Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tuesdays With Stevie










For the past two plus years I've had to accept the fact that I've had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off which means as a single guy I have to figure our places to go and things to do so I can have some enjoyment in my life. the days are easily occupied when the weather is nice. I ride my bicycle a lot exploring the surrounding areas of where I chose to live. I do this because my fat ass needs the exercise. I find it the most pleasurable way to do so.


Finding something to do that's fun in the evening presents a challenge, especially in the suburbs. I still have yet to find a Monday night activity nearby here in Union, NJ. Back in Seattle I had no problem finding something to do on a Monday or for that matter any day of the week. I could go to NYC but I would have to make sure I finish before the last bus leaves at around 12:30.

Right when the party gets rolling.


My favorite bar activity in recent years has bee karaoke. It was something I picked up in Seattle after a nasty breakup left me with no friends in the vicinity of where I was. So karaoke was what I came up with to meet new people. Since I can sing better than most participants, I got over my shyness in meeting people.

New Jersey is not a great place for karaoke. The stereotype of karaoke bars as being tacky, sad places are represented here. I found one that was good at the shore. Good host, Great selection of songs and a crowd that leaned on the local college crowd. After I moved up north, the haul down to Mad Hatter's was too long that I had to find a new venue. Most karaoke close to Union are on the weekends after 10 at night which is impractical for someone who gets up at 4AM.

I tried some places up here that wasn't up to snuff, so I would spend many Tuesdays down the shore, A hour plus ride. I found one place in Jersey City that did karaoke on Tuesdays called O'Connell's that I thought was okay but didn't warm up to it on my first visit.


But then I figured out something else to do on Tuesdays. I joined up a group called Meetup.com that is kinda like Match.com but it's a group gathering. I joined one groups that got together for board game nights which I find great but occurs only on a monthly basis. Then it dawned on me. What have I been wanting to do for almost 15 years but was too lazy and forgetful?

Drawing sessions using a live model.


I found one that did it on Tuesdays at Paul Vincent studios in Hoboken. Ten bucks gets you three hours of short to long poses. Any medium of your choice and the encouragement to BYOB. I bring two micro beers I buy at Super Buy Rite. And it's like I'm back in SVA classes minus the indoor smoking. Every model has been great and I get that great feeling of satisfaction in seeing my results.

The sessions are over at 10PM. An ideal time for those who work during the week. Also, It is early enough to head to O'Connell's where I have warmed up to the crowd there. It's a more cosmopolitan crowd than I would find in other bars. A great bartender named Sue who has to endure my need for her to dig deep in the fridge to grab whatever obscure beer I request from her.


I'm hoping that some of my friends would find themselves wanting to do either one of these events I do. They're fun.





Tuesdays with Stevie.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where Was The Anger Back in the Day?








There is a lot of anger out there on the streets today. It features people shouting out slogans of hate towards the president and his agenda, Or at least their perception of what his agenda is, though it really is not based on reality or facts. Their anger is way out of proportion to what is going on in the current executive government. When one mentions how shocking the hatred to our current president is, The usual retort is that the hatred is nothing compared to the hatred of George Bush by those on the left.


Well, first I would disagree with that. At this point (2002) during the Bush years, There was nowhere near the amount of protests against the government. Certainly there was no media outlet on television that slammed Bush 24/7 back then. This was despite the fact that at this time during the Bush years he had stolen the presidency (Violated the 10Th Amendment of the Constitution in the process), Failed to prevent the largest terrorist attack in world history despite ample warnings, Gave money to the Taliban (Supposedly In reward for eradicating poppy fields), Started a mismanaged war in response while planning a disastrous war based on lies and Bush had an economy that was on a faster downward spiral than the economy is now.

No, We weren't attacking the president back then in significant numbers, We were told to respect the presidency by the dominant media of the day. Or else.

I just read the book "Where Men Win Glory" I picked out of the library. It wasn't my intention to read another book that reaffirms my negative feelings towards the Bush administration. I had just finished the book "Zeitoun" that showed how much the Bush administration was culpable in the New Orleans disaster. But when you read "Where Men Win Glory" by Jon Krakauer, You can't help but feel a real anger that WOULD justify the kind of protests that are out there today but money is more important to the teabaggers than people's lives so I guess I'm barking up the wrong tree.


"Where Men Win Glory" is a broad overview of the Pat Tillman story and the events surrounding his death. Pat Tillman was a NFL football player, Who right at the peak of his playing days rejected a million dollar football contract to join the US Army after the events of 9-11 convinced him that he needed to do something more direct than to put a yellow magnet on his car.

The Bush administration was using any opportunity to rally people to his so-called "War on Terror" and Pat Tillman's enlistment was a PR dream. A top tiered football player leaving his millionaire job to fight for his country. That was great! The rest of us can go back to shopping.

About a year and a half after he joined Pat Tillman died in combat after his unit got ambushed. The news was shocking to say the least. Still the PR machines went into overdrive about Tillman's heroics against the enemy combatants. Far Right Winger Ann Coulter was praising Tillman for fighting for the conservative cause and Left wing cartoonist Ted Rall did a cartoon that was misconstrued as slamming Tillman as a lunkhead who was an idiot for joining the Army Rall DID feel that Tillman was a tool. Neither of them got the story correct. Pat Tillman's story was more complicated than that.

For one thing Pat Tillman wasn't your typical football player. He was pretty much an atheist who was fascinated with other religions and philosophies and was always looking to expand his knowledge of the world. He was a listener who always sought out other people for debates, He deemed that everyone regardless of education had something of value to express. He was very tough guy who could be very sensitive and angst ridden. He was a cat person. He kept a journal that revealed among other things that his reaction to 9-11 wasn't as knee-jerk as we were led to believe.

For one thing He took time to examine all the reasons he should go or not go to fight. He thought it out for a long time before he joined the Army. He did not come from a military family, so it wasn't a family trait or duty. His parents encouraged free thinking.

He was critical of the Bush administration approach to the war in Afghanistan and did whatever he can to avoid being used as a PR tool for the cause. He gave no interviews after joining the army because he didn't want to be used as a tool for someone else's PR campaign. He even talked about voting for John Kerry in 2004 and set up a future meeting with left wing intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Pat Tillman in his efforts to convince his family he was doing the right thing always pointed out that he signed up for only three years and that when he got back he would be less than 30 years old and would have enough years in the NFL to live modestly enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. He was confident enough to know he had the skills to become an elite Army Ranger and spent most of his time training to be one.

Meanwhile, Bush was planning on starting a second war with Iraq. Through a series of speeches and misdirects and a media that was shockingly uncritical of the information that was given them, Americans were convinced that we needed to fight in Iraq in order to win the "War On Terror" and to wipe out Saddam Hussein's "Weapons of Mass Destruction"

Tillman was already enlisted but was skeptical about any reason to got to Iraq. But when he was done with training it was Iraq that he went to. He was in the vicinity of where Jessica Lynch and her unit was ambushed by Iraqis during a botched mission. Tillman observed with interest how her story got played up in the media, How the first casualty of war, The truth, was on its way to being absent from any official news coverage of the day. The propaganda in telling the Jessica Lynch story to the American people was so laughingly transparently lacking in truth it made Tillman take notice.

Tillman became very aware of the possibility that his own possible death would be used for PR purposes and made every effort to ensure that it wouldn't. Tillman's brother Kevin joined the army and served in the same unit as his brother Pat. Tillman constantly talked to his brother and others to ensure that his death would not be party to propaganda. However, When you're dead, there is nothing you can do to prevent this.

On April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. It was reported he was killed by the enemy in an ambush. It was an ambush all right but shot by the enemy? Well, if you're Pogo the possum there may be truth to it. Since it was one of our own soldiers that shot Pat Tillman dead. A victim of fratricide, otherwise known by the sickeningly evasive term "friendly fire"

In the immediate aftermath of Tillman's death, The media was reporting his death as the results of enemy fire, Fed by the deliberately evasive army and administration "official" reports. Sure enough, Tillman's worst fears came true as his death was being used as a recruitment tool. It was election year and both wars were starting to be bogged down by both incompetence and indifference and the idea that an NFL hero sacrificed his riches and his life to fight the "War on Terror" was gold for Bush and his election chances in 2004. And the media went along with that. They didn't investigate with any effort the real events that led to Tillman's death.


After the media had their field day reporting Pat Tillman's heroics, After Pat Tillman's unit was told to be silent about the events, After memorials for Tillman that called for some revenge, and after his story started to fade away the Tillman family was finally told that Pat Tillman "may" have been the victim of friendly fire.

Now, the army has a history of not revealing all the facts of goes on in a time of war. They feel it hurts morale so they do whatever they can to soften the blow. They thought that telling the family the truth (as little as necessary) would allow any possible investigation to fade in the sunset.

But there was a fly in the ointment. That fly was named Mary Tillman, Pat's mother. She was not satisfied with the army's version of the truth. She and her family took advantage of Pat's notoriety to find out the truth. Her tenaciousness finally got the absurd events that led to Pat Tillman's death and the absurd efforts to cover it up.

It all started with a broken down Humvee while Tillman's unit was on patrol in Afghanistan in April of 2004.

The breakdown of the Humvee was definitely a problem. One solution was to call for a helicopter to come and take it away. That was deemed impractical to the higher ups as that type of resource was being put to "better use" in Iraq. (By 2004, Bush was not concerned with Bin Laden anymore despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was already captured and the war in Iraq was really over and that the only reason we were still there in my estimation was so Bush would win his election in 2004. Remember, Daddy Bush left Iraq too early in 1991 and lost his re-election bid in 1992. George Bush Junior didn't want to make that mistake.) So any efficiency of moving that Humvee by helicopter was out of question.

Leaving the Humvee behind even with all the equipment taken out and leaving a burning husk was also out of the question for "security" reasons. So the unit had to figure out how to tow away the Humvee while continuing their mission. They hired a local tower to tow it.


Then the platoon gets a command (from afar) to split up into two groups despite hard protests by those who were in-country. They were ordered to fulfill an arbitrary Donald Rumsfeld created timetable, and the broken down Humvee threatened this goal. They split up, Serial One with Pat Tillman going one way, Serial Two with Kevin Tillman going another way. Treacherous roads forced Serial Two to backtrack and head back the same path as Serial One.

Meanwhile it got dark and Serial One was set up in the hills to await any possible ambush by the enemy. Meanwhile Serial Two approaches and mistakes Serial One for the enemy and starts shooting. Serial One knew quickly that Serial Two was friendly and did whatever it took to indicate they were friendly. That included Pat Tillman standing up declaring "I'm Fuckin' Pat Tillman!" but to no avail. In the "fog of war" soldiers can get trigger happy and tragic results can happen. Pat Tillman was shot in the head at close range by a soldier in his own unit who never bothered to confirm whether he was shooting at an enemy.

You can expect misinformation to come out of a tragedy as this but the amount of lies, cover ups, and propaganda surrounding Tillman's death was shameful. The Bush administration was effective at using the emotions of Tillman's death to further their agenda that when the truth finally did come out, Americans were tired of the story and were weary of the war enough to not be outraged at a cover up at Watergate proportions.

Bush won in 2004, barely. No American president has ever lost an election during a time of war but Bush came really close.

Yes, Jon Krakauer rakes the Bush administration over the coals, particularly Donald Rumsfeld. But he does expose all facets of Patrick Tillman's personality including some of his character flaws. Krakauer examines Osama Bin Laden's history and matches time lines of his life with that of Pat Tillman to give you a sense on how such different paths of the two men would meet in the world theater.


But the most shocking revelation in Krakauer's book is in his overview of the history of Afghanistan that Jimmy Carter may have been responsible for the end of the Cold War. (my interpretation) Krakauer was not giving props to Jimmy Carter. He was critical of his behind the scenes actions that drew the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and get lost in a decade long quagmire that ultimately severed the Soviet Union will.


This book made me angry at the stupidity of war, Angry at the way Tillman's death was covered up, Angry at how easily the populous can be led to believe obvious lies of an administrations. Angry enough to understand teabagger like protests (minus the illiterate racist signs)if it were to occur back when the events of Tillman's death happened.


But Krakauer is no liberal hack. He is an outdoors man who identified with Pat Tillman's gusto for adventure and danger. He wrote "Into The Wild" and "Into Thin Air". "Where Men Win Glory" gives a good overview of both wars and the history of Afghanistan and Bin Laden that will give enough Bush apologists enough meat to overlook any Bush bashing. I recommend it but be forewarned it may make you angry.