"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Bree's been very helpful in assigning me the proper term for a Glee fan. Apparently the votes are in and it's "Gleek". Thanks so much Bree.

With BSG over and done with, 24 and Lost still weeks away, V barely a blip on my radar, Caprica still in the pipeline, and Scrubs a pale shadow of itself, much of my Christmas break has been devoted to finding something to replace the gaping void left by my favorite shows (okay yes, I have family, books, and an xBox, but something's still missing . . .). Much to my own surprise, I have settled on Glee.

Why surprise, you might ask? Those of you who know me well are probably thinking that, given how much of my college years I gave to musical theater, a show about people singing and dancing isn't much of a stretch. Fair enough, but since the platform for all the singing and dancing is your 'typical' high school drama, I was more than ready to give it a big fat miss. I despise high school dramas in all their forms, with its teenagers who grapple with horribly life-shattering problems week after week after week, are universally wiser than their years (and their parents, teachers, etc), and are impossibly attractive. Degrassi, Dawson's Creek, The O.C.: proudly missed them all.

So I don't know exactly why the simple addition of singing and dancing has made the difference for Glee, but it has. And apart from the music - more on that in a sec - the show is also helped by the conscious decision on the part of the creators to make its William McKinley High a parody of high school life, rather than the self-centered melodrama depicted by every other series. The characters are almost universally cookie-cutter stereotypes of everyone's worst experiences in high school (though full disclosure: as my high school lacked most of the organizations a 'normal' high school has, I only know about these experiences from other people): the dumb and casually sadistic football players (didn't have a football team), cheerleaders so airheaded they don't know their left hand from their right (didn't have cheerleaders), the flaming diva gay guy, the conservative parents who spout family values while secretly wallowing in alchoholism (and of course, the father watches Glenn Beck), and their 'innocent' daughter who uses the chastity club as cover for her sexcapades. And the glee club is where all the socially bottom-feeding neurotic losers hang out (again, wouldn't know, didn't have one). Then there's the squeaky-clean Spanish teacher who reboots glee club and brings all these different stereotypes together. This shouldn't work, for many reasons, but it does, because a) the writing is sharp, crisp, and hysterical (cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester is probably one of the best-written characters in recent years), b) there's enough real pathos in the characters' various tribulations that you want to see what happens next, and c) all of it is enhanced by the music of the glee club.

The music turns silly teenage drama into enjoyable silly musical drama, and the producers have proven very adept at finding just the right song to dress up the storylines. The best thing is, the soundtrack hasn't been limited to one or two genres. Oh there's a good deal of modern hip-hop and pop to appeal to the target audience, but we also get 80's rock ballads, Broadway numbers, classic Motown, and many other styles; this helps keep the older folks interested, sure, but also re-introduces these small gems to a generation that might not otherwise find them. The new mixes of these songs are also outstanding, to the point where more than a few sound better than their originals. And through it all, you really get the sense that the cast is having fun with the whole experience; which, after all, is generally the reason most of us get into the world of musical theater to begin with. Good on Glee's creators for making a drama I can watch, not take seriously, and sing along with. I thank you (at least, until Lost comes back).

Now, to regain my manly credentials, I've also spent a few late nights playing my way through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, courtesy of brother number two. The first had a pretty thin storyline but amazing visuals and gameplay (though its single-player campaign was far too short); this formula is repeated in the sequel, for good and ill: the plot has holes you could fly my helicopter through, but the graphics are incredible and we once again get some of those "wow" moments the COD series is so good at (you get to launch, and then 'guide', missiles off a Predator drone to their targets, assault an oil platform from a submarine, and chase a bad guy through a sandstorm for a knife-fight to the death). Again, the single player takes almost no time to play through, but at least once it's done, you can play through a series of "Spec Ops" missions that focus on different mission types. I don't have xBox Live, but perhaps on deployment I'll get to experience the multiplayer game, which is supposed to be outstanding.

I've also done a little professional (and non-professional) reading the last couple of weeks: one is a book called, interestingly enough, Spec Ops, which focuses on unconventional operations from World War II to the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda. This is required reading by our battalion CO, as the MEU, by its very nature, might require us to engage in a wide variety of unconventional missions in the face of superior forces. I'm also almost finished with American Rifle by Alexander Rose, a fascinating history of the connection between the rifle and American history. It's eye-opening stuff and you don't need to know much of anything about guns to enjoy it.

Finally, speaking of guns, I picked up and tested out my Christmas/anniversary/future significant events present yesterday: a 1950 Soviet SKS semiautomatic rifle, which was well-cared for by its previous owners and looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. If you all are ever in town, we'll take it and go play.

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