Pith Helmet

Welcome to the Hotel North Korea
April 21, 2008, 2:37 am
Filed under: History

Tip o’ the helmet goes out to the good Baron for bringing me this little piece of architectural history. The Ryugyong Hotel is magnificent metaphor for the empty promises of communism.

The Ryugyong Hotel (Korean: 류경호텔)(or Ryu-Gyong Hotel or Yu-Kyung Hotel) is an unfinished concrete skyscraper… The hotel’s name comes from one of the historic names for Pyongyang: Ryugyong, or “capital of willows.” Its 105 stories rise to a height of 330 m (1,083 ft), and it contains 360,000 m² (3.9 million square feet) of floor space, making it the most prominent feature of the city’s skyline and by far the largest structure in the country. Construction started in 1987 and ceased in 1992 due to financial difficulties. At one time, it would have been the world’s tallest hotel.¹ Esquire Magazine dubbed it “The Worst Building in the History of Mankind” and noted that the government of North Korea has airbrushed the building out of pictures.²

A construction crane is perched at the top, and has assumed the role of a permanent fixture…

The basic structure is complete, but no windows, fixtures, or fittings have been installed, and it has never been certified safe for occupancy. Construction came to a halt in 1992 and has never resumed.

The hotel is structurally unsound. The concrete used to build it was of poor quality, and it is crumbling. Even without this to consider, the state of the North Korean economy is such that it doesn’t have the raw materials, energy or financing for a project of this magnitude…¹

Great Moping Rednecks, Batman!
I bet I’m the only person with a last.fm account that has both The Smiths and Dwight Yoakam listed in their Top Artists (most listened to) This Week.

Tonton: The Smart Choice in Personal Assassination
I wish I had bought some of the African-American Adventure Team G.I. Joes when they hit the shelves last year. I’d have loved to have kitbashed a Tonton Macoute. As a cheap substitute, I present my Tonton Macoute, courtesy of Hero Machine:



Tonton Macoutes @ Latin American Studies

Czech It Out Now
History is full of soldiers who became famous by switching to the other side. The Batallón de San Patricio was a group of Roman Catholics who deserted the U.S. Army to fight for Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Today, we have Los Zetas, a group of Mexican Special Forces-types who turned coat, abandoning the Mexican government’s war on drugs to join the Gulf Cartel to act as enforcers and to provide security for smuggling ops.

Back during WW1, there was the Czech Legion. The Czech Legion Project has a website devoted to this little-known band of brothers from the Great War and the Russian Civil War. While there is little there except several volumes of photos, it is still worth checking out.


  • The Czech Legion Project
  • Advertisements

    Get Your “Fight On”
    April 19, 2008, 4:53 am
    Filed under: Gaming | Tags:

    One of our favorite game-bloggers, Jeff Rients, is one of several contributers to Fight On, a “new magazine for fantasy roleplaying in a broadly old-school style.” Also featuring content by Paul Czege, Stefan Poag, Gabor Lux, James Maliszewski, Calithena, Andrew Reyes, and many more, Fight On is “packed with monsters, magic, new rules and character options, four FULL adventures, and much much more!”


  • Drop by Lulu, and get your Fight On for $6.38.

  • Bond, Obama, & Joe
    April 19, 2008, 3:03 am
    Filed under: Books, Politics | Tags: ,

    May 28th, this year, marks the centenary of the birth of the man who gave the world James Bond, Ian Fleming. To celebrate Fleming’s life and lasting contribution to British culture, the Imperial War Museum will present the first major exhibition of Flemingiana. The exhibition runs from April 17, 2008, through Marc 1, 2009. Then, starting May 4, BBC Radio 4 will present a dramatization of Dr. No. Already, back in January, the Royal Mail began commemorating the Fleming centenary by issuing postage stamps featuring different editions of six of his novels.


  • Ian Fleming Centenary
  • For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond

    Smerconish on Obama
    After the Reverend Jeremiah Wright hit the fan, Barack Obama gave a speech on Race in America that was lauded by many as greater than the Gettysburg Address and “I Have A Dream” combined. Personally, I’d have preferred him give the following, addressed to The Reverend himself:

    I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers;
    How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!
    I have long dream’d of such a kind of man,
    So surfeit-swell’d, so old and so profane;
    But, being awaked, I do despise my dream.
    Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace;
    Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape
    For thee thrice wider than for other men.
    Reply not to me with a fool-born jest:
    Presume not that I am the thing I was;
    For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
    That I have turn’d away my former self;
    So will I those that kept me company.
    When thou dost hear I am as I have been,
    Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,
    The tutor and the feeder of my riots:
    Till then, I banish thee, on pain of death,
    As I have done the rest of my misleaders,
    Not to come near our person by ten mile.
    For competence of life I will allow you,
    That lack of means enforce you not to evil:
    And, as we hear you do reform yourselves,
    We will, according to your strengths and qualities,
    Give you advancement. Be it your charge, my lord,
    To see perform’d the tenor of our word. Set on.
    Henry IV Part 2, Act V, Scene v

    Still, Obama’s professed refusal to abandon the hunt for Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, which I learned of while listening to conservative talk radio guy Michael Smerconish, is almost enough to have me return to the party of my forefathers. If only I could quit clinging to my carbine and Christianity. While I don’t think our government should be deploying troops around willy-nilly within the borders of our allies, Obama makes some excellent points.
    Still, who is to say what’s going on in the cloak-and-dagger world? Just as the CIA was setting up the play that would finally allow the mujahideen to send the Soviets packing, Senator Gordon Humphreys (R-NH), totally unaware of a massive upgrade in weapons systems, unintentionally threatened to upset the whole apple-cart by mouthing off to the press that the Agency wasn’t doing enough. Still assuming the CIA was arming the insurgency with old AKs and even older .303 Enfields, Humphreys was unaware that the boys at Langley had secured everything from modern rifles to anti-tank weapons to surface-to-air missles with the help of everyone from the Swiss to the Israelis to the Chicoms.


  • Smerconish on Obama

    Quote of The Day
    “Old soldiers never die, your mom just throws them away.”
    -Anonymous G.I. Joe collector

  • Tibet Your Life
    April 12, 2008, 12:33 pm
    Filed under: History, Politics | Tags: ,

    Apparently, for some people, the admonition to “Never Forget” only goes back to 1937. The following photo of some “Free Tibet” protestors is courtesy of Br’er Gislebertus:


    I despise oppression. Especially the Communist kind. As part of the Marine Corps detachment dispatched to China after WW2, my father was one of the first Americans to see combat against Mao’s followers, so I, in no way, am sympathetic to the Chicoms. I’d love nothing more than to see the Tibetans do to the People’s Liberation Army what the mujahideen did to the Soviet 40th Army back in the eighties.

    But, Tibet was not Shangri-La. The first-hand accounts cited in Peter Hopkirk’s Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Race for Lhasa show Tibet was a land of oppression and brutal torture long before the current Chinese occupation. It was described as a brutal land where “tortures are carried to the extreme of diabolical ingenuity.”
    Continue reading

    Attack of the Soul Patrol
    April 9, 2008, 1:50 am
    Filed under: Uncategorized

    Back in my old BBS days, I was regularly engaged in wars of words, mostly over politics, frequently degenerating into a flaming match. Perhaps one of my greatest moments of web-born dismay was when I just couldn’t get a Naval Academy cadet to see that the whole National ID thing was out-of-line with the very Constitution he was sworn to uphold and defend. “If I could just type loud enough, I’m sure he would hear me,” I thought. When I set up my old political website, The Devil’s Advocate (who knows how many folks wrote under that particular nom de keyboard), I got my share of negative comments, but most of them were civil. I even had a fellow from the Northwest call me up to compliment my work while trying to convert me to the LP.

    When I started blogging, I figured that eventually I would get some nasty comments. I was certain that something I would write would offend some Moslem or some African-American Gay-Lesbian-Trans-Gendered Studies major who is learning about oppression on Daddy’s dime. If nothing else, I was sure my venomous loathing for furries would get me in hot water with that bunch once one of them stumbled across my little 40 megs and a mule.

    It’s been a while since I received anything approaching an insult, but thanks to my posting about Madonna, I got some rather witty criticism, even though it kind of missed its mark. A reader I’ll refer to as anonymous (IP: , ip68-229-189-40.om.om.cox.net) E-mail : meta54@cox.net left the following:

    Stupid Patient: Oh, Blog Doctor, I’m just not getting enough hits on my blog. I’m in utter dispair! Woe is me! What can I do? Please tell me what to do!

    Blog Doctor: Well, stupid patient, this is a very common disease, but simple and easy to treat. All you have to do is make a snarky comment about Taylor Hicks. Voila! That’ll cure your blog problem and get you all the hits you need.

    Patient: Oh, thank you, thank you, Blog Doctor … I’ll try it right away. You’ve saved my blogging life!

    (Blog Doctor thinks: But it really just makes you one of the multitude of stupid jerks in Blog Land.)

    Hey! I never thought of that! Granted, Taylor Hicks was one of my favorite American Idol contestants (after all, as a graying Southern male myself, it was good to see one of my own kick some pop music ass). But, heck, I’d sell out mom, apple pie, and baseball to get a few more web-surfers to left click on a link to my blog. Waitaminute! If “a snarky comment” about a B-lister like Hicks can get me all the hits I need, imagine what making a snarky comment about an A-lister like, hmmmmmm, I don’t know, … Madonna! Imagine what making a snarky comment about Madonna could do for my blogging life! Oh wait. I already did that. Nevermind.

    Charlton Heston
    April 7, 2008, 3:48 am
    Filed under: Obituary | Tags:

    In the last six months, four of the men shaped my life have died: my dad, William F. Buckley, Jr., Gary Gygax, and, now, Charlton Heston. Granted, I never met any of the latter three, but, like any kid brought up on Swanson T.V. Dinners, the media played a role in my rearing.

    Like a lot of kids who grew up in what was once referred to as the Space Age, there was a period of time in which I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. There’s even a photo of me somewhere reading the Bible on Christmas wearing the little white astronaut uniform that you could order from J. C. Penney’s back then. But, unlike other kids, my inspiration was not Neil Armstrong taking his one small step/one giant leap on the moon, it was Colonel George Taylor leading the surviving crewmembers of the Icarus across the Forbidden Zone.

    It has been said that Top Gun starring Tom Cruise was the greatest recruiting film of all time. Meanwhile, John Wayne films, such as The Sands of Iwo Jima and The Green Berets, are blamed by those on the Left and lauded by those on the Right for luring and inspiring young men to military service. For me, however, inspiration came from Major Dundee, Major Lewis (55 Days at Peking), Major Benson (The Private War of Major Benson), and, above all, Colonel Robert Neville.

    But, the roles Heston played weren’t the only things I admired. He fought for civil rights in the early sixties along with Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, and Harry Belafonte — long before the rest of Hollywood found civil rights activism “cool” and jumped on the bandwagon. He took the lead in the fight to protect Second Amendment rights in the seventies, eighties, and nineties when the rest of Hollywood deemed the Second Amendment very “uncool.”

    When Gary Gygax died, many bloggers recommended ways to pay tribute to the dungeonpadrone di tutti dungeonpadroni. I played a plain old boardgame with my son since he is still too young for D&D, but for Heston’s passing I recommend heading down to the range, firing off a few rounds to make use of the right he worked to protect during the last productive years of his life. However, if you don’t own a firearm, I simply recommend sitting down and enjoying one of his films. Try something you haven’t seen before. My recommendation: Khartoum. If you can’t find a copy, watch something else, but, if you get TCM, make sure you check out on Tuesday, April 29,2008 8:00 PM on Turner Classic Movies. Film Quarterly‘s Stephen Farber called Heston’s Chinese Gordon “the most restrained and appealing performance of his spectacle career.”

    Addtionally, the family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund:

    22212 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 300
    Woodland Hills, CA 91364


  • Statement by the Family of Charlton Heston

  • “What We Have Hear Is A Total Lack of Respect for Shariah Law”
    April 5, 2008, 12:45 pm
    Filed under: Movies | Tags:

    Perhaps it’s the idea of Madonna remaking Casablanca, or it could be that I’ve been listening to Rachid Taha and Jerry Reed in the same playlist, but whatever it is, it has given me the inspiration for a remake of another classic movie, reset in modern day, war-torn Iraq. The film: Smokey and The Bandit.

    The remake could still center on truck drivers Bo “Bandit” Darville and his partner Cletus “Snowman” Snow. As a Basset Hound owner, I, of course, would be dismayed if they didn’t include Fred. But rather than hauling a cargo of 400 cases of contraband Coors from Texarkana to Atlanta, they could haul oil for KBR-Halliburton. The Snowman would still drive the semi (this time full of full of “Texas Tea” instead of beer), with the Bandit still driving the “blocker” car, a decoy to distract rogue militiamen away from the Snowman and his shipment.

    Rather than “Smokey” referring to state troopers, it could refer to the head the pursuing Sunni insurgents who is seen in every seen puffing on a hookah. Instead of Sheriff Buford T. Justice, he could be Sharif (something) T. Jihad.

    Bandit could still pick up a runaway bride along the way, only this time she would be wearing a burkha instead of a wedding dress and bridal veil.

    There could still be high-speed chases, but the ’76 Pontiac LeMans with which the sheriff/sharif pursues our heroes would have to be replaced with a Toyota truck loaded down with RPG and AK-wielding militiamen. It could still fall apart piece-by-piece as it is subjected to car-crash-after-car-crash as the Sharif and his henchmen attempt to deter Bandit and the Snowman from their appointed rounds.

    Recommended Reading

  • Cindy in Iraq: A Civilian’s Year in the War Zone by Cynthia I. Morgan