Saturday, January 30, 2010

OMG Make the Mamet Stop!

So, without decent internet access, and pretty much television only during meal times, one of the things most people end up doing in Iraq is watching TV episodes on DVDs, so they're a few years out of date.

Currently, I am watching The Unit, which I hate to admit is a pretty good show. I hate to admit it because it's a bit of glorification which I don't personally like. But production values are high, the choreography is well done, and the soundtrack is remarkably good. David Mamet produces the show, with his sister, apparently.

Now - the critique:

1) The gung-ho military can do everything, and should do everything attitude. Now - yes, these people are Delta Force, consummate professionals. But in the pilot episode they perform a mission on US soil, without suspension of posse comitatus. Sure - the team was the best equipped and trained to perform the operation, and the FBI guy on the ground as kind of a jerk. However, two episodes later, the FBI is looking into the illegal action and the writing gets pretty bad - stuffed shirt bureaucrat questioning the honorable and heroic actions of our team (!) But the show doesn't really dwell on the point that the team did in fact violate federal law, and one of the most important ones at that. Maybe we could have had a line about the dangerous precedent of the military making its own decisions about right and wrong rather than leaving it up to the civilian government?

2) Damn spooks are just petty bureaucrats out to fulfill their own agenda, and use our heroes for their own purposes. In the SERE episode, the team goes through SERE school (surprise) with a new twist - a female interrogator (presumably CIA) who is running some kind of psycho-biological experiment on them, bringing up elements of their past, etc. Rather than just three days of resistance, this new program goes as long as she wants, etc. But she makes a damn good point - the paradigm for hostage taking has changed: it's no longer about troop movements and holding out until mission orders change, it's about propaganda and money. So perhaps SERE school does need to change to reflect that paradigm (caveat: never been to SERE, I have no idea what their operational parameters are)

3) As I mentioned, David Mamet produces, but most of the scripts are written by other people. The problem is that on a few episodes he does write and direct, and those episodes are pure Mamet all the way: "I want to talk, I would like to talk to you about our relationship. Yes, about our relationship I would like to talk to you. No - no, this is about, it is about us" Etc. And after watching 11 episodes of normal dialogue, it is PAINFUL to experience. Now, I love David Mamet. But his meter takes some getting used to, because it is absolutely not the way normal human beings talk, and in the context of a show about normal Americans (superheroes or not), it is completely out of place.

4) Was it part of the pre-nup that Rebecca Pidgeon is legally required to be in every production Mamet does?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why the test

so, I tried to look at the Plot Summary for the movie "Swingers" - and I get this:

Hence, the word. Apparently one "fuck" doesn't trigger it. And there's something in the Swingers plot summary which does as well. What a stupid effing bot.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So, pizza made by Iraqis is now on the top of the list. So, to recap:

Pizza made by Iraqis
Pizza made by Filipinos
Pizza made by Indians
Pizza made by the DFAC

A lot of my good feeling for the Iraqis' pizza is probably based on the Nutella pizza they had for dessert. Because anything with Nutella gets 5 stars in my book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Culture of War

I follow a milblogger or two, and Army of Dude I particularly like, mainly because he is at the moment attending college, and his take on college life and especially the problems with the different GI Bills are very telling and amusing.

His most recent post has one of those shocking moments that just make me realize how old I am:

"An 18 year old in college this year would have been nine years old during the invasion of Afghanistan and eleven years old during the invasion of Iraq."


I guess Colbert is happy they didn't name it after him

otherwise he'd be responsible for the problems on the space station.

The sad state of broadcast radio

I mentioned the strangeness of the floating radio stations here in Iraq. However, it did occur to me this morning that I have heard more new, good, and interesting music on the AFN network here in the last four months than I heard the two years I was in the States.

Now, I think this has less to do with the superior quality of AFN than it does with the ridiculously poor nature of American radio (specifically, corporate owned media such as Clearchannel and Westwood One). But I have actually purchased four songs I heard on the radio here after hearing them, compared to the big whopping ZERO songs I've heard on American radio that have intrigued me enough to buy them...

I miss the original WHFS. If I have to move - I am going to move somewhere I get reception on WRNR.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fashion and Public Schools

This appears to be more and more of a hot button issue these days.

Today I saw three stories alone about fashion issues relating to public school activities. One is from a few months ago (I think the ABC website is apparently so bass-ackwards they're not even linking to proper stories). One is from last year, and one is recent.

In the first case - students were suspended from extra-curricular activities because of behavior which occurred outside of school.

In the second - a student was arrested for refusing to leave the high school prom because she was wearing an outfit which did not conform to the dress standards laid out beforehand.

In the third - students got in trouble for wearing t-shirts which were reminiscent of 9/11.

The first two stories directly address the problems related to attempting to maintain some kind of order in the public school system, which is particularly difficult in an age when students are encouraged to "express themselves" with no consideration of social mores.

Now - I am far from a conservative person, in thought or dress. I just recently purchased a second suit, and they are both hanging in my closet and will likely not see the light of day until (hopefully) job interviews next year. My preferred mode of dress is jeans and a t-shirt, or maybe cargo pants but just because they have two extra pockets which are excellent for carrying books. But I certainly wouldn't think of wearing a bathing suit to work. There are simply some conventions which students need to learn, and among those conventions are appropriate and acceptable attire and behavior.

Turning specifically to the article about cheerleaders who took racy pictures of themselves over the summer and were then suspended from extra-curricular activities (like cheerleading) because they put them on myspace - who still uses myspace??? But - an important that was not made in the article, and I hope the lawyers make in their case, is that these girls were not suspended from school. They have a right to an education, just as they have a right to express themselves in any way which they see fit, online or in person, anytime school is not in session.

And for the most part I agree with the decision of the principal (I think the "apology" to the coaches was a bit extreme and ridiculous), and I am overjoyed that the school district administration didn't roll over when angry parents got huffy about it. At no point does it seem that these students' inherent right to attend school was infringed - they simply lost their privileges to represent the school in an extra-curricular activity. And given their embarrassing behavior, why should they be allowed to represent the school?

Finally - the last article, which I think is the most complex. I specifically did not mention in my beginning that these students were Muslim. This seems to have been the source of a lot of the concern. Take a look at the picture:

If a bunch of white students had been wearing that sweatshirt, with those words, I think everyone would have thought it was a statement about the power of the American community to bounce back from a terrorist attack. However, because these students were Muslim, this message got inverted, and somehow people took it as a pro-terror statement, that the Muslim terrorists can bounce back from our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Stupid. But, unfortunately like most stupid things, understandable. It is interesting that the message can be so changed based simply on the messenger. It's not exactly McLuhan's truism, but definitely a wonderful instance of people over-reading what should be a simple message.

All of these add up to a complexity of freedom of expression, the power of administrators, and modern connectedness and technology. How these things are going to get resolved is beyond me, but I think that we are going to need more than just a Bong Hits for Jesus resolution to establish what we can and should expect from teenagers (and parents) in our civil society.

**footnote - the problem of clothing and acceptable behavior is not limited to the United States.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't ever give them a real email

Even legitimate companies are desperate for customer contact, it appears. I don't even know what it was I "contacted" HP about originally, but I'm always careful to uncheck the "Please contact me about special deals" box every time I fill out a form...

And then I get this email from HP today:

"We received your e-mail address through the HP/Compaq registration process, but are unsure whether we may contact you. We want to give you the opportunity to receive valuable information like support alerts, new service updates, warranty extension reminders, and other communications—all tailored to your registered HP products and interests."

So, seriously, this is almost as bad as Facebook's constant "updates" to its security, which always seem to restore the "security defaults" to "make my personal and private information to every single person in the world".

"We know you said not to contact you, but we wanted to contact you and make sure you really didn't want us to contact you."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Order Date--OrderType---------------------------Effective Date
2009/12/29--HONR[Honorable Discharge Orders]-----2009/12/29


Friday, January 1, 2010

Radio Stations

All right - so when I first got here in July, there were three radio stations available to the English speaking audience: BBC World News, AFN, and what appeared to be some AFN talk radio station.

Then, they changed the talk radio station to NPR International.

Well, about a month ago, NPR went away to be replaced by Jack FM, and for about 2-3 weeks there was what appeared to be a pirate metal station broadcasting on a low-power frequency. That's gone.

So now this morning, it appears that the AFN station is gone, too, so now we have two radio stations playing Jack FM.

Oh - and our internet sucks tremendous buffalo penis. Our compound internet has been down for three days now, so I am using a pay service at the local Green Bean. I am currently getting more than twice the download speed I get on the best day on our "dedicated" internet at the compound, and it is in the middle of one of the busier times of day. So - Great American Networks = total crap. (Is that libel?)