Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The great divide

Time for you to see

What really is reality

The world is cruel

But you think this won’t affect you

The weak die off

All others live to see

The truth which will eventually

Set them free

Right now you do not listen

But soon you shall know

What the world really is

When the ashes fall like snow

Monday, March 15, 2010

Outside Reading Book Review

Third Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers Scholastic Inc. 1998 Genre: Historical Fiction novel

The main character in the story, Richard Perry, is shipped off to Vietnam from his primarily academic life back in Brooklyn. He decided to enlist in the army because he has no money to go to college or to help out his family. The story is about how the men come together and entrust their lives to each other during the war, braving many hardships and injuries. They also have to deal with deaths of friends and comrades. Perry and another character, Harold “Peewee” Gates, become good friends and stick together throughout the story. It is a story of the hardships of war and how they affect each and every one of the men serving there. The conflict is having questions that cannot be truly answered by the men serving there, and they think about killing people who may have just as much in the way of rights as themselves.

“Heartbreaking…. Other authors have gotten the details right, but Myers reaches into the minds of the soldiers….” the book jacket reads. “Readers, including those born after the fall of Saigon… will reel from the human consequences of battle.” –Publishers Weekly, boxed review

In he novel Fallen Angels, the reader gets a firsthand account of the harrowing tale of one company of men struggling to comprehend and survive the war in Nam. It isn’t just a historical account of how the battles took place, but what went on in the minds of the men fighting in the battles. It shows the internal struggles over right and wrong, race and religion, and taking another man’s life.

In this novel, the reader receives a glimpse through the eyes of a man fighting in the war in Vietnam, and in his own internal war over family and college, along with other issues that are important to a young man, like girls and money. This is all diminished though after his friends start dying and he has to struggle to keep himself alive.

“My plans, maybe just my dreams really, had been to go to college, and to write.... All the other guys in the neighborhood thought I was going to college. I wasn’t, and the army was the place I was going to get away from all the questions.”

I enjoyed this story because of the way it followed what I imagine really happened in Nam, it stuck to what is realistic to expect in war, nothing more, nothing less. It also told of the time back at base, not just the time out on missions. The time on missions was actually very slight compared to the time spent at base. It told of the men fighting amongst themselves as well as the enemy. It was very well written.


There are obstacles and forces that you have to overcome every day. It can be anything from a simple “I need to get this homework done” to something ridiculous like overcoming or coping with a disease like cancer. Some people believe that all these obstacles in life make living it bleak and dismal. People like Santiago in The Old Man in the Sea take challenges head on and generally overcome them. The challenges in life can be fun to overcome, or a pain. And honestly it all depends on how you look at them. The old man obviously looks at challenges in an optimistic way; he goes all in, taking the challenges head on and coming out on top most of the time. Some of the challenges presented to the Old Man in The Old Man in the Sea were the size of the marlin he was trying to catch, not having proper equipment, and his old age which prevented him from performing as well as younger fishermen and the fact that he didn’t have Manolin with him to help him bring in the fish.

The size of the marlin is also related to the old man’s age and his lack of proper equipment. But if the marlin had been smaller, it would not have pulled to old man out to sea as far as it did, so the Old Man would not have been so tired out, and might have been able to fend off sharks better. If the boy was there, he would have been able to help the old man pull in the marlin, so he wouldn’t have been so tired and easy to take advantage of. “..Out of sight of land, he was fast to the biggest fish he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of” (63). I think that the size of the marlin would have intimidated most people, but Santiago saw it as a worthy adversary worth he time and effort.

Santiago not having proper equipment ultimately evoked his failure in protecting the fish from the sharks, causing the loss of the fish. If he had possessed more weapons and/or supplies he would have had more ways of fending off the sharks, and more supplies would have provided him with a reserve of energy that could be used to help fight to keep the sharks away from his beautiful marlin. “Now the bad time is coming and I do not even have the harpoon.” (103) Perhaps if Santiago had brought more and better equipment he would have been able to fend off the sharks.

If he had not been as old as he was in the book, I do believe that he would have been able to bring the fish in. And if he had Manolin, the fish would have been fairly easy to catch. The old man’s age was a major factor because he was slower than he used to be and because he didn’t have as much energy. Also, his hand cramped up, which was probably a factor brought on by old age. If these factors were not present, I believe that the old man would have brought in the fish before he was even near the sharks. And also, if Manolin had been there, it would have helped a lot. He would have been able to hold the line for the old man while the old man slept, and they would have been able to take turns so that neither was tired. “But you haven’t got the boy, he thought. You have only yourself and you had better work back to the last line now…” (52)

The old man took these challenges head on, and came out on top of some, and others managed to deafeat him. But if you look at every small defeat like it’s the end of the world, you will never be able to surmount any obstacles. In the end, these were all just obstacles that the old man had to face, obstacles that to you and me may seem much to large to overcome, but the best way to look at things is in an optimistic way, and if you do that, you will likely succeed.

Monday, January 25, 2010


The armored vehicle sways and rocks over the uneven ground, pockmarked from years of war. You look around the personnel carrier, seeing men that you met less than a year ago, but are now like brothers to you. It seems weird that it has only been that long; it feels like years. You hear the company commander calling over the radio: “ETA: 5 Minutes”, it feels like just another drill in your subconscious, but you know that it isn’t, you are actually getting into the action now. You hope that you will get blood on your hands. That is of course figurative, the only blood that you will actually see is the Pink Mist when you fire a 7.62mm round into an enemy from over 300 yards away. That is at least what you hope for. It’s a sick thing; that you really WANT to see that fabled Pink Mist that they all talk about back at base. After months of training, it’s all you hope for when you finally get out in the field. But at the same time, you are nervous. One mistake, one little mishap, can ruin the whole mission. It also gets you killed, but that’s not the big deal, you are expendable. And these insurgents are smart; they have been fighting for so many more years than you, possibly before you were even born. You fear this, but they fear you more. You are part of the most powerful fighting force in the world. And you are the tip of the spear, the front of the assault; you do the job that makes the whole rest of the operation possible. This is because you are a United States Marine Scout/Sniper; you are the USMC’s best of the best. And if you f*** up, you’re dead.

And you also have to remember that many of the men you know are also depending on you to break up the mob. Otherwise it overwhelms, and destroys. One of the only things that insurgents have ever been shown to fear is a sniper, and for good reason. Kill one, scare a thousand. That’s what they tell you. Time to find out. Your objective today: cover a infantry team searching for explosive ordinance on a roadside in a hot (active) area. You hope to get a kill, but it’s supposed to be a rather quiet mission. Intelligence said that the group of insurgents that were in this area a few days ago moved south, and we’re coming from the north, so we will probably stay behind them. Intel says that there is a vantage point, or crows nest, on the fourth story of a building at the end of the major street, so you will have a good view all down the street, and on adjacent rooftops, which is where the danger comes from. The personnel carrier drops you off about 100 yards from the building that you are setting up in. you have about 120 pounds of gear between you and your spotter, including your M40A3 standard issue 7.62 rifle, you have your Barrett M82A3 Light Fifty, ammunition for each. Your spotter has his M16A4 rifle fitted with a sniper scope for him to provide support if needed, spotting scope, and ammunition. This is a lot to carry, but load bearing equipment wasn’t invented for nothing. During training you have to go for jogs in the sweltering hot desert with all this gear to get in shape, so you don’t even notice this short walk.

Setting up is a breeze, in training it was rehearsed so many times that you and your spotter are able to do it in about 1 minute. You get behind the M40A3, looking down the 10x power scope. Your spotter gives you general windage and elevation adjustments; he’ll give you single ones for each shot, but these are for any general area in front of you. You twist the externally adjustable turrets on your rifle scope; feeling the grit beneath your fingers. You look through it, you can see the operatives on the ground grouping together and walking a grip search pattern down the road. It seems painfully slow to watch, but you know that you are a vital part of the operation and that if you don’t pay attention, it could mean someone, or yourself, dead. After scanning the street for what seems like hours, but is really only about 20 minutes, you see something abnormally shiny and silver in the sand right by a church. The suns angle made it shine so you could see it. You radio in, you can see the ground crews come together and form a perimeter with remarkable precision in about 30 seconds. That’s the beauty of months of training, everyone works together. As you’re thinking this, you see a vehicle with a weapon mounted on it come out of a side street. Where did he come from?!

Your spotter radios in "We have a visual on a possible hostile vehicle, two men, belt fed machine gun. Permission to engage the target?" The company commander radios back: “Affirmative”. That’s the order you have been waiting for so long. Your spotter calls out the range and windspeed, you make the adjustments. The vehicle is a pickup truck with a belt fed .50 caliber machine gun mounted above the cab, so one man drives, the other stands in the bed of the truck and mans the gun. It’s always safer to take out the enemy with a weapon first, even if it is two harder shots rather than one hard one and one easy one. The vehicle is moving towards you sat a slow 30mph, so it shouldn’t be too hard anyway. You position the crosshairs on the machine gunner’s chest, and wait for your spotter to call it. You take 3 deep breaths and then hold it, that’s the way you were trained to do it. The only thing you are thinking about is the one shot. One shot, one kill. Everything else goes away. You then hear the command “fire, fire, fire”. On the third one, you shoot. The recoil hits your shoulder, and you hear the shot echo around the whole area. Your spotter calls “hit”. And looking again down the scope, you see the Pink Mist that you have waited for so long. In rapid succession you rack the bolt, aim, and fire another round downrange. “Hit”.

All of a sudden, the heat hits you again, you can hear the shouts from soldiers on the ground again. Everything seems to go away when you are making the shot but it comes back instantly. You can see the seat of the truck plastered with red, but its not like you see in movies. They desensitize you to it as much as they can, but when you think about it, you realize that you just took someone else's life. Another human being. You feel it. But you don’t spend time dwelling on it now, you have work to do. Watching the troops on the ground check out the suspected ordinance, you see them pull a small piece of sheet metal out of the ground. Nothing dangerous, and they go back to the search pattern, with you covering the streets to the south, looking to see if any more insurgents will appear. There were about 5 more insurgents on foot throughout the day, and they were hard to hit, as they would run very quickly across the main road between side streets. One stops in the middle to fire a couple shots randomly, and as you put the crosshairs on his chest, he looks right at you. you can can see all his facial features from this short range, and it is a chilling feeling, even in the heat of the day. Then you hear “fire, fire, fire.” And the recoil hits your shoulder, you see the Pink Mist come out of his back, as he falls he has the most horrible look on his face, it’s almost like pleading. The look is haunting, you will take it with you forever.

The patrol has checked out the whole street, they pack up and you cover them. There haven’t been any insurgents for the past hour or so, and no more appear while you are waiting. The ground troops are packed up and move out, you and your spotter pack up in silence and head to the extraction point. The same personnel carrier picks you up as you were in earlier, you barely have time to pull yourself into the back and the drivers take off. They want to get back to base and have dinner. They didn’t kill anyone today, and you had quite possibly saved some of their lives with early interdiction. It feels good, but at the same time, you remember the one mans face before you fired, and the look on his face as he hit the ground in a crumpled heap. It feels like you have blood on your hands, and it doesn’t want to wash off. The one man’s look haunts you. Even dinner and conversation doesn’t cheer you up much. It feels like you are in a dream, a dream that you can’t wake up from. You seem to wake up long enough to hear intelligence radio your company commander, and apparently there is a street 4 klicks to the west of your position earlier in the day that had suspected live ordinance, so the same team was supposed to check it out at sunrise the next day. Time to get 6 hours of rack, and tomorrow it’s the same thing. Ooh-rah.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Cook

A Child Called It, David
Ender's Game, Ender
Earth School Cafeteria

Ender meets Dave

During the middle of his school day, Ender was going to get lunch. As he was walking into the cafeteria to get his food, he saw some of the other students in the public school picking on one of the cooks. He was a young boy about Ender’s age, with bruises and scrapes all over his arms and face. The other boys went off to eat their lunches, leaving the boy on the ground. Ender approached him and extended his hand. Helping the boy to his feet, Ender said, “Are you okay?” “Yeah, thank you.” Replied the boy in a small voice. Ender introduced himself, asking the boy his name. He replied that his name was David. “Nice to meet you David!” Ender said. “Did those kids over there give you all these bruises?” “A few of them.” David replied. Ender dropped the subject. “Want lunch?” he asked. David said yes. They bought lunch and sat down at a table.

“So why do you work in the kitchen here?” Ender asked. David replied, “I guess it gets me out of the house.” “What’s so bad about being around the house? I would love to spend more time around my house with my sister and my parents.” Ender asked slowly. David replied, “Well… my house just isn’t that much fun to hang out at.” Ender noticed he used a really hesitant voice and paused once or twice saying it, but didn’t make a comment. David was eating ravenously, and Ender was sure that if he didn’t slow down, he would get sick. “Why are you so hungry today?” he asked. “Well… I guess I’ve just been working hard.” David said hesitantly. Ender decided there was something suspicious about David, but wasn’t sure yet. He decided to ask David some more questions the next time he saw him, but he had to go. “Hey David I have to go back to class, we should eat lunch together again tomorrow.” “Sounds great!” David exclaimed. “Okay, and if there is anything you need, ask me and I’ll try to help you out. It was nice to meet you.” Said Ender. “Thank you. And I am glad I met you too.” David replied. Ender started to walk back to class, and as he looked back he realized that David looked the happiest he had ever seen him, even when just working in the kitchen. Ender smiled and walked back to class, thinking about his new friend, and wondering why he was so suspicious. He decided he would find out the next day.