Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time to Slip HIM a Mickey?

The age-old complaint women give about their male partner is that he, "Won't commit," "Doesn't cuddle enough," "Likes to spend time alone." You can add your own variation to this.

Now, a study of voles, provides new information and, yes, guidance, as how to handle your man.

Basically, he may need more vasopressin.

Tom Insel, a neuroscientist, has studied prairie and montane voles, and found that the two are 99% identical, but it is the 1% difference that, well, makes all the difference.

The montane vole is a sailor, coming into port to mate only to disappear into the swells of the mountain meadows. He may be a great lover, but he's an absent father and is, apparently, emotionally unavailable.

The prairie male vole, though, forms a very close pair bond with his mate, is a great dad (I guess this would mean protecting the little tykes from snakes, taking them with him as he goes to forage), and prefers the company of his mate to others (I guess you could take that to mean he'd rather hang around the nest than scamper through the tall grasses with his buds). He might be more like, well, an accountant.

So what do you do if you think your man tilts toward the montane and is less sedate and dependable than the accountant/meadow mole?

Easy! On a regular basis, offer to make him a drink and slip in some vasopressin. It's not hard to come by. Only a few drops on a regular basis should do the trick.

Surely this is easier than wearing uncomfortable underwear from Victoria Secrets!

Of course, you might wonder what HE is reading if he offers to make YOU a drink!

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Op-Ed for the Shreveport Times, August 9 "Bone and Spirit"

August 9, 2009

Bone and Spirit

Editor's note: The Times asked Shreveporter Mike Sledge, author of a book on fallen servicemen and women, to offer his thoughts on the recovery of the remains of Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher.

The recent discovery of the remains of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, the Navy pilot shot down in the Gulf War, brings again to mind the significant and poignant body-as-mind-soul-person association that is so commonly expressed, albeit in a manner that often eludes easy observation.

Indeed, President Barack Obama illustrated this conflation of body and person when he recently said, "I am grateful to the Marines who pursued the information that led to Capt. Speicher's recovery so that he can now come home [italics added]." If you didn't know the rest of the story, you wouldn't know the president was speaking about someone who had died.

We know, in our heads, that whatever mind or soul that constituted Capt. Speicher is separate and apart from the frail human vessel that contained his essence — his spirit, if you will — and that the same is true for the ones we love. Yet, despite any ontological argument tucked away behind our foreheads, we have difficulty fully accepting the distinction between the body and the soul of those close to us, and long after we receive definitive proof of death, our hearts still ache for the resolution that a final disposition of remains so frequently offers.

The seemingly insensible joining of body and soul by the survivors of those who have died is most apparent in cases when a body is not available for final disposition, as has often been the case of military deaths. In past wars, the return of the remains of our Soldier Dead ("Soldier Dead" is a phrase that originated during the Civil War given, in toto, to those who died in service of our country) was not a guaranteed event. Mexico City still hosts a cemetery containing the remains of 750 unknown dead from our war with that country.

During the Spanish-American War, the United States built upon its Civil War experience and strove to better improve the accounting and handling for the dead, but it was World War I that brought about an organization specifically dedicated to the recovery, identification and overseas burial of our dead. But, then there was the question: Do we leave our Soldier Dead overseas or bring them back?

Arguments for both alternatives were fierce, with former President Theodore Roosevelt deciding to leave his son, Quentin, buried in France. Interestingly, some argued for the return of the dead not because of patriotism, but because burying the dead would provide needed jobs. However, and again to illustrate the body-person association, a mother wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing, saying, "You took my son from me and sent him to war ... my son sacrificed his life to America's call, and now you must as a duty of yours bring my son back to me." (The mother insisted that her son be returned to her, not her son's body.)

This mother's letter settled all arguments, and afterwards (and after WWII), the next of kin made the final determination of burial site, with approximately two-thirds electing to bring the remains of their loved ones home while the rest were buried overseas in cemeteries such as the Normandy burial site so beautifully portrayed in "Saving Private Ryan."

During the Korean War, the United States began a concurrent return of Soldier Dead, which provided family members with much quicker final resolution than was available after WWI and WWII when the dead were not repatriated until nearly two years had passed after the cessation of hostilities. Now, members of our Armed Forces who give their lives are home in days.

However, there are still those missing from WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam — nearly 88,000 all total. We still mount missions to recover, identify and repatriate the remains of these missing, and those searching have, at times, paid a heavy price themselves, even the ultimate price.

Why? Why do we search so hard and so long for those we know surely to be dead?

And so we circle back to the beginning of this article, that of the association between body and soul, even when we know that the "remains" that are found are little more than bones. These bones are the ones we loved, and, like the Athenians who provided a public ceremony and burial for the remains of its fallen, we know we will find rest when those bones do.

Mike Sledge is a freelance author who resides in Shreveport. His book, "Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen" was released in 2005. His Web site is www.mikesledge.com.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I Like Dark!

Recently, I was asked why I like "dark." As in dark humor, dark movies. I thought about how to articulate an answer, and realized that this was a feeling thing, not a thinking thing.

I've always liked dark. Robert Mitchum (Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear). More recently, Tarantino (Pulp Fiction).

The thing about dark is that it stands in such startling contrast to light. Well, duh! But, seriously, in light discernment comes with ease, while the dark holds more than is readily visible; you have to feel around, and touch things/thoughts without seeing them beforehand. Sometimes, you never know what you will come up with.

Dark has no easy answers, no platitudes, no gimmicky endings. Dark is thoughtful, dark is dangerous. Dark has a bottom that you can't see and try to feel with your feet, like swimming in a lake. And, like in a lake, you'll likely encounter hidden slimy things with your legs, and sometimes live moving things brush by with a cold touch and disappear.

In dark, good men are bad, and bad men are even badder; women can't be trusted, motives are suspect, and truth is variable.

In dark, creatures move about, looking for something to eat. Early hominids must have been terrified of the dark, knowing that the black veil beyond their campfires was filled with large teeth, sharp claws, and, worse, suckers of souls.

Yet, to venture into the carbon black is to embrace your fears, to know that even thought justice is relative, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and even the good-with-parts-of-bad man or woman will try to swim up to the light one more time...sometimes for personal salvation, sometimes to save others, but always for redemption.

I guess I like dark because I believe in the devil (though certainly not the fallen angel of traditional biblical schools), and the devil lives in the blackness that is always pulled away in a dark story or movie, if only for a little, and we see bad for what it is, and good for what it tries to be.

Mike S.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sneaking a Peek at His/Her Kindle!

When first considering spending time with another person in a dating situation, we all have ways of making an initial assessment of future possibilities. For instance, when I lived in Boulder, CO, many women would put something like this in their on-line profiles: "If you even THOUGHT about voting Republican (Bush, especially), don't even THINK about contacting me."

But, once over the initial meeting or two and we've ascertained that we won't be arguing over the Stimulus Package and a real date ensues, what other clues are there to use?

For me, when I pick the lady up at her house, my eyes can't help but search her bookcases. If they are full of Nora Roberts or Clancy, then she'd better be really sexy and have a great body. If they have some Camus, Saramago, Updike, McCarthy, or other notable writers, then my mind is definitely involved.

But, now, with Kindle becoming every more popular (I love my Kindle DX), what's a single, avid reader to do? I can't just say, "Hey, honey, I'd like to see your Kindle!" Or, "I'll show you my Kindle if you show me yours!" Or, "Would you like to synch our Kindles?"

Now, I really can't give the woman's perspective on judging a date ahead of time. I mean, I've heard women say, "If he has a job and isn't in jail, he's a good prospect," and I wouldn't be able to comment if a woman cared what a man's Kindle looked like, but I would imagine a full Kindle might be a good sign, maybe especially the newer and bigger model.

Perhaps Amazon (the seller of Kindle), can offer its OWN date site, where you can search for possibilities by books downloaded? Oh, yeah, then I know I'll have a lot of luck. Some of my recent downloads are: Sex, Time, and Power, Beowulf, The Epic of Gilgamesh, books sure to really bring 'em in. (Ironically, there is ONE woman I know who would LOVE my choices: my EX-WIFE!)

Mike Sledge

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where John Wayne Rode...Monument Valley

June 18, 2009

This morning I walked down the street to get coffee while Jes slept in and stumbled into a fantastic café. I booted up my little netbook and sipped from a cup of tasteful and aromatic coffee while sitting amidst a desert garden, listening to the miniature waterfall in a little Japanese pond that three big multicolored goldfish called home.

Our plan was to drive south on Hwy 191 to Blanding, and then cut west on 95 and then south on 261. We bucked a headwind all the way south to Blanding, which is located on a kind of mesa, right at 6,100 feet. We still wore jackets and gloves, but no rain gear needed, thank god.

When we turned onto 95, I knew it was a good choice, because we saw nobody on the road that swooped through the canyons like a hawk. The road required constant shifting, but that was just fine because it was so nice. Along the way, we stopped at some Anasazi ruins. Jes and I both commented how so very exciting it was to gaze upon a place that was bustling with activity 800 years ago.

We turned south and the first thing we saw was a sign that said, “Narrow gravel road 23 miles ahead.” I’m thinking, “Huh? WTF? Two years ago I had driven this same route the other direction, and I just didn’t seem to recall anything special. Oh, well.

But, 23 miles later it all came back to me…we would be driving right down the side of a mesa bluff into the area just north of Monument Valley. Two years ago I had driven toward this wall of red stone thinking, “Where’s the road up?” I think the pictures will show exactly what it was like.

This picture was taken looking over the back...this is the rock wall we had just driven down!

Once down, we stopped in Mexican Hat, shared a burger, and saddled up again, looking forward to Monument Valley, the site of filming for many John Wayne movies.

What is amazing about the buttes of Monument Valley is that the whole valley floor used to be the same height as the top of the monuments. Wind and water subsequently worn down and carried away all the softer rock, leaving the harder stone behind, standing in tall spires.

A traffic accident put us on a detour in Kayenta, a town in the Navajo Nation, and we were stop and go…mostly stop. At one point, when I let the clutch out, a hammer of wind hit us…so hard that it ACTUALLY PUSHED US BACKWARDS ON THE HARLEY. I swear to god we rolled backwards a few feet while I fought for balance. I didn’t want to gas it and go because I wasn’t sure if I could stay upright, so I just locked the front brake and braced my feet on the ground. Then, suddenly as it came, it was gone. I said to Jes, “Shit! That was as strong or stronger than the wind burst we hit yesterday.” (The day before, after the final gas stop while on the way to Moab, we had just gotten back on I-40 when we were hit by a gust of wind that felt solid as a fist.) Later, Jes told me, “Yeah, I was filming and saw the dust storm coming.” I’m like, What? Why the F didn’t you tell me!”

Later, when we reviewed her video recording, it was clear what had happened: a very big dust devil had blown our way and passed over us. Fortunately, we were stopped when it hit, because a Harley is fine when moving right along, fine when stopped, but there is a moment of transition when beginning to roll when balance is a little iffy.

At Kayenta, after we checked in, a group of Harley riders pulled into the Holiday Inn. Turns out they were Italians who owned Harleys back in Italy and who had rented them in Las Vegas and were doing a tour. They even had Italian Harley leather jackets on! One of them said,"Everything is bigger here...even the Cokes." And, yes, ALL of them, men and women, young and middle-aged, were NOT carrying pounds and pounds of extra weight. Go figure.

As usual, supper, download pictures, discuss tomorrow…which, in this case, will our last day on the Harley.

Mike Sledge

Moab, Biblical Burial Site of Moses

June 17, 2009

Once again, I got up and got coffee and checked my computer for email and stock market trends. Then, of course, take coffee to Jes to jump start her. Our plan was to make it an easy 180-190 miles to Moab. Moab is named after the biblical burial land of Moses, who, as you know, did not make it to the Promised Land.

We left Richfield and motored east on I-70. I knew the San Rafael Swell was ahead of us and was looking forward to it. (I had heard much about this geologic formation while living in Boulder but hadn’t had the chance to view it.) The wind/air temp was just about perfect, but we pulled over to don rain gear just in case.

We did a lot of climbing going up the west side of the swell, and reached a great viewing point. The Native Americans were there with large spreads of jewelry. (I wonder if that stuff is really made in Thailand or somewhere.)

Then, we rode the down into the San Rafael Desert. Going up, over, and down the swell presented us with fantabulous sights, and these pictures really don’t do justice to the geography. The scale of mountains, plains, mesas, and other western geography dwarfs what you see in Arkansas, the Hill Country of Texas, and even the Appalachians. You really feel as though you are just a mote when you ride down a cut made through huge stone walls and find yourself staring out at mountains that are 30-40-50 miles in the distance across the high desert.

We got gas just before turning south on Hwy 191 to Moab. Moab, UT, is the setting for a novella I’ve finished (are we ever finished?), and driving back to the town was like going back to see an old friend.

After grabbing a hotel, we went to get a snack, and then rode around some. We ended up taking the road that leads to Slickrock Trail (a famous mountain bike jaunt) but pushed on to where the road turned to gravel and then kept going another ten miles or so. When we stopped to take a break, stretch our legs, and snap some pics, Jes called to me from behind where I was standing. “Hey, Papa, do you think we need to worry about that?”

I turned and saw some dark clouds a few miles away approaching…and it was obvious that they were dumping rain. We were way high above the town and miles away, so I was most concerned about lightning. Fortunately, we missed most of the rain.

After taking a cat nap, we decided to do some more looking around and find somewhere to eat. I had a place in mind, but didn’t tell her about it until we started up a horribly-maintained asphalt road toward a very oddly shaped structure at the top.

“That’s a great dinner place,” I said. “Been there before and it was delicious.”

It proved to be an equally enjoyable experience this time, too, although the rain drove us off our outdoor dinner patio and inside for shelter.

We did our usual TV thing, throwing the remote back and forth, telling the other to try and find a good channel. Terrible TV all week, but that was really just as well.

Lights out at 11 or so.

Mike Sledge

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Heaven Is On Earth...Esp. When It Rains In The Mountains

Tues, June 16, 2009

I woke up in St. George and grabbed my neat little Asus Eee PC (a 10.7 in screen, 160 gig hard drive, 7-hr battery life netbook) and headed for breakfast…coffee in particular. The second thing I do is to check the weather. Hmmm…well, today might be a “wet day.” And it was!

By the time Jes got up (“Papa, I swear it’s like a meat locker in here!” is her morning mantra) and we got going it, it was clear that the sky would not be. Rain garments went on top of the items in the saddlebags.

We ran north on Hwy 18 out of St. George, planning on stopping first at the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It was, as before, a gorgeous drive, and intermittent light rain sprinkled us on the road.

Thirty miles later we pulled into the memorial sites, one of which is an overlook that has a memorial marking the names of those killed and several markers that provide the history of the tragedy. To make a long story short, an emigrant wagon train from Arkansas was ambushed by a group of Native Americans and Mormons from a local settlement. For reasons still not exactly clear, a Mormon militia joined in the attack. (This was during a time of the Utah War, when the US decided to assert its authority over the region and the Mormons resisted.)

After a day or so of continuous assault, a few people of the wagon train were killed and a “truce” was arranged in which the emigrants gave up their arms in exchange for a promise of safe escort out of the region. About a mile from the initial camp where the attacks began, the now-unarmed emigrants were slaughtered, save for all children under the age of seven (it was thought that they would not remember the incident).

Eventually, Brigham Young threw his son (one of them…nice to have some spares, no?) under the bus and who was eventually executed for this crime. Over time, the memorials were updated and improved.

The second memorial site was down in the meadows below the overlook and it contained the graves and stone cairn commemorating the burial site. It was really a beautiful place, one worth taking a side trip off the regular travel routes.

We decided to put on our rain pants in addition to our jackets we had already donned. The bad thing about riding a motorcycle when it’s wet is that if you wait till it’s raining to stop and put on rain gear, you’re doing so when the sky is dumping on you and it’s really too late.

Of course, along the way there were the usual stops for pictures. I love these that Jes took.

We made it to Cedar City on I-15 and took a look at the map. What the heck, we decided. We’d take the canyon road, Hwy 14, back to Hwy 89 (the road we had been on leaving Flagstaff.) and then head north. We were thinking that it would be too wet to ride the interstate up to Salt Lake City. On this account, we were truly correct, but we had hell still ahead of us.

As we rode up Hwy 14 heading east, I told Jes, “Well, it’s a canyon road…it might stay down low….unless, of course, the town was the bottom where the river ran out and we would be climbing to the mountains.” My words proved to be prophetic.

We climbed and we climbed. I pulled over and put my heavier pair of gloves on. We climbed. It rained on us…thank god not a downpour but a steady drizzle. Not much traffic. NO MOTORCYCLES coming the other way…definitely NOT a good sign.

Up, up, around and around…really pretty but really cold. By the time we pulled over at the junction between 143 and 14, it was about 40 something. I looked at the map and decided to take 143 where it led to 148 and then take the east turn down the mountains. This would put us up in the mountains a little longer, but drop us back onto 89 considerably further up the road. This decision was a mixed blessing, for we had a very rare view at one overlook, but we spent more time in the rain and cold.

And we continued up. Then, we saw snow alongside the road, which brought laughs. By now, we’re at 35 degrees. We really aren’t cold except for our hands, and it’s kind of important for a cycle rider to be able to work the hand controls, you know.

We stop at a pull out in which there was a viewing area overlooking a part of the mountain that seemed to have just sheared away, much like a tooth will break from the crown down to the root. (I’ve got to look that up on the net later.)

We get back on and continue climbing. We saw one sign that gave the altitude at just below 10,000 feet, but the road climbed for quite some time after that. I had to stop a couple of time just to take my gloves off and blow on my hands.

Once we crossed the summit and started down, the needle on the thermometer mounted on the bike started climbing….we were descending into heaven, I’ll say.

In town, we stopped for an afternoon snack and to get hot chocolate. I checked the map and we talked. It was clear that monsoon season in Utah was going to dump rain on the west side of the mountains we had just crossed, so we decided to go east, stay the night on I-70, then head to Moab the next day.

We saddled back up and motored the next 70+ miles north on 89. The road was nice, we had a wind in our back so I set that little puppy on 70 and let ‘er thunder down the road. A Harley big twin with the right pipes creates such a wonderful sound…not too loud yet you hear those big pistons just pounding away, their stale breath coming out through the exhausts in a steady, muted roar. It’s easy to get into a Zen state where your thoughts wander as the vista unfolds.

We turned east on I-70, got to Richfield and decided to make it an early day.

Great hotel, wonderful pool (it feels so good to get some exercise after a day on the bike...and it is NOT a good thing that I float better than I used to), dinner, movie, talk, bed.

I love my daughter!!!!

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flagstaff to St. George via Colorado City

Monday, June 15.

Of course I got up first. Thank GOD for coffee. We drove to the storage rental place and unloaded the Harley, suited up, and took off.

Jes is a wonderful riding companion. She doesn’t complain, keeps her balance, and hangs tough when the ride gets difficult (more on this later).

We rode up Hwy 89 out of Flagstaff, took the alternate 89 turnoff.

This took us to the Arizona Strip. The Arizona Strip is the part of Arizona above the Grand Canyon and below the Utah border. There’s a whole lot of nothing there.

The weather at first was cool, sixty something, but gradually warmed up to the eighties and we began unzipping and removing extra clothing.

Our stop for the night was planned to be St. George, UT, but we wanted to go through Colorado City, first, because it is home to the FLDS church. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the traditional Mormon Church, owns most of the land in Colorado City and the neighboring town. Driving through it gave Jes and me the willies.

The first thing you notice is the very large homes, many of which have no final treatment, siding or brick, done to the exterior plywood walls. These homes are often situated in walled compounds…not fences as you might know them, but eight and ten foot solid walls; you can’t see in or out, and that is intentional. There are other homes, also large, that are nicely finished out. Why are the homes so big? And, why do many have as much playground equipment in the back yard as some schools do? Stay tuned for the answer.

The second thing you notice is the absence of children, or anyone else walking around, as you would normally expect at 4 o’clock on a weekday. No kids riding bikes, nothing.

This is not to say that there weren’t kids, but they were all escorted by a woman (usually young), and they were all obviously on their way to someplace. The women and girls all wore the same kind of prairie school dress…long, blue or pink, and with a white frock. Their hair—no matter what age—was also the identical coiffeur: pushed up in front, long on sides and back. The boys wore identical dark slacks and blue shirt.

Suddenly, a string of big cars came from a side street. The drivers were men and all wore the same dark suit and light-colored tie. Apparently, a meeting of some sort had let out.

No dogs, no cats, no barking, no horn honking, no sounds of laughter (I’m sure they DO laugh at the right time), no typical city-life activity whatsoever.

The very little kids would watch us with big eyes as we drove by on the Harley, and you read the excitement in their faces, but their “keepers” quickly shut them down. No one returned our wave, save one young girl who drove a 4-wheeler full of kids in their matching kits.

Now, back to the big homes: they are big because the men have more than one wife, all of whom try to have hordes of children.

Now, here’s the scary part of our experience in Colorado City: if here, in America, we can have a cult or extreme religious sect seclude itself such as the FLDS does and brainwash its members such as the FLDS does, imagine how horrifically the self-isolating groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere can determine the kind of life those in their power have to live.

Mike Sledge

Dinosaurs Still Eat People

I got up early on Sun, June 14, and drove toward Albuquerque where my daughter, Jes, was scheduled to arrive at noon. The wind from the south was brutal, constantly pushing my car and trailer to the shoulder and forcing the engine to get out of top gear. But, wind or not, I pulled up right about the time that she landed.

We motored toward Flagstaff, and pulled over to the side where we saw some dinosaurs in the field. Oh, wait…it was a statue thing. The little sucker tried to eat me!

Back in the car, Go West! Of course, we have to stop by Meteor Crater. That is one big hole in the ground. Jes was really surprised; she thought it was going to be something like a big splatter like from when you throw a stone in a mud river bank.

We got to Flagstaff and found a good hotel. Supper, talk, bed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tucumcari, NM...You Need To Go There

Tucumcari straddles historic Highway 66, the road upon with the eponymous movie was based (Route 66 came about at a time of transition and movement of both people and ideologies; it was filmed when the interstate highway system was rapidly supplanting the two-lane road that had served as a primary migration route between the heartland of the U.S. and its upstart younger brother, the west, California in particular. To travel Hwy 66 at that time was to travel through time, forward if going west and backwards if going east.).

The town is redolent with aching knees, cataracts, big waistlines, and hair the color of Midwestern snow that has laid on the streets and sidewalks for months. I-40 bypasses it, leaving it to wither like a river cutoff…but not entirely, for the signs on the four lane speedway beckon you to divert from your fixed path and plans.

I pulled off and first encountered the usual grouping of new lay-over establishments, all of which lay apart from the town proper, like a young man who has returned home from college and who avoids his buck-toothed relatives at the family gathering. I drove on, passing by an abandoned go-kart track whose buffer tires marked the paved curves that had surrendered to encroaching dirt and grass.

The heart of Tucumcari still beats, though much less strongly than before. As I slipped back to the days of rolled-down windows, stick shifts, and unleaded gas, I imagined the crowds at the faded art-deco stores and motels, passing the wooden Indian standing nobly and stoically at the door to the general store. Gas station attendants didn’t ask to check your oil, they just did it…and threw in a windshield cleaning to boot. Kids sweated in the back of station wagons, fathers’ hair oozed brylcreme, while women’s red scarves kept bangs out of sunglassed eyes.

As is my usual wont, I rode the back streets, looking behind the redone façade of main street. It was as expected: loose dogs, doves preening and cooing, cats sauntering, and kids doing what kids do…in this case, riding four wheelers around and around in a yard that had been converted into a mini race course. The father stood on the porch with a hose, spraying them as they rode by. Glees rang out over multiple exhausts.

Elsewhere, trailers (none of which were younger than thirty or forty years) were mixed in will more permanent dwellings. All housing structures were small. (How do the accumulated memories of their inhabitants fit within such tight confines?)

But, of course, the residents aren't without their sense of humor, considering the picture below.

The wind—wondrous steady companion of my childhood days in South Texas—recalled to mind feet sticking and burning on hot tarry streets, dogs mating in the local sandlot, bike tires that constantly were flat from the unavoidable goat head thorns that also broke off in the soles of our feet, only to fester and finally come forth with a geyser of puss.

Taking advantage of the wind and standing by a state-of-the-art school (if you judge by the physical facilities), a lone windmill spins its three arms. It, perhaps, is the town’s defining landmark, a sign that Tucumcari has a future. Or, perhaps it’s the other way around…the town of stucco at the foot of the aluminum monolith reminds us that the future was born in the past.

Mike Sledge

Friday, May 29, 2009

Morally, Is One Innocent Life Worth More Than Another?

It's very clear that in the secular world lives have different values. Try running over a neurosurgeon and a WalMart greeter and you'll quickly learn the difference. This is to be expected...if I recall, even the Bible carries instructions on making financial restitution for the loss of a life.

But, in the moral world, where we talk in hard to gauge terms such as "justice," and "fairness," how do we value lives?

The reason I ask this question is because now, at this moment, innocent lives are being lost in Afghanistan and Pakistan...and still so, but to a lesser degree, in Iraq.

Specifically, one of our Predators (flown from Florida, or California by a pilot/technician who, after work, can go surfing) takes out a house harboring Taliban and, in the process, kills ten other people, many of whom are children.

Certainly, in such cases, our representative makes financial payments to the family of the slain innocents. This much we know.

But, is this enough? Have we made restitution?

Some would say that Pakistan is a war zone, and, as such, contains innocent people who are sometimes inadvertently killed. I can buy that argument, IF we flip the coin and address the statement I've heard that says that our war on terror knows no borders and, thus, includes our own houses. Would we send a missile into a house holding known Taliban (or other extremist groups) if innocent people were there, too? (Our most recent action of using deadly force in a situation somewhat analogous to the house in Pakistan was when we stormed the Branch Dividians in Waco, with subsequent horrendous loss of life.)

But, now, at this moment, would we bomb a house here where even the slightest prospect of taking the lives of children existed?

Then why do we do so in Pakistan?

Mind you, I'm not saying we shouldn't try to root out the Taliban, which is infamous in its treatment of those who disagree with its interpretation of Islam. I am positing, though, that we ask the question I have posed: Is the life of an innocent person in Pakistan (or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, or Mexico) worth less than the life of an innocent in U.S. of A?

We HAVE to ask this question; we HAVE to answer NO to this question; and only THEN can we find true justification for the loss of innocent lives in other places (if such justification can, indeed, be found).

Perhaps we don't ask this question for the same reason we don't ask other questions: we don't want to have to answer it with what we really feel.

Mike S.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Have Sex Tonight!

The above was the subject line in an email (spam, no doubt) I received.

I'm thinking: Stupid people! I'm a man. I don't need a REASON...all I need is a WILLING PARTNER!

Mike S.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Men Do Stupid Things

As if we all didn't know that!

I, myself, have a long list of "Stupid Things I've Done."

The earliest I can remember, and perhaps the one that could have ended all future possible idiotic acts, was sitting out behind the garage and wrapping a rope around my neck. Not that really tight, mind you. No particular reason...I was just foolin' around. (The "foolin' around" must be coded onto a certain gene in men; if you have too much of this chemical combination, Darwin's Laws will see to it that the error is corrected.)

Soon, my head began to swell and my neck tighten as the deep arteries pushed blood into my head that could not return via the closer-to-the-surface veins. (Does this remind you of how a certain kind of sex toy works?)

Well, anyway, panic ensued, and I fought to maintain control as I began quickly to unwrap the rope. The trouble was, I had used a really long rope...something like ten or more feet long...and it was taking just too damn long to get the coils off my neck.

Would I manage to take it all off before I passed out and, presumably, died?

Folks, it was close...very close. I remember passing the rope around and over my head, switching it between hands as fast as my little becoming numb fingers would go. My vision faded, each heartbeat pounded behind my beginning-to-protrude eyeballs, and my head felt as though it was going to explode.

Even as I struggled to save my stupid life, my mind was divided into the present and corporeal world (don't panic don't panic don't panic...work faster work faster work faster) and the more reflective, philosophical world (as this it? is this how I die? I hated the thought of my mother and father thinking that I had done this on purpose!)

Finally, just when the world before my eyes went red then black, I slipped the last loop off my neck and fresh air rushed into my lungs. I would have fallen to my knees, but I found that I had already done so.

The joy of living--a feeling so sweet and refreshing that, almost fifty years later, it recalls itself to me whenever I stand on a cliff or am on the edge of a thunderstorm and am washed by clean air--suffused througout every cell in my body. I was alive.

I never told this to anyone. Until now.

Mike Sledge

(Picture source unknown...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Main Problem in Establishing A Nation-State in Iraq

The main problem is evident, but not so obvious: it is the difficulty in realigning loyalties given to a gens, phratry, or clan to a new holder of authority, an entity based not on family but on location.

Media sources carried the statement that when the Al-Qaeda member Al Zarqawi was on the move, trying to elude US forces, the first question he would ask when going into a new location was (to paraphrase), "What is the tribe?"

This makes total sense, because power rested not in the hands of any provincial government, but in those of tribal leaders, sheiks. The tribes were composed of clans, which were composed of houses, which were composed of extended families.

Those of us in the United States who have difficulty grasping why matters are so chaotic in Iraq simply do not understand and fail to grasp the strength of ancient social organizations. (Now, since we have more information coming our way about Afghanistan, we will see the same problem, but on several orders of magnitude greater. And, a thorough knowledge of ethnology will be required in order to have any chance of success in that "graveyard of empires.")

That a repository of power should be based on blood is, if we think about it, understandable. Anyone who has seen Braveheart has an idea of the strength of allegiance to blood rather than to a remote and amorphous "state." A not too distant example of the strength of tribes as the norm for societal group boundaries can be found by considering how Native American tribes of North America were organized into tribes, that were groups of extended families.

But, we can also look closer to our times for examples of filial loyalty. For one, I would posit that if you go to any rural area of the US, you will find the bonds of loyalty following more ancient rather than contemporary channels: who is your father/brother carries more weight than who is your representative or senator. And, consider Bush I and Bush II...and, possibly, Bush III? The hands working the levers of power bear a strong family resemblance and are an atavistic reflection that which has ruled for many thousands of years.

Interesting, our notion of ruling authority as seen in current governmental structures is based a patriarchal form of power lineage. (This is not surprising, considering the Glass Ceiling and other impediments to women achieving parity in the workforce.) There is much evidence that, in much earlier times, lineage was traced through the mother. Again, this should not be too surprising, as evidenced by a saying in rural parts of Louisiana, "Mama's baby, Daddy's maybe." Why, when, and how did societies move from a matriarchal basis of lineage to that of patriarchal?

I would submit that this change, gradual though it was, came about once humans were able to create wealth that could be acquired, stored, transported, and passed down. The germ for this change lies in the establishment of sustained agriculture. Richard Manning's article, The Oil We Eat, is an excellent treatise which gives a very good account of how packets of energy (read that as packets of carbohydrates...grain, rice) eventually led not only to the creation of wealth but also to the creation of a widely spread group of social classes. Once man could grow his wealth, he realized he could grow even more by employing others.

But here's the rub...once man could acquire wealth, he had a chance to achieve immortality by passing this wealth (legacy) on to his heirs. Thus, the creation of harems, polygamist marriages, and other institutions in which men controlled women in an attempt to increase their chances of knowing who their offspring were. (Recall again that sage Louisiana adage.)

Thus, to get back to the premise of this blog, we won't be able to adequately address the issues facing us in wars of theology where geographical boundaries do not matter (as they did, indeed, in WWI and WWII) as much as ethnological/societal beliefs/practices. We must think in terms of "they" (them, all of them) think, and realize that a solution will not come in a nice little ribbon-tied package. And, interestingly, a side-benefit of such outside the box thinking might be that we might come to a better understanding of our own gender/power issues.

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lucky...My Very Own Economic Stimulus Plan

To heck with the Obama stimulus package...I've got Lucky, my 15-something-month-old lab/pit bull mix who claimed me as his own last December when the economy was tanking. Because of him, I've contributed a "comma figure" to the local economy.

Let's see...initial vet bill $400
Emergency bill to get a cow neck bone off his jaw $120
Ear mites (Lucky had been a stray) $100
One pair of cycling shorts $125
Many books he found he had a taste for $120
Another pair or cycling shorts $140
Second vet bill $100
Much food and treats (estimated) $400
Pair of shoes $ 80
An adult trike so I can run him in the hood $250
Pair of sunglasses $550
Pair of clear glasses $450

Get the picture? This is, by no means, the full tally of what the little sweetheart has cost.

But, like children, we try to reconcile matters of the wallet and the heart, with the heart often winning any toss-up. Just look at him...how can you NOT love a cute little boy like this?

Thankfully, Lucky is growing out of puppyhood and his little transgressions are quickly forgiven. And, the economy shows signs of reviving, so it can do just fine without my personal contribution to the common good.

And, finally, I can always console myself that Lucky will never get a DUI or wreck the car!

Mike Sledge

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good Tasting Medicine?

I went to pick up some medicine today, and this was the sign I saw in the pharmacy window.


No Way!

Medicine is supposed to taste bad...for at least two reasons.

The first is obvious: little kiddos are known for prying in places where they shouldn't, and, because of our genetic survivial of the fittest traits, they tend to taste unknown food/substances before eating. So, if the little miscreants get hold of mommy's and daddy's get happy pills, a bitter taste would prevent them from shooting them down the pipe.

The second reason for bad tasting medicine has to do with tradition: what would happen to the saying "Take your medicine" if the medicine tasted good? What would have happened to the delightful scenes in the movies when the parent threatened the kids with castor oil when they complained of a stomach ache to stay out of school? How much less poignanat would the scene have been if the little fakers said, "WHOO HOO, it's MEDICINE TIME!" instead of, "Oh, NO, please not the castor oil. I'm better. Really I am! I'm ready to go to school."

Also, we're not supposed to want to take medicine. After all, it's MEDICINE! You're not supposed to like the debt restructuring plan your bank gave you, but you do it because you know it's good for you and you want to get it over with.

Perish the thought of good tasting medicine. It just doesn't tase right.

Mike Sledge

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beware The Man With Garden Tools In His Hands

My philosophy, when it comes to yard work, is "Why should I pay somebody to do a lousy job when I can do the same for nothing?"

Actually, that's not quite true: I will gladly pay someone to do the mowing and edging. (I did that enough for $$ when I was growing up...and this was BEFORE the days of warnings pasted on mowers that said, "Do not use as a hedge trimmer.") I, though, insist on screwing up the flowerbed work myself.

The irony is that I bought my house, in part, because of the very nice flowerbeds. But what do I do? I let my dog dig in them, lie down in them, and otherwise invariably let all kinds of Cichorium intybus, Iva axillaris, and Amsinckia intermedia establish themselves, only to wrest them from the soil with a set of tools.

Now, so I'm digging away, leaving a trail of herbaceous corpses behind me in front of the flowerbed. (I never clean up the dead until after they've withered so much that I decide, "Hey, let the lawn guy chop them up!")

And, I'm doing a great job of uprooting these really tall leafy things that are embedded among my lillies. Or, irises? Or whatever.

Anyway, I've got a nice pile of these weedy-looking things in the yard and a neighbor walks by and says, "Hey, if you're going to throw away all those flowering bulbs, can I have them?"

(I was wondering why the roots of the "bulbs" were so different from those of the other "weeds.")

So, I replant them all.

Then I remember...I had done this same thing last year.

Mike Sledge

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Viva Viagra?

First, a disclaimer: I am not nor have I ever been a member of blue pill party.

Second, a corollary to the disclaimer: Should I ever need to, I will have no qualms about plunking down $$ for the lil' pepper-upper!

Now, come on, you creative marketing geniuses, you...is this the best you can do for an erectile dysfunction ad?

I mean, WTF? Do you think I'm gonna set around with a bunch of buddies and sing about getting a boner? Give me a break. (Having said that, I would much prefer men to sit around singing about an ed product than slaughtering rhinos in Africa for their prized horns with, supposedly, aphrodisiac qualities.)

Now, a really good song about older men and their loss of virility is Buddy Guy's Done Got Old.
(The song is on the right hand side of the screen.) (One line is priceless: "I cain't love like I used to.")

Just think...a really creative ad group would run Buddy Guy's song and then advertise handguns with the voice-over, "Men, have you done got old? Lost your hearing? Can't get it up? Well, Smith & Wesson has the answer for you!"

Now that's the kind of advertising I would consider original.

Mike S.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Capt. Phillips is Rescued, but Limbaugh & Hannity Are Still Afloat

Thankfully, the courageous Captain Richard Phillips is on his way home, but Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are still on their way to the moon...or somewhere else where hypoxia must have affected their thinking.

Even while President Obama has praised Captain Phillips, moving the spotlight off of himself and to the leader who put himself at risk so his men would be safe, our conservative, talk show hosts (let's be clear here...Limbaugh and Hannity are not astute policy wonks...they are talkers who will do most anything to increase their listener base) have spent hours making themselves look like whiny, snot-nosed, little boys who didn't make the team and who are now running around trying to make those who did look bad.

The only ones they're making look bad, is themselves. Let's face it...Phillips is back safe and sound, and as the result of the use of force, something that both talkers had said our President would fail to employ.

Certainly, President Obama, as others, would have preferred to resolve the matter without shedding blood, but such was not the case.

The funny thing is that people I know, in days prior to the crisis coming to a head, said that we should take out the pirates. Now that we have done so, under Presidential orders, these same people are saying, "So what...the President is supposed to use force if necessary."

WTF? Do they even hear themselves? Or, are their ears and minds too clogged with the afternoon-dribble from our two major talkers?

Instead of blowing off so much vitriol about President Obama, how about they spend their time expressing their thanks and gratitude that Capt. Phillips is coming home...in one piece and alive, not in a body bag.

Mike Sledge

Friday, March 27, 2009

Marijuana Kills!

LOL! Yeah, haven't we all seen the film Reefer Madness?

Lately, the anti-marijuana ads have gotten a little more, well, hip.

However, both of these films miss the point, because whether grass is a gateway drug or a harmless pasttime, and whether it should be illegal or treated just the same as alcohol are all academic exercises or merely simply excuses to continue current behavior because, save for medical purposes in a few places, marijuana is illegal and, as such, the use of it promotes criminal behavior. (Note: I said "criminal" behavior not "deviant" behavior and not "shiftless" behavior.)

With Sec. of State Clinton, now and for the first time I am aware of, shouldering part of the blame for the criminal insurgent activity in Mexico, one of our sister countries, we see that we are, indeed, our brother's keeper and our desire for illegal drugs has spawned a spree of killing on a scale that greatly exceeds even that of the days of Prohibition.

It is important to note that not all of the killings are "bad on bad." Honest policemen, journalists, judges, and politicians have been brutally murdered, sometimes in front of their families.

Illegal drugs are, in many ways, a commodity. They will be supplied at whatever cost the traffic will bear. Sadly, this cost comes not only in the loss of lives and law and order south of the border, it is increasingly clear that it will also carry a greater human cost in our own country. The last, that we will suffer the results of our demand for illegal drugs, does not supercede the first, the pain and misery to our neighbor.

I'm sure there are those who will say, "Hey! MY grass comes from California. I'M not contributing to the killing. However, again, it is clear that the drug cartels are also shouldering their way onto our native soil in areas of production, as well as distribution.

There are others who will say that there is no need for them to put down their favorite vehicle of escape because there are far worse drugs coming across the border and that we need to deal with those serious drugs first. They are absolutely right...in that there are far worse drugs. They are wrong in that there is no need for them to change. If they can justify their behavior with an illegal, non-addictive drug, how can they expect others who are actually addicted to more serious drugs to quit.

I'm no prude. I know, personally, the pleasurable effects of marijuana, having experimented with it many, many years ago. However, my break with it came because I work up one morning, way before the making of the movie Traffic and other films in which the world behind-the-scenes of drugs was illuminated, with an epiphany that my money spent for my fun fostered evilness.

Ultimately, especially during the moment of a relaxing, completely enjoyable, shared high, a look around the circle of close acquaintances tells you how happy you are for such company. At that same moment, in another place of the world not far away, there are those who look around their circle of teary-eyed friends and they are thankful for their support during the mourning for their dead son, father, brother, cousin who lost his life while trying to maintain some sense of law and order in a world gone crazy.

Push for all the legislation you wish to legalize marijuana, but in the meantime think of John Donne, whose message in MEDITATION XVII I shall rephrase to say...any man's loss is our loss.

Mike Sledge

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Advice to the Younger Woman

OK, I'm an old hat. I admit it...been around long enough to have stains and bends in my brim. And, of course, women have aged along with me.

At this point in our lives, the effects of sun exposure on are becoming very apparent. We're talking breakdown of collagen, wrinkles, spots, blemishes, other markings.

Beautiful skin, sadly, even begins to look like leather...and not the expensive supple of calfskin gloves. Rather, we're talking old work gloves that have lain out in the sun and are now hard and lined with crevasses. For them, it's too late.

I won't go into the litany of skin cancers and such that are so common with overexposure: these risks are known to all. Instead, I want to speak straight to two issues: Vanity, and the "I'll never get old" fallacy.

First, yes, a tan DOES look good. Somehow we've become indoctrinated to feel this way. However, we have a BRAIN that is supposed to work. LOL...no, it doesn't work all the time, does it? Like, "OHMIGOD, I can't believe I did X with him! I MUST have been DRUNK!"

Second, yes, you WILL get older. Or die. You must try, as hard as it is, to imagine yourself 40 or 50 or older. (Trust me, older women are sexy...BUT NOT if they look like this:

So, girls and young ladies, lie out in the sun all you want, but use the screen that protects against ALL UV. Get a tan now and then if you must, but please, please, please try to think ahead and protect your natural beauty.

Or, you can end up with your skin looking like this:

Mike Sledge

Photo licenses at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review of The Shack ...Traditional Christianity Cross Dressing


The Shack by William P. Young has made it to the bestseller list. After reading it, I wonder "Why?" and I answer myself with, "Ah, yes, I see!"

This book (it doesn't even rise to the level of a "novel" even by romance novel standards) is, in essence, a syncretic blend of Traditional Christianity, New Age Spiritualism, and World Spiritualism. However, let there be little doubt that the New Age/World Spirituality aspects are but the spices in a meat-and-potatoes stew of the typical Christian views of God, humankind, and how the roles of the two interact.

As I read it, I was struck with the parallel between it and the theme of how fundamentalist Christians have used the Intelligent Design Theory as a back door method of introducing Creationism into a science classroom. For more on Intelligent Design Crossdressing, go to

There is a distinction, though, between the proponents of introducing Intelligent Design into the classroom (former President Bush was one) and Author Young: that is, Young is not trying to push an agenda...he is simply a writer who has penned what I would call an "inspirational fictional Christian memoir." It should do well in a Christian Bookstore. That it appears on the Bestseller list is, to say the least, disturbing.

However, let's talk about the book.

In The Shack, a man loses a young daughter to a serial child killer. Her body is not found. (Not initially, that is.) The father and another daughter who feels responsible for Missy's disappearance and death are saddled with guilt over the loss. The father is also afflicted with The Great Sadness.

The father, Mackenzie (Mack), gets a mysterious non-postmarked letter in his mailbox that tells him to go to "the shack", the place where his daughter was murdered. Upon his initial arrival, Mack grieves while viewing the bloodstains on the wood floor and contemplates suicide. Then, predictably, he falls into a slumber. He soon, presumably, awakens, feeling forsaken, "I'm done, God...I can't do this anymore. I'm tired of trying to find you in all of this." Mack goes to leave the shack, but on his trek back to his vehicle the cold winter is suddenly replaced with a "sudden rush of warm air", "The chirping of a songbird" and so on. (You get the picture, right?)

He turns back to the shack and finds that it has been transformed into a beautiful cottage on the lake. He returns to it and, inside, finds God in all three manifestations: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. But, God is personified as a black woman, presumably to overturn a White God Male stereotype that Mack holds. (Do I need to continue?)

Anyway, Mack walks and talks with God in all three forms. As he does, he learns the meaning of man's control over his destiny, God's role as one who sees and knows but refuses to intervene in daily details (oh, that is interesting...then why did God come to Mack?), and the futility of man's trying to live without God. Ultimately, Mack meets his daughter Missy in the other-world (Heaven?) and knows that she is fine. God assures Mack that throughout her abduction and murder that Missy was never alone.

And--now here's the crossdressing part--Father/Son/Holy Ghost assure Mack that there is not one road to them, but that they will travel all roads to those who believe. Oh, yes, Jesus (he's a carpenter by the way) insists that he is not a Christian.

Eventually, Mack is cured of The Great Sadness and given the choice of staying with the Holy Trinity or returning to the world. Since his wife and children, especially Kate, the daughter who feels responsible for the tragedy, need him, Mack decides to return. On the way back home, he is in a terrible car accident.

Mack is in a coma, from which it takes days to awaken...and it is weeks before he is out of the hospital. Mack learns that the car accident occurred on a Friday, the day he left home for the shack, and not several days later as time had transpired while he was in the presence of the Trinity.

During his recovery, Mack tells Kate that she is not responsbile for Missy's death. Apparently, Mack's verbalization is the first time it occurred to anyone to talk to Kate about her burden...it was "...a secret."

After his release from the hospital, Mack leads the police to the place where Missy's body has been secluded this whole time. The police obtain enough evidence to find the bodies of the other murdered girls and arrest the killer.

End Of Story.

Of course, I'm leaving out the parts where Mack walked across the surface of the lake (possible only if Jesus was by his side), where the Holy Spirit manifestation was nebulous, a-shimmer with lights, how Mack had trouble seeing the Trinity through the radianting brilliance of light...how God said that his/her handing down of the Ten Commandments was not to show how to lead a good life, but that all were doomed unless they had God. (Think "Original Sin").

Now, don't get me wrong. This book was on the Bestseller list. Is that scary? To me it is. Am I cynical? Well, let's just say that I am highly spiritual and I try to be as literate as possible. That such a story (it IS a cute story) can sneak out of the Christian Bookstore and into the general market should tell me something. I need to pay attention to what that says, just as the Conservatives need to pay attention to why there was such an overwhelming move toward Obama in the last election: to reword, "I don't understand it but I need to pay attention to this."

Mike Sledge

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Dover Ban - Why Everyone Still Gets It Wrong

Recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the ban on media presence at the return of “transfer cases” containing the remains of US service personnel who have died overseas would be lifted. I offer my sincere appreciation for this proposed change in policy.

However, after studying the proposal (and the objections of groups such as Military Families United), I can’t help but be struck by how much misinformation exists about the return of our Soldier Dead.

First, “coffins” (as generally reported) are not coming back to the US. A coffin infers that the deceased is already identified and prepared for burial. Rather, the “transfer cases” containing the remains are nothing more than big ice chests.

(The picture of these transfer cases was taken by the author at the U.S. Army Morgue in Baghdad, Iraq)

Second, once the as yet not officially identified remains are received at Dover, they go through a meticulous identification process in a state-of-the-art facility that is the envy of the rest of the world. Military deaths are often a messy affair, and dedicated men and women work diligently to assure that each and every body part is associated with the appropriate service person who has given his or her life.

AFTER the remains are officially identified (Dr. Craig Mallak, Chief Medical Examiner for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, has stated that remains only have a tentative identification when they arrive at Dover), they are prepared for burial, which includes a full military dress uniform and the casket of the family’s choice.

What this means is that, at the time of arrival in the U.S., these fallen soldiers are the country’s unnamed emissaries who carry the nation’s sword and shield. As such, they belong to the country as a whole, not just to a particular family.

Therefore, to say that we leave the decision to the family about whether or not to have media present at the return of the dead gives a decision to a group that does not yet have an official claim on the dead.

Certainly, it doesn’t take much prescience to understand that, if we have a single death in Afghanistan AND a day later a plane shows up carrying these remains, it would be possible to say with confidence that a certain transfer case does, indeed, carry the remains of someone whose identity is clearly known.

And, if this fallen soldier’s family wants privacy from the beginning to the end, then there could be a potential conflict in satisfying this request.

To try to resolve any actual or potential conflicts in any situation, especially one in which the issues are subtle yet deep-rooted, it is necessary to have a thorough grasp of the theoretical basis of such issues.

In this case, that of allowing media presence at the repatriation of our Soldier Dead, it all boils down to the question: “To whom do the dead belong?”

I assert that the dead belong to both the family and to those they serve. This means that, until the dead receive formal identification and are officially handed over to the Next of Kin, they belong to each and every citizen of the United States, for it is on our behalf that they gave their lives.

As such, there will be those of us who agree that these men and women died for a worthy cause, and there will be those who disagree with this premise. Undoubtedly, some of those who disagree may attempt to use the formal recognition of the receipt of our dead to convey their disagreement.

And, undoubtedly, there will be those who agree with our call to arms who will, in their own way, use the receipt of our dead to support their position.

Dissension and the employment of images of our war dead for one reason or another is inevitable, and should be looked upon as a peculiar feature of our process for displaying and resolving conflict. It is part of our heritage and, as such, should not be squelched.

In conclusion, there is no pleasing everyone, but I would dare say that, while some families may feel that they have lost control of how their loved ones are portrayed, many more families will be comforted by the embrace of many millions who, heretofore, have been “banned” their chance to both offer and receive comfort.

Michael Sledge
author of Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen

Kindle 2 - What Sleek Beast Slouches Toward Store Shelves?

I did it. I bought a Kindle 2. Yes, a battle has raged within and a victor has emerged. But, the battle between the electronic book and the paper book models of providing printed text to the reader is really only a side show to what Kindle 2 represents.

First, a quick review on Kindle. Kindle is Amazon's foray into the electronic book business. You order a sleek, light device that holds up to 1,500 books. (You can also download magazines and newspapers.) Its screen uses state-of-the-art "electronic ink" that is energized to show up much as liquid ink does. The readibility is marvelous.

You can order a book either through Amazon on through Kindle itself. The book is then, magically, sent to your Kindle through "Whispernet", which is Kindle's Sprint phone wireless service.

I won't go into all the features that Kindle provides in searching, marking, and noting, but I will say that such features, including the dictionary, are a great aid to readers/researchers.

It is the use of the Whispernet where Kindle's real power lies. It won't be long before you can Google Search on Kindle, or, better yet for Amazon, pull up Amazon's site and order from it...that is, order items other than books!

Undoubtedly, you will also soon be able to buy an accessory keyboard and, thus, obviate the need to lug your laptop around for quick trips to the coffeeshop.

Kindle has the potential to reach far beyond the providing of books and newspapers. It represents a potentiality to provide the "information user" with a new tool that will supplant one or more (how long before you can "talk" on Kindle as though it were a cellphone?) of your electronic devices.

The King is dead...long live the King.

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nerd’s Revenge – Gaston in Beauty and the Beast

Or: Oh, The Power In The Hands Of Those Wielding The Pen

Recently, while baby-sitting one of my granddaughters, I watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. We all have seen it more than once and are quite familiar with the tale, but this time I was really caught up with the fun the writer(s) must have had when doing Gaston, the thick-headed, dull-witted, egotistical, narcissistic, and bicep-bound bully who insisted on marrying Belle, despite her obvious objections.

Why did Gaston want Belle, when he could have had any of the other “bimbettes” in the film in a moment’s notice? Because she was “the best” and didn’t Gaston “…deserve the best?”

There was never a worse mismatch: Gaston loved to hunt, Belle loved the animals; Gaston hated reading (“How can you read this? There’s no pictures!”) LOL!

And imagine Belle’s disgust when Gaston described how she could look forward to fulfilling her dream by marrying him, bearing him many “…strapping boys…like me!” and could dote on him, massaging his feet (his toes sticking through holes in the socks, mind you!). I’m sure sex with him would have been a mutually satisfying experience, an image that the writers at that time could only intimate.

Yes, the scriptwriters missed little. One can only imagine them thinking, “How can I make this guy more of a jerk?” One can also only imagine that the writers had had sand kicked in their face at the beach, or had taken note of who dated whom in high school and college back in the days when “men were men”.

Of course, a Gaston can’t exist without an adoring crowd of inadequate men willing to pump up the ego of their hero so they can live vicariously through his exploits. As Gaston is the “paragon” of strength, the fawning Lefou is the epitome of a member of the support system such a mindless brute requires. During one scene, in which Gaston’s minions cheer him up after an ignoble rejection by Belle, Lefou says, “Gaston is the best and the rest is all drips!”

The writers, of course, know how the game is played, and have both Gaston and Lefou intone, “No one plots like Gaston, takes cheap shots like Gaston.”

One could say that Gaston does have a redeeming moment at the end when he exhorts the Beast to fight him, but his challenge is really an empty one for two reasons: 1) the Beast is clearly dejected, and 2) Gaston knows that he will be extolled as sone worthy of extending his gene pool if he fights a worthy opponent.

However, Gaston’s veneered request for a good fight is peeled away when he stabs the Beast in the back.

Yes, the Disney writers certainly had a great deal of fun, undoubtedly drawing upon their own and shared experiences with men of muscle, and those around these pillars of brawn.

Mike Sledge

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shot To Death - Twice

You can never tell when you will learn something new. Yesterday, our local news anchor was reporting on a tragic post-Valentine's Day murder/suicide. She said, "...[the woman] was shot dead...twice."

I'm going, like, Oh, this is interesting...the victim was eithCheck Spellinger a vampire or a zombie: dead once, came to life again (so to speak) and then killed again.


The murderer, after killing his girlfriend twice then turned the gun on himself. I guess that, now dead, he can come back to life and then be tried for murder.

Which begs the question: Which killing of his girlfriend would he be tried for? The first or the second? Could he be tried twice? Probably not, given double jeopardy law.

At least, if given the death penalty, he would be executed only once since, after all, he had already taken his own life once.

But, if politicians, actors, and even A-Rod can resurrect themselves from a celebrity death (usually death by stupidity) I guess it's not too much to expect a physical resurrection of ordinary folks.

Of course, what I'd really love to see is a resurrection of command of the English language.

Mike Sledge