Sunday, September 28, 2008

Eins, zwei, drei...Suffa!!!!

Think of it as a party with a few thousand friends

Y’know, I’d damn near forgotten what time of year it is. We ignorant Americans like to imagine that Oktoberfest is sometime in October, but it actually starts in late September.

The Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany during late September (and running to early October). The Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally, takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year, and is an important part of Bavarian culture. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event. This year’s fest, the 198th annual fest, runs from September 20th to October 5th. Hurry; there’s still 8 days left!

I personally never made it down to Munich for the official Oktoberfest, but instead prowled the beer tents of the fest held in Bad Cannstatt, a district of Stuttgart down by the Neckar River. Although the Cannstatter Volkfest is not strictly speaking a beer festival, it is considered by many to be the second largest beer festival in the world after the Munich Oktoberfest. According to estimates about 4.2 million people visited the festival in 2006. The Volksfest begins one week later than the Oktoberfest…oh, man!!! The fest started LAST NIGHT!!!!!!

Okay, I just reached into the fridge for a bottle of Hefeweizen. I may not be able to go to the fest tonight, but in my heart, I’ll be in the Stuttgarter Hofbrau tent with Rick and Greg and Ray and Jim, swinging a giant one-liter beer mug full of golden goodness, eating a giant pretzel to soak up the alcohol, and singing “Eine Prosit, eine Prosit der Gemutlichkeit” (A toast, a toast to health & happiness) and chanting along as the toast master says “Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi!!!!”

The Hofbrau tent holds about 5000 people, and the Dinkelacker tent holds about 4500. I've gotten sinfully inebriated in both...

At times it’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I first sat at the tables inside the Festzelten (Fest Tents) sponsored by the various breweries. I split time between the Dinkelacker, Stuttgarter Hofbrau, and Schwaben Brau tents during both the 1988 and 1989 fests, raising many a mug with my friends. I miss you guys dearly, and tonight I raise my brew again to salute you.

You can take the boy out of Germany, but it’s been impossible to take the Germany out of the boy. Tschuessele bis Spater, alle meine Freunden! Vielen Dank!

Yes, that's me, in 1989, pretty pie-faced in the Hofbrau tent, and yes, I am wearing two plastic fried eggs over my eyes. Don't ask...

I was positively DESTROYED by the time this picture was taken. Also in 1989, a couple days later, in the Schwaben Brau tent. Great 1980's glasses and a giant beer stein!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Book Review: Historic Photos of West Point

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a history buff, almost at times to the point of geekdom. Military history was my personal addiction. Normal kids in the fourth grade can’t give you a run-down of the Battle of Midway or talk to you about the group of American aces known as “Zemke’s Wolfpack”. Of course, I was never a normal kid.

I recently was given a copy of a great book of pictures chronicling the history of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. With text and captions by Eugene J. Palka and Jon C. Malinowski, “Historic Photos of West Point” is a great coffee table book and a must-have for any former or current member of “the long gray line”. The book is a labor of love of sorts; Colonel Palka is a 1978 graduate of the Academy and is the department head for the school’s Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, and both he and Malinowski are geography professors at the school.

Some of the pictures contained in the nearly 200 pages date back to the pre-Civil War era, and many of the buildings in the pictures throughout the photographs exist only in the pictures, though some indeed still exist today. It was fascinating to look at these oldest of photos and think that at the time the pictures were taken that very same ground was being trod upon by the likes of General Robert E. Lee (Class of 1829), General and President Ulysses S. Grant (Class of 1843), Confederate President Jefferson Davis (Class of 1828), General William T. Sherman (Class of 1840), General George McClellan (Class of 1846), General Philip Sheridan (Class of 1853), General “Stonewall” Jackson (Class of 1846), and General George Armstrong Custer (Class of 1861).

Various aspects of cadet life are shown, from training in horsemanship, artillery, and engineering, to fencing, boxing, football, baseball and lacrosse. One photo shows cadets at a meal, and at the far right of the table is a plebe, or freshman, with his chin tucked to his chest, sitting at attention with his eyes on his plate, a tradition that has passed to the wayside in modern times. In another photo one can see the rather Spartan conditions of the rooms the cadets lived in circa 1917.

I was especially fascinated with the pictures of various famous people shown interacting with students and faculty of the school. One shot showed President Warren G. Harding visiting in 1921, and another pair of pictures showed a visit from industrialist Charles M. Schwab in 1927. In that same year, the New York Yankees traveled to the Academy to play a game against the West Point squad, and a photographer captured no less than Babe Ruth giving autographed balls to the players before the game. And, swagger stick in hand and a scowl on his face, there’s a picture of the Academy’s Superintendent from 1919 to 1923; without his trademark sunglasses and pipe you’d almost not recognize Douglas MacArthur, who graduated first in his class from West Point in 1903 and ended up with four more stars on his shoulders than he had in this picture.

I strongly recommend this book for history enthusiasts, military veterans, and photography buffs alike. With the holidays approaching, it’ll make a perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list.

You can get the book directly from Turner Publishing itself ( or Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, and Borders.

I'm not sure Doug ever smiled in his life...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Worst Kept Secret in America

Well, well, well….in news that isn’t really news, it seems that one Mister Clayton Holmes Grissom, better known as Clay Aiken, has ended worldwide speculation and revealed to all & sundry that yes, indeed, he’s gay.

(insert dramatic pause here)

Well, now that the world has resumed spinning on its axis, allow me to say this: no shit, Clayton. This was a no-brainer. It’s also a no-news non-issue.

Allow me to paraphrase my friend and fellow blogger Wil Whalen, who wrote an open letter on his own blog to Lance Bass. Hey, Clay, everyone already knew, and nobody cares. (

You were so far in the closet that you found next year’s Christmas presents.

Y'know, if you had any sort of sense of dramatic flair you’d have announced it on October 11, which is National Coming Out Day, instead of doing it on a magazine cover.

Monday, September 22, 2008

According to the Autumn Equinox, most Top 40 Music still sucks

Current Music That Sucks (by MojoSteve featuring Tiny and Tater)

Since no one these days seems able to have a top-40 hit without a guest artist “featured” on the song, I figured I’d need a feature to help me do this blog. I’m not quite famous enough to score Timbaland, Ludacris, Ne-Yo, Lil Wayne, WILL.I.AM, or Akon, so I’ll just have to get by. Maybe I’ll get the dogs to help me.

As per the norm, I took a spin through the local Top-40 radio stations for a few songs just to see what the latest round of crap being offered was. This time, however, I’ll at least have some suggestions afterwards as to what I’m listening to these days that won’t suck.

So, without further ado…

M.I.A.--Paper Planes
I first heard M.I.A. a couple years ago through videos on the cable channel IMF/International Music Feed. The song “Bucky Done Gun” was the most repetitively annoying track I’d heard since “My Baby Daddy” by B-Rock & The Bizz, and that’s saying something. Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A, is a British songwriter, record producer, vocalist and visual artist of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. Most of her songs that I’ve heard are bhangra-flavored dance tracks that are actually pretty good. The first thing I noticed was that the song is built around a sample of “Straight to Hell” by The Clash, and that caught my attention pretty quick. This song is almost unintelligible, however, and I’m still not quite sure what it’s about. In amongst the gibberish are mentions of skulls & bones, UPS trucks, and taking your money.Your guess is as good as mine.

Estelle featuring Kanye West--American Boy
The song is almost catchy, but then again so is herpes and you don’t want anything to do with that either. Riding on the current Motown Renaissance Wannabe Movement of such acts as Duffy and Amy Winehouse sounding like classic 60’s singers with a modern groove, this is just a mess of childish lyrics coupled with some of the lamest rap I have ever heard. Then again, I think Kanye is a total asshat anyways. The Wiggles carry more street cred than this waste of four minutes.

Secondhand Serenade—Fall For You
Thanks, Chris Carabba. Thanks to you, I get to hear yet another whiny-assed Emo ballad done by a single-guy Dashboard Confessional clone. Any sweeter and I could pour it on pancakes. A bunch of nautical star tattoos, some hair gel, and some teary-eyed songs and anyone can be a star. The same formula gets repeated on the song “Vulnerable”, and the song “Your Call”, and on “Last Time” and anything else this guy (John Vesely) does. A one trick pony that will keep your teenaged daughter weepy all semester.

Kardinal Offishall featuring Akon—Dangerous
You’d swear this was an Akon song with some forgettable rapper uttering barely understandable lyrics in between Akon’s choruses and verses. In fact, a perusal of YouTube finds that pretty much everything Kardinal has done has had a “featuring”. To me that suggests mediocrity in need of assistance.

Leona Lewis—Better in Time
Another well-sung but utterly forgettable ballad that sounds like half Mariah Carey and half Alicia Keys. Play this back to back with her track “Bleeding Love” and cry into your box of white zinfandel over that person who broke your heart. boo hoo hoo

Daughtry—What About Now?
Yet another single off their album that refuses to die. Once upon a time, I thought Chris Daughtry should win American Idol. Instead, he ended up coming in third and took the world by storm and constant overplay has caused me to cringe every time I hear them. This one sounds, remarkably, just like all their others. I’m happy he got successful, but I’m just so sick of hearing him.

David Archuleta—Crush
Well, well, well. We finally hear something from last year’s Idol runner-up. And just as I expected, it’s a trite ballady syrup-fest. I can hear it running down the collective leg of every 13 year old girl in America. Yawn...

David Cook—Time of My Life
This could just as easily be a Daughtry power ballad. Poor kid wins American Idol and is given schmaltzy crap to sing, just like every other Idol winner. It’ll be interesting to see what he’ll do when given a longer leash and quits singing cover songs turned into alt-rock. It’ll either be pretty good, or be a Daughtry clone. If he tanks, he can sit with Constantine Maroulis in the Idol audience and make funny lip gestures at the cameras.

Pussycat Dolls—When I Grow Up
What do you get when you mix an okay singer with five wannabe pole-dancers? Another video that looks like Hooters threw up at a strip club. I swear that when Nicole Scherzinger and Company sing that they wanna have groupies, it sounds like they say they wanna have boobies.

Schwayze—Corona & Lime
“You can be my Corona and lime, and I can be your Main Squeeze. And if your brother don’t like my style, we can take it to the street. Take it to the street”. What utterly ridiculous crap. From the trailer parks of Malibu comes Shwayze (Aaron Smith) with his buddy Cisco Adler, son of movie director Lou Adler, combining rap and acoustic rock into something that isn’t quite as cool as “The Bartender Song” by Rehab, but really wishes it were. That song is clever & funny, whereas I would never ask a chick to be my watered-down overpriced Mexican beer with a fruit chunk in it. Dude, pick a real beer. "You can be my Sam Adams Scotch Ale, and I can be your MojoSteve"…there. That works. Much cooler.

Okay. Now that I’ve told you what NOT to listen to, how about I make a few suggestions as to what you maybe SHOULD listen to.

Carolina Liar—I’m Not Over
What do you get when you take a guy from Moncks Corner, South Carolina and team him up with five guys from Sweden? You get a really good band called Carolina Liar. Their breakthrough single, “I’m Not Over” is gaining airplay everywhere and deservedly so. Chad Wolf’s voice reminds me ever so slightly of the best of Better Than Ezra’s songs, only better. Also check out the song “Show Me What I’m Looking For”, or better yet, just go get the whole album. Do not miss this band.

O.A.R.—Shattered (Turn This Car Around)
The best thing to come out of Rockville, Maryland in a long time, I first heard OAR (Of A Revolution) a couple years ago from their track "Love and Memories". This new song reminded me why I liked them. At first I thought it was David Gray, whose single “Babylon” was one of the best songs to come out of late 2000/early 2001. Vocally, singer Marc Roberge sounds a bit like Gray, and musically the song has that soaring buildup that I loved so much from Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”.

The Ting Tings—Shut Up and Let Me Go
Made popular by being featured in an iPod ad, this track is a cute and catchy blend of precociousness and sass. A bratty British chick pouting over a track that sounds a lot like a 1987 song by The Cure called "Hot Hot Hot". The best breakup song since Katy Perry’s “UR So Gay”. And speaking of Katy Perry…

Katy Perry--Hot & Cold
Hot on the heels of her seriously overplayed yet pretty brilliant single “I Kissed a Girl” comes another excellently-produced and dancey track. Both tracks were produced by Dr. Luke, who has also worked with Kelly Clarkson, Pin, Avril Lavigne, Leona Lewis, Daughtry, and a host of others. About two more weeks and I’ll be sick of it, though.

Shiny Toy Guns--Ricochet!/Frozen Oceans
Two new tracks from the soon to be released second album “Season of Poison”. Featuring the vocals of new singer Sisely Treasure, the songs are as close to polar opposites as you can get. “Ricochet” is all sass and noise, reminding me of a hybrid blend of KMFDM and Lords of Acid. It took several listens to grow on me, but grow it did. At the opposite end of the spectrum is “Frozen Oceans” is an ethereal lush ballad with a soaring soundscape amidst the chorus: “10,000 miles apart, a frozen ocean joins our heart. I can’t wait to meet you when the frozen waves meet ocean floors. You’ll be standing on the shore; I can’t wait to meet you then…”

The Veronicas--Untouched
I should probably hate this song just on principal, but I can’t. This song will be a huge mega-hit for twin sisters Jess and Lisa Origliasso, which means it will become so overplayed that I will no longer be able to stand it, but it’s fast, catchy, really well-produced and full of this angsty nervous energy. I’m really digging the beat and the synth-sampled strings.

Adele--Chasing Pavements
I know that I've talked smack about those Motown-soundalikes that are pervading the airwaves these days, but there's something about this song that I realy like. It's not over-produced like most of the tracks out there, and even though I don't even really like the style of music on the whole, Adele has a really nice voice and the video for the song kinda compels you to listen and watch and enjoy.

Gavin Rossdale--Love Remains The Same
Who would have guessed that Gavin Rossdale, former frontman of the Brit rock band Bush, could actually sing a very pleasant ballad? I hate you, Gavin. You're painfully good-looking, you have a painfully hot wife (he's married to Gwen Stefani), even your kids are good-looking, and now you have to rub it in that you can carry off a power ballad? This is a far cry from Bush songs like "Machinehead" and "Everything Zen", but it's a huge step in a new direction and it's realy quite good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Love is in the air...and on your windshield.

Ahhhhh…it’s fall and love is in the air. Nothing says Indian Summer and early Fall like some small black and red insect landing on your arm in the middle of making more little black and red insects to continue the cycle.

It’s that time of year again, when the so-called Lovebugs swarm to and fro, making a mess of things here, there, and everywhere. Have heart, though; they’ll be dead & gone in a week or so.

The lovebug, Plecia nearctica, is a member of the march fly family, related to gnats and mosquitoes. The adult is a small, flying insect common to parts of Central America and the southeastern United States.

For most of the year, lovebugs are beneficial in that the larvae live in grassy areas and feed on dead vegetation within the thatch, resulting in not only the eventual release of nutrients back into the soil, but also decreasing excessive thatch which can be detrimental to grass growth and serve as a protective cover for serious grass pests like rats and mice.

The adult lovebug feeds on the nectar of flowering plants. Upon reaching maturity the lovebug spends almost the entirety of its life copulating with its mate, hence its romantic nickname. The male and female attach themselves at the rear of the abdomen and remain that way at all times, even in flight.

The flies mate soon after emerging from their pupae. A swarm of males will gather around female pupae. Once the females emerge as adults, the males will rush to mate. Mating takes place almost immediately after emergence of the females. Lovebugs live to mate and disperse, and males will court more than once in a lifetime if they survive long enough. A male's lifespan is almost four days under laboratory conditions. The larger female can live three days under laboratory conditions. Not a long life, but it’s action-packed.

After courting, the male and female interlock to mate and grasp each other as they fly. The male is often dragged around by the larger female as they fly together. Despite urban legends stating that they stay attached even after the male dies, with the female dragging his body around until she lays her eggs, lovebugs can detach from each other and live independently, for a couple days at least.

Females lay up to 350 eggs in debris, and about 20 days later the eggs hatch into larvae. The larval stage may take up to nine months before they pupate. Commercial use of cut sod for "instant" green lawns can result in the transportation of the larvae to newly built developments.

Lovebug flights can number in the hundreds of thousands. The slow, drifting movement of the insects is almost reminiscent of snow fall. Two major flights occur each year, first in late spring, then again in late summer. The spring flight occurs during late April and May. The summer flight occurs during late August and September. Flights extend over periods of four to five weeks.

At least your chances of getting run over whilst having sex are minimal at best...

Lovebugs tend to congregate around highway intersections, traffic lights, gas stations and truck stops. It is thought that they are attracted to the formaldehyde found in exhaust fumes, as well as hot engines and vehicle vibrations. They seem to have an affinity for the color white, massing on white walls and vehicles, maybe because of the reflected heat.

Perhaps most frustrating to those who must endure the lovebug season is the mess the splatter can make on the hood of a car. It's the females who do the most damage, because they're packed full of eggs. The lipids in the eggs bond to the finish in the baking sun and can potentially damage your paint. Helpful hint: Wash your car within 24 hours of a lovebug run-in. They taste nasty because of their acidic nature, so generally even birds & spiders won’t eat them.

Insecticides do not get rid of lovebugs. Repellents such as citronella and DEET don't work because the flies are not attracted by carbon dioxide like other insects. While most household insecticides will kill lovebug adults, it does little to decrease the population.

So just grin & bear it, kids. They’re messy and annoying, but they’ll die off soon enough, for a few months at least.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A whack to the melon

Hmm…..I came across this story today through the AP wire.

An angry Deltona, Florida father whacked his teenage daughter's boyfriend with a metal pipe after finding the boy naked in his daughter's room.

Authorities say the father, Raul Colon, 45, didn't even know his daughter had a boyfriend or that the youngster had been sneaking into the home for more than a year.

When he heard noises coming from his daughter's bedroom Thursday morning and saw a stranger standing naked on the girl's bed, he swung a metal pipe he had taken from the garage, hitting the 15-year-old, according to a Volusia County sheriff's report. He then chased the teen out the front door and called police.

The boy was taken to the hospital where doctors closed a head wound with staples.
Colon was charged with aggravated battery on a child and bonded out on $10,000.

According to the report, Colon heard the noise in his daughter's room when he got up at 4 a.m. to let his dog out, as he does every morning. Colon told deputies he chased Lucas Contreres through the kitchen, living room and through the front door and out into the street and called 9-1-1.

Colon's daughter later told deputies she had been seeing Contreres for 18 months but did not tell her father about the relationship. Contreres had sneaked in through a bedroom window at 3 a.m. Thursday to have sex with her, the 15-year-old girl told deputies.

Contreres was found at a hospital in Orange City where he received staples to close cuts on his head. His injuries were not life-threatening, deputies said.

Contreres told deputies a similar account to Colon's. He said Colon came into the room and started swinging at him with the metal pipe. He jumped out of the bed and began running through the home to get away from Colon. Once outside, he jumped on his bike and went home. His sister later took him to the hospital, deputies said.

Although Contreres' father said he wasn't sure whether he wanted to press charges, deputies took Colon to jail anyway.”

I really can’t find fault with what the dad did, actually. If I heard a noise in my home at zero-dark-thirty and found a naked dude that I’d never seen before in my daughter’s room, I’d swing a lead pipe too. Actually, I investigate noises with a large-caliber handgun, so that kid got off lucky with a whack to the melon.

I can’t believe that the cops arrested & charged him. The kid’s dad hadn’t even pressed charges yet, and I say the father acted in good faith against what he believed was a home invader, protecting his child from a potential rape. I guess the cops needed to arrest somebody; hell, they drove all the way out there when the Hot Donut sign was on at Krispy Kreme, so by God, someone was going to jail.

With as many people who own guns around my neighborhood, a kid pulling a stunt like that is likely to get zipped up in a rubber bag over a piece of ass instead of just getting a couple staples.

Should make for some interesting conversations in home room on Monday though when the teacher asks what everyone did this weekend.

“I went to the beach”.
“I went shopping at the mall.”
“I watched some football on TV.”
“I got my freak on and made the news for getting my cranium stapled shut after her dad swung for the cheap seats like I was a birthday piƱata.”

And yet, I somehow feel that this kid didn’t learn anything from this, and his friends all think he’s the cat’s ass.

Profiteering Sucks

Panic is a strange thing. It makes people forget their priorities, forget what’s important and just focus on themselves. There’s people right now in Texas sifting through what’s left of their sodden, drenched lives and all the country can do is scream about the fact that gas prices spiked.

A satellite shot of Ike coming ashore

Look, the refineries will back up & running in a week or so. They have priority on getting pumped out & power back on. But wholesalers decided to start ass-raping everybody by jacking up the wholesale cost of the refined gas in price gouging cut-throat scheming, and that’s not right.

By and large, there’s actually no profit in selling gasoline. Believe it or not, gas stations don’t make their profits on the gas itself. They make their money overcharging you for chips and soda. There’s on average less than 10 cents per gallon profit in fuel sales. And since most of us pay with credit cards, the card processing fees eat into that by a good 50% too. Really, we can’t blame the bulk of gas stations for the exorbitant pricing. Their prices just reflect about a ten cent profit on top of taxes and the raw cost of the fuel from pirates in the wholesale end of it. Wholesalers will blame everything and anything, from fog that slows trucks down to road construction to hurricanes to snow to ice to the frikkin’ alignment of the moon and sun, for a reason to spike the costs up.

Oil prices on the open world market DROPPED AGAIN yesterday, closing down BELOW a hundred bucks a barrel for the first time in like forever it seems, and yet because Ike pummeled Galveston and Houston, gas prices that had steadily declined for the past 6 weeks skyrocketed over a buck and a half a gallon across half the country.

Sad to say, but Charleston was pretty much the epicenter for the “five buck a gallon so let’s all get in line 30 cars deep” movement on Thursday. Local media did a great job though of curbing the panic and setting rumors to rest, and as I rocketed through West Ashley on my way home yesterday, gas that was $3.44 a gallon was about $3.59 or less in most spots, without any gas lines. Through Red Top, Hollywood, and Ravenel, it was about $3.69 or so, with one station at $3.81, and in Jacksonboro it was $3.79. No shock, since J-boro is a flyspeck crossroads village. However, I’m ashamed to say that once I got home to Walterboro, the local station hucksters were charging an average of $4.59. Here in the ‘Boro, the best you’ll find is about $3.99 or so, up anywhere from fifty cents to a dollar ten in two days.

To the good people of coastal Texas & Louisiana, I say that we all hope you guys come through this safe and without too much destruction. To Big Awl™, I say this: build some more refineries and build them INLAND. The one in South Dakota that’s just getting started is a great idea, since they seldom really see hurricanes in South Dakota. This is also the first permit to start a refinery in like 24 years, right? Perhaps the Feral Gummint™ should make it a tad easier to GET a permit, no?

And to wholesalers who think they have us all by the short & curlies: profiteering sucks, and so do you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Like rats in a firestorm...

Imagine my shock and dismay to listen to the radio on my way home from work today and hear that the good citizens of the Greater Charleston Area had lost their fucking minds and were scurrying about like rats in a firestorm in a mad scramble to get to the gas station.

With coastal Texas about to play Tina Turner to Hurricane Ike’s bitchslap this weekend, the panic over the potential rise in gas prices had stations threatening to jump to five bucks a gallon overnight and rationing buyers to just ten gallons each. A word to the wise: do you really want to price gouge and threaten the fuel supply in a state where the vast majority of people own guns? They shoot people over the annual Carolina/Clemson football game; they will gladly shoot you over a tank of gas for their giant F-350 Super Duty.

As I listened to the reports on The Schnitt Show on 94.3, I started to pay attention to the gas stations I was passing along Dorchester Road. Sure enough, there were lines 30 cars deep. Prices were already up 20-50 cents in the span of a couple hours.

Ironically, the price of oil closed DOWN again today from yesterday’s close. We’re back down to just barely a hundred dollars a barrel. Yet, you assclowns and mouth-breathers out there aren’t happy unless you have something hurricane-related to panic about. We weren’t swallowed by the sea last weekend when Tropical Drizzle Hanna flitted on by, leaving just a couple of scattered showers in its wake, so now you’re in some sort of twisted Munchausen’s-like proxy panic.

People like this are why I eat Rolaids like Tic Tacs to avoid burning holes through my abdominal walls……

9-11, seven years on

Today, of course, is the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The television will be filled with images of memorial services and stories about how big a hassle it is to get through airports these days because of the attacks and subsequent events. We’ll see politicians looking for the perfect sound byte moments with photo ops at Ground Zero or the Pentagon or Shanksville, or all three as the case may be. We’ll see what the attack scenes look like today, from the memorials in Shanksville and at the Pentagon, or in “the pit” at Ground Zero. We’ll see bagpipers and firemen and cops and American flags.

What won’t we see? Actual footage of the attacks.

There exists a policy, not talked about publicly, among the various broadcast news networks, to not show footage of the actual attacks themselves, to not show the airliner impacts or the towers collapsing, because it might upset people.

Excuse me? It might ……upset…people?

Good. It should upset people. They’re upsetting images. But to not show people these upsetting images is to deny a glimpse of history. These events happened. It’s an undeniable fact that they happened, yet no one will show you that it happened. I guess upset people turn off the TV and then ad revenue plummets with the ratings.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was tragic and upsetting, yet we’ve all seen images of what was left of USS Arizona. We’ve all seen the horrific images of liberated prisoners at Nazi concentration camps, and those images are sure as hell upsetting. We’ve all seen the Zapruder film showing President Kennedy’s head explode, followed shortly thereafter by Lee Harvey Oswald getting shot on live TV at dinnertime. I don’t know about you, but I find televised murders somewhat upsetting. However, they are part of history and therefore must be seen in order to learn and educate so that hopefully we can evolve and not repeat the past.

To not allow that footage to be shown on the anniversary of the event is irresponsible and just downright namby-pamby censorship.

“We will never forget” is something I see a lot in conjunction with 9/11. However, it’s hard to remember when the media wants you to forget instead, unless it’s all pre-packaged and sanitized for your protection.

These events happenned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review: Time Well Wasted

Let’s see…the last book report I did was at least 25 years ago, and I’ve never actually reviewed a book before in a semi-professional manner. It’s especially daunting as a writer to review the work of a fellow writer, and it’s even scarier still to review the work of a friend. With that in mind, I gotta say this:


Time Well Wasted is the true, unembellished story of First Platoon, 10th Military Police Company and their deployment to Somalia at the beginning of 1993. Before there was a Blackhawk Down, there was Time Well Wasted. We all saw the movie. Everyone knows the story of the Rangers and the pilots and the Delta Force guys. (Of course, they kinda forgot to go into detail about the guys who rolled out to do the rescuing: guys from the 10th Mountain Division, along with units from the Pakistani and Malay armies, when they made the movie.) No one in the media really mentions the buildup to the Battle for Mogadishu, and no one in the media seems to really recall anything about American troops coming to Somalia in the first place on a supposed humanitarian mission, other than to rehash that goat-screw where the Navy SEALs landed on the beach in the middle of the night live on CNN and every other news service.

Pulled from a training exercise with zero warning, and having just recently returned from a six-month deployment to the Sinai, the men of First Platoon soon find themselves leaving the snowy upstate of New York for the sweltering dustbowl of the horn of Africa as part of Operation Restore Hope. Imagining themselves feeding the starving Somali people and keeping them safe from clan infighting, the Renegades of First Platoon instead find themselves overworked, undersupported, completely unappreciated, and reduced from a combat Military Police unit for a light infantry division to a glorified taxi service for self-important officers and staff pogues, in between driving in circles around town getting rocks thrown at them by the local kids and occasionally getting shot at by “skinnies” hopped up on khat weed.

Hampered by ever-changing Rules of Engagement and a command structure that seemingly has no idea what the mission is or how to best perform it, the men fight heat, bugs, boredom, Spartan living conditions amidst the squalor of Somalia, potential diseases lurking under every pebble, and the bane of every soldier: the people higher up the food chain who make life miserable for the pee-ons in the enlisted ranks. No one can seem to be able to tell them when they’ll be redeployed home, despite the constant influx of new, larger MP units arriving in country daily.

First-time author Dave Haines, writing with platoon-mate Tony Ciccone, has put together an excellent read, told plainly and without any personal horn-blowing. I found it to be a book that immediately sucked me in for several reasons. I, too, was a Military Policeman and at the time of First Platoon’s deployment, I’d been out of the Army for just less than a year. There were guys that I knew who deployed to Somalia and to Bosnia in the months following my return to civilian life, and in my mind it could just as easily have been me in those same boots. And in reading the gritty, compelling story of the truly bad things that these guys saw and endured, I just had to think “There but for the grace of God go I…”

Like Haines says, “…there are some things that you just can’t un-see…”. Thankfully, most of us will never have to see bullet pocks in walls caked in dried blood where people were executed. We’ll never see human bones bleached by the sun lying where the body got dumped. We’ll never have to set fire to a drum of human waste after dragging it out from under a hastily-rigged latrine. We’ll never see a guy with a parasitical fly larva inside his arm. We’ll never get shot at or have to shoot back at those who are shooting at us. We’ll never see eleven-year-old kids carrying AK-47’s with the ease their peers in polite societies carry school books. We’ll never witness an entire nation rip itself to shreds and implode with complete and utter disregard to humanity or the sanctity of life.

Every page of this book took me back to my own four years of service, with memories flooding back and making me shake my head in wonder at how similar Haines’ point of view was to my own. Funny little anecdotal things like flammable coffee creamer, becoming a gourmet chef with MRE’s, and so many other little details that I’d never quite forgotten because they were shared experiences of my fellow soldiers that helped make me the man I am today, for better or worse.

Each chapter of the book also contains something else that is crucial to the telling of the story. Haines was able to include the journal entries of his platoon leader, Lieutenant James Worthington, and these journal entries offer a critical insight and secondary viewpoint to the main narrative. I found it fascinating, and validating, to see that this man, a commissioned officer in the Military Police Corps, shared the same frustrations at the chain of command that the enlisted men had, and that those same frustrations and anger and animosity towards clueless higher-ups who sought only to make their own selves look good and live comfortably at the expense of their subordinates turned a good officer into another disillusioned trooper.

Please, read this book. If you’re a civilian who has never been in the military, it could shed some light for you on what it’s like to be a 20 year old deployed to a war zone and help you understand a little of what America’s best & brightest are enduring every day. If you are (or were) an MP, this is crucial reading. Anyone who served will find pieces of themselves in these pages. You won’t be disappointed.

Time Well Wasted is available at, through Barnes & Noble and at Books a Million. You can also visit Dave Haines on MySpace, either through my page’s friends list or directly at