Monday, March 30, 2009

Read a Mother****ing Book

At St. John the Evangelist School, every student has to participate in the Accelerated Reader program. If you're not familiar, Accelerated Reader assigns a grade level and a number of points to each novel in a school's library. After reading a book, students take a computerized quiz on what they've read and, depending on the number of questions they get right, are awarded points for reading the book. Each grade was expected to earn a certain number of points per trimester, thereby ensuring that every student read and absorbed at least some material each year.

If you're anything like me, though, you've never really put much stock in the "grade levels" 
assigned to books. The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy were considered a 6th grade reading level, and yet, they reside on the book lists of college courses around the country (if not the world). Therein lies the subject of this post: Young Adult (or Adolescent) Literature.

Young Adult literature is typically defined as literature written specifically for the audience of readers aged 12-18, with themes that are pertinent to that age group. It also happens to be my favorite type of literature to read. At 23 years old, I find that the 'adult' part of Young Adult holds as much sway over me now as it did when I was 13. I've become used to the weird looks I get when I answer that age-old question, "What are you reading?" My response is usually followed by, "Isn't that book for little kids?"

You'd be surprised, though, the depth in these books that you didn't notice when you were younger, and the extent to which "adolescent" themes still apply to us old people. Plus, they're usually quick reads that are wicked engaging. I got back into YA lit when I took a course in it the summer after sophomore year of high school at Western MD college (before it was McDaniel), and since then, I haven't been able to stop reading it. It usually gets a bad rap among adults, though, as worthless kid stuff (see above re: reactions). So I'm going to start giving brief reviews of the YA books that I read throughout the year, hoping that I'll convert a few Gentlemanly readers.

In the meantime, go ahead, grab that favorite book from your early teen years and give it another read. I bet that you find hidden depths in it that you couldn't notice when you were younger, because you didn't yet have the life experience, but that resonate with you now.

Don't have a favorite? Here's a starting point: The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton, 1967) is 
considered the first true YA novel, and the genre has exploded in the past 40 years. Give it a try. Or check out Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War (not to be confused with the more juvenile The Chocolate Touch). Guys, there's Chris Crusher, and girls, Judy Blume, though I find most YA lit crosses gender lines easily. Into sci-fi? I finally got around to reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card a few months ago, and it really is as good as everyone says. My heart almost stopped when I read the big reveal. Fantasy buff? Try Stardust or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I could go on, but I won't.

I'm currently reading Eragon, the first book in the Inheritance trilogy by Christopher Paolini, so that will be my first official review, coming soon. But...

... I know the comment has to be coming, so I'm going to get this out of the way first thing: the Twilight series. Yes, I've read them. Yes, I saw the movie. Yes, I want to get the DVD. And yes, I think it's creepy that a bunch of middle-aged women are now obsessed with Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner (he's SIXTEEN, for crying out loud!). 

That being said, I'll be the first to admit that the books are pretty bad. The writing style is juvenile, grammatically they leave much to be desired, and their message to young women is borderline deplorable. (Gee, I wish I could meet a guy who fixates on me to the point that he creeps into my bedroom to watch me sleep without permission and kidnaps me when I want to visit my guy friends!) If you read Twilight looking to get anything intellectually stimulating out of it, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I'm not going to lie, though - as far as brain candy goes, it's an EXTREMELY entertaining story. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next, and so I was willing to overlook its many many (MANY) transgressions.

If you're looking for a romantic beach read of the supernatural variety, give Twilight a go, but for your sake and mine, don't think too much.

And if you don't immediately get the title of this post, go here: Read a Book by D'Mite

Torture Porn

That title has a certain draw to it, don't you think? It's been on my mind lately - and not in the fun "Oh boy, oh boy" kind of way.

 A few days ago, I had the opportunity to see a play titled Not Such Stuff - written by Chris Wind, produced by Venus Theater, and costume designed by fellow gentleman Brittany Graham. Brittany did an exceptional job designing a fitting costume for each character (an all-female cast), my favorite being Kate's (which complimented the actress and the character very well). The play itself was decent, a little ham-fisted, but well performed all around. The script seems very unfinished, a little unbalanced (Cordelia's part was a bit of a stretch, but appropriate when looked at as simply raising a question), and it read a lot like a term paper. A lot, a lot. But, its heart is very much in the right place - exploring themes into heavy feminism still relevant today in the modern world. The play takes classic female characters from Shakespeare, puts them directly in the spot light, and affords them a voice to speak out. By doing so, Wind explores male fantasy, objectification, token resistance, the classic double-standard, victim blaming, entitlement, and other impositions that have been placed on not just female characters, but on women since the hunter/gatherer days. A quick look might make it appear "anti-male," but a long, hard one reveals a fervent reaction to hundreds of years of masculine imposition on femininity (which is different from feminism) and affords ample relativity to the present day. And, right now, I'm taking a cold, hard look - fire-eyed - at the horror industry. And I do so while stroking my man-beard.

The skew of Hollywood horror has progressed past simple schadenfreude, cathartic reaction, and inventive methods of simulating entertaining violence, and devolved into torture-porn. Movies like Saw (a movie named for the fact that, in order to attempt a proper escape, the main character has to cut his foot off with a rusty saw) and Eli Roth's Hostel (famed for a gruesome scene where, as a brand of torture, an eyeball is extracted and severed while the victim is awake) capitalize on this continuing trend. Normally, I don't object to gore or violence in movies - I've always felt that it's never about what's used, but how it's conveyed to the audience. And, the current trend has turned to a horribly misogynistic conveyance. It's called torture "porn" not just because there may be gratuitous sex involved, but because it conveys violence in a sexual manner by presenting a dominated party (typically attractive, female, usually white, and often blonde) and, literally, orchestrating scenes so that torture is dolled out and screams are uttered in the framing of someone forcing an orgasm (an obvious logical fallacy). Consider the social repercussions in a concept where a woman is violently subjugated in a forced, erotic fashion, presented to a crowd of people who are supposed to think the experience pleasurable because, well, it's not happening to them. The marketing ploy for the film Hostel II epitomizes the concept by presenting women-to-be-tortured as desired (we'll avoid a rant about the many things wrong with how the highest priced "item" on the menu features American women, making them the  most "desirable" to see in this fashion).

Continuing on, I read a blog post a while ago written by Buffy/Angel creator Joss Whedon discussing the Death of D'ua Khalil titled "Let's Watch a Girl Get Beaten to Death" If there's a reason why I'm such a fan of the man, here it is. I've been a Buffy fan since middle-school and, I admit, I am a bit of a "Whedonphile". I acknowledge that he's just a man and that there will be, one day, more "Whedons" to grace the small and silver-screen alike (perhaps one is chosen every generation or so). This one's just our Whedon. And I think that we would see very eye-to-eye on a lot of issues that I don't necessarily see with many of my male friends. If you've ever wanted a fairly accurate take of my perspective on, well, the world click above (although, I'm not sure if "womb envy" quite explains things completely). For those who opt for naught, to the point: it's a disheartening tale of a woman "honor" killed by being kicked and stoned by a group of men, made exponentially worse by the fact that it made itself around the globe, not for awareness or alarm, but because it was something people just wanted to see. The equivalent of a joke e-mail. Seriously, it's depressing - and it proves that this inappropriate kink is not just present in one culture, but nearly all that use technology. Yay.

How does this relate to torture porn? If Joss's example, using Elisha Cuthbert's recent foray into horror movies, does anything, it outlines the striking similarity between what happened to Ms. Khalil and what Hollywood's been crapping out for the past few years. This goes beyond films with poor story-telling, dependent on cheap thrills and gore factor. When Saw V has made $56,729,973 at the box office (noting, of course, many of these people refuse to admit that they watch it - doesn't that sound like porn to you?) we're looking at a symptom of a social disease. I'm waiting for popular horror to return to its glory form (i.e. For awesome storytelling: The Orphanage, For violence used appropriately with some sweet story: The Signal). I know that doesn't mean things will be fixed - for that I have no delusions (being an open feminist will do that). But, it'll definitely be a step forward in the right direction (or at least help me feel like the flames are dying down).

PS - I talk a little more about this on my private blog here. It's a place to explore my creative writing impulses. Click and look around. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Round Table Returns

Here at These Gentlemen, we strive to be, above all other things, gentlemanly. This is evidenced by our dedication towards being articulate, possessing rapier wit, shrewdly and urbanely commenting on the world around us, and, in this feature, civilized discourse.

On the go-ahead from he whom would be analogous to Sir Arthur Pendragon, our own Jason Schlafstein, I assume the role of Sir Constantine, the knight who became king following Arthur's death. Starting up again this week and continuing on for the foreseeable future, These Gentlemen will put aside some time each week to become Gentlemen of the Round Table. A question will be posed, and the Gentlemen shall provide their responses in a forum allowing for response and friendly debate.

This week, the Gentlemen tackle their pet peeves. This question was the subject of some discussion amongst the Table, as the original wording was "If you could eliminate one of your pet peeves, what would it be?" Hence, confusion broke out over whether this meant eliminate it as in wipe this thing of annoyance from the Earth, or eliminate as in get over the mentality that makes you hate this thing. Some Gentlemen answered the question one way, some both. Without further ado, let us delve into our responses.

David Pratt, the Aforementioned King Constantine

Were I to choose one pet peeve I have to eliminate, it would be seeing things out of place. Whenever I see things disorganized or misaligned I HAVE to fix them. I don't know how much time I've wasted in my life just because I've got this touch of OCD making me really irritated when things aren't where they belong.

That said, people should really organize things more carefully.

John Ozkirbas, Analogue of Percival

Peeve to Scour From the Face of the Earth: Rubbernecking

I hate rubbernecking. I hate it more than I hate it when pedestrians stand in the middle of the street, only to look at me dumbfounded when I pass them in my car. I understand the draw - the instinctual need to view the carnage resulting from a rousing game of bumper tag can sometimes be overpowering. And, yes, it's significantly safer to drive past an accident at a slower, more forgiving speed. People (and their kids) tend to do things like panic and run out into the middle of the road. Or debris may need to be avoided. But, that's not why people do it. No, people are far more interested in "OMG! Wat haPP3nD1!1!" and that is not the proper excuse to do 15 mph in a 60 mph zone. Because at that point you're getting in my way. You're aggravating other drivers on the road. You're making the general environment on the road hazardous for everyone. All because you couldn't ignore the fact you were curious. And you slowed down, so the person behind you is going to look. And the next person. And the next person. AD INFINITUM.

Peeve to Get Over: Answering the question I've just asked an authority figure like I was asking you.

It's the situation where you've put your neck out to participate, to clear up some confusion, and that guy behind you (you know him) just has to chime in. To let you know he knows. And the sick thing is? He thinks he's helping. Or at least trying to make it look that way. Maybe I feel like he thinks he's better than me and I don't like that. Or maybe he could really just be saying anything and could be totally wrong. I ask the authority figure because I trust the authority figure. And if the authority figure doesn't know, I can live with that. But, if the authority figure doesn't know and chime-in-guy's acting like he does, I don't know if he's actually correct. He thinks he is. And he certainly might sound like it. But, there's no reasonable guarantee. And, of course, I'm going to remember it. Leaving me more confused than before I asked. Yeah, it sounds a little immature. It's a little maddening. And, I definitely need to get over it. Maybe. Or other people should stop doing it. But, that's probably not going to happen.

Max Nova, Keeper of Merlin's Beard

One pet peeve of mine that i wish I didn't have:

I'm way to sensitive to sound. I wish I wasn't so easily irritated by external music or the stomp of roommates walking above my room. There are many times where I wish I just didn't notice sound so much.

One pet peeve I wish would actually go away:

I think probably my rant about driving. I wish people would actually use their turn signal and horn as God/Spaghetti Monster intended. It's so easy!

Brittany Graham, The Lady in the Lake

It's not so much a pet peeve as a compulsion, but I would eliminate my hatred for flipped shirt sleeves and uneven collars, because other people seem to get so much satisfaction from doing it on purpose to upset me, so it happens a lot.

Damien Nichols, The Green Knight

One of my worst pet peeves is when people don't treat IM conversations like face to face conversations. I wish it didn't annoy me so much, but I get so frustrated when I THINK I'm in a riveting conversation with somebody only to be ignored/neglected for like 20 minutes out of the blue. As if the concept that we are exchanging thoughts in real time should be any less significant in a digital medium rather than in person or over the phone. The "idle" status indicator is helpful, but it's kinda backhanded ya know? Like "by the way I'm gonna have to disappear for a few minutes in 10 minutes ago."

Maybe there should be more options for your availability status to help demystify what is going on on the other side of the digital tubes. To that end I recommend adding two new status options to the standard list of available, busy, and invisible: multitasking and clusterfucked. With the addition of multitasking I will know not to expect rapt attention to my every word and will be less likely to give it, which is totally fine. And clusterfucked lets me know to limit my attempts at conversation to legitimate concern and sincere condolences.

That being said, maybe I should just stop spending so much time on teh Gchatz and live my life. I officially have friends whose image in my head is their profile picture. That can't be good.

Sir DinaDan Strauss

I go nuts when I hear teeth scraping across wood. Like, even with popsicle sticks. Ugh. Awful. I could certainly do without that.

Ali Daniels, The Lady Guinevere

I will be the first person to tell you how unreasonable this pet peeve is, and that's why it's the one I'd like to get rid of. I hate being left out of things. It irritates me in the worst way, and then I end up down in the dumps for the rest of the day. Often I know it's not purposeful, just incidental that I wasn't thought of, but I can't help taking it personally sometimes. It's stupid things too. Recently, a friend tagged 18 of my friends in a note on facebook, and I immediately thought, "Well if it involves so many of my other friends, shouldn't it involve me too?" Stupid, and I'd like to be rid of it.

My eradicate pet peeve: People who are running more than 5 minutes late for a restaurant reservation who don't call the restaurant to tell them. You're throwing off our groove. Make the call, or get eradicated.

Stephen Bragale, Often mistaken for Sir Tristan

My biggest pet peeve is when ice cubes melt together and form a large chunk of ice. It's bad enough when it happens with a bag of ice and you have to break it all down, but what's even worse is when it happens in a glass. If they melt together in a cup then I have to deal with balancing the ice and making sure it doesn't slide into my face. If I could prevent this from happening, or the annoying feeling that follows when it happens, I'm confident that the recession would instantaneously end.

We thank ye, good yeomen and ladies fair, and hope you will join us next week as we Gentlemen of the Round Table continue our noble deeds.

One or Two More Thoughts for the Night . . .

All snacking innovations will make you fatter. I just saw an ad for "mature" cheese crackers. (As oppose to eating cheetos, I guess.) Add this to the brilliant, disturbing and ubiquitous "fourth meal." And, just because Lays are "all-natural" does not mean they are healthy.

Also it's only a matter of time before the guys from the Bud Light press conference commercials get a TV show. They're already branched out to Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings ads.

In spite of all this, I still love me some college basketball.

In Defense of the Childless

I have no plans of having children. Ever. At least for the foreseeable future. I may reevaluate at 30. Maybe. But probably not.

Instead I've been thinking that childless folks are a real boon to a company. If you have children then whenever your child is sick, you (or the other parent) are effectively sick. When your child misses school for a snow day, you will need to stay home as well. If you child is on a school break, you will either need to take off time or pay for day care. Plus there are all the lessons, practices, school plays, play dates and other things that mean that you as a parent are probably less likely to work extra hours, and will have a reasonable excuse not to.

Over the course of a career, this means the childless are giving a lot of additional time and energy to their work, but they really have little recourse to say, take a month or two off, work part time, or leave early once in a while. Imagine a person saying "I'm going to be away from work for a month, since my wife and I are having a baby." And then imagine someone saying "well, I've just turned 30 and I've worked pretty hard so I'm going to take a month off." One of these things would probably get you fired.

I think those who forgo children deserve a little something for the time they've given. Nothing extravagant, but here's a small thought - let childless workers convert a few sick days to vacation days each year, assuming that they're a good worker and not using all their sick days. I think this would be a lovely way to say to a worker - "We think the time you get in and out of work is as valuable as those with children."

Now I know this will never happen, and that's because even in 2009 in our post-race, post-class, post-gender, post-everything world, it's still mainly going to be mothers taking off for snow days, taking kids to cello lessons, and working a shorter schedule. Still, I don't think a few vacation days will set back gender relations.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wow! Anger evolved into . . . Outrage!

It is things like this that drive me nuts.

Texas may start teaching against Evolution

How is it that the people who most vocally oppose science end up in positions to influence it on a national scale?

I'm going to be perfectly frank on this issue. Some ungentlemanly language may arise. I don't know, I'm not planning it, but I feel fair warning is warranted as the issue of how we continually re-elect people intent on undermining education, the single most important element in the framework of our country, is one that outrages me.

Teaching Creationism to "let kids understand the argument" is bullshit. BULLSHIT. We are talking about a class in which we send our children to learn science. That is why it is called science class. Evolution is, to the best of our knowledge, the strongest scientific argument for how life arose on the planet. Creationism is not science. It has no scientific basis. It's teaching children that we should be skeptical of what science tells us if there's a religious precept contradicting it. The textbooks in question are meant to teach our students biology; that is, the biological functions of the plant and animal life on Earth as we best understand it. Not "Here's 500 years of painstaking research OR we can just say it all magically appeared one day."

Goddammit, my Pokemon EVOLVE, they do not have their prayers for better stat growth answered by a kind and benevolent deity.

Is Evolution that hard to reconcile with religious beliefs? Do any of the people who argue that dinosaur bones were put in the ground by Satan to test our faith (and yes, those people are real) believe that God falls under the same constraints as the typical Roman calender? It does not actually state the age of the Earth at any point in the bible. Is it really that much of an affront to suggest life was made to adapt on its own? "Intelligent design" has us believe God planned out every stage of existence for us. Doesn't that run completely contradictory to the idea that we were given free will? Is it that impossible to believe that God created life, gave it the ability to adapt and survive in changing environments, and then left us to our own devices? Wouldn't that actually work out a lot better?

I digress. Evolution and Religion walking hand-in-hand as some Creationists would have you believe man did with dinosaurs (which, remember, by another school of thought, were buried there by the devil) is not the issue. The issue is that there are people in our society actively trying to push our education system backwards and pollute the institution of science because they don't think it gels with what their invisible man has to say. If we want students to question evolution, why don't we teach them the holes in the theory and the unresolved issues with the fossil record? Maybe that will inspire more biologists and archaeologists, and fewer television evangelists. Maybe it will make people want to learn. A friend of mine put it best; "The "Darwin made errors" argument simply shows that the person is ignoring hundreds of years of research since his publication and perhaps assumes that science, like religion, is an archaic dogma that is against change. Rather, science embraces new theories and corrections and well, it becomes clear that the person using this argument is not even aware of how the scientific method is intended to be put into use."

This isn't about promoting discussion or argument. This is about mandating religious beliefs be taught in a scientific course. That's the kind of education we would send children off to college with. Could this be a contributing factor to 25% of high school students in America not graduating on time - or at all? Maybe not this specifically, but things like this, definitely. Because this kind of thinking contributes to the idea that there are forces too complex for us to understand, therefore we shouldn't even try. It doesn't just stymie knowledge, it prevents it from ever being formed in the first place.

Creationism is not a bad thing to learn. Not by any means. If your school teaches a class on Comparative Religion or Religious Studies, it's the perfect venue for it. Not biology. Evolution, imperfect as the theory may be, can be supported by scientific evidence. There is no part of Creationism that lines up with any ideas other than those which are religious doctrines. That is not science, and should not be taught to our children.

Please, for all of our sakes, let's keep try and keep our education system from getting worse. Teach religion at home, or let children learn it objectively in the classroom. Don't let them believe that it has any basis in science.

And can we convert to the fucking metric system already?!

Stuff I Love-Seventh Edition


I just plum forgot to write this last week! So this week's column is accompanied by a sweet video-

I think I made my point.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Social Engineering Failure

Today a small rant on the laziness that surrounds me.

My street, like many newer cul de sacs does not have individual mailboxes or mail slots on each house. Instead all the mail for my street and that street perpendicular to it are located in one of those little collected mailbox pavilions you see with townhouse developments. Let me note that these are very short streets. Certainly less than the length of a football field each. And yet, rather than walking to these very close mailboxes, people who live on the street drive up to the mailbox pavilion and then drive to their driveway, 50 feet away.

Now there are two purposes of these collected mailbox contraptions. One is to speed up the job of mailmen, and for this the pavillion is successful. (Except when people have packages which then are instead taken all the way up to your doorstep, but anway . . .) And the other is to foster, in some very small way, a sense of community. People on the street are theoretically supposed to walk up to the mailbox, get their mail and say hello to their neighbors. This is tough to do when you walk two feet away from your car and then two feet back to your car.

Now since our economy started tanking, a lot of pundits have been prophesizing when the recession will end and things will turn around in this country, and I have a little theory. It will start occuring when people stop being lazy and start walking to their own mailboxes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Video Games and Myth: Don't Look Back

Stripping video games to their bare essentials, programmer Terry Cavanagh presents Don't Look Back - a pixelated platformer reminiscent of old school Atari (and other similar platforming systems). In his recently released project, Cavanagh uses flash animation - a reasonably affordable alternative for independent artists to animate, voice, and distribute their work directly to the consumer on the internet. Flash has been the up-and-coming animation form for game programers and visual artists alike for years, used in everything from talk show intros to "office time-wasters" to Adult Swim cartoons like Metalocalypse. Using this contemporary medium, Cavanagh dives into "the Classics" by retelling the Greek tale of Orpheus in his return to "classic" gaming. (For those interested, the game is free and can be played without download here)

Don't Look Back begins as seen above, with a man standing in the rain at the grave of (what can be assumed is) a recently lost lover. Of course, our protagonist has no choice, but to turn right and travel into the bowels of the Underworld in an attempt to bring her back. By doing so, our nameless hero must run, jump, and shoot through a barrage of 8-bit monsters, vanishing bridges, and other hazards to achieve his goal. Already, the player can see some obvious parallels with the famed Greek myth. 

In the tale, Orpheus was a musician who was happily married to the beautiful Eurydice until, one fateful day, she was bitten by a poisonous snake and she died. Distraught and torn, Orpheus began to play and sing a grouping of the most beautiful, yet sad songs ever heard. So mournful were they that the immortal nymphs and gods all wept without reservation. On their recommendation, they bid Orpheus to the Underworld in hopes that Hades and Persephone would be so moved by his music as to take pity on Orpheus and return his love to him - neither of which had anyone ever succeeded. On his arrival, Orpheus played and sang for Hades and Persephone his sad songs and, in their tears, they allowed Orpheus an exception with a condition: that on his walk out and up from the Underworld he must always face forward and have faith that Eurydice is right behind him until they both return to the world of the living. Orpheus ascends without turning around, but as soon as he exits he turns only to see Eurydice vanish from him forever, as he had not afforded her the time (and faith) to step into the living world herself. Careful analysis of Cavanagh's gaming platform reveals some striking parallels (with artistic liberties).

Although the hero from Don't Look Back is not a musician, it is notable that once he begins his decent that the music begins to play. The midi classical string-orchestra presents a melancholic tone accentuated by a color scheme of mellow, dark browns. By doing so, the game is able to evoke an impressive emotional response despite its simplistic design. Here, Cavanagh proves he has an eye for detail, even including the occasional Greek pillar in the background as a "salute" to his source material. The hero continues to descend through the Underworld, able to leap down cliffs with ease (the rules in the Underworld are a little different), battling it out with the various inhabitants, until he reaches a cliff where his love rests as a spirit, floating above the abyss - waiting. He turns around and she begins to follow him out, facing new obstacles as they climb their way up. Keeping with the myth the player must not turn around, else his love will vanish and he will have to start the screen over as if he had just died. Eventually, the hero makes his way outside, into the rain, and back into the living world. In surreal fashion, the hero returns to the grave, lover in toe, only to see himself standing over the tombstone again, alone, as the vestiges of the self and the lover that have just returned vanish forever. The player is left to wonder whether the hero ever left at all, whether he is caught in an eternal loop, or whether the person he sees when he returns is really someone else. In so doing, we are left to wonder which facets of the phrase "don't look back" apply, as there seem to be several. It is rare when something so simplistic retains such poignancy.

Orpheus was the classic tale about the relationship between loss and faith. Of grief and closure. These themes become more and more relatable as people mature and grow older and have the life experiences that encompass them. Whether they have died or not, most of us will lose someone who we would do anything to have back, but understand we cannot. Cavanagh uses his art form to explore these themes through classic myth and does it successfully by using the bare essentials of classic gaming.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Humanbean Tragedy

I'd never seen a Jacobean tragedy... or really anything Jacobean... before Wednesday night. And as I watched the second half of Centerstage's production of Tis Pity She's a Whore (the first half was marred by the fact that I could focus on little more than the fact that I HATED the costumes and was desperately searching for a rhyme or reason behind the design to make me not hate them), I ruminated on the script.

Because the acting is all right (sometimes very good) and the set is beautifully painted (thanks, ali d), but the script. It was like nothing I'd seen or read before (see above: "I'd never seen a Jacobean tragedy...")

What I know of the era is limited to what I learned in tenth grade history (ie there were Jacobeans and they were mad about something, and they might have written a bible. Or the Jacobeans wrote a bible and the Jacobins were mad, maybe about the bible.) And the fact that I've been swimming in Shakespeare for the past year or so (mainly UMD's Winter's Tale and Not Such Stuff.. the last of which you should check out at Venus Theatre) overall made the experience disorienting, mind-bending, eye-opening... not unlike the culture shock I felt when my family first moved from the Deep South to the Central Valley.

My point. John Ford's writing is a bit more accessible to a modern audience than The Wordsmith's, and since I have only this play to go by I can't tell you whether it's his writing or the evolution of the English language. There is a much heavier emphasis on religion and society's grip on the characters, but again I don't know if this is the era or the writer. And I don't care. This is a play about two characters who are truly, deeply in love with one another and are driven to a bloody, murderous fate (bringing about three quarters of the cast of characters with them) because their society and religion is built in such a way that that could be the only end. And I mean, that's enough for me.

Because here's the thing. As a sister with only one brother, I get the inherent ickiness. I get that it's gross, wrong, deplorable, the whole works. But watching, entranced, as they discovered their mutual affection for each other and consummated their love in the corridors of their father's house, even as my stomach turned I rooted for them. Here was a pair of people who were honest, loving, true to their feelings, surrounded by people who sought money, power, authority, anything but love in a marriage. (Interesting that this should come so soon after AZWiner's ruminations on marriage and fidelity.)

And because of everyone else's disgust for their love, everyone, and I mean everyone, died. Died bad. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if all the other characters had just minded their own business and let old rivalries alone instead of plotting for revenge and murder, and then revenging and murdering the wrong people. This was no Oedipus, in which the gods revenged themselves on (somewhat) innocent people. This was people, getting pissed about love that does not concern them, and hurting others for it. And it was other people, getting pissed about rivalries or past transgressions and ultimately only hurting themselves and the people they love.

It (literally) rips your heart out.

All I'm saying, is that it sounds familiar. Oh so ridiculously modern.
And it makes for a great show, a beautiful tragedy.
But the reality just, sucks.

It's a pretty widely-known trend that divorce rates are higher than one would probably like to see. I've heard a variety of explanations for this. Some suggest we're not being good Christians, others suggest we're just lazy and not trying hard enough, and others use the data to claim that marriage is simply a dying institution, outdated and archaic.

I can come up with some observational explanations myself, but overall I think it mostly has much to do with an overall lack of respect towards the entire process. Oh and I'm not going to go around pointing fingers, claiming Hollywood is a bad role model or some shit. I just think many don't see marriage as a life-long engagement anymore; for sure marriage's direct knot to religion has been loosened. I imagine most people have learned most of what they know about marriage from their parents - and with a 40% success rate, their generation is probably not the best role model.

I've definitely heard the opinion that marriage is a dying system. Now I know the stats about how married couples make more money, and married couples tend to live longer and be happier, but I don't see a reason to force the issue. Marriage, to me, is neither good or bad. If two people want to be married, great. If someone never gets married, or decides to get a divorce, that doesn't bother me either. I really don't care. I guess to me though, if you're going to get married, at least have the decency to respect the other person. Even if the process of marriage is meaningless to you, self-respect and integrity shouldn't be. Maybe some people get married on a whim, or for financial reasons, a pregnancy, because it was the 'right time' for them, or because they thought marrying their high school sweetheart was a good idea, or for honest love etc... Marriage doesn't have to be about a contract you're supposed to regret, but even if it is, at least have some decency towards the other person.

My reason for bringing this all up is a recent little news story I wrote:

"If you're thinking about cheating on your wife or husband, there's a new website that could help you with that.
There's an adultery website that's helping unhappily married people from separate relationships get together.
That site is AshleyMadison-dot-com, and their slogan is "life is short. have an affair."
Not surprisingly, the service is creating a bit of controversy.

The site has become especially popular is Austin, Texas, where there are 6,000 active users."
I'm not the right person to give generalized relationship advice (raise your hand if you just said the phrase "you're tellin' me") and I definitely don't know the first thing about marriage. But really? Really now? 6,000 users in Austin alone? This service is available in 50 major cities across the country.

This brings up another question I suppose: is cheating natural? Are some people designed that way, or poorly educated by society.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've been on a hiatus from TheseGentlemen the past few weeks. It's in part because of a changing work schedule where I actually have to work hard while at work, and part because I've honestly had few thoughts I felt were appropriate for this site. Arts, politics, music, film, social norms... whatever the topic, I guess I just haven't been in tune to making observations about the world. Instead, I've only been focusing on my life, my world.

But I miss writing here, and so you know what, if all I can think about is myself, well then gosh darn it I'm just going to have to write about that until I snap out of it and finally start making some grandiose remarks about the state of journalism today.

I am the prince of lists. I promise I make more than you. I make one almost every day, and I keep longer lists saved on my computer of things I need to do over the next few weeks and months. I have to-do lists and lists of bills and lists of movies and lists of bands and lists of baseball athletes. Sometimes I even make lists of friends.

I realized though, I've never made a list of goals, life goals, or anything of the sort. Like in the movie/book High Fidelity, where John Cusack's character has the lamest Top 5 List of Things I Want to Be When I Grow Up.... I don't even have a lame one of those.

To-do lists help me remember, prioritize and motivate. The only thing better than completing something on my to-do list is making a new to-do list altogether. If you're starting to worry about me right now I think that might be appropriate. For some reason though, I think I have a fear of making a to-do list of life goals. I'm afraid of not being able to cross something off the list. Or that maybe it will be some daunting reminder of something I'll never accomplish. Perhaps most of all, I'm afraid that completing these life goals won't actually satisfy me at all; that I have some insatiable propensity to simply want and desire and no matter what I do I'll always just want more. I'll never learn to be happy with what I have, and so all my happiness will always be fleeting. It's like consumerism of life.

And what if we take things a step forward. What if I'm like a combination of the characters from Scrubs, and I only want things I can't have, but once I do have it I don't want it anymore. And what if that's stemming from the fact that I only think I want something because it will make me happy, but really I just like being unhappy, so I go after things I know will sabotage my happiness, so I'm actually going after things that make me unhappy. Kind of perverse huh?

What if publishing this on the Internet is a bad idea???

I don't really know. What I do know is that now is the time. Now is the time to make a list of life goals - most just simple things I want to do and see and experience through life. No, I'll never cross many of them off my list, but I'll at least have targeted some of them and completed something.

A list:

- Walk along much of the Great Wall of China.
- Hike/backpack much of the Appalachian Trail.
- Go on a road trip from the southern tip of Alaska to the southern tip of South American in Argentina/Chile by driving along the entire western coast of the Americas.
- Eat lunch and drink wine at a cafe in Paris.
- Scuba dive off the Great Barrier Reef.
- Be a reporter on television.
- Play Barack Obama and Adrien Fenty in a pickup game of basketball.
- Write a screenplay.
- Ask someone you've only just met to go on a date.
- Climb an active volcano.
- Run at least a 5K with my mom.
- Take a photo that only I could take.
- Help my friend start a successful bar/club.
- Believe in a higher power.
- Actually read the Bible all the way through.
- Live in Manhattan.
- Time travel.
- Hang out with Woody Allen.
- Slap Gary Sinise in the face.
- Run for public office.
- Congratulate a friend for winning an Academy Award.
- Act again, but with more clothes next time.
- Learn to properly ballroom dance.
- Be a successful leader.
- Live on a tropical island for a month.
- Have the need to use a machete.
- Sky dive.
- Live without back pain.
- Go to space.

So... where do I start?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Know It's Wrong, but I Want One So Bad

Credit to;

God Bless America.

Urban Art

From the time that Jason was starting the site, one of the ideas I wanted to probe more was the effect a city has on art. Every time I see an article or blog post about how uncool DC is (or how uncool it was until Obama blessed us with his presence) I think about it.

DC is always trying to fight above it's weight class with New York and we're always going to lose in that cultural battle. Hell, Sirius, the smaller-slower-comelier of the two Satellite radio stations somehow was able to make itself the dominant partner of their new, and in the long run doomed merger with XM.

I don't think I have any definitive answer, but I'd like to pose a few questions and knock down a few straw man arguments.

* DC is a capital city, and places with "The Government" are never cool.
As I look around our area this is pretty true. Annapolis and Richmond are really really uncool. I'm not saying Annapolis isn't a nice place to visit, but it's just a city with old buildings and boats, and that will never ever be cool. But look at the big non-governmental cities in other states, has St Louis contributed much to our culture? What about San Diego, or Charlotte, or any city in Florida? Even a city like Philly hasn't had an overwhelming impact.

But then there's Europe, which shoots this theory down. London is an art center, Paris is too, and Berlin ain't bad. You could say that these countries operate much like New York state, there's the big city and then everything-else, but that's too easy. Federal governments brings in an incredible mix of people, you've got kids of diplomats, kids of scientists, kids of politicians and their staff from all over the country. Shouldn't all these teenagers be getting together and forming bands, or putting on art shows?

* DC doesn't have the space, attitude, affordable-housing, etc for poor artists.
You could call this the Baltimore theory - it's cheap in Baltimore so all the artists and musicians are there. But that also seems like a cop out. Even as gentrification spreads through the city there are still places that are livable but affordable. It's just a matter of staying a few steps ahead of the gentrification. And there's also Anacostia, I hadn't really thought about it until this post, but there's no great reason why artists couldn't stake out an affordable location in South East and set up shop.

* DC has already contributed a lot, don't get greedy.
I think it's worth saying that DC has been responsible for plenty of great music, and a lot of fantastic art (see even in Wikipedia we don't get enough credit for our own damn art). Still, the great cities - New York, London, Chicago keep cranking out great art. Scenes come and go, but it's a vibrant community that allows new ones to emerge. I think, as I said above, the constant churn, should be good for creating new art, but it often feels like artists tend to leave more than arrive (Marvin Gaye and Duke Ellington, for example).

That's all I've got for now. I'm curious for folks thoughts on things like the theater scene, which from my outsider perspective seems pretty strong.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bebop Blues

It's hard to believe that Cowboy Bebop originally aired over 10 years ago. Although it didn't make it into the States until a little bit later, the visceral anime-noir still remains a serious staple for many anime fans - evidenced, of course, by the community grab-bag of reactions to the announcement of a Cowboy Bebop live action movie (in particular, to Keanu Reeves's affirmed casting as Spike Spiegel). Although I have my own reservations about Keanu Reeves playing a character as 3-dimensional and complex as the series' protagonist - my concerns are more structural and thematic. What made Cowboy Bebop fantastic as a series wasn't just its compelling characters or its theme homages, but its music and how that made the story and animation a living, breathing entity.

Cowboy Bebop functions a lot like its own composition. Each episode (or "session") has a theme depicted by a title referencing a genre of music that'll convey the overall tone of both the episode and the featured character arch. An example: the first session is called "Asteroid Blues." Immediately, you can assume that the episode will feature a blues/jazz motif having something to do with space. The episode itself features blues and jazz music, laden with noir elements, is set at some point in the future, and follows the bounty hunting exploits of Spike and Jet on their spaceship called "the Bebop." As the series pilot, the episode succeeds both as one self-contained and conveys the general tone of the entire series. Each session applies itself to an individual character arc, which present themselves as separate movements that make up a representative compilation titled Cowboy Bebop. The music then allows the viewer to associate each character with their own theme while allowing the character and story to maintain depth and personality.

Additionally, the music itself is well orchestrated and performed. Yoko Kanno and her associates, the Seatbelts, do an exceptional job compiling, writing, and performing the wide variety of genres demanded of them. From jazz, to blues, to heavy metal each song has a particular place within the work as a whole. What's more - often the animation on screen works together with the music heard, presenting well-drawn, cinematic action sequences in a beautiful form of violence. Whether it's hand-to-hand combat, space-ship action, or the characters taking a smoke break, the animation and music move together as one, like a choreographed dance. In this sense, if the Bebop could be considered the 6th crew member, Yoko Kanno's music is certainly the 7th.

Perhaps what worries me about the upcoming movie is that these factors could very well be absent. Although movie titles typically aren't picked until the last minute, the fact that (at this point) it's still called "The Cowboy Bebop Movie" (as opposed to, say, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door) concerns me. Without conveying a sense of tone or theme with a music genre-based title, I fear that music may actually be absent from the producers' considerations in the movie's storytelling engine. Yoko Kanno, also, is rumored to have only a small roll in composing the opening theme - it would be horrific if she wasn't responsible for the rest of the score. Without her music coalescing with the on-screen action into an integrated work of art, what perhaps is one of the most integral parts of the Cowboy Bebop series will be absent and dead. To me, this would be the difference in watching a faithful adaptation of what was the first anime with which I fell in love and, well, a monkey in novelty suit parading around as a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie.

(All pictures property of Sunrise Inc.)

All is not lost, however. Reports say that the original team from the series will have significant, if not direct, control over the product Fox produces. As they created the series original and the animated movie (see Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door), allow yourselves the faith to be hopeful. If word comes that Yoko Kano will be playing a more significant part in the score, perhaps this will be a film of which to look forward.

PS - If they cast Abigale Bresline or Dakota Fanning as Ed, I will have to kill someone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

'I Love You, Man' is a Charming Bromance

On Thursday I had the opportunity to see a screening of 'I Love You, Man' with my girlfriend.  I hadn't seen any advertisements for the movie, nor had I heard anything about it from anyone other than her.  It turned out to be what 'Role Models' was to me; an understated Paul Rudd comedy that far exceeded expectations.

Paul Rudd is Peter Klaven, a reserved 30 something real estate agent who's lived his whole life without any close guy friends.  When Peter overhears his fiancĂ© Zooey (Rashida Jones) venting concerns that he won't even have a best man at their wedding, he sets out on a series of man-dates to court a male friend in time to walk down the aisle.  At an open house Peter meets Sydney (Jason Segel), a not so grown up investment banker with little barrier between what he thinks and what he says.  Peter and Sydney start to spend a lot of time together, and Zooey is generally happy for him, but eventually conflict arises between Peter the boyfriend and Peter the bro-friend, and he's forced to choose between the two.

A large part of the beginning of the film is used to introduce and relate the main characters to one another.  The investment pays off, and the transition from character development to purely humorous interaction is seamless.  Rudd's straight-laced Peter gets funnier and funnier as he opens up.  The audience is taken for a ride with Peter as he discovers more about Sydney, and as they bond over strolls on the beach, 'Rush' cover jam sessions, and confrontations with body builders, we discover that the young at heart Sydney needs Peter as much as Peter needs him.

Along the way, Rudd gets major laughs for his pitiful attempts at bro-speak.  His character's painful struggle with making a nick-name for his new friend are extremely awkward and goofy, and hard not to laugh at.  There's little drama to detract from the humor.  Most of the conflict in this movie is between Peter and himself.  

The movie plays out like a romantic comedy.  As if a tip of the hat to 'Roman Holiday', they zip around southern California on a Vespa, Segel being a disarming Gregory Peck to Rudd's uptight Audrey Hepburn.  The predictability of the storyline is easily forgivable because of the level of empathy that is galvanized for these hilarious characters.

'I Love You, Man' keeps the drama light and focuses its laughs on Rudd's awkwardness and potty humor peppered by Segel throughout the movie.  See this charming film for unexpected laughs.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Friends Like These II

Hello, and welcome to another edition of "Friends Like These." As K is proving as elusive as Bernie Madoff's money, B and I had another chat which I felt worthy of repeating here. So here is the unedited and unrevised IM conversation, as only friends can have.

Today, B and I discuss: The Armed Forces

B (22:05:50): Will Ferrell's doing a gag thing where he plays George W. Bush interviewing George W. Bush on HBO. It's called "You're Welcome, America."

Me (22:14:17): I saw that.
Me (22:14:33): I don't know if it'll really be that funny.

B (22:15:00): We're going on 9 years of Bush jokes. How does that not get stale?

Me (22:15:56): Maybe this is the last hurrah.
Me (22:16:06): Then we can move on to Tracy Morgan impersonating Obama.

B (22:17:14): No, you can't make Obama jokes.
B (22:17:20): It's not permitted, he's black.
B (22:17:24): That's why no one does.

Me (22:17:38): Black . . . like a fox!
Me (22:17:48): Besides, it's okay if other black people do it.
Me (22:17:54): Using jokes written by white folk.

B (22:18:07): Other black people are too busy swinging on his nuts to make jokes about him.
B (22:18:18): Then again, most white people are too busy swinging on his nuts to WRITE jokes about him.
B (22:19:07): Then again, according to an online poll I read, 47% of the country are strongly dissatisfied with his first 50 days in office.
B (22:19:10): So I'm not alone.

Me (22:19:11): Well he has yet to make a serious gaffe.
Me (22:19:27): Really? I read his numbers as 65% are very pleased.

B (22:19:43): Yeah, I though so...
B (22:19:56): I was more than a little surprised when I read that poll, to be honest.

Me (22:19:59): The biggest thing yet was his thing where the people he chose as commerce secretary kept turning out to have unpaid taxes.
Me (22:20:15): Other than that he hasn't made a public mistake. Give it time.

B (22:20:31): Well, I think a lot of people are upset over the stem cell thing.

Me (22:20:42): That's different.

B (22:20:45): And some people are stupid enough to be upset that he hasn't fixed the economy yet.

Me (22:20:54): Doing something unpopular isn't the same as doing something funny.
Me (22:20:57): Honestly
Me (22:21:03): I think we should pay more attention to Biden.
Me (22:21:21): From what I understand he says hilarious things by mistake almost daily.

B (22:22:53): Yeah, but he's protected by Obama. You just can't make fun of anyone in the White House right now.

Me (22:23:05): Hmm.

B (22:23:09): Maybe some day we'll move far enough forward in race equality that you can make jokes about a black President, but for now...
B (22:23:13): That's just the way things are.

Me (22:23:24): It's like Tupac said man.
Me (22:23:34): And even though it seems heaven sent, we ain't ready to see a black President.

B (22:23:35): "I see no changes"?
B (22:23:46): That, too.

Me (22:23:53): Then he talked about the war on drugs and war in the Middle East.
Me (22:23:57): Man, life sure has changed since 1994.

B (22:25:01): Well, look at it this way: Things are WILDLY different from 1984.
B (22:25:55): The fear of nuclear annihilation is out of style, the Soviets are gone, and it's US locked in an endless battle with the Afghani insurgency.

Me (22:26:11): True. Back then we had a collapsing economy and skyrocketing deficits.
Me (22:26:46): We should probably just make peace with the Taliban.

B (22:27:03): Yeah. That's a great idea.

Me (22:27:10): I'm serious.

B (22:27:18): While we're at it, we should offer Bin Laden a Key to the City of New York.

Me (22:27:34): I'm saying we should have the Taliban fight al Qaeda for us.

B (22:27:46): Oh, well, if that's what you mean...
B (22:27:50): Then you're right.

Me (22:27:51): I'm positive we have more to offer them than continuing to harbor Bin Laden.

B (22:28:04): But, we're already doing that. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as you think.
B (22:28:13): Are you familiar with the U.S. Army's Special Forces at all?

Me (22:28:17): Sure.

B (22:28:27): That's EXACTLY what they do.
B (22:28:54): In movies, you see Navy SEALs doing commando raids and black ops and all that other exciting stuff. What the Army's Special Forces do is exactly what you're talking about.
B (22:29:21): They go out and develop relationships with indigenous people, train them on a variety of subjects and tactics, and guide them towards doing our fighting for us.
B (22:29:50): That's how we invaded Afghanistan. There was no major combat there becuase we dropped a Special Forces Group in there, they united the tribes, and showed THEM how to topple the government.
B (22:30:06): The problem is that towelheads are scumbags and can't be trusted.
B (22:30:09): It's in their DNA.

Me (22:30:14): Well, maybe we made a mistake.
Me (22:30:44): We didn't invade Pakistan and overthrow their government. We just made it clear it would not be to their advantage to harbor terrorists.
Me (22:30:52): Probably could've done the same with the Taliban.

B (22:31:29): Oh, that's brilliant! Look how well that worked with Pakistan!

Me (22:31:44): I'd say it worked out great.
Me (22:31:59): We fire missiles and actually push troops into their territory.
Me (22:32:01): What do they do?
Me (22:32:05): Complain about it.
Me (22:32:19): And then go away.

B (22:32:52): I feel that people like you and me should have no idea what our most elite forces are doing in regions like that.

Me (22:33:13): Yeah, there's probably something to that.

B (22:33:30): I think when we see an Al Qaeda training camp on sattelite, we don't ask permission to go in and destroy it. We drop ninjas in in the dead of night, kill everyone there, burn it down, and by the time the sun rises, no one has any idea what happens.
B (22:33:37): And when asked, we reply, "What ninjas?"

Me (22:33:49): Now THAT
Me (22:33:52): I completely agree with.

B (22:33:55): If I was in charge of defense, that's how I would fight wars.

Me (22:34:06): Indubitably.
Me (22:34:19): I think the best response we can have to terrorists is to terrorize them.
Me (22:34:28): Silently, efficiently, and completely.

B (22:34:37): At the same time, I also don't believe in the present practice of dropping smart bombs and shit. Air strikes mean attention.
B (22:34:47): You can actually trace the fragments of a bomb back to the U.S.
B (22:34:57): That's why we HAVE ninjas.

Me (22:35:06): When they get together for meetings and realize there's some faces missing, they have to know that it means they're never going to see those faces again.
Me (22:35:15): And be sweating about whether or not they'll be the ones missing next.

B (22:35:29): Exactly. The bad guys just DISAPPEAR.

Me (22:35:44): I'd do it. I'd send operatives into their homes at night if I could.
Me (22:35:58): There'd be no body, no message, no trace. They'd just be gone.

B (22:36:11): Exactly. That's how I'd fight wars in the future.
B (22:36:33): Even an open war. I wouldn't start out with air strikes and parking a carrier off the coast.

Me (22:36:34): Well when I'm elected I'll make you an official adviser.

B (22:36:55): Things would start blowing up inexplicable, military officials and political leaders would start disappearing.
B (22:37:16): And THEN, I'd have Green Berets start forming an underground to overthrow their own government.

Me (22:37:36): I'm for anything that min/maxes the casualties.
Me (22:38:03): By the time ground troops roll in it should be to accept their surrender.

B (22:39:36): Then again, I would also be reducing the ranks of "ground troops" to a fraction of their current numbers. That wouldn't be popular.
B (22:41:33): I feel I could do the job of the current roughly 2 million servicemen with about 100-200 thousand.

Me (22:41:48): That would be very, very, very unpopular.
Me (22:41:57): Donald Rumsfeld is just about the most reviled name in the armed forces.
Me (22:42:04): And he had a similar opinion.

B (22:44:00): Rumsfeld was an idiot.
B (22:45:06): The fact of the matter is that war is a completely different game these days.

Me (22:45:36): Or it should be, at least.
Me (22:45:43): People in command seem to be trying to play it the old way.

B (22:45:50): Exactly.
B (22:46:09): Like I said, I could have won Iraq in half the time, with a tenth of the personnel.

Me (22:46:33): With the ninja strategy?

B (22:47:01): The problem is that I don't believe in occupations or anything like that. I don't believe in operations-other-than-war, peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, nothing like that. The job of a military is to kill the enemies of its country with efficiency.

Me (22:47:20): I feel like there has to be a lot of pressure on the people in command - meaning the President and the Joint Chiefs, along with the military secretaries - have a lot of people to please.
Me (22:47:30): because they have*
Me (22:47:38): The public, their supporters, foreign governments.
Me (22:48:04): Plus a strong and sizable military is often pointed to as a deterrent to invasion or aggression.

B (22:48:14): The problem with today's military is that it's a conscript army.

Me (22:48:39): I don't think that means what you think it means.

B (22:48:40): Less than 10% of currently serving troops believe in their country or their mission or their duty. They're there to reap the benefits or becuase they couldn't do anythin else.
B (22:48:52): It means exactly what I think it means.

Me (22:48:56): Conscription is when you're drafted or impressed.
Me (22:49:01): We have a volunteer army.

B (22:49:25): I'm aware and despite the fact that our military is volunteer, the people we get are no better than draftees.

Me (22:49:55): Yeah, but can we seriously expect to ever build anything but?
Me (22:50:05): The armed forces are the people who get paid to put up their lives for our country.
Me (22:50:30): And in my experience, even if you don't believe in it at first, the group mentality does eventually breed a good deal of patriotism.
Me (22:50:56): But when you're making the choice of whether or not to go into the army and fight, kill, and die for a cause you may not believe in at the time
Me (22:51:00): or do ANYTHING else
Me (22:51:05): most people won't sign up.

B (22:51:17): That's the idea.
B (22:51:58): You narrow the field, make it more difficult to get in, extend the training period.
B (22:52:17): We don't need bullet sponges any more, this is a different world with a different set of skills.
B (22:52:38): Hoplite warfare is over.

Me (22:53:22): I think the numbers you'd be looking at if that happened would be drastically lower than even your best estimates.

B (22:53:29): That's even better.
B (22:53:44): You don't understand what my training program is all about.

Me (22:53:47): You're forgetting something terribly important in this assesment.

B (22:54:06): A single ninja (or rather, a pair) is more effective in modern warfare than a company of cannon fodder.

Me (22:54:22): The military is not in existence to kill our enemies. That's a secondary purpose that's never been used seriously prior to the second Gulf War (and they weren't even really our enemies).
Me (22:54:31): The military is here to defend the country in case we get attacked.

B (22:54:57): How do you defend the country?

Me (22:55:01): And revolutionizing our warfare for the sake of quickly infiltrating and destroying our enemy's capacity to make war
Me (22:55:08): does not protect civilians here at home if we're under attack.

B (22:55:23): Actually, it does.
B (22:55:57): I'm talking about a completely capable warfighting army, it's just that we don't need disposable infantry anymore.

Me (22:56:31): I understand what you're saying about combat in the field.

B (22:56:55): Let me put this to you another way:

Me (22:57:01): Though I disagree somewhat about airstrikes, I feel those are incredibly useful for taking out targets from a safe distance and hampering the enemy's ability to make war.

B (22:57:17): You're misunderstanding me.

Me (22:57:21): But I'm saying if the enemy lands an army in California, how do we respond?

B (22:57:46): I'm making points one at a time, not giving you the entire proposal for the new military all at once. That's VOLUMES of writing that I'm not doing now.
B (22:58:03): You can't just try to throw out other things that I haven't addressed yet because you can't find the whole in my current point. I'll get to all of that.
B (22:58:10): But believe me, I've thought this all out.
B (22:58:14): I believe in air strikes, too.
B (22:58:23): They have their place, they have their function.

Me (22:58:26): It just seems like the first question anyone would ask if it was proposed.

B (22:58:35): Now, for my reply:
B (22:59:40): Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Mexicans invade California, to satisfy your criteria. What exactly do you think would happen if that were to happen tomorrow?
B (23:00:00): The majority of the troops in California are NOT combat personnel (something else I'm EXTREMELY against).
B (23:00:16): The ones that are are line soldiers. So, you're basically throwing our numbers against their numbers.

Me (23:00:20): You've made your feelings on support personnel clear.

B (23:00:46): You waste a lot of ammunition, a lot of people die on both sides. Even if you kill three to one, we will ALWAYS be outnumbered.
B (23:00:57): Now, what if you had 100 Navy SEALs.

Me (23:01:24): Now wait.

B (23:01:32): Elite military forces and commandoes are TRAINED to operate in smaller units and harass, ambush, and destory multiple times their number.

Me (23:01:54): Okay, so we're making that assumption.
Me (23:02:04): A bullet kills a SEAL as dead as the next guy.
Me (23:02:20): Plus you can demoralize them by clubbing their babies.

B (23:02:49): The advantage of these smaller units is their capabilities. They an employ ambush tactics while directing support fire (airstrikes and artillery) and other such things against the enemy.

Me (23:02:49): But your advantage calls for the SEAL team to be in place and ready to involve themselves in guerrila warfare.

B (23:03:32): Yes, a bullet does kill a SEAL just as easily, but they have training and tactics that make them harder to hit.

Me (23:03:36): If the Mexican invaders come to the normal ground troops who are in a base or other fortified position, they'll be at just as great a disadvantage as if they were facing SEALs.
Me (23:04:23): So if we're just putting two armies face-to-face in the field, I can somewhat see your point.

B (23:05:10): That's another thing.

Me (23:05:12): But that's assuming a lot about what our first response is going to be.

B (23:05:21): Our bases are not fortified.
B (23:05:43): There's nothing "Fort" about "Fort Shafter" or "Fort Dix" or any of those bases.
B (23:06:11): They've got chain link fences around them and CONTRACT security guards making minimum wage manning the gate.s

Me (23:06:38): I'm aware, but it's still a large area with thousands of armed soldiers with the greater familiarity of terrain and hundreds of places to hide and wait.
Me (23:07:46): As far as the business of invading other countries goes, I'm in total agreement with you.
Me (23:08:01): But I think defense of our own borders is a completely separate issue.

B (23:08:27): Military bases have nothing to do with defending our borders. Civilians do that, it's called the Customs and Border Protection agency.

Me (23:08:40): That's not what I meant and you know it.

B (23:08:41): And Border Patrol.
B (23:08:52): That's the point. YOu have no idea how these things are done.

Me (23:09:04): Uh

B (23:09:05): Hey, I gotta run, brb

Me (23:09:16): My family has been in the army since America has HAD an army.
Me (23:09:54): I've picked up a few things. You choosing to literally interpret "our borders" to mean "The border between the U.S. and Mexico and/or Canada" hardly reflects on MY knowledge.
Me (23:31:51): Well, I'm off to bed. We can pick this up again later.
Me (23:31:53): Night buddy.

B (23:32:32): Well, the bottom line is that our borders is a literal term, and that defending it is a military's job, not a civilian agency.
B (23:33:02): And if Mexico were to roll an army across the border now, CBP would make first contact.

Me (23:33:04): It's somewhat a tangent from what we were discussing, but okay.
Me (23:33:06): I can agree with that.

B (23:33:20): And it would be days before the Army were mobilized to counterattack.
B (23:34:15): My point is that, bottom line, if we were attacked tomorrow, our military is not ready to just turn around and defend the country. Your argument that my version of the military wouldn't do its job is flawed because THIS version of the military can't do it.

Me (23:34:45): Well that's a fair enough point, BUT

B (23:34:49): And I can assure you that my re-envisioning of the military would do a better job of it.
B (23:35:13): If you want to hear more about my vision for a next generation army, let me know.

Me (23:35:36): I still firmly believe that in order for this to really work there has to be a separation of offensive and defensive units.
Me (23:35:53): And that defensive should be considerably larger and trained specifically for the purpose of fighting within America itself.

B (23:36:28): There's not a separate offense and defense now.
B (23:36:31): Unless you count the national guard.
B (23:36:39): Whcih, again, would take days to mobilize.

Me (23:36:50): I didn't say there was.
Me (23:37:04): I'm talking about reorganization too.

B (23:39:01): Well, my reorganization invovles folding the CIA, CBP, BP, and a number of other agencies into the military.

Me (23:39:20): Yeah? Well MY reorganization involves wizards and flying tigers.
Me (23:40:04): What are you going to do when a wizard riding a flying tiger comes at you with a fully automatic sub-machinegun? Die in awe, that's what.

B (23:40:41): I'm sorry, are you saying that my idea is far-fetched?

Me (23:40:56): No, I thought we were playing "top this."
Me (23:41:44): Though many people probably would if you continue to use "ninja" as the term for special forces operatives.
Me (23:41:53): It's a very loaded term.

B (23:42:15): It's shorthand. Plus, I use it to convey an image.
B (23:42:52): Besides, frankly, that's what they are.

Me (23:43:08): I saw an episode of Mythbusters where a ninja literally caught an arrow out of the air.
Me (23:43:18): It took him like 7 or 8 tries, but once he got one he could do it every time after that.

B (23:44:43): I saw this thing on Fight Science where they proved that a ninja's balance and agility really are like a cat, and not one other martial arts master could do the things he could do.

Me (23:45:34): Fight Science?

B (23:46:49): Yeah. It's this show where they use a variety of equipment to test out the abilities of martial arts (and the fighters who use them). For example, to see which martial arts style hits the hardest, they have these experts hit a crash test dummy and see how much damage it would cause.
B (23:47:45): They found that the mhuy thai knee strike was the most powerful, striking with the force of a 35 mile per hour car crash.
B (23:47:55): Followed closely by the TKD spinning back kick.

Me (23:48:13): That's awesome.
Me (23:48:19): I've seen some pretty sick mhuy thai fighters.
Me (23:48:28): Have you heard of the show The Warrior?
Me (23:49:18): It's about a guy who travels around the world seeking weapons and fighters of the countries he goes to and challenging them.

B (23:50:42): I saw that before when it was called Human Weapon about these two dudes that would go around the world and learn fighting styles from different regions and then at the end of the week, they compete in a match.

Me (23:50:58): I remember that show.
Me (23:52:58): Alright, I should get to bed.

B (23:53:07): Pax.

Me (23:53:14): Peace dude.