Wednesday, March 30, 2005
"Iron Tusk" by Mastodon. How can you not love a song by a group named after an extinct hairy elephant based on Moby Dick? These guys rock hard and have some great riffs in this song.
"The End of Hearthache" by Killswitch Engage. Another heavy metal group. I long ago grew tired of guys screaming at me, but the riffs are just so heavy and tonally complex that I can take it. Arghhh!!!!!
"The Slam" by Toby Mac. I've been laughed at by friends because I like Toby Mac. I saw him a couple of years ago at Creation, and he rocked hard. I've been hooked ever since. "Welcome to Diverse City" is not at good as his first album. More filler and less good stuff.
"Atmosphere" by Toby Mac. Great song. Nice mellow rhythm.
"Gone" by Toby Mac. A catchy little radio song. Nice guitar.
"Of Mice and Men" by Megadeth. How Dave Mustaine has matured. The guitar is just a good as ever, but he is definitely a different man. It is rumored that Mustaine accepted Christ a couple of years ago. Which brings us to...
"Shadow of Deth" by Megadeth. Psalm 23 done in metal fashion. Dave wouldn't have done this a few years ago.
"Caught a Glimpse" by Blindside. Swedish Christian Metal. Great stuff. Gritty.
"Follow Me Down" by Blindside. This one rocks hard.
"Silence" by Blindside. An eerie acoustic number. My emotions well up every time I hear it.
"Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin. The name in worship music these days. I am very excited because I am going to see him live Thursday night.
"New Again" by Brad Paisley and Sara Evans. Me and couple of others performed this at church over the weekend. Inspired by the Passion of the Christ. Great song.
Well, there is my playlist. It is a very odd bunch of songs I know. What can I say?
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
I’ll be seeing it early next week and can’t wait. There are just too many comic book based movies coming out to keep up with, but I’m trying my best.
The marvels of modern medicine and technology. Ain’t it cool?
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Last night was my last spent in the city of Fallujah (at least for this tour). We came out of the city today and are back on our base. Our replacements have arrived and we are now waiting to rotate home.
Today was a perfect example of how far we have come on the backs of the incredible young Marines, Soldiers and Sailors who have been a part of the Regiment since we arrived in February 2004.
By mid-morning, we were sitting in a meeting with the local imams. The senior imam or "mufti" brings other important imams in a few times a month and we discuss ongoing issues inside the city. The imam meeting is in addition to various reconstruction meetings with contractors and bureaucrats as well as the perpetual development of the Iraqi security forces. What is unique about the imam meeting is that like so many other things happening now, the meeting itself would have been beyond impossible as recently as October. Now the imams request the meeting and sit down with us in order to reduce friction and work toward improving the quality of life of the Fallujahns.
As recently as October, we sat outside the city in day long battles. Over the inevitable din, you could hear cries for jihad and resistance resonating through the loudspeakers of the city's 60+ mosques. Certainly from the Marine point of view, the mosques were thought of as facilitators of the terrorists and a key ingredient in stoking the spiral of violence that consumed the city for much of the past thirteen months and beyond. Today we sat with some of the same men who controlled the speakers and discussed ways to get ambulances into the city faster and enhancing understanding among the variety of cultures that now make up the daily life in the city.
As we drove out of Fallujah, we went to visit one of the Public Order Battalions. These battalions were formed by the Iraqi government just before and during the battle of Fallujah known here as AL FAJR (New Dawn/Beginning). They showed up in December, following the battle. When they arrived, it was the typical mess that unfortunately what we came to expect of the Iraqi Security Forces - no meaningful training, poorly equipped, no real discipline and corresponding low morale. Now these same young Iraqi men are grouped together with other units and called "the heroes of Fallujah" by the people.
I cannot tell you how many nights in December and January we laid there in our bags and practically counted down to the night's phantom firefights that would get these soldiers going. Thousands of rounds would be fired into the night while their Marine liaisons ran between positions trying to get them to calm down. As soon as one unit would get under control, a new unit would start up and get them all going again. This would often go on for hours. If not for the tracers zipping through the night, it would have been tragically comical. Like all of the other problems we have seen here this year, it was solved by the tireless work of the Sergeants and Captains and their Marines. Nightly lessons and relentless correction and training have now made the POB a credible force. I think the Iraqi Army units with us are even better.
As I have said before, Fallujah is now thought of as a "safe zone" by the citizens. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation is now lifted. People move about during the day without fear. The curfew remains at night and frankly, that is just fine with the people. Iraqis outside the city talk of how safe they feel when they come to Fallujah. Talk about a truly incredible turnaround.
Last night we went up to the roof of the building where we stay and looked out over the city. Many lights are back on and more come on each night. It was quiet as could be. Perhaps the best description I can offer is "peaceful." There is no doubt that the muj will continue bring episodes of violence and terror to Fallujah. It is inevitable but they cannot undo the hope that is growing inside the people that things are getting better.
While the men have been working inside the city, other Marines have been relentlessly chasing and attriting the enemy outside the city. We have had more success capturing high value targets in the last week than perhaps during any other during my 22 months here. Once again, the Marines continue to exceed expectation. Instead of coasting in and playing it safe, they are pouring on the coal and finishing strong. The result has been a number of indicators of insurgent leadership seeking to open a dialogue with the Iraqi Government. Again, not to put too rosy a picture on it but it really is encouraging to the guys who have been here grinding away. The bad news for the enemy is that fresh legs are here and it is about to get worse for them.
I wanted to finish with a story of another young person who has exemplified the kind of support we have enjoyed over here. Her name is Amy and she is from St. Louis, Missouri. Not long before November's battle, we received a number of large boxes. Amy had a birthday party and instead of receiving gifts, she asked her friends to bring toys for the Iraqi children. They did and then mailed them all to us to deliver. By the time, we received them; we had received the warning order to liberate Fallujah. I stored them when we left for the city. When we came out at the end of November to clean up, the Marines loaded the vehicles with the boxes and headed back to town.
As the children returned, the city had been severely damaged. The Marines had also been through quite a bit. However, during the Christmas season, the Marines were able to hand out toys to the children. It was great for all.
This vignette has been repeated hundreds of times by the support that we receive regularly. Most all of the packages we have received have been turned around quickly and found their way into the hands of people who appreciate them. I wish I had time to personally thank every one who sent something but frankly, I would have done nothing else.
In closing, I want you to know that we feel the support from the American people and the American people have it right. Lives are changing here. It is not a struggle for the meek but the young men and women serving here as well as the Iraqi people are up for it. The days ahead will continue to be a tough pull but the progress is measurable.
With no false modesty, our replacements look like they are going to do even better than our guys. The newly arrived Marines are very well trained, fresh and eager.
The good news is that the doctor is confident that I should be able to control the disease with diet and exercise. The last two weeks has been spent wrapping my head around being diagnosed and making the appropriate changes in my diet and exercise regiment (that has been stressful all by itself!). I have been spending a lot of time at the American Diabetes Association website getting informed (and at times a little scared too).
Thanks to all those who continue to visit. I plan to try to get back to posting regularly at the beginning of April.
Friday, March 04, 2005
I went and saw Constantine with a buddy of mine last night. Awesome movie. Certainly not for everyone though. Given my propensity for comic book movies, I decided that this one looked cool enough to see on the big screen. Unlike most of the comic movies that come out, I have had no prior experience with Constantine. I realize that it is a challenge to take years of comic book lore and turn it into a 2 hour movie. I don't know if the movie did the Hellblazer comics any justice, but to the casual observer the movie was terrific. Here is a synopsis from the official Constantine site:
John Constantine has been to hell and back.
Born with a gift he didn’t want, the ability to clearly recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin, Constantine (KEANU REEVES) was driven to take his own life to escape the tormenting clarity of his vision. But he failed. Resuscitated against his will, he found himself cast back into the land of the living. Now, marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life, he patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell, hoping in vain to earn his way to salvation by sending the devil’s foot soldiers back to the depths.
But Constantine is no saint. Disillusioned by the world around him and at odds with the one beyond, he’s a hard-drinking, hard-living bitter hero who scorns the very idea of heroism. Constantine will fight to save your soul but he doesn’t want your admiration or your thanks – and certainly not your sympathy.
All he wants is a reprieve.
When a desperate but skeptical police detective (RACHEL WEISZ as Angela Dodson) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister (also played by Weisz), their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldly events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost.
Everything about this movie is cool. The story and the visuals make it very appealing and a great ride. The fact that there is so much Christian history in it is also attractive. The central artifact in the movie is called the Spear of Destiny, in other words, the spear that pierced the side of Christ.
But don't think for a minute that the movie is going to reveal any spiritual truths to you or is by any stretch of the imagination a "Christian" movie. John Constantine can see the angels and demons that reside on this plane in the movie, and the themes are all spiritual, but that is about the end of it.
What I always find intersting is how people say this is a movie to make you "think". Think about what? A Christian site I came across gave a good review of Constantine, and said that the film won't satisfy all your theological questions, but will make you think:
This film won’t satisfy all of your theological questions, but it can certainly provoke you to perhaps look more closely at significant spiritual issues. They are not always simple to bring up and talk about, but this movie is an entertaining way to get you thinking about them and perhaps start discussing them.
Maybe for some of you that don't believe in God or have faith in Jesus Christ, you might think about some of this stuff. Even Christians that see it might think about this stuff. Personally, I am not going to think about any of this.
I have heard people I know talking about the Matrix movies as some sort of spiritual allegory that made them "think". I know a local pastor that does a talk about the Christian parallels in The Lord of the Rings (not a stretch like the Matrix because Tolkien was a Christian). I guess I am not wired that way because I found The Matrix a good entertaining movie. No spiritual journey there for me. No thinking on any higher level than that the bullet-time effects were wicked cool. The Lord of the Rings is a monumental story about good versus evil. If that makes you think about God, Heaven and the like, I am glad for you. I just watched a moving epic film. It is not going to encourage me to think about "bigger" things. But if it makes you start thinking about Heaven and Hell and God, start thinking.
Well, now that I got that out of the way, Constantine gets a full price of admission. It is the kind of film that you will want to see more than once to completely follow all that is going on.
And maybe get you to thinking...