Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Road to Mars: A post-modem novel – Eric Idle [1999]

Before we say anything it must be pointed out that yes, this is THAT Eric Idle. The one who sang, “Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis? Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong…?” and other sundry Monty Python bits. So yes, that makes him yet another comedian who has written a book. In general, that tends to be bad news, and in this case the news isn’t wonderful but the case is far from terminal.

Idle’s book is entertaining but it’s entertaining in ways that I’m not entirely convinced were exactly intentional. There are so many random subplots and differing directions represented at once that one almost comes to believe that the author is just trying a bit of everything. And reading through you can sense the point at which Idle runs out of humor and philosophy and gets down to just finishing out the story.

The main string of the plot seems to be a terrorist plot against the Martian colonies. (Oh, did I fail to mention that this is science fiction novel?) A mining corporation is locating hunks of ice in the asteroid belt and diverting those to Martian orbit for the creation of new oceans. Unfortunately, lots of people appear to be living in these areas already and their annoyance at the sudden necessity for growing gills fuels their reign of terror. If the summary sounds interesting, trust me when I say that it’s really not. There are interesting historical parallels drawn between the plan and the “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605 and a few odd details but for the most part the actual storyline seems to be fairly unamusing. The fact that Idle spends the last third of the novel tying up the loose ends of this bit of the story doesn’t really do the book any favors either.

Where Idle shines is in his characters and in his conceptual sidebars. This isn’t surprising given his comedic background in which the real value really was grounded in the characters and situations rather than the long drawn out narratives. Four-minute sketch comedy writing does little to prepare one for the 300-page novel, it seems. Foremost among the author’s cast of characters is Carlton, a hyper-intelligent android in the employ of the comedy duo, Alex and Lewis. While the duo is touring the Jovian-Martian system Carlton is writing a doctoral thesis on comedy. What is it? How does it work? Is it something only for humans? As the novel progresses, so do Carlton’s ideas on the topic though he always seems to fall short of really grasping the essence of comedy. This isn’t surprising though, because for the most part I’m not sure that humans understand comedy all that completely.

What really stood out for me in the book, and comprised a “hook” of sorts was Carlton’s views on the “why” of comedy. Why would someone wish to go on stage and be laughed at? What is at the heart of the clown that makes him want to be funny? The answer, it seems, for comedians and many in the performing trades is the simple search for approval. In specific, Carlton points out that it’s often the childhood approval of the mother which is missing for these antic individuals so they spend their entire lives trying to fill that early void with the applause or laughter of an audience. While I’m not sure exactly how universally applied this concept can be I will say that it struck a personal cord with me. In some ways it may even explain those of us who so assiduously publish their random thoughts online.

All in all, the book had its entertaining bits but readers should be encouraged to ignore any attempt at “plottiness.” The characters and their interactions with each other will be much more edifying and entertaining. Also worthy of note is that true sci-fi aficionados will be disappointed. Idle’s science is fairly weak and his concepts in the area far from ground-breaking, though I give him credit for inventing a “History Bar.” I have no doubt that any day now the History Channel will open a chain of bars that specialize in historical documentaries and fine malt whiskey. In any case, Idle is no Asimov. Then again, Asimov never sang a song about penises.

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Filed under 1990s, comedy, literature and books, science fiction

The Head Hunters – Ralph Williams [1951]

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1951

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1951

Snrr, described by the author as a huge panda-like creature with tentacles in addition to or instead of arms, is scavenging the universe looking for interesting specimens to take back to the Royal Museum at Ebrrl. Unfortunately, his first find was just a bit too cunning and managed to escape. Worse, the scared human has found his way into the company of two other humans who specialize in big game hunting. Fortunately for Snrr, he has the advantage of technology and the ability to influence the thinking of these puny humans from miles away. This, we suspect, should be an easy win for our ursine extraterrestrial visitor.

Williams’ story is one of those that I suspect originates when an author has an idea for what they think will be a witty and a wry twist at the end of their story but lacks the time required to actually execute on it properly. At a whole ten pages the story doesn’t really have time to develop and this reader, for one, considers that a uniquely merciful outcome.

After Snrr’s first captive escapes into the forest, he comes upon a pair of big game hunters and relays his incredible tale. They are, understandably, incredulous but having had no luck with more conventional game, they take their newfound companion in search of Snrr. After a bit of a hike, the trio is more than a bit surprised to actually find the incredible animal described lurking at the entrance to his cave. Detecting their approach telepathically, Snrr patiently and confidently awaits their approach behind an electromagnetic screen of some sort.

In what can only be described as a desperate attempt by the author to conclude the story, Snrr becomes confused as the hunters disorient him with a complex technical maneuver known to hunting professionals as “splitting up and approaching the cave from two different directions.” Snrr is unable to track his quarry telepathically as a result so he lowers his shield (which has the particularly handy property of obscuring his vision) to get a better look at the valley below. As a result, he is promptly shot and killed. Suddenly the devious twist is complete and the hunter has now become the hunted, destined himself to hang in a museum on Earth.

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The Colour out of Space, H.P. Lovecraft [1927]

Part three of the 1952 Omnibus of Science fiction begins with Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour out of Space’ in which a surveyor visits a remote area of the country to prepare the locals for the construction of a new reservoir. While there he uncovers a decades old story of death and mystery whose impact still weighs heavily on the area.

Like so much of Lovecraft’s work, he builds suspense not so much with that he tells the reader but by what he does not. We are left to construct much of the detail for the story ourselves as Lovecraft merely provides a framework for the narrative. We know that almost 50 years ago a meteor fell to Earth and inside was found a bizarre gooey mass that defied all the attempts of science to categorize it. In the midst of investigations the substance quickly evaporated and found its way into the local environment. As the years go by, the region’s inhabitants are taken slowly by an unsettling and unpredictable affliction that leaves them a gray and dusty shell of themselves. Eventually the climax is reached when some of the shattered fragments have sucked enough life from their hosts to expel themselves back into space, presumably to colonize another world. Yet at least one fragment remains buried slowly and patiently leeching the life from the countryside. In classic horror style, the climax is reached, but the nightmare continues.

Boiled down to mere summary, Lovecraft’s story is like so, so many that have been told since. There’s little that we haven’t seen before but the author’s execution of the narrative leaves one gripping the edges of the book. The tension is palpable despite the fact that the villain… the villain is just a color, a vague and shapeless mass only seen when the sun is just at the right angle and only fleetingly out of the corner of one’s eye. This is the mastery of Lovecraft. In these days of HD video in which every aching detail is shown to us, Lovecraft excelled when it was possible to say more by saying less. He encourages the reader to fill in the missing pieces of his story with the absolute worst of their own nightmares. Today’s horror works to scare you with someone else’s vision of what is terrifying. Lovecraft carefully and delicately allows you to taunt yourself with your own raved imaginings.

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The Omnibus of Science Fiction – 1952 [Part 2 – Inventions, Dangerous and Otherwise]

Never Underestimate… – Theodore Sturgeon [1952]
Over the breakfast table, Lucinda changes the world with a few words. Her husband, a world-renowned scientist, listens carefully to his wife’s story from the previous day. In it she describes a scene in which a woman is pulled over for a traffic violation and uses her feminine wiles on the helpless officer to evade properly being held accountable for her actions. The good doctor is incensed on principle and parts from her company with the ominous words, “This has gone on for too long. I shall alter it.”

Later in the day Lucinda is livid with panic. Knowing that her husband is a man of no small powers, she wonders what exactly he could mean by his statement. By what means could he suppose to alter that subtle and almost boundless power that women have over men? Finally her worst fears are confirmed when her husband returns and she manages to pry the truth from him. The doctor hypothesized that women exert an inordinate power over men because they are constantly in a state of sexual receptivity. Rather than operate on fixed cycles that allow the interest of men to wax and wane as happens in other animals, humans are constantly in a state potential arousal. To reverse this state of affairs, a specific chemical preparation was placed on a recent H-bomb test and thus dispersed to every corner of the globe. Now, with the human libido properly in check for the majority of the month, mankind can get down to business without all those unnecessary sexual distractions. This is by far the best written of the stories so far though its premise is rather weak.

The Doorbell – David H. Keller [1934]
Henry Cecil is a steel magnate (not magnet) who engages the writer Jacob Hubler to write the story of his life. Henry invites Jacob up to his hunting lodge with very specific instructions. Jacob is to arrive in a chauffeured car and told very specifically to ring the doorbell. After a brief explanation to his wife, Jacob undertakes the trip. Upon arrival at the lodge he presses the doorbell only to be greeted by a terrifying shrieking. Unnerved but still determined, he is admitted to the lodge by the butler. Over the next few days, Henry reveals his story. When he was a lad his mother and brother were killed by four brothers over a land dispute. Henry escaped into the forest to make himself into the man he is today. Over the past several years, he has lured each of the brothers to his lodge in succession where he tortured them to death by feeding them fishhooks and placing them under the influence of huge electromagnets, controlled by the doorbell, which serve to extract the fishhooks in a most excruciating manner. So as each brother arrived in succession, he rang the doorbell for admittance and thus killed the previous brother. The writer was recruited to be the last participant in the chain and bear witness to the grim procession.

A Subway Name Mobius – A.J. Deutsch [1950]
Much of science fiction, I’m convinced, comes from an author’s momentary foray into some other field of study. Deutsch was an Astronomer by trade but this, one of his more famous offerings, comes to us from the field of topology.

The Boston subway system added a new branch line on March 3 and with that simple act the entire system descended into mathematical impossibility. The addition of that line increased the connectivity of the system to the point that it had, in fact, become infinite and now a train was lost, vanishing altogether from the closed system of the train tracks. After much erudite and really non-additive banter, the train does reappear of its own accord after several months in limbo. Unfortunately, before the offending branch of the system can be closed, another train disappears into the ether.

Backfire – Ross Rocklynne [1943]
The year is 3555 A.D. and the oleaginous politician Thomas Q. Greeley has been sent here from the 21st century quite against his will. Given a one-way ticket to the future by a jealous political rival, Greeley is still determined to make the best of it. In this enlightened day and age disease and aging have been abolished and Thomas wants his chance at immortality through an advanced technological process that will stop the aging process. He applies to the Physico-Stasis Bureau but is refused on the grounds that the administrators can tell all too well what his character is. Incensed at this snub, Greeley goes on to do what Greeley does best. Using his unique position as the only man around from the 20th century, Greeley quickly finds his way to the public air waves. From his pulpit he wages a war of words on the society in which he finds himself, rightly pointing out that without age and death to haunt them the masses have grown soft and complacent. In short order a movement forms around him and he returns to the Bureau to again ask for immortality but with the added threat that he can use his influence with the masses to cause chaos throughout the known universe if denied. This time, the cagey administrators of the Bureau agree to his demands. Unfortunately for Greeley, the next time he appears in public, the Bureau exposes him for a hypocrite and he is literally torn asunder by the enraged crowd.

The Box – James Blish [1949]
Coming from the depths of the cold war, The Box is a tale of the “what ifs” of our arms race against the world. The denizens of New York awake to find that their city is under siege, or more accurately, under a huge, opaque electromagnetic umbrella. Recent experiments have been underway by the U.S. government to create city-wide shields to defend against attacks. Unfortunately, some rival nation has beaten the Americans to the punch and not only created an effective shield but used it as a weapon against the city of New York. The city is shrouded in turmoil for days as residents cram themselves into subway terminals to flee the dome that threatens to suffocate them since it is only somewhat impermeable to the outside atmosphere. As expected, in the end all is well and scientists on the inside manage to dissipate the shield but not before several thousand are killed in the resulting chaos.

Zeritsky’s Law – Ann Griffith [1951]
Griffith’s short story follows closely on the heels of the first cryopreservation of bull semen in 1949. In it, Mrs. Graham’s poor cat falls into her chest freezer but then emerges unharmed after several months of stasis. This causes a world-wide stir in the press as it’s suddenly realized just how easy it is to vanish from the face of the Earth for a while. Before long, cryogenic companies have popped up everywhere and for the ample sum of $3,000 for the initial freezing and $100 a year maintenance, you too can wake up in the future. At first the enterprise is most popular to refugees from the law. Since the cryogenics companies work with their clients in anonymity, it’s a snap to simply step into the freezer until the heat is off (no pun intended). Similarly, impatient inheritors happily spend a few years on ice waiting for their rich relatives to die off and estranged spouses store themselves away in hopes for a future when the world will be unsullied by their exes. Unfortunately, all is unraveled due to one sad mistake. John Monahan, aged 37, fell in love with a mere slip of a girl at 16 so he arranges to step off into the murky cold for 5 years while his beloved comes of age. Sadly for him, a clerical error was made and he wasn’t awakened for 25 years by which time his love has moved on. The lawsuits and drama that result cause the whole practice to be outlawed. This seems a somewhat unlikely and sudden closure to an otherwise interesting speculative social piece.

The Fourth Dynasty – R. R. Winterbotham [1936]
Victor and Georgiana, star-crossed lovers, find themselves in the year 1,500,000 A.D. courtesy of Victor’s preservation drug that places humans in a state of impenetrable suspended animation until counteracted by a specific chemical antidote. The couple had planned to sleep for a century but ended up sleeping away a million and a half years. When they awake, they find that the age of man has died away, replaced by two races of strangely alien beings: the enlightened Koros and the brutal Xubrans. These two are in the midst of an epic battle waged with the power of the mind rather than any physical weapon. The couple, mortified by the carnage, intervene and the battle is abandoned. The Koros first adopt the pair as a historical curiosity but the Koros’ curious view on the world soon causes the couple to slowly lose interest and they slip into the opposing camp. There they father an enlightened hybrid race that later goes on to become the fifth dynasty of the planet Earth.

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The Omnibus of Science Fiction – 1952 [Part 1: Wonders of Earth and of Man]

At the price of one American dollar, this rather voluminous collection represents a lot of entertainment at a very small price. Its contents cover the previous 50 years of science fiction back at least to the 20s which is to say, the majority of the known history of the genre at the time. Admittedly, a short perusal of the introduction leads us to believe that some of the reprinted material may not actually be legitimately reproduced since the editor “seeks forgiveness in advance for any reprint permissions which might have been inadvertently omitted.” Nonetheless, the tome has much to offer in interesting ideas for the time. Admittedly, the actual execution of the storytelling may at times be found wanting but this does little to diminish the value of what is to be found therein. In an attempt to bring you, my assiduous reader, the best of the book, I’ll summarize each story below.
Part I: Wonders of Earth and of Man

 

John Thomas’s Cube – John Leimert [1945]

Some science fiction is wrought stiff and metallic from alien attacks or rocket ships to the moon but the more subtle are drawn slowly and quietly from the imaginations of the young. John Thomas, while playing in the yard, finds a large metal cube that he reports, simply, “is too heavy to lift.” His parents attempt to move it, and even dig a hole under it to find that it is absolutely fixed in space despite the fact that it’s no longer supported from beneath. The mystery deeps as scientists come from all around to puzzle out the oddity and can make nothing of it except a few desperate theories. Eventually the cube vanishes suddenly when John Thomas tires of it, the fancied whimsy of a boy who has an imagination too vivid even for those around him to resist.

This story I’d categorize simply as one of many examples of a simple character with an extraordinary ability. John conjures up this cube simply as a way to evade his forgotten homework. It does make one wonder why such stories appeal to us. Is it the inherent fear that others around us may have some hidden and dangerous power over us or the giddy hope that we ourselves might develop something similar? I’m sure the psychological threads of superhero worship are long and tangled ones but I shall leave those to a post of their own.

Hyperpilosity – L. Sprague de Camp [1938]

In the year 1971, a pandemic of flu sweeps the world and leaves in its wake a rather strange side effect. In much of science fiction, as in this story, the narrative is really secondary. In Hyperpilosity the main thrust is really the impact that would be brought upon the human species if it found itself suddenly covered head to toe in a hairy pelt. As our author would have it, reaction is at first briskly negative with all manner of attempts to reverse the process. Depilatory creams and painful processes for elimination of the unwanted addition to our bodies sweep the nation but eventually acceptance sets in. When everyone has the same hirsute dysfunction, we all begin to admire one another, much to the chagrin of clothing and cosmetics manufacturers.

The Thing in the Woods – Fletcher Pratt & B.F. Ruby [1935]

Pratt and Ruby’s 1935 short story is an example around a very standard theme. Two scientists create a carnivorous, mutant fungus that finds its way out of the laboratory and into the larger world. After noshing delightedly on a few animals it very nearly has a little girl for dessert before the typical deus ex machina saves the world from this new and terrifying menace that’s achingly similar to several dozen other new and terrifying menaces. This story is certainly in abundant, if not good, company.

And be Merry… – Katherine MacLean [1950]

On the surface, “And be Merry” is a very standard fiction offering. An overly-enthusiastic doctor is in search of some way to reverse the aging process so she uses herself as a guinea pig to test her theories. Various complications ensue and things go madly awry but eventually things turn out fairly reasonably. What sets this story apart is the depth to which this is all enacted. Firstly, it’s notable that this ground-breaking physician is a woman. Certainly in today’s world this would be nothing to wonder at but 60 years ago we still lived in a time when male and female roles in the world were much different. MacLean’s heroin is bold, intelligent and even lies to her husband so that he will allow her the time and space she needs to carry out her experiments. Further, her husband is not the dictatorial ass that is so often portrayed in this time period but instead a supportive and caring man who rescues her with no questions asked when she’s at her lowest ebb. Scientifically, of course, the story is dodgy as anything this long in the tooth must be. The premise our protagonist is testing is that if cellular structures are destroyed selectively and in a specific manner that the body will regenerate them “as good as new.” Through progressive application of this theory she is able to regrow her entire body in a much younger state. The only apparent down side of this seems to be that she lacks mental stability afterwards and has to be extracted from a mental institution by her beloved.

The Bees from Borneo – Will H. Gray [1931]

Silas was just a normal run of the mill beekeeper until he received a queen bee from the wilds of Borneo. Upon introducing it to his hives, the production of honey was prodigious, but unfortunately the bees were aggressive not just in their honey-gathering ability. Silas marketed the resulting bees far and wide and soon an epidemic arose. The country was besieged by the aggressive and deadly bees to the point that people couldn’t even safely go outside. Silas, by this time locked away in an asylum as a scourge on humanity, hatches a plot to save the world from his own plague. He breeds a line of bees superior and equally aggressive as those which roam the countryside but introduces the Achilles heel that they cannot survive a North American winter. These new drones are duly distributed and the bee apocalypse is averted one frosty November morning.

This plot line is, of course, an old standard. Man tampers with nature, nature gets pissed off and man barely manages to reel in the situation before all hell breaks loose. This bit of narrative is no different and has little to recommend it except to those who are followers of the apicultural arts. The most notable bit is that it predates the accidental introduction of the Africanized honey bee to Brazil in 1957 by 26 years.

The Rag Thing – David Grinnell [1951]

It all started when Mrs. Larch, an most unpleasant woman (doubtless someone of similar description was known personally to the author) left a filthy rag, soaked in furniture polish behind the radiator in one of her tenant’s rooms. All was apparently well as long as the radiators were on but when the weather broke in March, the radiators were turned off and as a result a man was dead. It seems that rag had come to life, and not in a happy Frosty the Snowman sort of way either. In the same way that life had evolved all those eons ago in a chemical soup, Mrs. Larch’s dust cloth had crept its way into the realm of the living. Finding no heat behind the radiator, our new life form felt the need to smother the boarders to death. Unluckily, it chose to smother one victim while he happened to be smoking in bed and the resulting conflagration was too much even for the constitution of the Dustrag From Hell. This particularly odd story is mercifully short and, I suspect, intended primarily to wreak revenge on a rather ponderous former landlady to Mr. Grinnell.

The Conqueror – Mark Clifton [1952]

Conquerors come in many shapes and sizes in the science fiction realm. From green insidious Martians to terrible skin-peeling microbes, humanity has been receiving end of a multitude of destructive forces. Clifton’s conqueror, however, is of an entirely different nature. In a remote mountain village, a young boy finds the simplest of things: a simple dahlia. In general, dahlias are far from edible but this particular specimen is a mutant. It’s not only tasty but nutritious and grows abundantly. Taking his discovery to the village, soon the strange new flower is grown far and wide. No longer fighting for daily survival, the world changes. Full bellies lead to open minds and peace reigns. Like Hyperpilosity, The Conqueror doesn’t so much tell a story as it does simply speculate about a world with just one tiny adjustment.

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On Parking and T2 eBusiness

Last week I attended T2’s User Group conference. Despite the fact that I’m a developer, and supposed to be a heartless automaton, I have to admit that the whole thing gave me a really warm and really fuzzy feeling. This year there was an entire “track” devoted to my product, T2’s eBusiness offering. I take the liberty of calling this “my product” because I’ve been working for T2 for 8 years and in this time the evolution of the product has been, to be frank, breathtaking. I’ve been there for every single step and I’m not going to deny that I have incredible pride in that product and feel directly responsible for all the good and the bad that lives there. Every permit season that goes well makes me smile. Every transaction that doesn’t go exactly as planned makes me wrinkle my brow in consternation. In a very real way there’s a lot of ME in this product and everything that happens I take very, very personally.

This User Group was almost outlandishly positive. Are there problems? Of course. Doing business online and trying to serve the masses is a VERY complicated business. As the saying goes, if anything possibly CAN be screwed up, then online users will figure out a way to screw it up. Many of our customers on older versions of the product are experiencing some pain and honestly, that sucks. I hate when even our old “snowflakes” feel pain because, to be honest, I WROTE some of those snowflakes. I want everyone to be successful. Sadly, some of those old sites… well, they’re just not engineered to stand the test of time. Hell, no software can last forever. We provided a one-time custom offering. They were great in their day but new eBusiness is lightyears ahead of those old dinosaurs and I dream of a day when ALL our customers can experience the growth we’ve gone through over the past 8 years. What absolutely turned that around for me though was the number of current customers, on newer eBusiness, who stepped up to defend us when our older snowflake customers had an issue. Our customers recognize the value of what we’ve created and are willing to stand up and say so. As the developer and mastermind behind all those changes, that is an amazing feeling.

So while there are problems, because there are always problems, what made me exceptionally happy was the number of customers who expressed their gratitude for the changes in eBusiness or were honestly excited about the changes we had made. When standing in front of a group of customers there is no greater joy than seeing a room full of heads nod in approval at what you’ve done. As a product group, we’re very much focused on the needs of our customers and I think that on many levels our customers can sense that. We desperately want to make the product better for our customers and for all those who are involved in it.

Tonight, I spent four hours of my personal time working on the View Carts page. I’ve heard feedback that it could use some new features so I came home, did my exericse in front of the xBox (which, I’m ashamed to say, I manage to do once every 2 months or so) and then sat down to look at this page that User Group feedback revealed our customers actually USE on a REGULAR basis. I won’t deny that there’s an immense pride in knowing that a group of people actually uses something you wrote, that something you conceived and labored on is in use by someone. As of eBusiness 7.3, you’ll be able to search for carts by customer UID or keyword such as permit number, citation number, credit card receipt number or type of permit. This didn’t make it into the product because of online voting or because customers demanded it, wielding pitchforks at T2’s doorstep, but because a single T2 employee thought you could benefit from the changes and thus made it happen for you. At the risk of being maudlin, this is what makes T2 special. At a very tangible level, we all really give a shit about the success of our customers. If you let us know your need, we’ll make it happen. That’s what we do, day in and day out. We absolutely want to bring you the best product possible and not just because Sales says so. It’s personal.

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On Veterans Day

This past Friday was Veterans day, a holiday in which we celebrate the sacrifices of those who have served in America’s military. Watching Facebook I saw a lot of tributes to this group of people and let me start by saying that I share the sentiment. Every day there are thousands of Americans who put their very lives on the line to service the needs of our country. These people go to work every day with the knowledge that they may very well get their faces blown off by an IED or be killed or horribly maimed. That’s a claim that very few of us can make. Those who serve in the military are truly selfless individuals who deserve to be praised and honored every day of the year, not just one single day in November.

All that said, the idea that any of that is necessary at all is complete bullshit. On one hand I respect immensely that people are willing to do that. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to put everything you have in jeopardy every time you put your boots on in the morning. On the other hand, it makes me utterly sick that in this day and age our government is still so backwards and unsophisticated that it requires that people fight and die to support its strategy on the world stage. Every American soldier who comes home without a hand (or a face) represents the failure of the U.S. government to do its job. Surely in this day and age diplomacy must rule first and foremost. Only when the statesmen fail to do their jobs properly must we resort to the abomination of war, physical intervention in some remote area.

So on this Sunday after Veterans day, I say simply, thank you. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for what you put on the line every day. But it’s a complete fucking shame that you have to do it. If our politicians weren’t such utter fucking failures, you would all be safe at home, every single one of you, warm and comfortable by the sides of the ones you love. Your deaths lay heavily on the failures and the egos of the American political system. The sooner that the United States can take its right and proper position in the world, the sooner you will come home safely. I honor the veterans of America’s wars, but I hope for a day when they will be an extinct species, a relic of a bygone and obsolete age.

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