Fans of Resident Evil were more than happy to see Capcom come out with another zombie title that replaces tight hallways and puzzles with open-world exploration and a level-up system. The creation of Dead Rising, back in 2006, was a breath of fresh air that was surprisingly supposed to be a sequel to Shadow of Rome, which is a random gladiator game that pretty much nobody played but was something far ahead of its time. Fast forward about 10 years and 3 games later, and Dead Rising is as dead as the zombies that plague its mall, casinos, city, and mall again. Granted, the games changed from a Japanese studio to a Canadian studio after the first one was a smash hit and it was very visible that the second game was already of a different quality. However, once it hit 3, there was such a huge difference in the way the game functioned and played out, people outright refused to bother playing it(it didn’t help that it was an Xbox exclusive until the poorly optimized PC port came out). submitted by
When it comes down to the first installment being a goofy game that lets you dress as a little school girl and ride a tricycle while zombies are swatting at wasps and yellow raincoat cult members are blowing themselves up, it’s hard to imagine people complaining that the third and fourth game got too silly for their own good. What a lot of people don’t realize is how that is a legitimate concern from gamers, due to the situation that is what I like to call “invisible nuance”. This invisible nuance is where people are unable to understand how the games differ from 1 and 2 over to 3 and 4, and this is because 1 and 2 are satire, while 3 and 4 are parody. In fact, 4 is a parody of the entire series, making it a parody of a parody. With that slight nuance, the Canadian designers not only ruined the story for everyone, but they ruined any chance of a fifth game until Capcom gets so desperate they might as well summon up their own zombie horde to sit down and buy their games.
I understand that not many people understand the difference between parody and satire, and I am certain the developers didn’t either when they adopted the IP from the Japanese studio. This is why I believe that the second game was accidentally good, even though they still fumbled on things like making Chuck a really iffy kind of melee fighter at full level and how the game was starting to become a little bit too cartoony for its own good. To put it simply, satire is when a work of art is making fun a genre or work by being part of it. Parody is when a work of art is taking a genre or another work of art and is using it to make jokes that are unrelated to what it’s basing itself on. Satire uses humor to show flaws in human behavior or culture, while parody uses an established work of art to make a joke.
It’s very difficult to understand the difference, I know, but I think I’m able to make it simple to understand with a few examples. My favorite example is the difference between Scream and Scary Movie. Scream is satire, Scary Movie is a parody. Scream has a plot revolving around the tropes of slasher films, Scary Movie has a chick belittle her killer after she’s decapitated. Scream has the group follow clues from slasher movies to avoid being killed, Scary Movie has a dude cum so hard the girl on top of him is stuck to the ceiling.
If that doesn’t make the difference clear to you, then, I’m sorry, I fear you have the case of the brain worms.
The plot of Dead Rising is a satire of Resident Evil, mixed with a take on American consumerism. The entire reason the zombie outbreaks occur in the mall is because a terrorist group wanted to bring the problem a corporation invoked on their Latino town of Santa Cabeza, all because the company wanted to make more cows in order to feed Americans. It’s not that Americans are staring, but rather they are demanding, and the best place to see American demand back in 2006 was in a shopping mall on Black Friday. Shaun of the Dead did a similar satire moment where they showed shoppers at a store walking like zombies because that’s pretty much how they look, just switch the words “brains” with “bargains”. Surprisingly, the first game doesn’t have money as an issue, although it was great when the second game implemented it for its theme of corporate anti-culture and big pharma.
So far, we have two games that follow their themes very well and are applying them as a satire. The mall setting is a satire set up for consumerism, while the casino and wrestling ring strip in the second game is a satire set up for anti-culture turning people into greedy slobs that just want to watch blood matches and gamble. Even the main characters of Frank and Chuck work well as themes, with Frank being a journalist(he’s covered wars, you know) and Chuck being a motocross champion turned gladiator. Both of these cause their outbreaks for different reasons and both of these have a beautiful grip on what makes the psychopaths “psychopaths”.
Psychopaths are the result of someone going crazy due to the outbreak and because the designers needed a reason to have boss battles across the game’s 3-day span. Just having them there was satire since it’s kind of rare to see people going crazy in zombie movies (back then) and it was interesting to see how humans would turn on humans by having PTSD and a history of being oppressed or already psychotic. The idea of Frank covering wars and then coming home to deal with people having PTSD is a great theme, due to how war has to be glorified in the American news to keep the war effort going, and then the soldiers come home and reveal how terrible it actually was.
The first game even has a moment where a psychopath named Cliff goes crazy in a home repair store and after you defeat him, he gives a dramatic monologue about how he snapped the second he saw his granddaughter get eaten by zombies. It’s a heart-wrenching moment that is perfectly finished by Frank closing Cliff’s eyes with a hand and letting out a defeated sigh. Much like how it is in war, not every battle won is a victory. Then there are Psychopaths like Adam the clown who are memorable for the wonderful performance by the voice actor and how intense the battle is.
But no matter what Psychopath we deal with, they all follow a theme and an archetype. Adam is the Caino archetype clown, one who is miserable but desires others to laugh and enjoy themselves. This gets twisted into him tying people onto a thrill ride and juggling chainsaws for the sake of “amusement”. The grocery clerk, Steven Chapman, is the archetype of the perfect retail employee. His archetype is twisted into someone who shrieks at the top of his lungs for people to get out of his store and he sets up a shopping cart with pitchforks and blades on it. There’s even a cult leader in a movie theater to make reference to the “cult of personality” where people go to watch and indulge in pointless films to simply argue and create teams against each other about “what media is better than another” with none of them realizing that they are just blindly following propaganda that makes them feel good or powerful.
There’s a reason for these psychopaths to be there. They follow themes, they are archetypes, their actions relate to their themes, and even their settings fit their themes to create this deep experience that sticks with you, all while poking fun at the subject of consumerism. That is why people enjoy satire. The events are making fun of the major themes and subjects, all while being a part of those themes and subjects. The survivors are the same way, where you’re trying to save their lives and yet some of them worry more about food, when they are already fat, or they are found doing something they enjoyed in their normal life as if the zombie apocalypse is the perfect excuse to rush to escapism.
In the second game, they do the same thing with corporations and big pharma, and they use satire in a similar way but didn’t really tie their themes to either one. Instead, they tied their themes to job titles and employment. Ted Smith, the tiger tamer who looks like if Bobby Hill had a baby with a potato and fed it paint chips, becomes a Psychopath to treat the tiger he grew attached to. Antoine Thomas, the chef that is a bitch to kill, goes crazy trying to create the perfect dish with human flesh. Or is it zombie flesh?
Either way, once you meet the mailman with a shotgun who goes postal(yes, I went there, because the game went there), it’s easy to see that they are simply going crazy the same way the grocery clerk of the previous game went crazy. They had a job, they became that job, and they will die as that job. It’s kind of a way to talk about corporatism, but it’s also kind of not. This is why I think DR2 was starting to get messy with its themes and satire, because even though they were using satire to make fun of people who take their jobs too seriously, it’s not really part of the main theme, so it’s understandable why the Psychopaths are not as memorable. Strangely enough, the ones that are memorable are the ones who do fit the corporation theme, like the CURE terrorist who fights you with broken glass, and TK who serves as the main antagonist.
Zombrex, the entire reason the game happens, due to big pharma needing zombies to create queens, which allows them to make more zombrex, is the biggest aid in the main theme. Even if you kill TK, the outbreaks will continue, because they would need more zombrex, which requires more zombies, which then makes more people need more zombrex. I swear that theme was far too genius for its own good. Sadly, the only part of the gameplay that relates to it is going over to a pawn shop that is owned by a faceless entity to buy weapons and zombrex, and that’s about it. I guess you can count the “spend money to make money” mentality with gambling because the entire business practice is a gamble, but I’m not really sure if that’s intentional or if I’m just fishing for anything relevant.
To wrap up the satire segment, it’s kind of clear that the main idea behind the first 2 games, when it came to satire, was how the themes matched the events and the actions, as well as the humor. Anything goofy going on gameplay-wise is not part of the “world” that the story is setting up. You don’t craft weapons during a cutscene and it’s not like the game forces you to dress up like Megaman for a mission. Granted, there is the ability to be kidnapped by cultists in the first game and you wake up in a box in your underwear, but that’s still part of the gameplay, where it belongs.
Now… let’s talk about parody, and boy is this going to be a rant.
The third game is where everything goes downhill, story-wise. The idea of big pharma is gone, the idea of American consumerism is there accidentally, and the designers wanted to put a big emphasis on how combo weapons exist. You play as Nick Ramos, who is a mechanic and… that’s his entire character. While Frank was a big mouth pacifist who seeks the truth and Chuck was a hard-ass who wants safety for future generations, Nick is a clean slate who likes to scramble on the floor and awkwardly ask people why they’re killing people. Nick is no longer a character, but rather, a walking joke.
He’s nothing more than the voice of the director telling the audience what they should be thinking in order for their awkward scenes to work. His over the top expressions, as if he’s auditioning to play the dad from Son of the Mask, are what the director wants the player to do when a fat lady stabs a man with an oversized fork or when a MILF cop puts his hand on her fake tit. The idea isn’t that he’s a satire of the typical zombie hero, but rather a slapstick parody of what the player does during gameplay. It’s hard to imagine Nick being shocked at a few dead bodies, then quickly fly into action with a boxing glove that has an acetylene tank taped onto it. The amount of difference between cutscenes and gameplay is so extreme, we’re more inclined to skip Psychopath introductions because Nick doesn’t act like the character we’ve been playing as, but rather acts like a helpless survivor that wandered away from the safe house.
And before I go off on how the Psychopaths are like in the third game, I have to say that the idea of using the seven deadly sins was an okay idea. It’s not bad. I like themes that represent something. But what the hell does the seven deadly sins have to do with the theme of the story? I have to get into the main theme before I talk about the Psychopaths. While DR1 was about consumerism, and DR2 was about corporatism, DR3 flew way off-topic and decided to make a game about zombies discuss privacy and citizen rights.
Yeah… I’m not a genius when it comes down to zombie tropes, but what exactly does a Hispanic dude helping out a group who call themselves The Illegals have to do with the plot of a zombie outbreak? If anything, the plot is saying “these illegals are a risk because there are people who create outbreaks if they are not tracked” and then the gameplay says “you must save these people who risk more outbreaks because they want to do things their own way” with then the plot later going “hey, remember those illegals, you have to help them because this one chick is an illegal and she’s important for no real reason.”
Seriously, Annie, the major subplot out of like 5 different unrelated subplots, is Nick’s main objective in the beginning for no real reason. It’s never shown that they are dating, it’s never said she’s important to him, and it’s never said what Nick’s reason is other than “I have to find her”. This can only be concluded as a parody of how games give you missions for no reason. “Bring me 10 goat foreskins”. Why? I don’t know, but I’ll reward you with exp and gold.
These main characters have nothing to them except for Gary, who is a mobster who used to be a wrestler, which touches a fall from grace personality that makes him cocky in his ability but humble in his situation. Everyone else is no longer an archetype or even remotely relatable to a character we can point to any zombie media. Annie is a babydoll goth only by appearance, Rhonda is a pinup punk, Red is a beatnik. These aren’t personalities, they are costumes that follow a stereotype, and they didn’t even bother to include the stereotype. Instead, we get these empty husks that are ready to tell jokes instead of supporting the reason why they are there, to begin with.
Okay, I’ve delayed it long enough… It's time to talk about the Psychopaths.
We get seven major Psychopaths that fill out the seven sins: Lust is an S&M performer who you find in a porn shop, gluttony is a fat lady on a scooter you find in a buffet, greed is a surgeon who is collecting organs, sloth is a champagne socialist you find in his mansion, wrath is a zen monk in his garden, envy is a nerd on a yacht who tries to be like Nick, and pride is a female bodybuilder you find in a gym.
At first, from that alone, you can go “oh, that sounds good. The themes are in order, they don’t have much wrong with them, and they don’t conflict with their symbolism.”
That is because, on paper, they are almost flawless. But once executed and given dialogue, they are no longer satire. They become parodies of sins. The only ones that stay in their lane are the surgeon and the S&M gimp, and that’s because their personalities and roles are easy to make rather threatening and psychopathic. The rest of them become these over the top cartoon representations that fart a lot and make jokes like they’re Jim Carrey during the dream scene in Dumb and Dumber.
I swear, I’m not joking, two of them, sloth and gluttony, shit themselves when they die. Wrath, an old monk who’s gone mad and says “pretentious big brain Buddhist riddles” has his last word be “Seriously?!” after reminiscing about having a family. There’s nothing really about them that makes them sinners, other than how they set up jokes. Pride gets called “sir” by Nick, and it’s funny because she’s just a really buff chick with short hair, and Nick is supposed to be the player and Nick is a misgendering idiot. The rest of the Psychopaths, who are part of the main story, have very little to do with anything.
To put it plainly, the theme we’ve established with the concept of illegals and citizen rights and privacy, the only thing the main story Psychopaths relate to is that some of them are police officers and military officials. This is just a parody of the previous games, where they had two DHS agents try to find out what’s going on with you, and now the government is your biggest enemy because there is The Illegals organization and they are important and stuff. I don’t think I have to get into the subject of the illegal crisis the US has had since before Dead Rising was a thing, but, just so we’re clear, the bitten illegals are a parody of the immigration illegals.
They create an organization, they claim they just want to be safe and do things on their own, they want to stay off the grid, and then they have people like Red who go out of their way to destroy government property and we have people like Annie who has a father (Chuck Greene) who’s in charge of a mafia. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a Spanish soap opera more than it sounds like a zombie game. Nothing about them is saying why they are illegal, or what the illegal status means to an outsider, or what the illegal status means to an insider. They say they are free and then they are held up in a shelter surrounded by zombies and they need Nick to save them.
Speaking of Nick, let’s talk about his tattoo.
Later on in the game, it’s revealed that Nick is part of an experiment where they had a bunch of children, who are immune to the virus but also carry it, go out into different places. The reason is kind of so that they can infect places, which is seen in an awful cutscene that is literally a museum of exposition, and it’s hinted that Nick or his friend Diego might have been the reason people were infected in their area, but it’s never really said. Instead, they drop that plot point and talk about how Nick is the cure.
So, the entire time we’re playing as Nick, we are shown that he’s useless in human interactions and is a weakling, but then now he’s the cure and the savior of the human race, as long as he can be taken away and studied. This is a parody of exactly what Frank West’s character went through in the first game, which was a hero’s journey.
You see, a hero’s journey, when applied with the Jungian form that Frank West had, is done right, you get a story that flows well and makes sense. Frank had the call of adventure towards the mall, he’s helped by the DHS agents, he gets mentors and helpers along the way, then he’s thrown into the abyss of the conspiracy, he changes from a journalist to a warrior of truth, he finds out he’s bitten and will soon turn, then he is granted the reward of finding a temporary cure with Isabella’s help. Near the end, he also encounters his shadow, who is a military commander. Frank is out to reveal the truth, while the military commander is out to conceal the truth. The battle challenges Frank’s beliefs of whether or not hiding such a big scoop is the right thing to do.
Nick’s journey is a parody of this, minus the shadow.
He starts off as useless, never really works for anything to happen, the entire story exists without him needing to be there, then near the end, they say “by the way, you’re important”, all for the story to say Nick is still not really that important and reveal that Isabella caused the outbreak so that Nick can reveal himself as someone who’s immune.
This isn’t a hero’s journey. It’s not even a journey. It’s a series of unfortunate events that reward Nick for absolutely no reason. He has to survive because he’s special, but he didn’t do anything to be special, other than magically be good at combining things, which… is something everyone else can do in this world. The best way I can say his character fits the theme is by saying “the cure to a bad situation is to have someone who can fix stuff”. Doesn’t that sound absolutely engaging?
Now, what about the fourth game? Is there anything else I really have to add to hammer in the idea that these two failures were accidental parodies? I guess I can say that the fourth game goes over consumerism, again, but leaves it at “hey, Christmas is a thing, right?” Nothing in the story really deals with the theme of consumerism because that game has the theme of freaking transhumanism. The main villain is a dude who’s a conscious zombie with robot armor and Frank West turns into a zombie, only to be turned back into a human. Frank turns into a rotting corpse… then he turns back into a fully functional human.
Trust me, that’s a parody. That’s just a joke with nothing funny attached to it, much like most of Frank’s dialogue in the fourth game. All he does is wisecracks and Uncharted-esque zingers. His personality is to wait for someone to give him material to make fun of and to have pointless arguments with Asian women. Even when I say the theme is about transhumanism, it really does just end at that. There are no more Psychopaths, they replaced them with maniacs. The maniacs are a parody of Psychopaths.
Characters like the Sadistic Claus and Captain Black Fridaybeard have nothing to do with the theme and they have nothing to do with reality. They are just there, wielding electric axes and ice swords because that’s how the designers wanted to reward the player for defeating an opponent that is easier than finding something to be disappointed within the game. Archetypes are more than just catchphrases, vernacular, and stereotypes. They have an actual purpose and theme that is carried out by their actions and desires because the most important part of an archetype is their specific desire.
When all the maniac simply desires is “kill everything” then they’re no different from a wandering zombie. They are reduced to a parody of what the psychopaths were. The story was reduced to a parody of the first game, with the theme even being parodied as “with consumerism, we can achieve transhumanism” as part of the plot. It’s basically saying, “you eat a lot and we end up with robo-zombies that talk.” Frank himself was reduced to a parody of Frank, with his charismatic journalistic archetype being replaced by Carrot Top and his bag o’ funny props.
At no point am I saying that parody is bad. To be honest, I love parody movies like Scary Movie, especially Scary Movie 2. However, when we want to make a game fun, and when it’s a game like Dead Rising, the jokes of said parody should make us actually laugh. It should try to make us amused, and that’s hard to do with a setting that’s also trying to take itself seriously at times. It’s like trying to enjoy a parody episode of Simpson’s Treehouse of Horrors and the entire time they play it off like it’s supposed to be serious. That serious tone is great for satire, but it’s just too out of place for parody.
Parody can exist within satire, but satire cannot exist within a parody. Satire relies on the themes of the subject to make the humor have its punch, while parody is simply a joke that uses a theme and subject as a platform to talk about something unrelated. I believe the designers who messed up on that little bit of nuance had the right intentions but didn’t have the right direction. If anything, nobody told them the first game was satire and the second game was kind of trying to copy the first game in approach and they lucked out by great observation. But the second they decided to try something else, they had no idea what the original plan was and went off into their presumed direction, parody.
It’s amazing how such a small mistake can cause such big problems, but let that be a lesson to you. The slightest misunderstanding you have of the art you try to mimic can cause the biggest differences in how people compare yours with the original source. There are things that stick with people and there are things that fall flat. The more you understand the established concepts that people enjoy, the better you’ll be able to please your audience and returning fans. If you don’t understand how the art was well received, and you go by “top trends of the previous year”, you’re going to make another Dead Rising 4.
Hopefully this information is helpful if some people are trying to decide whether to go or not. submitted by
Stayed at Excalibur (only place that comped me rooms) so most of this information is centered around that casino (I'd imagine it is pretty consistent with MGM properties though (besides the limits))
Friday night there were 4 tables going. 3 of them were regular and $15. The 4th was crapless and $10. In the mornings they would have 1 table going for $10 (crapless) then it would raise to $15 around noon. After noon they would open another table for $15. It was pretty easy to get a spot as the turnover was much faster than usual (more on this later).
As far as the play itself, it was different. Only 3 people per side, so 6 total for the table, and there was plexiglass between everyone. Each time the dealers rotated they wiped down their stations. They switched dice for every new shooter. When players left the table, they did not do any sanitation of the players rail spot, a new person would just walk up. Masks were required unless you were drinking. The dealers all wore masks with face shields over the masks.
In my opinion the plexiglass was the worst part of the experience. Combined with having to wear masks, it was very difficult to even talk or joke with the person next to you. Zero chance for any verbal or non verbal communication for the people on the other side of the table. Normal situations where there would be a big cheer at the table, were basically silent. The camaraderie was not there. I think this is what led to such a high turnover rate at the tables.
One positive (that is also a negative) was that if you like to physically throw the dice, they come around ALOT faster. You get to throw all the time. However, since there are less people at the table and less bets for the dealers to put up and such, hands are played much more frequently. Which in many situations leads to bleeding your bankroll quicker. Which also leads to faster turnover at the tables.
If you are into dice setting and throw from stick L1 (right handed), the plexiglass is an issue as you kind of have to throw around it. So you would have to stand stick R1 for no hindrance (if you throw right handed)
Overall "safety" feel: There were tons of places to sanitize and wash your hands. They even had sinks set up on the gaming floor. Unlimited masks, gloves, and sanitizer available if you wanted. When I checked in they gave me a bag with masks, pocket size sanitizer, and a "clean key" (for touching elevator buttons and such). You had to do the temperature check thing before you could check into your room. (although it seemed like this was only enforced during prime check-in times). Masks were required on the gaming floor. They sort of have security guards at the entrances and elevators enforcing it. From what I saw nearly 100% of people were wearing some type of face cover, however I'd estimate that 25% either had it pulled down, or otherwise weren't wearing it correctly.
Random observations: Usually you see a dog here or there on the floor, I would estimate I saw 10x the amount of people with what I assume were service dogs. Also, mobility scooters. I would estimate I saw 5x what I normally see on the floor.
The amount of people walking around on the casino floor didn't seem too far off from normal. It was a hair less than usual but it def didn't see "dead" at all. Poker room was closed. All the buffets were closed and I'd say about half of the restaurants were closed or limited hours. If you wanted to get a drink you had to order food and sit down. All the bars in the casino were closed and all barstools removed. You had to either order drinks from the cocktail waitresses or buy them from the little souveniconvenience stores in the casino.
The slot machines were either pushed together in triangles or only every other slot machine was turned on. Same for bubble craps, only 4 total machines turned on (5$ minimum). I don't know this for sure as I was there by myself, but I don't think it was allowed to have 2 people next to each other at the craps table between the same plexiglass, even if you were together. I didn't see anyone do it or ask about it, but I did see some couples not playing next to each other and I assume they would if they could have.
Overall, I didn't feel it was as fun of an experience as usual. Probably won't go back until things are normal.
Holy cow, apparently I need to write more or it all comes out in one go like this. Apologies in advance for my perspicacity. But hey, we’re all geeks here, and if it inspires just one person, then it won’t be in vain. Anyway, our story so far... submitted by
I started on WW last week. I’ve been framing it not as a diet, but as learning all over again How to Eat. Or as Michael Pollan told us so succinctly, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And I had been sucking at all three for a damned long time.
So there I was at lunch today, grabbing some Popeyes chicken. I went for a five-piece blackened tenders, mustard sauce for dipping, and mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. I find this meal rather amusing because each component is 4 points, for a total of 12. That is, as long as you can avoid... The Biscuit. [Insert dramatic cello riff here.] You see, The Biscuit is 8 points all by itself.
So when I first opened the box, I chucked The Biscuit aside into the to-go bag. But there it sat, looking at me all forlorn and tragic-like. A quick check after lunch of my 48 daily points showed 25 down, and a whopping 23 to go. For reference, 23 points is a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Or if you prefer, an In-N-Out Double-Double with one point left to spare.
I could totally down that whole biscuit and still have brought points for a good healthy dinner without dipping into my weeklies. I figured at least one bite won’t hurt anything, right? So I ripped off a chunk of that biscuit, and it... was... awful! I felt like I was eating a straight up chunk of Crisco. Suffice to say, the rest of the biscuit didn’t get eaten.
And then after work tonight, the whole process repeated itself. One of my favorite little guilty pleasures after a rough night at work is one of those good old gas station ice cream sandwiches. You know the ones. They’re about a buck, they have that soft chocolate wafer on the outside that sticks ever-so-slightly to your fingers... But I digress. I grabbed one of those and a Perrier. You can keep your La Croix, I’ve been a Perrier slut for years and will do unspeakable things for Pink Grapefruit flavor... But there I go digressing again. I get back to the car, pop the Perrier, have a mighty satisfying swig. I coax the ice cream bar from its wrapper, have a couple of bites, and... the thrill is gone. The pleasure center of my brain doesn’t drop any dopamine; whoever in my brain was on that lever just shrugged. I took a couple more tentative nibbles. Each was less satisfying than the last in a most peculiar fashion. The second half of the bar got unceremoniously dumped in the trash.
Ever since I started WW, I have been terrified by the spectre of the dreaded extinction burst. What’s the extinction burst? Glad you asked. It’s something your brain does when you try to change a habit. It’s that moment when you’re trying to eat healthier and your brain says “Screw everything, healthy eating sucks, we’re going out tonight for a triple cheeseburger with onion rings and a chocolate shake, and let’s wash it down with an 80-point slice of Cheesecake Factory Oreo Dream Extreme cheesecake.” It’s that moment where your brain recognizes it hates drastic change and binges on everything you had been missing out on for the previous two weeks.
But now, instead of wondering if I will be able to overcome the extinction burst when it happens, I’m wondering if it will happen at all. And if it does happen, I wonder if I’m going to take a seat at the local fancy casino buffet, ready for a grand feast that will put the “all” in “all-you-can-eat”, have a couple of bites, and... just put it down and walk away. Here’s to hoping.
EDIT: forgot the TL;DR: If you’ve been eating healthy for a while, Popeyes biscuits suck.
Continuing. submitted by
After the third pony keg of beer was delivered, it was decided that the next few days would be spent in the conference room discussing what we thought was the best way forward.
We wanted dry-erase boards so we could start taking detailed notes, even though I was well ahead of the curve in that regard. We instead ended up with some mobile elementary-school blackboards and a pile of grainy, sooty chalk.
Leave it to Dr. Cliff to go into a discourse on the genesis of chalk and its economic importance.
Bloody carbonate geologists.
Bloody White Cliffs.
We geologists need to punctuate their conversations with pictures, so these would suffice quite well.
At 1700 hours, the official end to the workday was called; we’d meet here again tomorrow. I’m not certain by whom, but it was readily agreed upon. We were more or less on our own until 1000 the next day. I needed to spend some time in my room with my notes and update a number of dossiers, field notebooks, and other items I was using as a running chronicle.
Several folks decided to invade one of the hotel’s restaurants for dinner. Some wanted to head to the casino, a couple wanted to get a massage, and others wanted to do what tourists are normally wont to do on the second day of being a foreigner in a foreign land.
I declined invitations to dinner and other activities, as I had a long writing session in front of me. I wanted to get this all in its proper place while the memories and notes were still fresh.
30 minutes later, in my room after a 25-minute wait for the elevator; I’m updating dossiers, creating several new ones, and updating my field notebooks. Suddenly, after an hour’s work, I notice something is amiss.
“I don’t have a drink or a cigar,” I said to the four walls. “This. Will. Not. Do.”
I was used to Happy Hour in Russia. Happy hour is slightly different; there are no ice cubes or orange-peel twists in the vodka. Also, it lasts all day.
I remedy that situation by finding and clipping a nice, oily oscuro cigar and digging the bourbon out from under my boxer-briefs in my dresser drawer. I heft the bottle and feel that it’s significantly lighter than when I left it last night. I happen to look in the trash can and spy the wrapper for a box of my festively colored Sobranie cigarettes I obtained back in Dubai.
“Hmmm”, I think, “It would appear that we have some light-fingered Cho Louies or No Louises around here. I’d best guard my supplies a little more securely.”
I move all my smokeables into one of my now emptied aluminum travel cases. They lock with the stoutest of combinations and it will be readily apparent if anyone is fucking with them.
I move some of my best booze into the pretty much worthless in-room safe. With a deft application of duct tape, I seal the safe. It may not be the most secure spot on the planet, but if anyone tries anything troublesome, they’ll leave an immediately recognizable record of what they were up to. It’s just too obvious; they’d have to be crazy to go in after anything inside there.
My money, keys, and passports are in the safe deposit box down in the lobby that the hotel supplies for visiting dignitaries. Even so, they let me keep my shit in one of them anyway.
That handled, I spend another hour writing like a madman. I suddenly realize I’m tired of all this and need a diversion as well as some food and, of course, drink.
30 minutes later, I’m down in the byzantine basement tunnels of the hotel. It’s crowded with hordes of Chinse tourists, and the casino is ground zero for the incredibly loud chatter.
I look in on the bowling alleys all three of them, and they’re full. The massage parlor is hopping, although I leave my name and they promise they will call over the PA when a suitable masseuse is available. Evidently, I ‘intimidate’ some of the more demure ones.
I wander over to the bar, now there’s a surprise, and see it’s packed to the rafters as well. I decide to wait for a seat to open up on Mahogany Ridge when there’s some gargling over the PA and a pair of Chinese nationals leave the bar in great haste.
I grab one of the two newly open seats, much to the chagrin of a couple of Oriental Unidentifiables (OU) who had their eye on them as well.
“Sorry, mate”, I said, “First come, first served. It’s the capitalist way.”
One of the pair grabs a seat and the other just stands there, looking annoyed unspent bullets in my direction. Forget that I’ve literally twice their size and could be an aberration as an angry American. They just order a couple of drinks, and content themselves in giving me dirty looks and probably say nasty things in their own indecipherable language about my national origin and familial heritage.
As if I gave the tiniest of rodental shits.
I fire up a cigar, as literally everyone else in the joint was smoking something more or less tobacco. However, there was a definite barnyard aroma, a regular Dairy Air, in the room. I think some of what was being smoked there was more bovine or equine in origin than botanical in nature.
With numerous hilarious attempts at Korean, pointing at a garishly photographed drinks menu, I was finally served a cold draft house steam porter and 100 milliliters of probably ersatz ‘Russian’ vodka, vintage late last Thursday. This bartender that could at least form some of the phonemes found in American English. A few. A definite few.
Since it all cost the equivalent of US$0.50, I really didn’t care.
Apparently vodka helps flowers last longer when they're dying. But you can put vodka in anything and it'll make it better.
Being a trained observer, I rather enjoy just sitting in any old bar, smoking my cigar, drinking my Yorshch, and watching people. I try and not be intrusive and I never eavesdrop, but I like to try and think of what strange set of circumstances brought us all here together in this place at this time. It gives me writing ideas, some of which I jot down in a notebook I always carry. It also gives me a good shot of nostalgia when I look back at something I wrote some 40 or so years ago.
Yeah, old habits do die hard.
I take a drag off my cigar and set it in the ashtray in front of me on the bar as I go to correct another egregious misspelling in my notebook. I have to immediately proofread what I wrote, or I’d never recall later what the fuck I was trying to convey; especially if it’s in a noisy, smoky, or murky milieu.
Quicker than a bunny fucks, Unidentifiable Oriental #1 (UO #1) deftly reaches over, snags my cigar, and helps himself to a few mouthy puffs.
I look at him, the empty ashtray directly in front of me, him again, and then UO #2.
Since I speak no real Oriental, much less Korean, language, and my Mandarin at this point is worse than laughable; I just point to the cigar, turn out my hands and shrug my shoulders in the international “What the actual fuck, dude?” gesture.
He just smiles a gappy, toothy, and snaggle-toothed at that, grin at me and makes a point of ensuring that I see him enjoying a few more drags on my own damned cigar.
Not able to contain myself any further, I venture a “What the fuck, chuckles? That’s not your fucking cigar.”
Like gasoline being tossed on a fire-ring full of embers, they both go unconditionally incoherently insane.
Yammering, chattering, jumping up and down, and getting right into my face. They wanted me to unquestionably understand that my few words of English insulted them far more than their filching of my $20 cigar.
OK, I’m pretty well trained in Hapkido; an oddly, given the present situation, hybrid Korean martial art. I’m at least 6 or 7 inches taller and who knows how many stone/kilos/pounds/Solar masses heavier than these two clowns. I could easily go all Gojira on their hapless asses and mop significant expanses of the floorboards with them.
Instead, I look around for the bartender. I figured since I was keeping him well supplied with Korean won via tips, and he spoke some English as well as perhaps whatever the fuck these characters were chattering; maybe he could get to the bottom of what was happening.
The bartender walks over and I ask him to ask the two unidentifiable twins why they stole my cigar.
He nods in agreement and goes on in whatever the fuck dialect was being used today by the pair.
“They say they wanted it. So they took it.” They ask, “What are you going to do about it?” the bartender relates.
I deftly reach inside my field vest, as everyone concerned ducks and covers.
I extract two fresh cigars; not a .454 Casull Magnum.
I give one cigar to the bartender and one to OU#2.
“With my compliments.” I pleasantly say.
I was well apprised of the fact that in certain places like this, the local authorities often approach foreigners with, for the lack of a better term, ‘Agents Provocateur
Like the Westboro Baptist “Church”, they try to get a rise out of you so you’ll lose your cool and either create a scene or take a poke at the miscreant. Then they have all the pretext they require to drag you to the local hoosegow, shake you down for every penny on your person, as well as any phones, notebooks, wallets, passports, cigars, cigarettes, etc.
Basically, they goad you into a fight, then drop the thousand-pound shit-hammer when you retaliate.
It’s all so parochial. So obviously clear as vodka; this elementary charade only raised a single eyebrow.
I’m not going to even raise my voice over a couple of cheap cigars that neither of them noticed I slipped them instead of the premium ones I was smoking.
Thus defeated, I asked the bartender to ask them if they liked the cigar.
“What do you think?” I asked in cordial English, “Too tightly rolled? Not caged enough? Too green?”
UO #2 slipped and said “It smells very good…” where he realizes he’s blown his cover.
“Yeah, I like it too.”, I replied, “So much so, I buy my own. What are your badge numbers, boys? I will be reporting this incident to Inspector P'aeng Yeong-Hwan, the head of security for the IUPGS conference to which I was invited as special scientific consultant.”
Of course, they immediately dummy up and feign illiteracy.
I say loudly and very clearly, “You bastards aren’t gonna get away with this. I mean, what is going on in this country when scumsuckers like you can get away with trying to sandbag a Doctor of Geological Sciences?”
I ask the bartender to translate, but alas, it was too late. They vamoosed when I turned to talk with the bartender.
They left so fast, they didn’t notice me snapping their pictures with my ancient but trusty Nokia 3310, revised edition, during our little chat. Even with a mere 2-megapixel picture, I have enough to show the North Korean leaders of the project to get an identification and make known my displeasure of being treated like some commoner or buffoon.
They left both my cigar and the one I gave them. The bartender tucked the cigar I gave him into his pocket and stared lustily at the two remaining on the bar.
“Take’em”, I said. I sure as fuck don’t want them. “Just a clean ashtray and a refill, if you would be so kind,” I say, as pleasantly as possible, considering the situation.
Both the unsmoked and my smoldering, as well as well-traveled, cigar disappear as quickly as minks rut. A clean, new ashtray, double beer and ‘vodka’ suddenly appear.
“No charge, Dr. Rock”, the bartender grins, as he shoves my erstwhile high-mileage cigar between his teeth.
“OK, fair enough.”, I say, “Spaseebah.”, and deposit a raft of won on the bar. The pile won’t be touched until after I leave in a few hours’ time.
“Stranger in a strange land.” I muse over a couple of further beers.
The call from the massage parlor never came, or it did and I couldn’t hear it over the clamor of the casino. I went up to the hotel’s Korean restaurant; had some salty soup, a sad, sad salad, and some form of funky fish, I think, for dinner. I retired that night in a slightly foul mood.
I called Es then the next morning and caught her before she retired. With a 14 hour difference between us, I was getting up at 0700 and she was getting ready to hit the hay at 2100.
I told her of the events of the day previous, and she was glad she wasn’t tagging along. She would have never accused the Korean geologists of being behind the times and would have probably bent the guy’s nose that swiped my cigar.
Agreed, that she’d probably be unimpressed with this place. I promised her that we’d go on a holiday when I returned from all this. It would be up to her to find out ‘where,’ and I’d supply the ‘when’ when I could.
Everything else was going along smoothly, more or less, on the home front, and I didn’t want to give the local listening-in federales
too much to say grace over, so we said our parting admirations and rang off.
Shower, shower sunriser of real vodka and citrus, a quick brush and comb, and spiff of cargo shorts and new ghastly Hawaiian shirt; 30 minutes later, back down in the restaurant for the inevitable breakfast buffet.
After what some would consider breakfast and others would consider a vague attempt at nourishment, we reconvened in the conference room precisely at 1012.
Nothing like precision with this group.
We spend the next two days going over, in various groups, what we think would be required to set forth proper the quest for oil and gas in North Korea on track. Everyone got in on the act, and we advocated for that. We needed everyone’s input to make this happen. Or to even map a way forward to present to country officials. Those from the West on what was needed and those from the East to tell us what was available, and the combined wetware to make what needed to be done happen with what existed.
It took no small amount of doing, but we secured a set of maps that covered the entire country. We were watched very closely by the shiny suit squad that we did not copy, photograph or otherwise take any extraneous information from these sheets of infamy. All other maps in the country were intentionally skewed, with errors deliberately added in to confuse “interlopers, spies, or other personas non grata
I made a massive stink and told them that if we didn’t receive the unfuckered maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery pronto, we’re packing up and leaving that afternoon.
“We don’t have time for monks resisting the carnival. We didn’t come here to try and guess if the maps are correct or if our remedies will actually work on maps that say one thing and reality says something else entirely.”
They hemmed and hawed, but as I made the announcement to all before lunch that if the real maps didn’t appear by the time we returned from tiffin, we’re gone.
And we take tiffin purty durn early round these parts, buckaroo.
No one was surprised as I when we returned and there were folio after folio of government-uncensored maps, photos, and imagery for our program. I guess they finally reasoned it would be a relatively good idea to begin to take us seriously.
We spent one whole day just going over our field geological apparatus. They had a good idea of how to use a direction-finder compass and Jacob’s staff to measure sections. However, they were totally flummoxed by our Brunton Compasses, GPS systems, curiously referred to as ‘position finders’, notebook mapping applications, and electronic data storage and retrieval systems.
Gad. It was like being back in the 1970s before PCs were a glimmer in IBM's corporate orbs.
We spent the next week working to bring our less fortunate colleagues up to, well, not date, but at least up to the brink of the 21st century. We explained that plate tectonics, continental drift, and the precession of the continents was accepted geoscientific principles, not some arcane Capitalist or Socialist plot to undermine the quality of science in the east.
Yep. It was that mindset we had to first conquer. I think we’ve made great headway in that direction today.
The next Chautauqua session had us split up into two separate groups. We decided in a fit of Cesarean inquiry to ‘divide and conquer’. There are two distinct milieus
which are able to contain economic deposits of hydrocarbons: onshore and offshore.
Instead of attacking both head-on, we’d focus initially on the offshore domain. Once we had a good handle on what was going on under the East Korean Sea, the Huangai (Yellow) Sea and surreptitiously, the South Sea; we’d collaborate our findings and work to tie them in and extend them onshore.
The singular Phyongnam Basin is the one large depositional, sedimentological, and structural basin in North Korea. It is filled by the Joeson and Pyeongan Supergroups of sediments, which are Cambro-Ordovician and Permocarboniferous, respectively. These are good hunting grounds for oil and gas. Could be elephant–hunting
But before we could undertake that, we had to get ‘back to basics’. That is, we had to understand and delineate the ‘frame’ of the Korean Peninsula. In other words, we needed to figure out how and when the peninsula came into existence.
South Korea’s geology is much more complex, fortunately than that found in the North. There were nasty side comments that were due to the relative development not of the geology, but of the geologists who studied each country’s geology.
It was, perhaps, a mean way of characterizing the situation. But, unfortunately, it was also probably fairly accurate.
The Korean Peninsula is characterized by huge massifs
, which are sections of a crust that are demarcated by faults or flexures. In the movement of the crust, a massif tends to retain its internal structure while being displaced as a whole. The term also refers to a group of mountains formed by such a structure. It’s basically one huge, semi-resilient rock.
The basement rocks of the Korean Peninsula consist of high-grade gneiss and schist, Paleoproterozoic Precambrian massifs, which formed in the early stage of Earth’s history. These rocks are unconformably overlain by metasedimentary rocks; schist, quartzite, marble, calcsilicate, and amphibolite, of the Middle to Late Proterozoic. The Korean Peninsula is floored by a collation of about five of these huge Precambrian massifs that acted like ‘microplates’ during the aggregation of the peninsula. These massifs consist of thick dolostone, metavolcanics, and schist, which were intruded by Paleoproterozoic granites.
These Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary and granitic rocks underwent repeated intracrustal differentiation, followed by the events of cratonization, i.e., regional metamorphism and igneous activity, at 1.9-1.8 Ga. Sediments deposited in the peripheral basins during the Mesoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic lead to stabilization as the basement of the peninsula.
These early depositional basins formed the locus of deposition that continued on from the Proterozoic through the Phanerozoic. There are at least three, perhaps four, depositional basins in the south which are delimited by structural zones, such as the South Korean Tectonic Line (SKTL), a huge zone of continental transform faults and forms the basis of boundary demarcation between the Okcheon and Taebaeksan basins.
The boundary between the Seochangri Formation of the Okcheon Basin and the Joseon Supergroup of the Taebaeksan Basin in the Bonghwajae area is a thrust (or reverse‐slip shear zone). This thrust is presumably a relay structure (i.e. a restraining bend) between two segments of a continental transform fault (the South Korean Tectonic Line or SKTL), along which the Okcheon Basin of the South China Craton was juxtaposed against the Taebaeksan Basin of the North China Craton during the Permian–Triassic suturing of the two cratons.
In the late Proterozoic, sedimentation was initiated in basins of the Korean Peninsula, accompanied by deposition of siliciclastic and volcaniclastic sediments as well as carbonates. The massifs were submerged in the Early Paleozoic during a greenhouse period, forming a shallow marine platform and associated environments.
The Cambrian-Ordovician succession unconformably overlies Precambrian granite gneiss. It consists of mixed carbonate-siliciclastic rocks of sandstone, shale, and shallow-marine carbonates. Sedimentation was initiated in the Early Cambrian with a global rise in sea level on the stable craton of the Sino-Korean Block.
There was a major break in sedimentation during the Silurian and Devonian periods in the entire platform. During the Carboniferous to early Triassic, sedimentation was resumed in coastal plain and swamp environments with progradation of deltas.
Major tectonic events were initiated in the Triassic when the South China Block collided with the Sino-Korean Block. The eastern part of the Sino-Korean Block rotated clockwise and moved southward relative to the South China Block along the SKTL.
In the Middle-Late Jurassic, orthogonal subduction of the paleo-Pacific plate under the Asian continent caused compression and thrust deformation. A number of piggyback basins formed along the thrust faults in the east of the SKTL. At the same time, the entire peninsula was prevailed by granite batholiths, especially along the northeast-southwest-trending tectonic belt.
In the Cretaceous Period, the paleo-Pacific Plate subducted northward under the Asian continent, forming numerous extensional (left-lateral strike-slip) basins in the southern part of the peninsula and the Yellow Sea. A large back-arc basin was initiated in the southeastern part.
In the Paleogene, both the volcanic arc and the back-arc basin ceased to develop, as volcanic activities shifted eastward, accompanied by a rollback of the subduction of the Pacific plate. In the Miocene, pull-apart (right-lateral) basins formed in the eastern continental margin.
The Korea Plateau experienced continental rifting accompanied by extensive volcanism during the extensional opening of the southern offshore basin. It subsided more than 1000 m below sea level.
So, as South Korea was mix- mastered by a half-a-billion years’ worth of structural tectonism, which created several depositional basins quite capable of generating and storing economic quantities of oil and gas, the scene to the north was much more quiescent.
The North was composed, from south to north, of the relict Imjingang Belt, which was an old back-arc basin between the Gyeonggi Massif to the south and the Nagrim Massif to the north. It is a paleo-subduction zone, full of volcanics, volcaniclastics and other non-hydrocarbon bearing rocks. It was mashed and metamorphosed, and basically forms a convenient boundary between the complex geology of the South and the more relaxed geology of the North.
Heading north, we come across the Pyeongnam Basin, the only North Korean basin thus far defined that could contain hydrocarbons. Further north is the huge Nangrim Massif. It’s a huge block of igneous and metamorphic rocks that weather very nicely and form some spectacular scenery, but from an oil and gas economic outlook are worthless.
Offshore North Korea, there are two possible petroliferous basins. The offshore West Korea Bay Basin and East Sea Basin, along with five onshore basins could be offering exploration potential. At least ten exploration wells have been drilled in the West Sea, with some showing “good oil shows” along with the identification of a number of potential reservoirs.
The West Sea potentially has oil and has reportedly flowed oil at reasonable rates from at least two exploration wells when they were drilled and tested in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the East Sea has seen Russian exploration efforts previously including the drilling of two wells, both of which reportedly encountered encouraging shows of oil and gas.
Onshore, there has been little exploration to date, apart from efforts by the Korean Oil Exploration Corporation and also recently by Mongolia’s HBOil JSC (HBO). Among five main onshore sedimentary sub-basins, the largest is south of the capital; while unconfirmed reports point to a 1-trillion-cubic-foot (tcf) discovery in 2002.
Historically DPRK was thought to consist of five under-explored geological basins, the
• Gilju-Myongchon and
• Sinuiju, Basins.
These basins are all located more or less along the coast, rather than inland. This also points to a certain degree of geological aptitude; as it’s much easier to explore along the more populated coast than it is to venture inland. There may be more hiding in the interior of the country, it’s just that no one’s looked as of yet. That’s difficult. Exploring along the coast is much easier.
With 3 basins supposedly proven to have working petroleum systems; 22 wells have been drilled and the majority are said to have encountered hydrocarbons with some wells testing production at 75 barrels of oil per day of light sweet crude oil. This has yet to be documented or confirmed by the Korea Oil Exploration Corp (KOEC), North Korea’s state-run oil company.
Yeah, our work was definitely cut out for us.
It was decided that a series of excursions offshore in one of the few remaining seaworthy, which was a real judgment call, KOEC seismic boats would be appropriate. The one we received use of was an old, decommissioned Chamsuri-class patrol boat, one Chamsuri-215(참수리-215), PKMR-215 in particular.
It had been basically stripped to the gunwales and completely retrofitted as a seismic acquisition and recording vessel. It had been renamed: “조선 민주주의 인민 공화국 영광” or “Glory of Democratic People's Republic of Korea Science”.
In reality, it was an aging rust-bucket piece of shit that might have possibly seen better days but wasn’t letting on. All the military nonsense, except the powder magazine, had been removed and a new superstructure consisting of slap-dash hunks of poorly-welded low-carbon, cold-rolled steel were erected to form a pilothouse in the area where the bridge once existed. They also built, extra haphazardly, a shooter’s room, galley, cold and wet storage areas, recording room, and storage of tapes and the extra bits and pieces needed for a none-too-extended stay on the sea. It was, being charitable, almost utilitarian.
They could not make their own water, so trip times were limited to about three days in length. Besides, they didn’t really have a hot galley, so it was cold, canned Chinese chow for the next 72 hours. They had a couple of fairly sturdy yardarms with heavy winches to handle the towed seismic arrays of geophones, which were of ancient heritage and showed it. These were probably appropriated back in the 80s or perhaps earlier when they first thought about opening their waters for seismic exploration.
They ‘borrowed’ most of the sensing and recording equipment back then from oilfield service companies and simply forgot to return it once finished. Since they burned that bridge so glowingly, they couldn’t get parts nor service when things failed. Being delicate seismic sensing and recording equipment, fail they did.
So, we had to use what was leftover, or what DPRK industries could cobble together, or what could be salvaged from salt-water drenched recording equipment that hadn’t been too heavily cared for over the span of the last 50 years.
We weren’t terribly optimistic.
So, we load the good ship ‘Rorrypop’, as Viv christened the thing, and head out to the wilds of the Yellow Sea. It was an abbreviated foreign crew, as there was really nothing other than upchuck and curse me soundly for insisting the non-geophysical scientists came along.
Aboard were the two geophysicists, naturally; Volna and Activ. I was there stick-handling the logistics and hoping to help out with the geophysical signal source explosives.
Morse and Cliff, the two other geologists accompanied us on the trip, and Dax decided to go with me as he figured I’d have access to the best booze no matter where we went.
The remainder of the team, the geochemists, Erlan and Ivan, the geomechanic, Iskren, the PT, Joon, and the two REs, Viv and Grako, remained behind onshore at the hotel. They set forth cataloging what data was available; from what sources, it’s vintage, veracity, and usefulness.
Augean tasks, both. Not as fecaliferous as Hercules’ jobs, but still, they held their own rations of shit for each sub-team.
Heading seaward, the Yellow Sea extends by about 960 km (600 mi) from north to south and about 700 km (430 mi) from east to west; it has an area of approximately 380,000 km2
and a volume of about 17,000 km3
Its depth is only 44 m (144 ft) on average, with a maximum of 152 m (499 ft). The sea is a flooded section of the continental shelf that formed during the Late Pleistocene (some 10,000 years ago) as sea levels rose 120 m (390 ft) to their current levels. The depth gradually increases from north to south. The sea bottom and shores are dominated by sand and silt brought by the rivers through the Bohai Sea and the Yalu River. These deposits, together with sand storms are responsible for the yellowish color of the water referenced in the sea's name.
Being shallow, the Yellow Sea is more perturbed by the frequent seasonal storms of the region. The area has cold, dry winters with strong northerly monsoons blowing from late November to April. I was told that the summers are wet and warm with frequent typhoons between June and October; but now all we had to contend with were swelling seas, spraying saltwater, waggling waves, and a shivering, shimmying ship.
All the navigation, communications and other shiply duties were being handled by both members of the DPRK Coast Guard Auxiliary, mostly older guys who were of great and high humorous jest; and an actual pleasure to be around. They were like their scientific cadre on this cruise, basically a political ‘give a shit’ attitude, and a desire to get the job done, smoke the American’s cigars and drink as much as we could get away with.
The scientific portion of the cruise was being undertaken by students of the various universities and members of the North Korean national oil company. The demeanors of these characters ranged from extremely earnest and stringently North Korean politically correct in the students and academicians, to a more relaxed ‘yeah, let’s just get the fucking job done so we can have a lot of drinks’ sort of view of the older members of the DPRK scientific team.
It was a fun admixture of cultures, ages, professions, and behaviors.
Oh, forgive me for forgetting to mention our ‘guides’, or handlers. They were also chosen, nay, ordered to come along. Landlubbers all, they were less than thrilled with the assignment and inevitable seasickness; which seemed endemic to those of Oriental extraction on the cruise. However, our guides did enjoy drinking. As we learned that alcohol is a central part of Korean culture, and they encouraged us to socialize with them when the time was appropriate.
Or, not appropriate, as I was being denounced by one of the geophysical students after only a few hours into our very first day. Hell, we weren’t even in the Yellow Sea proper. We started here at Pyongyang, down the Taedong River, over the Giva Dam, through Pushover, across Shmoeland, to the stronghold of Shmoe; into the very belly of the frothing Yellow Sea.
Most everyone, other than the foreign elements on board, were either making the trip in the bowels of the ship; nursing and cursing seasickness; or by rail, doing exactly the same thing.
“Chum it over the side, ya’ blinkered mucker!”, I admonished one bottle-greenish national. “This ain’t the Captain‘s mess, Chuckles. You
have to clean up your own spew!”
I was reveling in getting back out on the water and regaining my sea legs. I never
Be it a seismic vessel in the heaving Arctic Ocean, a pirogue in the swamps of Louisiana, my cousin’s fishin’ johnboat back in northern Baja Canada, a US nuclear submarine under the permanent pack ice of the North Pole, or VLCC in the Straits of Somaliland; I just don’t get seasick.
Airsick? Nah. Carsick? Nope. Ready to puke in a Hind-20 over the Caspian Sea during a strong local thunderstorm? Close, but no cigar.
So, I’m doing a Titanic scene recreation. Up in the very bow of the craft, standing in stark defiance of the gusting winds and blowing salt spray, smoking a huge cigar, and totting out of one of my emergency flasks while trying to hang on to my Stetson. I am also endeavoring to remain upright, field vest and really, really ghastly Hawaiian shirt billowing in the breeze.
I’m not certain if it was the cigar smoke, the wind-whipped beard, and hair, the give a fuck attitude, or the flapping of the Hawaiian shirt to which the little local geophysicist objected. But he was pissed
. Olive-green with seasickness, rubber-kneed but still standing a good social-distance away, reading me the riot act in high-pitched Korean.
As I usually do in such delicate situations, I just smile and wave. Show them I’m mostly harmless and they either cool down or get pissed off even more and stomp off in disgust.
Either one was a winning situation for me in my book.
So, I return to doing my ship’s figurehead imitation and revel in the wind, spray, and feeling of really being booming. Sure, some might complain of the cold, but not me, the sting of the salt-spray or the windburn; but I eschew what most people enjoy as ‘normal weather’. I live for pushing the boundaries. I love rough weather and situations that thrust the edge of the envelope further past normalcy.
Besides, we were still in sight of land. Hell, if everything went south at this very minute, one could practically walk back to shore. I can hardly wait to see what these wigglers will do if a night storm comes up when were 100 or more kilometers from land.
The boat’s thrumming heavily from both the thrust of the Soviet-era diesel engines and the craft’s bludgeoning its way through the waves. Most hull designs are so the ship will ‘cut’ through the surface waters. This craft’s flattened trihedral hull design didn’t so much ‘cut’, as ‘slam’ it’s way through. The boat would then crash up one side and smash down the other of each large wave we encountered. The boat would shudder whole, adding a new note of resonance along with the monotonous one-note song of the aged Russian diesels.
The spray would fly, the boat would convulse, time would seem to freeze until we bashed into the next wave. The captain of the vessel took his orders very seriously. “Get to coordinates XXX
by the most expedient means possible.” If that meant charging, full-throttle into the teeth of the oncoming monsoon-force wind while we were traversing the worst kelp jungle I’ve seen this side of the Sargasso Sea; well, piss on it, full steam ahead.
“Fuck it”, I thought, “Not my pony, not my show. Let’s see how this plays out.” While I light a new cigar and search for Emergency Flask #2.
After I’d been upbraided by the geophysical student for transgressions still unknown, Cliff and Dax wander out to ask me what the hell I was up to.
“Have you gone completely barmy?”, Cliff asked. “It’s a full gale out here and you’re standing in the teeth of it like it was a warm, sunny Sunday in Piccadilly.”
“Nope, not at all”, I replied, “Just reveling in the delights of an angry atmosphere.”
“He’s nuts, I told you”, Dax smirked, “He’d go anywhere and do anything to have a cigar.”
“Not just a cigar, me old mucker”, I smiled and waved my second emergency flack under his nose.
“Figures”, they both respond in unison.
Dax departs and returns mere seconds later with paper Dixie-style cups he liberated from the ship’s one head. We are going to do our very best to extend the lifetime of the onboard water supply for our scientific and military friends. I pour them each a cup full.
“Whoa, Doc”, that’s gotta be 100 milliliters!” Cliff objects.
“As the Siberian saying goes: One hundred versts, roughly a hundred miles, is no distance. A hundred rubles isn't worthwhile money. And a hundred grams of vodka just makes you thirsty. Prosit!” I say in reply.
We retire to the overhang on the fantail of the boat. It’s a sunshade and keeps the worst of the weather out for the lightweights on the cruise. I decided we’d withdraw there to keep these Dominionites out of the worst of the wind and sea spray.
“Rock”, Cliff notes, “You are a complete throwback. You do not belong here in the 21st century. You need to find a way back to the Calabrian and ride herd on the continental Neanderthals. Give them the gift of distilling and tobacco agriculture, and you’d reframe the world.”
Dax agrees, but notes if I do find a way back, he and Cliff would be selected against.
“Good point”, Cliff agrees. “Rock, stay here. We need your expertise now more than ever. Plus your ready supply of strong drink and cigars.”
“Glad to know that I’m truly appreciated around these parts.” I chuckled slightly acridly.
“Ah, Rock. Buck up. You know we’re only takin’ a piss.” Cliff says.
“Aim it starboard. Don’t want it blowin’ all over the seismic gear”, I reply, laughingly.
The trip continued, and I found a not-bolted-to-the-deck chair and moved it outside under the shade back by the boat’s fantail. I refreshed my emergency flasks and replenished my cigar supply. I’m not about to sit inside and listen to the wails and gnashing of teeth of the landlubber crowd, the patter and timor of the geophysical throng as they titter and argue about array design, nor the military hut-hutting all over the fucking boat.
A couple of times, one or more of our ‘handlers’ would venture out as I had the only supply of readily available smokeables and drinkables. Oh, we had food, lots of beer, soju, some knock-off vodka, and some of that faux
homebrew bourbon for later once the workday was declared over; but for now, I was the one and only dispensary.
We’d have some random chats while they screwed up their courage to ask me for a smoke or a tot of drink. I brought several bundles of really cheap-ass cigars for just such occasions; besides, I figured one of my Camacho triple-maduros would have them chumming for the remainder of the trip. I had also many, many cartons of Sobranie pastel-colored cigarettes, and many more cartons of knock-off Marlboros I bought at the duty-free when we hit town.
It was chucklingly funny to see these harsh, military, no-nonsense characters walking their duty beats smoking pastel green, lavender, and mauve cigarettes.
We got bogged down a couple of times when one or more of the ship’s twin screws fouled with kelp as we tried to put some distance between us and the shore. Each time, one really dejected low-ranking young Coast Guard character would go over the side with a rope around his waist and a knife in his hand to free the props. I was going to object as this was moronically dangerous; but, again, not my pony, not my show. This called for full proper tethering and SCUBA gear.
They had neither aboard.
Welcome to the wonders of a centrally planned economy. To be continued.
From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space: The Long Deployment (conclusion) submitted by
The rear ramp on the gunship shut with a clang just as the torpedoes detonated. The gunship was still in a nose dive to the ground when the concussive force of the blast created a shockwave which knocked the gunship off its terminal dive angle. Warning lights and alarms screamed inside the cockpit, but the rugged little gunship held together, despite the battering she had just taken. With one last heave, Jennifer pulled up on the stick with every ounce of strength that she had left. The gunship shot up, narrowly missing the black, jagged, landscape which seemed to rise up to meet them. Jennifer pulled the stick to the left, attempting to get past the periphery of the blasted black landscape and over to where the land was alive and green and beautiful.
“We’re clear of the anomaly!” Warrant Officer Nasri’s voice boomed into the intercom over the rising pitch of the thrusters. “Is everyone okay back there?”
“We’re a little banged up,” said SSgt Talley into the intercom speaker, looking down and frowning at the wet spot on her armor where Seashell Killary pissed herself. “But we’re fine. The medic is handing out boo-boo band aids and lollypops.”
“Okay,” chucked Nasri. “Where’s Lieutenant Gabriel?”
“Oh, uh, he’s hanging around, ma’am,” said Sgt. Hernandez.
“I see,” said Nasri. “Well, when he’s done farting around, let him know that we have comms with the Galveston City. They’ve got freedom of maneuver and are in orbit waiting to retrieve us. We should be docked in fifteen to twenty mikes.”
Lieutenant Gabriel hung upside down six feet above the deck of the cargo bay, his mag-locks holding him in place. His arms were wrapped tightly around Pfc. Chensi and he looked down at her, surprised to see her crying.
“You okay, Hitchiro?” he said. “Are you hurt?”
Chensi looked up at her platoon leader, wiping a tear from her eyes. “No, sir! I lost my flame-rifle! You know how much those things cost? I’ll never be able to pay for a new one with the shit that the corps is paying me!”
“You saved our asses down there,” said Gabriel. “We’ll buy you a new one!”
Chensi smiled weakly. “I’d rather have a promotion. Maybe a few days to hang out with you and Warrant Officer Nasri in Vegas?”
Lieutenant Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Will someone get this little turd off my hands so that I can get down from here?”
The USS Galveston City remained on station for an additional 48 hours over Willow’s World as the members of 4th Platoon underwent decontamination procedures. In that time, all of the platoons vid-cam footage was sent to the Fleet to be scrutinized and examined extensively by scientists, geologists, biologists, astrophysicists, and the clergy. The opposition politicians also wanted to examine the vid-cam footage as well to see if they could find evidence in which to convict the Marines (and, by association, their Commander-in Chief) of any heinous war crimes real or imaginary. With the USS Galveston City’s sensors functioning normally now that the entity had been weakened and its ‘beam-horn’ (as the Marines called it) was destroyed, the Galveston City was able to peer down into the dead area anomaly. The entity was still alive, alive being a relative term, and still stumbling around within the dead space which it presumably was responsible for creating. Apparently, the horned entity could not leave that area of dead space to set foot on the surrounding lush, living landscape. The prevailing theory was that the entity was not originally of this planet, having arrived sometime in the past and probably buried itself into the ground where it slowly began draining the life energy of its surroundings which, over time, expanded the deadness to over one hundred twenty miles in circumference. In the meantime, the entity had used its weird beam to snag any star ship which came into range and dragged it to its doom on the blasted rock formations below where the entity again fed off the life forces of those it had ensnared, reanimating the corpses whenever they were needed to do its bidding. Basically, it was a giant parasite.
Commander Travis had suggested using one of the Galveston’s tac-nukes on the creature, just in case it had the power to re-grow its beam horn again. But that was quickly shot down by the globo-corporations and their R and D departments who wanted to investigate the numerous wrecks of alien vessels which had been brought down in the dead space. They feared that a tac-nuke might damage the alien vessels which were no doubt holding advanced weapon development secrets that could benefit mankind.
For his part, Lieutenant Gabriel couldn’t care less. After they leave orbit and the K-Hawk gets underway for earth, Willow’s World and everything associated with it would be the USS Ranger’s problem. He was just happy that this deployment was finally over and that he would be returning with his entire platoon safe and intact. Oh, and that the two snot nosed VIPs were also safe and sound also, he guessed. They were both tucked away in Commander Travis’s own crew cabin since the corvette didn’t have an executive VIP suite. Groaning, Gabriel looked down at his data pad. He was sitting in the galley, enjoying a moment of alone time with a nice hot mug of coffee. He hadn’t even finished his report on the Mont Caberu mission and now he had to write a report about this one. Pfc. Chensi strolled up and sat across from him, setting down a tray of cereal on the metal table.
“Man, sir, these fleet guys know how to live,” she said, cutting up a fresh banana and strawberries to put in her cereal. “Maybe I joined the wrong branch?”
“You most definitely did not join the wrong branch, killer,” said Gabriel.
“I know,” said Chensi. “Oh, by the way, your eyebrows are growing in nicely, sir. Maybe you won’t look so hideous by the time we get back.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes up at her. “Is there a reason you’re sitting here picking on my eyebrows, Private?”
Chensi scooped a spoonful of fruit laden cereal into her mouth. “Yes, sir! Are you writing your report on our mission on Willow’s World?”
“I could be,” said Gabriel.
“Are you at the part when I dragged those two idiots… I mean, VIPs… up to the top of the wreckage and flamed all them dead things?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Gabriel, “I’m just getting to that part.”
“Great!” said Chensi. “Because I just wanted to make sure that you spelled the word ‘incinerate’ correctly.”
Jennifer Nasri stepped out of the shower, wrapped in one of the thick, soft, luxurious towels which made The Ultra Luxorious Hotel and Casino Complex towels the most stolen towels on the Las Vegas strip. It had been over forty days since they had successfully completed their mission to Willow’s World and three weeks after the USS Kitty Hawk docked at San Diego Orbital Naval Base before she and Samuel could finally start their three week vacation to Vegas. Yes, originally it was two weeks, but Seashell Killary had stunk up the cockpit of Jenn’s gunship again on the way back. Apparently, they only had caviar, sardines, and boiled eggs in that pantry they were trapped in for over a week. So naturally, Sam would have to cough up another week in Vegas. Secretly however, Jenn was hoping that by their third week in Vegas, Sam might get the hint that Jennifer Nasri-Gabriel had a nice ring to it. She walked from the steaming bathroom across to the Ultra Luxorious king sized bed with the thick, comfortable mattress.
Sam was lying in bed, already dressed in a red polo shirt and his favorite well worn faded blue jeans, waiting for Jenn to get out of the shower so that they could partake in what was fast becoming their favorite pastime since returning from over a year out in space: attacking the dinner buffet. Sam had the 74” vid-screen turned on to Galactic News Network. The image on the screen showed Seashell Killary wearing a tight fitting light blue pant suit combination standing together with Hunter Hyding, who was wearing a sharp looking black suit. The couple was on a large stage inside a crowded arena receiving medals, accolades and praise from their party leadership while thousands of people clapped and cheered. Red, white, and blue confetti fell from the rafters as veteran GNN senior reporter Runt Wolftard, the ‘most trusted news anchor in the galaxy’, sat at a desk and gave a glowing story of Seashell Killary and Hunter Hyding’s successful mission to Willow’s World.
“… and after taking a commanding position atop their crashed star cruiser,” Runt continued, “… Hunter Hyding and Seashell Killary rallied the platoon of panic stricken Marines which, ironically, were sent to rescue them. Though the Marines were wracked with fear at the sight of the unnamed danger, Hunter and Seashell used their natural born leadership gifts, undoubtedly passed to them by their parents, and led the Marines on a dangerous mission which successfully averted a tragedy on that planet. And even though the nature of the mission and the nature of the potential tragedy is considered classified,” Runt smiled knowingly into the camera, “some anonymous sources high up in government claimed that the unnamed potential tragedy was caused by none other than President Helania herself! Voters should keep this in mind when the elections roll around. I’m sure that if those thankful Marines were present here today, they would encourage all citizens in the galaxy to vote accordingly since clearly, this was all President Helania’s fault.”
Hunter Hyding was joined by his father on the stage, former Vice President Bunker Hyding and Seashell Killary was joined by her father, Senator William J. Killary as they announced their intention to run as president and vice president to defeat President Helania in the next election by any means necessary.
“Really, Sam?” said Jennifer, removing her towel and using it to dry her hair. “Eight thousand channels on cosmic-cable, one thousand of them porn channels, and this is what you’re watching?”
“It’s on all the channels, Jenn,” shrugged Samuel. “Even the porn ones.” He sighed, as if he had stepped boot deep into a steaming pile of xeno-droppings. “Still though, none of that galactic pomp and circumstance bullshit can compare to the little ceremony we had on the deck of the K-Hawk where we got to promote Sergeant Hernandez to Staff Sergeant and Pfc. Chensi to Lance Corporal. It’s nice, really. Forty-two of us deployed. Forty-two of us returned. Banged up. Probably scared for life. But drunk and happy, just the way we Marines like it.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true,” said Jenn, climbing on the bed and straddling Sam. With an aggravated groan, Jenn grabbed the remote out of Sam’s hand and pointed it at the vid-screen. “Just do me a favor,” she said, pressing the ‘off’ button. “For as long as we’re on earth, turn that GNN shit off!”
Marine Corps Rank Pronunciations
SSgt- Staff Sergeant (read as ‘staff sergeant’)
Sgt- Sergeant (read as ‘sergeant’)
Pvt- Private (read as ‘private’)
Pfc- Private First Class (read as ‘PFC’)
LCpl- Lance Corporal (read as ‘lance corporal’)
Cpl- Corporal (read as ‘corporal’)
1LT- First Lieutenant (read as First Lieutenant or Lieutenant)
4th Platoon, Delta Company
Platoon Leader- 1LT Samuel Gabriel (m)
Medic- LCpl. Chapman (m)
CommSpec- LCpl. Maggas (m)
Sqd- Ldr-SSgt. Boyer (m)
Tm Ldr- Sgt. Barlow (m)
Tm Ldr- Cpl. Hatcher (f)
Automatic Rifle Gunner- Pvt. Houser (m)
Asst. Automatic Rifle Gunner- Pvt. Barner (f)
Sqd. Ldr- SSgt. Talley (f)
Tm Ldr- Cpl. Cotto (m)
Tm Ldr – Cpl. Parker (m)
Sqd. Ldr- Sgt. Hernandez (m)
Flame-Rifle Gunner- Pfc. Chensi (f)
Tm Ldr- Sgt. Watson (f)
Tm Ldr- Cpl. Palkovic (m)
Rifleman- LCpl. Mixley
Warrant Officer Nasri
USS Kitty Hawk- assault carrier
USS Ranger- assault carrier
USS Galveston City- patrol corvette
CSNS Sydney Point- colonizer ship
CSNS New Castle- luxury cruiser
CSNS Mont Caberu- science freighter
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