Friday, October 18, 2002
Boosting the military
"Aware that Americans' perception of war gets fuzzier with each generation, the Marines and Navy have joined forces for the first time to produce a polished four-minute, 48-second movie trailer full of Hollywood-style scenes and sound bites from the war on terrorism," writes Dana Colvo in the Los Angeles Times. "Enduring Freedom: The Opening Chapter cost the military $1.2-million (U.S.) to make. The high-quality mini-movie is designed to bolster civilian support for the armed forces." Until the trailer debuted last month at theatres in southern California, New York and Denver, U.S. moviegoers had not seen a rah-rah military booster film since the Second World War.
Ewart Oakeshott, 86, a leading authority on European arms and armour, died last month. He loved handling swords, says The Daily Telegraph in his obituary, and was involved in historical re-enactments of battle scenes. He contended that the lack of significant "edge damage" on surviving medieval swords indicated that, contrary to the Hollywood myth, the weapons were rarely used to parry blows from other swords. The medieval "cut and thrust" swordsman, he suggested, would not have parried at all if he could help it; if he had not landed his blow first, he would have got out of the way or turned so that his opponent's blow glanced off his armour or helmet. "We are talking about fighting here, not putting on a play show," he would observe.
You can work out your secret pirate name at http://www.fidius.org/quiz/pirate.php.
What kind of socks do pirates prefer? Arrrrgyles.
Socialist, but good
"One day this summer," writes Ron Dreher in the National Review, a U.S. conservative magazine, "I told a colleague I had to leave early to pick up my weekly fresh vegetables from the organic food co-op to which my wife and I belong. 'Ewgh, that's so lefty,' she said. And she was right: Organic vegetables are a left-wing cliché. Early last summer, I had made fun of neighbours who subscribed to the service, which delivers fresh fruits and vegetables from area organic farms to our Brooklyn streets. But then the neighbours gave us one week's vegetable shipment, and we were knocked flat by the intense flavours. Who knew cauliflower had so much taste? It was the freshness of the produce, not its organic status (of dubious nutritional advantage), that we were responding to."
Two zookeepers in Recklinghausen, Germany, have been suspended and put under investigation for eating the zoo's animals, reports Reuters. Police said the keepers had barbecued five Tibetan mountain chickens and two Cameroonian sheep.
Apricot: "To the growing ranks of American aficionados of the sniper's craft," says The London Observer, "the perfect shot is to hit the 'apricot.' That is, the small area between the top of the spine and the brain, where a bullet will bring a man down without reflex, known as flaccid relaxation."
Hedomasochists: People who hurt themselves in the pursuit of pleasures. The term is used in Paul Martin's Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams.
Speaking of death
Geoffrey Wellum, 81, who was a Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain, writes in The Sunday Times of London about the aftermath of his first day of combat: "We went to the White Hart that night, the pub all the fighter squads at Biggin Hill used, and had a few pints. We talked and joked, but there was one cardinal rule: one didn't discuss the day. Someone might ask: 'Where's John?' 'Not here.' 'Okay.' End of conversation. What are you going to discuss, anyway? He's not there -- he was shot down. Discussing it is only going to upset you, and it won't bring him back."
"At Shock Trauma, part of the University of Maryland Medical Center in downtown Baltimore, the medical team handles 7,000 of the worst traumas in the region every year and manages to compile a 96 per cent survival rate," writes Diana Sugg in The (Baltimore) Sun. "But that still means that about five times a week, doctors and nurses will have to leave behind the science that so often shows them the way, walk into a room, and speak the most awful words in their vocabulary. 'You've just got to open your mouth and say it,' said Dr. Thomas Scalea, 51, physician-in-chief of the 100-bed Shock Trauma hospital. 'But it wears me down as I get older.' " He teaches young doctors to find a private space, to sit, hold a hand, be direct and skip euphemisms such as "passed on" or "expired," and instead use the verb "died." Dr. Scalea also makes a personal phone call to the family a few weeks after a death to answer questions and see how relatives are doing: "Taking care of the family is part of taking care of the patient."
Out of sites
The Travelers' Century Club has compiled a list of 314 countries and separate entities in the world (http://www.travelerscenturyclub.org). People who have visited at least 100 of these nations/entities can join the club; even the shortest visit -- a port-of-call on a ship, a refuelling stop on a plane -- qualifies.
Thought du jour
"Distance doesn't matter. It is only the first step that is difficult."
-- Marquise du Deffand