Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Love it. Like anyone, I hate telemarketers. Actually, I take that back, I hate telemarketing. The telemarketers are poor saps who somehow got into a soul-sucking job. I don't hate them--unless they do not understand what the word "no" means, then they feel the full wrath of me hanging up by pressing the "talk" button on my cordless phone with much vigor. At such times, I pine for the days when we could slam down the receiver on old corded phones, causing the bell inside to issue a long angry solitary peel--the one you imagine the people on the other end can hear (because in the movies that person always jerks his head away, as if someone just set off an air horn in his ear), when the truth is the line just goes dead for them. Yet I'd still rather slam the phone, because no matter how hard I press that button, it still gives me the same old heartless beep when it cuts off the call.

(Note to Battlestar Galactica fans, there's the difference between humans and cylons--a human would know, intuitively, why slamming an old phone is better than hanging up a new cordless.)

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah, a guy named Tom Mabe has made a little career out of messing with telemarketers. Go to this page and listen to a recent example of how he handled a call he got from a satellite company (which, apropos of nothing, I'm 95% sure is Dish Network [EchoStar], because they are based in the Littleton, Colorado area, right by where I went to high school.) I laughed out loud.

Reading update. Here's the first of a semi-regular feature on something I have read recently.

I am more than halfway through this version of The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. That means I've read the Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, but I have not yet read The Hound of the Baskervilles or the Return of Sherlock Holmes. I'm in an operational pause, and I wish I had The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, but I can say that they are every bit as good as advertised. A very pleasant surprise is that beyond being good stories, the adventures of Holmes often provide little insights into turn of the century Anglo-American society and culture. Two examples stand out in this regard, particularly for their American connections: "The Five Orange Pips," which is a reminder of a time when the Ku Klux Klan had not yet had its second and third incarnations, and was still a mysterious and frightening secret society. And "The Yellow Face," which if I explained why it is interesting, it would give away the story. The links above are to the full stories, so read them at your pleasure.

Sentence I will never write again: Yesterday morning, as I was getting coffee in the downstairs of the office section of Eisenhower Hall, an Armenian army major asked me for a light.

That's what happens when you work where I work.

PAY ATTENTION. What also happens at my work is that we get access to some of the greatest stories you will ever hear. One such story comes from Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, who did some serious fighting in Iraq. His tale is so remarkable that he has now sold his memoir for a tidy sum. Good for him, he has most assuredly earned it. The book should be out sometime next year.

In the meantime, you can get a preview of his experiences from an interview he did with a friend of mine. Here is the abstract to the interview:

The leader of 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, Task Force 2-2 Infantry in Fallujah during Operation Phantom Fury (Al Fajr), Staff Sergeant David Bellavia was recommended for the Medal of Honor, nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross and received the Silver Star for his actions on 10 November 2004 in which he "single handedly saved three squads of his platoon that night, risking his own life by allowing them to break contact and reorganize. He then entered and cleared an insurgent strongpoint, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding another." In this interview, focusing on the entirety of his Phantom Fury experiences and on the intense room-to-room, at times hand-to-hand, combat that characterized that one night in particular, Bellavia offers the ultimate on-the-ground insider's story of this seminal urban operation, which culminated, he said, in Task Force 2-2 combining to put "a lot of pure evil permanently out of business." As perceptive and introspective as it is raw and action-packed, Bellavia's account touches on everything from doctrinal, training and technology recommendations to his warm recollections of his 2-2 comrades: from the battalion commander who, "if you beat in the face with a shovel his expression wouldn't change," and the company commander who was "the most honorable man I have ever met in my life," to the countless soldiers and NCOs who helped make his service "the greatest experience in my life." "War is horrific and ghastly," Bellavia readily admitted. "There are ghoulish images that we all endure and it's impossible to not be changed forever. But only in the midst of the worst mankind can produce can you truly see the beauty of human nature: self sacrifice, true honor, unprecedented loyalty - all the Army values displayed in person. When you have the chance to serve your nation with men and women you trust and love; when leaders two tax brackets above your pay grade carry rifles on the field next to you; and when you see your peers take bullets for you - that environment," he concluded, "would motivate the most ardent anti-victory opponent of this conflict."
Go to the link above, click on "Access this item," read the whole thing, and be thankful that we have people like David Bellavia protecting our country. I know I am.


Rob said...


Is this the guy that had a scrotal to dental introduction with the enemy?


Tom said...

It was not scrotal, but you are in the right region.