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The Army is Developing ‘Exosuits’

Before deploying I loaded up my laptop with movies and television shows, determined to build up an arsenal that would keep boredom away, at all costs. My experiences during my first two deployments have made me rabidly boredom-averse in a way someone who experienced the Great Depression might be more likely to be a hoarder. As it turns out, work keeps me pretty busy and I haven’t been able to rip through all of the entertainment that I brought in the way I thought I would.

One of the television series I brought with me was the old cartoon Exo-Squad. I remember waking up early on weekdays and watching the 30 minute episodes and being impressed with the gravity and depth of the content, despite the fact that the cartoon was a 22 minute commercial for a toy-line.

I finally got an opportunity to watch the first season after some twenty years, and while the animation is dated and some of the dialogue is overly cheesy, the series holds up pretty well.

The story goes something like this: in the not so distant future, humans create a genetically superior species of humanoids called “Neo-Sapiens.” They are bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, and live longer than humans. Humans use them for slave labor, mostly. The Neo-Sapiens rise up against the humans thrusting the solar system into war (Venus and Mars have been terraformed and colonized). The first season chronicles the Neo-Sapien revolt and the capture of Venus, Mars, and Earth by the Neo-Sapiens.

What’s great about the series is the gray area in war it examines. Nothing is black and white. While the show follows “Able Squad,” a special ops-like team who pilot “E-Frames,” the war they are fighting in is not clearly one pitting good against evil. Throughout the first season there are numerous scenes where humans display open racism (er, species-ism?) against the Neo-Sapiens, often using the derogative “sapes” to describe them. While you are rooting for the humans because Able Squad is likable, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Neo-Sapiens after the way they’ve been treated.

The writers display a pretty advanced understanding of the military, depicting air-to-ground coordination, a court-martial trial, insurgent tactics (fake-surrender), combat panic, the disparities and frustrations of a garrison military versus a wartime military, the importance of pre-combat inspections, and the moral and ethical dilemmas leaders and individual soldiers face in war. There’s even a great scene where two deck officers are arguing over whether to deploy Able Squad, to which one officer yells to the other “Don’t give me a lesson in tactics!”

Additionally, I couldn’t help but “connect the dots looking backward” and make some interesting connections between Exo-Squad and Mass Effect. After an early battle, the show’s protagonist, Lieutenant J.T. Marsh is hounded by an aggressive news reporter who is accompanied by a floating camera robot. The reporter peppers Marsh with questions on his actions in the battle and whether he regrets those decisions, given the consequences. Marsh reacts aggressively and storms away. That scene happens over and over in Mass Effect.

Honestly, the show didn’t hold my attention the way it did when I was a kid, or the way I thought it would. I recently read a review of a video game that I loved when I was a kid that just got ported to iOS. He wrapped up his thoughts on it like this, and I think the description fits how I feel about watching Exo-Squad now:

For me, though, this was a bit like trying on my beloved jacket I wore in high school. It smells familiar and it brings back so many memories to look at it, but putting it on makes me realize how many years have gone by between then and now, and it just doesn’t really fit me anymore.

Anyway, the real point of this article was to point out that the Army is developing Exosuits, not so much like the ones in Exo-Squad but more akin to what we saw the Full Metal Bitch wear in Edge of Tomorrow / Live. Die. Repeat. / All You Need Is Kill.

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Brian Eno on composing the 3 1/4 seconds long startup sound for Windows 95

This is so interesting. From an interview with the San Francisco Gate in 1996.

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — solve it.”

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

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Death Prose

I look at him. He looks at the grease gun. He calls out: “I NEVER LIKED YOU JOKER. I NEVER THOUGHT YOU WERE FUNNY–“

Bang. I sight down the short metal tube and I watch my bullet enter Cowboy’s left eye. My bullet passes through his eye socket, punches through fluid-filled sinus cavities, through membranes, nerves, arteries, muscle tissue, through the tiny blood vessels that feed three pounds of gray butter-soft high protein meat where brain cells arranged like jewels in a clock hold every thought and memory and dream of one adult male Homo sapiens.

My bullet exits through the occipital bone, knocks out hairy, brain-wet clods of jagged meat, then buries itself in the roots of a tree.

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Joker’s Little Red Book

You can see Joker's little red book peeking out of his pocket in this scene. That's his diary. Also, I just noticed the Mickey Mouse figures in the background.

You can see Joker’s little red book peeking out of his pocket in this scene. That’s his diary. Also, I just noticed the Mickey Mouse figures in the background.

The magic of the internet.

Almost a year ago, I saw a tweet by @ftngleprechaun that led me to this post by Nathan Webster (Stanley Kubrick’s cowardice ruined “Full Metal Jacket” and betrayed Gustav Hasford’s “The Short-Timers.”). I had never read The Short-Timers but was a big fan of Full Metal Jacket. That post inspired me to read it, which I did, and then wrote a reaction.

In the process of writing that post, I came across a blog dedicated to the work of Gustav Hasford (the author of The Short-Timers) that is managed by comic writer Jason Aaron, who I then followed on Twitter.

Months pass, and then I see this retweet by Jason.

Matthew Modine, the actor who played ‘Joker’ was going to do a live-tweet viewing of FMJ to promote the release of an iPad version of his book, Full Metal Jacket Diary.

Without question, FMJ is my favorite movie. Like a giddy fan-boy, I jumped at the chance to watch it and pepper Matthew Modine with questions during the showing. If you follow me on Twitter, it was all probably really annoying.

My furious Tweeting paid off. I won a free copy of Full Metal Jacket Diary for iPad, which I was literally in the process of buying when I learned I had won. I read it over the holidays.

This isn’t really an App review, but if you are a fan of Full Metal Jacket, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a diary that you can read and listen to with pictures as accompaniment. It’s beautiful.

Mr. Modine kept a diary during the grueling filming process. He talks about the off-screen drama (there was plenty) and you’ll get his musings on what he thinks the film might be as he was filming it. You’ll also see lots of photos, many by Mr. Modine himself (he was experimenting with a camera at the time of filming). The photos are fantastic and revealing. You’ll also learn more about the elusive Stanley Kubrick, which is fascinating as Mr. Modine paints him as pretty plain, albeit dedicated to getting his craft right.

What I enjoyed most about FMJ Diary was getting into the head of the actor who played Joker. He became Joker, and it is refreshing to read that this movie, in and out, is everything I wanted it to be.

This is what he writes after Kubrick urges him to “be” Joker as opposed to “play” Joker:

Okay, as of today, I am Joker. I’m not playing or interpreting. I am bringing my life and all my experience to this role. Not someone else’s I will take the information I’ve read and a childhood of watching war on television and “be” the role. I will use Michael and Gus’s books to understand the terrain and put myself into the world they created.

I now reject the traditional movies about war and its nobility. I honor the stories about soldiers’ dedication toward each other, but I question the motivation of the governments that send young men to battle.

I confirm my choice not to work on films that glorify war and perpetuate lies about other countries and cultures…

One of my favorite parts of FMJ is the sharp transition from the basic training sequence to Vietnam, with Joker and Rafterman being approached by a Vietnamese hooker. Joker’s hair is long and wild, his uniform sloppy. It is the transition between the order of military training and the chaos of war. There it is.

Mr. Modine saw this too:

Order. Disorder.

The military’s goal is to create order.

To the military, the world is chaos.

The military recognizes this and imposes conformity.

There is only one way, one god, one country. You do not belong to yourself. You are part of a machine. Theirs.

Directors are the same way.

The diary goes on like that. Minutiae and detail. It’s a story.

If you’re a fan, check it out.

FMJ Diary at the App Store.

Wu-Tang logo

War of the masses, the outcome, disastrous
Many of the victim family save they ashes
A million names on walls engraved in plaques
Those who went back, received penalties for the axe
Another heart is torn as close ones mourn
Those who stray, niggaz get slayed on the song

From ‘Triumph

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The art of war is hell (pics)

Triumph of Death (1562) Pieter Bruegel

Saw this article in the Guardian about an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum by the Chapman Brothers, a duo of British artists that specialize in dioramas. All pictures are from the Guardian.

You can see more by clicking here.

 

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Don Draper on war, youth, and military service

Don Draper Inferno

A couple of weeks ago, Don and Arnold sat down to discuss Arnold’s son’s predicament. He was avoiding the draft. The Vietnam War has been the background song of this past season, and I found myself enthralled by this conversation between Arnold and Don, talking about war, youth, and soldiering, topics I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Arnold: It doesn’t matter if he goes to school, he’s 1A, his induction can be tomorrow, he’s on a damn list for the rest of his life.
Don: On some level you have to admire his idealism.
Arnold: You sound like Sylvia. But she doesn’t really buy his bullshit. You think she’s gonna let her baby rot in jail for a cause?

<sigh>

I don’t know what to do. What would you do?
Don: What I’d do with my kid? Or if it was me?
Arnold: You were in the service right?
Don: I was.
Arnold: You see action?

Long pause.

Don: It was very different. I wanted to go. I did when when I got there.
Arnold: That’s the trick. Kid’s 18, 19 years old they have no sense of their own mortality.
Don: Or anyone else’s. That’s why they make good soldiers.
Arnold: Well the Army paid for Med School. I served in a hospital in Pusan.
Don: We were very lucky.
Arnold: Lucky enough to live in this country. And service is a part of that bargain, sacrifice. We knew that.
Don: The war is wrong.
Arnold: I’ll tell you if there’s anyone that’s going to get it it’s going to be him. He’s soft.
Don: I’m sure he’s a good kid.
Arnold: The best.

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The Black Magic of the Infantry

8657967805_c671651da9_oCBS Sunday Morning ran a fantastic story today about Army photographer Charlie Haughey who served in Vietnam and packed away his photos from that infamous war in a shoebox for decades. Those images were recently pulled out and printed for display. They are really amazing.

Vietnam used to be a war I really didn’t want to know anything about. I was more curious about World War II and the heroes of that war. Lately, I’ve found myself reading more and more about Vietnam. Completely fascinated. It’s its own special time. There it is.

This haunting image was the one that left me frozen on my couch. There is something about the darkness of his face, the smoke, and the white eyes looking right back at me that captures something ancient about the infantry.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the special qualities that makes an infantryman an infantryman. A lot of it revolves around darkness, and letting go of your own humanity. It’s scary stuff. And this image comes close to exposing it.

Here is a link to the photographer’s website. And here is a link to his Flickr page. It is well worth exploring. Every photo is magnificent.