Thursday, April 30, 2009

TMI Thursday: From the (HACK! COUGH! AHHHHHH!)

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu’s place for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

In TMIs far and wide, the four Ps have been widely discussed. For those unfamiliar with the four Ps, they are, in descending order: Pussy, Penis, Piss and Poo. In a way they kind of remind me of George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On TV.” Such wonderful words those were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

Anyway, for your consideration, I’d like to suggest a fifth P, Phlegm, and its subcategory, snot, with this little story.

[Note: After a day's contemplation, I realized, Phlegm, and its subcategory, snot, would actually be the sixth P. I'd forgotten one of the most venerated Ps earlier and I'd like to take this opportunity to give Puke its proper due. So, Puke, here's to you! Huzzah!]

It was late November; we’d been aboard that little island off the South Carolina coast for about nine weeks. None of us had any hair yet, mainly because it’d been shorn to the skin about four times in the two months, but we were starting to believe we maybe just might march off the Parris Island parade deck as Marines in about a month. (Historical note: It was freezing fucking cold Dec. 17 of that year and I got to graduate from boot camp indoors. Yipee!)

Yes, we were hard, hard young men. We’d lost weight – in my case, more than 50 pounds in nine weeks while eating about 7,500 calories a day – built muscle and learned to shoot a man from 500 yards. We’d run the obstacle course, learned how to turn our backpacks into a flotation device we could shoot from while assaulting a beach and battled the other platoons in the pugil stick ring.

We were tough.

Yeah, not so much.

Nothing, and I mean nothing at boot camp is done without a reason. No matter what you may think at the time or later, there is a method to the seemingly insane madness that is Parris Island. The drill instructors know the recruits’ heads are getting a bit swollen now that they’ve survived more than two months and made it through the rifle range and Mess & Maintenance (working in the chow hall) weeks. So it’s time to take them down a peg or two.

Or, say, 20.

The build-up starts the day before. DIs laughing and smiling and commenting about what’s coming tomorrow. “Ha, boy, we’re gonna git you good,” is a common refrain.

And then, suddenly, it’s the next day already. It’s time.

You’ve had the classes, you know your mask works, but that’s little comfort as you pass through a door with this sign over the lintel: Even the Brave Cry Here.

The gas chamber.

You walk in with your hand on the shoulder of the recruit in front of you, and the hand of the recruit behind you on your shoulder. The air is thick, you can barely see the person you’re holding onto for dear life.

The billowing clouds of acrid CS (tear gas) bite hard into the exposed skin of your head, neck and hands. Unlike the DIs you’re not wearing a hood or gloves to protect these parts of your body. But then again, they’re going in and out, you just have to do it once (easy in retrospect to understand, but it kinda sucked at the time).

“Just let me get through the next three minutes. Just let me get through thenextthreeminutes. HolyFuckingShit!Justletmegetthroughthenextthreeminutes!”

They start you start slow. You crack the seal of the mask while holding your breath and let the mask fill with the gas and then re-seal it and clear the gas by blowing hard. You get most of it out, but not all, and now your cheeks are tingling…just like your ears. (I’ve heard tell CS feels a bit like a sunburn. That’s a fucking lie. It feels like a sunburn someone is rubbing with steel wool.)

After everyone’s clear and gives the thumbs up, it’s time. Time for the mask to come off. Completely.

The funny thing about CS is while you may think you can avoid it by holding your breath, you can’t. You may not be breathing, but it’s still seeping up your nose, irritating it and causing you to breath in just a little.

And that’s all it takes my friend. That tiny, insignificant breath, no more than the tiniest little whiff really, and you’re done cause your next instinct is to take a deep breath to really blow it out and now it’s in your lungs and you’re coughing and you’re hacking and the only thing keeping you from screaming like a little bitch is the one thing you’ve remembered is to keep your fucking eyes closed.

Oh, and did I mention it doesn’t matter if you’re an pearl diver from the Philippines and can hold your breath for five minutes? You don’t get the chance to hold your breath because the DIs start asking you questions which you have to answer. This requires you to breathe, which you can’t do 'cause your lungs are filled with CS gas resulting in a scene suitable for America’s Funniest Pseudo-Sadistic Home Videos.

And then, like the cherry on top of a shit Sundae, you get to sing the Marines Hymn.

“From the (cough, cough,) Halls of Montezuma (hack, cough, hack), to (cough) the (hack) shores (hack-cough) of (cough-hack) Tripoli (cough-hack, hack-cough, spit, hack, hack, hack)…”

Eventually, they let you don and clear your mask proving, again, the equipment works, which is all the gas chamber is really for anyway.

Then you’re allowed to leave the chamber, your hand on the shoulder of the man in front, one hand on your shoulder. When you emerge into the weak, late fall sun, it’s only two minutes after you went in, but your head’s a lot less swollen.

Probably a side effect of the five gallons of phlegm leaking from your nose and mouth. Seriously, have you ever seen a man with a 4-foot trail of snot running from his nose?

I have. And I’ve been that man as well. It pretty much sucks. But on the bright side, my sinuses were cleared for the next week or so.

And that's not even a very long snot trail.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Time in a bottle

A couple of weeks ago, one of my best friends asked me a simple question, “Why aren’t you on Facebook?”

I answered her question with one of my own, “Why would I need to be on Facebook?”

“Well, it’s fun. You can find out what everyone you knew back in high school is doing,” she said.

“I really don’t care what the people I went to high school with are doing today.”

I don’t think she quite understood my response.

Seriously, I couldn’t give two farts in a stiff Texas breeze about 652 of the 654 people I graduated from [insert name of rich, suburban Rust Belt high school here] with back in nineteen garble garble. The two who are left, you ask? Well, I’d drop everything on less than a moment’s notice if they called and said they need my help, as I’m sure they’d do if the situation were reversed (right boys?).

Everyone else can get bent as far as I’m concerned.

How can I dismiss out of hand 652 people? It’s not like they were bad (well, at least most of them were nice). It’s just that over the years those bonds of high school friendship that seemed so, so very important have not stood the test of time.

One guy, who I was as close to as the two who are left just kinda-sorta drifted out of my life after he got his girlfriend pregnant about three years after we graduated. His life got different, and we stopped having anything in common. The conversation ended there. It just petered out.

I’m not a Luddite, resisting some new-fangled Internet thingy just for resistance’s sake. The digital camera and souped up Mac I received this week prove that.

But perhaps, as I think about it, there is a bit of resistance to the idea of Facebook in my actions. Maybe I am old fashion in my thinking that a friendship is something that goes further than a few short sentences on a wall or posting a new picture or two every once in a while.

I used to love writing letters to my friends. During the 13 weeks I was at Parris Island I must have written 50 letters to family and friends. While I was in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War I wrote letters back to the complete strangers who’d taken the time to write to Any Marine. Some of these started correspondences continuing long past the time I returned home.

I can’t remember the last time (aside from Christmas cards) I put a pen to a clean sheet of paper to just say hi to a friend. How about you?

For me, friendship involves the breaking of bread, a shared bottle (hopefully something distilled by Mr. Jameson) and tales of mischief, woe or love told face-to-face. A hug goodbye as you leave a party is so much more satisfying than clicking “sign out” when all is said and done.

I’d like to think the time I don’t spend on Facebook is time I can spend with you ITRW.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The worst pain…ever

I’m feeling a bit of a ranty mood coming on today. You’ve been warned.

Folks, when the traffic is jammed up like on, say, I-395 going past the Pentagon toward the 14th Street bridge at just about any hour of the day, is it really necessary to pull up as close to the car in front of you to prevent people (me) from merging from the on-ramps? It’s a shitty interchange. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it.

Funny, this is the picture I got when I Googled "Mixing Bowl"

The road goes up a hill, down a hill, bends to the right, then the left around the Pentagon then back to the right again before crossing the 14th Street bridge and then bending to the right, left and right again. There are on and off-ramps coming and going every which way as they please and, seriously, whatthefuck were they thinking? Whoever designed this thing should be flogged within an inch of their professional lives with their T-square. Or, rather, I’d think, their compass since there are so many bends in this road.

But that doesn’t mean you, as a driver, have to do everything in your power short of using a particle accelerator to join your bumper to the car in front of yours to stop me from getting on the highway.

Those a bit crunchier-than-thou among us would say, “Well, if you were riding a bike you wouldn’t have to worry about all of that.” True, but that’s not the point of this rant, so shutthefuckup. (Those of you who know me, know I have a bike, love riding it and will, if properly outraged by rude drivers, not hesitate a whit to use my fist on the fenders of offending cars. U-locks work really well too.)

Seriously, you’re not going to get to where you’re headed any faster by cutting me off from merging. All you’re going to do is up your already dangerously high blood pressure and risk blowing out that artery twitching in your forehead long before you can tap into your depleted 401k.

So, it’s called the “zipper.” If you’re crawling along in rush hour traffic in the right lane it’s your responsibility, nay, your duty, to allow a car on the on-ramp to merge in front of you.

Learn it. Love it. Live it.

Second verse, same as the first
Oh my god! Everyone run for the hills with your duct tape and antibiotics, the swine flu is gonna get ya. (Note: Neither of these items will actually help you when it comes to swine flu, just wanted to mention that. Yanno, for legal purposes.)

Or, at least that’s what you’d be thinking if you watched the news in the past two days. CNN this morning was like the Swine Flu News Channel (SFNC). I heard news about it on Elliot in the Morning on the drive in. Apparently, according to the report I heard on the radio, the Israeli health minister doesn’t like the idea of “swine flu” because it’s not kosher, and from hence forth, it will be called “Mexican flu” because, yanno, that’s so much less offensive.

But would you like to guess how many people the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are, as of this morning, reporting have come down with the dreaded malady?

Three million? (1 percent of the U.S. population.) No.

Thirty thousand? (1/10,000 of the U.S. population.) No.

Three hundred? (1/1,000,000 of the U.S. population.) No.

The answer? Forty, yes, 40. Four-zero. Just slightly more than one ten-millionth of the American population (13 millionths). Let’s say that number again: ONE TEN-MILLIONTH. (This number should rise significantly, numbers speaking, in the next day or so as tests are completed, but c’mon.)

According to M. Webster, a pandemic is an outbreak occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population. What does this mean?

According to CDC, malaria is prevalent in areas of the world where about half the population live (3.2 billion). Each year 350 million to 500 million cases of malaria are diagnosed (5.8 percent to 8.3 percent of the world population). One million of these people die, 80 percent living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Funny, CNN isn’t giving this any air time, but let a couple of people in NYC or SoCal get the sniffles? You’ve got yourself a national story of the utmost importance.

Swine flu is the friggin’ flu people. Cover your mouths when you sneeze or cough, keep your fingers out of your nose and eyes and, if you feel like shit?

Don’t. Go. To. Work.

Stay home on the couch, keep a bucket handy and watch some Sports Center and TNT’s “Primetime in the Daytime,” drink lots of fluids and get better. If you don’t feel better, call your doctor. Here’s some more helpful advice from the really, really smart people at CDC.

The pain! The pain!
It starts slow, but spreads quickly. Like a lightning flash, every nerve ending in your body is on fire. It is a pain that can never, ever be equaled.

Guys, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the pain caused by not being able to play with a new electronic toy because, say, it’s missing the right friggin’ monitor cable.

Making matters worse, the Apple store doesn’t have one in stock.

Ya know what? I’ve been looking forward to my new computer for days. Yesterday, after I saw FedEx had delivered it, I had to hold myself back from leaving work early to go home and play with it.

But when I figured out I couldn’t play with it last night, well, that was like Steve Jobs kicking me in the jimmy.

The pain is almost too much to endure.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Life's goal

I want to be just like this guy:
The Most Interesting Man in the World.

I want to have awkward moments just to see what they feel like. I want to live vicariously through myself.

I love these commercials. They make me smile. I admit it, I’ll rewind and watch them again (and maybe even again). The Dos Equis
Web site is pretty cool too. You can learn the skills necessary to be the MIMITW’s assistant.

These skills include, but are in no way limited to, arm wrestling Mao, Churchill and Joe Stalin; how to use a blowgun to plug holes in his luxury submarine; or how to avoid a shiv in the ribs by using the proper insult in the proper location. For instance, in Polish "Jak ma ciebie patrze to mi oczy zachodzą musztardą" means "Watching you makes my eyes go blind with mustard." You wouldn't want to throw that out just anywhere because you risk finding yourself face down in an ally.

Me? I’m staying thirsty.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

TMI Thursday: Sneaking about in plain sight

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu’s place for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

Remember those days in college? You know the ones I’m talking about: Those days in February when the only money you had left, if you were lucky, was the balance on your meal card?

The weather had yet to turn, even in the warmer climes of the American South. The nights were cold and you’re still a couple weeks away from being able to stumble from bar-to-bar in shorts and a T-shirt. A decision is made, and you and your friends maybe figure tonight it might not be such a crime against nature to spend a Saturday night in. You know, just the one.

You trade in the potentially damp and cold night chugging
Blue Cups at He’s Not, and the decision is made to gather everyone for movie night.

Yeaaaa! Movie Night!

You, your roommate, your girlfriends and six or eight friends gather in your room because, hey, let’s face it, nobody else has a 20-inch TV (yeah, it was cool at the time) and your room is set up for large crowds. The key feature of this set-up is your loft where the mattress sits about 7 feet above the floor, giving folks plenty of room below to sprawl in chairs and the cool hammock slung in the eaves of the loft.

“What should we watch?” someone asks, and the discussion ensues. Finally someone says, “Hey, Chris has ‘Xxx Xxxx xx xxx Xxxxxxxx,’ we can borrow that.”

Glancing up at your girlfriend in the loft, you give her a little smile and a wink. She smiles too and, maybe, even blushes a little. The two of you have borrowed this same movie from your suitemate at least three times in the past month…and never made it to the end.

At least not clothed, that is.

The movie is slid into the VCR (remember those?), and with everyone comfortable, you hit play and climb up into the loft and join your girlfriend in the balcony seats to watch the stirring tale of epic heroism and forbidden love during the Xxxxxx xxx Xxxxxx War.

It seems tonight, with a room full of friends, you two may, perhaps, just maybe make it to the end fully dressed.

Or not.

The hero rescues the girl from a fate worse than death and, as the first great battle scene begins to rage, you spoon together, cuddling closer, back further toward the wall where the shadows are deeper. More private.

The loft is strong with plenty of bracing to prevent any untoward swaying and squeaking. You know this be you built it this way with your own two hands.

The need for quiet forces small, slow, intense, passionate movement.

The film (shot, I should add, in North Carolina) reaches its climax with a crescendo as our hero races to rescue his love once again. He succeeds, and you hug your girlfriend close whispering, “I love you” softly in her ear.

While the credits roll, your girlfriend feigns sleep as you bid farewell to your friends from the safety of the loft. The last two people to leave are your roommate and his girlfriend, heading over to spend the night in her room.

As the door closes, a hand reaches out for yours.

You smile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a bit outside

Boy, this little news item is going to ruin a lot of vacation memories for countless people.

Apparently, everyone who’s ever had their picture taken here:

at the Four Corners Monument with their arms and legs splayed into what they believed at the time to be four different states was, actually in Arizona the whole time.

Seriously, I’d be a little pissed, but since I’ve never been I can’t get too wound up about the whole thing. Hopefully they’ll move the monument to the right spot.

Or at least put a sign up telling people it really isn’t where they say it is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Schools, drugs and the Supremes

I don’t know if anyone’s seen this story, but the Supremes will be hearing the case this week.

If you don’t feel like clicking the link and reading the whole story, the short and very, very dirty version is this: six years ago a 13-year-old Arizona student was strip-searched by zealous school administrators in their search for illegal drugs.

Excessive? Some may say yes, some may say no. Until, that is, you find out the school’s vigilant principal, vice principal and nurse strip searched the girl while searching for ibuprofen. Personally, I’d say they not only pegged the excessive meter, the excess needle started spinning like a pressure gauge in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

C13H18O2: It can be administered orally,
topically or (hehe) rectally

According to CNN’s lovely story (they must be hiring better writers in Atlanta these days since this one’s actually readable) the school has a zero-tolerance policy for all prescription and over-the-counter medication, including ibuprofen, without prior written permission.

“In this case, the United States Supreme Court will decide how easy it is for school officials to strip search your child,” Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing the student, told CNN Radio on Sunday. “School officials undoubtedly have difficult jobs, but sometimes they overreact -- and this was just a clear overreaction.”

Ya think? Maybe just a little?

When nothing incriminating was found in the student’s backpack, the vice principal and the nurse (both women) had the girl strip to her skivvies. She then had to turn out the cups of her bra and pull out the waistband of her underwear so they could make sure she didn’t have any anti-inflammatories stuffed down her drawers.

You know what? Even if they’d found her muling a key of pure, uncut Mexican brown their reaction would have been too much. In case these folks out in Arizona haven’t heard, there are actually people called “police” who are specially trained to deal with a situation like this.

Although, I’m pretty sure, the cops would have laughed at the school if they’d called and asked them to strip-search a student to find out if she was hiding OTC medications. That should have been their first clue they were making a mistake.

Their second clue should have been THEY WERE LOOKING FOR FUCKING IBUPROFEN!!

If I’m wrong, and I’m never wrong, I recall from reading many of your blogs (often on TMI Thursdays) 13-year-old girls may perhaps suffer from “discomfort” as they become women. Also, from what I’ve read, there may be a fair amount of embarrassment associated with this event and they may not want to go to the school nurse to ask for something to help with the cramps.

I find it totally reasonable a young girl might have a little stash of Advil or Tylenol (the brand name for another dangerous gateway drug: acetaminophen [C8H9NO2]) in her school kit.

The school district, inconceivably, won the first and second go-rounds of the case, but lost in front of the full 9th Circuit. The school has said it feels a ruling against them could “jeopardize campus safety.” Any restrictions on them strip searching students could be a (have to use the quote here because its logic when applied to anti-inflammatories is amazing) "roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons."

Perhaps a moment or two of contemplative thought instead of swift action is exactly what this situation called for, eh? Maybe? At the very least it would have saved a forest of trees from becoming briefs (Ha! Get it? Briefs?).

School officials added the judges of the 9th Circuit were “wholly uninformed about a disturbing new trend” – the abuse of over-the-counter medication by teenagers.

How the hell do you abuse ibuprofen? (I checked with a doctor friend of mine, you really can’t.)

What happened here is these school officials made a HUGE mistake and they know it, and now they’re trying to litigate their way out of the mess they’ve made.

One of the most important jobs a school has is to teach its students to respect the rules of society. But by stripping students of their rights, to say nothing of their clothes, this school has utterly failed in its mission of turning young adults into productive citizens.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

TMI Thursday: Anybody got a mint?

It's TMI Thursday my friends. For more stories that will entertain and disgust you at the same time go to LiLu’s place for this week's full list. And now, on to the fun!

One night, after a visit to his girlfriend, my friend Chuck was driving his red Camaro through the front gate at Camp Lejeune, N.C. When it came his turn for the sentry to wave him back into the welcoming arms of the Marine Corps, instead of the usual perfunctory “move along” signal, Chuck got directed to the side of the road.

[Little background: If you ever visited the different services’ bases pre-9/11 you may have noticed how they all handled security in their own special ways. Army bases often had state highways running right through them. The folks guarding Air Farce bases generally thought “security” was an investment option. The Navy, because it can’t be trusted to do the job itself had Marines on post (especially on bases where there were nukes). And the Marine Corps guarded the keys to the head (nautical terminology for bathroom) and the whole of their bases with the same tenacity it showed at Khe Sanh. Now you have to give blood, stool, urine and hair samples along with fingerprints and a detailed FBI check before you're allowed to even look at a military base, let alone go aboard one.]

So, doing as he was told like the good Marine he was, Chuck pulled over to the side, got out his ID card and awaited the guard’s questioning. (So good a Marine, in fact, that within the year Chuck would be selected as a Marine Security Guard. He spent the next three years guarding the U.S. Embassies in Budapest and Rio de Janeiro.)

After a glancing inspection of my buddy’s ID, the lance corporal on duty set to work finding himself an evil-doer. It should be pointed out at this juncture, my pal Chuck was a corporal, one grade senior, and while he was a pretty easy-going guy, he took his responsibilities as a non commissioned officer seriously.

“Where have you been tonight?” the guard asked.

“Out,” was Chuck’s response.

“Out where?”

“In town,” Chuck said, now a little annoyed at the disrespectful tone he’s hearing.

“I think you’ve been out drinking,” came the accusation.

“Dressed like this?” Chuck replied, pointing to his bare feet, running shorts and tank top. Apparently, he’d had to leave in a bit of a hurry when her father, a colonel, arrived home unexpectedly.

No balloons being handy, the sentry took off his cover (Marine for “hat”), put it in front of Chuck’s face and commanded, “Breathe into this.”

Knowing he was innocent, Chuck later told me with a sly grin, he complied.

The guard pulled his cover back up to his face and inhaled deeply.

“You like that?” Chuck asked, “Her name’s Heather.”

With an angry wave he was sent on his way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The eye of the beholder

Just the other night, while I was watching “The Sound of Music” (Yeah? What of it bud? You got something to say?) I got to thinking just exactly how beautiful Julie Andrews was/is. During the scene where Captain von Trapp expresses his love for the former nun in the gazebo, the two-time nanny (eh, remember her turn around the rooftops of London with Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”?) looked so beautiful it got me to thinking about other beautiful women.

Then, yesterday, Vanity Fair announced the results of its poll and named Angelina Jolie “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” She was, in fact, the overwhelming winner, taking 58 percent of the vote and the only person on the list to make it into double digits percentage-wise (Gisele Bundchen – 9 percent, and Halle Berry, 4 percent, were second and third).

Now, don’t get me wrong, Mrs. Pitt is a beautiful woman, but she and pretty much all of her contemporaries in the moving pictures today can’t hold a candle to the silver screen’s leading ladies of yesteryear. With that in mind, I got to thinking even more. What I needed was a list. A list of women who's beauty transcends time and space.

And here it is, my list of the Top 3 Most Beautiful Women in Cinema History, and a few of their credits in case you want to look them up. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Grace Kelly
To Catch a Thief and Rear Window

I saw “Rear Window” in a film class my sophomore or junior year. The first time Grace Kelly came into the frame she took my breath away.

Ingrid Bergman
Casablanca and Notorious

Forever famous for asking Sam to play “As Time Goes By” Ingrid Bergman’s beauty makes it easy to understand why Rick was so destroyed when she missed the train and left him standing in the rain in Paris.

Audrey Hepburn
Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady

Sometimes one picture is just not enough. So here's a couple more.

“I ain't dirty! I washed me face and hands before I come, I did.” No amount of dirt smudging her face could disguise her beauty.

I know there’s some actress out there I missed who may be as luminescent as the three mentioned above and for that I am truly sorry. One thing I’m sure of is Grace, Ingrid and Audrey would still be leading ladies today. Not in their current form, of course, since all are dead, but at their prime their beauty easily eclipses any of today’s stars.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jack Sparrow gets one between the running lights

I guess crime really doesn’t pay.

Instead of paying the Somali pirates who’d taken a U.S. sea captain hostage the $2 million they asked for – like many governments have done lately to recover their own sailors – the U.S. Navy chose a much cheaper solution: three bullets.

Even counting the cost of the fuel oil burned by the flotilla of ships surrounding the lifeboat carrying Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama and the three now, very, very much dead pirates, I’d say they chose the better alternative.

All in all, a very pleasing outcome to the situation. For more, read the NYT’s article.

The article does bring up a couple of interesting points in my mind, chief among them is this: Why the hell did the Navy have to get permission from the president to shoot these fuckers? Does it really take executive authority of that nature to kill foreign pirates actually in the act of piracy?

Or, the less desirable option in my mind, someone in the administration told them they couldn’t shoot without executive permission.

Actually, both of these choices are pretty distasteful. One the right hand you have military leaders unwilling to take a clearly military action without political coverage from above, making them unworthy of their commands. Seriously, how hard is it to order SEALs to shoot three guys? Or, on the left hand, you have political officials who’ve told the military they’re cops now (no offense to the cops out there, but your job is different from the military) and they can’t just kill the bad guys.

[Note: Upon further reading about this situation in other news sources, it seems the actual shoot order came from the ship's captain under the White House's guidance of "all necessary measures" to recover Phillips safely. While the NYT's description was not inaccurate, it could have been a little clearer. My bad. The situations I described above, however, are not unknown in military/political decision-making process, unfortunately.]

This is a situation, the whole “Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden” thing, requires only one order from the president: Shoot to kill on sight. Use missiles if you like and send us the strike footage, we’ll make popcorn and host a screening on the Mall.

See, one of the things the NYT got right in its article was this line: “The pirates threatened to kill Captain Phillips if attacked, and the result was tragicomic: the world’s most powerful navy vs. a lifeboat.”

I can understand our diplomatic restraint when dealing with Iran, Germany, Syria, France Venezuela, Canada, hell, even North Korea. They’re nation-states and a different set of rules apply. (I’m kidding about Canada and Germany. OK, France too, though they do so try my patience sometimes.)

A little more from the NYT:

In Somalia itself, other pirates reacted angrily to the news that Captain Phillips had been rescued, and some said they would avenge the deaths of their colleagues by killing Americans in sea hijackings to come.

' "Every country will be treated the way it treats us," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying in a telephone interview. "In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying." '

Two words jackass: Get bent. Somewhere out there, there’s a SEAL, Ranger, Marine or Delta sniper with your name on a bullet.

Here’s a nice little mission for the world’s most powerful navy: blockade the “pirate den” of Gaan with a couple of destroyers (or half the U.S. Fifth Fleet for that matter) and then hunt down the pirates and kill them. They try to leave port: shoot ‘em. They threaten to kill any of the 200 or so hostages they’ve taken off of the 12 ships they’re holding, shoot them some more. They actually shoot any of the hostages, shoot them even more. In a situation like this, power comes straight from the barrel of a gun or, in our case, lots and lots of guns. Lots and lots of really big fucking guns.

Does anyone really think these guys are ever going to go back to fishing? No? Didn’t think so, so we’re going to have to kill them anyway at some point so why not now?

Sean Connery said it best as Officer Jim Malone in The Untouchables: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!

What the hell fun is it being a great power if you can’t kill a bunch of pirates? Seriously, it’s not like anyone (worth mentioning) is going to complain. This would also have the beneficial side-effect of making some of the other nations that annoy us just a bit scared of what we might do to them if they fuck with us.

A little known historical fact: The United States’ very, very first expression of power overseas was dealing with the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. Instead of paying tribute to the pirates (which is exactly what is happening now), the U.S. decided to build a navy and take the fight to the pirates. (If you want, you can still see one of these ships, USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides” – in Boston Harbor.)

It took a little while, but in the end the United States was the first major power to stop paying tribute to the Barbary pirates. The exploits of some even ended up in a song:

“From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli. We have fought our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Step away from the pillow and put your hands up!

This past weekend after a lovely brunch of waffles and home fries (for me) and Eggs Neptune (for my wonderful friend Shannon) I dropped her off at the Metro. (Yes, I know I’m a bit behind the times, I plead the combination of a new, and still unfamiliar job, and the Heels’ national championship on Monday.) Her destination was a Bed, Bath and Beyond where she planned to purchase a pillow.

For a pillow fight.

In Dupont Circle.

The event in Dupont was, apparently, part of a planned, spontaneous international pillow fight taking place in cities around the world. Along with the feathery antics being a bit of performance art, it also seemed like a great way for folks everywhere to have some fun and blow off some steam in what talking heads have been calling “trying times.”

Everywhere, that is, except Detroit.

In Detroit, it seems, you now need permission from the government to carry a pillow in public. I direct you to this story by The Associated Press.

For those not motivated enough to click over, here’s the highlights:

“Police in Detroit have ruffled some feathers after they cracked down on an organized pillow fight at a downtown park. The Detroit News reports that police at Campus Martius Park prevented the feathery fight Saturday by disarming pillow-toting participants.

“Michael Davis of Hamtramck, Mich., said police confiscated the 32-year-old man's pillows but returned their cases. He said he was told that he needed a permit. Detroit police spokesman James Tate said the issue wasn't about the bout but the mess it would have created.”

There are so many elements of humor in this story I hardly know where to begin. But, for argument’s sake, let’s start with the police actually taking the time to root out the perpetrators so as to short-stop any pillow-related antics.

We’re talking about Detroit here, not only was the Final Four going on there (Go Tar Heels! Number 1 Baby!), which I think might tend to incite some problems more worthy of police attention, but we are TALKING ABOUT DETROIT! According to numbers I was able to find, 344 people were murdered in Detroit in 2008 (a 13 percent decrease from the 396 in 2007 – woohoo!).

That's about a murder a day for those keeping score at home. You never know if one of the pillow fighters might have gotten carried away and beat someone to death with a feather/poly-filled sack.

Next, we’ll move on to the police confiscating the pillows, but taking the time to return the pillow cases. Isn’t that kind of like confiscating the bullets, but giving the guns back? People, those pillow cases can be reloaded virtually anywhere!! Bed, Bath and Beyond, Sears, JC Penny, Target (Target, for god’s sake) and the Saturday Night Special dealer of pillow outlets, Wal-Mart.

This country is awash in cheap and easily available pillows. Hell, I need to show my license just to buy some allergy meds, but just anyone can walk into Wal-Mart and walk out with a dozen pillows with no questions asked.

And, finally, I know for a fact my friend carried her newly purchased pillow to Dupont in her back pack. My question to Detroit’s law enforcement community is this: Were there any attempts made to curtail the activities of those scofflaws carrying concealed pillows without a permit? This, my friends, these concealed pillow carriers, are a grave and growing problem plaguing our cities.

Imagine the innocent people - office workers enjoying their lunch breaks, families with young children patronizing their city’s public areas, lovers rendezvousing for a nooner - strolling peacefully through our parks when BAM! Suddenly, and from out of no where, someone reaches into a backpack, snatches out a 300-thread count pillow case stuffed with a big, fluffy white pillow and begins whacking away at you or, worse, your loved ones.

Perhaps, someday, when our country has grown beyond this level of frivolity and become more civilized, we’ll look back on this weekend as the start of a new age.

Personally, I hope that day never comes.

Vive la revolution!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hark the Sound of an Ass Kicking

First off, see this logo? Yeah, this one:

Yep, my beloved North Carolina Tar Heels are the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions baby!

I’m not going to get into the team’s accomplishments here except to mention the boys in Carolina Blue (not “baby” blue you ESPN jackass) went through their tournament opponents this year like a plasma cutter through plate steel. Not only did they win every game by at least 12 points, they had a double-digit lead for something like 150 of the 240 minutes they played during the past three weeks.

Absolutely dominating.

But yet…

Just before midnight last night my college roommate gave me a call and we reminisced for a few moments on the events of the evening and shared our joy in watching our Heels win their second championship in five years. Not too shabby.


My old roommate, The Prez, commented, “Never did a 14-point lead seem so flimsy.” And I agreed. For some reason, in our heads it didn’t matter the Heels were winning by 15 points with five minutes to go. It just didn’t seem like enough. This veteran team never, and I mean never, ever, gave us any reason (except the Maryland game earlier this year) to doubt its skill and determination.

What I think it was is this: Although the Heels have won it all twice in the past two years, during the time me and The Prez and our friends Sarita, Kris, Liz, Mark, Derrick, John and all the rest spent in Chapel Hill, the teams we cheered for were great. They made it to three Final Fours in four years…and lost in each one.

But not this year. This year the Tar Heels exceeded their fans’ expectations (except maybe for the one or two loonies out there expecting an undefeated season, pshaw!)

This year, this wonderful team filled with seniors walked off the court in Detroit their head held high as National Champions! Yeah Baby!

All I can say is I wish I were still there today, in Chapel Hill, instead of at the office. Nursing a hangover and checking to make sure my shoes (and other parts of me) didn't melt too too badly while dancing around, through and in the fires on Franklin Street (seriously, check out this video, it's a time-lapse of the celebration) is a far, far finer place for a Tar Heel to be today.

I’m a Tar Heel born,
I’m a Tar Heel bred,
And when I die,
I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s Rah-rah, Car’lina-lina
Rah-rah Car’lina-lina
Rah-rah Car’lina-lina
Go to Hell Dook!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Walk Among the Flowers

Along with the first robin of Spring, D.C. has its own little "Hey-Winter-is-over-it's-time-to-break-out-the-sundresses" signal: the blossoming of almost 4,000 Japanese cherry trees. 

Since I moved to area, I've made it down to the Tidal Basin each year to take in the blooms and snap a picture or two (or 200). I've also learned a lesson or two about when to visit, namely not on the second weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival. A weeknight stroll is a much better choice.

For those of you from out of town, this weekend in D.C. the tourist hoards descended upon our fair capital. In the millions. 

Friday night was a bit blustery with a bit of wind and some overcast, but nothing too terrible. Anyway, here are a couple from my 2009 Cherry Blossom album. Enjoy.

Some of the prettiest blossoms hang right down over the
paths and into the water.

Sunset over the Tidal Basin.

Two of the more famous icons of the District.

When the wind blows, and it was blowing Friday,
it's almost like standing in a sweet smelling blizzard.

A few clouds can't take away from the view.

Finding a break in the clouds, the sun peeked out 
for one last shot before hiding in Rosslyn.

On Saturday, there'd be a line behind this little break 
in blossoms. Friday night I didn't have to wait a second.

Even in black-and-white they're still pretty.

One last shot before the dying of the light.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Batter Up!

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home, it’s a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.

- Centerfield by John Fogerty

The world famous Durham Bull. When he gets hit,
his eyes flare and his nose snorts streams of smoke.

Now I’m not that big of a baseball fan. But, every since my first game at Chicago’s old Comiskey Park, there’s just something about the start of the new baseball season that screams “SPRING” in my ear. [Note: Even though my first game was a White Sox game, my sister quickly rectified any potential fandom for the Southsiders by taking me to the North Side cathedral bounded by Clark and Addison streets and Sheffield and Waveland avenues. And while my first love is and always will be for my dreadful hometown Pirates, the Cubbies are a very close 1A.]

And while you won’t catch me watching more than five or 10 minutes of a game on TV for the next six months, I can think of few things finer than a summer evening at the ballpark. The laughter of friends (including those who couldn’t give a damn about the game) surrounds you as you gaze down toward a field of grass so green it almost hurts your eyes. The pitcher’s wind-up and delivery. The crack of the bat hitting a 94-mph fastball. A player hustling around first, stretching a single into a double and a play at second base.

I’m not a passionate baseball fan, but I am a fan of the time I spend at the ballpark each year with my friends.

And now, two of my favorite baseball movie quotes.

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”
- Crash Davis in Bull Durham

And, despite all the times baseball players and owners have disappointed us, I think these words pretty much say what we all feel about baseball:

“Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
- Terence Mann in Field of Dreams

Play ball!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

TMI Thursday: The Chair

It was late August 1995 and my roommate and I were hosting one of what became a Legen-wait for it-dary string parties during our sophomore year in the warm embrace of Chapel Hill. (And, when I say warm, I mean August in North Carolina warm.)
Morrison Residence Hall - Scene of legendary exploits
and tales too twisted to tell (except here)

Our parties were significantly better than everyone else’s for a couple of very simple reasons. First, due to my six years before the mast in the Marines, I was old enough to legally procure that most valuable of commodities in an underclass dorm: alcohol. And procure it I did. In vast and previously unheard of quantities.

The Prez (my roomie) and I each kicked in 20 bucks at the start of the year to fill the fridges with Rolling Rock for us and the people we knew, and The Beast for those who just wandered in off the streets. All we asked was a small donation from those partaking of our generosity and they were assured of beer-filled mini-fridges and a place free of the tyranny of the RAs to partake in the malted goodness.

The tyranny-free zone was the result of two factors: One, I never let a party get too out of hand and, B) the RA on our floor had a healthy, but totally unfounded, fear of the former Marine in his charge. (Except for one somewhat drunken occasion the day after he busted my girlfriend for underage drinking when I wasn’t around, I was never, ever, anything but a completely loveable teddy bear of a 6’2” 225-pound former Marine rugby player. Like Fezzik said, “It's not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise.”)

Anyway, getting back to the story, being the new school year people would wander hither and yon in the 10-storey behemoth that was and is Morrison Residence Hall. After a couple of weeks our den of inequity quickly gained a good rep and the freshmen and, more importantly, freshwomen arrived in droves most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

On one evening that sticks out in the collective memory, a trio of particularly comely maidens wandered by, were invited in and provided libations and the best seats in our 1,680-cubic-foot room. Here’s where the problem arises, since our guests were sitting in our finest chairs, I was relegated to one of the standard-issue formed-plastic chairs that came with the room. Ya see what’s coming, don’t ya?

Beer + Dining hall food = Only one possible outcome.

I farted. Loud and long and proud. A real first-class tear-ass gas bomb. And, with the assistance of the standard-issue formed-plastic dorm room chair, I think I even got the rarest of effects: reverb.

Now, amongst men, this action would have been praised and, depending on those present, a heroic ballad may have even been written about the exploit.

But our trio of maidens didn’t quite see things the same way. All conversation stopped dead. Jaws dropped. Beers were quickly chugged or abandon.

We never saw them again.