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Still struggling with struggle

Recently, I was musing on the idea that admiration for struggle is built into the core of American and perhaps all western culture (and maybe cultures beyond that.) If we feel something arose out of great struggle we value it more than if it was born by an easy process. In a way, that’s rather backwards – we ought to admire people who managed to create things easily and efficiently as that is the model we would presumably want to follow.

So, I was in church yesterday – something I rarely do but in this case they were performing a piece of music I wanted to hear – and at one point the Pastor read from The poem “Ulysses” by Alfred Tennyson. This particular passage stood out:

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Fundamentally, we have an old man in final years, his strength declining but he’s still striving, still seeking, still finding, not yielding! Still struggling. I heard this and thought, “Geeez, that’s not how I want to spend my final years. I’d rather take it easy on a barcalounger with a couple of Mai Tais and watch old Seinfelds.” Why do we have to equate accomplishment with never-ending struggle, with being unyielding?

Certainly, if you go into past human history, I think there was a lot of legitimate struggle. You could run out of food and have to travel the barren lands in search of new meals. You could be attacked by hoards of pygmies who would enslave your children and impregnate your women with their tiny demon seed. But in case you’ve missed it, there’s not much of that happening now. These days, people are struggling to get their kids to baseball practice or their Power Point presentation online. Why don’t we relax a bit?

Red soldier resurfaces

Here’s a story ready made for movies if there ever was one.

A former Red Army soldier who went missing in action (MIA) in 1980 during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has been found alive almost 33 years after he was rescued by Afghan tribesmen.

Now living under the name of Sheikh Abdullah and working as a traditional healer in the Shinand District of Afghanistan, the former Soviet soldier Bakhredtin Khakimov, an ethnic Uzbek, was tracked down by a team from Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, a nonprofit, Moscow-based organization that leads the search for the former Soviet Union’s MIAs in Afghanistan.

“He received a heavy wound to the head in the course of a battle in Shanind district in September 1980 when he was picked up by local residents,” the organization said in a statement posted on its website. “He now leads a semi-nomadic life with the people who sheltered him.”

Printable weapons

I was commenting a while back on the idea that drones – of the same sort we are using in Afghanistan and Pakistan – could fall into the hands of drug cartels in Mexico and we could see them flying into border states. Weapons technology has become so democratized that even non-state actors (e.g cartels, terrorist orgs, Boy Scouts) can access it.

But it’s not just drones. Amidst all the talk of gun control, this Wired article makes the point that guns, including assault weapons, can now be printed via 3-D printers. The difficulties of regulating or banning such devices are obvious.

I think we’re clearly headed into an era where technology is going to be beyond the reach of governments. You want to create a bio-virus that can wipe out a metropolis? The instructions and technology will be out there regardless of the illegality.

The best thing to do is to start cannibalizing your neighbors now – before they come for you.

The Martian invasion begins

You may have heard that a meteor broke apart into tiny pieces and hit a Russian town. Hundreds of injuries are reported.

There is little discussion about whether a strange greenish gas is being emitted from the meteor craters. And little musing as to whether metallic tripod devices have been seen rising from the meteor pits with lasers blasting.

I’m not saying this is happening, I’m saying we don’t know. Because the “media” refuses to investigate.

A cheetah’s life

I went for a mid morning run today; something I rarely do (usually I run in the evenings if I run at all.) For whatever reasons I tired out sooner than usual and was just beat. It got me thinking that this must be what a lot of predatory animals like cheetahs experience. You’re chasing after a gazelle or something and you tire out and are just plain exhausted. And it was all for nothing – you didn’t get the gazelle.

And you probably have some friend come up – a fellow cheetah or something – and say, “What’s wrong dude?”

And you say, “I was chasing after a gazelle and he got away and now I’m totally fucking tired.”

And he says, “Whoa, that’s a bummer dude.”

And you mutter, “I would kill you if I wasn’t so tired.”

And he says, “What’s that?”

And you say, “Uh, gee, have you seen the new issue of WIRED?”

It would suck to be a cheetah.

The death of greetings

There’s a mountain near my house which I occasionally like to hike around. As you might expect, you often run into various people doing the same thing. The weird thing is, were I to encounter these people walking around the neighborhood, I wouldn’t feel any need to acknowledge them, but out in nature, you feel this need to say hi.

The problem is that often people don’t return your hello. Or they return it with a lesser, inferior version of your greeting. Like you say, “Hello,” and they say, “Mmm.” Or you say, “Hi,” and they just give you a little curt nod. You want to grab them by the throat and say, “Look you dick fucker, ‘mmm’ is not equal to ‘hello’! Do you think you’re better than me or something!?”

The result of all this is that when I now see someone coming I question whether I should even acknowledge them at all. Because of being poorly greeted by all those people in the past, I am now becoming like them. And thus society is slipping into the abyss of evil.

What about our fellow canine Americans?

I really find this ad to be insulting to dogs.

Depressing words from Brian Keene

You often see writers or other artistic types do these kind of “how to’s” about their profession. But this one, by horror author Brian Keene, struck me as being something exceptional. After talking about the economics of writing he gets into how it destroyed his marriages (well, in fairness, he acknowledges his faults as well) and then talks about losing friends.

Writing has also cost me friends—both from before I became a writer and after. Childhood chums, pissed off that I mined so much of our lives for fiction. Friends from High School and old Navy buddies who I no longer had anything in common with, who assumed that just because they saw my books in stores or my movies on television that I must somehow be wealthy and hey, could I lend them a few dollars or help them get published or be the dancing monkey and star attraction to impress all their friends and family members with at their next Christmas party. Fellow writers and peers, people I’d come up with, promised to do it together with, only to have them lose touch with me when I got successful.

As one of the commenters says, “This is a fantastic and fairly horrifying post…”

Senator Daniel Inouye: Serious Mofo

Amidst the 24/7 Newtown coverage, you may have caught wind that Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye died. I, of course, grew up in Hawaii, and Inouye was Senator the whole time I was there. (He spoke at my high school graduation, so we were pretty much related.)

While I was aware Inouye lost his right arm in an act of battlefield valor during WW II, I was unaware of how utterly insane the event was. USA Today tersely describes the story in its obit.

Already wounded by a bullet to his midsection, Inouye was lobbing hand grenades at the enemy when his right arm was almost completely severed by an enemy grenade launcher.

With his left arm, Inouye reached over to pry the live grenade out of his debilitated arm. Hours later while receiving treatment at an Army hospital, Inouye’s right arm was amputated.

But this site, which lauds Inouye as its Badass of the Week, provides more detail.

From this point on in the battle, Lieutenant Daniel Inouye of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team went into Total Fucking Berserker Meltdown Mode. He doesn’t even remember what happened next – but his awestruck platoon members sure as fuck do.

While still bleeding profusely from the mangled stump that used to be his right arm, Daniel Inouye ditched the grenades, unslung the Tommy Gun, and started firing it one-handed while running all over the goddamned battlefield like a fucking maniac, blasting the holy living shit out of anything with a gray helmet. He cleared out the third machine gun position with the Tommy Gun, changed the magazine, and then started running towards the main body of the enemy position, by himself, shooting the machine gun with his off-hand, wasting Nazis left and right in a hail of gigantic bullets. Finally, after rampaging like a madman, Inouye was shot in the leg, lost his footing, and fell down a hill. Unable to move, but unwilling to back down, Inouye propped himself up against the nearest tree, kept firing, and refused to be evauated until his Sergeants had moved the unit into position and prepared defenses for the inevitable German counterattack. All told, he had killed 25 Germans and wounded 8 more, and he’d literally done it all single-handedly. When the men in his unit came to the hospital and recounted the events to Inouye, his exact words were, “No, that can’t be… you’d have to be insane to do all that.”

One final interesting tidbit from the USA Today piece:

In 1944, Inouye narrowly avoided death in France when a bullet struck him in the chest and hit two silver dollars he carried in his shirt pocket for good luck.

I wouldn’t have guessed…

Interesting headline: Obama: marijuana use not a top priority for federal prosecutors

You know, they just smoke a bit on weekends.