Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 14th, 2021

“I Fought in Afghanistan. I Still Wonder, Was It Worth It?”

leave a comment »

Timothy Kahn, formerly a USMC captain, served in Iraq and Afghanistan and writes in the NY Times:

When President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States would withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he appeared to be finally bringing this “forever war” to an end. Although I have waited for this moment for a decade, it is impossible to feel relief. The Sept. 11 attacks took place during my senior year of college, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed consumed the entirety of my adult life. Although history books may mark this as the end of the Afghanistan war, it will never be over for many of my generation who fought.

Sometimes there are moments, no more than the span of a breath, when the smell of it returns and once again I’m stepping off the helicopter ramp into the valley. Covered in the ashen dust of the rotor wash, I take in for the first time the blend of wood fires burning from inside lattice-shaped mud compounds, flooded fields of poppies and corn, the sweat of the unwashed and the wet naps that failed to mask it, chicken and sheep and the occasional cow, the burn pit where trash and plastic smoldered through the day, curries slick with oil eaten by hand on carpeted dirt floors, and fresh bodies buried shallow, like I.E.D.s, in the bitter earth.

It’s sweet and earthy, familiar to the farm boys in the platoon who knew that blend of animal and human musk but alien to those of us used only to the city or the lush Southern woods we patrolled during training. Later, at the big bases far from the action, surrounded by gyms and chow halls and the expeditionary office park where the flag and field grade officers did their work, it was replaced by a cologne of machinery and order. Of common parts installed by low-bid contractors and the ocher windblown sand of the vast deserts where those behemoth bases were always located. Relatively safe after the long months at the frontier but dull and lifeless.

Then it’s replaced by the sweet, artificial scents of home after the long plane ride back. Suddenly I’m on a cold American street littered with leaves. A couple passes by holding hands, a bottle of wine in a tote bag, dressed for a party, unaware of the veneer that preserves their carelessness.

I remain distant from them, trapped between past and present, in the same space you sometimes see in the eyes of the old-timers marching in Veterans Day parades with their folded caps covered in retired unit patches, wearing surplus uniforms they can’t seem to take off. It’s the space between their staring eyes and the cheering crowd where those of us who return from war abide.

My war ended in 2011, when I came home from Afghanistan eager to resume my life. I was in peak physical shape, had a college degree, had a half-year of saved paychecks and would receive an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in a few months. I was free to do whatever I wanted, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything.

Initially I attributed it to jet lag, then to a need for well-deserved rest, but eventually there was no excuse. I returned to my friends and family, hoping I would feel differently. I did not.

“Relax. You earned it,” they said. “There’s plenty of time to figure out what’s next.” But figuring out the future felt like abandoning the past. It had been just a month since my last combat patrol, but I know now that years don’t make a difference.

At first, everyone wanted to ask about the war. They knew they were supposed to but approached the topic tentatively, the way you hold out a hand to an injured animal. And as I went into detail, their expressions changed, first to curiosity, then sympathy and finally to horror.

I knew their repulsion was only self-preservation. After all, the war cost nothing to the civilians who stayed home. They just wanted to live the free and peaceful lives they’d grown accustomed to — and wasn’t their peace of mind what we fought for in the first place?

After my discharge, I moved to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Justin Bieber today is stunning

leave a comment »

Just read Zach Baron’s interview of him in GQ:

Justin Bieber and I have just met when I ask him something and he talks and talks—for 10 illuminating and uninterrupted minutes he talks. He talks about God and faith and castles in Ireland, about shame and drugs and marriage. He talks about what it is to feel empty inside, and what it is to feel full. At one point he says, “I’m going to wrap it up here,” but he doesn’t, he just keeps going, and that is what it is like to talk to Justin Bieber now. Like you’re in the confessional booth with him. Like whatever rules about “privacy” or the thick opaque wall of massive celebrity that people like Bieber are supposed to follow don’t apply.

He has lived a well-documented life—maybe among the more well-documented lives in the history of this decaying planet. But to my knowledge, there is not one example of him speaking this way—in a moving but unprompted, unselfconscious torrent of words—in public prior to this moment. I will admit to being disoriented. If I’m being honest, I had been expecting someone else entirely—someone more monosyllabic; someone more distracted, more unhappy; someone more like the guy I’m pretty sure Justin Bieber was not all that long ago—and now I am so thrown that the best I can do is stammer out some tortured version of… How did you become this person? By which I mean: seemingly guileless. Bursting with the desire to connect, to tell his own story, in case it might be of use to anyone else.

It’s a question that’s not even a question, really. But what Bieber gently says in response is: “That’s okay.”

He knows approximately what I’m asking—how he got from wherever he was to here, to becoming the man in front of me, clear-eyed on a computer screen from an undisclosed location in Los Angeles. His hair, under a Vetements hat, is long in the back; he is in no particular hurry. He is married to a woman—Hailey Baldwin Bieber—who cares for him like no one has ever cared for him, he says. He is happy. He is currently renovating the house in which he will live happily with his wife. He’s spent the past several months piecing together a new record, Justice, which is dense with love songs and ’80s-style anthems—interspersed with some well-intentioned, if not totally well-advised, interludes featuring the voice of Martin Luther King Jr.—that are bluntly honest about his bad past and equally optimistic about his future. (“Everybody saw me sick, and it felt like no one gave a shit,” he sings on the cathartic last song on the record, “Lonely.”) He’s still so overflowing with music that he puts out Freedom, a meditative, postscript of an EP about faith, just a few weeks after Justice. He is, if anything, the empathetic professional in this interaction too as he goes about trying to help me understand how he’s arrived at where he’s arrived. . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. He does explain well how he arrived and where he arrived.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2021 at 3:24 pm

Police shooting of unarmed civilians will continue, for reasons embedded into our approach and systems

leave a comment »

Zack Cheney-Rice writes in New York:

On Sunday afternoon, two weeks into the criminal trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd last spring, police in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot and killed another Black man, 20-year-old Daunte Wright. The events’ concurrence highlighted a contradiction: For all the efforts by prosecutors and fellow officers to paint Chauvin as a rogue, officers in Brooklyn Center were doing comparatively standard police work when they encountered Wright, and the outcome was the same. Needless death is not the product of policing gone wild. It’s an inevitable outcome of policing as it was intended.

According to reports, officers stopped Wright for an alleged traffic violation and tried to detain him after discovering a warrant for his arrest. Police say they ordered Wright out of his vehicle, but the 20-year-old climbed back in when they moved to cuff him and officer Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the department, shot him. Wright’s car rolled several blocks before crashing. Police and medical workers pronounced him dead soon after. Protests erupted, continued into Monday morning, and resumed that night, with some residents hurling “rocks, bags of garbage, and water bottles” at riot-gear-clad police, who responded by firing rubber bullets and chemical agents at the demonstrators. In subsequent statements to the press, Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon said Officer Potter killed Wright by mistake — she meant to discharge her Taser rather than her firearm, he said, citing publicly released body-camera footage where she seems surprised to have fired her gun. “I’m the leader of this department,” Gannon said on Monday, articulating in broad terms how the situation might be resolved amid heightened tensions. “They expect me to lead. Create a safe city. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Police seek to create safety — a nebulous state of enforced order — by deciding who is dangerous and responding to them with violence. Even as public opinion has soured on much of their conduct in the past year, this remains, to the vast majority of Americans, a key part of what law enforcement agents are supposed to do. This is evident in broad support for reforms like establishing uniform standards for how and when police can use force — paired with more or less split opinion on whether police should keep receiving military-grade weapons and equipment — compared with less popular changes aimed at eliminating the police’s right to use violence altogether, like defunding as a precursor to abolition. Even if one agrees that a United States without armed police is a dangerously utopian proposal, it is hard to dispute that anything less will preserve this discretion to apply violence based on subjective judgment — which, in turn, will continue to spark the type of heated protests we’ve seen grow larger over the past year. As long as they exist, the police will be one split-second decision away from assaulting or killing someone because they view them as a threat. People like Daunte Wright are and will continue to be casualties. This will keep happening.

For this reason, the rough week that Derek Chauvin’s criminal defense just had should be interpreted with restraint. By all accounts, things aren’t going well for the former Minneapolis police officer, who is being tried less than ten miles away from where Wright was killed. Two weeks into his trial, where he faces charges of second-degree manslaughter and second- and third-degree murder, Chauvin has faced rare rebuke in the courtroom from his own former boss, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo. Arradondo testified for Chauvin’s prosecution last week that the former officer “absolutely” violated department policy when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck in May 2020. “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped,” Arradondo said. This was significant because police rarely testify against their own. The chief’s decision to do so was transparently geared toward creating distance between Chauvin’s conduct and that of officers who do things the way they’re supposed to — that is, according to normal rules and standards. Part of what generated last summer’s protest furor was the torturous cruelty that went into killing Floyd. To watch him lose his life over the course of eight and a half agonizing minutes, handcuffed on his stomach with an officer kneeling on him, marked for many viewers a striking departure from the typical video-recorded police killings, which are characterized by swift judgment and hair triggers.

But the distinction is less meaningful than it appears. Even if Officer Potter killed Wright by accident, using her firearm rather than the intended Taser, as is being claimed, police regularly shoot people unnecessarily when they resist arrest, make furtive or sudden movements, or reach abruptly into their cars. By law, these are considered reasonable grounds for lethal force, and are almost never met with administrative rebuke, let alone legal consequences. The exact circumstances around Wright’s death are still being investigated. But even if they unfolded just as they seem — a man fled arrest and was shot — it was simultaneously tragic, unnecessary, and utterly normal. And if normalcy produces outcomes that are this comparable to the supposed aberrations, like Chauvin, then it’s hard to imagine any of the reformist proposals currently on offer making more than a dent in the recurrence of such incidents. Much fanfare . . .

Continue reading.

The column concludes:

. . . If the types of reform that have enough popular support to become law continue to be items like mandating the use of body cameras; expanded data collection; and creating uniform national standards for the use of force, a ban on chokeholds, and ending qualified immunity — which would allow police to be sued for violating people’s rights — Americans can both expect a reduction in rates of police violence against civilians and be confident that killings like Wright’s will continue to happen with unconscionable frequency. That’s because none of these proposals will change the function of the police. Their trade is violence. They can be compelled to be more discreet and judicious, but they cannot stop. This is an acceptable trade-off for many people, who believe their personal welfare depends on this brand of violent intervention. But to those for whom deaths like Wright’s are truly unacceptable, it’s worth thinking harder about what changes would actually prevent them. To do otherwise is to concede that deaths like his are the cost of doing business. Most people will make that concession. Nobody has to.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2021 at 10:36 am

Greens this time: Red chard and Shanghai bok choy

leave a comment »

Of course, there’s more to it than that: a large red onion and 3 good-sized crimini mushrooms chopped and sautéed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. Once onions were softened, I added chopped red chard, chopped Shanghai bok choy, a diced lemon, some vegetable stock, shoyu sauce, mirin, brown rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil. It’s covered and simmering now.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2021 at 10:03 am

Van Yulay’s Aphrodite: Roses and Chocolate

with 2 comments

The Simpson Persian Jar 2 Super has a good loft, by which I mean a loft on the long side. Among silvertip badger brushes, short-lofted brushes seem more common — my guess is that long silvertip badger bristles are in shorter supply than short ones. My Rooney Victorian and Emilion, though wonderful brushes, are to my taste a bit lacking in the loft department. I find I really like the spread and feel of a long-loft brush packed with lather.

And what a lather it was today! I just got a tub of Van Yulay’s Aphrodite shaving soap:

Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium & Sodium Hydroxide ,Coconut-Babassu-Argan-Abyssinian-Oils, Cocoa Butter, Calendula, Extracts, Ground Rose Petals, Hersery’s Cocoa, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, Allantoin, Silica, Amino Liquid Silk, Rose Clay, Essential Oils and Fragrance.

Note the clay: I did have to add a bit of water during the loading. Of other ingredients, she notes:

  • Argan Oil – when used in shave soap, Argan oil’s nutrient-rich composition—including vitamin E and an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid that has anti-inflammatory properties—makes it healthy for the skin.
  • Silk Amino Acids – This silk forms a natural layer over the skin, keeping moisture locked in and harsh conditions out, leaving skin protected and well-nourished.
  • Abyssinian Oil – Provides layers of moisture and is well known as quality oil. Its unique properties help to form an effective barrier against your skin drying out, adding luster to dull and lifeless skin.
  • Coconut Fatty Acid – excellent lathering and conditioning when used in shave soap.
  • Bentonite Clay – Gives an extra creaminess and silkiness to the shave soap. Generally, white clay’s natural absorbing, detoxifying and exfoliating properties makes it an indispensable ingredient in shaving products.
  • Silk Amino Acid is a unique silk peptide and one of the best at reducing fine lines and other signs of aging. Aside from the amazing texture of silk extracts, silk amino acids contain properties which allow it to rejuvenate skin tone, reduce wrinkles and hydrate your skin tissues to protect from free radicals.

I’m very fond of Van Yulay shaving soaps, and this one does not disappoint, either in fragrance or lather.

The razor today is the Game Changer .84-P, and from the first stroke (during which I noticed the contribution of both pre-shave and lather) I thoroughly enjoyed the shave. This is such a fine razor!

A splash of Aphrodite aftershave, and the day already is going extremely well.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2021 at 8:35 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: