"More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read"

- Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Interpreted View from Afar

We are the vultures.

We certainly aren't the apex predators of the battlefield. We don't make the arrangements necessary for the death to occur, but we most certainly profit from it as it allows us to survive. Whether that stems from the fact that the person who would have driven a bomb on wheels into our front gate, or some nut with an AK-47 who enjoys taking periodic pot shots at the base, we're here to watch people die.

Living vicariously through the lens of the bird, we have collectively watched a number of very fucked up things happen.

When you watch for a long time you begin to experience a weird transference through the camera. The ammonia from ammunition stabilizers burns your eyes, the dust, the clatter of automatic weapons fire, the way the distant 30mm rounds from an A-10 Warthog sound like rain falling on a plastic sheet. The worst of it is that after you have been next to someone who was the victim of an IED or suicide bomber the smell sticks with you. The acidic stench of burnt flesh and hair, the lingering urine of home-made explosives, punctuated with the universally recognizable copper reek of blood.

Over the bazaar at 6,000 feet, you can taste the dust on the empty street as the crazies pick body parts from under cars and places them in black plastic trash bags. Synaesthesia snaps back, now you're in the Ground Control Station again, staring at the screen, condensation from the air conditioning drips down the wall, hearing nothing save the constant sixty hertz whine of cooling fans.

There have been times (usually after our longer 11-15 hour missions) where you cannot watch anymore. The brain, after having stared at the screen for what starts at seconds and winds it's way into days, begins to do funny things after so long at a perpetual state of hyper-vigilance.

Things that aren't funny become riotously amusing. You indulge in long, overly detailed descriptions of violating the cute brunette French medic with paralytics, expired chloroform, and zip ties, allowing her to wake naked and alone in your building shower room. The efficacy of various medicines and delivery systems (darts versus stabbing her outright in the neck,) are haggled over until you have constructed such a mangled version of reality that you begin considerations on how to put your plan into motion. It doesn't help when the person you are talking about this with is a combat medic who is on his second tour in Afghanistan following two other consecutive front-line infantry tours in Iraq.

Plumbing the depths of the deep wells of psychosis created by the Afghan campaign in its participants is something by which I have become increasingly fascinated.

The flight hours roll by—you still stare at the screen. You know where these shitheads are, you can call them by name in some cases.

Fuck, there are people around here we have been tracking for weeks and cannot touch.
The rules of engagement now mandate that targeting come from men on the ground, and this is preceded by a ten minute discussion concerning the closest civilian structure and if there are women and/or children in the area. The radios are constantly awash with units reporting TIC (troops in contact), requesting CAS (close air support), only to be told that the Colonel running things has to personally approve prior to bombs separating from wing. Sure, you might be taking highly effective RPG and AK fire, but you're not going to get help from on high if you're within 1000 meters of civilians or buildings.

A few months ago I would have said that there was no way this war was going to become another Vietnam. It hasn't, it has become much, much worse.

And over it all leer the unblinking eyes of the vultures and their crews. Much like those actual carrion birds, we don't discriminate between used up Americans or Afghans. All we're interested in is the fact that something died here, may die here soon, or has died here quite recently. Some of the guys over here become intoxicated by the fact they're controlling a UAV over a war zone. You can quite easily tell people that are going to be this way, and coincidentally figure out quite quickly that these people have no experience with death. Maybe a family member or two, but that is likely a memory so distant as to be rendered unremembered and unremarkable.

To some of these people, combat is something you see on television—an abstract concept akin to winning 750 million (or some similarly incomprehensible number) units of your local currency in the lottery. There is an idea of what that would represent, but ultimately it doesn't make sense because you have no honest frame of reference for what exactly the fuck 750 million goddamn bongo bucks really means. It is like staring at the sun on a bright and cloudless day, expecting to see a sharply defined circular form.

Thus, they become a lesser species of vulture. Not one that knows the role consigned to him by Genus-Family-Species, but a migratory moron mercenary made drunk by the sound of gunfire in the background of radio calls. You hate these people, every fiber of your being resonates in the expectant frustration of the peak just before orgasm at the mere suggestion that you might be able to crush their larynx with your hands and not be caught. Ultimately you do nothing, perplexed by the shallow idiocy of these combat-zone tourists.

Yes, that is automatic weapons fire in the background of the radio call.Yes, those are bad people.Yes, these are airplanes smiting those deemed naughty by U.S. foreign policy.
You still tacitly beg for them to stop celebrating in childlike wonder every time they hear or see these things.

In the end, you and the other two vultures on your four man crew talk about it in hushed tones while chain smoking on the patio, yet again suffering from insomnia. You stop sleeping at month three, addicted to the coffee, the nicotine, the dead fucking rush of watching a GBU-82 smash into a cave and remembering that the diametrically opposed forces of what was and what is now will tease you for weeks of Doxycycline dreams. Sometimes you are under the bombs, sometimes you are watching them fall from your perch high overhead. Other times the viewpoint switches just before impact, saving or damning on a lark of subconscious decision making.

I am supposed to go home in mere weeks. The mechanics of my departure are completely beyond my capacity to understand. As far as I envision the process, the helicopter will come, I will get onboard, and I will never leave. I will be here for eternity, watching overhead as countless more are ended in this conflict and the ones not yet realized. Praying for death, such that I might go on living.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tortoise Beats Hare: Political Icebergs Shift !!!

It has recently come to the attention of this journalist that the race that we have all just witnessed is indeed one for the ages! It will serve as a metaphor for purposes of Democratic and Republican comparison for years to come. These two distinct personality types have competed, with our slow and steady Conservative as the victor, while the hare’s impetuous liberal lifestyle looks to be the cause of failure. Why will this race be analyzed for years to come? Why is Aesop spreading such political propaganda throughout the forest? Let’s examine further…

Hank the Hare’s youthful virility and physical vitality make him a dreamy icon for America’s young adults. In fact, his younger cousin “Harey” Larry Hop-A-Long became spokes-bunny for the Energizer battery company in the late 80’s. Some argue that his great uncle Hugh the Hare is the original bust for Playboy’s antiquated bow-tie bunny. And was it not the late J.F. Bunnedy who shocked conservative Elmer Fudd in the 1960 Pine Grove Forest presidential election? Hank’s ancestors, the Leporidae, are sprinters by nature. They apply short bursts in unpredictable directions with the intent to thwart impatient predators. A withdrawn Fudd lamented after the votes had been tallied, “I just couldn’t catch that wascally wabbit.” This is true Elmer, but your efforts would inspire one young tortoise who was a student at Boston College in the early 60’s.

His name…Tex Tortoise. Tex served in the amphibious army as part of any elite SEAL team during the Lilly Pad war of 1968. Today we link him to that familiar stereotype of old age and tiredness. As he heads to sunny campaign stops along his travels he stubbornly never leaves his shell. He’s portable, yet stagnant…mind boggling. However, have we not always used the turtle as an image of lasting toughness in our marketing in such products as Turtle Wax? We can find him on television symbolizing “wisdom with age” in the credits of the television show One Foot in the Grave. It was actually Tex’s great-great-grandfather, Sid the Snapper, who doubled as a reliable coffee table on The Flintstones. Would wax sell so well if it were named after fish eggs? Probably not—and I’d be willing to bet that Dino couldn’t have done so well as a makeshift ottoman.

So I, as well as the rest of the forest, seem to agree on the basic characterization of these two creatures. One of my colleagues recently argued with me at the water cooler that the Chinese Zodiac refers to the rabbit as reserved and thoughtful, but I was quick to discern that this is usually only when the rabbit is enjoying solitude like on weekend trips with his family in the mountains in their cabin on the banks of Mirror Lake. I also made the point that as soon as the hare returns he realizes he is back in public spectacle. Needless to say I won the argument and Mallard the Mail Guy owes me a beer after work.

In a recent interview presidential elect and former SEAL officer Lieutenant Colonel Tortoise stated that, “…the hare’s youthful impudence matches most Conservative critical rhetoric that is directed at liberals. Liberals are demographically youth-rich and want social change, an idea which is typically chastised for being short-sighted and na├»ve by Conservatives like me and my wife Trixy” (no relation to that crack addict that sells cereal). Tex further stated that, “True, most of us Conservatives are older and typically opposed to certain social progress, but Democrats are wrong to accuse us of being “cold-blooded” and “old-fashioned”. One could easily agree with the triumphant Tex who is proving over and over that his story can be a source of pre-election propaganda for many elections to come, as well as a lesson in life from elder to junior. I believe it was Winston Churchill who stated, “If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.”

The dichotomy created for the allegory that is this race has demonstrated the effective use of a metaphor as a platform for comparison. These two anthropomorphized characters, Hank Hare and Tex Tortoise, have competed for superiority to establish that soupcon of fame. Dr. Edgar Antelope from Princeton; a Tortoise supporter, law professor, and avid leaf collector; gave his insight in a brief interview shortly after the race, “Hank the Hare is left to stew in his own disgrace. He failed to heed the jurisprudence so well exemplified by Tex the Tortoise on matters of effective Pine Grove presidential racing strategies.” Well stated Dr. Antelope.

There you have it, “Slow and steady wins the race.” concluded Aesop. This lesson served by dueling metaphors will be a Conservative election platform for years to come in Pine Grove. Interestingly enough, Aesop wrote a similar story 2500 years ago. You can find me in next weeks edition of the “Early Bird” on location in the Amazon where a similar story is taking place; and those two old foes the Ass and the Elephant are head to head in yet another Darwinistic Debate. So long everyone, and happy trails!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

The Battle of the Field at Mayernik: the legend of King Jewels
Despite all the effort that has for centuries been expended in the search for King Jewels, he has continued to evade the pages of authentic history. Not only has there been a distinct lack of evidence to reveal who he really was; as yet no one has been able to prove beyond doubt that he even existed at all. Solving the mystery of King Jewels is like trying to assemble a huge jigsaw puzzle. The clues exist, but in many different forms: in folklore, archaeology and recorded history. Many have tried to complete the picture, but very often the pieces were wrongly arranged, and until recently some were missing entirely.

We are about to embark upon an historical adventure—a search for the real King Jewels: his identity, his Kingdom of Acorn, and his final resting place. By carefully disentangling the historical from the mythological, and piecing together the fascinating evidence that remains, we reveal for the first time a true story that is in every way as spellbinding as the romantic legend.

The Legend
In a far off time, when Avon upon Benjamin was divided and without a king, barbarian hordes laid waste the once fertile countryside. The throne lay vacant for a just and righteous man, who could free the people from their servile yoke and drive the invaders from the land. But only he who could hoist the atrociously robust and big-footed ogre, Prince Conor of Sunnyjims’s, over the great wall could prove himself the rightful heir. Years passed and many tried, but the fettered chunky swine stood firm and unyielding upon the ancient, weathered field. Then, one day, a young man, high-shorted and bearing the helmet of a batsman, emerged from the forest and to the amazement of all, succeeded where even the most advantageous had failed. The people rejoiced; the king had come and his name was Big Jewels of East Avon.

On accession to the highest office in the land, Jewels set about restoring the wasteland known as Northern Boroughs. After building the impregnable fortress of Acorn, and founding an order of valiant warriors, the Softballers of Emmy Inn, the king rode forth to sweep aside the evil which had beset the land. The liberated peasants quickly took him to their hearts, and Big Jewels reigned justly over his newly prosperous kingdom; bedding any fair maiden that passed with wondering eyes.

Although the great Wyvern Wivell, the bastard Prince Conor’s Grendelic rendition of a mother, ravaged the country in the time before his kingship, she was overcome by the newfound resolve of Jewels’s subjects, for they mounted a quest to discover the magic mushrooms, a fabulous array of psychedelics that held the secret cure for all ills. But as happens so often during an age of plenty, there are those whom power corrupts. Soon a rebellion tore the kingdom apart, an armed uprising led by the reincarnated Wyvern Wivell; the king’s beady eyed, red mini-van driving, poor excuse for an interior designer…was back. Yet there was one, possessed by dark forces, who lay at the heart of the strife: the mysterious and satanic enchantress, the Yount that was Amy. In a final battle, the Wyvern was at last defeated and the Yount that was Amy was destroyed by Schlumpfalufagus, the court magician. But all did not go well, for the Biggest of Jewels was mortally wounded.

As he lay dying on the field of battle, the last request by the mighty king was that a Colt 45 and two zig-zags, the source of all his power, be cast into a sacred creek and lost forever to mortal man. When the magical sword fell to the water, the arm of the Wiebe of Dave arose from the surface, caught it by the hilt and took it down into the crystal depths.

When the great king was close to death, he was spirited away on a barge to the mystical Isle of Nevilla, accompanied by three mysterious maidens, each dressed completely in white and bearing the breasts of fatherless strippers. Many say that he died and was buried upon the isle, yet there are those who believe that the Jewels’s soul is not to be found amongst the dead. It is said that he just taking a really long pot-nap, and that one day he will awaken and the world will again be free from assholes who coddle their “ne’er-do-wrong” children because of a bad past experience with Father Bob after cleaning up at the rectory following a long lusty bingo night.

always with the last word,