Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Overdrawn from the Well of Fortitude

Col. Bryan McCoy taking a catnap on "the march up" to Baghdad

I'm finally able and willing to post again. If my experience counts for anything I must be avoiding some difficult and trying task. Maybe more on that later, maybe not. [Note: I started this post on 12/2 so 'later' is now, and that's all I'll say]

I'm really taken by this picture of Col. Bryan McCoy stealing a catnap - arms splayed, flat on his back in the dirt, knees bent and rifle resting across his chest, stealing sleep during a lull in the Marines lightning campaign to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom (aka Gulf War II). It's borrowed from John Koopman's McCoy's Marines: Darkside to Baghdad (2004) an odd but rewarding memoir of the SF Chronicle reporter's embedding with McCoy's 3rd Battalion/4th Marines. Reading Koopman's book was part of a jag initiated by watching HBO's brilliant Generation Kill. Following on from simultaneous readings of Evan Wright's Generation Kill and Nathanial Fick's One Shot Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
and using various Amazon reviews and references as a guide I ordered several titles from the public library.

Bing West's account of The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the United States Marines
puts the other accounts into a broader narrative and is a good read by itself. West's next title No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah has already been optioned by Hollywood and is set to star Harrison Ford. Its a gritty combat narrative, easily jumping back and forth between the aggressive foot patrols and sustained fire fights, and the political and diplomatic skirmishing between civil and military leaders under the glare of the media and ghosts of the Vietnam. If you're looking for a classic combat memoir sans the 'big picture' I recommend Patrick O'Donnell's We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulderwith the Marines Who Took Fallujah. We Were One is a book where the story overwhelms the story telling but you're left with the rich details of squad level action in close combat in an urban battleground.

But back to Darkside, Col. Bryan McCoy's radio call sign. I'd stumbled upon a short but enticing review of his primer The Passion of Command on the Kings of War blog (War Studies department, Kings College London). It proved difficult to obtain (library, Amazon, Alibris, etc) so I wound up ordering it from the publishers. It was worth the effort.

McCoy outlines his philosophy and technique for training Marines for combat. He introduce me to the concept of the 'well of fortitude' (a reservoir of will) as developed by LtCol David Grossman (On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society) and Col John Allen, reproducing the table Human Factors in Battle that Allen used for his USMC lectures.

The Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership
by Colonel Bryan McCoy

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vengence is mine; and best served as cold salad

I admit to being somewhat hooked on my cellphone's photography. At its best it reminds me of the images I saw in a small paperback book of early color photography that I possessed decades ago. Soft, impressionistic auras frame the best shots - and the immediacy of this electronic medium seems somehow embossed in the image.

No confessions necessary about my avid interest in food. I love to prepare food and actively consume its material culture, aka foodways.

Teresa and I stumbled upon a cold salad recipe (see my 'product shot' above) a few Sundays ago following an early morning visit to the Hollywood Farmers Market (not to be confused with also delightful but 7-days-a-week Fairfax Farmers Market). One of the better produce stands is located up at the Hollywood Blvd. end and I generally pickup radishes and sometimes other items here. On this Sunday we spied some lovely pale yellow bell-shaped peppers and waited to make a closer inspection while a European-looking gentleman completed his selection.

Often admired but never before purchased I asked the man what these waxy yellow peppers tasted like. Were they hot? No, he replied. Sweet and tasty. Perfect sauteed with some sausage and tomatoes - and wait for the obligatory ethnic profiling - with a little paprika!

That was more than enough incentive for us to buy 4-5 peppers for some happy experimentation banked for later in the day. Before completing our forage we also secured some small orange tomatoes and sweet onions but without specific purpose.

That afternoon, back in the TG (Tularosa Gulch) Teresa set upon a regime of oven roasting, the peppers, tomatoes and the sweet onions at 400 degrees for an hour. Despite the extra heat in our sun baked kitchen, what a divine and heady aroma!

The details are fuzzy but a subsequent Sunday errand to Jon's Market in Hollywood (Little Armenia to be more precise) produced a link of Gyulai kolbász, a hot, dried Hungarian sausage. Jon's is a wonderful multi-ethnic supermarket (part of a small chain) offering a wide selection of products and we bought this sausage with the intention of following the stranger's advice for preparing the yellow peppers.

Gyulai Kobasz
Needless to say, what we wound up with was a special treat that we intend to repeat. After roasting the peppers, tomatoes, and sweet onions we roughly chopped and tossed them together. I sliced and added the Gyulai kolbász and made the first taste. Stop when you're ahead! No need to add oil or vinegar, the roasted vegetables were rich with their own extruded moistures (I'm sure this is NOT proper culinary lingo - please forgive me). Satisfied we struck solid gold we lightly dusted the salad with freshly purchased Adro Szegedi paprika and packed it away in the refrigerator for later (definitely work lunches in mind).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hoarding art

JACQUES VILLEGLE, Hotel Saint-Senoch - rue Bayen<br />31 mars 1963
More art from Jacques Villegle, from an 2007 exhibition by Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris.

Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois
Of course it's the scale and physical presence of the objects that's missed with these examples, but in this humid kitchen with southern exposure and temporarily surrounded by a pile of old pulp paperbacks gently reeking of acid pages I can manage a easy transport to stand in front of these works.

JACQUES VILLEGLE, Rue du Fauconnier, 13 mars 1965

Brake Burns: Where the rubber writes the code

Brake burns from All Good! blog, courtesy of a tip-off from Telstar Logistics
Thanks Telstar Logistics for pointing me to All Good! and the brilliant brakes burns

Maybe it's the heat or it's just Saturday afternoon, but this makes me think of an odd, unexpected calligraphy that calls out and seizes one in the corner of the eye, on the periphery of daily routes and routines.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Snapshot of My Current Reading

PAPER WALLS, originally uploaded by Juan Madrigal Photo.

Beautiful decollage (Affiches lacérées) from Cali seems to mirror my reading habits these days.

Might work as an illustration of some twitterverse too.

Enjoying my 'stay-cation' for another fews days.

Happy Summer Solstice from Tularosa Nullah

Winding up the next-to-the-last week of middle school, Elliott has returned home with a first place medal for the 6th grade mile rule - way to go champion! This despite a 99-degree first day of summer that has everyone trying to duck the sun as all costs.

Excited to hear Chuck Hagel being discussed as possible running mate for Obama. Times are really bad enough to go all 'national unity' and shift/stiff the 2 party paradigm. A long shot perhaps but maybe it is the kind of change you can believe in?

Started following the MarsPhoenix on Twitter once news was broadcast about water ice being discovered on the surface of Mars by the NASA lander.

Busy reading anything and everything, as usual. It's some Kornbluth stories now but getting back to David Grene's memoirs, Of Farming and Classics. Dipped in Fred Hoyle's memoirs and enjoyed learning details of his rambling days. Found a $5 copy of a Penguin edition of The Black Cloud and couldn't resist buying it even though I need to reduce my library to more manageable levels.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day on the Northern Plains of Mars

Vacation snaps from the plains of the Martian arctic - there are some folks with wonderful hangovers in Pasadena (Arizona, UK, and elsewhere) today.

Reminds me of the Viking 1 landing on in western Chryse Planitia on July 4, 1976 - excellent timing for a space faring nation to celebrate its own 200th birthday. Remember watching images beamed from Viking later that week while eating at a cafe near Penn Station.

Morning on earth here in southern California - scrub jays Smith &amp; Hawkins have visited and started the day's caching of peanuts. Grassy Knolls is looking wild and now wet thanks to a good hosing down. Now it's off to a short run of errands and then back to spend the day with family.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

ERRguitar Set to Strum

An act of consolidation. Unite the efforts, integrate the various threads and revive ERRguitar. Hell, celebrate the glorious break in the weather and talk about what's in the oven and grilling on the patio. And what's in the reading queue.

Spawn of Marines (my mother DID wear 'Army boots,' or whatever footwear was issued to Women Marines circa WWII), I'm again pondering how to observe Memorial Day. TCM has been a godsend in the past and I intend to dip into its offering over the next 2 days. I'm drawn to rewatching "Private Ryan" after seeing some clips during a Spieleberg-on-Spielberg special - Hank's Captain Miller's "Earn this" whisper, a call for reflection as my country is again at war.

Back on the homefront, the whole family got haircuts on the same day - a first - with satisfied smiles all round.

And back to the kitchen - time to wrap up the late Saturday dinner. Baked potato stuffed with bacon/anchovy/sage/garlic and steak ala Grassy Knolls... Updates to follow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year 2008!

Been down with a cold during the last week but wanted to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year - and to share this wonderful blog The Record Envelope that collects 7-inch record sleeves. I've scanned and submitted several sleeves yesterday - the Pama Records sleeve above was bought in September of 1980 in London. More on my obsession with 'skinhead reggae' at another time. And on impulse I wanted to share this still from THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE - a great little film by Val Guest that's definitely worth discovering. Expect something from ERRguitar on THE DAY in 2008.