Pith Helmet

Review: Holton, Bil, Ph.D., Leadership Lessons of Ulysses S. Grant, New York: Gramercy Books. 2000.
November 29, 2007, 11:22 am
Filed under: Books | Tags:

Holton, Bil, Ph.D., Leadership Lessons of Ulysses S. Grant, New York: Gramercy Books. 2000.

Review forthcoming


Cry Havoc, and Let Slip The Dogs (Cats, Rats, and Pigeons) of War
November 24, 2007, 1:34 pm
Filed under: History | Tags:

This week, the folks over at Something Awful dedicated their Photoshop Phriday to producing “Unconventional Weapons.” Their digital brainstorming produced everything from balloon barrages (nope, not barrage balloons, balloon barrages) from battleships to this vehicle from the Great War. Imagine A Farewell to Arms meets Ben Hur.

WW1 ambulance

Proving that truth is alway stranger than fiction, Oddee, “a blog on the oddities of the world,” has compiled a list of “9 Absolutely Insane Weapons of War” from the annals of military history. Here, one can find everything from Soviet anti-tank dogs to Japanese fire balloons.

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Vade Retro Me, Pullmanus
November 23, 2007, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Books, Firearms, Movies, Religion | Tags: , , ,

I have received chain e-mail from a number of people alleging that if I go see The Golden Compass, I will be a traitor to Christendom. They cite various sources, everyone from Focus on The Family to The Catholic League to Philip Pullman himself, the author of the books on which the film is based.

I first heard of Pullman and his His Dark Materials trilogy when Pullman criticized C. S. Lewis. As a fan of Lewis, I was not very pleased with Pullman’s words. Still, I decided to give his trilogy try, but The Golden Compass failed to keep my interest at the time. While I find Pullman’s world quite enchanting and remain in awe of the skills with which he constructed it, his writing just couldn’t hold my attention.

However, the film looks like it could definitely keep me enthralled for 99 minutes. It has everything I could ask for in a movie. Airships, alternate history, Eva Green, a cowboy played by Sam Elliot, a polar explorer, and guns. And not just any guns. “Obscure and beautiful guns from around the world.”

We are introduced to Nick, a man who Loves His Guns. With the impracticability of constructing their own guns from scratch, he and his team searched for obscure and beautiful guns from around the world – and are confident that the weapons eventually used have not been seen on screen anywhere else before. Each gun chosen for each character is a deliberate design choice. Lord Asriel carries an 1880s revolver and a rare Swiss Canton rifle with a huge reloading bolt. The Trollesund police pack a standard Russian WW1 rifle, whilst the Magisterium police bear a more advanced weapon, coloured back to match their uniforms. Nick gleefully showcases each gun by firing several dummy rounds from each, admonishing bystanders to stick their fingers in their ears.
It only gets louder with the Tartar’s weapon – a 1960s Spanish police carbine, practically an assault rifle. This is the gun most frequently used in the Bolvangar scene we’ve just witnessed part of and has been modified to hold separate rounds, which give a lighter sound, so as not to alarm the child actors. The guns don’t end there as Nick whips out a flintlock pistol – carried by Farder Coram he tells us, the character perhaps being made more muscular than in the book – he is certainly a younger actor. Amongst the Gyptians, John Faa lofts an 1870s Austrian model, with Tony Costa brandishes a pair of French pistols. Even Ma Costa reputedly packs a weapon – three we’re told, one of which being a small sawn-off shotgun, whilst one always remains concealed. In the film, Ma Costa will be heading north with the men, as seen in some of the promotional stills.
Nick and his team’s approach to the weaponry of the book is a microcosm of the film’s design philosophy – Lyra’s world is not to be any one recognisable period from our world, it will always remain truly alternate. The team have a clear vision for the pieces – the Gyptians’ guns produce more smoke as they are not able to afford quality ammunition. Only Lee Scoresby has a very typical weapon – a Colt revolver and a Winchester rival, famous in America for “winning the west;” this is because it was felt that the character was a very traditional cowboy. In a scene where Lee shoots from his balloon, Sam Elliot reportedly wanted to use a revolver, not a rifle – better suited for long-range – as he thought his character was such a good shot. The big gun – literally – is saved for last: a Nock Volley, a gun so large the Royal Navy had to abandon it as too few men were strong enough to fire it. It is the Gyptians’ special and Nick quips, “when this is fired, everyone in front of it falls over.”
[ source : BridgeToTheStars.Net ]

Having read this and seen the trailers for the movie, and keeping in mind the rubbish passes for speculative fiction these days [cough]Robert Jordan[/cough], I have to ask myself, “Why couldn’t we get Phil Pullman, and let the other side have Tim Lahaye?”


  • “A Call to Arms: How to Fight The Book Burners” by Merlyn
  • “A Dark Agenda” by Susan Roberts
  • “Far From Narnia: Philip Pullman’s secular fantasy for children” by Laura Miller
  • “Wardrobes in Collision: The Divergent Visions of C. S. Lewis and Philip Pullman” by James S. C. Baehr and Ted Baehr
  • Tehanu’s Seventeenth Note: His Dark Materials
  • “This Is The Most Dangerous Author in Britain” by Peter Hitchens

  • White Sun of The Desert
    November 20, 2007, 2:21 pm
    Filed under: History, Movies

    h/t Prof.Witchheimer

    I must own this:


    “The setting is the east shore of the Caspian Sea (today’s Turkmenistan) where the Red Army soldier Fyodor Sukhov has been fighting the Civil War in Russian Asia for a number of years. After being hospitalised and then demobbed, he sets off home to see his wife, only to be caught up in a fight in the desert between a Red Army cavalry unit and Basmachi rebels. Sukhov ends up having to guard and protect the harem of the Basmachi guerilla leader Abdullah, as his army comrades pursue him. The task proves to be much more difficult than he originally thought, and in between attacks from Basmachis and offers from the harem, Sukhov must deal with Vereshchagin, a drunken former Imperial Russian customs official who still looks after the trading outpost and museum they shelter in…”

    [ source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Sun_of_the_Desert ]


    While I am certain that I will enjoy the film, I doubt that I will love it as much as the person who owns this H2:

    White Sun of The Desert Links

  • IMDB
  • Amazon.com
  • YouTube

    Turkmenistan On-Line

  • turkmenistan.neweurasia.net
  • PAYKHAS: Turkmen’s Club of intellectual Collaborations

  • It’s The Torture, Stupid
    November 11, 2007, 12:39 pm
    Filed under: Politics | Tags:

    Thursday, Malcolm W. Nance, a former Navy SERE instructor, testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee that waterboarding “is torture and should be banned.” In doing so, he echoed the sentiments he expressed in Small Wars Journal on October 31, 2007.

    As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

    Over the years preceding Nance’s testimony, waterboarding has received wholehearted endorsements from Rush Limbaugh and Joe Scarborough. It has been made light of by Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade, and our new AG has danced around the issue, refusing to comment on whether or not the practice is, in fact, illegal.

    I wonder how many of the same folks who jumped to the defense of the G.I. Joe action figure when Hasbro “globalized” him will come to bat for Nance if the pro-waterboarding crowd attempt to swiftboat a guy with these credentials:

    Retiring as a master instructor at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School in Coronado, California he trained select Special Operations personnel at the Advanced Terrorism, Abduction and Hostage Survival school (ATAHS) in resisting torture and exploitation. In 1998 he created and led the official terrorism training team formed to simulate the Al Qaeda organization and its attacks.
    On the morning of 9/11 he was a rescuer at the Pentagon crash site and participated in the investigation of the World Trade Center attacks.
    In the Global War on Terrorism he served in Afghanistan where he conducted intelligence operations in Nangahar province (Jalalabad-Tora Bora) and year in Iraq as a security director at the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. There he studied the Iraqi resistance and Al Qaeda’s involvement in the insurgency.
    He is author of four books including:

  • The Terrorist Recognition Handbook– A Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activities
  • The Terrorists of Iraq – The Lethal Tactics of the Iraqi Insurgents 2003-2005
  • Al Qaeda 3.0 “Combat and the Call” – The Terrorist Tactics of the Bin Laden Jihad
  • Terrorist Tactics – Organizations, Weapons, Operations and Strategies of Modern Political Violence Groups 1960-2005
    He has a BA from New York State University’s Excelsior College and speak five languages including Arabic, Pashto, French, Italian and Spanish. Today he is Director of Special Readiness Services International (SRSI) a Washington DC-based anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism consultancy supporting the intelligence community.
  • I’m certain at least one of the Administration’s many microphone myrmidons will take a demagogic swing at the Senior Chief.

    It is quite common for law enforcement officers, as a capstone of their training in a non-lethal weapon (such as TASER or OC Spray), to have the weapon they are training with used on them. Perhaps we should hold our nabobs and pundits to the same standard.

    [ Recommended Link : Stonekettle Station: Malcolm Nance – Dúnedain of the week ]

    The Second World Wargasm Continues
    November 6, 2007, 11:18 am
    Filed under: History | Tags:

    I found out that the Collings Foundation and the Commemorative Confederate Air Force aren’t the only ones doing that warbird thang. The Liberty Foundation operates a single B-17G, known as the “Liberty Belle” out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and take her out on tour every year, just like the folks from Collings, offering rides for the low, low price of $430.00.

    And speaking of the CAF, I found a picture of their old “blood chit,” a novelty item based upon the patch used by the American Volunteer Group in China.

    The Confederate Naval Jack has replaced the Chinese flag, and instead of the traditional plea in Chinese for those reading it to help a poor aviator who’s down-on-his-luck, it reads (in English):

    This is a CAF aviator. If found lost or unconscious, please hide him from yankees, revive with mint julep and assist him in returning to friendly territory. Confederate Air Force.

    It’s a shame the CAF replaced their sense of humor with political correctness.

    The Loneliness of The Ball Turret Gunner
    November 6, 2007, 4:08 am
    Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

    My current obsession with World War II bombers brought to mind one of my favorite poems:

    “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell

    From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
    And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
    Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
    I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
    When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose


    “A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine-guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the foetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.” — Jarrell’s note

    While the movie Memphis Belle does a great job of telling the story of the most famous B-17 crew of the war and Twelve O’Clock High masterfully portrays life in the Eighth Air Force, nothing captures the claustrophobic terror of being a ball turret gunner like one of my favorite episodes of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories television series.

    First airing on November 3, 1985, “The Mission” is the story of the last mission of a ball turret gunner who aspires to be a cartoonist for Disney Studios after the war is over. After shooting down an enemy figher, the debris from the downed German traps the gunner in his plexiglass prison. To make matters worse, the bomber has just enough fuel to limp back into base, and once back, it has landing gear problems, leaving our main character to be crushed upon impact with the runway. That is, unless his muse can save him.