Monday, January 23, 2006

Military musings

You may have heard about this movie Annapolis. It's a pretty, little dramatization of life at the Naval Academy in, wait for it, Annapolis, MD. I admit, I have not yet seen this movie, I don't even think that it's out yet. But the ad got me thinking...

Military academies are an interesting blend of two very opposite worlds. On one hand, a military training base. Discipline, obedience, rank, and order at paramount to the success of this base. Men and women are brought together, brokendown, and built back up as the ideal soldier. Those who do not conform to the ideal are made to feel their inadequacy. It's a society built on doing exactly what you are told, doing it better than the guy next to you, and rising to rank where you can then issue the orders. Sounds a lot like the modern business environment of ass-kissing and promotion, but the key difference is that ingenuity and initiative to make the old way better is rewarded in the business world, whereas it's angrily dismissed in the military world. The status quo is the order of every day. And it appears pretty damn efficient. Someone gets told to do something, they do it, and it's done. Except when Congress gets involved, then things just get all mucked up.

On the flipside of the military academy experience - the university model. Students of the military academies are just that, students. They take courses in math, science, public policy, and the liberal arts. In this college system, students are taught to challenge that which they are told, to form their own opinions, and defend them loudly for the sake of good argument. Obviously, as a graduate of this system, I'm more familiar with it than the military model. For the most part in these schools, non-military classes are taught by civilian professors.

So here's the thing - does one compliment the other? They seem at odds with each other. Does the student know when to turn one instinct on and the other one off? If one takes a stronger hold in the student, how does that affect the other aspect? Does a really great soldier need to know how to analyze Chaucer, and does a really great literary mind need to know how to take or give an order? Is a military education meant to foster the independent thinking soldier, or just a more civilized soldier? Are the officers produced that much better? What's the benefit of a well-rounded soldier when all their country needs them to do is fire where told, secure hills where told, and investigate threats where told?

Of course, there's the little problem of military leadership. When you're in a system that relies on obedience to rise through the ranks, at what level does the "Respond with own thought now" instinct come back to the soldier? Is it when the lives of others are put in their hands? Does the study of political theory help with this responsibility? I've studied a ridiculous amount of political theory, and none of it could tell me how to place someone else's life on the line. Maybe I didn't play close enough attention.

I've a few academy guys who are, for the most part, the independent thinking guys. I think this was a bit of a disadvantage for them. They question everything and I think have found the academy life that much more difficult. I've known one rank and file, recruiting poster soldier, he's done very well and has nothing but contempt for those troublesome thinkers in his class. He also has nothing good to say about the liberal arts classed he's forced to take as part of his well rounded military education.

I've know one academy girl, but she was kicked out for not portraying the "morals of a modern soldier." She was kind of a slut and that was against the rules, so off she went.

It's a life that I'll probably never understand (military academies, not slut-hood. Not that I claim any real expertise in that area either.), and one I don't think I'd be welcomed into either. "Why" is just too engrained in my vocabulary, I think.

Sidenote - these very dedicated people defend my sorry, skeptical butt every day. So thank you.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Welcome to the World, Slimer II

Stupid classical music station, not playing Kelly Clarkson ever. You still suck.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Karmic 1 - 2 Punch

First, a run of particularly bad luck...
1. My beloved apple green iPod mini, Slimer, has happened upon a bump in his short life. He finds himself unable to hold a full battery charge. He tries and he tries and he tries, but all he can muster is a mere 30 or so minutes before the battery icon of death comes on and Slimer slips into a quiet coma. Compared to his promised 18 hours of battery life, this is a bit disappointing.

After a long talk with the Apple "genius" at the Clarendon store, Slimer is currently being held for testing. I can't say what unspeakable things they will do to him, but I have been told that I will almost certainly be receiving a new iPod as a replacement for my poor broken Slimer shell. I'm not sure how I feel about this turn of events. I love my Slimer, I'm getting used to the idea of Slimer II.

2. Z104, Washington's modern music radio station, has flipped to a classical format. My favorite radio station, my standby, crappy pop music, as comfy as an old pair of jeans, Kelly Clarkson at least 40% of the day radio station is gone. GONE!! Faithful readers of my blog/fans of my life will remember that this is not the first time I have been so betrayed by the radio - last year, radio station of my youth and angsty identity, 99.1 WHFS, was tragically flipped to an entirely Spanish language format. To add insult to injury, one of my favorite songs was the last HFS song to be played before the El Zol craziness began. This latest betrayal did not hurt any less. Z104 was my favvorite, it played everything I would if I owned a radio station, and that is not something that I am particularly proud of, but the loss still hurts.

One of the reasons that I'm so distraught over this is because of the manner in which radio stations are flipped. These transitions are often abrupt and unannounced. Until 11:59 am, everything is the same as it was. Then at 12pm, the station goes quiet and returns with a totally new format. It sucks! It's jarring and disrespectful to the faithful listeners of a radio station. It's disrespectful to the employees of a radio station, especially the on air talent, who frequently are not informed that they will be losing their jobs until the day of the switch. Station flipping treats a station, the audience, and the personalities as disposable commodities, and in a medium as personal as music, that's pretty rude. The mega-radio corporataions - Clear Channel and Infinity - are businessmen of the worst kind; they've forgetten that they rely on their customer and staff for everything that they have. They see only the bottom line of their own profits.

Perhaps this is my "evils of capitalism" speech. It is a classic tale of profits over people. Perhaps I only care because I'm personally affected. Perhaps I really don't want to pay for satellite radio. Regardless, it's a crappy situation that wasn't communicated well and has definitely left a little void in my life.

The karmic portion of this tale of woe - I think this is all a bit of payback for my days as an illegal downloader. I stole music, I'm sorry. But it was all bad music that no one really wanted. It was probably stuff that iTunes would give away for free anyway. We're talking old Ryan Adams and Aqua, "Barbie Girl." But that doesn't matter. I still broke the rules, I took something that wasn't mine simply because it was easy and saved me some cash. And now I'm being punished by the universe. My lifeblood, good music to singalong to in the car, is being drained from me and there's little that I can do. I'm certainly open to ideas from the public on acceptable pennance to end this streak. Or maybe another radio station to program into preset 1.