Monday, January 15, 2007

Well, I am now officially at Christendom, and have registered and paid for my classes. That calculus last semester got me out of doing Euclid, and some might be surprised to learn that I am taking astronomy this semester. When given my choice of sciences, I figured that would sit better with my interest in mythology.

Last semester I found that the secret to relieving the stress of study is not less reading, but more. Something extracurricular and unconnected to any of your studies except in perhaps a very indirect way. I am fairly well set here with the entire Lord of the Rings series, all four volumes of Churchill's British history, and my entire collection of C.S. Lewis books (sans Narnia). I brought a few Whodehouse books, at least one of which I have already read. Although we have it on tape, I was unable to find a paper copy of Service With a Smile.

On a different note, I found out last night that they are soon to release a movie called 300 about the Battle of Thermopylae. The trailer wasn't promising, far too much lick some fantasy RPG.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I really don't have any excuse for letting someone else break the news before me, but I have indeed been accepted to Christendom for this coming semester. By way of making things clearer (or perhaps less clear), I was accepted for the fall of '04 and again in '05, having to defer both times. At the time of my last blog post on this subject, I had just submitted a letter declaring my intent to transfer with credits earned this semester at community college. I was notified a few weeks ago that I was on a waiting list and needed do give another statement of intent to enroll. As of yesterday, a spot opened up for me and I sent off this morning what I hope will be my last letter declaring my intent to go there.
I'll try to feel my way along at Christendom. Community college was easy enough, but I only took three full semester classes, and I can't help but think that Christendom will also grade a little harder. Standards are higher, and I can't count on good grades on a paper just because everyone else is a poor writer.
I think this leaves me with about a week in which to prepare and be off. Two days at least do not count, since I have drill this weekend, but at least it's not as bad as it would be if drill was next weekend, if you follow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

create your own visited countries map
vertaling Duits Nederlands

Other countries I would like to add in the future include England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain, and Israel.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy feast of St. Leo the Great everyone!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This is officially cool:

My Motorola Bluetooth headset still works after having gone through the washer and dryer.

Not only does it still work, but now it's clean!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Well, I meant to post about this the day I saw it, but one thing led to another and I waited a week. I saw that new movie last Saturday, Flags of Our Fathers, about the battle of Iwo Jima and the aftermath of that famous photograph on top of mount Suribachi. I anticipated it having a lot of violence, a lot of swearing, and very little adult content. For the most part that's what I got. The violence is emphasized just enough to be somewhere near accurate, but at the same time restrained enough for the viewer to get a sense that there is a lot more that is not being shown. Japanese soldiers simply do not look pretty after they've blown themselves up with grenades. There is of course a lot of language, including a great many vain uses of the Name, but I was not naive enough to be surprised by it, and except for a brief joke at the beginning, there's no naughty content. I was also satisfied that they represented the Indian member of the company without letting political correctness run amok. They portrayed the unusual liberties of speech that Marines customarily take with each other in a way that I can say was in accordance with my own experience.
I watched the movie from a rather singular vantage point. Not a civilian, but not a combat veteran either, I felt as though I were standing in a doorway between two rooms: I was not fully in either room, but I was able, if so asked, to give each room something of a perspective on the other.
Civilians watching this movie might be a little disillusioned, or at any rate somewhat surprised. It's not mainly about the battle for the island, but about the publicity campaign through which the surviving two Marines and a Corpsman were put through in order to boost national morale and sell war bonds. As such, it is not what you would usually expect from a war movie, but it is interesting that sixty years after it ended, there are still aspects of military life in WWII that are only just now being brought up in a major way. I still regret not having done anything serious in Iraq, but at least now I can be grateful I was not accidentally in some famous photograph.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I haven't posted in a while, but this business about the Pope's remarks and the fury they evoked in the Muslim world seems something worth coming out of hibernation for. Not that I should even be in blog hibernation anyway, after all, it's not as though I'm so very swamped by studies.

From: Me
To: The Muslim world
Re: Apology on behalf of Benedict XVI

It is with the most heartfelt sincerity that I address myself to you on this subject, in the hopes of setting some things straight on this matter and also perhaps of quelling the indignation many of you have been expressing. As is by now generally known, the pope gave a university lecture in Germany on the issue of God and science, in particular the common notion that considerations of God must be put to the side in discussions of science, like thoughts of differential calculus being put aside in discussion of Roman history. In introducing this theme to his lecture, the pope brought up a dialogue between an Islamic scholar and a Byzantine emperor, in the which the emperor, as the pope quoted, pointed out that Islam, where it had at that time spread, had brought only bloodshed and violent proselytism.

I am sorry that your faith is the most violent major religion in the world, and has been ever since the downfall of the Aztecs in the 1520's.

I am sorry that your faith has throughout history made converts mainly by the sword and kept them through threat of death, and that this fact was blindingly obvious to the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire.

I am sorry that the violence of your faith, or of many of those who practice your faith, is amply attested to by the reaction to the pope's remarks, which have, according to the National Catholic Register, included the incineration of a Greek Orthodox church in Israel, and renewed call for jihad from those from whom it is no surprise.

I am sorry that many of you are so keenly aware of Islam's violent history that the mere mention of it, through a quotation from a six-century-old conversation, is met with the same wrath and speed of action that one would expect from a religion that had just heard they had been outlawed and would be required to hand over all their scriptures and religious texts.

Lastly, if indeed there is a "soul of Islam" struggling to break free from those who have commandeered it to their violent tendencies, then I am sorry that so far, and for a very long time, the usurpers seem to have been winning hands down.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I invented another new word today

Vapies: n. A disease which causes one's writings, ideas or creations to be vapid. Potentially infectious after prolonged exposure.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today, at about 8:05 EST, after two years of postponement and a few alterations in plan, I officially assumed the title of "college student". My application to Christendom that I thought I had cancelled was in fact, when I last called, merely put on file, leaving me with the option of resubmitting it. All I need to do is stack up a certain number of credits this semester and I can hopefully transfer in January.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

By and large, I think neoconservatives play fair by the paleocons more than is true the other way around. As a case in point, here is an article by Pat Buchanan on WorldNetDaily which I found by way of Mark Shea:

Beat the drum for permanent war for global democracy and against Islamo-fascism, and all other sins are forgiven you.

Such is the state of conservatism, 2006.

Aren't we sort of jumping to conclusions here? The main point here (apart from the fact that Kristol's remarks do not quite support Buchanan's interpretation of them) is that it's a trifle unfair to latch upon a single remark, whether fairly represented or not, and hold it as completely typical of an entire movement. Think about it. A certain paleocon (who will remain nameless and who certainly didn't write the article I link to) could go ahead and advocate torture in the war on terrorism, and neocons will not instantly jump up and shout that this is the state of old-style conservatism in 2004 or whenever. (If anything, it was actually the neocons who got branded en masse as torture excusers).

I guess Buchanan can afford to play this way since there are very few people anymore who can be associated with him politically. I'm probably judging on poor factual basis, but I rather got the impression that many of those rounded up by David Frum in his controversial article of a couple of years ago have moved to other camps, many becoming libertarians. It would also seem from the outset that Frum falls into this same kind of foul play, but for all he accuses many leading anti-war conservatives, he steers clear of indicting an entire movement on the basis of a quote from one prominent member.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The "historical artifact" that Mrs. MacReady sternly lilts at Susan not to touch as she is showing the Pevensie children through the house in the movie is nothing other than a bust of Dante Alighieri. This is attested to by IMDB's trivia page, but I already knew it anyway. What I didn't know was what the significance was, though I was sure it had to have one. I figured this was just a reference to one writer in the work of another writer, or perhaps there was a reference to Dante in one of the other books. I recently finished reading The Last Battle for the first time (last night actually), and then it dawned on me only after seeing all the eschatological overtones:

What with Narnia one the one hand and The Screwtape Letters on the other hand, C.S. Lewis is the first writer in nearly six hundred years to leave his readers with the feeling that he really has seen Heaven and Hell and come back to tell us about it.

Sorry if this sounds like a blinding flash of the obvious, but I really didn't realize it till now.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's rather a pity that the Christendom Commons message board was not up and running several years ago. It might have saved Mike Marshner, at least, a good bit of trouble.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Movies and Purism
My manifesto on the subject. I worked on this for a week, which isn't too long, since herein may be found the culmination of some thoughts that have been taking shape in my mind for more than four years.

I think it's time to admit that I'm out of humor with purists. For some reason this is a subject on my mind quite a bit nowadays. To begin with, I saw the movie of the first Narnia book, and then sat down to read the only books of that series I could find. I then began reading Lord of the Rings again, much faster than last time but also catching more on the way, and complemented it with a brisk, but not quite end-to-end viewing of the movies. I guess I might as well admit further that I am one of those scorned and outcast creatures who did not read the books until after watching the movie, as is too often my wont. Naturally the comment you'd expect from me on the occasion of my second reading of them would be to say that the books were better than I originally gave them credit for. Though this may be true, and I at least will not gainsay it, the thought that jumped first to mind was actually that the movies were better than I originally gave them credit for.

So much of what is or appears to be amiss in the movies is not without explanation. Many things had to be cut for the sake of time, and of what was left over, much had to be changed to explain over what was cut. This was done very neatly with the hobbits' swords. The Barrow-Downs were cut out, so when the company got to Weathertop, Aragorn summarily gives them four swords wrapped in a parcel. It happens throughout the whole story in dealing with lines. Beregond, Ingold, the gatekeeper at Edoras, Tom Bombadil, and other characters had to be gotten rid of since there was not enough time to meet, deal with, and say goodbye to quite so many people. At the same time, many of them had good lines written for them which would have been a shame to lose, so they were given to other characters. The Gatekeeper's line about "that is one of the Mearas" is given instead to Legolas, while Beregond's lines about "childless lords", "tombs more splendid than the houses of the living" and the "deep breath before the plunge" were given to Gandalf. Some of the lines that I thought were stupid meddling additions, such as "let's hunt some orc" or "do not come between a Nazgul and his prey" were actually taken or closely derived from lines in the books.

Unfortunately, I can't answer all the complaints. The usual objection to the comicalization of Gimli, is, I fear, justified. Many of his lines, such as his contributions to the leaders' debate, are very un-Gimlish, and the drinking contest between him and Legolas takes both of them a little too far out of character. Then of course, there are what I call "the inexcusables", which consist mainly of the tweaking of the dialogue to include the names of the books. But if a movie is good enough, it can still be worth it at the end of the day even in spite of a few inexcusables.

Purists, however, are not going anywhere soon, and we are sure to have bouts of purism every time a well-known book is made into a movie. So far, Narnia was the most recent, and it was given its allotment of purist scrutiny in this review and elsewhere. I found the review to be not a very good one, with too much overstated and many things unnoticed. Lewis wrote a children's book, and just as some things must be changed when pitching an adult story to kids, some other changes must be made when moving in the other direction. The critic's objection to the depiction of Peter rings true on some points, but Lewis' depiction is peculiarly suited to a children's fantasy (in which children place themselves in the shoes of their heroes). It isn't normal to expect instant concurrence when a bunch of talking creatures tells someone he must put his whole family in danger in order to save a country he just found out about. At least some level of reluctance on Peter's part should be expected.

Aslan really does not lose as much as the critic says he does. In the book, the children's nervousness about meeting him is not necessarily due to the fact that Aslan is mighty and majestic. It is simply the reaction we would have at that age (or even now) to meeting a lion we have just been told is not safe. It's all very well to pay close attention to Lewis' Christian symbolism, but there is such a thing as looking too deeply and seeing what isn't there.

The theme of Aslan's executioners balking in terror is not taken out, just a bit reduced. One must remember that children don't grasp subtleties like grown-ups do. They like things overstated, often to the point where they would look silly on screen. This is an important point, and I'll get back to it. Adamson showed at least a few creatures looking scared of Aslan (one backing down and flying away), and that was enough to get the point across. The change in tones in the parley between Aslan and the Witch is really not as harmful as the critic thinks. It simply emphasizes different themes, such as the Witch's insolence in speaking to Aslan (or in her "demand" of an audience, rather than asking safe conduct). On the subject of the Witch's departure, we come again to the fact that things to not have to be as loudly stated as they do in a kid's book. The Witch simply sits down on her chair and is silenced (not to mention jeered at), and we get the point. She does not have to haul ass, and the movie does not lose much from this change. Compare this to the Voice of Saruman. Gandalf (after sounding "indignantly assertive") orders Saruman to come back, at which he casts him from the order, breaks his staff and sends him away. When that parley is over, Saruman crawls away, and if it's more dramatic than the Witch sitting down, it's only because this is the end of Saruman as we have known him. For the Witch, she is simply being silenced (and if Aslan actually does mean to threaten her to the point of fearing for her life, it raises issues of whether he is really respecting the rules of the parley he consented to). We are told that the spell Saruman held over his Rohirrim listeners was broken: "They had seen him come at a call, and crawl away, dismissed." The scene is similar in some ways to the parley in Narnia, and they were both changed a bit in transfer to the screen, but neither suffered greatly, as in both cases the written version was represented well enough for us to get the drift. Finally, this same principle of getting the drift applies to Aslan's walk to the stone table. We can already see how much sadder than usual he looks, so we really don't lose so much from the fact that he doesn't actually stumble and moan, or that he doesn't actually say how lonely he is.

Something the critic failed to notice is that the movie also got rid of a few things that actually would have detracted from Aslan's awe. On at least one occasion, he shakes hands (with Peter), and on another, he claps his hands. Both would have looked a bit silly visually. The parley scene also describes him as sitting on a throne, which on screen would have been difficult to manage without extreme hilarity, and impossible to manage without some sort of unintentional visual humor. This at the exact moment when we should look his most fearsome and solemn. Then of course, there is the very silly scene where Aslan plays ring-around-the-rosie with the girls.

Our critic also turns his guns on Father Christmas' line about winter melting in the wake of the Pevensies arrival. The book leaves us in no doubt that this is because of Aslan's power, but that brings up in our minds the obvious question: Why did he not simply come whenever he felt like it, if the arrival of the Pevensies was not needed in the chemistry? Either the children came to Narnia because Aslan was coming and it was time for the fulfillment of the prophesy (which Lewis just barely hints at but refuses to say any more definitely), or Aslan is on the move because there has been rumor of humans in Narnia and this means that things are now in motion that have been long anticipated. The movie clearly adopted the latter view, and I really think this is the one that makes the most sense. If it is true, then Father Christmas' line in the movie is not so inaccurate after all. The arrival of the kids has indeed brought hope to Narnia (the Beavers certainly seem to exhibit a lot of hope in their arrival) and not the least of which has been Aslan's arrival which ended winter and allowed back in the Jolly Old Elf.

As for the critic's issues with the portrayal of winter melting or the reanimation of statues, this is just plain kvetching. Sorry, my bad. I've already seen burning newspaper, and once I read that bit I had a good image fixed in my mind. In the first place, there is only room for so much repetition of the same action in a movie (with the exception of a running gag). The masters were at work in Return of the King when they showed the beacons of Gondor being lit, but that's because it's a cool chain reaction that we get to follow a good part of the way from Minas Tirith to Edoras. Narnia shows us a vivid reanimation of Tumnus, followed by a shot of a great many others in the final stages of the treatment. Then to close out the theme, we get one more vivid awakening of an undistinguished character on the battlefield. Is this not enough? How many more before it gets tedious? This would be like wishing that we got a close up of each individual Nazgul going down in fire. Secondly, not everyone agrees on what the high points of the book are. "Selection within limits", as it is called, certainly allows a bit of choice regarding what to emphasize. The movie chose to emphasize the relationship and interaction of the four children (Lucy's childlike innocence, Edmund's poisonous resentfulness, Peter's protectiveness towards Lucy, Edmund's ability to change and make the best, and the willingness of all three to forgive him), with quite a few extra scenes and dialogue, and some things had to be shortened for this. The river-crossing scene was included for no other purpose than to contrast the characters with each other; Peter uncertain of what to do about a new threat (but nevertheless in a leadership role), Susan second-guessing him (she's now the reluctant one, not to mention naive enough to believe the wolf-cop), and Lucy implicitly lending her supprt to Peter, whom she seems to trust more. Okaaaayyy, so maybe a few more "thaw shots" were in order, but for what it does give, the movie offers it subtly. The melting motif begins with Peter realizing that they have to make it to the river quickly, and it culminates in a charming little shot of Lucy returning the greeting of a tree-spirit she has just seen.

Maybe there was a little anti-climax in the introduction of the professor, but where should it have been taken? In inking it all up, we must remember that Lewis has quite a few things in his book which don't make much sense or are unexplained. The oft-maligned river crossing scene actually makes good sense. Lewis tells us that winter is melting into spring, but just from looking at a map of Narnia, we can tell that they had to cross a river, which is a scene he did not describe. Neither does he ever tell us where the Beavers got all their food for dinner (which includes wheat, potatoes and oranges at least) in a frozen land, or why there isn't foot-deep mud everywhere after such a long winter finally thawing. Spiritually, we must turn a blind eye to the fact that the Witch wanting Aslan dead makes no theological sense, as the devil certainly would not have desired the Crucifixion (which the writers of The Passion noticed and seized upon as a major permeating theme). This isn't to bad-mouth Lewis, but since we can see he too took significant liberties with a lot of things in order to tell a story, we should excuse more on the part of the filmmakers.

This next bit finishes up the critique (and is also worth being the only part I actually quoted): "All these missteps add up to the difference between what could easily have been one of the greatest family films of all time, and what is, instead, merely a good one." I dunno. I'm trying to imagine the movie with all of this guy's corrections put in place, and I don't see it making too much of a difference in how the movie will stand the test of time. I don't see it being more short-lived than it should be simply because a few things were changed. I make it no secret that I dislike some of what are considered the "greatest family films of all time", such as The Wizard of Oz and It's a Wonderful Life, and it yearns me not if some parents give it a lower place because it lacks the glurge level of some of those movies. I have a different standard, though, and I consider Lord of the Rings to be a family movie, its violence notwithstanding. As for Narnia, it was very well received by both those who knew the books and those who didn't, describing it as upbeat and "hope-filled". It has a good message which was delivered well, with truly outstanding acting, great direction, and the special effects didn't hurt either. That's enough to secure it a place in the top family movie club. What I see in the future for this movie (and most likely, its sequels) is for it to dwell hereafter on most families' DVD shelves not far from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Although it may be ever the last of these three, it will share that fate with its seven leafy counterparts.

Of course, "purist" is a label people seldom if ever consent to bear. It's probably a little like the guy who talks really loudly on his cell phone; nobody's ever him, but he's everywhere. Sure, purists sometimes object even to departures from the text, but the real characteristic of a purist is one who expects the movie to be almost a carbon copy of the book. In ancient times, long before movies, people were used to the idea of stories being told in different ways. One only has to read some historian such as Livy or a biographer such as Suetonius to see this. Livy has at least two versions of why Romulus and Remus fought, as well as countless other stories of which he tells us there are too many versions for him to write down. Suetonius likewise has numerous versions of, for example, Nero's death, and he was writing about more recent history. In such times, this was partly because technological backwardness made the news more liquid, but it also happened in the case of mythology. Many myths had different versions, and this was at least in part because people had a sense that some stories were too good to be told in only one way, and it never did any harm if details were changed or different themes were emphasized.
Heck, even Tolkien himself never had a problem with the fact that his own hobbits had multiple versions of every story.

Much of what is in the movie Troy is excusable on these grounds, such as the dropping of the gods and the apparent agnosticism on the part of some characters. Getting rid of the gods opens the way to a very interesting story told in completely human terms, which the movie utterly failed to follow through on. It is or should be understood that when you downplay one aspect of the plot, you're supposed to make up for it by elevating and emphasizing another theme. That's rather the point of selection within limits. Moreover this is certainly the way selection within limits was practiced by Peter Jackson and Andrew Adamson. Jackson chose to emphasize the relationship of Arwen and Aragorn (which at times is a mistake) and Eowyn's infatuation with him. He chose to play very heavily on the theme of tension between Sam and Frodo over Gollumn, even to the point of having Frodo make the wrong choice between them. This is certainly justifiable, as it creates a pinnacle of tension and makes victory all the better when it happens (or as Sam would say "when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer"). Adamson chose to cut a bit through some of the descriptions of things and show us more scenes with the children interacting and at times arguing. As a result, I found them a bit more realistic than in the book. He chose to get rid of the frolic scene to show us more of the battle, and to shorten some other stuff in order to make room for a long beginning sequence which not only provides a good setup for why they were shipped off to the country, but also creates a stronger platform for the numerous and sometimes clever references to the wartime situation: "Mum hasn't had a dress like this since before the war", "Narnia's not going to run out of toast, Ed", or Lucy's willingness to have tea with Mr. Tumnus provided he has sardines (According to World War II "Even in Britain, the wartime diet was far from ideal, however, being short on protein and Vitamins A and D" most of which can be found in sardines, which would have been scarce in England because of blockades).

Purists tend to spoil people's enjoyment of a good movie, with the better ones objecting to many changes in emphasis or focus, and the less mature ones seeming as though all they want is to show off their knowledge of the book in question. The simple fact is that, yes, Jackson and Adamson did in fact take liberties with their materials, but they are reasonable liberties, and they retell the story with enough fidelity to be good, but enough selection within limits to make it look a little fresh. The end result is that we feel almost as if we were watching at once an old story and a new one, and yet when we blink, it's all one story again. If this vexes people, we ought to remember that the best story that ever was or will be told was originally told in at least four different ways, with details and emphases slightly different from one to the other. There were posers, charlatans, and forgers in those days to interrupt that work, but there were no purists.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Of all the ships that were sunk at Pearl Harbor, only two remain unsalvaged, and these only because, with so many still trapped in them, it was deemed more fitting to let the lay there as memorials.

Now here's something I didn't know: The water is so clear that the USS. Utah and the USS. Arizona are visible in satellite images.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Let facts be submitted to a candid world.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

So just got back from New York, I did, and the trip was a fairly enjoyable one, and I think one I needed. Here are a couple of things I thought might do well to be cleared up.

Fact 1. Amtrak is a great way to travel.
False: Amtrak does not have jurisdiction of any rails south of Washington, and so from there down one is likely to experience considerable delays. It was, however, probably the best way of traveling in such weather as we were having that day.

Fact 2. Cinderella Man holds up well on a second viewing.
True: Russell Crowe is a good actor, who as far as I can see, has utterly failed to act in anything that sucks (Mystery, Alaska is the closest he's come, and that was one of his earlier roles). A lot of people would not sound as natural with an acquired New York accent. Then of course, the fact of being a true story always makes the difference in a movie that would be stupid if someone had just made it up.

Fact 3.
Georgie Henley is the cutest little cupcake I have ever seen on a movie screen in my life.
True: She acts well, has an adorable smile, and that little dagger she carries is just precious. Whether or not she could be called the preeminent character in the book, I think she surely steals the show in the movie.

Fact 4. New Yorkers are proud and don't like giving praise.
False: New Yorkers are extremely effusive in their descriptions of almost anything, especially things they like, and one might almost say too much so. I can't remember how many people I heard described as being simply the nicest, sweetest person in the world, and subsequently wondering where were the cherubs whose job it undoubtedly was to attend these celestially good people while they graced this mortal coil with their presence. It's the same way with descriptions of places and sights. Not that this is a bad quality, simply a cause for being sure to understand who is speaking.

Fact 5. There is a tree in Central Park that looks like an Ent.
True. I mentioned this a couple of years ago in a comment on Mark Shea's blog, although it really had nothing to do with the topic. Now I have the proof.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Okay, I'll Blog it.

From Cacciaguida comes a link to a story in the Telegraph about the squalor at the Hadithah Dam, so I figured I'd blog about it just ever so.

Let me begin by saying that I really can't shed much light on the issue of what happened on November 19th, because I was at Camp Al Qaim in the far west of the country. The first I knew of it was when the guys from Kilo Company failed on a regular basis to relieve our guys of the duty of internet watch promptly at 2 pm, I eventually heard through the gossip loop that they were all doing legal stuff and filing statements regarding something that involved a fairly signifigant violation of the law of land warfare. It was not even until I got back here that I found out the date of this incident. I guess the way it was told, they made it sound like this was something recent, like early March.

None of the troops wanted to talk, but even a short stay with the men of the 3rd Bn 1st Marine Division in their camp located in Haditha Dam on the town's outskirts, made clear it was a place where institutional discipline had frayed and was even approaching breakdown.

I'll say this now, and probably not for the last time, but I did not learn too terribly much about the rest of the battalion in terms of who was in what company. I got to recognize many of the comm guys since I had dealings with them from time to time. I (and everyone else) learnt the faces and even some of the names of the guys who worked in the chow hall, since everyone saw them. Apart from that, we were a company that tried to maintain our own little bubble and as a result we did not mix a lot with the rest of the guys in the battalion, who I presume were the main ones Mr. Poole is talking about. Nevertheless, I can't really say that I ever noticed institutional discipline breaking down, although I can understand why it might strike him that way. At other, more civilized bases, uniform regulations are more strictly enforced. Desert cammies are the only authorized uniform inside the wire, and the only leeway the individual gets is in deciding whether to wear a floppy cover with the all-round brim of the more stately billed cover with eight corners around it (even this liberty is not unversal, and when the next battalion came to relieve us, they forbade the floppy ones altogether: 8-points only). One could also presumably wear a gore-tex blouse if it was raining, but Iraqi rainstorms cannot always be counted on to last the time it takes you to get to the chow hall and back. At the dam, Marines would go around wearing black, green or tan fleece pullovers instead of blouses, and also dirty coveralls. These were against even 3-1's rules, and every now and then the Sergeant Major, CWO-2 or one of the First Sergeants would call one of them out and tell them this would not fly. Then of course came the memo to all lower-level readers about proper uniforms and things like that. I will also say that a lot of this cleared up by the latter half of the deployment, by which time Poole had been and gone. Crackdowns, not breakdowns, ensued, and by the last few months we were there, you could look at a chow line notice that most if not everyone had a proper uniform that was as clean as was feasible in such conditions.

Such conditions. This brings me right to the next issue. Poole contrasts the Dam with other bases around Iraq, saying that while most places are "almost suburban" with coffee shops, subways and burger kings, the Dam was a "feral place" where Marines hardly washed. To be sure, we were always keenly aware of the fact that things there were of a much lower grade, but we just accepted it as our bad luck. Other Marines had college style chow halls just because they were lucky enough to get stationed on a base that had one (along with more convenient shower trailers), and this was something we just couldn't do anything about. I should point out that the conditions he mentions (hygeine in particular) are a bit exaggerated in the first place, and in the second place, as good as they gould get. The Dam only had three levels that were accessible by truck, and those were therefore the only places where showers and port-a-jons (as polite civilians call them) could be placed. Wherever they could be placed, they were. The biggest shower house was on the top deck, another one on the 7th, and two more on the ground. Berthing areas farther away from the bottom of the dam mostly had their own showers. Although I'm not in a position to say how often the rest of the battalion showered, I know that in my company doing so frequently was encouraged.

I find it strange that in a few places he claims that many were no longer living in their official berthing areas but instead had set up camp in whatever place struck their fancy. Although I couldn't have told you at any given time where each company lived (except for my own), I have to say that this notion of his is almost certainly a misunderstanding. There were a number of places other than the dam where people lived, but they were all that way for a reason. The Motor-T company and most of my company lived in an area near the southernmost gate, and that's where they were supposed to live. The only others who lived away from the dam that I know of were the Northshore folks. Northshore was probably the place Poole says "resembled something from Lord of the Flies", and it was where a certain contingent of my company lived. It really was awful when we first got there, but our folks fixed it up and made it fit to spend a winter in. The summer residence was a shack of waist-high walls and then cammie screen all the way up to the ceiling. Food and ammo were stored in the same (unsecured) hut. When I got back from Al Qaim, that had all been torn down, and in it's place were iso-boxes with plywood doors on the front and heating/ac units installed, as well as a sandbagged and locked enclosure for ordinance and a sanitary chow hall that was cleaned regularly. To a visitor like Poole, it was an image of complete squalor, but in reality, people worked hard to make the best of a situation most others were glad they were not in, or would have been if they knew of it. Most importantly, this was not a bunch of impulsive free-spirited troublemakers who lived out here. At all times at least two boat crews with boats ready to go had to be out there in case there was need of it, and few if any of them actually wanted to live there. Beyond that, I can't seem to remember any such encampments anywhere else. Could Poole have seen the AZ's guard shacks from a distance and thought it was someone's hut?

I remember the story of the guy who shot himself, and Poole should not be surprised that no one wanted to talk about it. I certainly never knew anything at all about it except that he was from supply. I never knew his name, rank, why he shot himself or even what eventually became of the investigation.

I certainly remember the smell, but I never heard anything about it coming from rotten eggs or lubricant. It did not get stronger when one went into a room full of machinery, but it did get stronger whenever a group of Iraqi workers were around. Sorry, that's just the way it was.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Please join us in yet another Anglo-Celtic folk song adapted for church by the likes of Marty Haugen and David Haas.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

____Okay, so I guess some expected my first post would be dated the day I got home, either to Lejeune or here at home. And I suppose there is no reason why it should not have been, I just didn't feel like it. But what to post about? Can I so easily slip right back into the customary blogging issues like nothing happened? I probably could, but I'm not really in the mood right now. Here's something I can post now: A partial list of things I learned while in Iraq:

1. Troy really,really,really, really sucked.
____When I first saw it in '04, I could tell it was not the best it could have been, but that was because I had not read it in quite a while (not in it's entirety since 8th grade). I reread it on this deployment, and the more I read and recalled, the worse Troy became. It's not the way in which some characters are left out that makes it suck. Homer gave us an interesting story full of complex characters, at least complex enough that Richmond Lattimore felt obliged to include a section in his introduction to expounding on each of the main ones. Agamemnon is a complicated, at times confused king in the poem. As Lattimore points out, he is a little wavering, easily worried by cares or ill turns of fate, and must be braced at times by the ever cool-minded Odysseus, but always thinking of the good of his army when they are in trouble, such as from a plague or lack of Achilleus. In the movie, he is no more than an ogre, selfish, greedy, unfeeling, and seemingly incapable of any sort of loyalty or attachment at all.
____Achilleus is one of the most complex of all. He fights willingly and eagerly, never disdainful of Agamemnon or any other prince. He reacts understandably when Agamemnon tells him to take it in the shorts when someone must give up a prize, and although he cares for his own men and the rest of the Greeks, his prayer to Thetis (in Lattimore's words) amounts to outright treason. Moreover, he is also a little confused, constantly talking about leaving, yet he tortures himself by staying and watching the Greeks lose in his absence. In the movie, Achilleus, like most other characters, is infuriatingly simple. He is simply a belligerent maverick who plays by his own rules and mocks authority. Finally, he freely allows Patroklos to go into battle, which makes his subsequent death something that Achilleus must blame himself in part for. By making it Patroklos' sole (and secret) choice to go into the fighting where men win glory, Achilleus' sorrow is simply due not to his own consequential choice but to a little recklessness on the part of his friend, like that Garth Brooks song, "
Beaches of Cheyenne", except that at least a country music singer knows how to add a bit of self-blaming to the mix. Also, the bit about his friend; I didn't like the way Patroklos goes from being Achilleus' friend to being his cousin, although I suppose I can't blame the moviemakers for that. It's the fault of a society that has no concept of Damon-and-Pythias style male-male friendship anymore (or at least not the platonic kind) and cannot understand how Achilleus and Patroklos can be such good friends and still both be straight.
____Hektor is too much of a golden boy, far too perfect and not quite like the Homeric Hektor. It's difficult to imagine the movie Hektor stabbing Patroklos after someone else had brought him down, fleeing from Achilleus before being rallied by a goddess, or vaunting over a defeated enemy, but Homer's Hektor does all these things. As Lattimore notes, some of this could be Homer tinkering with existing legend to make Hektor look bad, but that's only a possibility, and not too likely given that elsewhere Hektor is usually portrayed in a very good light. The movie, like it does for other characters, removes a lot of what makes Hektor complex too. Homer's Hektor knows that Paris is wrong, and that by extension the war is unjust. He fights because he doesn't want to appear as a coward in front of the "Trojans and the Trojan women with trailing garments", which Lattimore finds to be cowardice of a different sort, fear of being called a coward. Homer's Hektor tells Paris that he is selfish, lazy, and allows others to fight his cause. The movie Hektor does not have any of this dilemma, as the Atreides from the movie have already been ogreized to the point where Hektor need only say "we can't give Helen back because Menelaos won't forgive her and Agamemnon want's Troy as a fiefdom".
____Not much to say about Helen, except that unlike the movie, Homer's Helen hates Paris, says so in words, and wants to get away. Menelaos, the poet tells us, is eager to avenge her "longing to escape and her lamentations".
____Then of course, there's Briseis. The female role that was meant in legend and poem simply to be an enabler of the rest of the tragic plotline is made into a romantic heroine. The captive war widow from the poem who had three brothers, lived in a smaller nearby settlement that the Greeks took and only has two appearances and one spoken paragraph is transformed into a Trojan princess, consecrated virgin, cousin of Hektor and Paris and all-round female lead to the detriment of other more interesting characters.
____I realize that Homer's text does not make an ideal script, but they could at least have tried to include some more of Homer's lines for the characters. There are only two lines and one turn of phrase that make it into the movie. The turn of phrase is when Achilleus calls Agamemnon a "sack of wine". Achilleus says "there are no pacts between lions and men", and Priam tells Achilleus "I have endured what no man on earth has endured before" etc.
____Last of all, I really disliked those parts of the movie that could not possibly have been written in Homer's time (that being "pre-1960's) and are only there to cater to the sensibilities of today. Odysseus tells Achilleus "War is old men talking and young men dying. You know this. Ignore the politics." This is not Odysseus talking. It's not even any of Homer's characters talking. This is George McGovern talking: "I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."

2. Being a lecher is more than just bad for your soul.
____It also prevents you from seeing and appreciating a lot of the great things there are to see in life. Not to mention it restricts your communication abilities, since now just about every word in the language has a dirty second meaning for you.

3. Country music isn't as bad as I used to think.
____To be sure, a lot of it is just wearying songs of tragedy and heartbreak, but there are worthwhile exceptions. "
Papa Loved Mama" by Garth Brooks is a retelling of the traditional adultery/vengeful murder story, but told from the kids point of view, and in an upbeat, humorous sort of way that suggests that this is a matter of course in these parts, the sort of thing might happen to anyone. "Little Moments" by Brad Paisly is actually a charming little love song about, well, little moments that really make life beautiful and everything else worthwhile. "Some Beach" by Blake Shelton is a funny song about a day's worth of minor annoyances told with a sense of humor and just a little bit of the woe-is-me tone.

4. XXX: State of the Union also really, really sucked, but even more than I first thought.
____I already touched on one point many months ago, namely that you can't become and officer in the Navy Seals with a criminal record involving grand theft auto. Given the trouble I went through to get a low level security clearance necessary for my job, I can't possibly swallow that idea. And now I'll go ahead and catalog a few more; Civilians cannot get the Congressional Medal of Honor, and when it is awarded, it is not for saving the president's life. If rescuing the President from a dangerous train chase is your job, then it does not count as "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of your own life, above and beyond the call of duty in an armed conflict with an enemy of the United States". And of course, only an historically illiterate idiot would hear a Tupac Shakur quote and confuse it for a Lincoln of Jefferson quote.

Friday, September 16, 2005

______As the days dwindle down, I find myself feeling, well...a little changed perhaps, and perhaps a little unsure, but certainly very odd. Above all, I find myself reflecting a lot. Like, even for me. One issue that has been very much in my reflections has been why I joined the Marine Corps in the first place. To be sure, this is almost exactly what I envisioned it was like to be in the Marines, that I would go to Iraq almost as soon as I was done with Initial Active Duty Training. Only in time did I realize most other guys have to wait longer. But the question still remains, why did I join? I now see that one of my first posts ever, which touched on this very question, did not quite sum it up as well as I now wish, in part because of the fact that it was written before I was in. Few people I knew or was related to were not surprised to hear about my decision, regardless of how certain or uncertain I was at the time. On my first ever visit to the recruiting station, Msgt. Grim came in and told me that I had a hard sell to pull off with regards to my mom, to whom he had just been talking. Most people figured I'd just get some sort of a scholarship and go to college, and so my plans were proceeding until the first Friday in May of this year. I guess a lot of people figured that I'd end up and art critic or something, but no one expected this, myself least of all. I first became aware of the Marines as a separate service when I was about thirteen. I was reading an article about them and their training. When I got to the part about the Crucible, and it being fifty-four hours with little food and sleep, getting dirty and wet, my reaction was "damned if you're ever going to get me to do that". Later, when I was seventeen and going to the Naval Academy's Summer Seminar, I suffered so much on the runs that whenever we'd sing a Marine Corps cadence or talk about the Marines, I was filled with a sense of inadequacy, certain that I could never hack it with them if I couldn't hack it at this seminar. But when the brochure came in the mail, something spoke to me. I hardly even noticed the many other pamphlets from other colleges I had never heard of. I'm not saying I believe in love at first sight, but something rather like that happened when I got that leaflet.
______First let me say, however much it may disappoint this entire generation of Drill Instructors and MCT instructors, that I did not join the Marines "to kill!". I seriously doubt anyone really wants to take another human life for it's own sake, and if they do, they either underestimate how hard it is to do, or it really is easy for their twisted and perverted souls, and they need to be in prison as a hazard to society. I did not join for the college money, as I had already been offered a partial scholarship at Christendom, and the rest of college could probably have been paid for without the Marines. If I had joined to pick up chicks for an unending series of one-night stands, I would have been, among other things, highly mistaken, as it really doesn't work like that. I didn't do it to get out of the hood, as some of my peers did, because I was not in any danger from rival gangs. On that note, my joining had nothing to do with "getting out of trouble" in any form whatsoever. In some respects, other parts of my life have actually taken a cut after I joined. I am in more difficult contact with family and friends, and as I mentioned, my college plans which were going fine are now returning to the embryonic stage.
______But still and all, something felt like I was being called. My later experiences at boot camp and since, and the number of times my butt has been saved from some disaster, great or small, have only served to strengthen this notion. As a firm, almost fanatical believer in Divine Providence, I felt certain that I had followed down the right path, although at that time I had no idea why it felt right. When I see coincidences that bring about unforeseen results, I actually see Providence at work. I now have a notion what the purpose, or part of the purpose was, but I have to wait until this chapter of my chronicles is fully written (perhaps, as Whodehouse would say, "in book form") before I can see it all make sense. That's one way in which belief in Divine Providence makes a life more stress-free: one is more comfortable with not knowing the reason for what one is doing or how it will work out in the grand scheme.
______I feel, and I think, that I am doing this for the right reasons. I'm not really worried about that as much as for most of the other Marines in this company. A lot of them joined for the reasons mentioned above, (though I hasten to point out that not all of them are wrong reasons), and some others, when they ask the same questions I was asking above, do so with a lot of cursing and grumbling. The ones who think they made the wrong decision are the ones I'm really worried about, though I'm worried about everyone. I'm worried about the ones whose week revolves around next weekend and how drunk they're going to get, because if we are in Iraq and the fan gets dirty, that seems very little to live for. I worry, in short, about those who seem to have less to live for than I think I do. But I would hope that's a moot point, because as I was reflecting on the Sunday I got home on leave, as much as some of these people tick me off, and as much as I hope never to see one or two of them again after this, there's not a damned one of them I don't want to see come back alive.
______My job over there will not be to "win the hearts and minds". If it were, I would have joined the Red Cross or the Peace Corps. It is not to "come back alive" as many of my peers might think. If it were, I would just have given the Marines a pass. My job is not to "bring everyone home alive". If it were, I'd go into Congress as a democrat and vote to curl up in a ball and surrender the War on Terror. In training, they tell us repeatedly things such as "if you do such and such, you're going to get someone killed", or "every month there's Marines getting killed because other Marines were stupid". That is true, but what I wish many of those people to bear in mind is this: Combat is bound to be a dangerous place, and the bitch of it is that even if everyone does their job right (keeping weapons safety, staying awake on watch and on the guns), there is still a chance that one of use could go at any time. At least in this war, that is the nature of the enemy. Treating a combat death as though it is always and everywhere the result of carelessness or laziness on the part of other Marines is detrimental, in my view. It makes dying in battle seem almost lame, pointless and stupid, and it seems to glorify staying alive for it's own sake. There was something more someone could have done? You're kidding me. Welcome to war, welcome to the world.
______My own view, derived from my reflections, is that someone among us dying over there is not the end of the world. The best we can hope for is that it will not be because someone was asleep on post or a driver took a wrong turn. As for the rest, all we can hope for is that our Father will keep us as safe from harm as possible, and should we lose anyone, to give strength and forbearance to those they left behind, until such a time as it shall please Him to send out the laborers for the great harvest of Humanity. When every one will be called to give an account, I hope at least that anyone who loses their life in this mission, should it happen, will have the consolation of not having to worry about whether or not the account they have to render will balance out in their favor.
______And so I believe I must close this now. I would be surprised if I have any blogging time over there, as I place a higher priority on the e-mails that family and friends will be expecting. So this may be my last post (as it were) until I get back. I don't regret it, as I would hope to call this a good note to end on. I wish you all good luck. To those whom I link to who are at Christendom, study hard. To those of you thinking of going on long and indefinite sabbaticals, don't. Congratulations to anyone who graduates high school or college, gets married or has a kid while I'm gone. And last of all, I hope all of you will pray for me and the Marines of Small Craft Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion until we come marching home in April.

Monday, September 12, 2005

_____Well, would you look at that. All this free time at home, post training, and so much to talk about, and I say so little. Please at least understand that a lot of what I could have related was of no interest to the civilian, or so I would imagine. Leave certainly went by rather fast, as tomorrow I go back down, this time with our primary objective being not to train, but to wait for the scheduling of a flight to Kuwait. From there I think they have some sort of transport arranged for us. We certainly won't be humping it, at any rate. It used to be not my style to take no interest whatsoever in a problem as logistical as "how do we travel the second leg of the journey", but in the Marine Corps, I at least want to take advantage of the few opportunities I have in which I can shrug my shoulders and say "not my problem". We will definitely get there, and I am sure that if God is willing, the flight back will require just as many seats.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Sorry I haven't been updating much recently, but things have been really busy. We just got done with what they called the tactical riverine FEX, basically our final field op before going on pre-deployment leave. The first day, I fired the MK-19 which I am in charge of as aft gunner on my boat. This is a fully automatic grenade launcher, which means it shoots grenades rapid fire. We had a lot of wind, and since we were nearly a kilometer away from any land, we all had to tie ourselves to this offshore platform and hold on tight until the wind stopped rocking us. The weather was fine after that. Che bella cosa na jurnata 'e sole, n'aria serena doppo na tempesta. The rest of the time tends to run together in my head. One night we did a night gun run, and I fired the .50 caliber machinegun. I had always heard it was very powerful, but I didn't know the half of it. As I sat six feet away from it, it was deafening even with earplugs. The air around me literally pulsed with each round, and it felt like I was getting a massage just from the shocks.

The sky above a rural area is actually really nice to look at at night. The funny thing about my situation is that although I'm two or three years behind my plans for college and things like that, I've seen some things one simply does not see anywhere else. It's not all backbreaking work, lots of mosquito bites, and stupid working parties. Where else would I have seen the Milky Way galaxy and a meteor shower through night vision goggles?

Most of our time was spent on various patrols, and one simply has to get used to standing up at your gun for periods of multiple hours. On the very last day, Thursday, we had some sort of endurance course. Apparently it served to reassure some people who secretly were not sure if our company had what it would take to be successful in Iraq. Some hours after the endurance course, there was a promotions ceremony, it being the first of the month. We immediately had to get working on preparations for our next and final patrol, but during those preparations, some Marines took a few seconds to congratulate Lance Corporal Pena and Lance Corporal Morris on their promotions. During our final patrol, we ran aground so badly that I would have flown through the coxswain station behind me if I had not been holding on to my gun firmly. I think we're ready. At any rate, I think we've got the hang of this whole boat business. There are some parts that really rather bite, but when think about it, the is just about the most fun thing one could possibly spend an Iraq deployment doing, so I really rather lucked out.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Fwd:
>Hey guys, it's worth a try, don't you think?
> I hear we are going to hit close to $3.00 a gallon by the summer. Want
> gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action.
> Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea:
> This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day"
> campaign that was going around last April or May!
> The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't
> continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an
> inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of
> this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.
> Please read it and join with us!
> By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super
> cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.75 for regular unleaded in my town.
> Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to
> think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50-$1.75, we need to
> take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the
> marketplace....not sellers.
> With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to
> take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is
> if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas!
> And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.
> How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we
> CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price
> war.
> Here's the idea:
> For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two
> biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not
> selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they
> reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.
> But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and
> Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do!! Now, don't wimp (sic) out on
> me at this point... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach
> millions of people!!
> I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you send it to
> at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)... and those 300 send it to at least ten
> more (300 x 10 = 3,000) ... and so on, by the time the message reaches the
> sixth generation of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION
> consumers!> If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each,
> then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level
> further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!! Again, all you
> have to do is send this to 10 people and DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from
> EXXON and MOBIL. That's all.
> How long would all that take? If each of us sends this email out to ten
> more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could
> conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I'll bet you didn't think
> you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a
> difference.
> If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

I was certain that neither buyers nor sellers controlled prices all the time, but that which one of them did control them depended on supply and demand, and what you couldn't do without. Nevertheless, if you think this is a good idea, go for it. Things like this have been tried before, and worked, albeit it was a different time back then, and people were more accustomed and more willing to do without certain things in order to make the waves they wanted to make.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Helpful tip to the directors and producers of XXX: State of the Union: You can't get into the Navy Seals with a criminal record involving Grand Theft Auto. The U.S. Government does not employ hardened criminals and thugs as mercenaries to do it's most tricky and sensitive work just because they're good at jumping onto moving helos.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I wonder if I could get some prayers from you all. I didn't mention this earlier, because I expected it to amount to nothing. The poison ivy sore (or whatever kind of sre it was) I had has become infected, and the infection has spread. Unless I'm overreacting, and I hope I am, the infection is spreading daily, although to be completely accurate, the middle seems to be getting better as the peripheries are getting worse. I've been perscribed antibiotics for it, but even the corpsmen themselves are saying those haven't done a thing. Wrapping it up and cleaning it daily with antibacterial soap seems to help it a bit, the excessive swelling has gone down dramatically, and the draining that was massive a couple of days ago is now greatly slowed down, but it still does not look like disappearing any time soon, and it may have to if I am to deploy. Today, for the first time, I heard someone state like it were a matter of fact that I was going to get sent home. Of course, it was an amateur opinion, and I have been given about a million of those since this sore started, but it still has me worried in that this guy gave voice to something I have been silently fearing for a day or two. Tomorrow, the corpsmen mentioned something about getting me to a dermatology clinic, perhaps for some sort of surgery, and that may very well be when I find out if I go or not.

As I said, please put me in your intentions. It may mean the difference between going to Iraq and going home and not knowing what to do from there. I might suggest asking the intercession of St. Josemaria. I've heard that hands are his area of expertise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On this day in two thousand and four...

"You will get off my bus. You will proceed and line up on those yellow footprints and you will not move until I tell you to. Now move. MOVE! TODAY!"

A whole year. Good Lord.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Pope hates Harry?

I don't know, but I will say that these do seem to be a little more than just a polite response to someone who wouldn't stop writing. The Cardinal did not have the time to respond in great length to everyone who sends him a letter, so the brevity of the response should not raise eyebrows. A polite response would, I believe have been far more neutral. Mrs. Kuby's stance was well-known, if I understand it correctly, and it must have been known that she would be glad to brandish something that looked like a condemnation. For this reason, I am very supicious of the theory that this was meant to be something like a form letter with no specific endorsement. Also, at least according to the
story, he gave his permission to publicize it.

I would like him to read Looking for God in Harry Potter or The Hidden Key to Harry Potter"
First of all, if someone wrote a book called "Looking for Witchcraft and Sorcery in Harry Potter", I wonder how long that book would have to be. Secondly, way to go Paladin! Let's all advise the Pope to shut up and give Eastern Orthodox laymen his undivided attention.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Back from our field op. Feels good to have changed out of the the same pair of cammies for four days and no showers, and also not to have to wear a flak all the time and maintain eyes or hands on your rifle all the time. I must say I am pleased at how fast the heat rash and "prickly heat" is disappearing. Nasty stuff, pokes you with a hundred pins every times you physically exert yourself in any way, including bending over. The human body was not meant to spend all day in a flak jacket, and skin needs air. At least I take consolation from the fact that the dry heat of Iraq is probably more merciful than the oppressive humidity of Jacksonville.

At least we had fun on the firing line. Got to shoot both of the weapons I mentioned in a recent post, as well as a pistol and my rifle. Even got to shoot at night with night vision goggles. Folks, or at least, guys, take it from me. After the first try, they're not that great. Maybe just for watching the animals and the landscape, but not for anything that requires concentration and spacial judgment. In any case, we must have each shot at least 400-600 rounds in three days of firing. I've never smelt so much burnt powder in my life.

During down time, we practiced disassembly and assembly of some weapons, including racing each other. Dexterity and concentration strongly recommended. I beat my platoon Sergeant on the pistol assembly, and my armorer on rifle assembly, one which I thought was suicide going into.

And I must say the jury has reached it's verdict: The M240G jams way less than the SAW does. On the other hand, my Golf went runaway on me the other night (you tell it to stop firing, but it don't wanna listen).

Time to wind down while we can. Next week is the gas chamber.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A couple of things.

First of all, I resent the fact that a new hurricane is being named Dennis. We in Virginia Beach had Dennis a few years ago. Get your own 'D' name, Florida.

Then there's the London bombing. Yet more proof that Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism. The terrorists are getting awfully worked up about a war whose biggest flaw, supposedly, was that it didn't target them or their institutions. I suppose it's possible someone might make the claim that the attack proves that the war has done nothing to weaken terrorism, but that's silly, in the face of a remarkable dropoff from 3,000-4,000 on September 11 to about fifty today in London. Apart from that, it still doesn't address the fact that terrorists are still killing on behalf of a defunct regime which we were told did nothing to support or harbor them. I have a feeling I may never be able to watch some Monty Python episodes the same way again. It used to be okay to show things in London randomly blowing up.

Monday, July 04, 2005

And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our Sacred Honors.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Just a couple of pictures here. The first of me with the M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). It weighs 20 lb. with 200 rounds, and it's my favorite. On the right, I am holding the M240G Medium Machingun. The SAW shoots a 5.56 mm round, same as the M16, but the Golf shoots a 7.62 mm round, same as the AK-47. It's considerably heavier, but they say it works better and breaks less. We'll have to see.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

This will not be my last post ever, or even for the whole deployment, but it will be for a while. I expect to be home briefly for a few days around July 4th. Will be trained on the Small Unit Riverine craft, and I hope there are radio folks there who are more eperienced than me. I'm never sure about exactly how thoroughly a guy fresh out of his first school is supposed to know his job, if he's supposed to wow the Colonel or if he's just supposed to study under the Sergeant like a medieval apprentice. I'm sure I'll find out. Past worrying and experience have taught me to value Matthew 6:27, "Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his height?"
"Mr. Morris- Who's to say that the founders weren't wrong? This is what we call thinking outside the box. Try it."

The difference between "thinking outside the box" and "being a perfect ass" is that those who think outside the box actually perform the dignified act of thinking. He who does this utters the above quote with the hope of arriving at a conclusion on the subject matter involved. Someone who is being a perfect ass is not interested in finding an answer or exploring the subject. Those who ask questions like "who's to say what is or is not moral" do so not because they want to know so they can consult him. They do so because ultimately they want the answer to be "no one" so that the matter will drop for lack of direction. No matter what the issue is, this is a cowardly way of avoiding discussion. If the answer actually is "no one", anyone who believes that should be ready to demonstrate it.
My older brother observed this morning that it is a unique brand of foolishness to talk about taking the Church into the outside world and yet to encourage people to spend such a large portion of their time doing parish activities to build a sense of communiy within the parish. Throw that observation back in time and apply Chesterton's vocabulary and word idiom to it, and you have a genuine Chesterton quote, which just goes to prove what I've believed for a good while.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Why do people do it? I just don't understand it. Maybe it's just the books I've read recently picking apart the Da Vinci Code, but I have just about no patience whatsoever for people who put lies and made-up statistics into opinion pieces. Today on MSN, there was an article about what 30-year-olds should say to people who dare wonder why they are thirty and unmarried. I'll leave other people to pick it apart (if they see it), but I wanted to focus on one main thing. (As an aside, I note this: she claims that the practice of getting married before 25 is a carry over from the days when life expectancy was really short. Sorry to interrupt her pontificating fantasies, but when life expectancies were much shorter, girls got married at around 16, not "25". And people did not live to "40-something. Maximum." unless you're talking about the caves.)

But that's not my main point. She mentions that we don't use the phrase "happily single", and then claims that nevertheless "those words are 100% certified by the US Census Bureau." She doesn't, of course, mention any numbers, preferring simply to claim that "statistics" show us married men are happier than single, but single women are happier than married. It would be fair to point out that she doesn't claim that these are the statistics found in the U.S. Census Bureau which she mentions, but the juxtaposition of the two claims was not accidental.

Whoops! Turns out the U.S. Census Bureau does not keep statistics on how people feel about their marriages or lifestyles. If it can be believed, the U.S. Census is only for ethnic backgrounds, income levels, number of kids, age group cut-offs, employments and other similar things. Of course, it mentions marital status statistics, but only in a yes-or-no respect, with no reference to how people rate their marriages. And of course, although we may not be able to nail her directly on the giving false statistics, her claim that the U.S. Census Bureau even kept such statistics was a lie. Besides, whatever you can argue from technicalities in order to absolve her, remember that people don't usually make such misleading comments in print unless they do so deliberately. Oh, by the way, the website of the actual U.S. Census Bureau is open to the public examination.

In the Marines, we sometimes make reference to "raising the b-lls--t flag". Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. Please remove your hats and place your hand over your heart as we do honor to truth by debunking another e-charlatan. Those in uniform salute.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Marines pack well. Good Marines pack really well, so if you ever open you purse or book bag and find an elephant or a symphony orchestra, it's a good bet some Marine is playing a joke on you.

Just a seemingly random thought brought about by today's unpacking, checklist, and repacking experiences.

I think the Marines have changed me in a serious way. I didn't always have the guts to sneak into the main admin office when it was temporarily unoccupied and steal some glue from the desk of the company clerk, but when the iron-on nametag in the collar of my blouse came unstuck less than fifteen minutes before an inspection, what else was I supposed to do?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Read Who, Me?

It's a perfect exposition on how Jack Chick and his people view evangelism, the Great Commission, and themselves.

"Most of us are not real witnesses to those we buy from or sell to". I can't understand this. I love buying from and selling to people who are constantly asking me if I'm saved, because I can be if I read this tract.

I absolutely love the picture of the chinese spy. No one will spot him in his blue Mao suit with a red star on his hat, because he took the trouble of hiding behind the magazine rack. In case his superiors at central control don't believe his story of kids reading comic books at the drugstore, he's taking pictures to prove it.

What's stupidest about it is that they assure us "Chick tracts make witnessing easy!" Of course, after twenty centuries of persecutions in different lands at different times, we've finally learned that missionary work was never meant to be an inconvenience; it was meant to be easy! That must be why Christ specifially warned his followers not to expect welcome or comfort. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name's sake." (Matt 24:9) "If the world hate you, know ye that it hath hated me before you." (John 15:18) along with many, many more examples.

Then again, Our Lord also warned us about Chick. "And many false prophets shall rise and shall seduce many." (Matt 24:11) He didn't say anything about stupid prophets.

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