for 15 December 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
The Catcher in the Wheat
Well, people are reading your recent here. One CGSC-bound Maj says you are right on the money...
Are you eligible to go the academy? Age restrictions are applicable, as are a ban on marriage/dependents.
Also, is the ernie pyle curator related?
Prof. Phil Giltner, Dept of History
I'm not eligible to go to the academy. The age waiver is one thing, but the homesick-and-tired-of-regimentation waiver has not yet been invented. I am as a certain first sergeant recently pointed out, at some length, with his spit flying into my face not really habitually or temperamentally suited to soldiering. I mean, I've mostly learned how to obey orders without questioning them... But I haven't figured out how to not really hate it. So.
And so on, but you probably don't have the patience for a close reading of my top ten reasons for being ready to go home.
But, yes, thanks for this it's very, very funny how large the gap is between the daily reality of my life as PFC Bray, 11M10, and the, um, everything else that makes up my life. I keep having to answer the question: "What the fuck are you smiling at, private?" And I can never really explain it.
Not related to any ernie pyle curators,
Ambrose Beers (pfc, usa)
Another great column on matters martial. On an unrelated note, I have to wonder just how many more of them I'll get to read. My daily Suck fix being paid for by webvertising whose value keeps plummeting, it seems that keeping the doors open is more of a crapshoot every day. Keep 'em coming if you can...
DON'T EVER SAY THAT AGAIN. If you jinx us, I swear to god...
Really, though, Suck's not going anywhere. Last I heard and I'm way out of the loop on this, but a few crumbs sometimes fall my way we were earning mad profits for our corporate whatevers, and had been for a good long time. It'll take a restraining order to make us stop.
Pathetically infatuated with freelance income,
Your decision to join the army continues to puzzle me, but I know two things for certain: it's turning you into an excellent writer, and it's correcting a lot of my prejudices about military culture. Great work.
That's why. And as much as I started to doubt the whole thing after the piece of paper was signed, the instinct that originally drove the idea turned out to be a good one.
Now if I can just convince, you know, my friends and family and stuff.
Steel on target as usual. I look no further to my experiences in the Army to see the weird stratification that happens. My cousin, a West Point helicopter pilot, could not stand the fact that I went in enlisted, joined the infantry, and had the good sense to get out while the getting was good. He had, and has, a comical disdain for my give a fuck lifestyle. That's a critical difference between any OCS officer and a West Point person. People from West Point have a funny sense of entitlement about them. Every West Point grad had a pronounced assholeishness: they were impossible to deal with. "Hey- I had to get up every day at 2:00AM for 4 years- Why can't you men make it to formation on time??!!!" I can only imagine what it would have been like to go to combat with one of these guys.My cousin did arrange for me get a ride on a helicopter once. That was cool.
All other things aside, I still love to talk like an army guy. Steel on target? Kill kill, brother. Got you lima charlie. See how much fun that is?
Ten years from now my children are gonna be complaining about having to get dressed for school, and I'm gonna be telling them to suck it up and drive on, and it's gonna be very, very enjoyable.
And the helicopter rides make it all worth it. I got to fire a Mark 19, and that's the only thing I plan on remembering about this place. Know what I mean? I bet you do.
Subject: War, Women and Hell
It's Chris, right?
I suppose the last thing you need or ever is me fawning over today's bit, so I'll just point out that I've now been moved to respond to Suck twice, and both times you were the catalyst. Great minds, I guess (or twisted, conflicted, obtuse). I was raised by women, but I compete in the society of men (man), so your point today had daggers for teeth. (I won't saddle you with the tale of my own military service, but it's also a factor.)
You seem to read broadly. I attended a lecture by Antonio Damasio, author of Descartes' Error, here at Microsoft on Wednesday. Fascinating guy. Major mental horsepower. Great new research to be published this month in Nature and some obscure neuroscience rag.
I've been mulling an essay that you might find at least curious. What could Sylvia Plath and deceased porn starlet Savannah possibly have in common? You'd be surprised.
I toss all this out because you strike me as a person who might agree with my view that the mind is a terrible thing.
I'll be racing sailboats tomorrow, looking closely at the dynamic between the men around me struggling the harness the wind, hoping to defeat other men. I'll also most likely freeze my ass off.
Keep up the interesting work. The audience is listening.
Umm... Ted Hughes used to moan "yeaaaaah, baby, you like that?" a lot? Send it when it's done sounds like one of those strange ideas that just might work.
One suggestion: Just start kicking ass on the other guys, out there on the sailboat. It's like taking a shortcut.
It sure is,
Awesome...and I'm ex-Navy!
Seriously, Once an Eagle is one of those books that makes you feel that there is hope in the armed forces for what I used to see as the 'forces for good'.
When I was in the Navy, I benefited from senior enlisted men and officers who had no reason to help me they just did. Thus, when I had reason and seniority to care about men working for me I did, not because I was told to, but because it felt right.
I find that as one carries this over to other careers these principles continue to stand one in good stead.
You should know that your columns are one of my favorite things in Suck.
John Mulhern III, AQ2 (AW), USN (Ret)
Thanks for writing, and yeah: You meet some pretty incredible people in the military. You also meet some people who are incredible in a whole other way, but never mind. There's no question that there's stuff you learn from the good ones that you get to carry with you for the rest of your life. So I'm grateful for the army. Irritated, and sick of it, and grateful. Odd, huh?
In the "Catcher in the Wheat," you mention Faludi's assertion that an importance placed on the mere numbers of humans killed by state-sponsored violence, i.e. "body count," was something new to the armed forces. She relates this to the new managerial style adopted around the time of the Vietnam War. While I certainly agree with her general grasp of the armed forces' replacement of a tribal or family metaphor with a business or production metaphor, and while I hate to quibble with any part of such a fine book, she is wrong when she states that an obsession with number of enemy dead was a new phenomena. A certain number of enemy dead was one of the requirements to celebrate a Roman triumph.
I am perhaps not as nit-picky as I am seem; Faludi is not alone in modern cultural commentators in placing the flaw, rottenness, or what have you of our culture in the behaviors we learn from the soulless corporation. However there is really nothing new under the sun; the temple management and empire-running of the ancient world looks an awful lot like the corporate world to me. Fatal abstraction, irresponsible hierarchies, and a total disregard for the people who actually do the work can all be seen in any civilization worthy of the name, and are perhaps defining features of the term.
Well said, and the rare unexpected comment. No argument here. Thanks.
Your commentary on "Once an Eagle" was gut wrenching. I have been in the military for over 20 years. I started out as an E-1 and have since become a commissioned officer. I have seen many people like Courtney in my time and the shame of it all is they are the ones in this day and age who are now running the military. The great leaders I have personally worked for have been cast out as "out of touch". I fully embrace the tenets of leadership and comradery of which you speak. The problem is it's hard to find much of it in today's military. This is why I have made the painful decision to retire after my next assignment. It pains me to look back and realize how great this organization was and how much less it has become.
Patrick Hodgson LT USN
Important first point: If you've served for over 20 years, you've done your part and then some, and thank you.
I'm in the army, and won't be doing anywhere near twenty it's just a really, really unimpressive organization. And I think that this may not be as awful as it seems to be, from inside the thing. Remember the state of the U.S. military at the onset of the Spanish-American War, or World War I, or World War II, or the Korean War... I think it may simply be the unalterable tendency of any military organization to return to a condition of mediocrity, outside of wartime. Let's see if I can hint at why in a single anecdote, and save us both some time: The Primary Leadership Development Course, here at Fort Benning, is the course every E-4 has to go through to get their stripes. And its motto is: "Maintain the Standard!" I never really thought about that, especially much, until a friend here pointed it out and talked about how angry it made him. Because, he's right, the army's rallying cry for its youngest set of leaders exhorts them to... Maintenance! Standardization! (Follow me!)
Inspiring, huh? I mean, the military is built on a model of regimentation, of enforcing the same standard for everyone and that's a posture that's inherently anti-excellence. Absent an urgent national need for excellence, an institution built around this kind of thinking is going to find the low water mark every time. It's just not going to have any use for someone who blows the curve, at either end.
And, again, I'm not convinced that that's finally a truly awful thing. It means that a lot of excellent people are going back into the civilian world, where they can make important contributions but they're still there, if we need them. Good leadership is immutable; sometimes it just ends up in different arenas, for a while.
I hope that doesn't sound like total, useless bullshit. And again, thank you for those twenty-plus years.
This article is really...funny. Having served in times of war in the US Army, I digested what you wrote and bounced it off of my experiences and guess what? There was a connection. But not the way that you describe it.
I would imagine that this article would appeal to some leftist egalitarian "war is gender neutral" radical, but to folks who have been there it appears to be ridiculous. How can it be any different?
Sure, there are always going to be folks who hold a paternal instinct for subordinates. Does that condition apply specifically to veterans or serving military personnel the generation after Vietnam? I doubt it. Nor does the Vietnam generation hold any special "message" for others other than that their attempts at world peace failed, but their attempts to destroy masculinity in the military were a tremendous success. The "bonding" you describe, the paternal instinct which you obviously tell us is, gosh, feminine, is actually quite masculine. You see, when you are in a war and you start seeing people you work with get blasted into thousands of pieces or riddled with bullets and bombs and killed before your very eyes, it isn't paternal instinct that takes over..it is blood lust.
War sets the standards, not ideology, not gender, not behavior. But certain levels of killing increase depending upon the preparedness of soldiers entering war, over those that are more prepared. Masculine soldiers are more prepared because war is a masculine condition. War doesn't care if you are feminine, if you are a male, or female, or if you are a homosexual and apply that behavior to what you do in life war does not care.
I have to tell you if you think that the upper echelons of the armed forces are paternal adherents you are sadly mistaken. If you believe that the armed forces is becoming more feminine, I would agree with you. But that isn't because the soldiers are becoming feminine, it is because they are forced to operate in a feminine box which hurts their ability to fight wars. Think I am kidding? Wait until the next shooting match and ask yourself why there is the reluctance there is to utilize ground forces in any conflict since the Persian Gulf War. Can you imagine what would have happened to this feminized force if it was sent in against the Yugoslavian Regulars during the Kosovo crisis?
The greatest ally to feminism and the pro-homosexual agenda in the US armed forces is deliberate non-involvement in warfare, and policy shifts that seek to appease enemies around the world, thus securing the temporary agenda of non-engagement of those forces. It may last...but I tend to believe eventually that will be tested, at which time you will look upon your article and see it for the misread that it is.
I'm enlisted infantry, myself, so I doubt the "leftist egalitarian 'war is gender neutral' radical" label is one that'll stick. And I'm really clear, on a daily basis, of the fact that the upper echelons of the military really aren't made up of "paternal adherents." That's why I said that a subculture of the officer corps wants to view itself as thinking that way; I made a series of qualified statements, and you blew right past all of them to find the agenda you were looking for. Assuming that you care all that much, you ought to go back and try reading that one again. Because you're not responding to anything that I actually wrote.
You say, for example, that I've described the paternal bonding of the military as feminine, neglecting to mention its roots in combat. Did you notice the part about describing a notion of masculinity that grew out of World War II? World War II involved, guess what, combat. As for the use of the word "motherhood," I was actually Susan Faludi was, originally, and I quoted her and agreed noting an irony, that a particular brand of manhood born out of combat was made up of characteristics that have been seen as feminine. You have to read pretty carelessly to turn that into a call for riflemen to dress up in skirts and hug each other.
By the way, we're not unprepared to fight because of feminization. The list of reasons why we're unprepared to fight is a long one, and if that one appears at all, it doesn't even make the top ten. Here's one of the top reasons: The next fight we send a whole lot of body bags home from won't be against "Yugoslavian regulars." It'll look a whole lot more like the fight in Mogadishu and we're not doing any MOUT training. Worry about women after you convince the army to start preparing for combat against the ad hoc separatist armies and loosely organized terrorist cells that are going to be the major military threat of the next several decades. The attack on the Cole? Two guys with a leaky boat and a bunch of homemade explosive that they cooked up in a borrowed apartment. Get used to it. We should be praying for "regulars" neat lines of Soviet-era tanks, every combatant in uniform as an adversary.
I should also mention the E-4 I worked with who wasn't worried about being fat, and didn't see the need to run and stay fit, because "once you get into combat, adrenaline takes over." All those little soft kids in front of the Nintendo system aren't suffering from girlishness.
And so on. Really, try again. Please.
Hit & Run 12.7.00
Damn, did someone at Suck go through a really vicious, ugly breakup with someone at The New Yorker?
Agreed the Denby piece was ridiculous, agreed The New Yorker gets up on its high horse much of the time but that's kind of the point of the magazine (and isn't that a significant part of Suck's charm as well?). There are arguably much more stupid publications out there that you could slam with equal glee.
Take Soma, for example. A tastefully matte-finished and meaningless periodical that somehow got delivered to my boss, who passed it along to me in the hope that I could tell her why it exists. I read it, and it appears to be in English yet its intention remains elusive. So far as I can tell, it's not about anything, much like Seinfeld (except without the stabs at chin-chucking ethnic humor). Talk about "middlebrow fish-wrap."
You guys entertain me, and your commentary is often right on. But please don't become a one-track complaining machine, that'd be boring and a waste of your talent.
Thanks for the constructive criticism, Mia. You're right. Slamming a meaningless matte-finish magazine about nothing that no one's read is probably a much worthier and fascinating pursuit than critiquing The New Yorker. That's up there with doing an in-depth expose on Big Brother, a meaningless show that no one watched.
Have you considered writing for Salon.com when you graduate?
Just joshin' ya, Mia! But really, Suck's vendetta against The New Yorker is strictly a with us/against us issue. Watch it if you don't want to end up on the old enemies list!
When't the last time you wrote a hit and run piece that wasn't a painfully forced attempt at being clever? How may of these swollen, turgid chunks of moose shit are you guys capable of producing, anyway? Even if you don't give a shit anymore and are just mailing it in, it still shouldn't be as consistently lame; you have to be making an effort -I'm guessing a substantial one to make it that fucking tedious every fucking week. Your premises are ridiculous in the worst kind of way the non-entertaining, non-enlightening, painful to witness kind of way and the points of your rants are pathetically weak. How do you fuck up a rant that bad? Are you all victims of some horrible lameass radiation accident that gave you each the ability to take a subject that should, in the hands of anyone not afflicted with a savagely virulent case of dumbass, be at least mildly interesting, and turn it into a vapid piece of crap that's about as stimulating and rewarding to read as a Philipino lottery ticket? That's my guess, anyway.
Losers. Stop sucking so bad.
Ooo, that really smarts! You got downright creative with that shit, didn't you, Michael?
Nice work, buddy. Rest assured, we'll be pushing out the moose shit just as fast as you can eat it.
And the word you're looking for is Filipino.
Victims of some horrible lame-ass radiation accident,
White Men Can't Joke
enjoyed your look at hollywood and the movie business circa the 60s to the present would you clear up one thing for me Is your inclusion of North Dallas Forty in the list with Airport, Gator, Magnum Force, Billy Jack, Death Wish and Burt Reynolds whole career except for Deliverance a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
I am not sophisticated enough to noodle it out by myself plus I am shanked thru with bias I consider Burt Reynolds a friend who made lots of movies that made lots of money which is a huge feat in itself and gotto know James Dickey because of his appreciation of North Dallas Forty and my appreciation of Deliverance
any guidance you could give me would certainly help me work thru my artistic angst
My inclusion of "North Dallas Forty" with all those movies was under the heading "popcorn movie" only, with no good or bad judgments attached. I left out "Deliverance" because that film was a smaller, less accessible movie than, say, "Smokey and the Bandit." "Herbie, The Love Bug" and "The Sting" are both in there because they were meant as mainstream entertainments, although one won several Academy Awards and the other didn't (I forget which, tho). Otherwise the movies in that list have little in common. My point was to show the skewed vision critics prefer these days of Spielberg inventing the mainstream, popcorn movie, when he obviously didn't.
Peter Biskind's book intentionally focuses on a few cliques of people and does it very well, but then he comes up with the overall conclusion that Spielberg and Lucas-type movies "ruined" Hollywood. There's no context. If Coppola and Scorsese were the norm back then, he'd be right. But they've always been the exception, then and now. At that time, Burt, Clint Eastwood, Streisand, Redford, etc. were huge stars whose movies were the norm (not "Mean Streets" or "The Conversation") and Biskind ignores them. It's a no-brainer that good movies are always the exception, except of course, when critics want to go after Spielberg.
But, yes, to relieve your angst, I do think "North Dallas Forty" is a better movie than "Herbie, The Love Bug!"