Pith Helmet

(Temporary) Parting Shots
June 19, 2007, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ll be maintaining radio silence at least until the weekend. I’m taking the family on vacation. I probably won’t be coming back with any entries sounding like they were culled from a J. Peterman catalog. Any posts will probably more resemble the expeditions of Clark Griswald than those of William Clark.

Family Matters
I had one of the best Father’s Days one could hope for. My daughter was baptised, and my wife officially transferred her letter of membership.

The Men (and Women) Behind The Mask
h/t boingboing
The New York Times has a wonderful photo gallery of gamers next to their favorite gaming avatar. Some are funny, and some are downright sad, but all of them are real, something one doesn’t often see in articles that include the words “City of Heroes” and “Second Life.”

( Read more … )

Just in time for the Atlantic 2007 protests in Halifax, Commie tees from moneygrubbing Marxists:

inspired by thousands of daddy's-money dorm-room revolutionaries everywhere

Here’s a photo from the Atlantica ’07 protests. A couple of Halifax’s Finest help give new meaning to the line “now i’m a broken man on a Halifax pier.”


A Visit to “Forbidden Territory”
June 11, 2007, 3:00 am
Filed under: Movies

My most recent order from Amazon.com was Forbidden Territory: Stanley’s Search for Livingstone. While this wasn’t a great movie, it was a well-made movie that was more than worth the $6.99 I paid for it. The film does the job I ask of it: portraying the Dark Continent, the Africa of adventure.

A National Geographic Television presentation, Forbidden Territory perfectly captures the period. We see African henchman, Europe’s finest explorers and its basest adventurers, the mustachioed, tuxedo-clad “armchair geographers” of Royal Geographic Society, a faithful missonary, and the poor souls he sought to protect from Arab slavers. The costuming was great, right down to Livingstone’s little blue “conductor’s” cap and the motley pugaree on Stanley’s pith helmet.

While the film de-demonizes Livingstone and Stanley so much that it would send any post-colonialist Cult-of-Achebe English prof into a pontificating hissy fit, it thoroughly develops Stanley’s character, portraying him as a tormented soul and a indomitable survivor, partially through a series of flashbacks to his days as a Welsh bastard in a workhouse and his days as a Confederate soldier. Even in spite of Aidan Quinn’s best efforts to overact the part in a few scenes. Fortunately, the casting of Nigel Hawthorne as old Doc Livingstone was pure genius. To paraphrase Troy McClure, “it was the part he was born to play, baby.”

In a nutshell, Forbidden Territory is no Lawrence of Arabia, but it is a pretty good period piece guaranteed to delight anyone who has ever dreamed of facing tsetse flies and Somalis.

The Omega Man of Bel-Air
June 8, 2007, 3:49 am
Filed under: Movies

“The Danger Book”
June 4, 2007, 3:41 am
Filed under: Books

I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. ‘Give me five bees for a quarter,’ you’d say.
“Now where were we? Oh yeah — the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time.”

–Abraham Simpson

My son and I have been playing around with The Dangerous Book for Boys. Early in the week, we took his newest toy dinosaurs out and used the Book to identify them, or at least the ones he couldn’t already identify. Then, we made the two paper airplanes, the Bulldog Dart and the Harrier, for which instructions can be found in the Book. He preferred the Bulldog Dart; however, he liked the Harrier too when I demonstrated that the Harrier performs best when launched slowly.

The Dangerous Book for Boys is a compendium of all of those things that most boys experience, or should experience, when growing up, but which have somehow passed out of vogue in this era of Nanny-statism and kneepads. It includes everything from skipping stones (just like Andy and Opie) to making a bow and arrow and skinning your quarry. The whole books just smack of “when things were simpler,” what Glenn Beck calls “The Real America.”

The very first Ditto-head friend I ever had prefers to listen to BBC-7 these days; however, the other day, he gave Glenn Beck a listen. He wrote me to say that, during his listen, Glenn was not “talking politics but on one of his weepy things about the good old days when things were simpler.” His reaction to Glenn’s nostalgia:

Simpler? The other day, I made a dinner for my father and myself — a real boneless chicken breast (out of a package); buttermilk biscuits (out of a can); black-eyed peas (out of a can); thick, white gravy (out of a package). Microwave for the pre-cooked chicken; 15-20 minutes for the biscuits, a little more work for the gravy. From start to the table, it took thirty minutes….

When my mother was a little girl and my grandmother wanted to make a meal like that — which she couldn’t every day — she had to wring the neck of the chicken, pluck it, divide it, take the bones out, and finally get to the breast. She had to get flour and knead dough to make biscuits. She had to plant, grow, harvest, shell and boil peas.

Even if everything was laid out for her, before she could start she had to get wood in for the stove and heat it up. Fry the chicken (not nearly as healthy as the boneless batterless breasts from packages), cook the biscuits, make sure nothing burned or stuck. You could spend all day at it. I never heard a word of complaint from my grandmother. Never.

Those were simpler times? We have everything done for us and all we do is whine. I do!

Amidst all of my chronic nostalgia, it’s good that I am reminded every once-in-a-while just how thankful I should be that my family doesn’t have to depend upon my ability to hunt and skin my own game or, even worse, for me to till the soil and pray that something edible pops out.

Then again, should we be thankful to live in an age in which weakness has become the norm (at least it has in my income tax bracket)? There is a line in Apocalypse Now that perfectly summarizes modern life for most of us just as well as it sums up CPT Willard’s time in the rear echelon:

‘Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.’

This rings true for me, especially in these days when the room has a/c, hi-def t.v. and free wifi.

The desire to reverse that trend is part of what attracted me to The Dangerous Book for Boys (or as my son calls it, simply “The Danger Book”). It provides an impetus, however small, to get out of “the room,” and get into “the bush,” even if “the bush” just means picking up mussel shells and flint shards in the local dry riverbed.

Guns ‘n’ Poses
June 2, 2007, 4:27 am
Filed under: Firearms

A few days ago I expressed my surprise to find an ad for absinthe sandwiched in between ads for semi-automatic rifles in the most recent issue of Shotgun News. Now, this morning, between news segments, I ran across the Ad Council’s “Reducing Gun Violence PSA – Family Prison.”

The video depicts everyday life in a prison: a guard walking past a line of cells, inmates eating in a dining hall, and a group of cons playing basketball on the yard.

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However, in each of the scenes, the viewer also sees family members who have been left behind, those who are suffering because of a loved one’s felonious behavior. The purpose is to show that gun violence not only affects victims and criminals, but also the criminal’s loved ones.
Immediately following that obviously nationwide PSA, our local station aired an ad for a local gun dealer, who was advertising everything in the store off 10% for military and law enforcement.

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The ad depicts three attractive young women in various poses holding firearms. If one looks closely, one can see that all three have their fingers inside the trigger-guard, on the trigger. One of the ladies is even pointing her firearm at the poor cameraman. As I watched, I could feel Jeff Cooper roll over in his grave, as they were in violation of at least half of the Colonel’s rules for firearm safety.