Thursday, February 28, 2013

(Shakes head)

Posted (almost) without comment, the images released with Playtex's "Fresh + Sexy Wipes" ad campaign:

Don't have a beaver? How 'bout this, then, you dirty boy:

And we know how much you like that plump, juicy, delicious peach...

So you mean the whole time the secret to getting all that freaky action was to carry around a pack of those fruity-smelling baby wipe things to swab my junk with? Christ on a crutch, how come nobody told me that when my kids were still in goddamn diapers?!?

I...I...there's really no words for this that these gawdawful ads don't say, is there?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Who's Your Daddy?

Busy couple of weeks combined with, sadly, a grim headshaking despair at the ridiculous inability of about a third of my fellow Americans to put down their fucking teabags and accept things like paying taxes as the price of civilization and the lunacy of the idea of returning our nation to the open oligarchy of the Gilded Age that has kept me silent.

That, and March is roaring in like a sorry, soggy, mangy sort of lion and with it the annual stations of my personal cross. Ugh.

But thinking about Bryn made me think of parenting in general, and that, in turn, turned me to a couple of news items pitched at me or dropped on my digital carpet like a particularly noisome headless mouse by some friends of mine.

And, speaking of noisome things, when you have come to recognize the sound of your dying cat's ass exploding it may be that the time has come for said moggie to find herself half in love with easeful Death. I'm just sayin'; the laundry list (and I do not speak figuratively here) of the items you have shat on is getting longer than your tail, cat, and you've shat on that, too. I've spent fifteen years with you curled on my lap, little friend, but this incessant incontinence is wearing on my patience and the overall aroma of the house as well.

Still, it seems monstrously unfair to end a life, even a small life, because the end of that life has become nothing worse than a rather embarrassing and physically unpleasant nuisance.

Anyway, the main reason I started this post is because a friend of mine - who is childless by choice and chooses to continue as such - linked to this article and, yes, it is fucking Newsweek but that in and of itself should not be an excuse. The author's point is pretty straightforward:
"As younger Americans individually eschew families of their own, they are contributing to the ever-growing imbalance between older retirees—basically their parents—and working-age Americans, potentially propelling both into a spiral of soaring entitlement costs and diminished economic vigor and creating a culture marked by hyperindividualism and dependence on the state as the family unit erodes."
But more to my point is that this is a pretty standard screed you hear from the sort of anti-tax/pro-oligarchy types mentioned above; OMFG! We're not breeding! We're dooooomed!

Not mentioned in these screeds - and not mentioned by the author of this Newsweek thing - is that the subvocal corollary of this wail of despair is that "us wealthy white people aren't spawning..!" Or white people, anyway, wealthy or no. The enthusiastic breeding by the lesser sorts beyond the Law - the blacks and browns, both imported and domestic - aren't mentioned. It's the prospective dearth of precious whities that seems to be being mourned here.

That's pretty goddamn ignorantly racist, but, whatever.

But beyond that is the entirely, painfully, bone-stupid obliviousness of the damn thing.

Because the human bottom line has always, always, been that once people - and the people are usually but not always women because women end up doing the most of it - gain the ability to safely prevent pregnancy they do.

I've talked a fair bit on this blog about parenting and my take on it. That take hasn't changed. It's not really hard and it's not really work. If anything the worst parts of parenting are most similar to the worse parts of warfare; hours, days and weeks of endless, mind-numbing boredom spiked with irritating trivialities interrupted by brief moments of heart-squeezingly frightful terror.

So, not surprisingly, if you're sane and not a Duggar the first thing you do when you find a way to have sex and not have babies is to use it.

L love my kiddos. Usually. They're typically sweet and loving, silly and imaginative and vigorous and gentle.

But they're also kids. Raising a kid is often like playing catch with a Labrador; you're gonna get bored a long, long time before the kid or the dog. What's your limit on My Little Pony or tic-tac-toe or playing with LEGOs? I have no idea in absolute terms but I will tell you that it's way lower than your kids'.

And they're also greedy and short-sighted, demanding, irrational, and their intellectual horizon is typically about the far side of this room. They're often whiny, and fight with each other, and my wife, and me. Their little lives are a constant struggle for attention, which is wearing when you're at the stage where you're constantly struggling for dignity and a little silence.

So what did this Newsweek idiot expect? That all those smart twentysomethings were gonna take a kiddo HEAT-round for Team America? That Joe and Molly were gonna give up that loft in the Pearl and move to Clackamas and start cranking sprogs out of her belly like water out of a hose so our journalist can be sure that there's someone to change his Depends thirty years down the road? That those young white folks would throw themselves on the baby grenade so the national demographics aren't all jacked up in thirty years?

Sorry, pal; people don't work like that.

So my bride and I chose to go down the kid road.

But I won't pretend for a moment that that road's been a cheery nonstop ride, or that there's something wonderful and virtuous about it. The pavement's cracked and rough, the scenery's nice in spots but damn deadly dull in others, and there's not a single goddamn way to be sure that the entire journey won't be for nothing when you get to the end and the sign there says "convict" or "unemployed layabout" or "surly lout" or "whiny drama queen". If you learn anything during parenting it's that you get about 1 or 2 out of the 10 things that influence how and who your kid turns out to be. Or IF they turn out to be; this Friday is an ever closer reminder that all that love and care and wishing and hoping can end in a sifting handful of ashes.

But that's another thought for another day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cape Lookout

Just another day at the office...

As you know, the great thing about my job is where I get paid to work.

And for the history buffs, a bit of history; in August 1943 B-17F #42-30326 (flying out of Pendleton AAF base) had a high-speed encounter with terrain along the south flank of the Cape. Apparently the pilot had descended to below 200 feet AGL in an attempt to determine his location in one of the Oregon Coast's typical thick summer fogs.

Here's the official report: AAF Form #14: Aircraft Accident Report; Call #46234, 8-2-43 Accident #14
8-2-43. Cape Lookout, Oregon. At 1130 PWT, a Boeing B-17F collided with rising terrain at Cape Lookout, Oregon, killing nine fliers and seriously injuring bombardier 2Lt. Wilbur L. Perez. The crew was scheduled to fly a final navigation training mission prior to being deployed overseas as a combat crew. The B-17F took off at 0900 PWT from Pendleton Field, Oregon, and was to fly to Cape Disappointment and then 500 miles out to sea and then return directly to Pendleton Field. Heavy cloud covered the coastal region when the B-17 arrived in the area at 10,000 feet, the overcast topping out at about 8,000 feet. In an attempt to locate Cape Disappointment visually, the pilot descended through the overcast over the Pacific Ocean and then flew the airplane toward the shore. The Aircraft Accident Classification Committee stated, "The flight towards the shore was made at an altitude of 50 to 150 feet, practically blind. The bombardier stated that he could see the water directly under the airplane, but the vision ahead was nil. It is believed that the pilot hoped to angle in to the beach somewhere near the Columbia River and then follow the shore to Cape Disappointment. However, the pilot must have become doubtful about approaching land at such a low altitude and visibility. A climb into the overcast was started a moment or two before the crash. Just after the climb was started the airplane crashed on the crest of Cape Look Out." The elevation of the point of impact was approximately 900 feet msl. Investigators stated that some of the crew had survived the crash but died before they could be rescued. Crewmembers killed in the crash were: 2Lt. Roy J. Lee, pilot; 2Lt. Robert W. Wilkins, co-pilot; 2Lt. Victor A. Lowenfeldt, navigator; SSgt. Delmar F. Priest, engineer; Sgt. William F. Pruner, gunner; SSgt. Benjamin Puzio, radio operator; Sgt. Paul W. Mandeville, assistant radio operator; SSgt. Harry Lilly, gunner; SSgt. Hoyt W. Wilson, gunner.
Frankly, it's pretty incredible that 2LT Perez survived; the pilot, a 2LT Lee, sounds like a complete fuckup.

But he did, passing away just four years ago.

Anyway, here's another pretty picture from the Coast:

See ya tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quis Custodiet?

I kinda hate to keep hammering on this nonsense.

It probably bores the hell out of you like any other family feud and I admit that it really is a sort of military "inside baseball"; of interest only to the sort of people who keep stats and obsessively squirrel away bizarre trivia about obscure minor leagues.

But, like jock itch, this story gets to me in particularly tender places.

And, kidding aside, it says some things that concern me about my country and my Army.

One is the irritating nature of the "Global War on Terror" as presented to, and accepted by, the U.S. public.

Ever since 2002 I've thought that the most ominous part of the various wars and quasi-wars and secret wars we've been fighting (largely in the unpaved portions of Asia and Africa) is the way they have been almost completely removed from and independent of public opinion and public purview. The U.S. public as a whole neither pays a price nor has an interest in what their soldiers are doing in the less paved parts of the world under the auspices of the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force.

I could go over why this isn't a good idea, the multiple reasons that cabinet wars and imperial expeditions are not in the best interests of a democracy. The inevitable erosion of liberal governance and the expansion of executive power that occur in wartime. The moral and intellectual hazard of accustoming a people to continual, low-grade expeditionary wars (without immediate costs or consequences to the people bankrolling the wars). The bad habits that governments, troops, and citizens pick up whilst committing mayhem in places to other peoples without either seeing or feeling the effects of the mayhem themselves.

We've effectively turned these damn wars into a third-person shooter game, complete with it's own fucking music video and all, for God's sake. And - although largely unwilling to join the fight ourselves and uncaring about the real people who do - we've turned our pixellated images of them into cartoonish heroes, ridiculously inflated and lionized "warriors" for what should be a warrior-free zone: an industrial democratic republic.

So this "Shooter" has become, for me, a living version of the crayon-drawing of a modern American "warrior" that We the People seem to want; imputed with unlikely and improbable virtues, excused all critical assessment, feted and fetishized and blown up beyond the reality of what soldiers have always been. Your neighbor's idle brother, the smart kid behind the counter at the convenience store, the nice guy your sister dumped because "he was boring", the knucklehead who cut you off at the freeway on-ramp.

What especially got to me on this subject was the fawning reaction this Shooter got when he and his cronies stopped off on Capitol Hill (see the first link above), where the people who should have been his fellow citiens and notional governmental superiors treated him like a bunch of gushing fangirls and fell all over him to praise his work which is, at bottom, no more than any other infantryman has been asked to do in this endless farkling about in central Asia only with fancier kit and more secrecy.

This basically irks the shit out of me, this whole business about fellating the "warriors" and bumper-sticker patriotism and endless painless videogame wars. I don't think it's healthy for a republic and I don't think it's a smart thing for us as the notional sovereigns of the United States to be doing to ourselves.

And this "Shooter" has become the poster child for all of my irritation with my fellow citizens.

The other problem I have with this story is what I think it says about a troubling development within my Army and the U.S. ground troops in general, by the way one of the guys from one of the Navy's Special Operations outfits feels about the rest of the Navy and (by inference) the other military outfits he is forced to share the battlefield with.

The magilla with this Shooter has been his loud complaints about how tough it is to be him, how tough the Special Operations outfits have it, and how - because of that - he and they deserve special consideration; early retirement pension vestment and special benefits if they ETS before they earn their retirement.

By publicly agitating for special privileges for the Special Operations forces - and only the SOF - this Shooter is taking a fire axe to this weak join between the SOF and the line units. By publicly demonstrating his contempt for the guys in the Navy Choir, for the line squids on the carrier decks and in the Stores warehouse at Norfolk this Shooter is fueling the fire of resentment and irritation that these guys, many of them, probably feel for him and his high-speed brethern.

One of the reasons that the U.S. Army and the other U.S. services have been so competent and successful tactically is that they have always been good at working together as a team. Every element in the team; the combat, combat support, and combat service support units, and individuals, recognize their mutual dependence. The guy who kicks down the door depends on the helo driver overhead who depends on the avionics tech back at the FOB who depends on the guy loading the supply truck back at the Corps rear who depends on the PAC clerk working the computer back at Ft. Ben Harrison back in the States. Who, for God's sake, depends on the guy in the 82nd Chorus singing at some fucking high school in Cornhole, Iowa to get the kids all excited about volunteering for the Army.

And one reason all those people work together is the understanding that they're all in the same Army; they all - although some get a little more money and some get to wear some cooler uniforms - get the same basic deal.

They HAVE to work together to win, and the way the service treats their service recognizes that fact. The door-kicker doesn't succeed if the PAC clerk fucks up his pay, his allotment doesn't get to his family, their e-mails get him all fucked up and so that night he's thinking about his sick daughter's not getting TRICARE instead of the people who might be behind the door with a nasty surprise for him and his team.

But the Shooter doesn't care, or probably doesn't even know, about this. And because of that he's busy kicking in a door that I don't think, either as a soldier or a U.S. citizen, we want to open. It does and will do us no good to make our special operations units a sort of Special Republican Guard, and the example of the originals should tell us so.

There's always an entropy in military organizations that works around eliteness. The elites can easily start looking down on everyone else with contempt and everyone else starts envying and resenting the elites.

In Third World armies this can cripple the organization; the Iraqi Republican Guard was a classic of the genre.

The Guard was vastly expanded in the Eighties to ensure the loyalty of an Army fractured by the war with Iran. After the defeat in the Second Gulf War of '91 the Special Republican Guard was created to provide even more "eliteness" loyal to the regime. Each time it was the best guys, the most loyal, the smartest and most technically proficient who were pulled into the "elite".

By 2003 the bulk of the Iraqi Army was just fucking incapable of modern military operations and the U.S. Army went through it like a dose of salts. All that "eliteness"? As useless as a tampon in a typhoon.

The U.S. military is nowhere near as big a jugfuck as the Iraqis were and U.S. society is nothing like the trainwreck that Iraqi society was and is.

But this "Shooter" represents something I haven't seen before in the U.S. military; an elite-unit guy willing to just come out and flat-out say; I'm better than you, I work harder than you, this war (the way it's being fought and my role in it compared to yours) means that I deserve more and better stuff than you.

And those are exactly the sorts of things that led to the Special Republican Guard. We just don't have a Saddam here willing to use them to MAKE a Special Republican Guard.

But there's nothing in human nature or U.S. society that says we can't find one.

And between that and what this "Shooter" nonsense says about our country and our soldiers I can't help but worry at least a little.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dark Love

there has never been sunlight for this love,
like a crazed flower it buds in the dark,
is at once a crown of thorns and
a spring garland around the temples

a fire, a wound, the bitterest of fruit,
but a breeze as well, a source of water,
your breath—a bite to the soul,
your chest—a tree trunk in the current

make me walk on the turbid waters,
by the ax that breaks this lock,
the dew that weeps from trees

if I become mute kissing your thighs,
it’s that my heart eagerly
searches your flesh for a new dawn.

~ Francisco X. Alarcón

To my love on the Feast of Valentine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Yet another bit of linky for a Wednesday: The Children's Illustrated Clausewitz.

"How many times has this happened to you: at the schoolyard, you watch two kindergarteners prattle senselessly about some toy-related dispute. They rally their fellows to their respective causes, each pressing the justice of his case. Forces amassed, they begin gamely pushing and smacking one another, resulting in plaintive cries of woe, only to desultorily cease hostilities, with no appreciable change in the allotment of toys.

And you think to yourself: If only these children could appreciate Clausewitz, this awful futility could have been avoided."
Because war is just sibling rivalry, penis envy, and potty training by other means.

Decisive Battles: Hoth 3ABY

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Have you ever come across something that you recognize immediately as It, The Shizzle, the Sweet Spot, that spookily perfect fit for your brain housing assembly that somehow manages to hit every refractory nerve ending dead smack center?

Well for me this one touches 'em all: Military history. Science fiction (or, to be exact, space opera) High Nerdism. Star Wars. Academia.

Oooh. Yes. Ya got me, Ackerman; right in the ten ring.

I can die a happy man now.

And - once you've read through Inside the Battle of Hoth at first link, then it's over to here for a CMA-style symposium on the original monograph and discussion of critical analysis of the battle itself:
"We do not speak of the sources of failure, but they should be well known. The first was the commitment of extensive resources to the construction of strategic weapons which could, by their very nature, make no tactical contribution. The second was the decision to abandon the tactics and procedures which had won the Clone Wars; well equipped clone armies honed to razor sharp conventional military effectiveness. We have little space here to revisit the destructive “Clones can’t do Counterinsurgency” debates that helped lead to a shift in personnel policies, but it is clear that these misguided efforts to defuse the rebellion by co-opting individual insurgents inevitably produced a force unready to fight high intensity, conventional battles against dedicated, well-equipped, and well-trained foes." (Farley, 2013)
Yes! Beyond awesome; awesomesauce! This is taking George Lucas and running with his incapable-of-writing-normal-human-dialogue ass at it's finest!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sailor Slighted

Came across this article in the on-line Esquire mag yesterday.

The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden...Is Screwed is written by someone named Phil Bronstein and advertises itself as
"...the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family."
It is, as advertised, largely about the raid on Abbottabad on 6 MAY 2011.

That part's just your basic war story, a story about what might be the most famous night raid in recent history, but, still...just another no-knock entry in the thousands the U.S. Army, Marine, and Navy infantry have been doing since 2002. Read it, if you will. It's your bread-and-butter light infantry operation that at least partially accomplished the mission (Just me, but it would have been nice to have hauled ol' Osama back for a Nuremberg-style tribunal, but, whatev'; First Rule of War - Shit Happens).

Hooah, raid team. AAMs for everyone!

Sorry. Army joke.

But, kidding aside, that wasn't really what I got out of it. I've done my share of MOUT, just not with the live rounds and the angry Arabs. Didn't really need the lyrics to know how that song goes.

I did have a strong reaction to the piece, but probably not what the author wanted. What he wanted is pretty clear; to get the reader angry about "...the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives" Between the raid story the article centers around a long litany of complaints that this guy and his fellow Seal team members are getting screwed.
"But when he officially separates from the Navy three months later, where do his sixteen years of training and preparedness go on his résumé? Who in the outside world understands the executive skills and keen psychological fortitude he and his First Tier colleagues have absorbed into their DNA? Who is even allowed to know? And where can he go to get any of these questions answered? There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it's largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone's coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims — but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter's family.

"It's criminal to me that these guys walk out the door naked," says retired Marine major general Mike Myatt. "They're the greatest of their generation; they know how to get things done. If I were a Fortune 500 company, I'd try to get my hands on any one of them." General Myatt believes "the U.S. military is the best in the world at transitioning from civilian to military life and the worst in the world at transitioning back." The Special Operations men are special beyond their operations. "These guys are self-actualizers," says a retired rear admiral and former SEAL I spoke with. "Top of the pyramid. If they wanted to build companies, they could. They can do anything they put their minds to. That's how smart they are."

But what's available to these superskilled retiring public servants? "Pretty much nothing," says the admiral. "It's 'Thank you for your service, good luck.'"
I hate to be this way, but...guys? Lemme sing you a little song I know:

"In time of danger or in war
God and the soldier we adore.
Danger past and all things righted
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted."

Some British grunt wrote that song in fucking 1645.

Ain't no different three hundred and fifty years later. If nobody told you that in Reception Station?

They should have.

I mean, yeah; it sucks to be this guy. I get that. It sucks to be an imperial grunt in a country that is fiercely pretending NOT to be fighting colonial wars, so much so that it that is practically jamming its fists into its collective ears and shrieking "ICAN'THEARYOUlalalalalala!" rather than accept what it is doing to the legionaries it is sending out to do the dirty deeds it doesn't want to hear about or is pretending are the military equal of storming ashore on the Normandy beaches instead of the vile, ugly business of suppressing foreign rebellions in shitty parts of the world.

That's the reality. You can hate it. But you can't pretend you didn't know that going in, especially now after ten goddamn years of it.

A couple of other things;

1. The article is full of sad about how the poor dude is getting screwed over because he's getting out with jack shit; "Anyone who leaves early also gets no pension, so he is without income. Even if he had stayed in for the full twenty, his pension would have been half his base pay: $2,197 a month. The same as a member of the Navy choir."


I know they told you that shit in Repo. You don't do your twenty, I don't care if you're Audie Fucking Murphy; you get squat. Always have, always will. You sing in the choir for 20 years, you get the brass ring. 19.9 years of hard fighting? Bupkis. Them's the rules. You may not like that, but you can't complain you didn't know that.

The article keeps talking about the Shooter "retiring". Dude; this guy ain't "retiring". He's ETSing short of retirement. Get your military terminology straight, Phil. And if you ETS short of your 20-year letter, you get...? C'mon, say it with me now..."jack"...and what else?


Sorry, man. That's how it works. If the author didn't get that somebody he talked to should have squared him away. It makes the guys in ST6 sound like whiners, and I'm sure they wouldn't want that.

And this guy is described as all jacked up physically (which I believe; 16 years as a grunt would have crocked me up. Hell, they DID, in a way.). Why isn't he getting out on a medical? You CAN retire medically short of twenty. Why no discussion about that?


2. Here's the thing that completely baffled me; there's a ton of talk in this article about how special these special operators are, how any CEO and Wall Street firm and school district should be killing themselves to get them, how they're the best of the best of the best?

So where the hell was the Navy re-up guy?

The Shooter says he doesn't want to be a shooter any more. OK, fine. I'm not a squid but I'll bet there's tons of jobs in the USN that don't require a guy to bust a cap in Abu's ass. PAC clerk? Third shop? Stores? Chief of the Boat?

Plus, if these guys really were all self-actualizing and entrepreneurial as the article implies, wouldn't you think that the USN would be begging them to stay in and provide all this special leadership as senior NCOs.

Over at MilPub Al just talked about the importance of those salty old Navy chiefs; why isn't this guy moving on from the hard-core hooah infantry fun to a cushy job the regular Navy? Beer and skittles aboard a carrier? Why isn't he heading up the path towards CPO? Why doesn't anyone in this article talk about these guys as future Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy, as the future Kings of the Goat Locker?

Could it be...that for all the stuff in the article about how special these guys are, when you come down to it - with 16 years in the Navy this Shooter has about the same experience with troop leadership and organizational management as an infantry squad leader, an E-6 on his second or even the end of his first enlistment?

And that the sort of senior leadership you need to have to be a good Chief Petty Officer for a big organization - running a division or being Chief of the Boat - or even be a good teacher, or a stockbroker...requires more, and very different, skills than just "a fist to the helmet"?

And that these guys have, in essence, been frozen in place as infantry squaddies for more than a decade?

There's always been tension between the special operations organizations and the line dogs, but one of the reasons for that is this; these guys ARE good. They're among the best light infantrymen in the world. As a former grunt medic, I gotta respect that.


That's ALL they are.

The Regular Army's problem with senior SF NCOs has always been that - short of the supposed-wartime mission of creating indig armies - an E-7 in SF is a nothing more than a super squad leader. He doesn't even get the experience of leading a platoon of grunts, let alone the experience with combined arms and the logistic and operational business of troop-leading in a combined arms battle.

So could it be that the reason the Navy re-up NCO wasn't chasing this guy is that even with 16 years in he's not really considered all that terrific as a potential line Navy chief?

I don't know, but it makes me wonder; is the Navy and, by inference, the other services doing these guys any favors allowing them to, or making them, make a home in these special operations units? If they really don't have any civilian skills, shouldn't we be making it easy for them to do their thirty years in the Navy (or Army, or Marines) and retire full of years, honors, and a fat pension?

Makes me wonder, anyway.

And finally...

3. There's the obligatory hat-tip to the Crazy Mad National Defending Skilz that these wars are supposed to have been All About; "The Shooter himself, an essential part of the team helping keep us safe since 9/11, is now on his own."

Don't get me wrong. This guy and his teammates have been fighting hard. They've been doing everything they've been asked to do, and more.

But a lot of that fighting has had nothing to do with "keeping us safe."

Everything they did in Iraq?


A hell of a lot that went down in Afghanistan, that involved chasing angry tribesmen around and around the mountains?


And the other stuff? The secret wars in places like Yemen and Somalia?

Who the hell knows? But probably some yesses, some noes.

Look. I was a soldier for years. In a lot of ways I'm still stuck inside the Green Machine. I want my soldier brothers - and that includes this guy, who for all that he wore blue, has fought as a grunt for more than a decade - to get the best life they can out of the nation and the People who employ them.

But I think that a big part of that means that the People should get the whole story about our guys; good, bad, and indifferent. And told straight out, without the attempt to "sell" the guys to the Public. I think that the Public might, just might, for one thing, start wondering why these guys have been doing this for twelve years, and whether it is really "keeping us safe", and whether there might be better ways to do this both for us and for them.

And I don't think that a big part of this article really helps with that instead of just turning it into another war story.

So; question - what do you think? Am I reading too much into this? Is this sort of article part of the problem, part of the solution, both, or neither?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Safe somewhere

One of the fun things about blogging is where it can take you

In this case, it took me into the life of someone named Dorothy MacKaill.

Dorothy is the strikingly pretty woman whose stocking-tops enliven the preceding post. I hate to admit it to her shade but all I was doing was looking for a bit of spice to illustrate the "pre-Code" era films and I Googled up her picture.

But from there I had a fun time pursuing Dorothy. Turns out that she was a damn fine actress and a sort of minor-A-lister in the Hollywood of the Twenties and Early Thirties. But she didn't quite make it over the bar. She wasn't re-signed by First National Pictures in 1931 and spent another six years knocking around Tinseltown before hanging 'em up.

But here's where the story actually gets interesting in a maddeningly opaque way.
Dorothy moved on from movies due to a mixture of failure to draw, bad luck, and bad timing. In 1931 - right after her best known flick Safe in Hell (which is where Dotty appears looking so fetching in those stockings) - she got married to a musician, a guy named Miller, and supposedly had decided to make a go of being a good little Thirties wife and live on hubby's income. This seems to have been something of a wash; they were divorced by 1934, with Dotty complaining that Miller had conned her into leaving the film biz.

She sort of drifted around after that for a while. She was back in Britain in 1937 where she made one of the long-running Bulldog Drummond flicks. I can't find where she spent the war years, but was presumably doing something like making O.D. paint for the War Effort. She is said to have spent time taking care of her mother, but there doesn't seem to be a genuinely reliable source for this.

She turns up in Honolulu in the early Fifties, living at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in a setting of convivial solitude. She made a couple of appearances in the old Hawaii Five-Oh series in the Seventies, supposedly as a favor to Jack Lord.

She died in her bed at the Royal Hawaiian in 1990, at the age of 87.

What intrigues me is that Dorothy seems to have been perfectly satisfied with the quiet life she led in the islands, so it must have been perfectly satisfying for her.

But what it was like, who she was like, we do not and cannot know.

That's the fascinatingly elusive things about celebrity. Here's a woman that we can "meet" on the screen. We can see her walking, hear her speak, see how she carries herself; all the sorts of things we associate with people we actually know...and yet, we truly don't know ahything about her. If she chooses - and she did - she can disappear completely. Her life outside of her films, and three television episodes, is a complete blank to us.

She spent forty years doing...something...probably all sorts of things of which we know absolutely nothing.

We have no idea how she filled her days for forty years. Don't know what she liked, what she did, whose company she enjoyed and whose she didn't. Did she love to hike into the forests of the Koolaus? Could she tell an o'hia from a banyan? Was she a regular at the Honolulu Public Library? Did she play golf, or tennis, or rugby, for that matter?

Whatever she did, whoever she did it with, or not, Dorothy seems to have had a long and pleasant time doing it.

And that seems good enough to me.

Ancient of Days

Just a couple of brief notes today.

Am I the only one who finds it utterly cool that we just lived through something that has only happened four times in recorded history (that we're sure of, anyway) and only once before in the past 600 years?

I should add, however, that the sede vacante left by the latest incumbent is a siege made perilous by the still-unresolved problem of clerical misbehavior.

As one who flirted with Catholicism in my adulthood as much as I appreciated the pageant-history and magical traditions when it came to the sticking point I couldn't stomach the authoritarianism. It seemed to me then and still does that if a faith or a religion (and I do not consider the two the same or often even very similar) is to do more human good than harm it must allow for its adherents the freedom of their own morals. Especially Christianity, which is probably the most difficult and complex religion to practice.

Pace the other great faiths but in their essence they seem to me fairly coherent for the believers. Islam and Judaism are fierce, totemic tribal faiths based on loyalty to a patriarch-deity partial to His partisans and implacable to outsiders. Buddhism is as much a tradition and a philosophy as faith and one based firmly on a peaceful, meditative tradition and renunciatory philosophy. Hinduism...well, I haven't figured out quite what the hell Hinduism is.

It doesn't seem terribly complex to me to be Shinto, Jain, Animist, Sikh, or Zoroastrian.

But Christianity? Christianity is fucking impossible.

You have to reconcile the tribal-God of the Old Testament with the Father-God of the New and try and figure out how to live by the strictures of a Savior who only demands six impossible things of you before breakfast. No wonder many people of faith, and almost all the major Christian religions, have either abandoned, or never even attempted, to live as Jesus commanded. Because, as a better writer than I put it:
"No, you just don't understand. Let's all put our brunch plans on hold, because if you really heard what I said, you'd be absolutely terrified. You'd want to run or give up your faith, or kill me right now, because what I said was impossible. What I said is absolutely going to break you. If you're lucky."
And you all probably know how I feel about what happened when Jesus met Rome. The result wasn't just rendering unto Caesar that which was Caesar's. It was becoming Caesar.

IMO the clerical child-and-pretty-much-anything-else-moving-with-a-hole-in-it-abuse-scandal isn't about who put whose totem pole in whose donut hole.

It's about the fact that when confronted with the most clear-cut choice between humility and contrition, and power, the Holy See chose power.

The reigns of the last two Popes have, at bottom, been about buttressing the power of the Church rather than its humanity. Regardless of how you feel about the Levitican rules, you'd have to agree that if you choose in favor of an ancient text over kindness toward living humans you aren't exactly choosing in favor of the things your Savior talked up like brotherhood, compassion and love. That tends to work better for things like dietary rules about shellfish or owls than deciding who should or can love whom and what should place a man or woman outside the bounds of your God's care.

It seems rather dreary that an institution like the Papacy - which, whatever you feel about it, carries such a glittering and complex tradition of scholars, schemers, poets, madmen, villains, and saints - has been filled in my late lifetime by little men who seem to be obsessed with rules, authority, and chastening any trace of individual conscience in both laity and the lower clergy rather than trying to expand the horizons of the faith and the love their founder preached.

Their legacy is a curia crammed to bursting with other pettifoggingly narrow and stern little men who would rather wag their fingers at a couple of homosexuals embracing than leap with the joy of the Good News and give all their riches to the poor. And from this precious lot the Church will be blessed with its next pontiff.

Ma nisrat lech bamoch!? as Jesus himself might have said.

Speaking of old things, this early Kodacolor/Kodachrome test film is kind of fascinating:

The fascinating thing is not so much the film itself, which shows that the Kodacolor process still had a long way to go in 1922, but the motions of the actresses in the film.

As the Slate website says: "Their open expressions of feeling and the particular way they move their hands and tilt their heads...are so unfamiliar now, they seem like a foreign language." It's that, combined with the peculiar intimacy granted by the color film.

Black and white film emphasizes difference. The images look removed t us, unlike anything we're used to seeing either in film or our lives. The monochromatic pictures increase the distance between us and the people we're seeing on film.

But the women (and the child) in this little film look very familiar, less the Twenties fashions. Especially the last subject, the blonde woman in the shiny robe that smoulders and pouts, not all that much different than some 2013 starlet vamping for the camera.

And I mention as an aside that we tend to forget that the Twenties and early Thirties were, in fact, a very "modern" period in films. A lot of pre-Code films of the time have an almost 21st Century license around sex and sexuality; so it's no surprise that a screen test actress might throw in something spicy for the boys in the editing room.

Except that...go back and watch her. The actress' face and her body just...well, they just don't look and move like a modern woman.

You've seen modern screen actresses smoulder and they don't smoulder like that.

I think we often don't realize how we are shaped by our arts as we shape them. The gestures and expressions in the 1922 film are the exaggerated ones of the old melodrama and Victorian stage by way of the silent film era, where the actors had to "talk" using stylized movement and larger-than-normal facial gestures.

To us in 2013, raised on the naturalistic style we see around us, and on television and film they appear ritualistic and bizarre.

So I thought that this little clip at once brings to young life people who must be dead or very, very old while at the same time emphasizes how far removed from them and their time we have grown.

Surely, while "everything old is new again", many things are irrevocably changed into the weird and marvelous with the long passing of the days.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Army I Knew: Where'd You Get That Hat

This one has a soundtrack; I have absofuckinglutely NO idea about the video that goes with it, so it's useless to ask me about it. Just keep on reading...

I got to the 82nd Airborne Division in the early 1980's. I had busted out of SFQC and had no real thought of returning to civilian life if I couldn't do it as an SF Reservist. I enlisted in the RA and was sent - natch - right back to Ft. Bragg with the rest of the SF Rejects. I was run through the repple depple and from there to one of the infantry battalions in Third Brigade.

The Division of the early Eighties was, like most of the rest of the Army, just coming out of a pretty bad time. The VOLAR Period - from the middle Seventies to the early Eighties - had been full of all the bad shit you read about the late Vietnam Army. Lots of dope-smoking and even guys wearing a heroin jacket - medics were notorious for that, by the way. Lots of racial badassery; billeted up on the third floor of one of the infantry company barracks the medics - who were largely white boys - were across the hallway from the cooks, who were black almost to the man.

While I never got involved in anything serious other than some bad language and a bit of pushing and shoving I heard the tales of full-on barracks riots between the brothers and the whiteboys. My roomie was a big boy and something I had no idea existed; a suburban California surfer redneck. He'd talk about "dudes" and "bros" and homies" and flash Hawaiian hang-loose gestures and had a 38-ounce Louisville Slugger behind his bunk with the words "Nigger Knocker" scrawled on it.

But the Army was slowly regaining control by 1982. The guys with the worst drug habits were getting chaptered out, and the NCOs were starting to run the troops again. The privates were still smoking a little weed when I got there, but it was on the downlow and you knew that you were in trouble if you got nailed for it. The days of the "Jumpin' Junkies" and "Almost Airborne" were almost over.

Mind you, you could still drink and drink like you meant it.

Happy Hour at the Red Beret Club ("The Red Rag") on Ardennes Street still meant nickel beers and would have given Fellini's Satyricon or any Russ Meyer flick a run for their money for pure depravity. One of my first senior medics was a stone alcoholic. He'd hit the Class VI store every Friday and drag his hootch out to MacArthur Lake, rent one of the rowboats from the MSAD people there, and climb in it with his booze and a poncho liner.

He'd throw a hook in the water so he could at least claim he'd gone out there to fish, drink 'til he passed out, wake up Saturday and do the same thing, then wake up Sunday and row back to shore, drive back to the billets and drink until he passed out in his car.

He usually did this with his PT sweats on so he could crawl out of the car Monday morning and fall into formation, sweating and puking, and then work the week as usual.

It seemed to make sense at the time. I guess you kind of had to be there.

The actual story of my adventures in Division is a long one, and one I'll get to over the next year, but I wanted to start with the one thing that I couldn't help but notice straight off when I got to the Deuce; the hat we wore.

Keep in mind that in 1982 the Army was still the O.D.Green Machine.

The rest of the Army still looked like our WW2 forebears only with black shoes. They still wore the old OG107 "pickle suit" that was right out of 1952 and the gawdawful goofy baseball cap hat we'd worn in Basic that replaced the old p-cap.

But the Deuce was different. For one thing, if we wanted to we could go out and buy the USMC-style ripstop poplin "cammies". I loved the old cammies for their buttery softness when broken in, and the rich green and earth tones of the camouflage colors. They looked and felt "cool" and for early twenties manhood cool is crucial.

That picture of me (on Sicily DZ coverage in the autumn of 1982, I think) up top shows the old cammies worn over the wonderfully warm OD wool issue sweater underneath. Ah, memories.

Unlike the BDU which replaced them, cammies were cool in summer, warm in winter, and when wet would dry just from the warmth of your body. We hated the BDU like a dose of the clap...but cammies were outstanding.

And the other thing was the hat.

We were, at the time, one of three units in the Army that got to wear a special hat.

The SF had their green beret - which I had already failed to earn so that was out.

The Ranger battalions (at the time only two) had a black one - which I had no interest in; we'd all heard about the grim life of a non-tabbed worm in a Ranger outfit, and I had had more than enough of grovelling around trying to be hardcore. For a while I wanted to live a life of cakes and ale and ogle the strippers down at the Red Rag after work.

But the Airborne had a red - well, okay, maroon - one and that was just jake with me.

It's funny, now that every swinging richard in the U.S. Army has a floppy Frenchie hat, but at the time the red rag was considered pretty sweet and some sort of symbol of the big international brotherhood of paratroops.

But if we'd looked around we'd have realized how cherry we were with the cherry berry; the truth was that a hell of a lot of people in Division had no fucking idea how to wear it.

We'd only got the thing in '73, it had gone away for a year between '79 and '80 and so when I got there Division and the other jump-qualified outfits had only had it back for a couple of years or three and were still figuring out how it worked.
Part of the problem was that the issue beret was a complete piece of shit. It was a baggy, fuzzy, floppy felt bag with a thick cloth liner. If you tried to wear it off the shelf it just sort of poofed out all over like, well, a baggy, fuzzy, floppy poofy red felt bag. You'd still see guys, even guys already in the line units, wearing it like that.
It looked totally retarded that way, but, there.

So the "unaltered" or "issue" beret gave you the "puffball" or "'shroom cap" look.

The thing you had to do - and you did right off if you made pals quickly or your senior medic was a good guy and took pity on you - was, first, cut out the fucking black cloth lining which was useless, anyway.

Then you took the thing into the shower, got it good and wet, and shaped it to your head.

The sight of a couple of naked cherry troopers standing in the latrine wearing nothing but a red bag on their heads tugging and reefing on their headgear sounds ridiculous and probably was, but you got used to it because you saw it every time somebody had to break in a new hat.

Then you took an old razor (or your roommate's razor if he was a real douchebag and smaller than you so unlikely to pound the piss out of you when he found his razor jammed with red fluff) and shaved all the red fluff off the wet beret. This gave the thing a nice sort of smooth nubbly-nappy look and brought out the shape you'd achieved in the shower.

Then you wore it around all day until it dried into the shape you'd pulled it into.

You tended to catch cold doing this if it was wintertime but the coolness of the finished product was considered well worth it.

But - here's the thing - even if you did all this, there were still people who did some odd things with it.

One real common sight was the "earmuff" or "side bag" style, which involved pulling the bag-side down so far that it practically touched your neck. According to AR 670-1 - the Army's uniform regulations - the black leather bottom band was supposed to go around your head dead level, but the side-bag style required the whole skitch to be cocked way over to one side.

I think one reason that people did this is that you tended to see some troopers in other countries with this sort of style. The French tended to wear theirs like this, I recall, as did guys in several other NATO nations. For a certain type of troop this made the sidebag style the logical way to wear a froggie hat, AR 670-1 be damned.

This also seemed to be something that a lot of the guys in Combat Support Company and the service support platoons (like Supply and Transport) in HQ Company favored for some reason.

Dunno why, just where I tended to see a lot of it.

The airborne gals as a gender had some unique issues with the hat.
Female troopers had problems simply because the thing wasn't designed for hair longer than a #2 cut. For the gals the thing tended to perch up on top of their hair and sometimes even had to be secured with a couple of hairpins. This always seemed like a very unsatisfactory arrangement, and led to a lot of our gals running the risk of their First Sergeant's wrath by getting a very short haircut.
(Private Benjamin aside, the U.S. Army was just getting used to the idea of regular everyday Mollies; the Women's Army Corps of my friend Syrbal had just lately gone away and salty old guys were having to get used to the idea of soldiers with non-reg things like boobs and long hair. But the big fear, for some reason, was of female soldiers looking butch. Army gals were forbidden to have "mutilated" hairstyles that included very short hair. You couldn't look like Rapunzel, mind you, but you couldn't sport a 'do that looked "masculine", either. This made it very difficult for the gals in the 82nd units that had female slots like 307th Med, Division HHC and 407th S&S to find a happy medium that would work with the red rag. Just goes to show that we all have our own special problems, dunnit?)
But my favorite amongst the "oddball" beret fashions was usually seen among the black troopers.

The "Jeff Cap" style involved taking the flat cardboard stiffener that you used to sew the unit flash and pin the crest onto and pulling it forward and down until the flash pointed straight at the ground.
From the side this made the thing look like one of those flat caps you only saw on golfers and in old movies, one of those cloth caps the newsboys in the Thirties films used to wear. At first I think it started as a kind of Black Power deal in the late Seventies, but it quickly became just another uniform fad, like taps on jump boots or wearing cardboard tubes to block the bottoms of your trousers when they were bloused into your boots.

I always thought it was kind of hard-core and silly at the same time. It probably made my old roomie want to reach for the "Nigger Knocker".

How the hell we ever got out the jump doors together...I really wonder.

But we did. Somehow or other most of us figured out how to go along , get along, and wear the thing according to the regs. Our NCOs began to square us away, we started to pull out of the VOLAR Slough of Despond, and slowly we worked out how to not just look like soldiers but actually soldier.

But it wasn't always easy and we had some issues to deal with first.

Friday, February 08, 2013

There and Back Again, Random Maundering Edition

My son recently discovered a game called Minecraft.
It's actually a pretty cool game. You have to run around this bizarre-sort-of-8-bit-looking cubic world assembling resources and building stuff. You are - depending on the level you play - menaced by creatures like "creepers" and "spiders" and confronted with the need to find food, build shelter, and sleep.

He finds this terrifically fascinating. I thought that it was a pleasant alternative to his usual digital enthusiasm, which is shooting the hell out of stuff.

Mind you; nature finds a way to defeat nurture. Tonight he was bludgeoning digital swine to death with objects ranging from a fishing rod through raw meat to a rose.

While his sister bounced on the couch chanting "Kill the pig! Kill the pig!"

Sigh. That's not the fictional place I really want them to go...


Nothing in particular on my mind tonight, so let's see if the spirit bloweth where it listeth.

Turns out that Richard Plantagent died about as hard as a man can.
That's his brain housing group up there. Note the big hole in the lower right rear; forensics people in the UK seem to think that was made with a damn big blade; a halberd, war axe, something of that sort. The other view is a depressed fracture of the skull, and he had about a total of six other facial wounds, including a swordcut straight-on into the face. Apparently there's some evidence that he was Gaddafied, too; some joker shoved a dagger up his backside, hopefully after the poor SOB was dead.

Hard death aside, years ago I had the occasion to read two books in the same year: Bill Shakespeare's Richard III and Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time. They're both fairly straight-up partisan tracts, one agin, the other for, the last Plantagenet ruler of England. Not sure which teacher assigned them, and whether they came as a set, or whether it was coincidence, or what. They're both good reads, though you'd never know they were talking about the same guy.

The one thing, though, that Tey brings up in her story that does make sense to me is the whole business of The Princes in the Tower.

You know that one, right? Poor little fellows, done to death by their wicked uncle Richard? Classic sort of bwa-ha-ha over-the-top mustache-twirling Bad Guy stuff that gives ol' Richard his eeeeeeevil rep.

Thing is, Dick (not being British and at this remove I think I can get away with calling the subject by his nickname) got to be king through an Act of Parliament titled Titulus Regius. You can read the whole thing at the link, but the nitty is that his brother's kids (and heirs) were legally decreed bastards. Not in the "You little bastard!" sense; no, actual bastards, illegitimate kids, because his marriage to their mother Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous.

So Dick takes over as the Plantagenet heir, stashes the kids in one of the royal castles, and goes on to get kacked in a pretty gory fashion at Bosworth.

His successor, Henry Tudor, has the Act repealed. And destroyed; every extant copy burned: "...said Bill, Act and Record, be anulled and utterly destroyed, and that it be ordained by the same Authority, that the same Act and Record be taken out of the Roll of Parliament, and be cancelled and brent, and be put in perpetual oblivion." One of the first acts of the new Tudor Administration was a "destroy without reading" for ol' Titulus Regius.'s the thing; if you repeal that Act, then Edward Plantagenet - Edward V, the delegitimized nephew of now-dead-Dick - becomes king.

Kind of a good reason for Henry Tudor to make sure that young Ed never turned up...alive. No?
So while it appears that Dick WAS a hunchback and may well have been other things he might not have been the original Wicked Uncle.

...and then says "You know, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it's going to hurt me." and knees his balls up through his diaphragm.

You can learn from adversity.

But it doesn't make it any less painful.
Speaking of learning from adversity, my friend Talyssa over at the Hidden Thimble asked me about books recently. I have a very catholic taste and my reading tends to vary quite a lot, but I've been enjoying several of my gift-books lately, and they're

John Scalzi's Redshirts: If you haven't found Scalzi's blog Whatever you're missing a good thing. He blogs as well as he writes, and that's very well indeed. His latest story is a fascinating combination of science fiction, metafiction, the television business, actors and acting and screenwriting...and also a thoughtful look at love and loss, fate...what the author of Proverbs might well have summed up as "...the way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid."

Anyway, Redshirts is one hell of a good tale.

In something of a weirder and darker note is The Last Light of the Sun by a Canadian author by the name of Guy Gavriel Kay. It's set in a thinly disguised early medieval Wessex with scenes set in Wales, and in the norse lands to the east, probably Norway...but one where the legends of the spirits of earth and air are, well, not. It's not a particularly original tale, but one well-told and with a good eye and ear for the period.

And I've got Summers' On Strategy on the nightstand, again. I've been slagging off on him over at MilPub and need to re-read him to see if he is as louche' as I recalled. Ah, the things I do for blogging...


Let's see if there's anything else rattling around in here.

Did I mention that we have a new team in Portland?

The Portland Thorns F.C. is our entry into the new women's pro league. The army is already sold on our Thorns, and with old favorite Chris Sinclair returning to Portland, exciting young players like Allie Long and Tina Ellertson, USWNT stalwart Alex Morgan and CWNT keeper Karina leBlanc we're looking forward to a hell of an exciting first season for the Rose City women. PTFC!

In "News of the Weird", Fourth Grader Edition, my Little Guy's best pal is leaving his classroom for our local Catholic elementary school this coming Monday.

Now I had a bit of exposure to parochial school as a kid and, generally, I have no real issues with the way the local diocesan schools work. There's a bit more religion but I never encountered the "jesus-on-a-dinosaur" sort of bone-stupid back-to-the-13th-Century sorts of instruction that the local fundie "schools" deal in. understanding is that the main reason is because my son and his pal both have one of the old-school teachers this year. Mister (Name Redacted) is a sort of crusty old guy who seems mostly concerned with keeping the kids sat down and working and, frankly, I think he's kind of burned-out. He's not a fun, bouncy, peppy, imaginative sort of guy which is what the boys have been lucky enough to have up until now.

But...the thing is...what I remember from parochial school were lots of that kind of guy. Not burned-out necessarily, but strict and all about the rules.

We're not talking Miss Dove here.

So...I really wonder what the hell is going on. Unless there's some sort of problem with Peep's Pal needing more structure...

I don't see how he's going to get more out of Our Lady of Pain Elementary.

And, sadly, the Boy is heartsick at losing his best pal. He knows what's going to happen, and though his mother and Pal's family have sworn great swears that Pal and the Boy will get lots of time together and can continue to be Best Pals, well...

He knows better, and so do I.

There's a special place in social Hell where friendships go to die, and I think my little man can smell the whiff of brimstone. I wish I could make him feel more optimistic, or at least more sanguine, but I can't. I moved too many times when I was little. Friends move, or go away, and never come back, and there's a special sadness there that can never be undone or made better.

Poor little guy.

Almost out of gas here. But, pictures! I got pictures. From deviantart, a "harajuku cat".
Well, okay, then!

And I love this one, from Amy Mebberson, all of the Doctor's "companions". I'm embarrassed to admit I only know Sarah Jane Smith and Leela, from the old Tom Baker version of the show...
Okay. I'm done. Gotta go home and see if my in-laws have been buried under immense snowdrifts.

Friday Sorta-Jukebox: Hello Kitty In Space Edition

(Ridiculously huge h/t to Fallows for this insanely cool science project.)

Mind you...I did wonder that the payload seemed to come down very close to where it took off...hmmm...still...

Whatever. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

All The Lost Days

Every day has a thousand ways to slip away from you.
Every day is an artist of escape.
Some walk right beside you
on certain gray sidewalks,
you’re certain you’ve seen before.
But they trick you. They distract you.
They make getaways you never even see.
You’re in the blind alley thinking Houdini, whodunnit,
or how did it come to this?
They’re hiding behind the false wall, snickering.
Some have already left you,
and still they talk about you,
in midnight meetings when they know you’re asleep.
They break at dawn and arrange themselves
into years and decades,
like teams of con men in a square.
They know what is beneath each shell, each card
they slide across the table.
They know the insides of your pockets,
the contents of your wallet,
and they fleece you for even thinking you could have secrets
worth remembering.

But most days just invite themselves into your house,
with their boring friends,
their minutes and moments like fat old men.
They trap you in your easy chair;
they tell stories until you’re dizzy, until you nod off,
nodding as politely as you can –
the last thing you see, the minutes slapping each other on the back,
spilling on the carpet,
and the one drunk day
hiking up his shirt to show you the scars.

You wake up alone,
the fridge is cleaned out and the cupboards are bare –
they made off with everything.
You go to the doorway,
the door left open and swinging in the cold night air, and through it:
only the lights on the highway have come out to greet you
along with the bright, sharp stars.
And somewhere in those hills,
all the lost days are making their way through old roads
and forgotten shortcuts,
nodding to each other as they pass in the dark,
none afraid,
linked arm in arm with your dreams like wives in an old-time promenade.
And whatever they whisper to each other
is gentle,
and in a perfect confidence
that you will never know.

~ Paul Bibeau

(If I haven't, let me use this to recommend Paul's wonderful blog Goblinbooks. His post from yesterday says everything I said in the earlier post today about drones and, yet, says it with the delicately, deadly, grievous precision of a needle through the heart that I could not hope to imitate. His stuff is truly brilliant, and I stand humbled before him)