Fundamental Truths

  • In war the best policy is to take a state intact.
  • Too Much is the Same as Not Enough
  • Fear is the Mind-Killer
  • All Warfare is based upon deception.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Tree-Hugging Moment

Yes, you read right.

Today, I felt a very hippiesh sense of rage at, of all things, litter.

Allow me to elucidate-

I was walking the dogs along a Utah mountainside, as I do every day.

And then the old dog, who doesn't so much as grunt when her arthritis keeps her from jumping into the car, actually yelps.

The cause?

A bail of rusty barbed wire some asshole had dumped on the hillside. While the bail itself hadn't been impacted, the old girl didn't see the single strand sticking out until it had lacerated her leg.

So, I don't know what the fine for littering is here, but I DO know that whatever moron left that thing out there cost my family three hundred bucks in veterinary bills.

So what say we skip the middleman, and the responsible party either cuts us a check for three hundred bucks OR I go and inflict three hundred dollars worth of damage on something they value.

That's fair, right?


Vengeance. What a shitty hippie I'd be.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Missing the Bugout

In two days' time, several of my dearest friends will be traipsing off to live like animals and receive instruction on unpleasant facts for four days or so.

My greatest regret is that I'm not going.

I will not be huddled in a tent or under a tarp in the cold spring rain. I will not get clubbed down with pugil sticks. I will not hoff it over muddy ground to a campsite in tick-infested woods.

Instead, I will be existing in relative comfort, perhaps hauling my still-gimpy carcass up a mountain every day, but otherwise living high on the hog.

But I would trade every shower I'll be taking, every night in a warm bed, every well-cooked meal for just an hour on that bugout.

Here, I am merely a freeloading scumbag (a fact my father seldom lets me forget), respected by none and bored at all times.

There, I would be cold, damp, tired, probably hungry... And among friends who respect me as I respect them, whose hardships I gladly share, and whose goals make sense to me. I would be working toward something I believe in. I would, in other words, be happy.

I don't think I can express just how much I wish I were there, hunkered down on damp leaves, rifle in hand, cursing the rain as it runs down my back.

I'll miss the bugout. And all I can do to console myself is think of the future, when, with luck, I'll get to go again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On Airline Websites

So tonight, I tired to book a flight home. Away from this Mormon-infested helhole.

And both Delta and Alaska Airlines have the worst websites known to man.

There is no place to make note that I'll be bringing two dogs. There is no place to make note of number of bags. None of it.

On either company's website.

Instead, one must go through a lengthy game of phone tag.

I thought the whole point of allowing online booking was to eliminate phone tag.

Apparently not.

Apparently, it is meant to force you to wait around so long that fares double.

I am, of course, not joking.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lyrics Revisted

About a year ago, I listed lyrics I enjoyed. A lot has changed since then, for good and ill, but I feel like the issue deserves a bit more analysis than I gave it before.

Some of these will be repeats, but, you know, tough.

"I'm living in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line/beauty walks a razor's edge someday I'll make it mine."
- Bob Dylan, "Shelter From the Storm."

Seriously? This more or less sums up the last ten years for me. I've gone from place to place, well outside of what I consider "home," groping for purpose, success, or even just a sense of place.

"Bury your treasure, burn your crops/Black water rising and it ain't gonna stop."
- Clutch, "(In The Wake Of) The Swollen Goat"

Nothing sums up what I see on our horizon quite like this. Bleak? Yeah. Honest? Absolutely.

Next, and corny as hell, but still vital-

"We didn't start the fire/It was always burning/Since the world's been turning/We didn't start the fire/No we didn't light it/But we tried to fight it"
- Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire."

The fate of every generation, really. None of us built the world we end up in, and damn does it suck sometimes.

"Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you"
- Chris Cornell, "You Know My Name."

Truer words have seldom been spoken.

And god love Monster Magnet. Seriously. Clutch writes better songs, better music, more insightful lyrics. They are better in every way.... except that Magnet resonates with some creepy, creepy fucking part of my brain.

"I left my throne a million miles away/I drink from your tit/I sing the blues every day/Now give me the strength/To split the world in two/I ate all the rest and now I've gotta eat you"

"I lost my soul when I fell to earth/My planets called me to the void of my birth/The time has come for me to kill this game/Now open wide and say my name"

- Both from Monster Magnet, "Space Lord"

What does it say about me that I regard this as a prayer of the sort I can get behind?

And finally, a song that Magnet performed but did not write... but I prefer their cover to the original.

"Your life slips through your hands/Like grains of sand/You watch it go/There's no time to be lost/You'll pay the cost/If you say no/There's no way out of here/When you come in/You're in for good"
- David Gilmour, "No Way Out of Here."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On My Bedside Manner

All right, let's face it...

My bedside manner is fucking HORRIBLE.

A good friend of mine had a little diabetic "episode," and his girlfriend called us in the middle of the night saying he couldn't breathe.

My first thought, of course, was "why is she calling us?"

Luckily, she HAD, in fact, called the ambulance first.

So we all troop down to the emergency room and wait around a while.

Never let it be said I don't care.

But then we slip in to see him. There he is, with oxygen being piped in to his nose. And he starts talking.

All right. Problem was he couldn't breathe, now he can talk. I'm done.

And off I go.

This, by all reckonings, was actually a fairly considerate showing on my part.

Most of the time, I don't even show up.

It's not an atavistic dread of sickbeds, either.

I simply don't have anything to contribute.

Now, there have been times when the "field medic" position has landed upon me. And THEN, my brusque manner actually helps.

"Here. Random bag of Mexican pills. Might help your cough."

But if someone is needed to hold your hand while you feel puny?

Too bad. Find someone else. Preferably someone with a caring disposition and a nice smile.

I'd rather be useful, if I can, or absent, if I can't.

Which makes my current role, helping nursemaid my father, an exercise in reciprocal neglect. Because it wasn't that long ago that he was looking after me... and I saw where I got it.

I don't resent it. After all, it's who I am, at this stage.

But it IS amusing to think about... the two guys with the WORST bedside manner on Earth having to trade off care and consideration. If I didn't still have a pulse, I'd think i was dead and serving out a purgatorial sentence.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Top Ten "Son of a Bitch Must Pay" Moments in Film

In what is quite possibly the greatest film of all time (I'm kidding. Kind of.), Kurt Russel intones the mystical line "Son of a Bitch Must Pay."

Which leads me to think of all the great moments in film... wherein the bad guy does something REALLY bad and you just KNOW he's about to get horribly pounded into goo.

What follows are my top ten (although not in any specific order) "Son of a Bitch Must Pay" moments in the movies I've seen.

"Son of a Bitch Must Pay"- Big Trouble in Little China
The one that started it all. What's funny in this particular case is that the "son of a bitch" does not, in fact, "pay" until far later in the film. I include it here mostly to be thorough, and I'm not going to describe it in much detail. Go watch the damn movie. You owe it to yourself.

Treebeard gets pissed- The Two Towers
You know the scene. Merry and Pippin make their only real contribution of any value by leading the craggy old Ent toward the swathe of destruction Saruman's forces have made in Fangorn Forest. The second the old pile of lumber realizes what has happened and how he and his kind have been betrayed, he unleashes a howl that presages some truly heinous whuppings for the denizens of Isengard. Poor stupid Uruk-Hai.

The Death of Junior- Godzilla versus DestroyerIn the Godzilla films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the wretched concept of a "baby" Godzilla is reintroduced. We all remember Minya/Minilla. And if you don't, well, thank your lucky stars. The whole notion is crap. But it paid off remarkably well in 1995, when the decision was made to end the so-called "Heisei" series of Godzilla films. A big ugly... crab-bug thing called Destroyer, evolved from the Oxygen Destroyer that killed Godzilla back in the first movie shows up and starts wrecking shit, right as Godzilla's own radioactivity finally starts to kill him.

But the big guy isn't the only thing in Destroyer's path. No, the big ugly crab also decides to wax Godzilla's adopted "son," but only after sadistically toying with him.

The actual fight follows the typical Godzilla pattern, wherein Godzilla gets the fuck knocked out of him only to come back tougher and badder to win. What makes this stand out is why it happens.

After a series of drubbings, Godzilla stumbles over to his son and tries to nudge him awake. Realizing that the only creature he gives a rat's ass about has been killed, Godzilla unleashes a truly hellacious beating, causing his foe to vomit green blood before simply blasting it until it can barely try to limp away.

Tony Jaa Loses His Goddamned Mind- The ProtectorAt the climax of a movie that has already featured Jaa breaking the limbs of what looked like eight hundred men in one long haul, he discovers that the elder of the two elephants (don't ask) he has been trying to rescue has been killed. Although he takes a little more of a beating before he really gets going, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that someone is going to fucking DIE for what they've done.

Ellen Ripley Fights the Queen- AliensThroughout the film, Ripley has adopted Newt, even going so far as to venture in the Xenomorphs' hive to rescue her. The big throwdown, however, happens aboard the Sulacco. When the Queen, having stowed away on the dropship tears Bishop in half and then proceeds to try to ferret Newt out as her next victim, Ripley shows up in a loader exosuit and puts the hurt on the big space bug.

"Get away from her, you bitch."


Inigo Montya Finds Count Rugen- The Princess Bride
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Inigo Montoya finally finds the man who slew his father years before. At first it looks like the Spaniard is on the ropes, particularly after Rugen rather easily inflicts what LOOKS like a fatal gut wound.

But Montoya rallies, fighting past his injury and disarming Rugen, leading to a line that is only as intense as it is because of the lack of cursing in the film as a whole.

"Offer me money."
"Power too, promise me that."
"All that I have and more, please..."
"Offer me anything I ask for."
"Anything you want."
"I want my father back, you son of a bitch."

The Death of Kyuzo- Seven SamuraiNear the end of Kurosawa's epic, Kyuzo, the quiet, withdrawn swordsman is shot dead by one of the muskets carried by the bandits. Kikuchiyo, seeing where the shot came from, rushes the gun, Although he himself is fatally shot, he runs the last of the bandits to ground and kills him before expiring.

The Exosuit- District 9
The entire movie has shown our "hero" running, hiding, and being a prick. Near the end of the film, Wikkus finds himself piloting a Prawn Exosuit. While his intial impulse is to flee, he overhears the mercenaries of his former employers are about to kill his alien comrade. Doing an abrupt about-face, he proceeds to unleash true unholy hell upon the mercs, in the process giving us a fight scene that took the entirety of Transformers 2 out back and capped it like a lame horse.

Dance With the Devil- Batman (1989)While it had its warts, the first attempt at a serious Batman film provided one of the best (if wasteful) climaxes in the franchise's history. After the Joker has pretty much wrecked the whole damned city, he is finally hunted to his last refuge in a belfry, where he holds the fair damsel hostage. Batman mows through his goons and, upon reaching to Joker, says the man's own catchphrase to him.

"Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"

He then goes on to kick the everlasting shit out of the man who (in this version) killed Batman's parents in a highly satisfying manner.

Mani Bites It- Le Pacte Des Loups
While much of the movie is cheesy and deeply flawed, the scene wherein Grégoire de Fronsac's companion Mani is killed presages a savage beatdown of Biblical proportions.

Fronsac, who has spent most of the movie as the "brains" and using firearms when he engages in combat at all, finds the lair of his enemies and slaughters his way through them in pure, brutal hand to hand. Never thought I'd see a Frenchman unleash so much whupass, let alone that I'd find it so satisfying.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My country, 'tis of thee.

"America makes me very angry at times. It's the closest to being right- but it could be out of sight."
-Stevie Wonder

"People have been going off and doing their thing since time began. But it's important that they remember themselves and who they are. They've got to stay in touch with the earth."
-Curtis Mayfield

"[F]or the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
-If you don't know, shame on you.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Once again, if you don't know, shame on you.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Seriously, if you don't know...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Education Revisited

Nothing, and I mean nothing, kills one's belief in a program quite like watching a video wherein someone teaching others to teach better manages to be staggeringly dull.

I find it hard to stomach instruction when the lessons involved are almost unspeakably boring, and cannot fathom what I am supposed to derive from it.

The gist of the several hours worth of video clips I've slogged through this week?

"Know thy students, know thyself."

It's a pile of horseshit.

But heaven help me, it's the path to a real job.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Religious Experience

So, having been raised agnostic, I've never really understood what people get out of faith.

I really don't.

I cannot conceive of a God who gives a shit what we do on an individual basis, any more than we care about what a given single ant is doing at a specific moment in time.

Or to put it another way, God may see the fall of every sparrow, but I don't think He/She/It/They cares very much.

But I do find myself profoundly awed and moved, from time to time, to feel something I feel must be akin to religious devotion.

Standing on top of a small mountain in Utah, looking down at a small herd of bison grazing on a bleak island in the Great Salt Lake as a powerful wind whips salt spray nearly a mile up the mountain to me.

Watching as a magnificent storm tears its way through the sky of southern Indiana, the lightning dancing from cloud to cloud.

Seeing a bird of prey strike at its victim, doing exactly what it was built to do.

The feeling of warm, familial camaraderie I experience with my friends as we sit around a roaring campfire under a beautiful full moon.

Standing uphill of Secret Creek near Talkeetna, and turning to find Mount Denali clearly outlined as if it's only three feet away.

Hearing the crash of waves on the seashore as I walk along a cliff in northern California after sunset.

The almost insane joy I feel as I fire a round and it slams into the target.

The sounds of gifted singers performing, say, the operas of Puccini.

Thing is... no church I've yet encountered would include any of these in its services.

And thus, I remain uncommitted.

But I do live in awe of the universe we inhabit, and some of the things we, as a species, do for no readily apparent reason.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Death of Effort...

... came about as soon as the new computer had arrived.


This damn thing destroyed my entire day yesterday, and it wasn't even particularly hard to set up.

It's just... seductive.

"Hey, you know how slow and crunchy your old machine has gotten? Take a look at THIS."

And then my brain melts and it's four in the morning and I've done.... nothing of value.

Accursed machine.

How I love it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Of Moose and Men

Dinner tonight consisted of steaks hewn from the carcass of an honest to God Alaska Moose.

How I've missed that flavor, the taste I've always considered something of a blend between beef and venison.

My only regret is that I wasn't the one who'd killed it.

No, this largess came from a relative of my dad's best friend. That worthy does not buy meat in grocery stores.

Not when a moose can tip the scales at well over one thousand pounds.

And thus, while I sat in an unfinished house in Ogden, God-Help-Us-Utah, I was able to feast upon a wild creature struck down for no more reason than because it is, in a word, delicious.

My enthusiasm to return to Alaska could not have gotten greater... but it IS more motivated now.