Thursday, November 29, 2007

Letters From Travels: Taking Orders

hello lots of people that i know.

i'm currently in south america, which is my excuse for poor punctuation and spelling. stupid latin keyboards. anyway, i've done heaps of cool stuff. in peru i sandboarded down some giant sand dunes, hiked to the bottom of the world's second deepest canyon (twice the depth of the grand and twice as fantastico), and island hopped in lake titicaca (yes it's a real lake, not just a dirty sounding word).

i'm in bolivia now. it's ecomony is a bit worse than peru and i hope to exploit that to the max. today i went biking down "the death road," the world's most dangerous road. don't worry, it was worth the risk because i got a t-shirt. i'm currently staying next to the witches market in la paz, so if anyone wants a llama fetus or love potion, now's the time to place orders.

el pocket lint

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Lasagna Day

Hi everyone. I'm still here in case you were wondering. I was prevented from writing to you all because of an impenetrable force I call "laziness." We've been less than active the past couple of months.

The most rewarding thing we've done was round up an entire town and ask them if they were terrorists. Apparently over a dozen of them said yes, further raising my suspicions about what our interpreters are actually saying to these people. Basically we went house to house and escorted the men to the school. At the first few houses we would walk in and I would say "America's here; we reek of freedom" because I thought it was funny. Sitting here in my air-conditioned room, I feel like the humor of that line was probably exaggerated by wearing 60 pounds of useless gear in a 120 degree heat.

On the plus side we've started packing up some of our gear to go home. I don't feel like it's my place to point out that we're going to be here for at least another month. I'm sure they have some bigger, grander scheme that I don't understand. That last sentence would be perfect for the new font I'm working on: "Times Sarcastic Roman."

Another thing that went well today was dinner. It was lasagna day. Every day should be lasagna day.

Oh! Here's something fun that has angered "he who is called Pocket Lint." Recently they put up signs that stated our allotted shower times. Apparently the base is going through some sort of water shortage and someone thought the problem could be remedied by demanding that people take showers at certain times during the day. Which would apparently decrease the amount of showers people take, I guess. Although, honestly I don't see how that would affect how many showers people take. Later that day I took the sign down. I still have it. I'm going to put it up in my house when I get home and tell my roommates that water conservation is in effect, Marine Corps style. The most ridiculous thing about this is that the base is still operating it's pool. I'm going to submit a plan that puts a couple of fountains on each camp inside the base, and to offset the water usage we'll set toilet hours.

But I'm definitely not angry about it. Because today was lasagna day. Lasagna day is always a good day.

El Pocket Lint

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Midway Through Deployment

Hi folks, just thought I’d give everyone a little update.

We’re now past the halfway mark of the deployment and in recognition the regimental command has stepped up their Herculean efforts to obliterate the remains of our long forgotten morale. Yesterday it was passed down that everyone on the camp that carries an M-16 rifle (or variation) must now carry it at the ready, instead of slung on their back. This is absurd because the camp is surrounded by a huge base, which hasn’t been attacked in years.

In addition, although the rifles must be carried ready to engage invisible ninja terrorists that could appear anywhere, it is against camp rules to carry the weapon loaded.

Luckily this doesn’t apply to those who made this new policy because they all carry pistols. I hope they wear a thick coat of ninja-repellant at all times.

On the upside, I’m becoming reacquainted with some of the Iraq wildlife that had been previously dormant due to seasonal remission. Camel spiders have recently been found wandering around the area we live. Camel spiders are huge, ugly, soul-consuming death machines that resemble spiders, but are in fact earthly manifestations of the devil himself.

One had posted itself outside the door of J., one of the Marines here. We can only assume that it was sucking his life-force out through the closed door, slowly turning him into some sort of living-dead. T., his pal, coming to borrow a movie, opened the door (it was dark, he initially didn’t notice the creature lurking in the shadows), saw it, and jumped back of the way, slamming the door in the process. J. came out to see what the commotion was, also saw the beast and retreated back to the safety of his room, fortifying himself bravely on a chair whilst screaming in order to confuse the animal’s senses.

T., acting on a moment of uncertainty, brought his foot down on its ferocious head in an attempt to stun it. He tried three times, twice being unsuccessful in damaging its outer shell. Finally, somewhat bashed in, we (I, along with a veritable mob, had appeared by this time) succeeded in pulling the fiend off the porch where we proceeded to light it on fire. This in itself was a task because as everyone knows, evil is resistant to fire. The proper additives had to be introduced in order to produce a suitable flame to cast the treacherous soul back to the nether-regions of hell.

First we soaked the writhing caprice in hand sanitizer (in order to cleanse the area with a lasting flame and also kill 99.9% of all germs). After that we prepared some body spray in order to produce a blowtorch effect to really get the blaze going. Lastly we threw some mouthwash on top of the solution for no purpose other than to provide the condemned minty breath. Then we lit it up. And that was the first camel spider we found this deployment.

Another little touching point I wanted to share with you didn’t actually come from me but I have been obsessing about it for a couple of days. Someone pointed out to me how perfect our large “7-ton” trucks are for anti-zombie operations.

The 7-tons are huge trucks (named 7-tons for their before armor weight) that are used mostly for troop and supply transport and heavy towing. The cargo area is raised about 6 feet off the ground and accessible by ladder only, creating a natural choke point when entering the back. The new versions have armor plates surrounding the bed preventing any intrusion from the sides or front (especially from the un-coordinated jerky movements of the undead). They have huge all-terrain tires that would be impervious to all human-sized bites and would easily crush a fairly hefty zombie. The vehicles all have built in air-compressors for emergency tire refills and fuel racks on the side to store extra gas to postpone unnecessary and often dangerous stops. The cab is encased in double paned bullet-proof glass impervious to the beatings of angry, brain hungry fists. The front doors are really tricky to open and lock with a solid steel bar. Tow hitches and electric winches provide the capability of quick tow away rescues and heavy machine gun mounts provide a long range fire-support.

Those who know me know that I joined the Marines in the hopes of someday participating in the quelling of a zombie uprising and when I realized that these vehicles were so ideal for my ideal mission, naturally I got excited.

Here in Iraq the vehicles are next to useless. They’re too bulky for the narrow streets. Mass transport is dangerous with the numerous IEDs. They’re slow. They’re as hard to get out of as into and they’re prone to getting stuck in soft sand. So logically they’re frequently used in day to day operations. I know that the only reason the United States Marine Corps would use out-dated vehicles like the 7-tons and humvees is that they are preparing: crouching, slowly tightening their haunches for one fierce spring onto the back of the innocent gazelle that is the world zombie population.

Beware all ye undead. The Marines are on to you…

El Pocket Lint

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Keeping Busy

Que pasa, people of association.

I write this at the close of a fabulous week in Iraq. I was bothered very rarely in the last several days, which to me equals success. I have not spent any time driving aimlessly around the desert; I’ve spent very little time interacting with “regular” Marines (by which I mean support staff guys, officers, or anyone with enough time and motivation on their hands to tell me to “get a haircut”); and I’ve spent only a moderate amount of time outside a room with air-conditioning. Some of you may be sitting there asking: “Well Pocket Lint, what have you been doing?” My response is: why do you talk to your e-mails? That’s crazy. But to answer you weirdos anyway, I’ve been doing many important and productive things. Here’s a brief list, the most impressive listed first.

  1. Achieved a Minesweeper expert score of 195 seconds. Be awed by my might.
  2. Memorized the ingredients in a box of Junior Mints, just in case it ever comes up in a conversation (why yes they do have soya lecithin in them!).
  3. Spit into the wind. Twice.
  4. Read the entire Lord of the Rings series and then spent an hour wondering why I wasted several days reading when there are the perfectly good movie versions to watch instead.
  5. Bounced a ball against my wall 3,491 times without dropping it. My new least favorite number: 3,492.

Another juicy little item that keeps me enthralled is this cultural newsletter that the regiment puts out for a reason that escapes me as a lowly corporal.

Purpose aside, these annoying things are hung in all the bathroom stalls for all to see. The topic this week was “Iraqi Architecture.” The first sentence is, and I quote: “The principle architectural types of Islamic architecture are; the Mosque, the Tomb, the Palace and the Fort.”

I’m sure several of you picked up on the first-grade level punctuation shortly after you politely overlooked the absurd “architectural types of architecture” portion. That first sentence is also the last time they mention anything related to buildings or types of buildings in the entire document.

In the past month every single one of those newsletters has begun with a line that in no way mimics correct English writing. It fits I suppose. Since these things are hung up in bathrooms it is appropriate that they should mirror the language mechanics people use to scribble stall graffiti and racial slurs on the walls.

At any rate, I’ve come up with my own Iraqi Cultural Newsletter that I think might actually contain a bit of useful information for the Marines and soldiers in-country. Here it is - you can all let me know if it seems a little more applicable than architectural types of blahbity blah blah.

Iraqi People

There are 2 principal types of Iraqi people. Those that you are allowed to shoot and those that you are not allowed to shoot. Each of these categories has many sub-categories. For instance, in the shooting category you have people with guns, people with explosives, and people with “shoot me” written clearly on their shirts. In the non-shooting category you have unarmed people, unconscious people, and people that appear to have nothing of value for you to take once you’ve shot them.

Obviously this would need to be dummy proofed and elaborated a bit for of the thinking impaired, but I believe that with a few tweaks, this could be a very valuable tool for many people here.

With that I’m done for this week. I guess I should double-check my spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It would really embarrassing if I made fun of someone else’s horrible English and was all bungled myself. I think that’s called hypocrisy.

Have fantastic days (for today though, not tomorrow. I hope all of your tomorrows suck)

El Pocket Lint

P.S. Word is trying to convince me that weirdos is spelled weirdoes. Who wrote this dictionary, Dan Quayle? I’ve been calling people weirdos since that first grade and I refuse to believe there is an extra e in its plural form. Fight the man!

P.P.S. Although the dictionary sucks – a lot – the thesaurus provided today’s update de Pocket Lint with manly words. Pocket Lint’s favorite - “bungled.”

P.P.P.S. I was just thinking about the thesaurus and realized that it ends with -saurus. That it's the nerdy, younger, more helpful, better spoken, and considerably less threatening brother of Tyranno popped into my head.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Television Show Ideas


All you observant ones out there will notice that it’s been a whole month since I wrote any e-mails. I’m sure many of you were upset and thought that I died. Although that’s very flattering you’ll be happy to know that I’m still alive, although I do die a little on the inside everyday.

We spent a large chunk of the last month cruising the desert asking the nomads if they’d seen any terrorists. Oddly enough, they haven’t. Here’s my question to you, average citizens: is it reassuring that the best trained Marine unit in Iraq is going door to door (or tent flap to tent flap) asking a bunch of desert people where the bad guys are?

Maybe they’re in THIS tent! Nope, darn. How about THIS tent?!

I don’t even bother to get out of the vehicle anymore. Since my work is less than fulfilling I’ve spent much of the day singing commercial jingles in my head and coming up with new reality TV shows. I have 3 so far.

The first one is a retirement home spin-off of the Real World. I’ve always had a theory that retirement homes are hotbeds of drugs sex and rock n’ roll and American TV owes it to me to explore this potential treasure trove of entertainment and exploit the elderly like there’s no tomorrow.

The second one is sort of like the Simple Life (I think that’s what it’s called), the show where Paris Hilton and some other brain-dead heiress spend a certain amount of time on a farm. In my version 2 similar people go to work in a meatpacking plant. Instead of milking cows they’re required to shove a hydraulic drill deep into a cow’s brain, gut it and then package it for consumption.

The last idea is the real seller though. It’s another Real World spin-off. It’ll be Real World: Betty Ford Clinic. America will be endlessly amused by the wacky antics of court-mandated patients going through withdrawal, attempting to escape, and offering the show’s cameraman a wide spectrum of incentives in exchange for his/her particular poison. I like the opportunities that this idea presents because at any given time there’ll be a celebrity that will be available for a guest appearance.

Hmm, what else? The weather! The weather is always a good mundane topic to talk about. It just hit summertime in the span of what seemed like a couple of days. It was warm during the day and cool at night one week, and the next I swear I saw a bird burst into flames when it left its nest at 3 in the afternoon. I think that must be why there are so few birds in Iraq. That and I heard from our Intel guys that terrorists hate birds (and bunnies and cotton candy and babies and anything cute and cuddly).

Admittedly these e-mails are less and less about my actual experience in Iraq and more about my interaction with television programming, but to be fair, Iraq is much less interesting than it used to be. I think it’s because the desert is so depressing looking. I would put money on it that if we invaded somewhere with bright lights and shiny objects Americans would be absolutely enthralled with the war, and I don’t blame them.

I’m trying my best to do my part to fix this. Wherever we go I carry at least 2 cans of neon spray paint and a large bag full of glitter. Someday we’ll get there.

El Pocket Lint

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Reactions to the War

Hello again friends, family, and uncategorized acquaintances.

There haven’t been any huge changes out here but I can only force myself to sleep 16 hours a day and that leaves me a lot of time to sit around and write e-mails. If you’re wondering why I don’t got check my e-mail every day if I have time, well you’re probably too nosy for your own good. To answer that anyway, it’s because the internet center is a good quarter mile from where I live and I’m not that invested in spending 60 aggravating minutes of every day staring at computers that must somehow recognize me and think it’s funny to stop operating when I get within 2 feet of them. I think that might be a slightly run-on sentence.

Since I don’t really have a lot of leeway to talk about missions etc., I’ve decided to fill some space with a little Q&A section. My aunt told me she was interested in what I thought about what is going on over here. Initially I thought she meant the odd penguin infestation the region has been experiencing. After clarification she said she meant about the war here in Iraq. Honestly, this was the first I’d heard about a war here and it was kind of a shock. I Wikipedia’d it trying to learn more. So after 15 minutes of reading about the Iraq war (14 more minutes than most Americans will accomplish before forming an opinion) here’s a list of my opinions on it:

  1. I think oil is a terrific reason to start a war.
  2. I think it’s “cute” that Americans are still indignant when they find out politicians lied to them. (It’s the same reaction that Marines have when it dawns on them that the recruiter was full of crap.)
  3. The country has recovered some since the last time I was here. There are now dozens of corrupt Iraqi police in towns where two years ago there were none.
  4. We should have been out of Iraq three freaking years ago. I blame the Republicans.
  5. Both sides have figured out that pressure back in the U.S. will require us to withdraw in the next couple of years. Ridiculous regulations limiting all types of operations have been introduced to limit the last minute casualties and fun. I blame the Democrats.
  6. The civilian contracting is out of hand. The obese American lady who “lifeguards” at the pool makes 3 times as much money as I do. The Ugandan security company who maintains our internal security seems a bit overboard too.
  7. I think it would be swell to finish a full year of college someday.
While on the web I also looked up the penguin population of the Middle East. Oddly, Wikipedia turned up nothing.

I guess that’s all for now. I’ve got an 11-hour nap to attend to. Priorities.

El Pocket Lint

p.s. if i hadn't typed this on my own computer there would be no capital letters. the shift button and caps button have been removed. (i assume it's because of some sort of falling out with the rest of the computer. the tab button went with them.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Wrestling


I’m trying something new today. I’m writing on my computer and taking it over to the internet terminals on a thumbdrive. Maybe today I won’t get kicked out for staying over my allotted time.

It’s frustrating because it takes 30 minutes just to load the hotmail access screen. I’m usually able to squeeze in a nap, catch up on my reading, or maybe play a quick 9 holes of blast crater golf before I’m able to start my first e-mail. The golf is the trickiest thing to accomplish, what with the sand traps and all. So basically I want to take this chance to blame the internet for my bad e-mail habits. The internet and one time Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Everything is his fault.

I just got back from eating breakfast (which is everyone else’s dinner). The dining facilities out here are pretty sweet. A bunch of Iraqis make and serve food. When I say, "make" I of course mean, "warm up." Today they warmed up meatloaf and chicken cordon bleu. I’ve always liked the meatloaf here because I find it to be very genuine. I think it’s much easier to eat a meal that’s appropriately named. What is that stuff? It’s an ambiguous loaf of meat. Some sort of… meat… loaf.

Along with the gourmet cuisine military bases are equipped with the classiest entertainment. Today I watched some sort of professional wrestling award ceremony. Really, who wouldn’t want to recognize those athletes who spend their entire lives in life or death battles, using all of their strength, agility and martial prowess to become the greatest warriors on the planet? Wait, agility means some sort of genetic inability to act right?

I asked a friend of mine out here why so many people like wrestling. He said he thought it was because wrestling is like a soap opera of professional sports. It is very dramatic I guess.

I don’t think I’ve properly thanked you that have offered or sent things out here. A lot of people have asked me if I want anything out here. It’s awfully nice of you, and I’ll let you know as soon as I can figure out how you can mail me the last 4 years of my life. But until then, beef jerky is always welcome here.

In answer to another popular question: the weather forecast for the next few months is partly sandy with a chance of dust.

I can’t talk too much about actual operations, mostly because we’re afraid the Iraqis have the ability to hack into our personal e-mails, translate them, and then glean information from them. I don’t know if the lack of computers, internet connections, or electricity have affected the terrorist information gathering abilities much, but hey, we can’t be too careful.

Regardless, I have a hypothetical story that happened to… a friend of mine… an imaginary friend. It in no way reflects what I have done personally because the story involves practices that would make some Marine Corps officers spontaneously combust (it’s science). Anyway, this friend was on an imaginary mission when his unit discovered an IED that failed to go off. They theoretically tried to find the trigger man without success. This imaginary friend was then theoretically instructed to detonate the IED with a sniper round. It was theoretically cool.

I took a break writing this letter and went to the gym a few minutes ago. They had a TV on. I had the opportunity to watch a little more wrestling. It’s like a car wreck, nay, a train wreck. The scene is disgusting and horrible and nauseating but try as you might a dread fascination washes over you, and sure enough your eyes slowly creep back to the carnage. And then they snap back to something else - anything else – and then the process repeats.

I wonder if children are more prone to hitting each other with chairs and lasers and other conveniently placed furniture since the creation of pro wrestling?

I guess I should quit this letter. I’ll probably just save personal e-mails and then respond to them next time I get online so please be patient. If you’re not the patient type, I suggest you call my roommates; P., T., or W. They only like to be contacted between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. though. Just tell them I told you to call. Same with my mom.


El Pocket Lint

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Before Bed

Good news!

I can't think of what it is right now, but in a country the size of California, I'm sure there's a little floating around.

We've been sorta kinda busy, but not in any sort of productive way. Everyone knows that we're withdrawing troops and so there is this crazy push to put extreme restrictions on all operations to prevent harm to troops. It's not a good thing, and is preventing us from working. Hard to explain.

Point being we are not getting what needs to be done, done.

On the other hand we're having more fun doing less. Thanks for all the stuff people have sent. Shout out to J. and P. and her parents. And of course mom, way to rock. I think sleep is trying to choke me unconscious right now. Night to everyone.

El Pocket Lint

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Letters From Iraq: Return to the Desert

I swear this place gets nicer and nicer every time I come here. Someone took it upon themselves to erect giant concrete slabs to "protect" us from mortar fire. Ironically I don't think the base had been mortared in months prior to their emplacement.

Kuwait was okay. It's still sandy for those of you that were wondering. We got into Iraq fairly quickly. We still haven't become operational, that's still awhile away. In the meantime I'm stuffing my face with ice cream and crab legs because your tax dollars pay a contractor 70 dollars every time I eat a meal. Hahahahahaha.

Everything else is going okay. It's sort of coldish right now. I guess that's it. When I give the Iraq weather update it's time to retire for the day. When things get soap-opera juicy I'll write again.

El Pocket Lint