Tag Archives: war

Movie Review – War Dogs (2016)

Guns, money!  Money, guns!

BQB here with a review of “War Dogs.”

David Packouz (Miles Teller) is a young man in his twenties, facing a problem that many young men face, that of money.  It makes the world go round and without it, his world is barely turning.  He’s a massage therapist, barely making ends meet while he deals with old men who expect him to rub their disgusting rear ends.  Worse, he’s trying to become a bed sheet salesman, but no one will buy what he’s selling.

Enter David’s old high school friend Efraim Diveroli.  Efraim’s started a small business, buying and supplying small amounts of guns, ammunition, supplies to the U.S. military during the Iraq War.

Out of a desire to keep the bidding process open, the government has a website that provides details for all manner of government war related purchasing contracts and if this movie is to believed, any old schmuck off the street can bid and win and make moolah, assuming he can provide what the government is looking for.

Efraim and David become partners and at first, it would seem, legit entrepreneurs who are making dough off of a solid business idea.  Alas, as you might expect, they get greedy, taking on bigger contracts they have no business getting involved in, and digging themselves deeper and deeper into an international world of gun running corruption in order to obtain the goods they need to fulfill the contract.

Shady characters, crooked third world businessmen and even mobsters are all faced by these two Miami dudes who are just trying to live the American dream.  Ironically, the movie even suggests that the U.S. government may be semi-aware of some of the practices their bidders are involved in, i.e. if you ask for a larger than usual amount of an item, you must sort of know that whoever provides it is doing so illegitimately.

But there’s the rub.  It’s a don’t ask, don’t tell world.  The government doesn’t ask how they get the stuff and the dudes don’t tell.  In the process, they make mad cash, but are the profits worth it?  Will they survive?

I gotta be honest, I didn’t expect a lot out of this one.  The trailers seemed like it was going to be a preach fest about the ills of the Iraq War.  While we can debate ad nauseum over the pros and cons (mostly cons) of that war, that’s the whole point.  Like most Americans, I’m tired of hearing about it.  The war has been USA’s been long itch case of crotch rot for years so while I’m not saying important people shouldn’t still be discussing it, I just didn’t know if I had it in me to devote two hours to re-hashing it.

Truth be told, it’s a modern day rags to riches cautionary tale, reinforcing that old adage that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Like any story where ordinary dudes rise up by doing unsavory deeds, you root for the dudes at first, until they start crossing lines and then not so much.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – War Machine (2017)

War!  Bureaucracy!  Red tape!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s new film, War Machine.

Based on the book, “The Operators” by Michael Hastings, this film is a dark comedy, satirizing the sheer absurdity modern warfare, not to mention the unenviable positions of those whose efforts to win are backseat driven every step of the way.

Brad Pitt plays General Glenn McMahon, a fictionalized version of General Stanley McChrystal, whose own efforts to cut through a sea of red tape eventually culminated in a Rolling Stone article that proved to be his undoing.

In 2009, McMahon is put in charge of Afghanistan.  The dirty secret no one speaks about or is even willing to admit is that he is expected to maintain the status quo and lose gracefully.  In fact, at the start of the film, McMahon is brought into a room of DC bigwigs who urge him to do a tour of the country and provide them with an assessment of what is needed but then within the same breath, they tell him he’d better not find that he needs more troops.

In other words, the days when great warriors like Eisenhower and Patton could write a check that DC would cash are over.  The warriors aren’t really in charge now.  The whole operation is second and third guessed by bureaucratic bean counting civilians who’ve never seen a battlefield in their entire lives.

With an almost Colombo-esque style of disarming charm, McMahon attempts to cut through the red tape that is slowing him and his team down.  Along the way, he steps on many a toe, but comes across as so humble and down to earth that the bigwigs whose toes were stepped on aren’t sure it was unintentional.  McMahon tapping aimlessly on his keyboard, feigning incompetence with technology in order to avoid listening to a DC bureaucrat’s orders via Skype come to mind.

This is a big role for Brad Pitt.  Hollywood’s quintessential leading man, an actor that has spent his life maintaining a top of the line physical appearance, playing parts that make the ladies swoon, gets a douse of McMahon style humility himself.

This is the first time I’ve seen him play someone with gray hair, someone who is admittedly older and too busy to hide the fact with an army of stylists.  Pitt plays McMahon as a gruff and grizzled old soldier, a man with a hand that has been mangled, who walks as though his body is in pain from years of being pushed to the limit.

Even more surprisingly, Pitt’s character has an age appropriate wife, Jeannie (Meg Tilly). Seeing Pitt snuggle up to a gray haired woman who is light years from looking like Angelina Jolie is nothing I thought I’d ever see on film.  Yet, in doing so, Pitt pulls off some of the best acting of his career, namely, convincing us that he could love a woman his age.

This is also a big film for Netflix.  The Internet streaming service spent $60 million on this film and it shows.  The result is a movie that could have been screened in movie theaters across the country had they chosen to go that route.  Brad Pitt is, by my best estimate, the biggest star Netflix has ever recruited for one of its original productions, thus proving that this company is in the movie game to win it, and the future of film is streaming.

For me, that’s a dubious prospect as I love the experience of going to see a film in a theater, though lately I wonder if saving cinema is not a cause as lost as Afghanistan.

Overall, the film asks a lot of questions and paints modern warfare in a not so rose colored light.  Bottomline – these days it sucks to be a man in uniform.  You’re expected to win, but you’re also told by bureaucrats to lose, except they don’t use the “l” word.  They won’t come right out and tell you they want you to lose, just that you should not ask for all the things you need to win.  You should essentially rubber stamp their losing plans and act like you can’t tell their plans are going to lose.

Meanwhile on the battlefield, soldiers are torn between their inner need to, you know, shoot at people who are shooting at them in order to live another day.  Yet, DC has made it clear that screw-ups (i.e. accidentally shooting a civilian) will not be tolerated and punished severely.

Ultimately, the film lampoons the idea of counter-insurgency, or the idea that men from a foreign land with guns can somehow talk the locals into siding with them against the bad man with guns that are already there.  In one heartbreaking scene, McMahon addresses residents of a territory that US forces have taken control of that he’s there to help build roads, build jobs, to protect them and so on.  A villager informs the General that all sounds great, but he has no doubt the US will eventually cut and run and when they do, the bad guys will destroy all the infrastructure that was built and punish the villagers for cooperating with the US troops.

Between desk jockeys trying to manage something they can’t comprehend, the media turning real stories of war into trashy tabloid TV and a clash of cultures (is it really wise for America to assume that they can turn third world wastelands into smaller versions of America?), the film leaves the viewer with the sad feeling that modern wars may, in fact, may never be winnable again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Stream it on Netflix.

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BQB’s Time Travel Adventures #2 – BQB vs. Hitler


So, after I visited the 1970s and busted up a gang of ninjas in a disco, thus making all bushes in the future 25% bushier, I then went back in time to the early 1900s with one goal in mind – I would stop World War II from happening.

I arrived in Austria, where a dopey looking young man named Adolf Hitler was sitting on a park bench, trying to draw a picture of his bratwurst (not the one in his pants but the one he was intending to have for lunch later.)

“That’s a fine piece of art, Herr….”

“Hitler,” Hitler said.  “And nein!  I have applied to every art school around and they all tell me my work is nothing but goosenpoopen.”

“Really?”  I said.  “That’s terrible.  Everyone with creative talent should be able to pursue it.”

“That’s what I said,” Hitler said.  “But if I don’t get into art school I will have to go to my fall back plan.”

“What’s your fall back plan?”  I asked.

“To scheme my way into the German Chancellorship, declare war on the entire world and gas six million Jews to death,” Hitler said.

I was shocked.  I mean, I knew the history but still, to hear him say it out loud.  It was disturbing, to say the least.

“That’s your back up plan?”  I asked.

“Ja,” Hitler said.  “Also I might bang my niece.”

“Bang your…dude!”

“What?”  Hitler asked.

“Well,” I said.  “Is there no happy medium with you dude?  Most people who don’t get into art school say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go be a janitor’ or ‘I guess I’ll go be a plumber’ or some other noble occupation.  I have literally never heard someone say, ‘Well, if I don’t get to do what I want then I’m just going to become the leader of a country and use my power to gas all the people I don’t like.”

“Undt bang my niece,” Hitler said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I’ve never heard anyone say they want to do that either.”

“Undt I won’t gas all of them,” Hitler said.

“You won’t?”  I asked.

“Nein,”  Hitler said.  “Some of them I’ll push into ovens, or I might line them up against a wall and have them shot, or send them off to camps where they starve to death, or use them as forced labor and work them until they die of malnutrition and exhaustion.”

“Dude!” I said.

“It’ll be a mixed bag, really,” Hitler said. “I mean, ja, most of them will get the gas chamber or the oven but I’ll play it by ear and see how it goes.”

“Hitler,” I said.  “Not for nothing, but why do you hate Jewish people so much?”

Hitler sat back on the bench and closed his eyes.  “One time, when I was but a little kiddenheimer, I vent to lunch at mein school and a Jewish boy he…”

“Beat you?”  I asked.  “Tortured you?”

“Nein!”  Hitler said.  “He ate mein lunch!”


“Mein sausage!  It was all gone!”  Hitler said.  “He said it was an accident.  He mixed up his bag with mine.  He apologized profusely but at that very moment I said to myself, ‘Adolf, you must really gas all these people and push them into ovens and only then will you get your revenge for your lost sausage!'”

“Hitler,” I said.  “Honestly, it sounds like the kid just made a mistake.  It happens to the best of us.  Sometimes we accidentally offend someone and all we can do is apologize and move on.  Even if he did it on purpose, it’s one kid.  You can’t denounce an entire group just because one member of the group did something you like.  One member of a group doing something wrong doesn’t mean the entire group is bad.  Seriously, what group in the entire world doesn’t have at least bad apple in it?”

“You sound like undt pussenstein,” Hitler said.

“No, really Hitler,” I said.  “You’ve got to listen and maybe I can help you screw your head on straight here.  If you’re just going to start killing groups of people just because one of them did something you didn’t like then you’re going to have to just kill the entire world.”

“Das est mein intention,” Hitler said.  “First the Jews, then the world.  Mein armies vill spread out across the globe.  All vill either obey me or vill be shoved in the oven.”

“Where are you even going to get a people oven?”  I asked.  “It’s not like there’s a people oven store.”

“I’m going to make a people oven,” Hitler said.  “I have some rudimentary designs.  You want to see?”

“Not really,” I said.  “But Hitler, have you considered the fact that on the whole, Jewish people are good eggs?”

“Nein!” Hitler said.

“Good food, good culture, music, arts, inventions, industry, hard work ethic,” I said.  “Historically, the Jewish people bring a lot to the table.”

Hitler began scribbling something on a piece of paper.

“What are you writing?”  I asked.

“A note to myself to have you pushed in an oven when I’m the chancellor,” Hitler said.

I sighed.  “You’re hopeless, Hitler.  Come on, let’s get you into art school.”

At that point, I found Hitler’s favorite art school.  “Das Skoolen Fer Peepzen What Wantzen to Drawzen Not Like Scheizen.”

I brought a thousand bucks back with me, a lot for me even in 2017 but it was like a small fortune in the 1930s.  I handed it off to the Dean and made him promise that he wouldn’t just accept Hitler, but that he’d also heap massive amounts of false praise on anything Hitler made, no matter how shitty it was.  Further, I made the Dean promise to really promote Hitler’s work, get all his friends in the art community to become Hitler’s patrons.  Set the guy up with a good living off of his art so he wouldn’t have to resort to his fall back plan of world domination and ethnic cleansing.

I arrived back in 2017, only to, you guessed it, learn that I had really cocked things up.

“Heil Hitler!  Video Game Rack Fighter said to me upon my arrival to BQB HQ.

“What the hell?”  I asked.  “Video Game Rack Fighter, my beloved nerdy girlfriend!  Why are you in a Nazi uniform?  I’ve never known you to be anything but sweet and kind to all people!  Are you a Nazi now?”

“Ja!” VGRF said.  “Everyone is a Nazi now, thanks to the leadership of Steve Hitler!”

“Steve Hitler?”  I asked.

“Ja!” VGRF said.  “Heil Steve Hitler!”

“Something’s amiss,” I said.  I turned on the TV and found a documentary.  The announcer summed up what happened:

“All hail our beloved World Chancellor, Steve Hitler, who is alive and well over 140 years old thanks to creepy and disturbing Nazi scientific methods!  Steve was but a modest little boy from Austria who used to sit back and dream of becoming a pig farmer.  He would overhear his brother Adolf talk about his fall back plans of world domination and ethnic cleansing and think that sounded like a real neat-o way to make a living. However, he had doubts about Adolf.  He thought Adolf would probably just cock the whole thing up and eventually lose the impending war.  However, when Adolf was accepted to study at an acclaimed art school, Adolf gave Steve his blessing to pursue his goals of world domination and ethnic cleansing.  In fact, Steve was so good at world domination and ethnic cleansing that Nazi historians are assured that Steve was the best choice to run the Nazi party whereas Adolf was better off behind the scenes.  Also, the art school helped Hitler become such a great artist that Hitler drew all kinds of propaganda posters that inspired the masses to become super racist and evil!  All hail the Nazi party and hail that random asshole that helped Adolf Hitler get into art school.  Because of that guy, everyone in the world is either dead or a super racist evil Nazi now!”

“Aww crap sandwich,” I said.  “I guess I know what I have to do.”

I returned to early 1900s Austria and found the version of myself that had time traveled to that time.  I kicked him in the nuts and instantly felt the pain myself.  I told him how his plan to stop World War II works out and he gasped.

After that, we scrapped the whole plan to stop Hitler and went to get some strudel instead.

The moral of the story?  If you try to fix something, you’ll just make it worse, so just shut up and go get a strudel.

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Movie Review – The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

War!  Intrigue!  Nazis vs. Zoo animals!

BQB here with a review of The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, owners/operators of the Warsaw Zoo who used their property to save persecuted Jews during World War II.

Before the war, Jan (Johan Heldenburgh) and Atonina (Jessica Chastain), live an idyllic life.  They love animals and they take care of zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, all sorts of exotic animals on their sprawling property.  They even do a good business, charging admission.

Alas, all this changes because of the Nazis.  Oh you dirty Nazis, you’re always the turd in history’s punch bowl, aren’t you?

The Zabinskis’ zoo is partially destroyed by Nazi bombs dropped all over the city.  What’s left is confiscated.  The animals are shot and turned into meat and soap for the Nazi war effort.

Sidenote:  Whether it’s during World War II or more recently in Venezuela, once the government resorts to shooting zoo animals for food, shit is not good.

Back to the review.  Long story short, what’s left of the zoo is turned over to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a German zoologist who had once been a friend of the Zabinskis in happier times.  Sadly, once Lutz puts on a Nazi uniform and becomes Hitler’s official zoologist, he gets a little too drunk on power and becomes an insufferable douchen-dorfer.

You know you want to see this movie just because the villain is a Nazi zoologist, don’t you?

Anyway, being the good people that they are, the Zabinskis begin rescuing and hiding their close Jewish friends.  Pretty soon, they realize that with underground tunnels once used to house tigers, buildings and trucks, they have all the means necessary to run a Jewish rescue/hiding/smuggling to safety operation.

The danger comes from the fact that they must do all this right under the nose of their ex-friend turned Nazi.

Will the Zabinskis be successful?  Will they be caught?

You’ve got to watch to find out.

Overall, it’s a touching story.  So many stories came out of WWII and they continue even today.

Much credit is due to the Zabinskis.  They probably could have relied on their friendship with a Nazi to ride out World War II by just keeping their heads down and going about their business.  Instead, they put themselves into great danger and in doing so, saved the lives of hundreds of people.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  A good movie, sort of an Oscar-bait film designed to show off Jessica Chastain’s acting chops.  Not necessary to rush out to the theater but it’s worth a rental.

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My Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) Joke really upped my stats

Apparently people are searching the inter webs a lot for info about the MOAB.  So, sorry to be a shameless self-promoter but hey, in this game, you got to do what you got to do.

MOAB!  MOAB!  Mother of all bombs!  Information about MOAB!  My blog is so terrible that I think it might be the mother of all bombs…

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A Joke About the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB)

Hey 3.5 readers.

So I wrote a joke about the Mother of All Bombs.  Tasteless?  Sorry.  Did you come here on accident while you were looking for Masterpiece Theater or something?

Here goes:

“Today the U.S. military announced that they dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on terrorists in Afghanistan.  Sources say the terrorists will be digging copies of Pootie Tang out of the desert for years.”

Bah ha ha!  Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, any of you late night talk show hosts, feel free to use that one but just be sure to credit me, BQB.  I’m here all week, folks.  Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

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Movie Review – Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Sometimes a conscientious objector can still be a badass, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Hacksaw Ridge.


This film tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic who became the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor after saving seventy-five men during the Battle of Hacksaw Ridge in World War II Japan.

Having experienced too much violence as a young man, the devoutly religious Doss vows to never commit violence and would rather die than hurt anyone, even if that someone is about to hurt him.

Naturally, the Army is puzzled as to why the hell he voluntarily signed-up if he won’t carry a rifle.

His superiors, played by Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, go out of their way to get him tossed out of the army as they can’t fathom the idea of a soldier who is unwilling to learn how to shoot a weapon.

Will Doss earn their respect in the end?

The first half of the film is a tad hokey.  Lots of war movie cliches mixed in with Doss’ battle with the brass to pass basic training without touching a gun.

The second half is a blood and guts fest. Explosions and gun fire galore. Stabbings, mutilations, flame throwers, grenades, missing limbs, all kinds of gore.

Movies are able to speak with images and the message the director is giving us is, “war is hell.”

Some films and the overall media try to capture what it is like to be a soldier and fail.  Patriotic movies are all well and good but this movie takes us onto the battle field in all of its “Holy shit my friend just got his face blown off and now a guy is stabbing me and holy crap my face is on fire and my leg just got blown off!” butt puckering glory.

Thus, if you want to join the army, make sure you’re joining for the right reasons (not just because a spiffy uniform is involved) and understand there will be many butt puckering moments you won’t be able to even comprehend until you face them.

Further, politicians should consider what soldiers must go through during war time and avoid war at all costs.

That’s the message I took away from it, anyway.

It’s definitely an underdog story as Doss takes heaps of abuse from his unit for his non-violent ways only to prove his bravery and save tons of men on the battlefield.

Speaking of underdogs, Mel Gibson’s career is also on the line here.

You remember Mel, don’t you?

Beloved actor/director. Starred in and directed a lot of great movies. Had a reputation of “Well, if Mel’s in it then it will be good” and then he had some, well, I won’t get into the details but let’s just say some well documented breakdowns.

Since then, he’s starred in some films that were sort of blah.  This is Hollywood letting him at the helm with a big budget and a great script so…I mean the film is fabulous Oscar bait and though I don’t wear my emotion on my sleeve, even I found myself crying as Desmond proved all the naysayers wrong…

…but, it is still hard to get over those nasty rants, Mel.  I don’t know.  You might have to cure cancer or something.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy and worth a trip to the theater for the explosions, but skip the popcorn if you don’t want to hurl once the guts and limbs and assorted body parts start flying.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Happy Memorial Day – Favorite Book/Movie About the Military?

Happy Memorial Day, 3.5 Readers.

Favorite book about the military?  Hmm.  I read Flags of Our Fathers about the soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, written by one of their sons, and thought it was pretty good.

It stands out to me because I remember a part where the author did some research and determined that few humans are able to comprehend death.  We are aware that everyone dies and we know it will happen to all of us one day, yet all we know is life so our brains keep telling us that we’ll make it through somehow – i.e. despite the evidence to the contrary, many soldiers believe they won’t be killed.

I have no idea if that’s true or not.  I imagine many people in a bad situation (say, being ordered to storm Normandy) know the odds of making it out alive aren’t good but they do it anyway.

But in theory I get it.  When all you know is life, not being alive is difficult to comprehend.

I think about death sometimes but then it makes me so sad I convince my mind to change the subject. I feel like that’s probably what most people do. It’s not that we don’t believe it’s coming, but rather we do our best to avoid thinking about it for as long as we can.

Favorite movie? There have been a lot of good ones. I’d say the one that stands out in my mind is We Were Soldiers (2002) starring Mel Gibson. Learned a lot about the Vietnam War and particularly how it was the first war that depended on helicopters.

Anyway, Happy Memorial Day 3.5 Readers. If you are or were in the military, a guy with a website dedicated to the entertainment of 3.5 readers thanks you.

And which books/movies do you recommend?

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BQB’s Serial Club – Serial Season 2, Episode 1 – DUSTWUN

Hello 3.5 readers.

Have you ever listened to the podcast, “Serial?”  In the first season, the hose, Sarah Koenig, presented the case of Adnan Syed and illustrated that how it is possible for all the evidence to be laid out in a case and for people to still be unsure of whether or not a defendant is innocent or guilty.

Koenig has a knack for storytelling style journalism and keeps things lively and moving.

Produced by the creators of This American Life, Serial is back for a second season.  This time the individual under scrutiny is Sgt. Bo Bergdahl.

You might remember he was a major news story last year.  In 2009, he walked away from his post in Afghanistan and six soldiers died while looking for him.

Last year, he was returned to the US after a prisoner swap with the Taliban that led to four major terrorists in captivity going free.

This is a tough one.  My blog is not political…at all.  But I do enjoy good story telling and Sarah Koenig is a master at it.  She definitely knows how to end every episode on a cliffhanger that keeps her audience coming back for more.

So here’s what I propose. If you’re listening to Serial, stop by here once a week and let’s chat about the latest episode, hash out the info and the evidence and try to figure out what’s going on.

Not gonna lie – I might pull the plug on this.  My hope is you all won’t get too political.  Were the wars in the Middle East right or wrong?  I hate this politician or I like that politician or whatever…not really up for debate here.

The crux of this season seems to be around Bergdahl telling his story and admittedly, as of the end of the first episode, it sounds pretty lame.

Briefly summarized – he claims he ran away because he had to create a “DUSTWUN” or a missing soldier situation in which the top brass pays attention.  He claims he had to do this because his unit was poorly managed and hoped this would get him an audience with someone with a high rank that could do something about his complaints about his unit.

I have to admit, that sounds like a pretty fishy story. “I was 23 and I was scared and so I made a dumb mistake and ran away.  I’m very sorry for the six people who died looking for me.”

To me, that would be more sympathetic than, “I was afraid my poorly managed unit was going to lead to people getting killed….so I ran away….um, and got six people killed.”

Anyway, let’s be civil (NOT POLITICAL) and look at it from an academic approach.  If you listened to this first episode, do you believe Bergdahl or do you think he’s full of a smelly substance?

I’ll say up front I believe he’s in the latter column.  My fear is that this guy is basically trying to save himself by impugning the character of a unit that tried to save him when he went AWOL (six of whom died in the process.)

And I get it.  I’ve never served in the military. Who am I to criticize anyone? But, like I said, I’d be sympathetic to “I was young and scared and made a mistake” but hearing him talk as though he is “Jason Bourne” strains credibility.

Cliffhanger for next week – um, it sounds like Sarah is going to call the Taliban on the phone to interview them.  Who knew they were even listed in the phonebook?

Check out Serial Podcast for more.

NOTE: To reiterate, please refrain from the nastiness of politics.  I’m not looking for comments to the effect of “I HATE REPUBLICANS!” or “I HATE DEMOCRATS!” and so on.

The podcast is interesting to me because, as she did in the first season with Syed, Sarah presents two sides of a case and leaves it up to the listener to make his/her own conclusions.

So in other words, we’re not talking about the politics of war – instead, we’re presented with a case.  A soldier walked away from his unit, got 6 people killed during a search for him, his release led to four dangerous people being freed.

Is Bergdahl guilty?  Yes or no and what about the evidence/interviews presented in the podcast make you think that way?



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#31ZombieAuthors – Day 25 Interview – Zombie Warfare



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Today’s guest is Luke Duffy, author of The Dead Walk the Earth and When There’s No More Room in Hell series of books, which detail the journeys of soldiers as they fight undead hordes.

Have you ever read a zombie book written by a guy who’s skilled at jumping out of perfectly good airplanes? Having grown up in Northern England, Luke joined the Parachute Regiment at the age of eighteen. Further, he has worked in Iraq on the Private Security Circuit.

His first book, Running the Gauntlet: The Private War in Iraq, detailing his memoirs from his time on the circuit, was published in 2011.

Following that non-fiction work, he turned his attention to zombie lore.

Luke, thanks for taking a minute to talk with me today, and thank you for your service.


Q.  I’m just going to say it. Look at you. Soldier. Private security. 51qtY0bYz1L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_You’re a badass. As a layman, I’d think that having such vast military experience would inform one’s writing. Do you find that’s the case? Do you draw on your experience when writing your books?

A.  Absolutely. I read a few apocalyptic books before I decided to write my own. Some were great, others were awful. But one thing I found that the majority of them had in common was that most authors lacked any real experience in military matters. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great efforts out there, well researched and thought out, but there was always something missing. The mark was never quite hit. Only someone who has experienced being shot at, blown up, or felt those familiar sensations of dread and retrospect when preparing for a fight, can write a realistic battle scene. I’ve always tried to make the action as close to real as possible, and my own experiences have helped, a lot. I like to draw the reader into the pages, making them imagine what it is like to come under fire and wonder whether they would make it out. As a reader, it’s important to feel part of the story.

Also, most of my characters are actually based on real people that I have known over the years.

Q. You started out with non-fiction and then moved on to fiction. What drew you into the world of zombies?

A. In a few short words; Dawn of the Dead. I’m talking about the original. I watched it when I was about six or seven, and from there, I was hooked. It wasn’t so much the action and the zombies themselves, but more to do with the collapse of society and the slow death of humanity. Even as a kid the words ‘what if?’ rattled around inside my head. The end of civilisation has always fascinated me, regardless of the cause. But what could be more exciting, terrifying, and total, as the dead returning to life and hunting the living?

I like to imagine how different people, from various rungs of the social ladder, would react to a global crisis such as a zombie plague. I think true, true colours would quickly come to light, and I think the whole ‘good and bad’ thing would be turned on its head in many cases. I couldn’t imagine Bob Geldof and Bono still wanting to save the world, hugging plague victims and shaking hands with zombies. I think they would barricade themselves into their mansions and drop from the radar.

Q. Here’s a question I’ve thrown at a lot of writers this month. How do you find the time to write? I ask because I’m rather unfocused and if a good show comes on TV, there goes my writing for the day. So obviously, I respect a guy who has served in the military and in private security and yet still finds the time to write. Do you have any advice for aspiring scribes on how to balance work and writing?

A. My best piece of advice would be to create a routine. Finding the time and motivation to start writing, even if I’m half way through a book and on a roll, can be extremely hard. Sometimes I need to give myself a serious kick up the arse to get myself down behind my computer. Like you said, distractions can have a severe effect on you. So, what I do is ensure that I get myself into a routine. If I’m working away, most of my writing is done in the evening, which can be a real pain because my energy and enthusiasm is sapped by then.

When I’m home in the UK, it’s a little easier. I get up, have a coffee and a smoke, check the news, as well as the usual morning stuff that a man does. Then, come ten o’clock, I get to work and do at least four hours writing each day. After that, the world is my lobster and I don’t feel guilty, having the fact hanging over my head that I jacked on my work for the day because Susanna Reid was looking particularly hot on morning television and I became side-tracked.

Q. The description of The Dead Walk the Earth states, “Eight soldiers, accustomed to operating below the radar, carrying out the dirty work of a modern democracy, become trapped within the carnage of a new and terrifying world. Deniable and completely expendable. That is how their government considers them, and as the dead begin to walk, Stan and his men must fight to survive.”

“Deniable and expendable.” OK. So obviously, I enjoy being alive, so I’m not asking you to get into “If I tell you I have to kill you” territory (sorry, bad joke there) but generally speaking, is being “deniable and expendable” a fate that soldiers often find themselves facing?

A. Depends on the type of soldier and the operations being conducted. There’s no such thing as a clean government, and they all need someone to get their hands extremely dirty on their behalf, from time to time. I’ll not go into too much detail, but deniable operatives do exist. No, not like xXx and Mission Impossible. They’re just beyond fantasy. Deniable operators could be the man next door, or the guy driving your taxi. Shaved heads, huge muscles, and wearing Oakley sun glasses in the dark… don’t help.

I suppose that all soldiers are expendable, to a degree. Or at least they are viewed that way by the people who send them to war. No politician, no matter how sincerely they claim to have, has ever lost sleep or shed a tear over the men and women of their country being brought home in bags. Tony Blair and George Bush; they saw their military as mere pawns to be moved about on their own paths towards personal glory and gain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was part of the invasion of Iraq. I was amongst the first troops into Kosovo during the liberation in 99. I battled in Sierra Leone during their civil war, and I patrolled the streets of Northern Ireland before the peace process. I enjoyed the lot, but I never lost sight of the fact that not a single member of the government cared how many of my friends lost their lives.

Since joining the private circuit in Iraq, I’ve seen the attrition rate first-hand, and watched as countless friends were killed. Yes, we were in it for the money, but we were also doing a job on behalf of the US and UK governments, helping to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure. But before long, the media stopped reporting the deaths and the government leaders forgot about us. All the while, the deaths of British and American private military soared. Expendable.

Q. Hypothetically, would today’s modern military be able to take on a zombie outbreak? Not that I spend a lot of time worrying about such a scenario, but I’d be interested to hear your take on it.

A. It depends on society as a whole, I suppose. In my books, the concept of the dead returning to life (zombies) has never been imagined. There are no books, movies, computer games, or folk tales about such creatures. So, when the dead begin to rise, it’s complete confusion, terror, and chaos. No one knows how to deal with the problem. On the one hand, some see the threat for what it is, and insist that immediate action be taken. However, on the other hand, there are the ‘bleeding hearts’ and ‘do-gooders’, bleating that even the dead are people and have rights.

Governments hesitate, fearing backlash should they act with what can be viewed as brutality and inhumanity towards the infected (yes, I believe that even on the brink of an apocalypse, the politicians would still worry about their image and future votes).

People struggle to come to terms with the outbreak. Families cannot imagine that the monsters staggering towards them are no longer their dad, mum, sister, brother, uncle – twice removed… etc.
Then there are the legal complications to consider. Most people out there follow the rules. They avoid confrontation and shy away from violence. Inflicting pain and suffering is not a desire that most human beings carry. Many would hesitate, because we have all been brought up to understand that killing is wrong, both in a legal and moral sense. Suddenly being told that it is perfectly okay to smash your neighbor’s head in with a hammer, isn’t going to have any great and immediate effect. Most people would simply lock their doors and hide. Even I would hesitate, and I don’t like my neighbors.

Morality and human emotions play huge parts in the downfall, and only when it is too late, do people realize the extent of the catastrophe and put down their delusions of decency and respect, but by then, it’s too late.

However, in reality, I believe that the military would soon have the outbreak under control. No doubt, they would all be rounded up and sent to work in Starbucks, maybe even become Labour Party members.

Q. Any plans for further zombie books in the future? Or perhaps other monsters? I read a post on your blog that made me think you find technology as infuriating as I do. That me think – soldiers vs. killer robots has some potential.

A. I take it that you’ve never watched Terminator?

Seriously though, yes, I find technology infuriating. In my opinion, it causes more trouble than its worth, even though I have found myself reliant upon it.

I have one more book to write in the current series, and then I intend to get a couple of kids’ books written that I have in mind. Yes, it’s a dramatic shift from people being eaten alive and copious amounts of profanities and violence, but I’ve had these stories in my head for some time, so I will be hanging up my zombie hat for a while. I may return in the future, if the demand is high enough and I have some new ideas, but for now, I need to step away from the genre.

Q. Luke, thanks for stopping by. Before I go, do you have any last minute advice that might help me survive the East Randomtown Zombie apocalypse?

A. Get away from the cities. Find a place that is remote. The dead are stupid, and lazy. Can you imagine them walking up mountains or fording rivers? High-ground, preferably open with good all round visibility, would be your best bet. Dense forests are also good, but they can be a double edged sword; they can’t see you, but you can’t see them, either. I wouldn’t like to have to bug-out from a wooded area during the dark hours, surrounded by zombies

If you’re stuck in an urban area, stock up, stay out of sight, and keep quiet. Remember, a barricade can never be too big, no matter how valuable that antique chest of drawers is. Trust no one, and lock your heart away in a sealed box. There’s no room for easy emotion and sentimentality in the zombie apocalypse world. Finally, make a note of all the people close by who have pets, because when the time comes, cats and dogs make good eating.

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