Ten Theses Against the Manfred Rule

All three of the Twins’ losses this season have come in extra innings played under the Manfred rule — a runner is magically placed on second to start every extra half-inning. With that disgruntlement in mind, here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons the Manfred rule is arbitrary, illogical, and poorly implemented:

  1. MLB uses the rule in regular season games, but won’t in the postseason. Why? This seems like a tacit acknowledgment that it’s arbitrary and is primarily intended to artificially shorten games, rather than determine which team won under the actual rules of baseball.
  2. Theoretically, a pitcher could lose a perfect game under this rule while recording an out against the first batter of the bottom of the inning: the magical runner could advance to third on a passed ball and score on a caught foul fly ball. This is illogical and would be even worse than what happened to poor Harvey Haddix.
  3. The batter who made (or hit into) the last out of the previous inning can score the winning run of the next without a plate appearance in that inning. This is illogical and violates the basic principles of the game.
  4. When played under the Manfred rule, why should an extra-innings loss be weighted in the standings the same as a loss in a regulation game? Wins and losses in April or September count the same in the standings at the end of the season, but there’s no Bettman/loser points system like the NHL has to level out extra-inning losses decided by the Manfred rule. It’s just a straight L in the standings and against a club’s winning percentage.
  5. If the goal is to make extras more exciting” (I find this premise ridiculous, but okay), why do all innings start with a magical runner on second, instead of progressively ratcheting up the tension? Wouldn’t it be more exciting to start the tenth with nobody on, then a magical runner on first in the 11th, a magical runner on second in the 12th, and a magical runner on third in the 13th and thereafter?
  6. The Manfred rule messes with win probability & leverage statistics. Managers can, to a large degree, distribute their high-leverage innings to their best relievers within a regulation game. Under the Manfred rule, every extra inning becomes a high-leverage inning by default, and relievers deployed in them are penalized for situations that are completely artificial within the context of the regulation game’s rules. MLB decided the winning run would be unearned to insulate ERA, which is a pretty worthless gesture, but you can’t do that with leverage stats.
  7. The Manfred rule has differential disadvantages for both the home team and visiting teams. This is plainly illustrated using Win Expectancy for the 9th inning, which is effectively the same as any extra inning. The home team’s Win Expectancy is .328 when an opposing (or magical!) runner is on second with no outs in the top of the inning, compared to an even .500 with no runners on and no outs. If that magical runner scores and puts the visitors up a run, the home team’s Win Expectancy drops from .634 in the bottom of the inning (under the traditional rules, with no runners on and no outs) to just .437 with a (magical!) runner on second and no outs. However, the home team is gifted a significant unearned leverage advantage if the visiting team doesn’t score, far exceeding what it would have in any previous bottom of an extra inning: .807 Win Expectancy with the Manfred rule’s magical runner on second and no outs, compared to a .634 Win Expectancy with no runners on and no outs.
  8. If MLB really must be arbitrary, why not give the batting team the choice of starting with no runners and no outs, or a runner on second (the last batter of the previous inning) with one out?
  9. Continuing with the arbitrary rules, if the runner must be mandatory, why not let the fielding team select the hitting team’s runner at the beginning of each half-inning? Restrictions on not choosing the same player more than once could be reasonable.
  10. Any rule that rewards more bunting is a bad rule.
baseball Minnesota Twins

Ideals & Symbols, Historical & Temporal Empathy

Last night, here in Madison, two statues outside the State Capitol were toppled by demonstrators. One was of Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant who became an abolitionist, prison reformer, and volunteer colonel in the Union army before he was morally wounded at Chickamauga. The other was a replica of Forward”, a statue created to symbolize progress. The statue of Colonel Heg was beheaded, dragged a half-mile through city streets, and dumped in Lake Monona.

Doubtless Heg — as with just about any historical figure — had views we would not agree with today, even if they didn’t survive for us to examine in the historical record. Humans are not perfect, so we can freely assume some level of imperfection.

Secular saints can disappoint us when mores shift late in life or after their deaths, so choosing to create & promote them is fraught with potential for frustration and embarrassment. Yet we create them, and fight over them, adore them, and genuflect at their memory. Gradually, secular saints lose their humanity, as they become deprived of the annoyances, dalliances, failings, misgivings, and nearsightedness that made them humans.

Without the right approach to historical education, they can also lose their temporal binding in their transition to historic figures. If we judge a person of the past purely by our contemporary standards instead of how well they lived up to or exceeded the best, most enlightened conduct & thought of their day, then we deserve the same puritanical lack of empathy from our descendants.

Forward” is a statue symbolizing an ideal — one which our state has not consistently or universally embraced. If its continued presence is repugnant in light of the state’s past, present, and future, then I can understand the desire to remove it. Trappings of self-congratulatory, cuncatory, and non-universal advancement support delusions of continued progressive virtue. When progress has been made in Wisconsin, as with suffrage, it was incomplete and deliberately exclusive. A statue should not enable us to pretend otherwise, to lure us into complacency of mind and heart, secure in the belief we achieved in the past all that we are called to do with our short time on this Earth.

Hans Heg was an actual human who seems to have rendered great service to the most pressing cause of his era. He didn’t merely rally support with his words, though he used his words effectively to rally others to the cause. Heg sheltered an abolitionist-turned-federal fugitive after that man helped foment a Milwaukee jailbreak that freed a fugitive slave named James Glover, who subsequently escaped into Canada via Lake Michigan. Heg was part of the Wide Awakes, a militia that thwarted slave-catchers. Heg volunteered to fight for the Union’s cause, and he he died the day after he was gut-shot while leading a charge at Chickamauga.

Hans Heg was an exemplary human because he transcended the moral standard of his time. That his life — which ended nearly 157 years ago — may not transcend the standards of our own time is to miss the point. Heg understood his responsibility to act decisively, and he followed the path of righteousness to an early, agonizing death. Hans Heg’s commitment should endure as an example for the people of Wisconsin, one that demands we face up to the responsibilities of our own moment.

Hans Heg was not an ideal or an abstraction of virtue. He lived. He was mortally wounded leading a charge for good.

That seems worthy of a statue — a reminder on our landscape to keep making progress in our own time. To keep moving — forward.

America society Wisconsin

Against All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

I cannot underscore with a heavy enough pen how significant it is that James Mattis has broken his silence about Donald Trump. Mattis is one of the most respected people in the military establishment, and for him to write a public rebuke of a sitting president that compares him with the Nazis is, quite frankly, both a massive relief and deeply unsettling:

Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

Mattis’ letter comes a day after Admiral Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under presidents Bush (W) & Obama, wrote his own open letter:

I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.

It also comes a day after former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller wrote a resignation letter published in the Washington Post to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, resigning from the Defense Science Board:

When I joined the Board in early 2014, after leaving government service as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, I again swore an oath of office, one familiar to you, that includes the commitment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States … and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

You recited that same oath on July 23, 2019, when you were sworn in as Secretary of Defense. On Monday, June 1, 2020, I believe that you violated that oath. Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets — not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op. You then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church for that photo.

President Trump’s actions Monday night violated his oath to take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as well as the First Amendment right of the people peaceably to assemble.” You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it.

Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty, as Secretary of the Army, and now as Secretary of Defense. You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must now ask: If last night’s blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?


You have made life-and-death decisions in combat overseas; soon you may be asked to make life-and-death decisions about using the military on American streets and against Americans. Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?

Saying the Quiet Part Loud & Clear

Despite his letter’s brevity, Mattis cites the Federalist Papers, the inscription atop the Supreme Court, Lincoln’s first inaugural address, and the United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office. Mattis quoted part of the oath directly — support and defend the Constitution [of the United States]” — and, implicitly, referenced what follows1: against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Update: Gen. Mark A. Milley, the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a message to all members of every branch of the military today. His handwritten note at the bottom is another invocation of the oath:

We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — we will stay true to that oath and the American people. [emphasis mine]

  1. I believe James Miller signaled this same phrase with the eclipses in his own letter.↩︎

America James Mattis civil-military relations military politics 45

Complicit & Constipated

The killing of George Floyd, the community’s peaceful demonstrations in protest, & the polarizing public disobedience that has emerged in a response to sickening police provocation and the complicit, constipated approach of the Hennepin County prosecutor have hit me hard, Given my professed love of the state I still consider home, to be silent now is to join with Minneapolis police and the apparatuses of power that support them.

So I wrote in an email to friends last week. Folks who have known me for any length of time know that Minnesota is a central part of my identity, even as I near the end of a second decade of expat status. For reasons related to my own personal connections & cultural interests, Minneapolis is the center of Minnesota.1

My feeling about the complicity of the Hennepin County prosecutor stems from a belief that the endemic poor training & low standards for police (not just in Minneapolis, but across the country) are not simply ignored in the dominant public discourse, but actually invisible to the drivers of that discourse — most of whom are white & middle- or upper-class. Poor training & low standards have been the status quo for decades, of course, but the collective pass police received after 9/11 exacerbated things exponentially. Police & their political allies have not simply continued to leverage tough on crime” rhetoric & policy as a cudgel against elected officials & politicians on the left; they have co-opted the Support the Troops” genuflection for first responders” & local-level operators in counter-terrorism efforts. The Thin Blue Line” flag is perhaps the most odious symbol of this attitude. It’s essentially a gang sign — the colors of a gang with unchecked access to the state’s authority.

This is not to deny that police have a difficult, often thankless job. Even when it’s as minor as a traffic or parking ticket, nobody relishes an interaction with a cop acting in the line of duty, for reasons that can have nothing to do with the particular officer responding. But these difficult, thankless jobs require higher standards of conduct. I can’t claim to be the first person to make the observation, but contemporary policing in America has adopted all the worst aspects of military culture, plus the military’s equipment & tactics, with very little of the collective accountability stressed in the modern American military.2

When the 1st Marine Division was led by James Mattis3, he conveyed a number of expectations to us. Some of them are notorious quotations that place him in a line descended from an earlier, less circumspect generation of general officers.4 Just before the 2003 invasion, Mattis wrote to the Division, Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” Mattis knew that any success by 1st Marines was predicated on the legitimacy of the occupation with the civilian population. When I was in Iraq under Mattis in 2004, any individual Marine’s use of lethal force, even to preserve life, had to be cleared by a sergeant or above unless we were already taking fire. The same principle applies, though our leaders & the police lobby have refused to acknowledge that domestic policing is not a war against insurgency. This CIA counter-terrorism operative turned Georgia cop gets it:

People need to imagine the end of a war. That’s what they need to accept. Our training is spot on: We’re in a war on crime, and it’s us versus them, and our neighbors are sheep we need to protect. You hear the term civilians. I thought we were all civilians! Our training fits the mindset.

The question we need to ask is: What’s the point? What do we want to see happen? It’s about what we expect the police to do. If I was commissioner of all police on the planet, I’d say there’s a ceasefire in the war on crime. We’re going to work for the 99 percent of people instead of against the 1 percent. Most 911 calls I go to are not crimes. They may become crimes, but our job is to stop it. We’re taught that it’s a war. It’s not. But it’s becoming a war.

We are the action arm for a fucked-up national mindset. This doesn’t exist in isolation. America has the police force that it votes for, that it funds. This system is what we set up. We spent a lot of money and a lot of time over hundreds of years to have this police force. We are trained for what we’re hired for, and what we’re hired for is war.

Back to complicity & constipation. Complicity already exists — it is perpetuated every time a city council, manager, or mayor authorizes the purchase of military weapons — MRAPs or other war wagons, AR-15s, concussion grenades, and other instruments of war — for police use. It is reinforced every time anybody votes for officials who authorize these purchases, who endorse military tactics used by domestic police, or who otherwise carry water for the Thin Blue Line.” This complicity doesn’t have to continue, but the forces that seek to compel it will be difficult to resist, even after Minneapolis.

In my thinking, constipation is a symptom of complicity. Yes, Derek Chauvin was fired quickly. But that constipation is why Derek Chauvin remained free, despite evidence so compelling that any person without a badge would have already been arrested — even if specific charges were pending. That constipated complicity emboldened Minneapolis police, who belligerently attacked demonstrators, provoking polarizing civil disobedience by mid-week, which led to further police provocation, civic unrest, police attacks on journalists and medics, and the entrance of rogue anarchists & fascist saboteurs behind the human shield of righteous protesters. An acquittal of Derek Chauvin would be disastrous, so prosecutors do need to make the best-informed charges they can in this murder case. Ultimately, the Hennepin County prosecutor filed charges of third-degree murder & second-degree manslaughter against Chauvin on 29 May. But an earlier arrest did not hamper that effort, particularly as reports seeped out that Chauvin & his fellow ex-cops were not cooperating with the investigation.

Here is how & why I tie the constipation & complicity threads together:

  • Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd while on duty as an agent of the government, authorized to use deadly force without clearance from any higher authority.
  • Chauvin murdered George Floyd while he was face down and restrained by two other officers.
  • Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, while he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
  • Chauvin murdered George Floyd while a fellow officer, Tou Thao, kept bystanders — including an off-duty EMT — from intervening.
  • Chauvin murdered George Floyd while he was being recorded by a bystander’s cell phone.
  • That snuff film became unignorable evidence, not just of yet another police murder of a Black man, but of the state’s ongoing violation of its social contract with the people.
  • The Hennepin County prosecutor abetted Chauvin’s violation of that contract by not ordering his arrest; whether or not the prosecutor wanted to get the ultimate charges in line first, there is strong reason for the public to believe Chauvin received treatment any other person would not simply because he was an agent of the government.
  • The violation of that social contract should call in to question the state’s legitimacy in the eyes of anyone who watches George Floyd die.

My thinking here is not novel. In a recent piece for The New Republic, its features editor Ryu Spaeth wrote:

The spasms of violence we saw in Minnesota and elsewhere, this collective scream of rage, is what happens when the social contract between citizens and their government is so thoroughly, irredeemably broken.

A couple days before that, Konstantine Anthony, a candidate for Burbank City Council, tweeted:

Riots prove that police do not keep order, only the social contract does. When the state violates that contract against the public, then the public no longer holds that contract valid with government or the capital it favors.

Nobody enjoys a riot, which is exactly the point.

Anthony’s tweet helped me formulate a reply to people who are put off by the civic unrest that has swept from Minneapolis across the country (including my own community). I expect I will need to make this reply to members of my own family.

Trevor Noah’s video,George Floyd and the Dominoes of Racial Justice,”  was, however, the most powerful discourse on the brokenness of the social contract, and the necessary accountability of those vested in the state’s authority. Watch it.

The American social contract has been broken for centuries. That white America is only just now reckoning with this reality as it is finally & thoroughly rubbed in its face does not change reality’s historical factuality, or the grave national peril this reality has exposed in this moment. Riots are the symptoms of a cancer white America has too long ignored. If one wishes to take issue with these symptoms, one must not just admit to the existence of a disease causing them, but loathe and commit to treating that disease.

For any of us to do anything else is to remain constipated & complicit.

  1. As I mentioned here, Cup Foods, the market where a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, was four blocks from my last Minneapolis address. I went into Cup regularly for cigarettes, drinks, & Middle Eastern snacks. I have relatives in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities metro, and out-state Minnesota.↩︎

  2. I don’t mean to suggest the military is a perfect institution — this would be a lie — but it is doing much better than the police, who purport to follow the military’s model.↩︎

  3. Mattis was then a major general in the Marine Corps. He was forced into retirement after clashing with the Obama administration during his tenure as CENTCOM commander. He later became the first Secretary of Defense in the current administration, which is now on its fifth secretary (two of them confirmed and three acting). Mattis resigned in protest, rebuking the foreign policy positions held by the current occupant of the White House.↩︎

  4. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something like Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” uttered in some police squad rooms of major American cities. But, this was a general’s directive to his Marines about to perform occupation duty in a hostile foreign country.↩︎

America civil-society Minnesota police race & ethnic relations society

Capture (N)One: How Not to Sell & Support Software

In late October 2019 I began exploring switching from Iridient Developer to Capture One 12. I downloaded a trial version of Capture One 12 Express for Fuji (I shoot with an XT-1) and discovered that I really liked the software. Capture One is modern yet intuitive, full-featured, and has a history of consistent, reliable updates. The developer is a well-established company dedicated to digital photography, not some massive multi-national software company with dozens of software products.

On November 28th I received a marketing email from Capture One for Black Friday/Cyber Monday that offered a discount on Capture One 20 pre-orders. Based on my positive experience with the Capture One 12 trial, I decided to go jump at that and make my change to Capture One official.

On December 4th, Capture One 20 was released.

On December 8th I tried to apply the license key I purchased in the pre-order and download my copy of Capture One 20. The software download page asked for my Capture One 12 license. Since I was on a trial version, the license for it was rejected. I submitted a support request.

On December 10th my request was acknowledged with an email that said Capture One was aware of pre-order issues and was receiving a high volume of support requests at this moment in time.”

On December 19th I got a form reply to my support request that claimed all issues with pre-orders were (hopefully) resolved. That email then provided directions to download Capture One 20 via the pre-order license key. My support request ticket was closed while I was traveling for the holidays.

On January 6th I tried to follow the steps outlined in the December 19th form response to my December 8th support request. I still couldn’t download the software, so I submitted a second support request. As I continued troubleshooting while I waited for a response, I discovered (on my own) that it’s not possible to use my pre-order purchase if I didn’t own a copy of Capture One 12 already. Nothing in the November 28th marketing email said this, nor was I asked to validate my pre-order against my existing Capture One 12 license. Capture One has even admitted purchasing CO 20 without a CO 12 license was possible. Rather than honoring the purchase they permitted in their error, Capture One has decided to offer one free year of Capture One 20’s subscription version as a substitute. Take it or leave it. (They will issue a refund.)

On January 9th I received a form reply to my support request that reaffirmed what was stated in the FAQ, and providing the same links as the FAQ to download the subscription version of Capture One 20. Unfortunately (for me), when I tried to download Capture On 20 as outlined in their FAQ and support request response, Capture One’s store still would’t accept my pre-order license key, despite that key being the coupon/voucher for the subscription version. This was dispiriting.

On January 10th I replied to the support request response asking — a second time! — for a license key that will work. I even included a screenshot of the store rejecting the code as invalid” in my email:

While it was not clear during the purchase process for the pre-order that a pre-existing Capture One 12 license was required to be eligible, I suspect I have no recourse and must accept the free first year for the annual subscription plan. I’m not happy about that, but so be it.

Unfortunately, when I try to enter my pre-order license key” in the Coupon Code field for the Capture One Fujifilm - Annual Subscription, Prepaid version, the FastSpring store rejects it, with the error The promotional code you entered does not exist.” I have attached a screen shot for reference.

Can I have my license key regenerated or a new one assigned so I can redeem my pre-order purchase?

On January 16th I replied to Capture One’s January 9th email a second time, noting four business days had passed without a response to my January 10th email, trying to ensure my second pre-order support request was not closed.

On January 21st Capture One’s support agent replied Hi there, Sorry for such a delay! …” and then went on to merely repeat the January 9th email that directed me to use the pre-order license key as the coupon for the subscription version of Capture One 20. The support agent did not acknowledge that I was trying to obtain a valid license key in order to complete the steps outlined in that email, nor address the screenshot which illustrated the key I received with my pre-order is somehow invalid.

On January 22nd I replied:

Unfortunately, when I try to enter my pre-order license key” in the Coupon Code field for the Capture One Fujifilm - Annual Subscription, Prepaid version, the FastSpring store rejects it, with the error The promotional code you entered does not exist.” I have attached a screen shot for reference.

Can I have my license key regenerated or a new one assigned so I can redeem my pre-order purchase?

I again included the screenshot of the invalid/rejected key.

We’ll see how long Capture One takes to respond this time, and whether that response brings me any closer to being able to use the awesome software I purchased in late November.

photography software

Nu Mă Iei

Gary Brolsma released his Numa Numa Dance” video on Newgrounds.com fifteen years ago today. I didn’t see it for the first time until midway through 2005, when my buddy Martin1 played it for me after he got back from Iraq with the rest of our battalion. While Brolsma’s video created (and remains) one of the great viral web moments, I suspect my reaction wasn’t a common one among American viewers. You see, my reaction wasn’t amusement, but a flood of viscerally-felt memory: Holy shit, I know that song!”

Brolsma’s video revolves around him lip-synching & dancing to Dragostea Din Tei, a song by the Moldovan pop group O-Zone. The song was released in August 2003, and reached mega-hit status on the European charts in the summer of 2004. While no chart existed to record its effect, Dragostea Din Tei was a massive hit with a platoon of Marines in western Iraq that summer, too.

I was attached to Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines suddenly in late January 2004. Echo had just received a deployment order for Iraq, and personnel were needed to augment key support roles for the battery. I was one of the folks from 2/11 chosen to go with Echo. The rest of the battalion was to remain behind, then deploy later in the year.

Without a parent unit like 2/11 to look out for Echo, the battery was at the mercy of operational decisions made by regiments we were ostensibly there to support with artillery fire. Echo logged a bunch of miles running missions for regiments that seemed at times arbitrary, capricious, or undesirable. Without our battalion CO there, we were bounced from doing counter-battery fire at Camp MEK in Fallujah, to counter-battery at Al Asad, to guarding Haditha Dam as a provisional rifle company, to participating in Operation Vigilant Resolve. And, finally, Echo wound up amputated into four parts that were scattered across western Iraq — a platoon shooting counter-battery missions at Al-Mahmudiyah, a command/control group at FOB Korean Village, and two platoons supervising border security, one on the Syrian border at al-Walid, the other on the Jordanian border at Trebil.

Eventually, I moved from Korean Village out to Trebil, where the platoon lived in a small group of buildings that once were part of the Saddam government’s border complex. Up on the roof of the building we used as a squad bay, next to the metal tank that held sun-warmed water for our weekly gravity-fed Navy showers, was a dish for satellite TV, erected by some unknown predecessor.

That dish brought in a grab-bag of channels, including a European music video channel that delivered the top hits of the Marines at FOB Trebil — Beyoncé’s Naughty Girl” and O-Zone’s Dragostea Din Tei.” The TV was in a lounge that was effectively the hub for guys coming & going — on or off a post, a working party, a vehicle control point, or a patrol — and the TV was always on. Any time either of those videos came on, anybody within earshot would flock to watch it.

None of us spoke Romanian, so we had no idea what the lyrics were saying. There was no obvious reason the music video would appeal to us. Except: just like the Beyoncé video that was our platoon’s unquestioned favorite, it was escapist. A cargo plane with props that turn into subwoofers as it whisks you off to someplace more fun — who doesn’t want one of those? Fifteen years later, I can still see sweaty Marines, so filthy we’d stopped being able to smell ourselves, linked with arms put around one another’s shoulders, dancing in a line in that lounge, just like the O-Zone guys did on the wing of their plane. I don’t know where we went mentally when that video came on, but we weren’t in Iraq anymore. When it came on, we always started smiling.

When Martin played Numa Numa Dance” for me that first time, I knew where I was. I was back in the lounge of our improvised squad bay on FOB Trebil, petty differences and fraternal squabbles washed aside in a blast of Romanian pop. The song’s power to transport survived the trip back to the States.

A week ago my wife & I had an impromptu dance party in the hallway to Dragostea Din Tei.” I don’t remember why. Instead of dancing like the O-Zone guys, we taught her the Brolsma dance. We were laughing & smiling.

Watching _Dragostea Din Tei_” & Numa Numa Dance” again today, I’m still smiling.

  1. Martin also introduced me to a host of other memes & viral properties of that era, including Daler Mehndi’s Tunak Tunak Tun,” Salad Fingers, The End of the World,” The Kitty Cat Dance,” the GI Joe PSA parodies, & Viking Kittens.↩︎

Iraq Marines music