Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Bravery Of Yoritoshi, Samurai Sixth Rank

Yoritoshi of the Minomoto had never seen battle, but his speech to his troops on the fifth day of the eleventh month during the Former Nine Year War was as inspirational as a seasoned commander of a thousand battles. The hearts of the rank and file were gripped in fear knowing their enemy to be savage veterans going against they who were green and raw with an untested leader. While it is true no samurai should fear death, he should fear throwing his life away in a futile gesture.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to win.

"And win we shall!" cheered Yoritoshi to a disbelieving audience. "What is there in life but the sharpness of the blade and the gift of having purpose? It's not an enemy we fight against, it's for the Emperor we fight, for ourselves! Why even be alive if it is without the worship of our women? We shall attain victory by slaying defeat!"

If nothing else, Yoritoshi's infectious enthusiasm soothed the burning hearts of his men and now having their attention, he wooed them into battle. "Is not the battlefield our true home? It is our escape from the drudgery of the ordinary. What man has made a name for himself drawing daily water from the stream? It's in showing himself his name becomes a part of history. Join history and your name lives forever in fame!"

The samurai unleashed an instinctive cheer into the crisp night, their faces half lit by the surrounding fires. They could see Yoritoshi was utterly without fear and a certain awe dawned upon them that they rode with a Man Of Destiny.

"Who is our enemy but us? Do they have more arms or legs? Have they twenty fingers or three eyes? Perhaps they see us as new and weak, thinking our swords somehow slice less easily than theirs. Steel is steel, my friends! I pray they learn that lesson well! I, for one, do not doubt my steel. Do you doubt yours? I see no doubt! I am a winner!"

A triumphant roar answered the commander, his men on their feet chanting and pounding with their spears. Like a switch that had been flipped, it was the enemy of the morrow they now pitied. What fools they had been, defeated before even entering the field. Yoritoshi had opened their eyes, the mettle within controls the metal from without. Yes, they shall bear their swords without hesitation, looking their opponents directly in the eye.

"Remember, a brave man can defeat a thousand cowards for the coward does not own his mind!"

Yoritoshi's steely-eyed shock troops waylaid their enemy, surprising them with an unexpected aggressiveness. "Who are these devils!" one warrior was heard to cry out and from then on they were known as Yoritoshi's Devils. As they were dispatched by the court to rural districts to tamp down rebellion, it was the red armor clad Devils who defeated their enemy before battle had even begun. All the while their leader, the samurai god Yoritoshi, had not suffered so much as a scratch.

But far to the northeast in the Kwanto region lay a devil of another sort. Takagi - who had a reputation of his own - wondered of these Devils and were they as fearsome as they sounded. He'd always carried of philosophy of carrying fear into battle for both him and and his men. That's what made you sharp and kept you aware. But Yoritoshi's Devils had abandoned all fear and as of yet their New Way had yet to be defeated.

Which man was the man of ego and which man the man of reality?

Takagi - like the warlords who were to eventually unify the country centuries later - knew that he who lies to himself least is the one who wins the war. He never forgot the words of an ex stage actor who told him that once his fear of performing vanished, so had his talent. This confirmed the voices that told him the beating heart must have fear to reach the greatest heights.

Though revered, Takagi's men viewed battle as a duty and a chore, relishing only the preservation of their independent way of life. This gave them the quiet gravitas of having faced certain truths, allowing them to bond as a unit in battle, thinking and acting as one as each warrior knew the mind of the other. But these Devils of Yoritoshi, had they surpassed Takagi's thinking? Each side was about to find out as the Emperor declared the rebel Takagi must be defeated once and for all.

This would be the battle to put Yoritoshi into the history books. Takagi had long been a thorn in the Emperor’s side, defeating all comers. To Takagi and his men the ruling powers that be had not earned the karma to rightly rule so they saw no reason to forego their crops to a meaningless court. The nobles lived in daily outrage over this stance and the seeming merit Takagi's victories gave to it. But now with Yoritoshi and his Devils, the scales would be balanced at last!

Coming down out of the mountains of Kai and seeing the fertile plains of the Kwanto for the first time, Yoritoshi knew his destiny would be cemented on these lands. Had he known of Alexander and Caesar, he'd have considered himself a god such as they. Yoritoshi was about to pass from being a mere warlord to that of being a legend. He could sense the feelers of Takagi reaching out to him as his horse stomped upon Takagi land but "that washed up old man has never seen anything like my Devils!"

It was a day of clear sunshine on the twelfth day of the fourth month when Yoritoshi became a name for all time. The two forces allied themselves in opposing formations, Yoritoshi's men eager and excited, Takagi's men eager to get it over with. When the battle began, Yoritoshi did not merely send in one section of his troops as was customary but went all in a wildly aggressive overwhelming attack. The Takagi forces had no choice but to give up ground.

To Yoritoshi that meant defeat for Takagi, just a matter of time before the enemy lost heart as had happened before. He watched as the Takagi forces skillfully reformed defensive postures but laughed at the thought it would do them any good. Yoritoshi dreamed of the courtly rewards to come, perhaps to marry into the nobility and have his lineage blessed forevermore. A rude interruption shattered his dream.

"Sir, the enemy has sent a rogue force directly upon our headquarters!"

"Do not be fooled by this desperate trick. Defeat this last attack and the day will be won."

"But sir, we cannot leave your side!"

"Attack, I say! I fear nothing!"

But these were the Takagi special forces, as razor sharp as their katanas, acting with a precision and focus that blunted the blind, unquestioning aggression of the Devils. They cut their way into Yoritoshi's compound but Yoritoshi knew he could not leave in the face of his enemy. He let out a loud yell brandishing his blade only to find himself cut deeply on his left arm and leg.

"I'm sliced! I'm sliced!"

His men turned to him for their orders but all Yoritoshi could muster was, "I did not know I could be hurt!"

And like that in the twinkling of an eye, Yoritoshi and his entire brigade collapsed. As if a communal signal had been sent out, the Devils' confidence snapped seeing an opponent who refused to break. They had been winning the day but suddenly it seemed to them they had been losing all along. Takagi's men gained the advantage, their energy insurmountable as a tidal wave. Yoritoshi ran off, his troops routed, shattered with the realization he'd been living a lie.

CODA: The royal court, ashamed at having put faith in Yoritoshi, never spoke of him again. An outcast in the capital with no place to go, Yoritoshi never returned, instead dying in the snows of Echigo as a beggar. Forever afterwards, whenever a warrior spoke with bravado without reflecting the realities of war, he was mocked with "having the bravery of Yoritoshi", as a man who looked at only half the picture.

Takagi never knew defeat in his lifetime. It came to be realized he was the true patriot of the land and not the false court of royalty which was to lose all power in the following decades. Many are those who believe Takagi was reincarnated four centuries later as one of the three great unifiers of Japan, when the time to be "ruled under one sword" finally arrived.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Be My Friend?

Are you still my friend?


Why not?

Just because.


I just don't want to be friends anymore. Stop talking to me.


I don't want to talk about it, OK?


I'm just sick of your shit. I don't want to hear your shit any more. I'm not going to listen to it.


See? You always have to be right. You have to fucking know everything! You don't, you know.


Oh, like you knew that until I told you! Don't take credit for my enlightenment!


Still the smart ass! You keep up with that smart ass crap and no one's going to be your friend.


Friends SUPPORT friends. All you fucking do is criticize.


You think I'm buying all this agreement but I know better! I see right through you!


Just get out of my face. I'll drink what I want to drink. It's MY damn body, not yours. It's not like you give a damn anyway.


Yeah, I knew it. All you care about is being right. Let's all bow down and worship the goddam ground you walk on.


That was sarcasm, moron. You've got nothing to offer me. I'll do just fine without you.


I'm going to swallow this whole bottle of cyanide! What do you think of that?


What? No Mr. Know-it-all this time?? "You'll die! It'll ruin your life! Blah, blah blah." Asshole!


You're not fooling me! I know inside you're just dying to tell me what to do, to point out all my faults. Well, fuck you, asshole. We are done! I'm sick of this shit, sick of it, sick of it!


OK, jerkwad, I'll give you one last chance. I'm opening up this bottle and I'm downing the WHOLE thing. You have to either support me or leave.


Alright then, I'm drinking the whole thing this time. What do you have to say to that??


Then she stopped, freezing her arm halfway to her mouth. She stared intently at the bottle of lethal poison, then me. She went back and forth several times until finally: "You fucker! Just trying to get me killed, aren't you!" Then she stormed off throwing the bottle in the trash.

Damn this is hard.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Visit To The Keystone Pipeline Blockade

"When man stops raping his soul he'll stop raping the land - and not before."
-American Indian proverb

Detroit Free Press/Associated Press

In July 2010 a pipeline carrying tar-sands crude in Michigan ruptured and spilled into a creek feeding the Kalamazoo River. At a cost of over $800,000,000 it was the costliest onshore clean up in history. Among other things, a five member safety board cited regulators for failing to address pipeline cracks and approving a faulty spill-response plan. A recent FW Weekly article recounted in detail:
In the 12 hours before the line was shut down, nearly a million gallons of diluted bitumen gushed from the 6.5-foot tear in the pipe, washing into the Talmadge Creek and from there into the Kalamazoo River and a downstream lake. The bitumen separated from the benzene and other chemicals and sank into the riverbed, making cleanup very difficult. More than two years later the cleanup is still not finished, and a 40-mile stretch of the river remains closed to public use. Enbridge has had to buy at least 130 homes along the contaminated waterway since the spill. Photographs after the spill show oil-coated birds and other animals reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez disaster.
This directive was issued by the EPA as of October 3, 2012:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today notified Enbridge that more work is needed in Michigan's Kalamazoo River to clean up oil from the company's pipeline spill in July 2010. EPA is proposing further action upstream of Ceresco Dam, upstream of the Battle Creek Dam (Mill Ponds area), and in the delta upstream of Morrow Lake.

It is a nightmare scenario come to life and one not wanting to be repeated by residents in the shadowy woods of East Texas. Slicing right through to the Gulf from Oklahoma, the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline will carry millions of gallons of its own brew of toxic crude regardless of property rights, environmental impact or the will of the landowners in its path. It's a scary and helpless feeling to have such a monstrosity rammed down your throat but landowners and environmental groups are fighting back.

After reading the FW Weekly article about the pipeline uproar I decided to take a trip to East Texas myself and view firsthand the swath of clear-cutting carnage. In my retracing of the steps of Bonnie and Clyde, I came to love East Texas and her towering trees lining the roads. Country living has a peace (and a smell) all its own that just can't be replicated in the city. Winnsboro was my destination, about two hours east of Dallas.

Winnsboro Red lines mark the areas where I found the pipeline crossing roads

The roads can be lonely in rural Texas.

Lonely Road2

Country Lane

Winnsboro is dairy country.

Cow Country2

Beautiful country and thank God TransCanada is not going to repeat the sloppiness we saw up in Michigan:
Proponents of the line downplay the danger of ruptures and leaks. TransCanada touts the Keystone pipeline as a state-of-the-art project that will be "constructed to the highest industry standards."

Maybe people are over-reacting to the fear of disastrous environmental damage. Maybe we shouldn't be worried about the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides 30 percent of the nation's ground water irrigation, being poisoned. TransCanada has it all under control. In corporations we trust!
However, that reassurance was quickly undermined in the first Keystone line’s initial year of operation. The pipeline had 35 spills in the U.S. and Canada, a figure that Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute put at "100 times higher than TransCanada forecast." The number of spills caused federal pipeline safety regulators in June 2011 to label the pipeline a "hazard to public safety," and they issued a corrective action order to TransCanada.

To quote Governor Perry: "Oops!"

It was on highway 11 where I first saw the construction and I wondered how I could get close enough to take pictures. Knowing the situation was tense between Keystone and the pipeline protestors I didn't want to interject myself into a powder keg. Flag men and manned trucks lined the highway leaving me only with the option of a drive-by photo.

Pipeline Hwy11

I was about to leave the area when I came across this sign just a few yards away from the pipeline. With nothing to lose I decided to call the number and was invited in by the landowner.

Gate Sign

Gabe was a friendly sort who'd taken his family to what he thought was paradise in East Texas, a place for quiet, nature and horseback rides. Several folks populated his compound with a grill smoking in the distance. It's the kind of place many people seek when they want to "get away". But all that vanished for Gabe when the pipeline cut across his prized land. He told me I could take all the pictures I wanted from the edge of his property - property he'd intended as a nature preserve.

Ranch House Gabe's tidy home in the piney woods

As we walked Gabe told of a confrontation between his mother and a security guard for the pipeline. The guard demanded she come over to him (off the property) so he could apparently search her. She refused, asking him who he thought he was to demand that. He replied he was an off-duty deputy sheriff but she still wisely refused. All she wanted to do was visit the pond out back. It was a strategic move by Keystone to hire off-duty law enforcement as a bullying tactic.

Pipeline Ranch3

Pipeline Ranch4

Pipeline Ranch8 Looking back towards Highway 11

Keystone can ramrod its pipeline by use of eminent domain. Sell your land to them or they'll just condemn it and take it anyway. Oil and gas interests have long held sway in Texas and this practice is nothing new. However, for a private company to be granted this power they must prove the pipeline would be a "common carrier", meaning it would sell capacity to other petroleum companies to use. Since Keystone had never provided proof of its common carrier status a lawsuit was filed to halt their progress.

Selling out property owners is a particular passion for Governor Perry and his cronies. In the Trans-Texas Corridor debacle he planned to sell out the state's congested highway travel to Spanish owned toll roads (while disallowing any competing free public roads) that would cut the state in half creating hardships for farmers and ranchers for hundreds of miles. Not to mention rip off every motorist forced to pay outrageous tolls. Not much has changed since then:
In a bizarre response that sounded like that of a backwoods sheriff complaining about dirty hippies in the 1960s, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson sent out an opinion piece a few days ago, calling the protesters "self-appointed 'eco-anarchists' " for whom it is time "to come down out of the trees, take a bath, and hit the road."

Yup, stick up for your property rights and you're a pinko commie! Amazing how those he mistreats the most keep re-electing Perry to office. The lawsuit against Keystone was thrown out by a judge of supreme blind faith, issuing a statement from his iPhone that the company had no need to present any proof. To quote the Bard: "O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!"

Pipeline Hwy2088 Another drive-by shot, on Highway 2088, the middle red line on the map above

Perhaps you read recently of Daryl Hannah's arrest protesting the pipeline. This was done in conjunction with the Tar Sands Blockade, the allegedly bath-needing protestors who've holed up in trees in the pipeline's path to halt its progress. Gabe gave me directions to the protestors (just south of 2088 if I understood correctly) but I was hesitant to travel through the unmarked gate where I thought them to be.

Gabe explained it was "like the Wild West down there." Protesters on one side of the road, cops on the other. Two New York Times reporters were handcuffed and detained by authorities for trying to reach the tree-top group. I really don't have the backup to support me in case of arrest so maybe it was just as well I did not hook up. Instead, I traveled south parallel to the pathway to see how far the digging had actually gotten.

Traveling five miles down to highway 154 (bottom red line) I found digging both north and south of the road. I decided to double back a few miles and see if I could get up close to pipeline when I found County Road 4596 leading straight to it for my closest shot yet.

Pipeline Dairy3

The Michigan spill spoke of a failure to address pipeline cracks. Gabe told me he had once worked on a pipeline and was aware of the protocol required for X-raying the welds. My mind immediately shot back to "The China Syndrome" film about false X-rays used to prove the integrity of a nuclear power plant. Knowing they must have copies, Gabe asked Keystone if he could view the welds. They said would not provide them because then "they'd have to do it for everybody."

We've developed a common theme in these perilous times. We keep setting ourselves up for disaster. Whether it's endless wars, the next economic bubble or environmental disasters done in the name of "profit". With such a short-sighted outlook, it's time we as a society redefine profit as something other than in artificial corporate terms but rather in reality's terms of human welfare.

Cow Don't fuck with my land!

[I highly recommend the FW Weekly article as well as perusing the blockade's website for more information on Keystone's intimidation tactics. As for our fearless President, he opposed it until he caved (sound familiar?), demanding the "red tape" be cut away for its implementation. Seems a long shot to stop it now.]

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How Obama Won The First Debate And Lost The Second

"I bankrupted 6,000 pensions to get this car! Winnnneeeerrr!"

There are all sorts of winners and losers in the world. But who are the winners in life, where it counts? Are heartless Wall Street traders driving their Aston Martins winners? Does getting elected to office make you a winner? Certainly being a person who always pays his bills is a winner! It all rests, I suppose, on one's definition of responsibility.

In the story of Lazarus and the rich man we see that winners in the world can be total losers in life. The rich man - the "job creator", the "bill payer", the "fiscally responsible" one - condemned the homeless bum Lazarus and thus gave himself license to look the other way. But when the rich man ended up in hell he begged to come back to undeceive those like him but it was too late. Loooooser!

So winning and losing really aren't so clear cut after all - not as simple labels anyway.

When someone uses the phrase "political junkie", I hear the phrase "religious fanatic" - and run the other way. In both cases it's someone who's basically lost interest in his life. "I speak of Important Issues! Of War and Peace, Geopolitical Strategy and Candidates' Policy!" Then like any asshole who's declared himself a saint, he goes home and beats his wife for any disagreement. Scary peeps, that.

"It's not me!"

Nope, you gotta stay committed to your life to contend for true winning. But we're all looking for the Big Excuse. "I can't show my true feelings because of [fill in the blank]." Not that there aren't fatal consequences to being honest, it's just that still does not provide for a choice. It sort of like saying you'll be shot for drinking water. It will be mankind's Final Step when we face this and the end of the Big Phony we all acknowledge but so desperately preserve.

And that explains how Obama won the first debate in actuality. He didn't want to be there. He didn't want to share a stage with a grinning idiot who couldn't find a clue with a guidebook. And no man alive wants to debate with a dedicated liar because there's simply no point to it. But because we are mostly idiots and are dumb enough to tune in to such a farce Obama had the Big Excuse of having to go through the motions. Obama's saving grace though was in letting his true feelings come through, in showing an honest response. Unfortunately, to a professional liar that's a Cardinal Sin in his twisted mind.

Politicians always think winning elections makes up for losing behavior.

For having defied the faithful, Obama was duly roasted. Instead pulling a William Shatner and calling out this baseless behavior - "Get a life!" - O-Man did what he always does: he caved. That garnered much applause from his betrayers and applause is a drug few politicians can resist. For them that defines right and wrong. "To thine own self be untrue." What a credo!

Prepping for that Vital Debate and Pony Show!

It's ingrained in our psyches that to be crucified is a sign of Christ-like behavior. Problem is, it doesn't count when you yourself drive in the nails! So out comes Obama's hammer, driving his efforts for the second debate right through his true feelings, killing them in spades. (Of course, "Thou shall not kill" stopped meaning anything to that man a long time ago.) Thus by choking, strangling and torturing himself O-Man lost the second debate in his heartbroken state. A real winner of the world!

That's what we all do, right? Die for the greater good. Preserve the Big Lie so no liar's feelings get hurt (especially if they vote!). What a sad, sad human comedy we are. At some point comes the choice between choosing pretense or our lives. It's not easy being honest. There are no safety nets and God shows no mercy either way. If you tell the truth and are crucified for it, no one will come from the sky to save you. You'll just die a miserable death. It's only us down here and we determine each other's fate. Remember that the next time you decide to be "kind" and coddle a liar or a lie.

Star Trek TOS - William Shatner SNL - Get A Life - MyVideo

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dear Russia, Why Do You Continue To Enslave Yourself?

Freed feminist punk group Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich,
leaves a court in Moscow, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.
[Other two were sent to work camps after their final appeals failed]

I just got through watching a documentary on the Russian Revolution of 1917. The more things change the more things stay the same. Russia has always had a tragic fascination with the idea of Romantic Repression (a self-coined term). The allegiance to a strong authoritarian state lays deep within her roots going back hundreds of years. Live for the state, comrade, and we'll call you a good person!

People will do anything to get out of straightening out their personal life (*cough*).

But instead of bringing the promised paradise, authoritarianism covered Russia in a horrific, disheartening blanket of darkness, giving her by far the highest suicide rate in the world. And like their Western counterparts, rather than admit a mistake they take a perverse pride in their stupidity. Better to be right than rescued, eh? But what if there's more to life than we admit?

One could make the argument the Russian Revolution is a story of betrayal. Certainly there were elements of a genuine movement towards democracy after the Tsar's resignation. But Lenin and company had no intention of allowing the flower of democracy to bloom. He only allowed as much democracy as needed to keep his "useful idiots" in line until he could gain enough political power to finally crush any hopes of a free and open society.

Dickhead Dzerzhinsky loved riding around in his requisitioned
Rolls Royce. That wacky revolutionary!

"A dictatorship of the proletariat". The Bolsheviks ruled with an iron hammer in the name of that laughably paradoxical statement. Only in a democracy can the proletariat ever rule (even if they choose to abandon their rights). But in all of Russia it was Lenin who most committed to his "ideals". (It's people like moron Lenin who give idealism a bad name.) But as the greatest traitor in Russian history and architect of his country's demise, he was the last man left standing. Why?

Just as greed trumps the democracies of the West, so does the famous Russian negativity defeat her efforts for reform. Failure is the only option. No one was fighting for freedom during the Russian Revolution. They were all fighting to become the next Tsar (for the workers, of course!). And this she clings to to this day. The idea of enforced righteousness is still so intoxicating (one Vodka shot at a time), that an almighty and all-knowing state can run your life for you is a hopelessness that keeps them in chains while hiding the key in Romantic Repression.

An opinion poll conducted on Sept. 21-24 by the independent Levada centre found 35 percent of Russians believe the two-year sentences [for Pussy Riot members] were appropriate, while 34 percent said they were too lenient and only 14 percent said they were excessive.

In Russia as here, only about 15% of the population is liberal. And while the liberal voice is the only voice with power of truth behind it we are still allowed to rise up the liars among us (Hi, Mr. President! (whoever you are)).

It's all about believing you're something you're not!

As professional liars, politicians know you far, far better than you know yourself. There's never any shortage of useful idiots who put their betrayers in power - and that's true of both the left and the right. "You lied! I thought you were going to do the right thing!" Jesus, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that since the turn of the century I'd be yachting on the Riviera and leave you to yourselves. Ultimately, nothing is done without the will of the people behind it.

Listen, pal, all I got to say is if you ain't on your own side, nobody will be. Ain't no Jesus or President or dictator gonna come from the sky to save us. We don't need those fuckers to be saved anyway. Ain't that some good news??

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

All American Killer

Whatever you do, do not join the goddam army. You might think it gets your life under control but it's exactly the opposite, it manifests the lack of control like four year manacles. You've given people free reign to fuck you over where before it was, well, not so damn official. Oh God, I'm screwed...

Guess I better backtrack a bit here. Like a lot of military morons, I joined up because I was running away. I just couldn't believe Her feelings for me were for real and I didn't have the nerve/heart/faith to find out. Am I Forever Unlovable? "I can't let her see me!" Now that I've stopped to catch my breath I realize my worst fear has come true by running away from my worst fear. Who set up these rules for life anyway? Goddam, they're hard!

When my relationship died, part of me died too. In a fit of self-hatred and self-pity I joined up. I told myself if I couldn't handle ruining my life maybe it would be put to better use by someone else. Big fucking mistake. I still don't know what the answer is to my problems, but surrounding myself with morons and control freaks sure as hell ain't it.

There's all sorts of invisible levels here in the military, and I don't mean by rank. I'm talking misery levels. Some fuckers know exactly what they are doing, they come in on their own terms, fight for those terms and leave with least amount of burn marks. I don't have even a prayer of doing that. The lifers are scary because most of them are hiding in military life and feel threatened by any hint of freedom. But in life, freedom is all there is, baby. As for me, I got my usual short end of the stick: uncommitted to this life (so no military privileges) but contractually committed beyond my control.

I just don't seem to be able to get a brain in me head.

My recruiting class

The further down the process I got the more I felt like just another piece of meat. Superiors saw nothing special in me (aka a 'Reject') just as I saw nothing special in this life. My one brief moment of connecting was with a veteran sailor serving on an aircraft carrier who complained of complete disillusionment as he found himself on the wrong end of a mop bucket day after day. I didn't feel so alone after that. I know all the hot shots look down on us Rejects but I don't care. All I'm doing is time - like any other convict.

The modern American image of the military is of nice, clean soldiers, proud and proper. We're not the slovenly draftees of the Sixties but a new breed made up of precision and duty. We hold our heads high commanding the respect we know we deserve. People stateside revel in that sort of fantasy but what I call it is a Facade For Fucking. As long as they can pretend we're angels we can keep doing the devil's work. The biggest patriots are really the biggest faggots.

Come fly to this Middle East hell in my goddam shoes, you lying fucks. No one gives a damn about you, what happens to you, or how or if you even come back. These people got agendas and you're here to fulfill them come loss of body and/or soul. Walking off that plane the first time smelling this sewer of rot was the most bone chilling experience of my life. What was unsaid was a thousand times more scary than what was said.

It's sort of like a mini America here: we only talk about the good stuff and pretend everything is great even though we don't believe it. We don't have the homeless to overlook while shopping but we do see the lost and broken ones as we go about our duties. "Thank God I'm not him!" we mutely pray. Wouldn't surprise me if that's been thought about me too.

It's hard to describe the vast sea of corruption. We soldiers feel outranked by the corporations. A laissez faire attitude of greed permeates across the compounds and infiltrates you like second hand smoke. Be smart, be a taker! Some think it makes them moral not to partake yet they also refuse to criticize the corporate dominance either. You hardly come across anyone who makes you feel truly guilty for succumbing to the seduction.

But like I said before, there are many levels and I know I'm unofficially a Reject. The black hole I fell into after the death of my relationship with Her literally frightened the life out of me. Monsters of guilt, demons of despair, maggots of doom ate away at me night and day. They still do. I'm sliding towards a fiery cliff and the knowing of it allows for no easy moments. A deep shadow follows me to the point I already felt lost on the plains of war even before my arrival.

"Murderer." That's the word I could not utter but never get out of my head. To whom could I confess? Who even has ears? Many pretend but few will listen to know the true horror. Even shaving in the mirror I avoid eye contact with myself. I must keep running, always running. She hates me. She hates me still. She hates me. She hates me still...

"Open Hell" I dubbed this place. As a Reject - someone with no aspirations in or out of the army, no one to even write home to - I knew eventually I'd be found out and given all the shit jobs to do. I was chum in the water in a shark infested sea. But God wasn't through punishing me yet for my poor decisions. No sir, not even! I can't think "...if only I hadn't met Baxter", I have to realize what put me in a position to meet a demon like him, but still sometimes I think, "...if only I hadn't met Baxter."

I was assigned to the supply depot. Baxter was the lord ruler and master of this black market universe. He completely bought into the credo of greed everyone so willingly gives a knowing wink towards. I'm sure he didn't arrive here the way I found him, he must have devolved over the years. It's not that I don't hate him but I can see how even he is a victim to this miasmic atmosphere. Lord, how I sometimes wish I could stick every face in America in this shit for just one whiff! "See? That's how it really is, you fuckers!"

But if I say anything I'm written off as a malcontent loser. Lots of vested interests out there in keeping the lie alive. Unfortunately, I've got truths of my own I'm running away from so how can I stand against the wind? Maybe everyone who runs away runs into a Baxter, creatures who never rise above their environment. In my damaged and disheveled state I must have seemed like a wounded animal to the perennial hunter-killers. I couldn't stop hammering myself in the false hope that would somehow make amends and appease Her. Sure, She wants me dead too.

It's quite the struggle to swim against that current.

Baxter started on me right away. "Everybody's doing it," he'd always say - and he was right. We'd all heard stories of full pallets of money disappearing, of half-hearted construction never intending to be finished going through the motions to milk a contract, of the mercenaries making six times what we do, of orders handed down from on high to oblige the defense contractors even when we could do things more efficiently ourselves, of that whole general feeling we're here to live a lie and those who can lie the best are the winners. I truly believe here in Afghanistan you can see the entire ugly underbelly of America. One day all this shit will come out - when it's too fucking late.

I wondered what Baxter wanted from me, he being a man operating purely on self-interest and nothing else. I had nothing to offer except my abused life in the military to further my shame. Baxter and his cronies accepted me into their cabal knowing I was someone who needed acceptance. I knew it was wrong. I only felt darkness around them but then hiding in the dark is what got me into this mess in the first place. So I stuck with them and their own Facade For Fucking until finally they got around the subject of Thrill Kills.

It's the darkest of secrets here even after reports of it happening. Of course, what comes to light is only a fraction of what's covered up. I read the reports years ago of a Thrill Kill squad being outted and I wondered about the lack of outrage or any sense of scandal. Boy, when the American public sets its mind to being willfully ignorant they aren't kidding around! But being here in the midst of all this shit, I can see how letting them get away with it only rots the soul of every soldier.

An expert in the ways of guilt, I know they want to get caught, for someone to draw the line. The officers act like they are the killer's friends, but truth is they are betrayers - just as I betrayed Her. Baxter and company wanted me to join the club, that's what he wanted to squeeze out of me. They constantly demeaned and badmouthed the locals. It's a common practice even among those not trying to draw you into hell.

Soon, your mind gets contaminated. Take a liking to a local and you become like a "nigger lover" in the deep South. A saw people covering up their feelings, hiding genuine affection with put-downs afterwards to prove they had no real feelings for any Afghan. It's like a perverse but unsaid esprit de corps to keep up the Facade For Fucking that we are superior to the subhuman Afghans.

It's easy to see the flow of shit. We all feel worthless and shit upon by the higher ups, and so like abused children we go looking for those whom we can abuse to prove our worth. Man, it's really hard not to get sucked into that mentality. A few brave voices stand against it but the pull is strong and swift. Baxter and buttheads came to learn my story about Her in bits and pieces so I guess that's why they picked out an Afghan woman as a potential Thrill Kill target for me.

The President did this. Why can't I?

She was a whore, they said. A predator of men. Gave guys herpes with her nasty cunt. They got no morals here, these savages. Killing one of them is like killing an animal. See how they treat each other with their sick, backwards culture. They got no soul. Killing one of them is no crime. Just the opposite. It proves the morality of our mission. We can kill them and still be in the right. They kill one of us and we burn down a village. I think we said all those same things about the Indians.

Yes, you too can get away with it! Like some sleazy whore, Baxter and his boys got me liquored up, feeding me hate and bravado stirred by a ready rifle. They knew where my target would be, alone and unsuspecting. They worked on me for hours seeing me not budge. "Just go take a look! You don't have to shoot, just go look at her through the scope." I wanted them off my back so I obliged (which is a habit around here). I know, I know - an obvious mistake.

Another "if only" moment happened like the sun rising in the east. I felt calm looking through the scope at the silhouette in the night. I knew I wasn't going to shoot. I was glad I came after all. I'd defy Baxter and after this they'd leave me alone for the rest of my stay. Then this one voice says, "That's Her, isn't it?" No! Of course not! "What do you think She wants? Think She wants you to live?" Oh, God, how can I answer that? I kept a secret hope that somewhere in Her heart She still kept a place for me despite all that happened. "It's you or Her. Don't be a sucker!"

Being a fool is my forte. So how could I argue against the idea it was foolish to think She has anything but contempt for me? I saw not an innocent Afghan woman, but an enemy who wanted me dead. One thing I loved about Her was that She would brook no fool. And who had proven himself a bigger fool than I? She'd mock me till the day I die. What would She say if She saw me right now in the clutches of these half-witted assholes? "I can't let her see me! I can't let her see me!"

That's when I fired. Dead on. History repeats itself.

My fellow conspirators fled in a stream of stifled giggles. My world faded to black. "I'm damaged for real now," I remember thinking in a daze. "No ever going back from this actual murder." I was afraid the death of my relationship with Her had made me a murderer but I knew in that moment I had taken things too far. I was a ghost after that, a cripple at whom passers-by shook their heads. Oh, how I dread the night. I refuse to suffer the justice of men - and Baxter was right anyway about no one investigating in a meaningful way for her wailing family - but the justice of God I would gladly suffer if it means getting out of this hell of hells, drowning in infinite, formless black.


I'm not going to kill myself here. I'm not giving Baxter and his cocksucker buddies the satisfaction. Not giving the goddam army any satisfaction, either. All you fuckers can just fall right off the fucking face of the earth. Dear God Jesus, I wish you would! No, I'll wait until I get back to the States after my Welcome Home Heroes parade, under a bridge in a city where no one knows me and most of all where She won't find out - ever. I always said it would be better if She never really knew me - and I've spent the rest of my life proving that true.

Otsukimi (Moon Viewing)


Autumn blooms fading,
Gate sentry looks to the moon
Weeds under his feet.


Otsukimi, literally moon-viewing, refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar. Otsukimi refers to the Japanese tradition of holding parties to view the harvest moon. The custom is thought to have originated with Japanese aristocrats during the Heian period, who would gather to recite poetry under the full moon.

On the evening of the full moon, it is traditional to gather in a place where the moon can be seen clearly, decorate the scene with Japanese pampas grass, and to serve white rice dumplings (known as Tsukimi dango), taro, edamame, chestnuts and other seasonal foods, plus sake as offerings to the moon in order to pray for an abundant harvest.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

I Stumbled Over The Moon


Underneath this grey
And cloudy sky,
My heart has no choice
Here, but to die.

The solo bird forgets
Why he has to eat;
Making him easy prey
For cat with silent feet.

The liar poisons drink,
Serving me as friend;
But your brew was true
Until I mistook the end.

My heart chilled as Autumn's air,
You fell as Autumn's leaf;
Your landing shocked the ground
With everlasting grief.

As you ran into the sun
I stumbled over the moon;
These covering grey clouds know
Our fateless parting was too soon.


Makura no Soshi, The Pillow Book.
Lady Sei Shonagon and Tachibana no Norimitsu part ways.

Because our friendship crumbled like Mounts Imo and Se,
You no longer see Yoshino as a stream.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves (Photo Essay)


Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry, compiled some time after 759 AD with poems dating back to 347 AD. The collection is divided into twenty parts or books; this number was followed in most later collections. The collection contains 265 chōka (long poems), 4,207 tanka (short poems), one tanrenga (short connecting poem), one bussokusekika (poems on the Buddha's footprints at Yakushi-ji in Nara), four kanshi (Chinese poems), and 22 Chinese prose passages.


After the storm, I came. But not to see the "damage" but rather catch nature's cycle of renewel. Leaves must fall, fullfiling their destiny to serve their purpose in death as in life. Along the way I'll sprinkle poems from Japan's ancient collection of her first poetic endeavours. These are not mere poems. They are, in fact, the first steps towards an identity unique in all the world. Japan was finding her voice.




Like the ripples
On the shallows of Saho River
Where plovers chirp,
My longing for you
Never ceases for a moment.



The world is full of pain
And the shame of poverty
But not being a bird
I cannot fly away.



In the spring garden
The glow of deep pink peach blossoms-
Onto the radiant path beneath
A young girl comes out.



As the floating bridge
Of a spring night’s dream
A bank of clouds parts from the peak
In the dawn sky.



The colour of the cherry blossom
Has faded vainly
In the long rain
While in idle thoughts
I have spent my life.




Sending my soul away
To where the moon has sunk
Behind the mountain,
What shall I do with my body
Left in the darkness?




Broken by the sound of the breeze
That plays on the bamboo leaves
Near the window,
A dream even shorter
Than my fleeting sleep.



In the serene sky
Of a balmy spring day
Larks rise-
Sadness comes to my heart,
Sunk in lonely thought.




Click here to see the entire collection.