Thousand Mile War

I’ve been sick all week, with a really light cold. It’s so mild, I have almost no symptoms and it hasn’t been the knock-you-down sort of virus like usual. But even the slightest cold seems to mentally knock me out of orbit and make me feel like the living dead. I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything lately, and that blows away any chance of writing or doing anything creative, hence the lack of updates.

I got a Flickr account, or rather paid them the $25 to become a Pro user. My account is at I am still not sure why I did this. There are a million little bugs that I need to work out to get it integrated into my life, and I’m still not sure I want to ditch the photos hosted on my site. I hate the gallery script I have, but I’m not that fond of how it does things, either. I also know the second I get all of my crap up there, the company will go stupid or raise their rates to an unholy amount. For now, I’m just playing, and it might be a better solution, but who knows. And if you have flickr (or something else), please let me know and maybe I can bounce some of my problems off of you and see if there are obvious solutions I missed.

I just finished reading The Thousand-Mile War by Brian Garfield, and it’s one of the best World War II books I’ve read in a while. It’s about the war fought in Alaska’s Aleutian islands (the westmost tiny pieces of lava on Alaska’s “tail”.) Not many people know the Japanese captured a few of these islands, actually bringing the war home to American soil. The resulting battles were a comedy of tragedies that remind me of a real-life Catch-22 and made this an incredible read.

First of all, the Aleutians are a shithole. There’s this constant low-pressure front that creates basically a permanent hurricane of fog and high winds right over the islands. Planes can’t see anything; weird mineral deposits and iron ore threw off compasses; and radar was so primitive, the 11th Air Force went out the bomb the shit out of Japanese submarines once and after unloading their HE on target, found out they actually cratered a grouping of uncharted islands instead of Jap pigboats. There were no maps of Seward’s Folly, especially the far extremes. The Army was using a Rand-McNally map that you’d find in front of a third-grade classroom to plan their invasions. Radar was primitive and largely unavailable. When planes did have this new feature, they would often do stuff like report a flock of geese as a Japanese naval division. Aside from the wind, there was the fact that this was a place with super-low temperatures, where you had to keep two pairs of boots, one on your feet and one on the stove that you switched out every fifteen minutes. Men were living in tents that knocked over daily in 90 MPH winds, with mud floors. Entire islands were made of mud that sucked in trucks, boots, and airplanes. Airstrips couldn’t be made of concrete, since it would freeze and crack instead of cure, and you couldn’t dig down enough. They used premade steel mesh strips, which worked, but weren’t much fun when wet, which was constantly.

Aside from the environmental problems, there were tactical and governmental issues. Uncle Sam couldn’t decide whether or not there should be any troop strength in the area, since it was tactically useless property. The first round of Navy ships were old mothballed WWI dinosaurs that were brought out of retirement, which led to some extremely lopsided engagements between the US and Japan’s top-notch fleet. Not that many men were sent to Alaska. When they were, they usually got told they were going to the Pacific, and then got piled in windowless trains to Seattle, where they were shipped out and then told their destination. News was heavily censored back then, and very little was said about the Alaskan theater. Troops weren’t rotated out regularly, and supplies were a major issue, both because of the lack of government buy-in, but because of the difficulty in sending stuff up north. This was before the Alcan highway was built, and you couldn’t just pile up a deuce with shipping crates and head north. The territory of Alaska as a whole wasn’t self-sufficient and needed to ship in stuff to live. Result: lots of troops eating C-rations and canned Spam three meals a day, freezing their asses off in tents that collapsed every day, counting off days until never, when they could go home.

Garfield’s book reads like a modern-day Clancy novel, but better. He was a fiction and screenplay writer before he turned to history, actually writing the infamous Death Wish book that became Dirty Harry’s movie vehicle. The whole book flows well, and he has a great talent for making you feel like you’re following the battle from a recon plane, rather than just reading a regurgitation of facts and dates. He also pulls together a lot of the weird coincidences and factoids that make the story funny, either in a ha-ha or dark comedy way. It’s good stuff.

Not much else. I just started reading Kerouac’s new (well, newly compiled and released) book of journal entries. It’s not bad. I actually skipped the stuff from when he was writing his first book and jumped into the writing of On the Road.

I was hoping for a good weekend of great weather after the 70-something weather the other day, but it looks like it’s dipping into shitty and raining all weekend. Maybe it’s a good time to make a drive to the mall…


Nine Years

I should mention this now, because I never update this anymore, and I will simply forget to do so later: as of next Monday, this journal is officially nine years old. Okay, there were a couple of periods when I didn’t journal online. But dig this: 662 entries; 461,837 words. That’s roughly double the size of Summer Rain, and the most-received comment on that book is that it’s way too long.

I’d like to write some huge, introspective thing about what this means to me. But honesly, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long. I’ve been keeping paper journals since 1993, but I almost never get a chance to write anything in there anymore. It used to be a daily ritual, but I just wrote something in there a few weeks ago, and I noticed I hadn’t updated since we were in Vegas in January. I need to do something about that.

Not much is up otherwise. I am listening to the new Joe Satriani, and it’s good, but I can’t tell yet if it’s great or not. He hasn’t had an album that really grabbed me since Crystal Planet, back in 1997. (When the journal started.) I have the new Queensryche album on the way, and I hope it’s interesting.

This weather is positively dreadful. It went from “almost nice spring day” to “January shitburger rain and cold” in about 24 hours. Even thinking about looking outside makes me feel absolutely morbid. I feel like I need to get a dozen of those lightbox full-UV lamp bulbs and permanently affix them to my head. Maybe I can mount them to a walker and push them around the house with me.

I was sitting in a diner tonight with nothing to read, and I found I had one of those Moleskine journal books that I started to fill last summer, but all of the entries were completely disjointed and made no sense. Like one entry said “write journal entry about guilty pleasure – liking Black Sabbath albums w/o Ozzy on them.” I’m not sure what the fuck to make of that. The next page was a drawing for a mouthguard you wear when you sleep that contains a bunch of sonicare-type toothbrush heads and fluoride injectors, along with a notation of “would cause drowning in sleep?”

I still get, on the average, a million-dollar idea every three or four days, but I never write them down. Some of them are obvious, and some require far too much capitol for me to pull off. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I thought if you had a really high-scale mall, it would make a lot of sense to install a driving range like the one they have out at Chelsea Piers, so the husbands could put a charge card in the wife’s hands and send her to Nordstrom or whatever, and they could get out the 3 iron and hit some balls. And an overpriced pro shop, of course.

Crap. I started reading old journal entries. Now I’m going to spend all week going through them. I should get off of here while I can.


Awful enchiladas

It’s pouring rain outside, and cold. My work computer completely crapped out, and I spent all day on a loaner laptop, doing nothing but reinforcing the already-present idea that my work environment is so specialized and weird, it can’t be replicated easily. And I gave up on roaming profiles in Windows a long time ago, as I realized how stupid an idea they were, so today I had a snapshot of my desktop and favorites circa 2003. It was weird to go to my favorites menu and see all of the sites I used to read on a daily basis, but have long since forgotten. I think I get a new power supply for the old machine tomorrow, but I should probably bring a paperback to read, just in case.

Oh, for whatever reason, I’ve been reading Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, although it’s really hard to get into, for a person who doesn’t understand American football, let alone the English game of the same name, and all of its various cultural idiosyncrasies. I think I may have to give up on the book after 60 or so pages, but I do get his general message. It’s weird, because I never got into sports, but I got into death metal (to an extent), and I guess that’s close to getting into Arsenal. There was a point in my life when I thought for sure I was going to have an entire room of my house devoted to Motorhead and Entombed CDs, and I’d build some giant custom speaker system that would cost way too much to drive the extreme metal sound. Now I’m listening to the soundtrack to Broken Flowers on the tiny speakers built into my monitor, and couldn’t be happier. Weird how things switch up on you like that.

I saw Broken Flowers I think a week ago. Going into it, I thought it was going to be another Bill Murray doze-fest, like Lost in Translation. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with the way it worked, and even though Jim J. was minimalist with how the individual scenes unfolded, he had a story that flowed in such a way that you really wanted to know what happened next, how the mystery would unfold, and the tension made some of the scenes intentionally ridiculous. And the whole film was shot in Jersey and New York, but it looked like he was zipping all over the country, which was great. The ending, not so good. I won’t ruin it, but it was unfulfilling for me. But, that’s Jarmusch.

One more thing before I pass out from the awful enchiladas I just ate. This is under the category of “I remember when this happened, but there’s no god damned record of it online – I thought you could find everything on the internets.” Okay, in like February of 1988, there was some kind of freak windstorm, and the windows at the top of the Sears Tower broke out, raining glass on the downtown Chicago area. I remember this because I saw Rush on 2/26/88 and when we drove up there, we saw this post-apocalyptic vision of this giant skyscraper with a bunch of windows at the top broken out, and it was a pretty freaky vision. And, of course, this is the first thing I thought of when, 13 years later, I was standing a couple blocks from the World Trade Center watching it burn from a bunch of broken out windows. Now, for an event this big, you’d think entering a search term on the level of “sears tower windows fucked up” or “raining glass and shit on wacker drive” would bring me something. NOTHING. So if you remember this or have any leads on a better search term, let me know.

Okay, I think I need to go eat something to counteract this bad Mexican food, like maybe a box of lye…