Friday, November 09, 2007

War Movies have lost some of their appeal recently...

Watching Crimson Tide the other day I realized how many holes in the understanding of military procedure and process filmmakers are required to have in order to make an entertaining film.

Films like Top Gun, Behind Enemy Lines, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State (while almost exclusively directed by Tony Scott or starring Gene Hackman) were huge blockbuster hits in their day on the big screen, and enjoy an avid following amongst film fans.

However, they all lack a decidedly fundamental element of military protocol: military discipline.
Having a taste of the training and expectations that soldiers and seamen will undergo before being placed in a live combat situation makes these films seem ludicrous.
Soldiers, acting under the stress of combat, get into fistfights in the chow hall, cowboy pilots launch footballs off of the carrier deck and buzz the control tower at the air field.

Such behavior is beyond comprehension in a live combat situation. To have troops that would so willingly abandon all discipline and bearing "because they are stressed" would mean a comical and disastrous wartime scenario anytime our soldiers were deployed overseas.

So while these films are fun to watch, if I have to watch one more sonar operator screaming into his headset to "dive! dive!" I might have to pitch the TV out of the window.

On another note:

Filmmaker James Cameron (most famous for his Titanic debacle) may take a place of honor as one of the worst dialogue writers of the last 25 years. George Lucas remains the king of this mountain, but Cameron's insipid scenes in films like Aliens and the Abyss make you wonder what cave Cameron was living in to think that these were normal human interactions.

(Aside: Cameron's marines in the film Aliens are another perfect example of the ridiculous over-ripe commando-type character that lampoons the warrior type. It wouldn't be quite so bad if it weren't for Bill Paxton's character, who has an IQ just above wet lettuce.)

So James Cameron and Tony Scott: I salute you and laugh at you simultaneously. You have made some great blockbuster films which are fun to watch, and help us to believe that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are founding fathers of America's cinematic vision of heroism.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Album Review: Radiohead In Rainbows

It seems an eternity has passed since 2003's Hail to the Thief.
In many senses, an eternity has passed. Hail was Radiohead's last album under the band's obligation to Capitol Records, the end of a musical treasure trove consisting of six albums which just so happen to include OK Computer, Amnesiac and Kid A.

So once the need for deadlines passed, Radiohead decided to take its time in crafting its latest album, the relaxed, colorful and- should I say it? - optimistic songs that make up In Rainbows.

A huge amount has been said about the band's strategy in releasing their album to the public via its website, where fans could pay any amount they chose to download the album. Anywhere from one cent to one million dollars was acceptable, but one could assume a donation of around ten dollars would be considered a fair trade for the tunes.
Unsubstantiated reports suggest that within the first month of downloads, Radiohead's album shot past 1.2 million albums "sold" which is significant for many reasons, not the least of which is certainly this white-hot product is sending all money earned directly back to the band, rather than into some record label's pockets. Fans are happy, band is happy. Everybody wins.

But what about the album?

Ever since the release of 1997's OK Computer, Radiohead has been plagued by the public's demand for a second revolutionary album, (perhaps expecting the same vision and ground-breaking music making that the Beatles achieved.) All of their subsequent albums, while well-received and analyzed endlessly amongst musical circles, the greater listening public was waiting told of Radiohead's next great achievement.

Unfortunately for the faceless masses, this may be an album that never reaches them.

In Rainbows contains some of the most beautiful songs I've heard recently, however they are hardly ground-breaking in their technique or execution. Rather, it is a return to story-telling, inventive instrumental playing and cozy production, making an album best enjoyed through headphones rather than blasted through your home stereo.

The album's lead-off track, Down is the New Up is reminiscent of Radiohead's politically charged past, but rather than outrage and turmoil, (2+2=5) there is a certain anxious resignation. Other songs such as House of Cards start off with lyrics like "I don't want to be your friend. I just want to be your lover" suggest a far more tangible, cuddly Radiohead than we've ever seen. The time signature for this song is even in a standard 4-beat pattern, (as opposed to previous albums using 11/4 or 15/8.)

All in all, this is some of the most enjoyable, beautiful music I've heard recently. Its not the Radiohead we've known from the past, but like the album artwork, it's a more colorful, blurred vision of what lies ahead.

The Triumphal Return of the HIVES!

It's been a few years (and a lot of world-wide touring) since 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives and I am pleased to announce the return of Sweden's greatest export: the Hives!

Receiving some early attention due to a Foot Locker commercial, the Hives' first single off of the Black and White Album has been released, along with six other songs via iTunes for American audiences. The album was released in mid-October for European fans, but America will have to wait another two weeks before it is unleashed here.

But despite these setbacks, using the miracle and mystery of the internet, I have gotten my grubby paws on a few of the tracks.

We wait with baited breath for the rest of this release.
Much of the frenetic, proto-punk 2:00 approach to songwriting has given way to a restrained, tight-lipped sort of ideal which has the band savagely beating their instruments in strict tempos, following the energetic lead of their deranged lead man, Screamin' Pelm Almqvist.

Fans of their earlier albums will certainly love this third international release.

Now to just catch them live...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Remember the good ol' days when there was only three channels on the television?

Yeah, I don't remember it either...

But we've all heard the stories from grandparents who lament the loss of The Shadow one moment, and then turn around and wonder why Jack Benny isn't on TV anymore.

We've lived in a utopia of televised entertainment. It is no long important to worry about when, where, or what you will watch, because you can catch it on another channel an hour later. And if you can't make it at all, then Tivo it and watch it whenever you want! Without commercials!

And yet amidst this wonderland of choices, there is arising a certain "same song, different verse." Even while there has never been so many television choices, a new technology is making itself at home: HDTV.

The HDTVs have been popular for a couple of years now; more people than ever have bought sets for their home use. Sports bars have been forced to buy multiple sets to ensure people come to watch their sporting events in crystal clear definition. Football has enjoyed a renaissance of popularity; not necessarily because of the sport, but because everyone is mezmorized by being able to see the individual beads of sweat on a player's face.

Yet aside from the sports channels, the majority of television programming is still in standard definition, which means that on a widescreen HD television, it looks crummy. This leaves you with two choices: watching your fancy expensive new HD DVD movies, or only watching the HD channels.

In this fancy hotel with its fancy HDTV, I have fallen prey to the desire to only watch HD programming. This does mean that I have spent hours watching television programming that I've never even heard of, let alone care about. Smallville, Enterprise, Arrested Development - the small offering of daytime programming offered in high definition.

It's like crouching in front of the Philco waiting for the Burma Shave hour to begin so you can enjoy the 30 minutes of George & Gracie all over again...


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What Your Rank Says About You...

(This is a joke. We need more like it.)

My observations thus far on what sort of personality you will develop in response to which enlisted rank you are wearing....

E -1 : You are terrified, petrified and mortified. But this is because you are in boot camp.

E-2 : You snicker and point at the E-1s behind their back, joking about the $52.37 a month more you're earning than those stupid E-1s. But you must do so quietly, because you too are still in boot camp.

E-3: You are cocky, stupid and enjoy finally being able out hang out with the real active duty folks, even though they will send you out in the rain for coffee for the entire unit.

E-4: You have given a couple of years to this whole "Air Force" thing by now. You desire to be challenged and seek promotion to a non-commissioned officer. You know your job well, and your only enjoyment comes from making senior ranking members feel stupid for not knowing how to fill out a requisition form. You, of course, fail to realize that you are still filling out requisition forms.

E-5: Finally, a break in the clouds. You have made your big step up into the realm of NCOs! You relax, and, for the first time in years, people enjoy your company. You begin to have a little faith that your years of devotion to the Armed Services has not been in vain. You can begin to see the long term: twenty years and then retirement! Or perhaps, you might become Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force! Why not?

E-6: With this promotion returns the black clouds. You are still doing the same job, and doing it well, but now you are expected to watch over all of the little retards the Air Force put under your watchful eye. That twenty-year mark has never seemed so far away. You begin a slow decline in your general optimism. Some might even consider your "cynical" or "jaded" by this point.

E-7: The happiest time one can expect in the enlisted ranks. You have made it through E-6, and now can be considered a senior non-commissioned officer. Now, no matter if you retire tomorrow, people will regard your career as a success. Something about this single inverted chevron on your sleeve puts you at ease and allows you to joke casually with both junior and senior ranking members around you. Your children like you and you probably go through your mid-life crisis and buy a cool sports car.

E-8: If you've made it this far, the only thing you can think about is finishing the race: an E-8's preoccupation is achieving E-9. E-8s are eager to please and will take on great amounts of household chores (normally doled out by the E-9s) to make them seem like the most qualified troop come stripe-pinning time. While the E-8 has every right and ability to delegate responsibilities to his junior members, most often you horde them, making yourself look terribly important, both to those under, and above you.

E-9: The queen bees of the hive, greeted with "Good day, Chief. How are you?" by all who pass them by, the E-9 has achieved the highest rank an enlisted person could aspire to. Having learned all necessary skills in order to run the Air Force, the Chief does the only think he/she can think of: give away the chores to the E-8s. So the E-9 gets to walk around like the beloved but feared grandparent that you have as sort of a paternal protection/chaperon hanging around. One day, the E-9 decides to retire, and all of the E-8s get together and bake a cake.

...and that's the way it is.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Home Improvement for the Simple-Minded

A step forward for domestic living! Homebodies rejoice!

No longer shall mattresses be hurled on the ground anywhere one feels like sleeping!
No longer shall one feel like falling asleep on the floor because that's where the mattress is!
No longer shall the couch hold as much validity as a sleeping surface as the bathtub!
No longer will I be able to get away without using bed sheets!
No longer will I be able to go three months without washing said bed sheets!
No longer will I be able to tolerate how much I drool in my sleep!

I have purchased a bed.
I do not have to sleep on the floor any more. Impressive, no?
Its sad that my 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe action figures had to come first on the list of priorities, but it's all in the past now...


...and After

See what a little bit of furniture can do to a room?

P.S. Kudos to Washington D.C. being named the second ugliest (people) city in the U.S.!
Single-handedly doing my part...already my impact can be felt.

BMT Chapter 3: Zero Week

Or: My own bald-headed camouflage colored hell.

The fluorescent lights that flickered on, accompanied by the screams of our flight leaders and the far more distant bugle sounding revelle were the most sickening sound I'd ever heard.

A mere 45 minutes ago my head was finally allowed to rest on the pillow. Now, I was being shouted out of bed, staggering to my locker and fumbling to put on my clothes, all of the while thinking that this was undoubtedly the most horrifyingly uncomfortable thing I'd ever done.

"What have we started here, T." The mind asks.

You don't want to know.

Overseeing the rousing of our flight is our T.I., Senior Airman Dumb Dumb (or DD, TI, SrA Idiot - all will be used interchangeably) whose main goal it was, it seemed, to threaten psychological harm to his flight leaders should the rest of us begin to move any slower than top gear.

Arriving three days late immediately had its disadvantages.

The all-important routines for the morning were beginning to congeal when I was thrown into the machine, one gaping wound of tender emotional flesh amongst fifty. The rest of the flight was already accustomed to the orders to "brush your teeth!" or "shave" or "make those beds!" and while I understood what they wanted me to do, I was never told how to do it. Therefore, I quickly developed a reputation as an idiot.

My wingman (of the day) was one of the element leaders. He was responsible for one of the four divisions of the flight who were, in turn, all supervised by the dorm chief.
My wingman was very excited to finally be beginning his military existence and seemed endlessly irritated that I hadn't spent the last couple of months learning how to make a hospital corner on a bed sheet.

(By the end of BMT, it should be pointed out, that this particular airman was regarded as slightly deranged, racist, angry and not very smart.)

If there is one thing worse than being drug to the edge of sanity, it is not knowing what to do once you get there.

I helplessly observed that first day, doing my darndest to look frantically busy, and yet having no idea how the beds were to be made, where the mattresses should be aligned, how the shirts should be hung, which buttons should be fastened, where the broom was located, where the broom was returned to... a seemingly endless list of rules that caused minutia to loom like the Himalayas.

Details and any supervisory positions had been handed out already. I therefore (as one of the older members of the flight) was fortunate to have been skipped over for consideration for dorm chief, element leader, day room chief, latrine queen, house mouse, hanger monitor, chow caller, guide-on bearer, entry control monitor, etc. I was defaulted to the ranks of worker bee. Hallelujiah.

I was assigned to be part of the latrine crew for work detail. This ended up suiting me fine. The bathroom had a door on it that separated you from the rest of the dormitory, allowing you at least a few moments to talk, cry or just quiver in the corner. Initially I would grab a handful of paper towels and re-clean areas someone else had done, but over the course of BMT I graduated to the floor, where I would walk on my haunches, lint roller in hand, trying to gather up any piece of dirt that I could find. Our latrine queen for the first couple of weeks had the intelligence of wet cardboard.

One thing I imagine everyone remembers during zero week is meal time. This is because we got to re-live this experience every time a new baby flight came in. Zero weekers wore their civilian clothes for the first four days or so, so when lined up for chow, they were immediately noticeable.
The theory during BMT is you strip absolutely everything away from your prospective airmen and see how they deal with it. Sleep, food, family, privacy, civility - every aspect of normal life is strategically peeled away leaving shivering nervous children whom they begin to baptize in the fire of BMT.

One of the biggest (most memorable) parts of this training was meal time. During zero week, you were given approximately 30 - 45 seconds (no exaggeration) to cram as much food as possible into your mouth before you were screamed out the door. Since dehydration was always a concern, you were required to drink three 8 oz glasses of liquid with each meal. Since this meant you would spend most of your meal time drinking, it was a good idea if you chose softer foods that could be gummed once or twice and swallowed, or would dissolve when it came in contact with water. Everyone's water glasses looked like a two year-old had been drinking out of them.

Most meals were served at a temperature that was ready for lightning consumption. Every once in a while something would come out too hot, and it was either left behind on the plate or you would take each bite with a gulp of water to help cool things off.

Such a dramatic change in the tempo of eating led to interesting gastrointestinal effects. As our flight became more comfortable around each other, we learned that it was a universal affliction: constipation. Personally, I held out for twelve days of basic training before anything felt a natural desire to remove itself. I expected it to look and feel like a Volkswagen.

These first few days were where they did their best to beat our heads full of all of the protocol, procedure and ritual which would enslave us for the next six weeks. One no longer just 'walked' somewhere. You marched. Your hands went somewhere. Your eyes went somewhere. You didn't turn around, you did a facing movement. We stopped living our lazy rounded-corner existence and learned to love a geometrically superior precision.

Among the chores completed during the first days were receiving an ID card, (I looked like a serial murderer. Should I ever go disappearing, that will be the picture that magically surfaces on the 6 o'clock news.) setting up direct deposit, completing emergency notifications, your first military haircut (bzzzzt!) and then finally we are marched to the clothing depot for initial clothing issue.

Two BDU tops (Summer weight)
Two BDU bottoms (Summer weight)
Two BDU tops (Winter weight)
Two BDU bottoms (Winter weight)
One blue web belt
One pair blousing straps
One BDU cap (Summer weight)
One BDU cap (Winter weight)
One field jacket
Four SI undershirt (brown)
Six pair black wool socks
Six pair black cotton socks
Six pair white cotton socks
Two pair combat boots
One pair PRT shoes
One SI duffel bag
Six pair white underwear
Two white PRT sweatshirts
Two white PRT sweatpants
Three PRT tshirt
Three PRT shorts

Having laden our new duffel bags to the brim with our treasures, we are marched off (now wearing a set of new BDUs,) our bald heads peaking out beneath our caps, sneakers instead of boots on our feet, lest we develop blisters.

Singing about "our glorious" Air Force on the march back to the dorms, over Hydration Bridge ("Everyone drink!!") I began to truly appreciate the time spent marching. If we were marching, it was one of the few times when someone wouldn't pop out of a hole and start yelling at you. We were typically up before the sun, and the early morning march to our first appointment was my favorite. The air was clean and brisk (being February, after all) and I decided that if it weren't for the whole "BMT" thing, this wouldn't be such a bad deal after all.

After all, they did give me army man clothes...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Incredible Adventures of the Short-Sleeved Tuxedo Avenger

(and his incredulous sidekick)

Last week I was called up on short-notice to play a gig at a mansion outside of DC. It turned out to be a private fund raiser for some political candidate, and the house was to be full of wealthy hand shakers. My duty was to play duets in the background, lending a certain aura of sophistication and elegance to the evening's affair. My partner in crime was a violinist that I had never worked with; we made plans to arrive at the house in plenty of time.

The drive through this wealthy neighborhood was gorgeous, the road slipping over the shoulders of wooded hills whose colors were just beginning to hit their peak. Nestled in between these trees were homes that warranted individual zip codes, since their surrounding property was roughly the size of Rhode Island.
I arrived at the house, an equally large (yet surprisingly new) manor which could only be reached by a slow winding driveway. Passing through their gate and finally parking my car next to the front entrance's fountain, I decided this could only be more grandiose if a trained elephant was working the valet.

Unloading his vehicle at the front door was a tuxedo-clad gentlemen. From the back seat came two full-size suitcases and finally, a violin case.
"Aha!" I thought, "I have my man."

We introduce ourselves (his name is Aaron) and park our cars around the back of the house. I then help Aaron with his luggage inside the house where we meet fourteen different people, each person deciding after a few moments of conversation to pass the Musicians off onto the next hapless victim who happened to be walking by.
Finally we are shown to the garage(?) which is where we are instructed to leave our cases and suitcases(??)

Next to the caterers' prepratory and storage space, we Musicians unpack our instruments and
Aaron begins to open up his suitcases. I watch with some interest.
The smaller suitcase turns out to contain (what had to be) Aaron's entire personal music library. Between tattered sheets of music theory homework Aaron began pulling out books of duet music. We could only have selected 15% of the contents of the suitcase. It made me wonder if Aaron always carried every piece of music with him where ever he went.
Aaron started to unzip the larger piece of luggage.

Out of the big suitcase he pulls a music stand. And then another. And another. And another. But not flimsy wire stands. These collapsable stands look like they are designed to be hurled at oncoming battle tanks when your ammunition runs out. These particular stands looked rather war weary. One of them even looked like the tank had won once or twice.

I asked Aaron why we (as two musicians) would possibly need four music stands. Aaron then proceeded to lay out his master plan: rather than dragging our instruments, music and music stand with us around the house when we moved from one room to the next, we could strategically place stands around the house where we wanted to play, and save ourselves the frustration of having to lug one of the poor battle weary stands with us.

Well gee, maybe Aaron is pretty smart about this whole -

My train of thought is derailed as I begin to notice Aaron's clothing. We're both wearing tuxedos, (more or less) but I begin to notice that Aaron's tuxedo is a bit more less than the average suit.
His jacket suits him fine in the shoulders, and the length of the coat is suitable, but I notice that the sleeves of his jacket only come down to about four inches below his elbows.
Perhaps in an effort to prevent further confusion, Aaron is wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt, so there are no white cuffs protruding from the end of his jacket sleeves.
The over-all effect of his clothing was of a 25 year-old crammed into the suit of a 12 year-old.

All musicians know to buy performance clothing that will permit the freedom of movement necessary during a concert. A jacket that is too tight in the shoulders or across the back will make playing uncomfortable. Sleeve length is usually exaggerated as well, since the sleeves normally get hiked up during the course of playing.
Aaron's tuxedo, already having such a dramatic advantage with hiked-up sleeves, went from being a three-quarter length to a genuine short-sleeve during the course of our performance.

For the next three hours we played dull-minded duets which all sounded remarkably similar, moving from one carefully selected corner of the room to the next, doing our best to drown out the conversations taking place near us. The clientle had the advantage of alcohol, steeling them in their efforts to immerge victorious, but we put up a valiant fight.
Every hour we took a short break and were allowed to drink and eat our fill of various hor'dourves.

Whenever our break time was drawing to a close, I would notify Aaron that we were about to begin playing again, and this was the time when he would set off in search of additional sustenance. So, at the appointed time, when we were supposed to begin playing, I had to wander through the house, viola in hand, looking for my counterpart. I would then find him, glass of juice in one hand, crackers in the other and a mouthful of cheese.

"Are you ready?" I ask. "It's time for us to play again."

He nodds and runs off to the garage to retrieve his violin. I set the music down on the stand and flip it open so that we don't have any time to begin a conversation about what to play.

"Do you want to play some Beatles' songs out of my fake book?" Aaron asks (his biceps peeking out from his coat.)


The fake book is a giant volume of every pop/rock song that was popular during the last thirty years. I can imagine countless bar hacks employ such a book when someone asks for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and in order to not reveal their musical stupidity, flips open the fake book and is able to quickly read melody, words and chord progressions.

When Aaron asks if I want to play Beatles' tunes, it isn't from a organized four-part manuscript. Rather, we have a one-line melody with loosely translated rhythms with little letters symbolizing C, G, F or A minor chords, whichever one is to play along with the melody.
Aaron would dutifully blast through the melody, and I was stuck with improvising some accompaniment that stayed within the boundaries of the key signature.

Hence my reluctance to "play a Beatles' song."

Finally, however, I relinquish.

The fake book comes out and Aaron pulls out a handwritten list selecting his favorite Beatles tunes from the book.

"So which one do you want to do? Ina Goda Davida or Unchained Melody?"

Both of them, I reason, are equally great, well-known Beatles tunes.

We play, and we're horrendous.

Poor John.

I'm still waiting for the check to arrive.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Band(s) of the Day

M.I.A. - Kala
Sri Lankan-born MIA has made a name for her self in Britain's underground hip-hop scene, blending world rhythms and funky flair to create something brand new.
America took notice with MIA's last album (2005's Arular) and it's hit track Bucky Done Gun but MIA has hit a real chord with American audiences with this follow-up album and tracks like Boyz, Bird Flu, Jimmy and Come Around (featuring "it" producer Timbaland.)
With a sonic and visual style that is both loud and irritating, it ultimately becomes both endearing and infectious.

The Bumblebeez - The Printz
Australian Hip Hop Group compiles two Australian-only EPs into the Printz suitable for international release.

A menagerie of hip-hop punk emcees who collectively sound like they honed their musical styles using a Casio drum machine and a broken guitar amplifier come out of down under with tracks that can only be described as loud, obnoxious and poorly crafted.

Could it get any better?

The Detroit Cobras - Tied & True

The Cobras must almost join that tragic category of "best band you've never heard of."

They've been not-so-quietly turning out records for nearly ten years now, and yet really lack any recognition for their rag and bone efforts.
The fault is largely their own: the costume that the Cobras have chosen to wear as a cover band would ordinarily relegate even a great band to obscurity. Where this band really stands out, however, is their choice of material to make their own.
Pulling deep from within the recesses of rock n' roll's history, the Detroit Cobras find obscure and forgotten songs by bands of yesteryear and then re-craft them to suit their own devices (mostly noticeably: frontwoman Rachel Nagy's nicotine-stained vocal chords.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Invasion of the Wills

Anyone else notice the recent influx of "Wills" to the ranks of comedic actors today?

Will Ferrell
Will Forte
Will Arnett

Coincidence? I think not.

Certainly part of some super-secret plot to overwhelm the movie making industry with a surplus of Will-ness.

All bets are off when they start to make a film together.

(What may be coincidence is how hilarious each one of these Wills is. Ferrell and Arnett have already appeared together in Blades of Glory. Arnett and Forte appear together in the

upcoming Brothers Solomon. Perhaps a cataclysmic event will occur when all three join forces. I think it should be a superhero movie.)

An Homage to Steve Lemme

A member of Broken Lizard's comedy writing/acting troupe.
Partially responsible for such films as Puddle Cruiser, Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest.

I do not know what part of the film production Mr. Lemme is responsible for. Perhaps he is a joke writer, but what we are most concerned with is his capacity as the most dynamic character actor in the Broken Lizard's ranks.

From playing a Latino cabana boy to a state trooper to a Jewish scientist, Lemme's interpretations have been the most drastic and vastly different from film to film. Equally interesting and hilarious to watch, in part because of his commitment to the role, however ridiculous it may be. (See wearing a kevlar jockstrap to test its bullet-proof capacity.)

A toast to the funniest member of Broken Lizard's ranks! Here's to your success in the future.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Man Can't Even go to the Mall Safely Anymore.

Yesterday, in order to fight boredom, I decided to scout out a nearby shopping mall.
The trip fared better than I had hoped, and I walked through the colorful hallways with a small shopping bag of action figures dangling from fist.

Just around the time I had completed making the traditionally awkward pass-by of Victoria's Secret, I caught a glimpse of a girl coming towards me, offering me a sample of hand lotion.

Caught off guard, I accepted and paused my step while she squirted me a sample-size portion of lotion onto my palm. I had to stop and look at her now, since in one hand I had an offering of moisturizing lotion, and in the other my bag of man-toys. Her first clever move.

"Oh here, let me help you with that." She cooed, snatching my bag of treasures away and placing it on the kiosk next to her bottles of lotion. "Rub the lotion in."

I obliged.

"Do you know where the Dead Sea is?"


"So you know that it's right between Israel and Jordan?"


"...and that it's the lowest point on the entire planet?"


"...and that the salt content of the water is 65%?"


"I'm from Israel too. Just like these fine products."


"Here, let me show you something."

Grabbing my freshly moisturized hand, she turns her attention to my index finger. Grabbing a four-sided file, she proceeds to "get rid of the ridges on your nail. The ridges are bad." in her fine Israeli accent.


A few moments later, she turns the file over to another surface and continues to buff, all the while extolling the virtues of this hand spa set.

"Do you have a girlfriend?"


"A wife?"


"A mother?"


I begin to feel my lies creeping up the back of my neck.
"Well, certainly there is someone special you know might be able to use this set! Of course, we even have men coming and buying these for themselves today. Maybe you could use one."

No, I couldn't.

While she proceeded to show me mirror-finished fingernail in relationship to the nine other dull, ridged and ugly looking ones, she pulled out a cuticle oil, ("made from salts, minerals and olive oil from the Dead Sea!") and began massaging it into my finger. My masculinity is curling up in my toes.

All this while, she hadn't let go of my hand, effectively anchoring me physically and gently caressing my meaty palm. She knew her business.

"Now, you try one!" she purred.


The file is pushed into my other, moisturized hand, and I begin to buff and file away the unsightly ridges on my thumbnail. I never did like those stupid ridges there.

I buff, and she asks me questions about what I'm doing here, where do I live and she laughs at everything I say.

Finally, someone who knows how funny I am!

We proceed to the next side of the file. The buffing phase.

She observes my progress closely, helping to hold my hand steady beneath the fierce pummeling my man muscles are delivering to it through the buffer.

"Let's see how it looks."

I take away the buffer to see a thumbnail with slightly glossy edges, and the entire center still dull, unfinished and full of ridges.

Undaunted, she quickly throws cuticle oil everywhere and proceeds to rub it in.

"Good job! Most guys don't get this far." she confides in me from a mere six inches from my face.


Why didn't I shave today?

She finally comes around to telling me that this manicure set, which includes the remarkable value of the buffer, cuticle oil, my choice of lotion, (cucumber melon,) emory board and some well-deserved self confidence is all for sale for $59.00

I consider the rude implications of just walking away right then. It certainly is the right thing to do. But she has spent so much of her time with me. I would hate to be considered boorish.

Sensing my reluctance (see also: deer in the headlights) she quickly lowers her tone, grabs me by the elbow and whispers that she will give me her employee discount.

"It must stay between us. I'm not supposed to give anyone else this discount."

Really? Special deal, huh?

Then a moment of reason lit up my brain. It occurred to me that I was standing in a crowded mall, surrounded by thousands of people actually considering buying a organically produced manicure set. Pretty girl or not.

She must think you're stupid, T.

Ten minutes later, I am walking through the mall carrying my new organically produced manicure set. Within twenty minutes the shrewdness of the Israeli salesgirl sinks in, and I assume an appropriate level of sheepishness, turning a bright shade of purple and carrying my head tucked between my shoulder blades.

You jedi powers are weak, old man! She walked all over you!

Well, she was touching my hand! I didn't know what to do!

Did she reach into your pocket and take out your wallet, too?!

Yeah, she might as well.

Let this be a lesson to you: If you decide to lie to a persuasive salesperson about having anyone special in your life, either 1) be an orphaned only child with severe social disorders or 2) have a mom and sisters to give the stupid thing to for Christmas.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

BMT Chapter 2

The plot thickens.

We are herded off of our bus and told to line up in four columns outside of the processing center. We must carry our baggage in our left hands, and God help us if anyone of us made so much as a peep.

I disembark the bus, replaying the advice administered by others who had gone before me in my head. "Don't be the first one off the bus, but don't be the last one, either."
I had the sense, however, that due to our late arrival, we had caught the normal welcoming committee off guard. Perhaps we would escape some torture for the first evening. As it turned out, they had a whole different method of torture reserved for late-comers.

We line up and stand at attention, bags in our left hands, and the stack of manila envelopes containing super top secret military information tucked into the sweaty crook of my right elbow. Dusk is settling, and the light brown bricks of the processing center give off a rosy glow. After a few minutes, a middle-aged sergeant comes out of the door flanked by two young airmen doing their best to look feisty.

"Put your bags on the ground!" the sergeant yells at us. At least three of our group drop their bags on the cement.
"Pick 'em up!!" he screams.
"Put 'em down!"
More bags drop.
"Pick 'em up!"
"Put 'em down..."

Eventually the dimmer members of our flight began to understand that this would continue until none of us dropped our bags when instructed to "put 'em down." Rather, when all of the bags were placed on the ground at our side, then we would be allowed to proceed inside the building.

The super secret military documents surrendered to the rightful authority, we proceed inside in single file. We pass giant posters informing us about the Airman's Creed and the proper form for a salute, and finally to a reception desk where you recite your name fourteen times, your social security number, answer "yes" or "no" to anything else they ask and then one by one, we are all seated in one long line of chairs, in a room that looked like it could have accommodated ten times our number.

By the time we are all seated, it's 8 o'clock.
No sleeping.
No talking.
No leaning on your hands.
No crossing your legs.

Little happens for the next hour. A senior airman (SrA) comes out to a computer and begins punching a few cursory keys. Occasionally he asks one of us a random question. Finally he calls my name.
"Do you play a musical instrument, trainee Sieh?"
Yes, sir, I do.
"What do you play?"
The violin, sir. (If you question my response, ask me about it sometime.)
"How long have you played the violin?"
Fourteen years, sir.
"You are going to be in the band flight, is that understood?"
Yes, sir.

This compelling conversation completed, the SrA begins to look up new weight lifting routines to try out on his next visit to the gym. This proceeds for the next two hours.
We sit silent, trying hard not to fall asleep. I exchange glances when I can with the other members of the group, hoping to communicate silently that it would be a really bad idea if one of them decided to do something stupid. Like, talk, for instance.

This was our first test. Perhaps we had avoided two days of torturous marching, screaming and organization, but we were to be dangled over the edge of consciousness and not allowed to fall into sweet slumber.

"Everybody move to the other side of the room."

We stagger out of our chairs, shuffle across the room to a group of chairs facing towards us.

Another hour passes.

"Move to the other chairs."

We were barely being watched. By this time, it was past midnight, and I was getting a sinking feeling about how long we were going to be drug back and forth across this room in the middle of the night. The SrA and his constituents were watching a television program in the adjacent room, and would step out every once in a while to ensure that we hadn't fallen asleep. If they got too bored with us, then we would have to move to the other side of the room again.

Finally another group of late arrivals shows up at the processing center. We glumly watch them file in and go through the same process of name and number recitation. We are fed a half-frozen packaged meal containing a ham sandwich, Knottsberry Farms' boisenberry cookies and a not-quite-liquid Capri Sun.

More hours pass. I know it takes precisely 95 seconds for the second hand to go around the clock face once. It doesn't seem fair, somehow.
We are stood up and led into a room to sign our names on W2's and make arrangements for our life insurance, should anything befall us while we were here at BMT. Perish the thought.
Our next-of-kin adequately provided for, we are led back to our original seats where we wait some more.

Finally, we are told that we are departing for our respective squadrons. We are put aboard a bus and driven through the night a mere seven and a half hours after we arrived. Looking at the clock with some curiosity, knowing that reveille came at 4:45 am, (or 0445) I did hope that I would be allowed to go to bed rather immediately.

Only myself and another girl were separated from the pack to join the 323rd training squadron. I now realize that the dark bus was the last time I saw most of those Ohio boys. They were all going to a flight together, and I was the only one who got taken away. Because I played the violin.

Standing under orange halogen bulbs on the drill pad outside of the 323rd's "Tunnel" (headquarters) at 0330. Life suddenly became very surreal. I was exhausted. I smelled horribly, and I badly needed a shower. I looked at the girl standing next to me. She was hyperventilating. I wanted to say something to her, but decided against it.
The door to the Tunnel flew open and our presence was demanded inside.

You must look directly ahead.
You may only stand along the right-hand wall.
Don't you dare lean on the wall.
Keep your arms at your side.
"Who do you think you are?! Don't you dare look at me ever again, or I'll rip your eyeballs out of their sockets!" said the kind CSS clerk.

This was going to be fun.

I am met by a staff sergeant (SSgt.) who takes me up a flight of stairs and into my new home. There is a guard at the door, and he asks for the sergeant's name and mine.
I follow the SSgt. into the day room where I fill out a Red Cross emergency information card; information that will be used to ship my dead body to my parents in a few days' time. The handwriting is scrawled and illegible, the pen uneven on the paper because of writing on the tile floor ("How dare you write on my desk!! You'd better get on your face and write that out on the floor right now!!")

I am shown how to hang my clothes up for tomorrow morning. I am made to shave off any hair touching my ears. I am shown a top bunk that will be mine. I am shown where my bag may be placed. I am told that I will go to sleep now.

Staring up at the ceiling only a few feet away, I listen to the cacophony of snoring, breathing and coughing swirling around me. I listen to the night watchmen having a conversation in the hallway. I realize that it is 4 o'clock, and in forty-five minutes we will have to get up. I shut my eyes.

The first notes of reveille have started when the fluorescent lamps blaze to life and our dorm chief and element leaders run down the aisles, hitting bed posts and screaming for all of us to get up! Get up! Get up!
I fall out of bed onto the tile floor and try to scamble into my jeans and t-shirt. Not even given the opportunity to take of the one I had on yesterday, I am left with no choice but to wear two shirts today.
There is a bleary half-dash to the bathroom, toothbrushes and razors in hand. Fifty bodies crowd around ten sinks, all trying to accomplish our duties first. Of course, you had to make sure they were done correctly. If you were caught with even a trace of missed facial hair, several TIs would descend upon you like freshly-killed prey.

Quickly, from the bathroom to your wall locker to lock your toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and shaving cream in your security drawer. Hang the key around your neck and keep it tucked inside your shirt at all times. Get your shoes on. Now! Heel-to-toe in the hallway! Now!

Lined up, chests and hips pressed against the back of the person in front of us, we await the order to charge down the stairs and prepare for breakfast chow. The time: 0500.

Thus began the longest day of my life.

Why does Nicholas Cage choose to suck so much?

Here we find the actor Nicholas Cage. A good-looking man. A handsome man. A talented man.
Why does he insist on making so many garbage-y films?! The man can act, (see or Matchstick Men or Adaptation) but he insists on making so many films that leave him looking ridiculous. (See Wicker Man, Ghost Rider or National Treasure:Book of Secrets. And that's this year alone.)
I wonder what kind of career he has decided to pursue.
A few years ago, Nicholas Cage was the "it" man for blockbuster action films (Face/Off, Con Air) but now seems to favor PG-friendly family adventure films. Nothing against that type of film, but why do his performances suck so badly?
Often times his lines feel horribly written. I have to suggest, however, that since it seems to happen to Mr. Cage with such relative frequency, it is average screenwriting in the hands of a particularly dull, uninspired performer.

It is a mystery to me. Care to respond, Mr. Cage?
The Best Albums of Recent Memory

The White Stripes - Icky Thump
The Stripes' sixth studio album has a far more accessible sound than the Stripes have ever indulged in. Built road-ready for dynamite live performance, make sure you check out the title track as well as Martyr for My Love, Catch Hell Blues, and Bone Broke.

The Roots - Game Theory
Always politicized and never marginalized, the Roots make one of their funkiest albums yet. ?uestlove is in funkalicious form on such tracks as It Don't Feel Right and Blackthought makes some of his most direct accusations in False Media and It's In The Music.

Beck - The Information
Accurately described as "the best best-of album until Beck puts out his Greatest Hits." A blend between the funked-out hillbilly country techno styles of Odelay and Guero, and the sprawling, melodic soundscapes of Sea Change and Mutations. If you don't know Beck at all, this is probably the best place to start.

Thom Yorke - Eraser
It's been over two years since Radiohead's Hail to the Thief was released. That's a long time to wait for another go-around of the tripped-out complexity that only Radiohead has been able to offer. Lead singer Yorke attempts to bide the time with this 2006 solo release. All of the tunes are penned by Yorke himself, and while they are haunting and compelling, the instrumental make-up lacks the same energy and genius that the rest of Radiohead used to support Thom's ethereal vocals.

The Black Keys - Magic Potion
The fourth full-length album by the Akron duo does little to change the status quo. Much is often said about a musician's need to search and explore new styles and voices. The Keys are content to stick with the back-door greasy garage-floor style of blues/rock that has carried them thus far. The playing in this album is more restrained, more reserved, as though Dan and Pat have grown out of their youthful flailing instrumental solos. Only one trip to see them perform live will tell you this is hardly the case.
It's a Great Time to Love Cartoons
Never before in history have comics/cartoons/animation been regarded as much a part of American artistic tradition as they are right now.

Whether it be the film projects of Pixar, the comic books of Frank Miller and Alex Ross or the web artists such as Sam Fout, the world of exposure has never been greater for comic artists, and their medium has never been granted this amount of artistic validity.

Part of the reason is Hollywood's realization that great stories make great movies, and there are a lot of great stories within the traditions of America's comic book traditions. Whether it is a revival of the Superman franchise or a revitalization of the Batman films, or the popularity of Frank Miller's artistic stylings (Sin City, Batman Begins/Dark Knight, 300) the capabilities and talents of these great artists is seeing the light of day in a way in which it never has had the opportunity to do before.

For so long cartoons/comics relied exclusively on printed format for exposure and success. Whether it was syndication in newspapers or being picked up by a publishing house, or working for particular animation studios was the only way a comic animator could enjoy any measure of success. And in many respects, the early forms of comic animation/illustration are still viewed as the benchmark to which we all still strive. Artists like Herge, Kelly, Eisner, Avery, Freleng, Disney and Hanna & Barbara crafted such tremendous art forms that it has taken almost seventy years for art form to evolve beyond that first incarnation.

In my opinion, two things have contributed to this change in the world cartoons.

1) The Internet caused a revolution for the world in countless ways. For the artist, it created an opportunity for even the most unheard obscure comic to have its moment in the spotlight. As a result, many artists subsist entirely on web-based comics and animations.
Artists like Sam Fout (top illustration) create entire worlds of creatures that would probably not find any sort of audience in mainstream publication. But as a web-comic, these stories find precisely the audience that they are intended for. Also, the internet has raised awareness a thousand fold, creating and strengthening communities of like-minded artists and comic enthusiasts who may have
otherwise never have met.

2)Baby Boomers Grew Up
I regard this as the far more significant development of the two key points of reason.
Prior to World War II, there were only a handful of comic book creations (Seigel & Schuster's Superman) and well-known newspaper comic strips. In the late 1920's, Walt Disney began to realize his dream of animation that would capture the imagination of America, but these ideas would not really begin to bear fruit until the next generation of artists began to mature.
Within the next thirty years we experienced the explosion of the feature animated film from Disney studios, as well as the legendary work from the Warner Brothers' studios. Comic books enjoyed what historians now refer to as its "golden age," which saw the birth of such characters as Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, the X-men, Captain America, Batman and the Silver Surfer.

The children of this generation had the unparalleled privilege of growing up in the shadows of these great charaters, both in the theater and at home on their television, and in their newspapers and newstands.

The fundamental difference between the generations before them is that while cartoons had been regarded as "children's entertainment" and little more to their parents, baby boomers regarded comics as something more, and saw them for the art form they could become.
My generation grew up with the enjoyment of Saturday morning cartoons, (the Smurfs, the Gummi Bears) and now-legendary cartoon strips (Watterson, Larsen and Davis,) but something else happened.

Not only did a renaissance of animation and cartooning occur, but an explosion of creative ideas. No longer was it just about a cartoon strip or an 8-minute short. Artists began using computers and film and ink in ways that hadn't been done yet. The internet allowed artists to see the work of other artists on the other side of the globe. Cartoon art became fused with traditional artistic expression, destroying any idea that comics were only "children's entertainment."

More recently, the success of film studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have brought a new appreciation for cartoons, creating such beautiful scenes, creatures and (most importantly) stories that both kids and adults will enjoy.

This trend doesn't show any sign of slowing down. In fact, it's amazing to think of where the art form could go within the next five, ten and fifteen years. As the form becomes more accessible, more people will have the opportunity to create. And while this will create more schlock than ever before, the talented artists will be discovered, and hopefully allowed to create something truly unique.

Hot Tracks of the Day:

M.I.A. - Boyz
The White Stripes - Catch Hell Blues
Joe Crocker - Woman to Woman
The Electric Six (feat. Jack White) - Danger! High Voltage

For banging good time, look no further.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Basic Military Training chapter 1

Earlier this year I had the dubious honor of participating in our nation's military basic training program. Most readers know why this undertaking was initiated, and if you don't, ask me some other time.

Aside from being a means to an end, basic military training (or BMT) was one of those life experiences I considered on my list of "things I should do before I die," somewhere between base jumping in Hawaii and drinking a quart of paint.
I'm not suggesting that BMT was something I didn't think I couldn't live without, but it was on my list because of the desire to push myself, physically and mentally, just so I knew how far I could go. Besides, who wouldn't want the bragging rights?

This is the first in a series of posts where I will try to (as accurately as I can) re-create my experience at Basic Military Training for the United States Air Force. I hope to avoid a lot of the bravado and machismo that comes along with the territory. I have wanted to commit as much of the experience to the record for a while, before more of it is lost my own shabby memory. So, here goes.

I began the enlistment process at a recruiting station in a poorer neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. It wasn't destitute, but it was the sort of neighborhood that you wouldn't probably have much business in. I wasn't out of place - quite, but my unwillingness to roam the streets wearing nothing but an undershirt and baggy jeans did make me stand out a little bit. And, I was (for better or worse) employed.

This sort of environment is perfect for Armed Forces recruiting. As much as certain points of view may sneer on the "preying on poor inner-city youth," the simple truth is that the military is one very good option these kids have for getting out of their "poor inner-city" existence.
For most of the kids I met who were also in the process of enlisting in the Air Force, they were either finishing high school, were aimless, slightly stupid and without any real motivation to begin the next chapter in their lives. Whether it was their parents' or their own idea to join the Air Force, their complacency was about to be removed. Forcibly, if necessary.

Without going too far back into my recent life history, it should be understood that my journey through the enlistment process was not without hiccups. My first task was weight loss (so that the Air Force planes wouldn't fall from the sky because of my body mass,) and then I was faced with a six-month wait in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) simply because there was no available spot for me to fill at basic training.

So from a job offering in April of 2006, we don't actually take the next step in this adventure until February of 2007, when I, and 11 other gentlemen from Northern Ohio were slated for departure on Feb. 14.

One thing no one should ever forget about in planning adventures in Northern Ohio is what time of year you plan on having this grand adventure. In our case, February 14 happens to fall (on Valentine's day, yes, but also) during the winter season. Duh.

February 13: A group of 200+ young soldier/seamen/airmen/marine hopefuls are roused from our slumber at 0430 (civilian translation: way too early) and bused down to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to complete a last-minute physical, sign some papers, take an oath and then jump aboard a bus to the airport bound to sunny Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

This day, however, was not to go quite so smoothly.

Our bus arrives to the MEPS station amidst an early morning snowfall. We all climb off the buses, our bodies running on little more than adrenaline and fear. We are ushered inside, given our cursory warnings about firearms, drugs and ill intention and proceed to have our possessions searched.

A word on packing for basic training: Don't. Whatever items that the Air Force suggests you pack along for your foray into the wild blue abyss they will promptly take away from you on your arrival. Best plan: aside from the clothes you are wearing, take a toothbrush, a razor and some shaving cream. Everything else that you could use/need they will make you purchase once you're down there anyway. And in case you are unsure about what kind of product to buy, don't worry! Your Military Training Instructor (MTI or TI) will kindly assist you in only selecting from a prescribed selection of items that you may purchase.
The more stuff you bring, the more you'll love playing the TI's favorite game "pick it up, put it down" during zero week. More on this later.

The final processing at MEPS underway, our hapless heroes had only one final underwear-only processional to complete, another urinalysis, and then finally, the first real taste of military precision and order: hurry up and wait.

The group (interchange "flight" from henceforth) going to our relaxing stay in Lackland made it out of MEPS by late morning, after taking our oath of enlistment and enjoying a little USO hospitality. Our arrival at the airport was through more snow showers. However, as dully appointed leader of the dozen idiots from Ohio, I was more concerned with the charge of getting all of these kids through airport security, baggage checked and to the same gate without losing anyone. And on top of that, I had been handed a stack of manila envelopes, containing the medical and enlistment paperwork for every member of our troupe that I was to hand-deliver to the personnel at Lackland. Any deviation from this plan was considered a felony, and compromised official military documents. So far, I'm in love with the Air Force.

No sooner do we nestle into our wait at the crowded gate than we begin noticing "delayed" signs beginning to flash above our heads. Yes, dear readers, our plane had been delayed. But not just delayed. After a couple of hours, the air traffic was shut down because of the snow, so our flight was cancelled, and we were sent back to the hotel, confused, perhaps a little frustrated, but mostly relieved that we'd gotten such a late stay in our sentence. It didn't take too much imagination to think of the "fun" we would be missing during the first 24 hours of basic training.

Our trip back to the hotel took hours. The trains were slow, clogged by snow on the rails, and also the inability to stop, therefore it was ill-advised that they go any faster than would permit them to coast to a comfortable stop later on. Arriving at the landmark Tower City Terminal in downtown Cleveland, we then proceeded to wait another hour in the lobby for the hotel's shuttle to come and pick us up.
(Thinking that our trip back to the hotel would take equally long, we were shocked and perturbed when our drive back only took five minutes, which somewhat deflated the hotel clerk's affirmation that "the shuttle was sent out for you over twenty minutes ago!")

Safely back in the cocoon of our hotel rooms, phone calls frantically began to our respective recruiters, MEPS authorities and our parents to notify them what had happened, and what, precisely, were we supposed to do now? Quietly and firmly, we were told to stay put, but plan on awakening at 0430 again the next morning for departure on the next flight to San Antonio.

"Never," we were told "has MEPS been shut down for any reason. The last time it happened was during the east coast blackout. Snow never shuts us down out here."

The next morning we were informed that MEPS was closed, and no one would be coming in for the next 24 hours, so we were trapped at the hotel for the next two days. Sorry about this, just watch some TV, go to the gym, and stay out of trouble.

Those of us remaining did our best to stay out of trouble, eating decent hotel meals three times a day and letting the TV meteorologists tell us that it was a storm like we've never seen in the last hundred years. The most useful thing we did manage to do was bond.

Zwick, Crawford, Cowx and eight other names that don't match up to their faces in my mind spent a lot of time in central hotel rooms, eating together, watching TV together and wondering when we actually were going to leave. I earned the nickname "Chief," (the moniker for a Chief Master Sergeant or CMSgt. - the highest rank of enlisted airmen) since I was the oldest, was the contact with the MEPS authorities and knew how to check baggage, go through security and how to read flight information off of the airport monitors. All in all, this was a fun couple of days. The attitudes remained good, and we entertained ourselves well, making new friends and enjoying thinking about the torture the rest of our flight was already going through.

Finally we received the call. Tomorrow morning. 0430. We are on a flight departing at 1030.

One more early morning, one more groggy bus ride, one more search of our belongings. As we proceeded through the hallways at MEPS, the Air Force liaison came up to me and said I'd done a great job at the airport yesterday, and that we would talk more about it later.

We never got the chance to talk. Too bad.

Again on a bus, again to the airport. Again through security and again to our gate. This time, the sun is shining. There are a lot of people in the airport, equally delayed in their travels, most certainly.

Our arrival in to San Antonio was uneventful, although it was memorable because of the amount of adrenaline beginning to pump through my body. I wasn't sure if we were going to be met at the arrival gate by some firey sergeant in uniform, or if we would get outside before having a combat boot shoved in our faces.

Pausing only to change my voicemail message to something like "If you're hearing this, that means I'm lying face-down, dead in a puddle somewhere in basic training. Don't touch my stuff" we made our way through the airport, following the signs marked "USO" - our designated rally point. Along the way any candy, magazines or other comforts that we had acquired along the trip were disposed of.

The USO lounge in San Antonio is spacious and you can enjoy watching aircraft on the tarmac. There are easily twenty lay-z-boy recliners arranged around the room. We cautiously took a seat in these chairs, after being told that we would met by the bus driver in a few minutes.
Some of us fell asleep, others decided to eat as many of the USO-provided Oreos as possible. For the most part, we were dead quiet. If someone did start to talk, they were hushed by the others. We didn't know when the test would begin, if it had started already, if we were already failing...

A wrinkled old black man walked into the lounge and called for all of the Air Force's recruits. We gather our things and follow him through the airport and along side to where a school bus with "Lackland AFB" painted plainly on the side sits waiting for us. I am pretty sure the driver is not in the military, but still we are deathly quiet. We are already mentally exhausted, wide-eyed and nervously expecting someone to jump out of nowhere and toss a hand grenade at us.

There is one other passenger on the bus in addition to us recruits; a tech sergeant who has been stationed temporarily (TDY) at Lackland as an aircraft maintenance specialist of some sort. He was talkative, and seemed to enjoy laughing at us quite a bit when he found out we were all heading to BMT at that very moment. I wasn't sure if it was safe to talk with him or not. So I didn't.

The bus ride is short. Soon after leaving the airport, you will begin to see signs for Lackland AFB along the interstate. Along the way, I consciously make an effort to take in the fast food restaurants, the hotels, the billboards - any sign of normal life that I could see. The dread was overtaking me that I would never again enjoy freedom like I had.

What exactly have I gotten myself into?

The bus arrives at Lackland AFB at roughly 1900.

Let's give this another go...

Like the new look?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Because he was so cuuuuuute...

Holy Crap!

Where have i been?!!

My mom says she can't find any recent posts.

Well, that's because there are none.

Encouraging, eh?

A few things have happened since the last time I wrote. Pretty much I've just been sitting around playing Xbox and eating Cheetos for the last seven months. Cool, eh?

Anyway, this is just a note to say that I'll be dusting off this site, getting back into the swing of things and hopefully being more organized about getting posts up on this blog again.

Here's hoping, anyway.