rogue rhetoric

random musings by michael d. durkota

Category: .: Random Musings (page 1 of 6)

Random Musings about Hunter Killer (and other submarine films)

I must admit up front that I have cherished every submarine movie I have ever seen. There is always some quality or aspect that allows me to overlook the technical inaccuracies or the completely implausible scenarios. Bottom line, Hunter Killer has far more qualities than inaccuracies than most submarine films I have seen. This is no doubt because the film is based on the novel co-authored by George Wallace, a retired submarine officer.

The film stars Gerard Butler as Captain Joe Glass. I’ve known quite a few submarine commanding officers, and Gerard plays the part well. The cast also includes Gary Oldman and a few other actors you may recognize. I was happy to see Toby Stephens (Captain Flint from Black Sails) in a new, yet oddly similar role as a Navy SEAL team leader. I miss Black Sails and wish it would return. If anyone from Black Sails is reading this, please make more seasons of Black Sails. But I digress.

The plot of Hunter Killer was unique and intricate. The film contained all the things you’d expect in a submarine drama: undersea warfare, depth charges, coy tactics, harrowing near death scenarios. The lack of communication between land and a submerged submarine means that a submarine commander is often forced to make critical decisions with little or no information; this builds suspense that borders on terror. Good stuff.

My only gripe with the plot was that the stuff between the Pentagon and the White House—the political aspects of military decisions—was a tad heavy-handed and probably a little over-acted at times (even though I love Gary Oldman). The backchannel operations with the NSA operative seemed implausible, but the sub-plot was entertaining nonetheless.

In my opinion, only three things were missing.

  • The order to dive was given early in the film, but the alarm was not sounded. I need to hear that alarm. I miss that alarm.
  • The obligatory emergency blow was down-played. If you blinked, you could miss it. If I ever make a submarine film, the emergency blow sequence will last about 10 minutes. It will be montage of various camera angles and crew reactions. There will be bug juice sloshing in crew’s mess and people hanging onto pipes with their feet swinging in the air. An emergency blow is a rollercoaster ride that very few people ever get to experience. I am eternally grateful to be one of those lucky people.
  • There is a great line about where to find the crew near the beginning of the film. The XO is concerned he won’t be able to round them up. The CO asks how many pubs there are near the base. The XO replies there are two. The CO says, “Let’s try something radical. I will check one, you can check the other.” It was great and realistic and quite funny, but I really wish I could have seen it. I was hoping for a montage of fights and girls and beer and debauchery. Just a couple minutes. Something. Sailors do bad things when they aren’t busy doing good things. It’s ok to tell that tale.

Despite those few missed opportunities, I really hope this film does well and ensures that Hollywood will invest in future submarine films. They average about one every 4 or five years. Since the time of my service, I’ve had the pleasure to have Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, U-571, The Abyss, K-19 Widow-maker, and Down Periscope. Even the latter had its moments of entertainment (I warned you, all submarine films are great in some regard).

I won’t have to wait too long for the next major theatrical release, although this one might haunt me a little more than I need. I followed the Kursk tragedy as it unfolded, and I’ve since read some non-fiction books about the events, including the failed rescue attempts. It will be gut-wrenching to put faces to these men. I will probably have nightmares for a few nights, but that is ok. It is a submarine movie and I will love it. Michael Nyqvist is also on the cast of both Hunter Killer and Kursk, so that is kinda cool for him.

Bottom line: Hunter Killer is an excellent and credible submarine drama. I will watch it again when I eventually add it to my DVD collection, but for now, it’s easily in competition for my favorite submarine drama.

Random Musings About Pilot Fountain Pens

Over the last year or so, I have acquired three standard Pilot fountain pens. I inked all three with take-sumi iroshizuku ink. Here are my reviews with a quick summary of features at the end.

Heritage 92
This was my first Pilot fountain pen. I went with the medium nib. The Heritage is only available as a demonstrator; it is clear but has black/grey accents. The pen cap and clip are more contemporary in style. The ends are squared vice rounded. I loved this pen from the moment I inked it for the first time. It is balanced and lightweight. The 14k nib inks a smooth line. The piston filling system is similar to traditional convertors and is very easy to use. The capacity is excellent.

Custom 74
I chose the black smoke model, but it is also available in blue, clear, orange, and violet. I also went with the fine nib. I wasn’t sure how I would like that, but as it turns out, I like it quite a bit. The Custom 74 has the look and feel of a classic fountain pen; from a distance, it looks like an antique, but it certainly is not. I love the silver accents (that was one reason I originally shied away from the 823). The filling system is a CON-70 which is a pump style that is quite unique and easy to use.

Custom 823
After I filled a few pages with the Custom 74, I realized my collection would not be complete without an 823. This is THE pen; it’s the workhorse that Neil Gaiman swears by. You would think his endorsement alone would be enough for me to break out the credit card, but it wasn’t. I resisted for a while, mainly because of the color selection. I prefer blacks and greys and clears. I know that seems petty and silly, but I really worried that I would not be able to write with an amber-colored pen. However, all that changed when pilot released a smoke version. The only draw-back I saw was the gold highlights. I would have preferred silver with the black theme, but oh well, I guess gold will have to do. I had a little trouble inking it for the first time; I’m still not sure why. I even broke out the instructions even though this isn’t my first vacuum filled pen. The instructions said to only use 70 ml pilot ink. I can’t imagine why that would matter. I also refuse to use blue ink, so the bottle that came with the pen was no help. After a few cycles, it finally took a little ink. On the next cycle, it filled the reservoir with ease. I suppose it just needed primed. Although it is technically a demonstrator, the body is dark, and the ink level is very difficult to discern even with a flashlight. That doesn’t really bother me, but I thought I would mention it for full disclosure. I really liked the weight of the pen, even while I was fumbling to fill it with ink. And from the moment that gold nib touched the page, I was in love. This is officially my go-to pen from now on. I am taking the Custom 74 to work; hopefully I won’t have to buy a second 823 just for the office.

Vanishing Point
Since I am writing a blog about Pilot fountain pens, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Vanishing point. I purchased the matte black version several months ago. I wish I had purchased the 823 that much earlier. I like the concept of the vanishing point, and it is definitely a great design, but it feels awkward in my hand with the clip in the way. Everything feels upside down and I just don’t like it. I also decided to try a stub nib and I wasn’t very pleased with that either. I suppose it would be a great pen to travel with, and I thought it would be a great everyday pen at work, but I found that I was reaching for the pilot varsity disposables instead.

 

Heritage 92 Custom 74 Custom 823
Filling system Piston vac CON-70 Piston vac
Capacity 1.28 1.23 ml 2.55 ml
Weight (body) 12 grams 14 grams 19 grams
Price (MSRP) $275 $200 $360

 

As always, I buy all my pens and supplies from The Goulet Pen Company. They ship fast, and they have an excellent selection. I also highly recommend their instructional videos. I have only been using fountain pens for about two years and I learned most of what I know from Brian Goulet’s YouTube videos.

Random Musings About Fountain Pens

I recently purchased three moderately priced fountain pens from the Goulet website. Each of them was under $30. Here are my reviews:

I filled the Lamy All Black Safari with Colorverse Anti-matter ink. From the Goulet website, “The LAMY Safari is a workhorse pen, known throughout the fountain pen community for its ruggedness, reliability, and no-nonsense functionality. The triangular grip makes it great for those starting out who have no idea how to hold a fountain pen, but it’s used and loved by fountain pen lovers of all levels of experience.” Overall, I tend to disagree. This pen looks sleek, but that is where the appeal ends for me. The medium nib wrote sloppy and uneven, it felt more like a ballpoint. I was frustrated after penning just a few lines. It is light weight (too light) and feels like a pen the waitress at Denny’s handed me to sign for the bill. The packaging is just a little better than a Bic pen you can buy at Walgreens. In my opinion, it is an inadequate fountain pen experience.

I filled the Nemosine Singularity with Diamine Onyx Black ink. The Nemosine packaging is quite nice for a pen at this price. I have seen lessor packaging with significantly more expensive pens. Per the Goulet website, the “Nemosine Singularity fountain pen features a clear translucent demonstrator resin body and cap with black trim. It has a lightweight plastic body and grip, a threaded screw cap which pushes to post, and a silver iridium-tipped German made #6 steel nib.” I purchased this one with the extra-fine nib. I tend to prefer a medium nib; however, I’ve become a little frustrated with absorption and bleed-through on cheap paper (especially at work where they buy the cheapest paper imaginable). The extra-fine nib will certainly help me overcome this frustration. The pen writes very smooth. It is lightweight and stylish. I generally lean toward demonstrator pens, but this one genuinely provided a nice fountain pen experience.

I filled the Monteverde Monza with Monteverde Moonstone ink. From the Goulet website, “This Monteverde Monza fountain pen features a translucent clear resin body with chrome accents and a #5 steel nib. Best of all, this pen comes with three different nibs – fine, medium, and omniflex – each with their own nib unit, grip, and converter for ease of swapping.” I used the flex nib to start, because I had never used a flex and I was curious. It wrote smooth, but I didn’t get the line variations I had expected. Perhaps I just need more practice. The multiple tips are definitely an appeal if you want to try different things and don’t want to maintain multiple pens. Of course, I already have multiple pens and that is part of the fun. All that said, I wasn’t very impressed with the Monza or the omniflex nib.

All three of these pens are decent entry-level fountain pens. Of the three, I would definitely recommend the Nemosine Singularity. It is sleek and stylish. It is also comparable to the Pilot Heritage 92 but at a fraction of the price. If you are willing to go without a gold nib, then you can’t go wrong.

Random musings prior to the Genre2 launch

  • I’m eagerly awaiting the inaugural issue of Genre2. September 15th can’t get here soon enough. I have a secret about a surprise author that I am just dying to share.
  • Website maintenance is the worst possible use of time. I have not posted anything recently due to numerous site issues. They are (mostly) resolved now, but what a pain in the ass.
  • I might post something about fountain pens in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
  • Veteran’s month is coming. If you know of any worthy charities, let me know.

Random Musings from my trip to Scotland

  • The airport in Dublin had poetry on the walls. Yeats. Yes, Yeats on an airport wall.
  • There is always someone playing bagpipes on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Always.
  • Military time is standard. “Lunch specials 1200-1500.” Finally I’m not the only one.
  • Walking the streets around the Greyfriar Cemetery, it is obvious the area inspired many ideas for JK Rowling.
  • Glencoe is so beautiful it does not seem real. (photo above)
  • Learned the origin of the phrase, “armed to the teeth.” It is actually “armed to the Teith [river],” the point where highlanders were disarmed before entering the town of Doune. Doune is also home to the castle featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The view from Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano, is breathtaking and worth the hike. (photo below)
  • I sampled about 30 varieties of Scotch whisky. They were all delightful, but my favorite was Craigellachie, a Speyside single malt aged 13 years.
  • I didn’t write nearly as much as I had hoped, but the long flights allowed me to finish reading 2.5 books.

Neil Gaiman Rocks

I served on a submarine for several years. There isn’t much room for books on a submarine—the library was a drawer with maybe 20 tattered trade paperbacks—and, this was the pre-Kindle world. So, when we were at sea we told each other sea stories to pass the time. Some of the stories were personal (hellishly exaggerated childhood stories) and some were retellings of stories we had read. A friend once told me the story of Sandman over the course of many days at sea. Each day he picked up exactly where he had left off the day before. He described the images and captions and wove the story for me. Death was my favorite character before I even saw her depiction in the comic, but he explained every detail of her with stunning accuracy. When I eventually collected the comics for myself, I was thrilled that I was already a fan of the author; I had read (and loved) Neil’s Don’t Panic a few years before.

Neil challenged my imagination during those many days at sea. He inspired me to pick up a pencil and write. I had scribbled stories and poems in grade school, but never with much purpose or conviction. Neil made me realize I wanted to be a writer and tell stories like he did. I wanted to write stories that other people would want to retell.

Now, Neil is everywhere. He has a show on television (American Gods), a show on the radio (Anansi Boys), he has a film or two in production. He has countless books. And comics. His advice on writing and craft is sage. His generosity is endless. His contributions to the arts seem to have no bounds.

To this day, every time I see him or hear him, I am reminded to just keep writing, to just keep creating. Write. Finish things. Keep writing. I keep the message as my wallpaper, my daily inspiration.

I encourage everyone to read his books, give his books as gifts (there are ones for children, and adults, and adults that want to be children), and follow his twitter feed. Listen to him read The Raven or A Christmas Carol. Support PEN American and UNHCR, and any other cause Neil supports. Let him inspire you to do more, to be better this year.

Neil’s tweet for the new year 2018:

We love you too, Neil. Keep doing what you do.

Random musings for 2017

My creed for 2017 was “Wake up. Try not to suck.” I was moderately successful. Some random musings for the year:

  • My life is so much better now that I stopped watching The Walking Dead Dumb.
  • I discovered the novels Denis Johnson and Jennifer Egan. I don’t know what took me so long.
  • I may add “Bat Wrangler” to my resume. See Flying Vermin if you are curious.
  • I attended 5 concerts, the best of which was either Blue October or Sammy Hagar. I change my mind every time I think about them.
  • I watched Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones, and Peaky Blinders, but my favorite binge series was The Punisher.
  • I decided that Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber is probably the best piece of music ever composed.
  • I published a few stories and poems; one was even nominated for Best of the Net.
  • I grew a beard for the first time in my life.
  • Looking forward to 2018, especially with the new venture at Genre2.
  • Official creed for 2018: Drink coffee and be awesome.
  • Unofficial creed for 2018: Just write the fucking story.

Top 5 Signs You are in Vegas

Some random musings from my Vegas trip:

  • Bret Michaels puts on a pretty good show.
  • Being a housekeeper in a Vegas hotel must be the worst job ever.
  • Best line from a cab driver: “Tequila helps a lot.”
  • There is a Taco Bell on the strip that serves alcohol and blasts club music.
  • Never noticed all the snarky signs before. Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Culinary Dropout (Hard Rock Casino)
  2. Hussong’s Cantina (I can’t remember where I was, maybe Planet Hollywood)

  3. Freemont Street

  4. Todd English Pub (Aria)

  5. Goose Island Brewpub (Hard Rock Casino)

 

The Two Great American Writers Who Met at War

Literary legends Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger met more than once in the middle of World War II.

Source: The Two Great American Writers Who Met at War | Flashback | OZY

Flying Vermin: A Cautionary Tale

So, this happened. I stayed up to write for a while after my wife went to bed. A little after midnight I decided it was time for me to turn in as well. I shutdown the computer and turned off the hall lights. When I walked into the bedroom, I thought I saw something moving near the ceiling. I waited a few seconds for my eyes to adjust, and confirmed a distinct swooping motion. Then I heard the flap of wings. I thought the motion reminded me of a bat, so I immediately began hoping I was terribly wrong. My wife was sound asleep on the bed. I called out and alerted her of the possible presence of a flying animal. I told her to stay completely under the covers and I turned on the light.

A bat was indeed circling the room near the ceiling.

Now what? I ducked down to avoid the swoops and tried to hold off panic. I wasn’t dressed properly to defend against a bat intrusion. I also had no weapon or means to defend myself. For a period of time my only plan was to shout, “What are we going to do?” over and over. It was not a good plan.

Round 1 clearly went to the bat.

I backed out of the room and put on a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, tennis shoes for traction, a ball cap, a Harley Davidson bandit scarf, and a pair of ski gloves. I returned to the bedroom with a small trash can and a straw broom. I still didn’t have much of a plan. I pulled the bedroom door closed behind me and I closed the door to the bathroom. The initial intent was to contain the bat to just one part of the house. I watched the bat circle the room and fended it away from me with the broom. I realized the struggle was futile and I began to fear that the night would end with a trip to the emergency room for rabies shots.

While the bat circled, I discussed the viable options with my wife who was suffocating under the bed comforter. We decided we could open a window and run away hoping the bat would just leave on his own. The problem with that plan was two-fold. How do I get across the room to open a window?  And how will we know if he ever left?  During the deliberations of pros and cons, I decided to provide the bat an option for a change of scenery and I opened the bathroom door. After a few swoops, the bat took the bait and flew into the bathroom. I closed the door behind him and we had some time to regroup. My wife also had the opportunity to dress appropriately for bat warfare.

Round 2 went to the bat.

My wife donned a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. We opened one of the windows. In the interim, I also investigated where the cat was and how in the world a bat might have found its way into the house. I found the cat hiding in the basement. Coward. She was the only animal in the house that had an active rabies vaccine. She could have helped. I was somewhat pleased to find the chimney flue open downstairs. At least we had a plausible entry point and would not have to stress about additional bats joining the fray.

After all preparations were complete, my wife took position by the window with the window screen in hand. The logic was that the screen would work both as a personal shield and as an implement to deflect the bat toward the window. I took position by the door. I pulled the bedroom door closed behind me and opened the bathroom door.

No bat appeared.

After a few intense moments of waiting, I rattled the broomstick inside the bathroom. Eventually the bat revealed itself. It circled in the bathroom a few times before joining us in the bedroom battlefield. I closed the bathroom door.

The bat swooped in circles once again. I swung the broom. My wife waved the screen. The bat came very close to the window on several occasions, but clearly had no intention of retreat. Every three or four passes, the bat diverted to a corner of the room near the ceiling and attempted to land. He slid downward each time and pushed away in erratic flight patterns. This became known as the crazy bat maneuver. At times, the bat swooped to floor level and arced and looped around us. This was a horrifying advancement in bat warfare. In defeat, I opened the bathroom door and allowed the bat to exit the battlefield.

Round 3 three was a decisive victory for the bat.

While the bat was locked in the bathroom again, we refortified and hydrated. We also opened the other two windows to give the bat more options. It was clear that the bat wasn’t happy in our house. We also thought it was clear that we didn’t want the bat in our house. It became obvious that logic and reason was not going to work with the bat.

Armed with our screens and trashcans and brooms, we opened the door to the bathroom and watched him circle the room again for nearly 20 minutes. It was exhausting. He pulled the crazy bat maneuver several times. I resorted to cursing at the bat and cursing our own bad luck. I opened the bathroom door again and the bat entered on queue. If I could train a bat to enter our bathroom, why couldn’t I train the damned thing to fly through an open window to freedom?

Round 4 went to the bat, and we were completely demoralized.

We were also exhausted. I had sweated through my shirt and my glasses were fogged from the heat venting out of the bandit scarf. We decided to push forward. Our spirits were low and we just wanted to be put out of our misery. I opened the door to the bathroom and nothing happened.

I rattled the broom in the bathroom and nothing happened. I shouted obscenities and nothing happened. I cautiously entered the bathroom and nothing happened. I scanned the walls and ceiling. My wife came over and looked as well. No bat. No movement whatsoever. I began to hope that the bat had conceded. After several minutes of deliberation with various gods, I entered the bathroom again and scanned every possible surface for signs of the wretched creature. My patience was gone. I considered closing the door and sealing off the bathroom indefinitely. The territory would be surrendered to the bat.

But then I spotted him. A small dollop of brown on the window frame above the bathtub. He was hanging the way you would expect a bat to hang. It was creepy to witness this in my bathroom. I decided this was the moment. The war would end here. Either we win or we lose. I told my wife to get back into position near the windows in the bedroom. I could reach the bat with the broom. I figured I could get one good whack. It was all or nothing.

I swung the broom downward toward the target and knocked him from the window. The bat disappeared for a split second into tub. I felt a pulse of elation seeing him drop, but it didn’t last long. The bat rebounded directly toward me. The crazy bat maneuver in the smaller room paralyzed me with fear. He darted and swooped and bounced and flittered. He was everywhere, all at once. I think I screamed.

The bat looped over my head and circled around me. And then he rebounded toward the door. I swung the broom on reflex, like a backhand shot with a hockey stick. I was suddenly in the zone. I felt resistance at the end of the broom as I followed through my swing. I saw the bat changed direction dramatically into a straight line out of the bathroom. Sidney Crosby would have been proud.

I heard my wife shout, “You got him!” And then he was gone. But where? Somewhere in the bedroom. The seconds passed like hours as we scanned the room for evidence of the fallen bat. And then my wife pointed to a plastic file box near the bed. The box was partially filled with manila folders, and at the very edge was a bat with its wings fully extended.

Was it dead? Was it paralyzed? Or was it just conserving energy to retaliate? Without hesitation, I grabbed the garbage can and pinned him down. We quickly decided a transport was feasible and warranted. I picked up the file box and fled down the stairs to the front door. I placed it several feet away from the house and pulled off the garbage can.

Nothing happened. The bat remained there, motionless. But just as we began to celebrate and mourn its demise, he moved. There was a moment of elation since we never intended to kill the poor creature, but still, we didn’t know what to do since he was still a threat. He was also holding my wife’s business files captive. We discussed going back inside and just leaving him there, but the night was damp and rain was in the forecast. The files would be destroyed. I remembered that we once had an extended reach tool, a two-foot pole with a claw on the end and trigger on the other end. My wife ran inside to retrieve it. The bat moved a little while she was gone, but didn’t appear ready to fly or fight.

I hoped my neighbors weren’t awake and watching. I was wearing a bandit scarf at 3 A.M. looking at a box in my front yard. They would surely think me a thief and call the police. My wife returned. With a rake. She explained the claw-tool was last seen in the shed. I will never understand why the plastic reach tool was in the shed and a rake was in the kitchen. It didn’t matter though, the rake failed. My wife went back inside and this time returned with a yard stick. I extended the stick and tried to slide it under the small brown mass. And then, he took to the air. He executed one last crazy bat maneuver and disappeared into the darkness.

To review, this is what we learned: Own a butterfly net. Keep the flue closed at all times. And never rely on a cat to help you out in a pinch.

As it turns out, that trip to emergency room was inevitable. The next morning my wife discovered that the CDC recommends rabies post-exposure prophylaxis for anyone sleeping in a room where a bat is discovered. You should assume you have been bitten because the bite would be painless and would leave no identifiable mark. At least they don’t give the shots in the stomach anymore.

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