have reservations about the strategy.

James Hamrick, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's assistant director for Heritage Conservation, likes that the brothers care about old buildings. He isn't happy, though, that when they refurbish their properties, creativity outweighs historical accuracy.

He said the brothers seem to have become less interested over time in getting their properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

"They do historic preservation, but it's not a philosophically pure historical preservation," Hamrick said. "It doesn't meet all the state and federal rules."

My guess is that they tried to for a while, but found they would go out of business if they followed all the rules...not to mention the fact that all their funky sun and moon artwork they commission probably wouldn't be welcome. I guess you can't please everyone (kind of a moniker for this blog).

Friday, June 25, 2004

Fairs for All!

Here's some summer-time fairs around the Portland Area, perhaps one will interest you!
Fun for the kids, friends and family, plus most have reasonable or no entrance fee!
Title link takes you to a Ren Faire near Mt. Hood, There's also the Oregon Country Fair, the Washington County Fair, and last but not least, the Clackamas County Fair. Hey, maybe just take the time to eat some curly fries, a snow cone, and peruse the cow barns!

Busy Day

I suggest Dave Barry or Fark for the latest in important news.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Practical Links

Here's some links to some sites for "tightwad" or "frugal life" strategies.
These tough times are enough to empty out anyone's wallet. Find some helpful hints on stretching your hard-earned dollars while socking away some savings for a rainy day! The Practial Links title goes to tightwad.com (good stuff, with tons of ideas, but now an inactive site); you can also find more info at The Frugal Life.com and at http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/.

Finally, if you prefer a good reference book to the internet highway, try the one below which is available at Amazon.com, and other local book stores.

The Complete Tightwad Gazette
by Amy Dacyczyn

(Description following from Amazon.com)
Though tightwad seems like a derogatory term, author Amy Dacyczyn wants to assure you that it's okay to be a penny-pincher. This self-styled "Frugal Zealot" wrote and published The Tightwad Gazette for over six years to spread the frugal gospel. Each issue contained tips from her personal experience..

Don't work harder, work smarter! Less is more!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Berry Nice

I've found a fun & EASY way to make a juicy compote from the berries of your choice!

Take 2 cups berries (hull & halve strawberries, otherwise just clean/rinse raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
Add 2 tablespoons sugar
Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice*
Cover and let macerate (stand & soften) at room temperature for 1 hour
Compote can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
* add more sugar according to taste for tartness

Serving Ideas:
Spoon over ice cream, sponge cake, cheese cake (or any kind of cake actually)
With cookies (Pepperidge Farm Milano anyone?!)
In Jello

From the July 04 Martha Stewart Living Magazine, pg. 33.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Backwards in the Outback

Australia Outlaws Home Biodiesel Production

She says the new legislation effectively makes people who run their vehicles on the fuel outlaws.

Senator Allison says a small number of dedicated Australians have been using home-made biodiesel for years, actively promoting renewable fuels and clean air.

"Home-brewers will not produce biodiesel, or if they do, they'll be doing it outside the law [and] they'll be effectively tax cheats," she said.

"One of the reasons they won't continue to produce biodiesel is the cost of licensing and testing which means thousands of dollars in many cases.

"Not only will it not be viable but it would be very, very expensive."

Fun Link for the Day

Here's a page to see outtakes from the 1934 SEARS catalog. You can click on the individual pages to enlarge.
Check out the prices-you could buy a dress for less than a dollar!
At the bottom of the page there is a link back to to the "Costumer's Manifesto", which has every historical period around the world and under the sun, plus links for EVERYTHING related to costuming/sewing; so even if the 1930's doesn't turn you on, perhaps another time period will!
Heck maybe I can now get those black leather thigh high 18th century pirate boots I've always wanted......

Monday, June 21, 2004

More Energy Fun

In an earlier entry on this blog, Oil Death Match: we were discussing how "screwed" we are in terms of oil, geopolitics, and future usage and what the prospects are for alternatives.

So Vulgarius got me to thinking, how much of our energy consumption includes farm-based uses? Well, my research brought two wildly disparate answers. I will report, you decide.

Candidate #1
Energy Issues Affecting The Agricultural Sector Of The U.S. Economy - Hearings Before The Subcommittee On Conservation, Credit, Rural Development, And Research Of The Committee On Agriculture

Both direct and indirect energy consumption for farm production required 1.8 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) in 1998, the most recent year of complete data, or about 2 percent of total energy consumed in the United States. In that year, U.S. agricultural production accounted for less than 1 percent of U.S. GDP.

Candidate #2
Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Total fossil fuel use in the United States has increased 20-fold in the last 4 decades. In the US, we consume 20 to 30 times more fossil fuel energy per capita than people in developing nations. Agriculture directly accounts for 17% of all the energy used in this country.

So, farm use accounts for either 1% or 17% (or something else) depending on who you ask. I suspect that I am either missing some vital detail or that two cases are being made with two different sets of data; neither of which encompasses all the details. If I had to pick one, I would pick the 1% because the House hearings weren't trying to prove high energy usage as Pfeiffer is.

Another pertinent fact I've discovered is that the House hearings seem to express that total bio-production is increasing with energy use declining as a result of 80s conservation efforts (mostly achieved by better tilling techniques). Pfeiffer claims that the energy required to maintain production has been increasing since 1994. These facts deal with different times, so they aren't incompatible. But there appears to be omissions from each in order to make a different case for each party.

Coming soon, when do we (or did we) reach Hubbert's Peak of oil production (if it exists)?

They Did It

Private space flight has been achieved. Most cool. ...and Paul Allen shakes the Trailblazer monkey off his back (temporarily).

Friday, June 18, 2004

Goin' Campin'

Blog on you crazy diamonds...see you Sunday.

Oil Company Death Match: Shell and BP vs. ExxonMobil

Exxon Head: Energy Independence Is a Myth
In this corner, ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond...

Global Warming:
As for global warming, Raymond expressed _as he often has — his skepticism about the science and predicted that in the decades ahead "carbon dioxide emissions from greater fossil fuel use will climb."

Energy Independence:
"We simply cannot avoid significant reliance on oil and gas from the Middle East because the world's supply pool (of oil) is highly dependent upon the Middle East," Raymond said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Oil chief: my fears for planet
Shell boss's 'confession' shocks industry

In this corner, Shell chairman Ron Oxburgh

Global Warming:
"No one can be comfortable at the prospect of continuing to pump out the amounts of carbon dioxide that we are pumping out at present ... with consequences that we really can't predict but are probably not good."

Energy Independence (from Shell Solar):
Choosing solar energy means contributing to the environment by choosing clean energy, cost saving on your day-to day energy costs, and an increasingly independency from your utility supplier

What the articles don't tell you is that Shell is heavily invested in alternative technologies while ExxonMobil is not. Also, ExxonMobil is almost wholly dependent on Middle East oil for their revenues while Shell pumps more from the North Sea and other non-Middle Eastern sources. I wonder how much the price would go up if we taxed the oil coming from the Middle East based on our military expenditures (blood and money) and peace subsidies to Israel and Egypt? No more and no less. I'll bet the price of things would go up, but our taxes would come down to even it out. Of course, any time of flux brings the hucksters and the suckers. We could appoint a set of watchdogs from ExxonMobil to make sure we don't spend money on unnecessary military hardware 'cuz it would come out of their pockets. Heck, it could even be packaged up as a set of privatization plans and everyone loves privatization. Right?

Why Can't I Have One of These????

Any one of these babies in the hands of a school teacher would certainly add a whole new dimension to the idea of "classroom management"!

"The next punk who shoots off his yap is gonna put the whole lot o' ya to sleep!"

Imagine a military that doesn't cause collateral damage. THAT would be something! No more accidental ("") bombings of wedding parties or gunning down 2-year-olds, just large-scale shockings!


Hey, you guys gave my poor aunt a headache! I demand justice!!!!
(Whereupon my friend Justice quickly hops on his motorcycle and speeds off into the horizon.)

I doubt the Portland City Police (oops...sorry...that should be "Beaverton") would have any interest in using any of these "crowd-zappers", though. They seem to be in too much love with their pepper spray canisters.

Satiric Quotes for the Day

One of my favorite places, with a random sampling below

The Devil's Dictionary
Ambrose Bierce

DIPLOMACY, n. The patriotic art of lying for one's country.

DEBT, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.

GRACES, n. Three beautiful goddesses, Aglaia, Thalia and Euphrosyne, who attended upon Venus, serving without salary. They were at no expense for board and clothing, for they ate nothing to speak of and dressed according to the weather, wearing whatever breeze happened to be blowing.

JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Two Sides of Rasheed Wallace

Wallace completes Pistons

Detroit assistant coach Herb Brown, Larry's brother and a former assistant in Portland, blames the Trail Blazers for what he described as "misguided perceptions" of Wallace.

"I just think he was frustrated," Herb Brown said. "He's a very emotional player. And he might have used that to get himself more into the game. But was receiving criticism every time he wasn't getting 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and the team didn't win. He was the scapegoat.

"(Portland) is a dysfunctional organization. And Rasheed was the product of a dysfunctional organization. It wasn't Rasheed being dysfunctional. It was just a lot of pent up frustration.

"But he always played hard. He always was a great teammate. And they never realized what a great team defender he was. He's got a tremendous basketball IQ, and all he wants to do is win."

Wallace an open book for misunderstood man

He led the league in technical fouls for three consecutive seasons, including a league record 41 in 2001-02. He's earned suspensions for throwing towels at teammates (Arvydas Sabonis) and a referee.

Wallace was cited for possession of marijuana. He received a seven-game suspension for threatening referee Tim Donaghy on the Rose Garden loading dock after a game.

Since entering the NBA, Wallace has been charged with assaulting a girlfriend and mother of his child twice -- once on Easter weekend 1996, the second time a month later.

His attorney's initial statement?

"It's another case of misunderstanding," James Williams said in 1996.

Just like it was earlier this season when Wallace, who was paid $17 million this season, made ignorant and offensive remarks while charging that the league's white establishment exploits young black athletes.

Finally, after one of his final practices with the Trail Blazers, Wallace picked up a basketball and fired it baseball-style at resident nice guy Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, who never saw it coming.

It got good laughs from teammate Bonzi Wells.


You don't receive a personal link on the Web site cracksmoker.com for being misunderstood.

My personal feeling? Both articles make some valid points. The Blazers brought in some bad boys around Wallace like Isiah Rider, Jimmy Jackson, Bonzi Wells, and until this season Damon Stoudamire. To blame the Blazers woes on Wallace with that group around is disingenuous. Blame owner Paul Allen and former president Bob Whitsitt for that. Wallace's behavior crystallized the bad feeling fans accumulated over time and he was left holding the bag to some degree. By the time this year rolled around, Sheed had an attitude; as did the fans and the local press. The trade was the best thing for both sides. The Blazers made a serious playoff run without their criticism lightning rod and Wallace helped propel Detroit to a sweet victory over the ring collecters of LA.

I hope Rasheed Wallace can find a way to control his anger before he seriously hurts someone. I hope this taste of success grants him the serenity to come to terms with it.

I also hope that Theo Ratliff stays in Portland a long time. He is an electrifying shot blocker. That was may favorite part of the Rasheed Wallace trade.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

LA Beated

Congratulations to the Pistons...even bad-boy Rasheed Wallace. It is always a pleasure to see someone take out the people who take out the Blazers with regularity during the playoffs.

Sofa King Funny

Click the pic to find out the schtick:

Would you rather live there or in Vomitville?

A Ketchup Moment

USDA: Frozen Fries Are 'Fresh' Veggies

So fried, battered, and frozen french fries is now considered fresh vegetables akin to, say, waxing a cucumber. A big plate of fries with ketchup is now considered two vegetables.

See? McDonald's is looking better all the time.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Them Laker Dogs Don't Hunt

I love the Dr. Phil reference...

Happy Flag Day

Learn all about flag day from this instructive video.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Recipe you'll like!

Ok, here goes-hubby liked it-so should you!
From Everyday Food (Martha Stewart living)
Issue # 12 pg. 20
Couscous Salad (serves 2)
1. In a small sauce pan, bring 3/4 cup water & 1 tsp each salt & pepper to boil. Stir in 1/2 cup couscous, 2 tblsp minced shallot, 1/3 cup golden raisins. Remove from heat. Cover: let stand until couscous has absorbed water & is tender, about 5 min.

2. In a large bowl wisk together 3 tblsp lemon juice and 2 tblsp olive oil, season w/salt & pepper to taste.

3. Add 1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained, couscous mixture and 1 english cucumber cut into 1/4 inch pieces, toss to combine.

4. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to eat.

*I quadrupled the recipe for a party,

The Limerick Man!

The voters remain somewhat wary
Of the Democrats' pick, John F. Kerry;
But when shove comes to push
Will in most states, majorities carry.

Check out Dr. Limerick! This dude rocks!

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: Cover Those Thighs!!!

There are times when “irony” becomes simply “iron”, because we simply don’t know “Y”. As in NINE iron. As in upside the head.
One of the greatest controversies/dilemmas facing the faculty of my school over the past few years has been our dress code. As with the overwhelming majority of schools in Japan, we have a school uniform. The problem is that the students are doing almost everything in their power not to observe it.* As a “high-level, private academy”, we have an unwritten rule that says our kids have to maintain a more conservative image than the public schools. We also technically have the right to be far stricter.
Therein lies the rub.
Our faculty is bitterly divided over how we should go about enforcing the dress code, if we enforce it at all. There is one camp that says rules are rules, the students chose this school of their own free will, and they can either shape up or get the Sam Hill out. Another group says that we just need to keep reminding the students in a reasonable manner of what constitutes proper dress and hope they actually listen sometime before graduation. Yet another group maintains that it’s unfair to expect our students to dress properly when their public school friends don’t, so we should make compliance optional. There is also the tiny minority that says that we should just do away with uniforms altogether and allow the students to all dress the same way anyway (which is exactly what they would do).
The girls are by far the worst offenders. Those ridiculous “loose socks”, modeled after 1980s leg warmers, have finally gone out of fashion, thank the Shinto gods, but there’s always something weird in vogue. Now it seems to be to cut their ribbons and safety pin them very loosely together so that they hang in a droopy, sloppy manner. The really “cool” girls have orange hair (cut roughly so it hangs sloppily) and wear orange-tinted foundation (that makes them look like they haven’t washed their faces in months). What really bugs the teachers, though, is the miniskirts. The rule seems to be, “If men don’t look at you and immediately think you’re a sex toy (with very poor hygiene), you’re a geek.” (But the same girls get upset about sexual harassment. Go figure.)
Some of you equipped with Y-chromosomes are probably wondering, “What’s the problem?” My quickest and easiest answer is, “The PTA.” They can get us replaced. Nevertheless, the most bizarre thing about this whole issue is not how our faculty is trying to enforce the dress code; on the contrary, it’s how our faculty is seeing to it that it doesn’t get enforced.
We’ve been hearing all kinds of stories about how “cool” girls tend to bully and harass classmates that actually observe the dress code to some extent. Heck, even in the music club, we had all of our 8th grade girls (now 9th grade) inform Mr. Ogawa as a group that they would dress properly only for music club-related events, but that they had “no choice” but to wear minis and makeup when among their other classmates. During my first visit to my new (9th grade) homeroom as its assistant chief, an orange-haired “cool” girl more or less physically assaulted a classmate whose skirt was more than halfway down her thighs.
When things like this get reported in faculty meetings, the typical response tends to be shaking of heads, air sucked through teeth, mutterings of, “Yes, these things will happen”, and a quick changing of the subject. Actually trying to confront the problem seems to be far down the list.
Imagine my profound surprise when, about a week ago, the faculty of the 7th and 8th grades called an emergency meeting in great distress to discuss a “troubling, new development”. The teachers were clearly upset about this horrible, unexpected turn of events in terms of student behavior.
What happened?
I’m glad you asked!
A group of 8th grade girls not only started making a tremendous effort to dress and act in perfect accordance with the school rules, but they also started patrolling the 7th grade floor and (oh, my gosh...) SCOLDING girls they found in makeup and minis! Yes, that’s right! THE STUDENTS WERE POLICING THEMSELVES!
Oh, disaster!!!!!!!!!!
They had to be stopped immediately! They had to be punished to the fullest extent of the rules!
Beat up a classmate for obeying the teachers and you’re a “fact of life”. Criticize a younger student for disobeying the teachers and you’re a “disturbing discipline problem”.
***SWACK*** (The sound of a 9-iron upside the head…and I don’t know Y!)
There seems to be a very fine line between “civil law enforcement” and “vigilante justice”. What is the difference? When is one acceptable and the other not? It’s not an easy question to answer by any stretch.
I recall showing a picture of an Oregon beach to my Japanese colleagues once, and (unsurprisingly) the first comment they made was, “Where’s the garbage? It’s so clean!” I put my nose in the air and replied, “We take pride in our beaches. If someone tried to go off and leave a pile of picnic garbage on an Oregon beach like people always do here in Kashima, they’d probably get their arse kicked.” They responded, “Oregon sounds scary! Too violent! I don’t want to go there!” My rebuttal to the effect of, “Hey, if you don’t do anything really stupid, there’s no problem,” didn’t seem to comfort them very much.
It’s true, after all. I mean, it’s really easy for us to think, “Hey, he had it coming to him,” if a guy gets the tar beaten out of him for lobbing a bottle at a strolling member of a minority group he doesn’t like, but what are we supposed to think when the curator of an art museum gets threatened and assaulted because an exhibit there by a famous artist includes a painting inspired by Abu Ghraib? Many probably shrug their shoulders and say, “It figures,” when Native Americans are outraged by celebrations of Columbus or uses of unfavorable, stereotype images of them by fans of certain sports teams, but how are we supposed to react when a man responds to people protesting civilian deaths in Iraq by saying, “If Bush loses the election, we know where to find you…to keep you from f***ing up this country any more”? Yes, it is very much a matter of perspective, but how do we define that perspective? What is “proper”, and what is “over the line”? After all, it’s more or less a given that the guy who attacked the museum curator and the one that threatened the protestors both seriously believed they were doing the right thing. So do people that kill workers at abortion clinics. So do these Islamic suicide bombers.
So, should we refrain from policing ourselves? Good lord, whatever for? But there is a right and a wrong way. There are rules, and there are entities empowered to enforce them. There is nothing wrong with encouraging compliance or discouraging non-compliance as long as doing so doesn’t amount to taking the law into your own hands…and committing a crime yourself in the process. On the other hand, if those rules or enforcing entities don’t serve their intended purpose, efforts can and should be taken to have them replaced. That’s what we call “democracy”.
Speaking of rules and/or people in power being replaced, I’m really wondering how they’re going to explain this latest “disaster” to the PTA. “We’re terribly sorry, but it turns out certain students are actually listening to us and encouraging others to follow their example.”
God help us all. Hey, I work at a private school. I can say that.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Family Values

Limbaugh announces end of 10-year marriage

Old Rush Limbaugh, junkie and 3 time homewrecker. But he is still morally superior to John Kerry somehow.

I'm not buying it. Neither should anyone else.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Don't know exactly what to do, but here I am. It's sort of exciting, a whole world of nerdishness, just waiting for me! All I want to do now after working too much for so long is lay on the couch rewatching old movies and
re-reading extraordinarily long books, like Lord of the Rings, or the Harry Potter stuff. Good old days.....

Info Geek test

Ok, lets see if I can pass the first test and post something...

New Blogger, Part Deux

Welcome to the InfoGeek. He will post on matters that make The Moody Minstrel and I cringe and wince with the power of his truth...or something.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Life in the Land of the Rising Snabulus

Testing, one, two, three, your number is SIX...

Okay, this is just a test shot to make sure I've figured this thing out. Now that I've been welcomed into the Snabulus family (which, up till now, has consisted of ONE), I guess there will be a lot more where this came from. Hopefully it will be more meaningful, too.

So, how are things right now in these oh-so-enchanted (and polluted) islands? Right when the government is trying to revise the national pension system (Japan's version of Social Security), several prominent actors, musicians, and politicians have come forward and admitted they've never paid their premiums. Meanwhile, the beloved Crown Princess is apparently suffering from chronic depression (and, according to information leaked from palace staff, has apparently attempted suicide) because of the pressure on her to produce a male heir. At the same time, the nation is reeling at the news that a 6th-grade girl in Nagasaki cut the throat of a classmate with a box cutter because of something she posted on a web bulletin board.

Presidential elections? What are those???

(Stay tuned for more from the Land of the Rising Sun!)

Monday, June 07, 2004

A New Blogger at Snabulus

I'd like to welcome The Moody Minstrel to Snabulus. Now some of the stuff on this site won't be explicitly my fault and that is a relief.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Remembering D-Day

Although it is a bit gauche to do so, I am including Steve Gilliard's entry in its entirety because I think it makes some good points. (I made some minor grammatical corrections)
Remembering D-Day honestly

June 6th, 1944

The cost of liberation

The last two large D-Day memorials were not particularly honest affairs. There was no talking about the true horror of war or its cost. Most veterans were bathed in a sort of nostalgic bathos, and lauded for their bravery. No one wanted to ask about the cost of fighting a war.

Make no mistake, the men who landed on the five Normandy beaches were under no illusions about the risk they took or the reason for taking that risk. They knew that Germany posed a direct threat to their lives, their relatives who remained in Europe and everything they believed in.

But there was a real reluctance to discuss the real war, the one that haunted their memories. It wasn't until Saving Private Ryan was released in 1998 that people began to discuss their real D-Day experiences in detail. Seeing something close to what Omaha Beach really looked liked triggered PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in many veterans. They had repressed these memories for 50 years. That movie gave way to an honest reexamination of the war and what people paid for their service.

For years, World War II was treated as the great adventure where only character actors died. The hero always survived. There was a reason Jimmy Stewart didn't make war movies, and seeing the deaths of men you knew and led might have been an excellent one. John Wayne never served a day in uniform and he made the war movies which shaped our imagination. And for decades, we allowed the myth of a good war to serve as our explanation for World War II. We aren't the only ones. The Russians do not talk about those who defected to the German Army, to the point that serving officers today have no idea the Germans fielded a whole Russian Army.

As the veterans face their last years, we can now have an honest conversation about what we asked of teenagers. Bedford, VA lost half of the young men that had enlisted in the 29th Infantry Division (National Guard). Most died within a few minutes of landing on Omaha Beach. And half a town's young men were gone. Many had joined in the Depression for the same reasons people join today, income, a chance for advancement. And while the town had built a memorial to their sacrifice, the survivors didn't explain what had really happened to them for years. No one wanted to hear how their brother was shredded by shrapnel and cut in half. Or how their husband was torn apart by machine gun fire. The details were hidden in a fog of reverence.

Now, the veterans can be honest about their experiences. They can talk about their war in context.. For decades, they tried to repress these memories or tell only the funny or cute stories, the painful ones of seeing your teenage friends die and those memories never fading, never going away. There is no time limit on horror, a horror so deep and traumatic, seeing actors could trigger it.

I also think we're ready to hear these stories in context. With a war in Iraq, and after 9/11, we have a better understanding of what the cost of war is. Seeing people jump to their deaths from the World Trade Center is a reality for people which didn't exist in 1995. We now have an idea that war is not what Hollywood taught us, but malevolent and wrong. The casualty officers don't just stop at the doors of young men any more. For about 3,000 families, tragedy has come to visit them. With 800 dead and 2500 wounded, our current war has brought misery to American families, middle class, working class and poor.

I was talking to Jen the other day, and she told me about her mother's friend, who had five children in the military. They had either gone to West Point or ROTC, three Army, two Navy, and all scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan. That is a horrible burden to bear and one which is not and has never been evenly spread. Some will always sacrifice more than others.

We now have a new generation of Gold Star mothers, women who have buried their children in their youth, killed far away from home, in a way they'll never really know, in a place far away from home.

The veterans have been kind enough to remind us that sacrifice is uniform. They still hurt from the loss of their friends, 60 years ago. They remind us that war, no matter how righteous the cause, is a painful, brutal experience, one which no amount of parades and respect can ever lessen or heal. It is a good thing these men have reminded us of what we ask of the teenagers we send to war in our name.

The WMD Shoppe Sketch

For Monty Python fans:

The Tiny Revolution blog recasts the Cheese Shoppe and the WMD Shoppe. I like the results.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

2 Cool Musicks to Look For

I am looking forward to a pair of musical releases in the near future.

Canadian Rockers, Rush, are doing a retrospective album that is all covers of 60s tunes that inspired them. For those that can handle Geddy Lee's voice, it is a good one. The Rushified version of "Summertime Blues" is soundbited on their site.

I first heard Thirty Seconds to Mars on an illegaly traded MP3 (can't tell you who had it...slipped my mind). I own their CD now and I love the "bigness" of their sound. Pink Floydian Bob Ezrin produced their self-titled debut release. Now they have a second album on the way. I am looking forward to it. An aside: Actor Jared Leto is a principal member of the band.

Feel Good Story Turns Sour

This today from The Oregonian: Resettled from park, father, girl slip away

You might recall an earlier entry of mine where a homeless, but well-kept father and daughter were found by a cross-country runner in Portland, Oregon's Forest Park. The policeman that found them was so impressed by them that he located a place for them to stay and work. Good samaritans raised about $6,000 to get them going...but it was not to be.

The father and daughter slipped away; presumably into the woods somewhere.

Police have withheld their last names to protect their privacy. Still, Frank said it had gone too far. He told Barkley that television-news helicopters kept showing up in the sky over the farm.

Frank felt "hunted" by the helicopters, Barkley said, and feared that kids would call Ruth "the Forest Park hillbilly" if her face showed up on TV.

"He was talking about leaving the state," Barkley said. "He said, 'We love it here. We don't want to leave.' But he expected the TV cameras to show up any day."

Frank and his daughter were living in a mobile home on the farm. Why would they give all that up?

If there were helicopters trying to find the pair, they didn't belong to any of Portland's news stations, according to news directors. None of them tried to track down Frank and Ruth from the air.

Most of America would say, "What an idiot!" They would be right, but they are also wrong.

What if you could live a life, however modest, that was free of:

  • Taxes
  • Constant paperwork
  • Dealing with people whose values you don't share at all
  • Bills for electricity, gas, water, sewer, rent, credit cards, fuel, insurance, mortgages, phone, internet access, car payments, home improvement bills, and medical costs
  • You need your social security number for everything
  • Your child must have state immunization forms for school
  • Your standard of medical care changes based on availability and type of insurance
  • If you aren't insured, the authorities steal your car until you are insured
  • Everything you do must be scrutinized to see if there is a data trail that can someday be used against you for something that isn't yet against the law or deemed wrong by society.

To those who say, "Yeah, so what?" I would say you don't know what we've lost in the last 24 years. To the father of this family who hasn't had to deal with the steady dearth of personal intrusions, they are downright scary. In fact, to anyone who lived in the 50s that could suddenly jump to today, this would seem to be some form of enlightened totalitarianism (which would vary depending on value system). We've come a long way in terms of comforts thanks to technology, but the same technology drives an increasing cycle of threats that results in a constant tightening of freedoms.

There is another side to this. The father is denying the daughter access to all of the good things that are part and parcel of living within "the system." If she gets Leukemia, she will probably die too young. If she steps on a nail, she might have a terrible time with tetanus. Although the guy is a Marine, he doesn't pay taxes like other Marines and so active duty Marines are weaker without his contribution. They also live on land they don't own. We would all like 40 acres and a mule, but that went away a long time ago (conveniently so Blacks and Indians couldn't get in on it).

I wish them both luck and health. I hope they reconsider leaving. I wish for freedom for the rest of us and that we reconsider the road we've taken. As Merle Haggard once said...

"Look at the past 25 years we went downhill, and if people don't realize it, they don't have their f**king eyes on ... In 1960, when I came out of prison as an ex-convict, I had more freedom under parolee supervision than there's available to an average citizen in America right now... God almighty, what have we done to each other?"

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Wanted: A Realistic War Gaming Engine

Ever since Wolfenstein 3D came out, the first person shooter genre of gaming captured the time, cash, and social life of millions of (mostly) men. In a first person shooter, you traverse a three dimensional computer landscape. You generally have a weapon bobbing up and down at the bottom of the screen and your scoring is either based on the number of enemies you kill or on achieving a certain pre-defined objective.

Wolfenstein 3D had awful graphics by today's standards, but it is still quite entertaining. Hey, there's nothing wrong with killing a castle full of evil Nazis is there? As time passed, enhancements to the characters, landscapes, missions, and audio/video technology brought new levels of realism and sophistication to the first person shooter. Starting with games like Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and others, it was possible to fulfill military objectives on a decently outfitted PC. Now we've reached the point with networking technology that even the US Army has a game that teaches teenagers how cool it is to "engage an enemy."

We've reached a point now where games are marketed to provide a very real experience. Nobody expected to get trapped in a German castle or, as in the game Doom, wind up in a demonic world with various underworld creatures attacking you. Thanks to advances in gaming architecture, there are thousands of people who are experiencing real battle operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Army is going to make a game to lure children into the military, they ought to capture as much of the audio/visual REALITY as they can so our children know what they are getting into.

Therefore, I propose the following changes to all new military games:

  • People are very friendly when you arrive, but there is sniper fire to avoid and bands of militia.
  • One of every 50 innocents will try to kill people on your team.
  • For the first innocent you kill (or insurgent appearing innocent), the people in the area yell at you.
  • For the second one, people become sullen and avoid you.
  • For the third one, the innocents start throwing rocks at you.
  • For each innocent killed, the number of innocents decreases and the number of bands of insurgents increase.
  • There is no "winning" a mission, only surviving to go home.
  • Innocents, insurgents, and your own team members can be wounded and act like wounded (bleeding, screaming, etc.). You have decide how to approach each circumstance.
  • The dead do not disappear. They must be evacuated or left to rot. Each decision has its own consequences.

Update: These items come to you courtesy of frequent poster Relatively Exact:

  • Sometimes the equipment you have doesn't work.
  • There are fellow soldiers, some of whom may be prone to freak out and start killing innocents whether you want them to or not. If the ratio of innocents to insurgents becomes extremely unfavorable, they might start taking panicked pot shots at you.
  • Sometimes you are given military objectives that are extremely vague or don't make sense.
  • You are occasionally followed by obnoxious reporters that insult you and get in the way. If you kill one, and there are witnesses, your mission is over.

I am sure there are many more. The games will still be playable without these changes, but why play only a fancy version of chess? Chess is for people who are afraid to get their hands dirty. If all the propaganda is true, we don't have time for that.

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