Where do we begin?

This space has not had a true update in a bit.  I have been moving and such.  Let us begin there.  Let us get back to what this blog used to be.  It was first and foremost whatever I, the author, wanted it to be, and I always wanted it to be true.  True to me specifically, and yet I have danced around topics and applied enough tact to make myself sick.  What happened to the truth?  What happened to the alcohol fuel, tobacco burning, dioneysian blog posts that made at least one person think, or made me feel like I was actually doing something with this?  

     Well it is all coming back.  I described this to one of my professors as a “no s*** window into my life,” but somewhere along the way I forgot that.  This is not as dramatic as it all sounds?  Sometimes I got off writing about pencil sharpeners.  I can tell you why I stopped doing that as much, because everybody that enjoys graphite and would feels the need to write about it (me included) and I was not reading theirs, so I stopped asking them to read mine as often, that is all it was just kind of a courtesy thing.  So let us begin with an update.


We were reasssigned to Fort Sam Houston…well isn’t that peachy, leave Massachusetts, leave the circle of Boston, leave Framingham, and go back to the Ghetto.  No I am not hanging out in the wrong parts of Texas, no I do not need to give it a chance, I am allowed to dislike an entire state without offering a reason, and the city of San Antonio, for that I can give reasons.  I am not saying that I will not enjoy things here, I will, I always find something to do, but for me this place will always be too far South West.  Now we do live two minutes from where the medics are made, and that always strikes me as a little funny.  

    Let us be honest here.  I planned every detail of my last day at Framingham State as best as I could.  I had a vision in my head and I was going to do my best to make sure it happened.  I would not settle for something anticlimactic as the semester just being over and me not coming back.  I made a playlist…I even wore the exact same outfit on my last day that I had worn on my first, if you will allow for the fact that I have of course bought new underwear since then.  Even my socks were the same.  I know because they are the ones I wear with my Doc Martin’s.  I cant guarantee that it was the same pair of socks, but there are only three pairs of these, and I have had the same three this whole time.  It was a private little joke that only I was in on.  

This may be the only picture of me from that day.  Zander was there out of necessity caused by the moving schedule and such.  Nobody minded, I have lots of photos of plenty of my friends playing with him.  The point is the sweater, it book ended my time at Framingham State University.  I thought it was hysterical.  I even made a play list.  That’s right.  I made a SOUNDTRACK for my last day.  Most people did not notice that I had it playing most of the day walking around in my personal little movie.  

I went out on country roads.  My buddy Steve camethrough (without knowing it) and we went and smoked before I walked off the campus at almost exactly the same time I had left a night class on my first day.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.  

We decided to road trip out of MA.  I know I have a lot more stuff I could talk about, especially people and it may come back to me later, but this will be longer than it is already going to be.  We had some help getting cleaned out of our house, very grateful, and then I had to leave everyone.  We had some friends when We’ve left other places, but they were army people, they knew what it was like.  Here?  We were attached.  So we put a bunch of crap in the outback and went trecking out with kids for 1800 miles, and around 25 days.  We visited family.  We visited friends.  I spent a good bit of the time dealing with that feeling that I am unsure if it is caused becaus we were in between and it wouldn’t go away until we had a house to put together, or if it was just the dread of where we were going.  The kids actually did really well with all of the hotels and such.  We spent New Years in a hotel room enjoying each other’s company.  If you are bored and want to get to the point, here’s one.  Home really is where the heart is, for me, I really am just happy the wife, kids, and I are all together.  

The little guy and his hotel bed.  They were happy as long as there was a bathtub to play in.  Kids know how to keep it simple.  

This whole home is where the heart is thing being true is not news.  What is news is this: you are not required to continue taking people’s garbage just because you are related to them.  I am not saying that all the little motivational Facebook posts about leaving negative people behind are at all true, much to the contrary, I am sure that more often that not people are not looking in the right direction.  I have been there, I have forgotten to blame myself because I did not want to accept that I was the problem, but more often than not we know the type.  My sister is great at this kind of thing, posting about people messing people up when she can’t make a sandwich without a family fight and the cops coming.  That’s what I’m tired of, pretending I care.  I love my family, but you know what I’m tired of telling them that they need to do to fix the situation.  My mother and grandmother are ready to pull their hair out, my mother has the kids and doesn’t get any sleep, and when my family and I come we are mostly spectators to this circus.  AND we never say anything about it.  That stopped back at the beginning of this paragraph.  I do not blame her kids, you have them, stop fooling with that Stalingrad dumpster fire until she pulls it together.  Everyone turns on everyone so fast, and I feel like phone calls are just sirens telling me what she has done now.  It has driven people out of business and before we know it her final revenge will be complete and my kids wont get to see you at all due to the early grave it has driven you to.  We get tired of coming to see everyone and trying to dance around the mess that she has made.  Call me what you will, but I am serious.  We don’t mind helping with the kids, so long as we are not telling ours to wait around and get what is left.  However!  We did get my grandparents to go to the Tennessee Aquarium.  That was awesome as always.  That place should get an entry to itself.  

Some more travels later, we found ourselves on the way to San Antonio for real.  Now here is the catch.  When this trip was over, I was going to have to get up the next day, get on an airplane, and do the whole thing again.  It was cheaper than shipping our second car.  I was going to have an awesome post all planned out for you guys, I was going to go to Route 66 and drive as much of it as possible before hitting Texas.  It was going to be awesome!  I bought a book and spent most of January planning it out.  Then our car was broken into.  I found out from my wife while I was sitting on my second plane waiting on them to check out the equivalent of a check engine light, which is admittedly more serious on a plane.  I guess the crew heard my displeasure at someone having busted a window out.  I looked over in the next seat and there was Woodford Reserve and a Coke.  They kept appearing.  Here’s to the employees of American Airlines.  My road trip went by the wayside, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, home to my family that is.  Here’s the thing.  We are smart enough to take the DVD players out every time we stop.  We did not have a lot in the car.  My bag that was in there I had put in that morning so that my wife would not have to carry it down the stairs herself with the kids.  All in all they took clothes, my writing stuff, Liam’s toy bag, My wife’s clothes.  The only real valuable–as far as single items go, stuff adds up–was my Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I know this is a First World problem to have.  Yes we are insured, yes we can and have replaced most of that stuff.  However: it was ours.  I hate being stolen from.  A part of me hopes that they were able to sell that stuff and feed their kids, or maybe a kid who had nothing has those toys, but I know thats wishful thinking, and that part of me is small.  The bigger part of me comes from a place where we fought and dueled to build a reputation so that people would not steal from us.  We hate thieves, and that bigger part of me would–and I say this unable to make those who don’t know understand–that I really would break someone’s limbs over my kids toys, my wife’s clothes, and some fountain pens.  The worst part is, it killed the little good I saw in this place.  I have gone to concerts in Worcester MA, parked in an alley with money in the cup holders, actual bills, and people did not smash windows and take money, never has that happened in my life.  Two days in this place?  Thieves hang, no I do not want to hear the rest of the story.

End of the day, my wife and kids are safe.  All is well.  We now live on post, and the house is actually really nice.  People say your blog is supposed to help people.  Here it is again: putting a house together with two kids is slow.  I do not mind living on post, and Liam and I have some nice places to skateboard, and a park, and if we want, we can bike to the grocery store.  What’s amazing is having friends who love you enough and know you well enough to pack the perfect box to try to cheer you up.

We have been selling off some more stuff online.  Here’s some more tips.  #1 be prepared for people to think their stuff is worth way too much.  I read an anthropology paper that did a good job explaining this.  #2 be prepared for people to not be able to read.  Even if you put the words “Will only meet at X” or “I have a Subaru, I cannot deliver a couch” people will not realize they don’t know where X is until they are “almost there” or they will ask when you can drop the couch off.  To sell online is to need golf shoes to wade through the stupid. 

OH!  I wrote a novel while we were traveling.  I did it by the national novel writing month standards.  It is 52,000 words of crap.  But I did it.  I wrote a novel.  My support crew were all amazing.  I might even revise it.  I wrote a book.  That’s a bucket list item gone.  I am actually kind of pleased with the novel.  Next step is to print it and begin revision.  

Now we are here, refining our lives, cementing who we define ourselves as.  I have managed to have a pretty good, INCOWRIMO, international correspondence writing month, despite being busy, my bag of writing stuff having to be replaced, not actually being able to open the mailbox, and getting a late start, I am on 28 letters and it is not the 28th.  I have gotten some really good ones from the address exchanges.  

Now I prepare to leave you, back to our regularly scheduled programming, the knives and pencils, the books and movies, with some new stuff.  I hope to see more readers because I have a lot to write.  It is almost baseball season.  Zander has turned one…

Ganger-Bjorn

Dead Man’s Story

Tonight I kind of have to post something.  It gives me a reason to put my blog on my page.  I got to spend some time with my cast mates, tonight, a story I though I had put on here…I could have sworn I did, I’ll have to check my drafts.  The Ganger got into a play.  The university is putting on “Our Town,” and I get to be in it.  More than a few people are surprised to learn that I was involved in theater in high school.  That is not the point.

The point is I have some awesome cast mates.  They allowed me to run my mouth for a while and explain to them that I am unconcerned with saying things like, I love marathon dungeons and dragons games, or sorting pencils, or sorting stamps from the Soviet Union.  It is because I do not have time to care.  No one can afford to, these are my quirks.  I am so very aware that I will not be here one day, and I needed them to know that I am always on the lookout for the next thing to make into a story.  I dress up with my sons for Halloween, I go to New York by train on a whim, I audition for plays, I start M&M fights with Liam, because I may not get to do so tomorrow.  As you have seen I write it all down, because the next biggest tragedy would be for the stories to be lost, because then who will remember?

It was on the thought of writing it all down that I realized, I write a lot as if I were already gone.  Which inspired the idea to write a terrible little poem.  It is not finished, but it seems to cap off the night.  Judge it all you like, I will as well.

 

Dead Man’s Story

Hello my dear diary of a dead man!

My gunna be the biggest to do for all the people to see

Like Wellington the people g’on come from all around

The g’on come and bury this hillbilly

They come and stay for days and live a little bit like me

There g’on be song, drink, and dance, but my hope is for you to get a good story.

What you sing, what you drink, and with whom did you dance?

You see that is how you live a bit like me, you put down the phone and begin making a story.

Now me? I am nobody from nowhere, but when I tells you about it, I’m the biggest somebody from the biggest some where you ever heard of.

I was born to the prettiest lady in the daisy land, we together one big family in one big house.

Whole family on a plot of land with a dirt track and a forest filled with dragons and demons and their ilk

My cousins and I the only thing kept them away, our blood, sweat, and play kept those big ole baddies at bay.

Yes we loved it there in the daisy, we went to the same school, the yellow building where mamaw brought the mail to the Allen.

The Allen so old that momma and uncle went there like granddaddy too.

I wish I could show it to you like it was in my day

we moved on to a fancy new street where we was the last generation of kids and a fancy new school that taught me about classes, but where I learned little in class

Now you want to live like me? You g’on need four daddies, you g’on need camping and fishing and movies with your momma across the big old sea.

You gunna live like me you gotta have tobacco, coffee, and tea

You gotta kiss a girl with bright red hair in the photo machine at the gate to the north, you gotta dance with those who cannot speak, you gotta fight when you know you will lose and play nintendo in the tops of trees.

Now you see I wanted to do all there was to see, and surprisingly I am always getting to.

Now I seen London, and I seen France, and I got asked silently by a pretty German girl to dance.

I smelled the channel salt, sailing by a white wall.

 

Follow me and youll see the black guards of a queen, you’ll sleep in castles in the hills, youll trod the boards with the most creative the nooga had, and you’ll ride horses in a circle every time you see them

To live like me you g’on have to put your name in the big book of an army

you g’on have to go to the man in the round brown hat and do what he say

you g’on have to go to the land of the eagles and learn how they fly

you g’on take up you gun for you destiny, and meet the people who like in the big sand sea

you live like me and you’ll see big crossed sabers, a baghdad sunset, and if you lucky you’ll get to swim in the pool of a dead dictator

you gotta fight in the war, and wonder what for

livin like me get you called doc, if you know some broken body

With me you’ll ride the steam engine to get a pencil and see the big city, gettin back just in time to win moonshine to help the kiddies, while a man tells you that its in the fruit.

To be like me you gotta plan your funeral and write your obituary just to make sure they gets it done right, who else g’on throw that good a party and tell that good a story?

BB-10-27-16

 

The Cold War: A New History,By John Lewis Gaddis

**REVIEW AFTER THIS LONG INTRO AND PICTURES**

This blog entry will be my first post in quite a while as I let all extra things drop off during a school semester.  As you can tell from my earlier posts, I enjoy book reviews, and since I had to do one for school this semester, I will post that here.  The book was The Cold War: A New History, By John Lewis Gaddis.  Gaddis is, in my opinion, the historian of the Cold War currently and this book should be required reading for anyone entering the modern American history or Cold War history fields.


My copy, as you will see has seen a little time in service.  I bought it for an assignment, we were told to pick a book dealing with the topics at hand; the class was U.S. history 1945 to present, and themes were plentiful, but the professor also had a list available for us.  I am a Cold War junkie, and at the top of the Cold War pile sat this gem.  Our second son was born during this semester, and the professors were all very understanding and accommodating, thank you Framingham State University.  However, you cannot stop all work for two weeks and still come out on top, so this book was my reading material while in the hospital.  Whether it is due to being an excellent work on my favorite topic, or because it is now sentimental, it will be found on my shelf.

 

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

 

In The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis has created a concise history of the Cold War for a new generation of readers, synthesizing the already available work on the Cold War into a cohesive volume, incorporating updated and newly available information, arguing the need for the Cold War and the outcome of it, becoming an introduction to the subject, and expertly organized thematically to best cover the major events and themes of the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis intended for the title of this monograph to serve as the statement of purpose, in that it was a to be literal new work on the subject. He did not intend to reargue the entire history of the Cold War; he has already argued more than once over the course of his career; rather he was motivated to create a concise and updated account of the Cold War. His hope would be that this work could serve as an introduction to some, an overview of the subject of the Cold War at a basic level to new readers. This edition is what it should be, weighing in at 266 pages not including notes it is a detailed, but brief introduction to the cold war that will not intimidate the new reader. With many college students being people who have no memory of the Cold War an edition written with the new generation in mind was appropriate, even necessary. Gaddis is well informed as to the needs of students studying the Cold War as he is one of the professors who specialize in teaching it.

Gaddis does not intend for this work to replace any of the existing work on the Cold War, or to disagree even with any of these works. The author believes this monograph has a place at the front of the reading line about the Cold War, and could serve as the gateway to more challenging and in-depth texts once the reader has a grasp or interest in the topic. Gaddis himself being the author of several of the books that retain relevance in the academic classroom allows him to see the need for a brief and cohesive narrative. He openly informs the reader, and other historians, he has no intention of arguing against their works, in fact, he cites the established works of other historians often, as well as his own work.[1] This drives home the point that new readers should not look for this work to occupy a particular niche, and should feel open to using it as a basis for their Cold War knowledge at the beginning of their academic career, and can appeal to the casual reader for the same purpose of creating a firm foundation of knowledge on the general subject of the Cold War. Gaddis himself believes that the topic covers such a long timeline and took place in enough varied locations, with their own political arenas and motivations that a book could be written from any angle that you can imagine, even from the viewpoint of the smallest third world participant, and it would be relevant and occupy a prominent place within the narrative. This work represents the extraordinary challenge of creating a meaningful summary longer than an encyclopedia entry under the heading “Cold War.”

One of the reasons the author gives for having written this is the simple and justifiable release of new information from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the Chinese during the Cold War period. New data must be taken into account, to ignore such resources would be academically negligent. However, the sheer amount of new information available can be compared to money flooding a market and causing inflation. The volume made available is Akin to that which has been previously written in that it can be intimidating to attempt to digest. Gaddis has applied the seasoned judgment of an expert when selectively incorporating this information into his current and concise volume. This is clearly seen when he deftly includes official Soviet Missile counts during the Eisenhower years; not overwhelming the reader, but transforming the speculative argument that Khrushchev boasted about their power into a quantifiable piece of fact.[2]

This new evidence held in context with the work previously accomplished by historians, Gaddis included makes for a subtle, but compelling argument. Gaddis combines primary sources that are placed well within context. Rather than Reagan or Khrushchev being quoted on events that are similar to the instance being described, Gaddis has provided—when possible—the thoughts of the figure on events specifically. It is very convincing to have evidence pulled from a radio address Ronald Reagan gave, or even better Khrushchev’s thoughts on the bluster shown in regards to Soviet missile capabilities. Memoirs looking back—like those of Khrushchev and George Keenan—combined with evidence recorded at the time show the professional historian at work, giving insight into the minds of leaders during the Cold War, and where we are fortunate enough to have it, a look at what they thought of those same events looking back. It is wise to remember however that Gaddis wishes you to celebrate the United States victory in this conflict and will be using the words of Soviet memoirs to cast a light that makes it appear they accepted this outcome in the end.[3] Gaddis is fair when he quotes, as he balances his optimism with evidence against United States actions, such as pointing out (despite the argument) George Keenan’s regret in hindsight of the CIA black operations conducted during the Cold War.[4]

The reader should exercise a note of caution when reading this review. The idea of Gaddis not replacing or rearguing his work or the work of others may give the false impression that this work contains no argument at all. This is untrue, and if the reader is not careful, they may miss it entirely and absorb it as presupposed fact. The argument being made is the idea that the Cold War was inevitable and having occurred the world was made a better place. The world being better for the Cold War is contingent upon whom the author believes to have won it: the United States and her allies. Part of what makes this book such an easy read is that it is celebratory of the Cold War’s outcome, the argued victory of the United States. For many the idea of American victory is not an arguable point, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a matter of historical fact. However, academics even beginning students understand the idea of objectivity, and Gaddis’s boldly un-objective argument may be perceived as biased by some studied readers, reducing the credibility of the entire work. It should not be the case that the work is impugned by this argument, but it is not unthinkable, and one could not blame anyone who described it as biased.[5]

Gaddis believes there is no way to create a single, simple chronological narrative of the Cold War, and has chosen to organize this work thematically. However, the work flows smoothly enough that the reader almost believes there is a chronological order at work. The author believes in attempting to only be thematic or chronological would fail to encompass the magnitude of the Cold War properly. With this in mind chapters are thematic, moving chronologically, but with some overlap between them. While this sounds like it is more complicated than needed, the idea came off well and made for a surprisingly easy read. Chapter one will set the stage for the Cold War, immediately following World War II, not merely the events, but why each side had fought the Second World War as well and how this contributed to their Cold War stance. Moving forward Gaddis will address conflicts between the first and second worlds while showing the factor everyone knows about the Cold War—the threat of atomic and nuclear war—and will explain not just how close we came, but why nuclear war never came. Having established the Soviet Union as a credible enemy, the reader must be shown when we feared them enough to be concerned, particularly in the context of such an optimistic outlook on America by the author. Superpowers having been explained Gaddis chooses chapter four to explain why these great powers had difficulties controlling their “allies” in the third world, which created some of the messiest conflicts of the age. This moves rather logically and quickly as each theme is explicitly addressed within the proper context and time frame.

Whether you are someone with mild curiosity, a seasoned Cold Warrior, or a student breaking ground on the subject for the first class, this book is a must have. Allow yourself to read it once easily and caught up in the celebratory tone it sets, and then look back a second time for a critical review. Whether you agree with Gaddis’s argument or not, this books should prove invaluable for the information it contains. The concise nature, updated information, and hindsight took in the fourteen years between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the publication of this work, as well as it’s ability to be an entrance to weightier volumes on the Cold War make it indispensable.

[1] Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005, XI

[2] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[3] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[4] Gaddis, Cold War, 164.

[5] Greenstein, Fred I. “The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.” Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 321-322.

Brandon Bledsoe, “Hrolf The Ganger”

Never should we ever…

Right now my adventures, and for that matter my blogging is at a minimum, the semester started just under two weeks ago and the laser focus is back.  That is not to say that college is not an adventure.  I have already taken this farther than you ever could have convinced me back when that I would.  I have committed fully to the experience, minus living in a dorm and such, I am married and have a child after all.  Maybe that is why I always show up to school with a smile on my face, I live with one child, not five thousand adolescents experiencing freedom for the first time.  I am sorry if that seems low, but I have lived in the barracks, it seems to be about the same.

Anyhow I have created a small group of pencil junkies at school.  Two of them asked for care packages when I took my little trip to CW earlier in the month, and they were well provisioned.  Now in all fairness one of those people was Carl.  I already knew Carl, the fact that I applied to the college he works at is pure coincidence.  The other person is Tyler, who graduated right after we met, but we decided we would make such good friends that he drove from Rhode Island to come and see us, talk pencils and watch X-files.

These two are innocent of something I have committed before.  I have witnessed this going on some at school and at various places at large and this is just my take on it.  No matter what our passion or how passionate we are about it, never should we ever be snobs.

I have done it, I probably still do, although I would say I do it in the privacy of my own home, but even then I fight it.  I have recognized my need to be appreciative and thankful and I try to work on it.  That is why I am here, with an exhortation against stationary snobbery.

First let us recognize that many of the pencils, pens and notebooks we love are luxury items from a relative perspective.


It is ok to admit it.  They are luxuries, they are indulgences, they are the exploration of our passion.  We also cannot allow them to be what causes us to belittle something that is ALL that someone else has.  This is not a rant on equality.  It is simply a consideration.  Imagine a middle school child among us whose family keeps them supplied with all their needs school supplies included, but a blackwing is simply out of reach.  That does not mean that we should not write about them, that we should not post pictures of them.  I simply beg that we stop to consider before we describe something that is functional as “cheap” or “garbage.”  Let us consider some of our less expensive utensils and paper.

There is very little to be called fancy about these items.  They are filler paper in a binder, a notebook with no name, and pencils selected from the brands of staples, CVS, office depot, Dixon, and the novelty holiday sort given away at school parties.  They are also the the items who witness the labor and drive of those who want to succeed.  Those who have had the supplies they needed and maybe had to erase a little harder to use the hard red eraser, but wanted to ensure their homework was perfect.  As I said they are not fancy.  The paper has no name, the pencils are mostly named after the store they are bought at, but you can put a point on them and do work.

When I was in school my mother made sure that within reason we got the supplies we wanted when the school year started.  FiveStar and trapper keeper were common, along with boxes of Ticonderoga and Elmer’s.  Now that I am paying for my school supplies I still buy the brands I like for college, but I stare very hard at what a five star notebook costs (and for the price realized I could take school notes on Moleskine) and wondered why my mother didn’t tell me I was insane that paper is paper.

I am not innocent in this.  I must constantly flog myself with the memories of Iraqi children who were living in relocation camps who aside from probably being excited to have enough to eat, could not contain themselves when they found out that we had sent word home that there were schools, but no supplies and people had come through and shipped us boxes and boxes of supplies.  The generosity of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  This is my exhortation, that before we call something garbage, before we describe it as cheap, that we consider for a moment those who treasure these tools as their own, that they are more careful with their no name number two than we are with a 602 due to having forgotten.

I write this not out of self righteousness, but out of the awareness that I have never shown the gratitude and joy that I saw on the face of a very specific Iraqi girl from the camps when I sat down beside her on the hood of a small broken yellow car in the camp, and from my pack pulled out a small backpack full of supplies for her.  We should live to achieve that kind of satisfaction and appreciation.

Hrolf The Ganger.

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