Tactical Buddha?

Hanging out in the ‘stan, taking a breather.

We saw someone snoopin’ and poopin’ on us from a distance from the rooftop of a mud hut complex and decided to check it out. Once I called it, the rear team swung wide from the left, the front team swung wide from the  right, and the middle moved in straight towards the compound. As we got closer a few mopeds with MAMs took off, and as we cordoned off the area and began our sweeps it looked like a dry hole. As we started talking (via the terp) to the dudes in the mud hut, it became apparent that not all of them lived there; even more concerning is that people that claimed they lived there did not know anyone else. We broke out the metal detectors and found a couple of freshly buried under folder AK47 type rifles and some loaded mags.

It was not a completely successful day, but it disrupted enemy movement is a previously (for the most part) uncontested area.

2011, Kareze Saydi, Afghanistan

approx. 31°32’33.8″N 64°10’37.1″E


One Hell of a View

It’s been a while since I have posted, so naturally I might as well begin with an update. I have been busy with normal things like work, life, love, and all kinds of other things. I “got a new job,” got married, and had a son to name a few of the significant events since last post. I don’t actually plan on keeping this up to date, except for maybe a few things here and there; let’s start with a picture from a long week at work.

We were on an island that is about 300mx500m, depending on the tide, shooting mortars to mark targets as fixed and rotary wing swooped by to shoot. Some of these got pretty interesting, maybe a little too close for comfort. A Huey shooting at the rapid rate in the pitch black night from about 2km away, a C130 flying by at about 100ft ASL and we’re at 50ft, 100*F and what felt like 200% humidity. I have no idea how those brave souls on Gilligan’s Island made it.


Taking a Breather

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there’s some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

-Robert Frost

Saving Private Ryan: Character Types

Mise en scène allows us to characterize an actor into certain categories based on their roles in film. In Saving Private Ryan, there are three characters that can easily be placed into one of these categories, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Barry Pepper. Tom Hanks can be placed into the personality category, this is due to his generally calm and calculated persona with a few moments of personal grief that he manages to overcome. One example of this in Saving Private Ryan is when he makes the ethical decision to attack the Germans at the radar station; after the hastily planned yet successful attack was complete, Tom Hanks has his signature moment of grief in solitude then returns back to the rest of the soldiers.

Next is Matt Damon, he is fresh, innocent in appearance yet turn out to have a more bold bias for action than his looks reveal. An example of this is when he insists on staying and fighting with his new found brothers in arms, rather than heading in a safe direction.

Finally is Barry Pepper, who is an Interpreter, “this involves actors interpreting well-known roles” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014, sec. 5.5). In this film he interprets the role of a sniper, with a good-old-boy personality and large amount of confidence in his shooting abilities.

When it comes to Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, the category of personality remains the same, the story might be different but they each have their own signature way of going about how they insert their personalities into the characters. As said before Tom Hanks has a calm and calculated demeanor, this includes movies such as, Captain Phillips, Cast Away and The Da Vinci Code. In each of these movies, Tom Hanks plays the role of a regular guy whom is put into difficult situations, yet manages to overcome the adversities by displaying patience, intellect an fighting internal conflict with vigilance. For instance in Cast Away, Tom Hanks is stranded on an island and manages to keep track of the day and time using sunlight, tracking the wind patterns and living off the resources of the island he is stranded on.


Spielberg, S. (1998). Saving Private Ryan [Motion Picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures (Original release date 1998)

Tinyraptor. (2013). Saving Private Ryan – Maybe you should SHUT up! Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fByRLOM8WQw

MOVIECLIPS. (2011). Saving Private Ryan (4/7) Movie CLIP – It Doesn’t Make Any Sense (1998) HD. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/u3_3EUKbY00

Buddha28’s channel. (2010). Marksman In Action (Scene From Saving Private Ryan). Retrieved from http://youtu.be/XY61XmDJ-1w

Zemeckis, R. (2000). Cast Away [Motion Picture] United States: DreamWorks Pictures (Original release date 2000)

Saving Private Ryan: The Use of Sound

According to Goodykoontz and Jocobs (2014), there are three basic categories of sounds, dialogue, sounds effects, and music. Dialogue is essentially characters of a film talking, sound effects are real-world sounds used in a movie to draw the audience in, and music can be either actual music playing or a score of musical notes in the background (sec. 8.4).

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, each of these categories are being used to establish a wartime theme. Focusing specifically on Omaha Beach landing scene, there is mostly just dialogue and special effects until right when the initial assault is near completion, at which point music presents itself as we are shown all of the dead bodies. The use of realistic sounds, and using music mostly during transitions, helped to establish a realistic theme and allowed the audience to focus on the overwhelming barrage of sound effects and dialogue that presents itself in during war. Focusing again on the initial beach landing, the use of sound was used to set the mood and leave the audience with a sense of uncertainty. For instance, one moment all you hear is waves breaking on the shore, then it cuts to a landing vehicle full of people, but the only thing you can hear is the roaring engines and water rushing by, but everyone is silent. The silence is broken by people vomiting then the driver announcing they are about to land and Tom Hanks shouting out last second preparations and tips to help everyone make it through; this progression of sounds leads the audience into a sense of nervousness.

These first few minutes of artillery and machinegun fire whizzing by, artillery blowing up, people shouting out orders, and even the metallic ding of someone getting shot in the helmet, this movie might immediately be assumed to fall into the epic film genre.

The effect of using realistic sounds, specifically in regards to special effects and dialogue, varied depending on who the individual viewer was. According to a The Inquirer news article (1998), there were some veterans of the war who had difficult time even viewing the movie and caused “one hell of a tightening in my chest, and I couldn’t breathe and I shed a lot of tears“(McCrary). For others it was merely an immersive film experience.

If one of the elements was removed, such as the sound effects, there would have been little to no reaction to actions of the characters in comparison to with sound effects. Also the dialogue helps to establish character development and the sense of urgency in everything they did.


MovieclipsPROMO. (2011). Saving Private Ryan #1 Movie CLIP – See You On The Beach (1998) HD. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/lCEFOx5Hc2Y

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. This text is a Constellation™ course digital materials (CDM) title

McCrary, L. (1998). Watching `Private Ryan,’ Veterans Relive The Horrors Years From Omaha Beach, Pain Lingers. The Inquirer. Retrieved from http://articles.philly.com/1998-08-06/news/25724660_1_omaha-beach-va-center-nearest-va-facility

American Sniper Review Part 2: Lighting

In the movie American Sniper there are a wide array of lighting techniques used in the film, but this is primarily comprised of low-key and natural lighting. The first thing the viewers will notice, is the majority of the film was produced outdoors. This factor, especially in regards to constant fluctuation in weather, greatly impacted the director and cinematographer’s ability to achieve the desired lighting effect. Some of the elements that had be considered when achieving lighting conditions were wind, clouds, rain, the position of the sun and moon, and also the phase of the moon for example. This technique of using natural light as a primary source helped to achieve an authentic feel of not only shooting and moving in the mean streets of Iraq, but also capture emotional scenes such as Chris Kyle’s wedding and first hunting experience.

An example of when the position of the sun was used to the advantage of the scene, is when the Marines and a SEAL are patrolling down the street. The colors of their uniforms would normally help them blend into a neutral colored background; but since the sun was slightly high on their back, it highlighted the shoulders and head of the SEAL creating a halo effect. This captures the audience’s attention just before the significant event of that scene took place. It also aided in allowing the audience to be surprised by the event by shifting the focus in a rapid, yet nonchalant fashion.

There is also one specific character who is introduced to the plot, moving through the shadows of the city to get to his position. In this scene the use of the low-key lighting, combined with stealth movement, aids in character development; this lighting also foreshadows how we might expect to the scene to develop and how we encounter him later in the movie. Here are some behind the scenes clips from Screen Slam (2014), showing the cinematographer capturing this effect at 0:16 into the Youtube video.

As previously stated, American Sniper uses a wide array of lighting due to its portrayal of not only the battlefield in Iraq, but also a bit of the home life from before and after Chris Kyle’s deployments. In a beginning scene where Chris Kyle first meets his wife, three point lighting is used to cautiously illuminate the bar, allowing the director and cinematographer to highlight facial features of the main characters as they interact. Here are some behind the scenes clips from Screen Slam (2014), starting at 3:19 you can see the use of a white screen to reflect the fill light.

In each of these scenes, if a different type of lighting had been used, the desired effect of authenticity could not have been achieved. For example, if a high-key lighting was used while Chris Kyle was on a rooftop, aiming in at his targets, the cinematographer might not have evoked the desired emotions since this type of lighting is normally used for “comedies, happy scenes, institutional and office scenes” (Goodykoontz, 2014, sec. 6.4). The same also applies for scenes such as the wedding, if a low key lighting had been used, it might have evoked some darker emotions or maybe even lead the audience to believe the marriage itself was part of the an internal or external conflict.


Eastwood C. (2014). American Sniper [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures (Original release date 2014)

Screen Slam (2014). American Sniper: Behind the Scenes Movie Broll 2- Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Sienna Miller. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/38u_E_epexo

Screen Slam (2014). American Sniper: Behind the Scenes Full Movie Broll – Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Sienna Miller. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/vpjsy5KADU8

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing(2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. This text is a Constellation™ course digital materials (CDM) title.

Sorry, Kid. No Biscuite.

One of the common denominators in both Iraq and Afghanistan is was the presence of a kid’s never-ending sweet tooth. Due to the language barrier, pretty much everything was either chocolate or a biscuite, even if it was a Jolly Rancher. This picture here displays some of the frustrations or curiosities of a young adult in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan when we have nothing to share, Lol. Good times.