Tag Archives: Hollywood

80’s Nostalgia Without BS

Hey remember THE EIGHTIES?! Remember Nintendo? Remember 8-bit Mario?! Remember Ghostbusters?! Remember the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?! Well, do you remember? Do you, you consumer son of a bitch? REMEMBER?!  

Seriously though, of course you remember all that. Everybody who lived through that decade remembers those things because they were immensely popular. And yet lately it seems that the entertainment industry has got the idea that things as mainstream as Star Wars and Ghostbusters are examples of “geek culture” that can be used to sell virtually anything. As you might have gathered, I’ve got a bone to pick with the industry.

This all came to a head around the time I heard several reviews for Ready Player One, which seems to be the perfect example of the weaponization of 80’s pop culture. In fact, if you think that film and the novel it’s based on represent a horrible one-off, you’d be wrong. Apparently the author, Ernest Cline wrote another novel, one that’s basically a ripoff of The Last Starfighter, but guess what- it has pop culture references! From the 80’s! I’ve spoken about this topic with friends a couple times in the past few months, but what finally triggered me to write on the subject was a trailer I saw recently for a sequel to the Creed film, part of the Rocky Cinematic Universe that’s apparently a thing now. It ends with a reveal of the antagonist and get this- it’s the son of Ivan Drago! Yes, that Drago, the one who killed Apollo Creed in the ring all those years ago. You remember that, right? REMEMBER, AND SEE OUR FILM!!!

Look, I don’t hate the 80’s- I love nostalgia as much as the next person. I also like a lot of the aesthetic that’s coming back into style. I like synth music. I like uzis. I also get that a lot of this is just plain marketing- my generation is the one with disposable income (or it’s supposed to be, at least). But I feel like this is going to wind up being a big missed opportunity to shine light on things from the 1980’s that aren’t universally recognized. That and I can’t stand this obvious pandering whereby makers of pop culture pretend that we’re in some super-exclusive “geek” club because we both remember Ghostbusters, an insanely popular franchise at the time.

We live in an era that gives people far more access to produce their own media and entertainment content. Hell I’m doing it right now. And while I cannot influence Hollywood, I can at least hope some content creators of my generation see this blog, and perhaps take my plea to heart. If you want to take the route of 80’s nostalgia, do it with passion. Don’t reference the things everybody remembers, reference the things you remember because they were special for you. Sure, many people won’t immediately get it, but the interested will head to Google and Wikipedia and actually learn something. Art is about making an emotional connection with your viewer or reader (at least I read this somewhere), and one way to do that is by sharing a part of your own personality or experience with them. The media that mattered to you personally, even if it faded into obscurity, can perform that function. And I’d argue that this would reach readers on a much deeper level than “Hey! Remember Back to the Future?!

To set the example I’d like to share with the reader some things from my 80’s childhood that I’m nostalgic for- things which didn’t necessarily make it into our era or achieve widespread popularity. If I were going to make a film packed full of 80’s nostalgia or otherwise inspired by it, these are the things I’d reference or draw inspiration from, even if only as a joke.

Bad Dudes

“The president has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?” 

This is all the mission briefing you get after dropping a quarter and pressing start in the arcade game Bad Dudes, also known by it’s full title Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja in case you’re one of those arcade consumers who wants to know exactly who’s fighting whom in any game you might play.

I used to play this game religiously in a bowling alley in Texas when I was about six years old. At that age, on a good day I could get to the boss of the third level. Might have beat him once or twice.

The concept is pretty simple- fight your way through an army of color-coded ninjas who have an extensive division of labor, and defeat a boss at the end of every level until you finally rescue the president, who incidentally is clearly based on Ronald Reagan. If you succeed, president “Ronnie” invites you and your bad best friend for a burger and I assume you get a couple post offices named after you or something.

Most of the time you’re punching and kicking, but you have a couple special moves such as a spinning jump kick and, if you hold down the attack button, your heroes arms burst into flames and you can release a powerful flaming punch because…80’s. Occasionally you can pick up nunchaku or a knife to ease the killing of color-coded ninjas. Whenever you beat a boss, your character raises his hands over his head and proclaims: “I’m bad!” Honestly I felt that was a bit pretentious. I mean being “bad” is something that other people should say about you; you can’t just claim the title for yourself unless you’re Michael Jackson.

Looking back, it’s the plot that sticks out to me most when it comes to this game. See when I was a little kid I dreamed of making video games (that dream really worked out well!). To be honest, most of “my” games were basically just mish-mashes of other games I liked at the time, only done in the way I thought they should be done. Now in those days, a lot of games had a simple plot device- someone’s kidnapped the hero’s girlfriend. Other times you’re trying to avenge some family member’s death, such as your father’s in Ninja Gaiden.  Bad Dudes raised the stakes by having the president getting kidnapped, and that had an impact on my 6-7 year old mental game design. The way I reckoned at the time, a hero could get in serious legal trouble if they engaged in vigilante violence and destruction of public and private property just because their girlfriend got kidnapped. You’re expected to contact the police and file a missing persons report. But, little me reasoned, if the president is the one being kidnapped, then the authorities would probably let you slide for beating ninjas to death on top of a moving cargo truck with a pair of nunchaku. Extreme times demand extreme measures, after all. Based on this child-logic, I made sure that all my “game” plots that took place in our world involved a kidnapped president, so the hero wouldn’t be bogged down with criminal charges and legal fees should he complete his mission.

Looking back as an adult, imagining this plot playing out in real life is even funnier. I hate to bury the lede about the president being kidnapped by ninjas, but the emergency meeting on what to do about it would have to be pretty amazing. I’d imagine you’d have the National Security Council with the heads of all the intelligence agencies, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and everyone in the line of succession.  The army’s recommending Delta Force. The Navy recommends SEAL Team 6. And then there’s this guy, a White House aide, perhaps, who meekly pipes up with his suggestion:

“Guys, I know this is going to sound a bit unconventional, but I know just the people who can handle this situation. They’re the best martial artists in the world. A couple of real bad dudes. I think we should give them a chance.” 

And with that, a legend is born.

For people like me, Bad Dudes is a piece of nostalgia, but for younger people, I think it resonates differently. Whereas once it was considered a nightmare scenario, these days the idea of the president being kidnapped by ninjas is actually a message of hope, and I don’t think anyone, bad or otherwise, would bother to rescue him. If anything the ninjas would be trying to foist him back on us within a few days of holding him in captivity.

Ninja Gaiden 

Ninja Gaiden had a reboot of sorts on the XBox around the mid-2000s, but from what I gather the modern game had little to do with its predecessors. I first became acquainted with Ninja Gaiden in the arcades, where it was a side-scrolling beat-em-up with one of the most notorious continue/game over screens in arcade history, such that it traumatized me any time I saw it.

Soon, through Nintendo Power magazine, I learned that this was also a game on the NES console (I didn’t own one at the time), and while that version is very different from the arcade version, it quickly became clear that it was the better game. In fact, in recent years I’ve seen virtually every incarnation of Ninja Gaiden game from that era and I can state with confidence that the original NES trilogy was in fact the best incarnation in every way.

Ninja Gaiden is an extremely tough game, but more or less fair. I was only able to beat it around 1992, when I finally had an NES console of my own and a friend lent me the game. Your protagonist is Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja who comes to America not to kidnap the president, mind you, but to avenge the death of his father, thus making all his activities in the United States extremely illegal.

Seriously though, what was great about Ninja Gaiden was its plot. For it’s time, this was a sophisticated game in terms of its music, graphics, gameplay, but the real novelty was in its story that was told via cinematic cutscenes (but you can skip them!). For a game of that era it had a pretty decent story that becomes far more fleshed out than just “kill the guy who killed your father.”

Basically your dad was an archaeologist, presumably after leaving the no-longer lucrative field of being a ninja,  and he and his colleague Walter Smith uncovered these ruins in South America along with two statues of a grotesque horror (shades of Call of Cthulhu). After coming to America and killing tons of street thugs and their dogs you learn that the light and dark statues hold the spirit of a world-ending demon and they must never come together. You get where this is going now- an evil cult gets one of the statues and then Ryu is tapped by the CIA, yes, the CIA, to go to the same ruins his father found and get the statue back. And by the end of the game, you’d better believe those two statues come together and you get to fight Mr. Demon himself.

Since I didn’t have an NES at the time and because few of my friends that did had the game, I mostly became acquainted with the game via Nintendo Power magazine, which ran several feature stories about it which typically came with beautiful illustrations and random trivia about ninjas. In other words, crack for seven-year-old boys.

The illustrations are particularly noteworthy because in the days of 8-bit graphics, you really had to use your imagination. Illustrations in gaming magazines or instruction manuals helped give you an idea of what things were supposed to look like. As it just so happens I managed to track down some of those old magazines shortly before I moved to Russia in 2006, and a friend of mine kept them safe all this time. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what it was like in that era:

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In case you’re wondering, yes, that is my actual hand.

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When a magazine intended for children gives tips on ninja weapons.

The sequel, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, came out in 1990 but for all intents and purposes is still an 80’s game. It is arguably the best of the original trilogy and in terms of art the people at Nintendo outdid themselves with a special strategy guide I had when I was about nine. In it, nearly all the game’s cut scenes are beautifully drawn in comic book form throughout the guide. While I did find a copy on eBay, I was not able to locate it among my old library when I was in Phoenix. However, I did some googling and managed to find a blog post someone made about the guide, complete with some shots of the illustrations to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Shinobi

In case you haven’t noticed, we liked ninja shit in the 80’s. Shinobi was a game series started by the then-rising star Sega company and usually encountered in arcades.

The game was ridiculously hard but introduced some really novel concepts. For starters, your character was a ninja, but they did not wear a mask and you could use a gun sometimes. Also, while you would die in one hit, the game had a somewhat more realistic system. Typically you die only if you get hit by an enemy’s weapon. If you just touch the enemy you get knocked back but are otherwise unharmed.

In 1989 a sequel came out which was only released on the debut Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in Europe) home console. Revenge of the Shinobi, as it was titled, changed the formula by giving players a health bar but also limiting the supply of shurikens, the game’s main weapon. Although it deviated wildly from the format of the original, it was a major hit and is remembered not only for its gameplay and graphics but also its music and copyright infringement, as earlier versions often used popular film and comic book characters as bosses in the game.

To give you an idea how good the soundtrack was, many of its songs have been remixed by people today.

One could argue that the third game, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, is the best game in the series, but that came out a little too far into the 90’s for this survey of 80’s culture.

It’s worth noting that there was an arcade sequel called Shadow Dancer which I did not encounter until later, in the early 90’s, at Circus-Circus in Las Vegas. This was more in line with the gameplay of the first arcade game and while a version of it was ported to the Sega Genesis, it was essentially a different game. While the arcade version initially looks better, the Genesis version has a much better soundtrack and is ultimately a better game (though arguably not as good as Revenge of the Shinobi). For comparison:

 

Game Tapes

The explosion of home gaming took place concurrently with the explosion of home video. As anyone familiar with Red Letter Media’s Wheel of the Worst series knows, anything that could possibly be put onto VHS was recorded and shoveled out the door. Anything.

Home gaming was accompanied by strategy guides, typically in the form of magazines like Nintendo Power, shown above. But it didn’t take long for someone to figure out an even better way to show someone how to not suck at video games- game tapes. Now technically I never owned any of these until the early 90’s, but I was aware of them in the 80’s. There was a series from a group called Game Players, and I had the one that featured games by Ultra (actually a division of Konami) such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the ridiculously hard one) and Metal Gear. It also features intro music that may rupture your ear drums (or compel you to do the job yourself with a pencil). On the positive side, it got me interested in playing Metal Gear, but then again that just set me up for disappointment in 2001.

These tapes were pretty lame, but also the only way you could see significant gameplay from a game neither you nor any of your friends had (unless you lived by one of those Nintendo stores).

Another tape I found at a flea market (again, early 90’s so doesn’t quite count) boasted that it featured the “World Video Game Champion” Skip Rogers (so I guess he’s like Captain America if Captain America sucked). The writer Sean Baby already did a hilarious and thorough review of Skip’s work some time ago, but I’ll post part of the video here to give you an idea.

The main difference between the tapes, from what I could see, is that whoever was playing on the Game Players tapes was far more competent than the World Video Game Champion. I’m sorry, Skip, but someone had to say it.

 

Movies

This section is going to be a bit shorter but for a very good reason. In keeping with the theme of this article, I’m naming things that had significance for me personally, and most of the 80’s movies I liked were the big popular films that everyone remembers. Of course some of them I wouldn’t appreciate until later. For example, I first saw part of Aliens on cable when I was maybe five, and naturally it scared the shit out of me. Imagine you’re five and you think you’ve found some kind of futuristic war film, like live-action G.I. Joe. Then you suddenly come face-to-face with H.R. Giger’s living nightmare (it was the scene where the alien kills the dropship pilot- you never forget something like that). So while Aliens is easily one of my favorite all-time films, I can’t pretend like I get nostalgic for it, nor did I ever watch the whole thing in the 1980’s.

It’s really hard to think of a film from the 80’s that I liked but wasn’t insanely popular, and the films that weren’t so popular I either didn’t like or didn’t see until I was much older. But there is one film that is very relevant to this blog. In fact, you might say it altered my entire destiny (still not sure for better or worse). That film is Russkies, from 1987.

To understand it’s influence on me let me provide some context. I was maybe still six or seven and I started to get interested in Russian stuff. See the Cold War was going on and Russians were always appearing, obviously as bad guys, nearly all the time. Of course kids don’t understand politics and at that age, things like ushankas and greatcoats just looked cool. I also liked how everything the Red Army had was like an exotic version of our own military equipment. We had the sleek, modern-looking M16 and they had the unusually-looking, wood-and-metal Kalashnikov that still got the job done. We had the Abrams tank with its angular lines and they had T-72s and T-80s with rounded shapes. Obviously I couldn’t make this comparison at the time, but it seemed like two sides in one of those old real-time strategy games where the difference between the two playable factions is mostly just cosmetic.

Now as you might imagine, being into Russia while living in Cold War-era Texas doesn’t make you the most popular kid, but it’s not like I engaged people in political discussions. I just really loved those ushankas. So one day I’m in this convenience store that has video rentals and I see on the shelves this film, Russkies, with a Soviet submarine on it. It’s basically a family movie so my mom rented it and I proceeded to watch it roughly two dozen times or so until we had to return it.

To understand what kind of film it was, I would call it the anti-Red Dawn. In fact, that other film, which came out three years earlier, is referenced in Russkies by one character. But overall the film is mocking that kind of Cold War paranoia. It features a Russian submariner who falls overboard and washes ashore on Key West. He’s discovered by some local kids, some of whom initially believe he’s a spy and try to catch him. The rest of it is wacky fish-out-of-water hyjinks, standard fare for the time. I think Russkies can be categorized in that genre of Perestroika-era Hollywood films that promote cooperation and understanding between the East and West. This was a time when, for example, G.I. Joe teamed up with the Soviet special forces team October Guard. Unfortunately it also transformed into a genre that could be called “Let’s put aside our differences and gang up on the Arabs,” but that’s another article.

As I write this, I have never seen the film since I watched it back when I was little. I had trouble locating a suitable version online for years. Now it appears the whole thing is on Youtube (always the mark of a great film!), so I plan to watch it again. If it is totally lame, keep in mind I was six or seven the last time I saw it. Whatever the case, this film kindled my interest in Russia, one which would wax and wane until the point where I had to take a foreign language course in high school and Russian was available. That led to my first trip to Russia, which in turn led to me moving there after that. Yes, it has been rough at times, but it’s better that little me was obsessed with something like Russkies and not something like the Death Wish series, which glorifies murdering random people on the street, or Rambo III, which might have led me to idolize waging jihad in Afghanistan.

Music

This section is a total fraud, because I’m just using it as an excuse to post a video of “Africa” by Toto.

But if you’re looking for something a bit more obscure and rooted firmly in that era, I recommend the work of Ian Hammer for the TV show Miami Vice. 

Also, while I can in no way claim this has any nostalgic value for me, I present to you what may be the synthiest song of the whole decade, from the soundtrack of the TV movie Manhunter (this was based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon and is the first appearance of Hannibal Lecter).

 

Conclusion

So there you have it- a slice of my own personal 80’s nostalgia. To be fair, my childhood was split rather evenly into both the 80’s and 90’s, so this is only a fraction of a fraction. I also acknowledge that a film like Russkies is probably too obscure to use as a reference in any other work of art (I’ve literally never encountered anyone who’d heard of the film or saw it), but if I were going to make some kind of art that references the 80’s in some way, those video games are examples of things I would reference. If you get it, great, it’s a bonus for you. If not, no big deal. That was what made things like the original Simpsons great- it appealed to everyone but the references were a bonus for people who were more knowledgeable or who did their homework. Now references have replaced jokes and good writing entirely, and apparently you’re supposed to be entertained simply because you recognize something.

If you’re a creator reading this, break the mold. By all means embrace this 80’s nostalgia trend, but make it your own. Don’t let Hollywood shape your memories. If you remember anything I’ve mentioned in this post fondly, or have some of your own examples to share, by all means tell me in the comments.

Also here’s “Africa” by Toto again in case you missed it.

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Hollywood Colonel Field Manual

Congratulations on your promotion to full colonel! No doubt when you were still a cadet at the academy, you probably imagined that being a colonel would mean taking on much more responsibility, specifically the command of a battalion or possibly regiment. While this is the typical command for many colonels, now that you have achieved the prestigious rank yourself you might want to take the time to consider two lesser-known, more unconventional options for fulfilling your role as a colonel in your nation’s armed forces.

Evil Colonel

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Colonel Ourumov, Soviet Army Goldeneye (1995)

Being a colonel means you are tasked with controlling a sizable military force, yet unlike a general, you are still in good enough physical condition to take part in operations yourself if need be. For this reason, one of the most popular non-traditional command options for a colonel is that of the evil colonel. While the nomenclature might make it seem as though the evil colonel is a one-dimensional figure, there are actually many sub-roles for evil colonels to play. The variety of duties is quite rich indeed.

The most straightforward role for an evil colonel is almost identical to a conventional battalion command, but with some very important differences. Rather than command the soldiers of your battalion in conventional combat against a conventional or non-conventional enemy, you will most often be using your military resources against a single enemy and possibly his attractive female love interest. It is unlikely that you will be required to conduct operations against anything larger than a squad-sized element at most.

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Colonel Strelnikov of the Soviet Army Red Dawn (1984)

Unlike a conventional battalion commander, you will take a far more hands-on approach in conducting operations. You will be right behind your men on the front line as they track down an escaped secret agent, a plucky band of partisans, or a top-tier special forces operative tasked with infiltrating a secret military installation. On that note, it is almost certain that your battalion will be stationed in just such an installation, most likely tasked with the security of a highly advanced weapon system capable of overturning the global balance of power.

Other hands-on aspects of such a command include interrogating intruders or those helping them. This requires skills in both psychology and persuasion. Such a command will not be suitable for someone who is averse to the use of extremely enhanced interrogation techniques. In this respect, it is also important to cultivate a certain image as a cold-blooded, sadistic individual. While a colonel in a conventional command may make the grade by earning a reputation of “running a tight ship,” this will not suffice for an evil colonel. Be prepared to either occasionally execute one of your own subordinates should they fail at a task you assign them, or at least spread rumors that you will.

Lastly, a colonel serving in this conventional evil colonel role must be able to inspire his men with speeches and sap the morale of any intruder with threats and reminiscences that reveal a dark backstory to prove how violent you can actually be against anyone who dares cross your path. Here are some practical examples of speeches you can make:

To your own men: “Men, we have an intruder in our midst. I expect every one of you to perform your duties to the absolute best of your ability, or you shall face the same fate as our little uninvited guest!”

To an intruder you have captured: “I’m impressed you’ve managed to get this far, but it’s time we end this charade, don’t you think? Now you’re going to tell me exactly who sent you and what you’re after, and you’re going to do it quickly while you still have the ability to speak.”

Another variant on the above: “What you do not understand, Mr. Steele, what you can never understand, is that Mother Russia will not simply vanish into the frozen wasteland. A new Russian empire is rising, and you will be present to witness it’s birth…just before your death!” 

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SS-Standartenfuhrer (colonel) Vogel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

 

Another sub-role for the evil colonel is the evil terrorist colonel. This is easily one of the most unconventional specialties in the military sphere. Being an evil terrorist colonel will typically entail either carrying out a terrorist operation in another country, or, in an unexpected twist, against your own country. For this reason, you will typically no longer be on active duty when you become an evil terrorist colonel. You will be officially discharged after a period of training which will be dedicated primarily to backstory forming. This might involve being betrayed by your higher command, or being unjustly discharged for making a command decision that caused too much “collateral damage.” Whatever the case, your men from the battalion still follow your word as they would the word of God, and thus they will still respect the chain of command in order to fulfill the mission you give them.

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ex-US Special Forces colonel Stuart Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Due to the very non-traditional nature of this role, the evil terrorist colonel must work harder to cultivate his image. Fortunately, the colonel who chooses to go the evil terrorist route will find that the restrictions commonly associated with military service are no longer present, in particular those associated with your country’s military justice system. Collateral damage is no longer a consideration- on the contrary it’s often part of the job.

Whereas the more conventional evil colonel is typically tasked with what is more often than not a defensive mission and a static role, the evil terrorist colonel is far more dynamic. In other words, rather than guarding a top secret military installation and the advanced weapons technology therein, you would more likely be tasked with taking over said installation in order to secure said technology and use it to hold the government for ransom.

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Simon Gruber, ex-colonel of an East German special operations team Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

One thing that must be stressed above all is backstory and image. At some point you will be required to justify your actions either to the government you are acting against, or a single, protagonist-like operative who has been sent to impede your operation. The following are some practical examples of backstories you may use for inspiration:

Betrayal motive: “Ten years ago you left me and my men in that valley with no air support, no artillery, no medevac- NOTHING! I watched young, patriotic men in their prime die in agony just so some desk jockey general could get another star and a cowardly, treasonous administration could call it a victory and pat itself on the back while gearing up for an election year. Well, gentlemen, as you’re no doubt aware by now, some of us didn’t die on that mountain. Think of us as ghosts of your dirty past, come to judge you for your crimes. And believe me, gentlemen, if you fail to follow our instructions to the letter, we will unleash the X87 missile on a major city.”

Political motive: “I did what I had to do to save the lives of my men. I did what I had been commissioned to do by this government! If I am guilty of anything it is loving this country too much to bow my head and accept the judgment of cowardly politicians who never faced the business end of an enemy machine gun. My men and I think it’s high time the fatcats in Washington got a taste of the wars they ask us to fight, then condemn us for the way we fight them.”

 Morale-building speech for your henchmen: “Gentlemen! I don’t care what the hypocrites and cowards say about us. You are the finest soldiers I have ever known and I am proud to have served with you on this difficult mission. It has been a hard fight, and some of our own have fallen. But rest assured- now that our little party-crasher is nothing but a charred pile of ashes (pause for cheers), there is nothing left in our way. In eight hours, the device will detonate and we’ll be on our way to a secluded tropical island enjoying our fortunes and new identities.”

Be advised that both conventional and terrorist evil colonels typically run a high risk of being killed in action. Research has shown that due to their proficiency with firearms and more conventional weapons, evil colonels tend to be killed via more unconventional means, typically by the hand of a lone, resilient, likeable protagonist-type enemy who simply will not abandon his assigned mission so long as there is air in his lungs and blood in his veins. While this topic will be covered more thoroughly in training, here are a few tips to give you an idea of the risks you’ll have to look out for.

-Be sure to survey your area of operations for any sharp objects which might impale a person. Remove such objects or install proper guardrails to prevent someone from falling on them.

-Look out for cliffs, windows on high floors, and anything else which might pose a falling hazard. Ensure that any windows are made of strong, preferably bulletproof glass. All catwalks should have guardrails. Have your soldiers repeatedly police their assigned positions for trip hazards like extension cords.

-Keep all flammable materials in a safe, secure location, and do not retreat to this area should the battle turn against you.

-If your enemy is escaping, think twice before getting into a helicopter or other military vehicle in order to hunt him down. Many evil colonels die in vehicle accidents, often caused by an enemy targeting some vulnerable feature of their vehicle.

-Be sure to secure the entire area when you are interrogating a prisoner. When making a long speech about your ultimate plan or your motivation, make sure at least three of your men have eyes on your prisoner. They should be carrying locked and loaded.

-Be sure to kill prisoners personally or at least witness their execution. Do not “leave it” to a henchman or utilize any overly complicated killing mechanisms. Plenty of experience shows that these elaborate schemes are doomed to fail and lead to escape.

-At some point you may find yourself in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy. You will no doubt dominate this fight thanks to your advanced martial arts skills and years of combat experience, but be forewarned- should you knock your assailant off a ledge or through a window, be sure to verify that they have actually been killed. In many cases the enemy might have fallen into a conveniently-placed construction dumpster full of discarded foam mattresses, or a series of awnings might have broken their fall. Never assume in combat!

-Remember! Situational awareness is key!

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Evil Terrorist colonel Igor “Strelkov” Girkin (2014)

 

Wise Mentor Colonel

If evil is not your thing, you might want to try becoming a wise mentor colonel. Just be aware that there is an age requirement. This may be waived on a case-by-case basis depending on appearance, however. Typically gray hair will be sufficient.

Mentor colonels do not actually command troops. Their specialty is motivating highly skilled, veteran operators to carry out the most dangerous missions, in some cases against an evil colonel.

 

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US Special Forces colonel Trautman Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

The operative is the most important aspect of a mentor colonel’s mission. Typically this operative will be someone who served under your command in combat, back when you were a more junior rank with a conventional command. In the heat of battle, you taught him many key lessons, but you also learned a lot from him, because he was by far the best soldier you’d ever commanded in combat. There was only one problem. He was too emotional, too much rage, too much intensity. If he only knew how to channel that energy he’d be unstoppable- exactly the type of person you need for the most dangerous mission. Take a moment to reflect on your military career and ask yourself if you’ve ever worked with a soldier like that. If you have, that’s your operative.

Simply knowing an operative is not enough for the mentor colonel, however. Volumes of military literature attest to the fact that being the best-of-the-best, elite-of-the-elite, eventually leads to something known as “hero burnout.” Afflicted operatives will typically leave the service, sometimes under other than honorable conditions, and then cut themselves off from the rest of society in an attempt to put the horrors of war behind them. As a mentor colonel, you’re first mission after mentally hand-picking an operative will be to go out into the world and track that operative down. Here is a list of possible locations where you might find such an operative.

-Rundown taverns or honky-tonk bars in remote, rural towns are one of the most common gathering places for ex-special operations veterans trying to drown the nightmares with drink. The more remote, the more likely you are to find a top-tier special operative.

-Remote cabins in nearly inaccessible wilderness areas. Top-tier special operatives with emotional baggage from their last and final operation often want to cut off contact from the world as much as possible. As such, they may purchase a small cabin somewhere in a depths of a vast forest, perhaps in the Yukon territory. You will most likely find them outside, chopping wood. Be prepared to deal with wolves or other potentially dangerous wildlife.

-Religious institutions. The kind of special operative you need is most likely struggling with an army of personal demons associated with his past actions in combat. As such, it is only natural for them to seek out the solitude of religious sanctuaries such as Buddhist temples, Catholic monasteries, Sufi tekkes, or on rare occasions, Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

-Prison. Veterans with so much combat experience often find it difficult to adjust to civilian life. As such, they might find themselves in trouble with the law. One possibility is that they were defending some young woman from a group of rape-hungry assailants, and in the process they lost control and used one of their deadly secret martial arts techniques on one or more of the attackers. Civilian courts and jurors rarely appreciate the mental state of such veterans and thus might be inclined to pass a guilty verdict. Alternatively, your operative might be found within a military prison, either wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, or for disobeying what was in reality an illegal order, but it was his word against an officer’s. One advantage of finding your operative in prison is that you can easily use a full pardon as an incentive to join your mission.

-Any venue that involves underground fighting for money is likely to attract men whose bare hands are lethal weapons and who have no skills outside of killing. If the audience at such a venue consists almost entirely of chain-smoking Chinese men furiously waving betting slips, chances are you’ve found your man.

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Top-tier special operations operatives typically acquire PTSD from their many dangerous missions over the years. As such, they may seek an escape from the violence, such as underground old-school Thai boxing. Rambo III (1988)

Once a mentor colonel has found his operative, his work is by no means done. Now begins the hard part. The colonel must convince the operative to return to duty so as to take on one last mission that no other operative or military asset could possibly accomplish.

The first step is positively identifying your operative. Oftentimes they will be sitting alone at a bar stool, hunched over a shot of whiskey or a beer. They will most likely be intoxicated and they are unlikely to make eye contact even if you sit down next to them. As such, the typical method for addressing them is to stand behind them and deliver your introductory speech to their back, as in the following example:

“Sergeant First Class Steele, Joseph. Top of your class US Army airborne school, sniper school, Ranger school. Combat missions with the 75th Ranger regiment, then you transferred to US Special Forces and then on to Delta. Combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, North Korea… Wounded in action six times, three silver stars. They would have given you the Medal of Honor if that particular mission weren’t classified. You’re the best of the best. The finest soldier I’ve ever commanded. And that’s exactly what our country needs right now!”

At this point you’re likely to start encountering objections from the operative. It is here that the wise mentor colonel must use all of his wits in order to convince the operative to return to duty and complete the mission. Here is a list of common operative objections and possible responses to them:

Objection: “(Name) doesn’t exist anymore. He’s dead.”

Response: “The (Name of operative) I knew wouldn’t talk that way. He was a survivor.”

Objection: “I’m out of the game.”

Response: “Defending our country isn’t some game you can just quit when the going gets tough! We need you back!”

Objection: “Why me? What’s so special about me? I’m just a washed-up dead-ender trying to die in peace!”

Response: “No you’re NOT! You’re the finest fighting machine this country has ever trained. You don’t belong here, crying into your beer. You belong with your old unit- what’s left of it at least!” 

Objection: “I’ve had enough killing. I’m through with violence. I want to live my life in peace.”

Response: “Don’t we all? But while you’ve had enough of war, the terrorists haven’t. And nobody’s going to live in peace if they’re allowed to carry out their latest plan!”

Objection: “I was good, but I got careless. I got people killed.”

Response: “You can’t keep living in the past!” 

Objection: “Twenty civilians died because of me!” 

Response: “You can’t keep living in the past!” 

Objection: “You say I was your best soldier,  but would you be saying that if you knew about that time I robbed your house and pawned your wife’s antique jewelry so I could pay back that payday loan?”

Response: “You can’t keep…Wait…What?”

Occasionally you will have to use stronger tactics of persuasion. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Inform the operative that someone close to them has been captured by the enemy you want them to fight. If you plan on going this route, be sure to do your homework ahead of time.

-Get yourself captured and have a subordinate inform the operative that you have gone missing in action. Hopefully the strong bond you formed earlier in the service will motivate the operative to come rescue you.

-You could try accepting the operative’s refusal and leaving. Inevitably someone close to the operative will be killed by the enemy either directly or indirectly, and this will force them to commit to the mission.

Once you have recruited the operative and properly briefed him, you will have to provide them with guidance during the mission. Radio is the best way of accomplishing this.

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Colonel Roy Campbell provides guidance for operative Solid Snake Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Be sure to give the operative an extra briefing once they arrive in the area of operations. They haven’t been in the game a while so they may be slightly forgetful from all the binge drinking, underground Burmese boxing, or Siberian bear wrestling.

It is important that you monitor the radio at all times and be prepared to offer helpful hints on anything the operative might encounter. If you suddenly lose contact with the operative, be sure to loudly shout the operative’s name into the radio repeatedly in order to reestablish contact and determine the cause of the communications breakdown.

Be advised that it is often necessary to leave out some crucial information about the mission or the enemy leader in your initial briefing. The best time to reveal such information is roughly two thirds into the mission, typically at a point where your operative is experiencing heavy opposition and is wounded or nearly dead. As a rule, your operative is unlikely to react positively to this news, but it is mission essential information that they must have, at least at this point. Armed with this extra intel, your operative will inevitably work out the best solution with which to confront the enemy and neutralize them.

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For the wise mentor colonel, pre-combat inspections are unnecessary. Here colonel Campbell tells Snake how his equipment works in the field. Metal Gear 2 Solid Snake (1990)

Generally, being a wise mentor colonel is oftentimes much safer than being an evil colonel, as you will have the highly-trained veteran operative on your side rather than the other way around. Still, there are risks you should be aware of. One obvious risk is enemy action in those cases where you must become captured in order to motivate your operative to undertake the mission. However, there are cases when a wise mentor colonel may be required to sacrifice his own life for the sake of the mission. In this case you will most likely die a painful, slow death, slow enough for the devastated operative to cradle you in his arms, tell you it’s nothing and that you’re going to make it, and generally lose all hope. If you should find yourself in this situation, realize that you must give the operative the mission essential information, whatever it may be, at this time!

Do you have the secret override code to abort the launch? Tell it. Do you know a hidden vulnerability on the enemy super weapon? Tell him what it is and what sort of weapon to use. Are you the operative’s estranged father? You have to tell him now. Not only will you have provided your operative with crucial information, but he will now be imbued with rage and a thirst for vengeance. He will accomplish the mission.

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Your armed forces are proud to have you serving as a senior commissioned officer. Now that you know the full potential your rank affords, go out and make the most of it, colonel!