Archive for » 2010 «

The Barber of Siberia (1998) – Tsar Alexander III and cadets

The impressive martial pomp and ceremony of late 19th century Imperial Russia, as imagined by modern filmmakers.  (Via the Tiger on Politics.)

As Mikhalov likes to say about Barber of Siberia, in a phrase that reveals the extent to which his film about the heroic past is intended as a blueprint for the troubled present, “It is not about what was, but about what ought to be.”

— Larsen, Susan. National Identity, Cultural Authority, and the Post-Soviet Blockbuster: Nikita Mikhalov and Aleksei Balabanov. Slavic Review, Vol. 62, No. 3, (Autumn 2003), p. 493.

Category: Ars Gratia Artis  Tags: ,  Comments off

Strike Eagle training mission

Flares are released from an F-15E Strike Eagle during a local training mission Dec. 17, 2010, over North Carolina. The F-15E is from the 335th Fighter Squadron from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

See the entire 6-image photo essay at

Category: Aeronautics, National Defence  Tags: ,  Comments off

Lawyering takes the fun out of everything

According to the Toronto Star, a 12-year-old girl has apparently been badgered off her otherwise all-male hockey team due to the machinations of another player’s dad:

For 12-year-old Kayla Watkins, the public humiliation was too much.

After learning a parent on her coed peewee hockey team — comprised entirely of boys except for her — called for restrictions on her ice time or her removal from the team unless her skills improved, she did the only thing she thought she could: She quit.

“I felt that if I went back all the parents would have been watching every move I made and always staring at me,” said the outgoing preteen, who has been playing the game since the age of four.

“To play hockey you shouldn’t have to go through what I went through. I was just looking to have friendship and play the game I love.”

— Cribb, Robert. “Controversy pushes girl off coed hockey team.” Toronto Star, 22 December 2010.

Welcome to the world of overly competitive, perspective-impaired parents, Kayla.

The father in question—lawyer George J. Atis—offers up an explanation at his own website.

At the risk of being overly simplistic (because that is, after all, what blogs and the internet commentariat do best), I have read between the lines and posit this scenario:

Kayla’s mom is apparently the team manager. Lawyer dad has personality conflict with Kayla’s mom/team manager, drafts his own team meeting agenda to highlight mom’s ineptitude, and tries to simultaneously drive in a shank by suggesting daughter is a piss-poor hockey player. Voilà, crushed adolescent ego and uncomfortable media spotlight.

No matter how things came to pass, though, one would expect that a player’s performance (or lack thereof) would be the purview of the coach, and not a toothless council of “concerned parents”.

KARMIC JUSTICE UPDATE: A commenter at Daimnation! notes that Kayla’s former team, the A-level Toronto Ice Dogs, had a 5-8-1 win-loss-tie record when Atis wrote his missive; now that Kayla’s moved to an all-girl squad, the Ice Dogs are 8-14-1 on the season.

Category: Aut disce aut discede, Culpae Poenae Par Esto  Comments off

Bono knows he’s an annoying git

U2 vocalist Bono earns a few brownie points for being self-aware enough to know that when his preachiness and self-righteousness get turned up to 11, he’s insufferable:

He explained, “I know I can be a pain in the a**. I have an annoying gene; it’s in my DNA – I even annoy myself. When righteous anger turns to self-righteous, projectile vomit is the right response.”

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Witchcraft and bestiality at Gitmo

MEMRI does the Lord’s work by uncovering incredible new evidence of war crimes at the monstrous and illegal Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  In an interview with Al-Jazeera (Qatar), a former inmate makes some preposterous astounding claims: namely that Jews used witchcraft on prisoners, and nearly caused him to be sodomised by a cat.  The interviewer asks “But there wasn’t really a cat there?” to which the former inmate replies “Absolutely not.”

Which begs the question of how one can identify a cat as the perpetrator if it can’t be seen or heard.  Prior experience, perhaps.

Category: Foreign Affairs, Media  Tags:  Comments off

Operation Christmas Drop

Senior Airman Joseph Doria and Capt. Stanley Kimball watch after pushing a box of humanitarian assistance goods out of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules, call sign "Santa 23" to its drop-zone in Yap Islands during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 14, 2010. This year more than 60 boxes will be dropped to 55 islands weighing in at more than 20,000 pounds. Airman Doria is a 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster from Yokota Air Base, Japan. Captain Kimball is the 36th Airlift Squadron flight surgeon. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson)

Airmen from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, watch as the parachute deploys and a box of humanitarian goods travels to the Yap Islands below during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 14, 2010. Operation Christmas Drop is the Air Force's longest-running humanitarian which began in 1952. What started as a WB-50 aircrew returning to Guam on its final flight before Christmas has turned into the longest running humanitarian campaign in the history of the U.S. Air Force and the entire world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson)

Operation Christmas Drop’s sole purpose is to aid our fellow islanders by coordinating volunteer efforts from both military and civilian agencies and distrubute donations received from all corners of the world. It all started in 1952 when the aircrew of a WB-29 aircraft assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, formerly assigned to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, was flying a mission to the south of Guam over the Micronesian atoll of Kapingamarangi. When they saw the islanders waving to them, the crew quickly gathered some items they had on the plane, placed them in a container with a parachute attached and dropped the cargo as they circled again.

I never cease to be amazed by the generosity and compassion of our men and women in uniform.  Regrettably I learned of Operation Christmas Drop too late to be of any practical assistance, but it’s worth keeping in mind for next year.

RELATED: An account of a drop from 374AW.

Colonel Mark Hering, the 374th Operations Group commander, participated in Operation Christmas Drop in December of 2009.

“I can say that in my 20 years of flying the C-130, it was one of the most moving missions, just hearing the voices on the other side of that radio and the excitement from all the islanders, hearing that a C-130 and a bundle from the sky were coming inbound.”

— Love, 2nd Lt. Christopher.  “Operation Christmas Drop a team effort.”  374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, 17 December 2010.

Abdication of Responsibility

When a state refuses to enforce its monopoly on violence—allowing others to arrogate that prerogative to themselves—that negligence destroys public confidence in its institutions.  This is precisely what has happened at Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates; whether the land belongs to the natives or developers and homeowners ought to have been a question of law and torts; instead it has given rise to a de facto dual standard in law enforcement.

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings has two excellent posts on the subject, the first being a lengthy and meticulous précis of the Caledonia affair, and the second delving into former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino’s failings as both a peace officer and the Conservative “law and order” candidate.

The Ontario government has created a precedent whereby it has tacitly accepted the right of certain ethnocultural groups to take up arms and oppose the Crown, which hardly seems like a long-term recipe for peace and amity in a province whose heterogeneity is steadily increasing.

Avoiding history

One of the reasons I enjoy learning about human history is that the past often presents analogues to current-day situations, and someone who knows history will know what choices and alternatives have been explored already—to positive or negative effect.  Those who operate without that benefit would be at risk of repeating history’s lessons.  There is a certain strain of thought in the Canadian body politic that likes to imagine the past not as it actually was, but as one might have wished it to be through the lens of current opinion.

In giving way to such tendencies we partake in what Jean-François Lyotard called “memorial-forgetful history”; this is the construction of a historical narrative which distorts the story of the past into its own present image, conveniently forgetting all that might be contradictory.  I’m a little disappointed that Craig and Mark Kielburger—men who have earned one of the country’s highest honours for merit, the Order of Canada—seem to engage in this practice.  Writing in the National Post‘s Full Comment blog, Mr. Matt Gurney takes the Toronto Star‘s Kielberger brothers to task for having a particularly narrow view of Canadian history.

There’s a lot to pick apart in their column, but let’s start where they did. Here’s their intro:

Last month, archaeologists unearthed a street lined with sphinxes in the Egyptian city of Luxor. We have to wonder if they found any remnants of Canada’s once-strong record on foreign policy down there.

Maybe that’s a little harsh. Nonetheless, Canada’s prominence on the international stage started back in 1956 when Lester B. Pearson launched the world’s first peacekeeping mission during the Suez Crisis.

… the contention that Canada sprang into being the moment Mr. Pearson accepted his Peace Prize, while much beloved of starry eyed progressives, kind of skips over a few chapters of Canadian history. History isn’t for everyone, of course, so while I might not expect them to know much about the Reciprocity Treaty, it’s not unfair to expect to them to know that there were two really big wars — world wars, very much on the “international stage” — that Canada played a major, disproportionately large role in. Right?

— Gurney, Matt. “Would it be wrong for the Kielburgers to learn some history?National Post, 15 December 2010.

Mr. Gurney’s snark-meter is turned up a little, but it is worth reading for the impressive list of achievements in Canadian arms and influence.  There’s a lot of history that is poorly taught, dimly understood, or willfully ignored because it is contradictory to the prevailing political or popular winds.  In Canada it is generally our martial history which tends to get papered-over, in our vain rush to convince the world (and ourselves) that we were born a post-modern nation, free of the bloodshed, strife and sins of the Old World.  The danger in intentionally forgetting our past—even the unpleasant bits—is that at some point, a future generation will be forced to relive it—but without any benefit of hindsight, since we will have struck any potential lessons from their collective memory.

RELATED: Another little-known episode in our military history, Canada’s occupation of Iceland.

Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Z-Force occupation patch, from the collection of Hinrik Steinsson.