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Archive for the ‘In-Processing and Introductions’ Category

Blog Policy # 2: No changin’ boo-boos once its published. Unless, you know, they’re extra-special retahded boo-boos.

(Note: I don’t remember what Blog Policy # 1 is. But I’ll bet there was one. Or 12.)

So I’m lackadaisically skimming what I laughingly refer to as “content” on my blog, stuff I’ve written prior to today. (I’d put “written” in scare quotes, too, but c’mon, this self-deprecating shtick isn’t infinite, you know?)

And as I’m reading, I notice a whole bunch of errors just about leaping off the page and slapping me in the noggin.

Which frankly is just fine on a nonsensical blog about nonsense. Who cares that I wrote “too” when I mean “to?” Do you? How is your canoe? Sorry. OCD causes people to rhyme. Some of the time. Stop it now, I mean it! Does anybody want a peanut?

Ah, raise your hand if you caught that last allusion. Sigh. I miss Andre the Giant. On the plus side, Princess Buttercup finally divorced evil Prince What’s-his-dick so she’s available now.

Mr. Hand was right about you.

Even by my standards of complete non-focus, that was some Grade A top-choice USDA approved digression right there, folks. You’re welcome.

Speaking of “you’re” – here’s the problem I foresee in the future: as a writer, the language, the words, the grammar, the structure … it is more than just a tool of communication. It is everything. It is how you are perceived; it is, in a way, your physical and metaphysical presence. Judgments are made instantaneously about your competence and intelligence and character … all based on the perfection of your language.

This was true even before the magnificently historic rise of the Internet-tubes. But now all substantive discussions are shaded by sideways glances at the tools used to participate in the conversation.

In simpler terms – which I should probably stick with, so that all 2 of my readers can follow me here – on the Internet, no matter how brilliant you may be, some jackhole in Boise is going to counter your rhetorical genius by pointing out that “you’re” and “your” ain’t the same words, and since you used them wrong, your an idiot.

Ha. See what I did their? And there?

God, I’m funny.

But if I can squander my comedic genius for a moment, let me just reiterate that none of this is a problem on the current blog. However, future plans might actually include – you know – substance. Some of which might actually result in – you know – readers. And discussion. And maybe even controversy.

Unfortunately, on the Internet, ideas are always secondary to whatever appeals to the least common denominator in the readership, and “gotcha” games about punctuation are where the most common of the least common denominator crowd always likes to start. Becuz illiteracy is fun and stuff!

So here’s the quandary: no matter my obvious mastery of all things related to the written word, I will screw up. Because I’m not God. Or Mat Damon. I’m only human.

Two choices: 1) I could diligently check and recheck each post, correcting all errors; or 2) I could just leave it alone and cover my ass in advance with a post like this one!

All great writers become great during the editing process. But that requires work, and since much of this blog is an ode to the joys of laziness, that would sort of run contrary to our philosophy here at Words R Us.

But there’s also a serious point: errors, by pointing out our humanity and fallibility, remind each of us that our minds should be open to other ideas and perceptions; our imperfections remind us that perhaps we don’t know everything and see everything.

It also reminds us to be gentle with others. For example, I glance over at my “categories” for blog posts and notice that I spelled “heroes” without the “e.” Pardon my language here, but what the fuck? “Heros” isn’t a word. It’s not even a sandwich. It doesn’t even look right. So how’d I managed to screw that up so badly?

The answer is that I ain’t perfect. And sure, leaving mistakes leaves me wide open to the ever popular Internet Grammar-and-Spelling Gestapo … but that’s okay. Because picking on that stuff just means you’re an idiot. I mean your an idiot. Or something. (Confession: I’m as guilty as anyone of playing Punctuation Police while debating something. But I also know that its very, very lame. So there. Or their. Or they’re.)

So I leave my mistakes to maintain my humility.

That seems to me to be a very good thing. I mean let’s face it: after this blog goes global and I’m practically drowning in Dom Perignon and supermodels, I’ll need something to keep me humble. Right?

So the policy is simple: once it hits the news stand, its there forever, for all the world to see.

Because we all need Heros.

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I assume its a universal question for anyone with a web presence: do I remain anonymous? If not, to what degree do I share private identifying information? And why are Ramen noodles so good yet so cheap?

The Ramen noodle question is a good one. The rest of it has been beaten to death in a thousand forums. Beaten like bad, bad horses that just refused to lay down and sleep.

beating-a-dead-horse

For most amatuer blagographers, the potential perils of unmasking on the Internet are rather obvious:

FIRED

Of course to be fair, the invisible shield of Internet anonymity holds plenty of benefits. Especially if you’re really freaky-deaky:

633664852493137404-anonymity

anon-poster

And everyone knows the dark side of the free-hate/free-love-with-no-consequences Wild Wild West nature of the Internet, from cyber stalking to all kinds of naughty nastiness and nasty naughtiness …

Um. Yeah. Not sure if this is an argument for anonymity or strongly against it.

Um. Yeah. Not sure if this is an argument for anonymity or strongly against it.

… to the ubiquitous trolls and safely sheltered Internet tough guys:

e-thug

And just to prove how serious and scholarly I am, here’s a graph. I don’t know what it means, but clearly I’ve done my research:

privacy_Opinions_Of_Anonymity-dg1

Now that I’ve had enough fun goofing and Googling, here’s the dilly yo. And I won’t belabor all the obvious problems and potential benefits associated with anonymity or the lack thereof; the visual aids up there cover it pretty well.

Here are my concerns: this blog will be primarily military for the next couple years, and that raises several issues. The first is that while dishing dirt on your civilian boss gets you fired, in the military it gets you imprisoned, or shot, or ostracized. I’m opposed to those things.

But here’s the problem: as mentioned in an earlier post, the sole essential ingredient of all compelling writing (and entertainment of all forms) is drama. Conflict. Human interest. Now while I realize this is a concern bordering on lunacy when my readership consists entirely of me, my dog, and this hand puppet named Steve … the truth is that perhaps someday, some poor soul might want to read this tripe.

And I’ve read the blogs, especially military blogs, where the author is revealed … and they tend to be bit bland. Like tuna fish without mayo. Like Oates without Hall.

That’s just too bad in my humble opinion – because its our personal stories that fascinate. It’s the deep, dark, personal truths about us, our relationships and our struggles, our hopes and our fears, that one time our douchebag boss gave his wife the clap after sleeping with an underage Filipino hooker …

That’s the stuff that’s fun to read. It’s interesting. All the best blogs are at least sort of anonymous (which is like being sort of pregnant, I digressulate once again), because the writers bare it all, they throw it all out there, good and bad and ugly.

The saddest part is that the military is so very ripe, pregnant if you will, with endless stories of conflict and drama and angst and bitterness and heartbreak and hope. And Filipino hookers. If a military writer remains anonymous, he gets to share all this stuff! Whee!

If not … well, not.

There are other concerns, of course. OPSEC and COMSEC, among others. (Look it up, civilians. I can’t hold your hand all day long). But mainly the reason to stay anonymous all boils down to a single statement of fact: if I post my pretty face and real name all over these pages, whoever is reading will want to boil their head in yogurt to escape the boredom.

Obviously, I can’t tell stories about my comrades – and there are some juicy ones, most of which involve Filipino hookers. I can’t say bad things about my chain of command. And in the military, I can’t even really delve into politics (not that I’m foolish enough to join that stupidity, but since I once said the same about blogging, I’m just covering my bases).

Clearly, I’m still undecided and indecisive. All of that officer training is paying off. I should probably just ask an NCO what to do and go have some coffee.

The downside of anonymity is obvious, especially on a blog like this – never intended to stir up trouble and sink into the mire of the political/religious/social debates of partisan yuckiness, but in which I might still want to tell a few interesting and ribald tales. Yeah, I said ribald. Hush, you.

That means no good pictures of yours truly. No personal stories with real details. No sharing the blog with friends and family, or at least not those inclined to link to it.

Sigh. Come to think of it, anonymity sucks. But so does blogging, as Mongo here is explaining:

angry_gorilla_small

I guess the choice boils down to a) being able to spill all the beans, dig up all the dirty details, and share stuff that’s truly compelling, including my own deepest feelings and thoughts; or b) keep it to a more civil level of discourse, get to show off pretty pictures and stuff, but skip the 1000 word rants on why my 3rd squad leader is a cockknocker.*

Now its time for some truth. Most of the above is only half-truth; this is real truth, and its hard truth. My biggest concern is my future soldiers, the men I will lead in combat.

To a young soldier, an officer is separate – different – almost non-human. They are not allowed to be too human; they have to be above the fray, calm in the face of conflict, never engaging in the petty or paltry. Officers are leaders and parents, but they are not friends; they are not peers. An officer who forgets that, who lets that boundary slip, loses some critical aura of authority, some mantle of leadership that is absolutely vital both too mission accomplishment and unit cohesion.

Perhaps I state it to strongly – but the division must be there. Or at least the perception of the division must be there. Which is why while you can be human, and you can share feelings and interact with your soldiers – you can’t be their friends, you can’t show real weakness, you can’t reveal just how common and simple and human you really are. Because to follow you, perhaps to their deaths, they must see you as more than that, separate from that.

And blogging reveals too much humanity when its done right.

I guess in the end I have no choice but to compromise. For now, I’ll remain semi-anonymous with no real effort to stay that way – but no effort to call attention to my writing, either. (Besides, the DoD has a history of frowning on blogging that reveals too much).

In the end, while I may try not to be as stale as 3-decade old Twinkies, I’ll have to self-censor. I won’t be able to tell the best stories about my platoon, or my commander, or my colleagues. And I won’t be able to tell the full truth about my fears and hopes during the next few months; no young soldier wants to know just how terrified of failure his leaders are.

Such things can be discussed, but only at the superficial level and in generic terms. I suppose that’s the way it has to be, at least until I can find the right balance there. It may be an interesting journey, and I suppose I’ll get myself in trouble a time or three.

At some point I’ll begin linking to blogs covering similar topics, to show those who have made other choices. There are wonderful ones who have remained anonymous and equally stellar writers who share everything. For me, I’ll be looking for the right middle ground.

And aren’t you tired of all this preliminary babbling? Time to get on with it.

Oh – and let me apologize profusely in advance for all of you who undoubtedly Googled “Filipino hookers.”

My bad.

==================================================================

* Note: as of this writing,  I have no 3rd squad leader. Or 1st or 2nd or 4th, either. And I have no idea if any of them will be cockknockers. A word I’ll have to promptly quit using once I lose the anonymity. Because officers do not giggle at words like cocknocker. It says so in the manual.

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Let’s cut to the chase, get straight to the point, and quit beating around the proverbial and vaguely obscene sounding bush. Or, as the United States Army likes to put it, allow me to put the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF).

Brief aside here and your very first Pro Tip – Pro Tip # 1: in the military, anything is good if you can make an acronym out of it; no matter how banal or mundane, turn it into an acronymical (patent pending on that word) construction, and its suddenly both useful and cool. Example: BLUF. If you can manage to turn a useful acronym into an actually relevant word, you win the military semantics Olympics and probably at least one Air Force ribbon. I’m looking at you, guy who came up with the SALUTE report. (That’s size, activity, location, unit/uniform, time, equipment … for all you civilian scumbags). The SALUTE guy managed the acronym trifecta, and he’s probably lounging on a beach in Aruba sipping Mai-Tais paid for with your tax dollars, all thanks to his moment of acronymical (See? That’s my word. If its a real word already, I’m gonna be pissed) genius. Hey, LDRSHIP guy (that’s the Army values, civilian dirtbags: Loyalty, Duty, Honor, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage), you get an honorable mention in this category. You’d have nailed it, if you knew how to spell. You’re probably a former Marine.

But I digress. I do that a lot. Get used to it. Where was I?

Oh, yes – my BLUF, my chase, my beaten-around-bush, the point I was getting to. Here it is: Blogs, for want of a better word, suck.

No. Really. By definition, they are narcissistic, self-absorbed, obnoxious, ubiquitous, mind-drainingly insipid, and almost certainly will lead directly to the collapse of modern civilization. They suck that bad. I have alternately mocked and pitied bloggers for years, and it is well-deserved scorn.

I just wanted that out of the way. So when one of you cyber-chumps points out just how bogglingly silly blogging is, I can nod knowingly and point to this post. Yes, its stupid. Roger that.

At this point, my psychic powers and Spider-sense are jointly telling me that you have a question. Let’s see if I can guess it, Captain Obvious. I’ll wager its something like: if you recognize the overwhelming lamitude of blogging, well, whiskey tango foxtrot, over? What are you doing?

Short answer: blame Facebook. I accidentally opened an account one day after years of sneering at that particular piece of epic idiocy … and suddenly found myself blogging.

Longer, slightly more complex and accurate answer: I am, among other things, a writer. Writers write; that is what we do. Yet paradoxically and hardly at all ironically, I don’t write very much. Which is either tragic or miraculously wonderful, depending on the likelihood that you will subjected to my words of wit and wisdom.

It has occurred to me for years that starting and maintaining a blog might encourage me to, you know, write. Frequently. Consistently. Or at least consistently occasionally or occassionally consistently.

More important, however, is the recent realization – an epiphany of sorts – that one reason people write is … wait for it! … they have things to write about! I’m not making this stuff up. Apparently many successful writers actually write about, you know, stuff. And now I’ve got some stuff.

Here’s the thing about our magical and mad species: the only thing that seems to hold our interest is drama. Bloggers blogging and blahging and blathering about their 9-to-5 at Enron just can’t hold the readers’ attention; bloggers who happen to work with scandalous semi-clad celebrities (alliteration for the win!) or who engage in semi-professional rhinocerous wrestling (see what I did there?), on the other hand, are interesting. They have stuff to talk about.

So here’s my stuff: at the ancient age of 40, I just completed Officer Candidate School and became a brand new Second Lieutenant in the Army National Guard. Next week I report to Ft. Benning, GA, for six long months of training – with the final 13 weeks all infantry training – and then I immediately deploy to Iraq … or possibly Afghanistan. Or both.

And thus a blog was born. War is interesting, as anyone from Ernie Pyle to Ernest Hemingway will attest. War stories are compelling, both for the reader and the writer.

There will be much, much more to discuss, of course. I plan to ramble on incessantly on topics like the joy of a fine cigar, the ecstatic pain of a well-run marathon, and the mystery of why Jessica Alba never calls me. I may hold forth on serious topics like aspects of the legal profession (at which point you will pretend to accept my self-claimed expertise), the philosophical nature of heroism and sacrifice and service, and – if I’m foolish – I might even delve into politics and religion.

But to begin with, the focus will be primarily military. Partly because there are only a few good resources out there for those headed off to basic leadership courses for officers (and I’ll be pointing out all the best of them); partly because you just know I’ll ultimately be one of those jackholes who links his Facebook to his blog so all his friends and family can follow his fascinating-to-him-but-boring-to-everybody-else life.

But mostly its as simple as this: for the next year and a half, I’ll be living in interesting times. This is my chronicle of that journey.

And for the record, no – none of the above makes blogs any less lame. While I revel in my own hypocrisy, I’ll refer you to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Next up: a discussion (nowhere near as long as this horrendous not-first-blog-post-first-blog-post) on anonymity on the Internet … and whether I ought to embrace that anonymity here or jump head first and naked into the cyber pool with all my jumbly bits showing.

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