Saturday, November 29, 2008

Combat Walker

Tales of Future Past has a wonderful assortment of things-that-were-to-be-but-never-were. In the Future War section, most of the postings are old magazine covers depicting dreadnaughts with treads and armored ferris wheels, all of which look as if they could have been the inspiration for Michael Moorcock's Land Leviathan.

The exhibit that caught my eye looks more like a cross between a swift boat, a deuce-and-a-half, and the Robot Spy mechanized spider from Jonny Quest or the misbegotten child of an old WW2 DUKW and a 'mech from Battletech.



Believe it or not, this was a dead-serious project by the US Army to allow troops to carry gear over rough terrain and through jungles. They actually built a prototype that looked like an iron elephant that had tangled with a computer mainframe, but it proved impractical because of limitations of the hydraulic systems, driver fatigue while carrying out even the simplest of tasks, and the tendency of the machine to do the Hokey Cokey without provocation.


The logical goal of all this walking machine research was something like this proposed Combat Walker of 1962 that consisted of a caravan of motorised mechanical pack mules led by a manned combat unit.

One must admit it has a certain charm; the tiny cockpit, the tiny periscope, the tiny cannon, the tiny engine; all good.

The tiny armour; not so good.


Friday, November 28, 2008

G.I. "Doh!"

One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld is "The Merv Griffin Show." It's the one in which Jerry and the gang drugs a woman using a mixture of turkey and booze, so that he can play with her deceased father's toy collection which includes "an original G. I. Joe. With a full frogman suit." Yesterday, when the wife and kids were all knocked out from the tryptophan and carbs, I decided to have my own stupid Hasbro-inspired fun. I simpsonized a few of my favorite action figures. Here's the results:

Air Adventurer

Man of Action

Mike Power, Atomic Man

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Over at Mike Worley's Blog, freelance artist Michael Worley posted a Jonny Quest-inspired rough based upon a comic idea he and Brian Miller came up with.
Brian and I are both big Jonny Quest fans, so years ago we came up with our own little character in that vein, and did a comic story with the intent on making it look as much like a '60's cartoon as possible. I've revisited her with this rough, complete with mummies...

For the full version and a lot of other really great stuff, go to

Among my other favorites are a tribute to the supernatural crimefighting trio of Kolchak (the Nightstalker), Barney Fife, and Sam McCloud, and a piece depicting Colonel George "Bright Eyes" Taylor, ANSA.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Girls in Ghillie Suits


Over the years, film viewers have been entertained by the "army of beautiful women" trope. There were Pussy Galore's Cement-Mixers in Goldfinger. Dolemite had his "all-girl army of kung fu killers." When Derek Flint returned from his post-Our Man Flint sabbatical, he found himself "in danger, in the Virgin Islands, where the bad guys are girls." The girls were an "international feminist conspiracy to depose the ruling American patriarchy with a feminist matriarchy." Now these weren't ugly Andrea Dworkin/Valerie Solanas/Hothead Paisan feminazis we're talking about here. They were go-go girls with grenade launchers. Years later, Quentin Tarantino give us Fox Force Five and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

In both the '94-'96 Chechen War and the recent conflict between Russia and the Democratic Republic of Georgia, a "real-life" all-girl army of snipers made life hell for Ivan.

Reporting in's Danger Room, Nathan White gives us "The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians":
The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians
By Nathan Hodge November 25, 2008 | 9:06:47 AM

Russia's top investigator is claiming that the Georgians employed mercenaries during their August war -- including female snipers from Ukraine and Latvia. Reuters reports:

Asked to list the nationalities of the foreign fighters it believes were involved, Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Prosecutor-General's investigative committee said: "America, the Czech Republic, Chechnya, the Baltic States, Ukraine and Turkey."

Bastrykin added: "There were also two snipers ... one from Ukraine and I believe a Latvian woman."

That sounds an awful lot like the mythical "white tights" -- the exotic female snipers of Chechen war lore who were said to pick off hapless Russian conscripts. As the story had it, these stone-cold, blue eyed killers were said to be from the Baltics -- or Ukraine. They were sometimes described as Olympic biathletes recruited as mercenary sharpshooters by Chechen commanders.

Writing in the UK Independent during the 1994-1996 Chechen war, Andrew Higgins observed:

From the very start of the conflict in Chechnya, Moscow has been unable to admit that the Chechens could possibly be fighting on their own. To explain the debacle, Russian propaganda has paraded a far-fetched collection of bloodthirsty foreign mischief-makers, including Afghan mujahedin, Ukrainian Fascists, Islamic fanatics, Chechen migrants from Jordan and, in a crude flourish that smacks of sexually frustrated barrack-room fantasy, female snipers from the Baltics in white tights.

Even the Russian Wikipedia page describes the "white tights" (Russian: belye kolgotki) as a "myth born in military folklore" that was picked up on in official propaganda.

This claim is also reminiscent of the case of Michael Lee White. During the war with Georgia, Russian officials produced his passport as proof that foreign agents had led or advised Georgian troops (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also insinuated that the United States deliberately stirred up the conflict to aid Sen. John McCain in his presidential bid). The Wall Street Journal eventually tracked White down -- in Guangzhou, China, where he was working as an English teacher.

[ source : The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians | Danger Room from ]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Land of The Ross


"Every well-bred petty crook knows -- the small concealable weapons always go to the far left of the place setting."
--Inara Serra

"Where, O Where, O Where Is SHADO?"

Edit: I forget where I got all of these from, so I'm being a bad citer today.

Blog Is Dead
Paul Boutin over at has declared that the blog is dead. He points to things like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter as the cutting edge of teh intarwebz. He makes some interesting points, but one commenter pretty much shot his argument with one line:
"Funny. I would not have found this article if it were not for a blog who linked to it."

Heh, me too. Were it not for Rob MacDougall and his blog Old is the New New: Weird History. Mad Science. Occasional Robots, I would never have even heard of Mr. Boutin and his little article.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Ipcressphile

Before he was serving dinner to Christian Bale at stately Wayne Manor, Michael Caine was dishing out hot lead at the other side during the Cold War as Harry Palmer. Recently, after reading what is perhaps the most pathetic "Top Ten Movie Spies of All-Time" list, I concocted my own. Conspicuously absent from the former, Michael Caine's Harry Palmer was part of the reason for my forming my own. Last week, Jason Chalker posted a quick drawing of Michael Caine at his blog The Manly Art Blog. Check it out at

I was inspired to produce my own Bitmap to Beijing. I give you J. K. Rowlings's "Harry Palmer and the Goblet of Fire."


While doing a bit of Harry Palmer googling, I ran across Russell Davies's blog and found a book that I'm bumping to the top of my Wish List at Len Deighton's Action Cook Book.


How cool is that?

  • Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), the secret agent's movie site
  • The Offical Michael Caine Website
  • Spy Corner
  • Friday, November 21, 2008

    अच्ससोरिज़े फॉर वोंद्लेरंद

    When I visited the Key West Ripley's, one of my favorite exhibits was the Vampire Killing Kit. It reminded me of the fake ad they had in the back of Eerie comics Hard John Apple's Nuclear Hit Parade, it was a utility belt that was more Robert Neville than Bruce Wayne.

    When I checked my favorite haunt for China Mieville fan-geekery, I found one of my fellow Bas-Lagians was creating a souvenirs of Perdido Street Station box, and had posted links to other kits for alternate realities. First, there is the "Wonderland expedition kit" based upon the works of Lewis Carroll which can be found at And then artist Alex CF has all kinds of goodies at They include:

  • Menes - The Vampyr Pharoah of Egypt.
  • Golem; life from inanimate clay
  • Mountains of Madness Expedition Case
  • Werewolf Anatomical Research Case
  • and a host of other Lovecraftian and cryptozoological stuff.

    Edit: My titles keeping coming out in Hindi. I shall fix that.
  • Thursday, November 20, 2008

    पोत्शोट्स अत १०:19

    Due to a shortage of highly-trained snipers and the need for "accurate, long-range fire" in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ground services are making members of infantry squads "designated marksmen." There will be one designated marksman per fire team, and the tool of their trade will be the beloved M-14 rifle, the rifleman's rifle.

    For the full story, see New Lease on Life for the Beloved M-14 at

    Recommended Reading For Anyone Advocating Military Intervention in Somalia
    Experts Say Army in Crisis at

    This one line caught my attention:
    "The Army is forced to pull soldiers from the ranks who have not graduated college and send them to OCS."

    Folks, it's that kind of lowering of the gold bar that had college dropout William Calley leading a rifle platoon in southeast Asia in 1968.

    Sure, the pirates are bad. But, there are folks that get paid big bucks to deal with such waterborne vermin: Maritime Protective Services, Inc..

    Attention GOP
    Aside from one vote when I was too deep in my cups and too immersed in the heady incense of the cathedrals of Academia to know what was good for me, I have voted GOP in every Presidential election since I have been eligible. I was the first in my family to break from Democrat ranks. Even though I wasn't old enough to vote yet, I proudly wore my "Haig for President" button because I believed Reagan would be too soft on the commies. But, I swear, if I get one more "robo-call" telling me that Jim Martin has "the ghey" and supports mandatory first trimester abortions performed by union-run clinics, then I'm going to write in "Al Franken" on every ballot I ever get.

    Knick-Knack Kerouac
    Blue Hipster bleeds retro. As a fan of Kerouac's The Subterraneans, I really dug this piece. If Dan Stivers's attornies ever send me a cease-and-desist, I might have to pawn grandma's snuff box to commission me a new header.

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Mission: Adventure! ... sort of

    Saturday, the Evil DM posted the following about new virtual tabletop campaign he'll be running with several players from the Midnights Lair Message board via Skype and Screen Monkey.

    His summary:
    The characters are part of a global organization known as the World Science Agency, a private organization that recruits Scientists from all countries and conducts research and investigates all manner of scientific phenomena. The bulk of the organization is research oriented and they have facilities throughout the world. The elite of the organization belong to The Special Missions Bureau.

    Each member is a expert in at least one scientific field. the scientists are divided into teams that of 4-6 members and are sent to investigate any scientific issues that may have global impact. Each team is given the code name of a famous scientist (i.e. Team Galileo, Team Edison, Team Del Rio, Team Jung, etc.)

    Because of the active and often dangerous circumstances the teams find themselves in, members are required to be physically as well as mentally fit. Many have military training or extensive field work experience. The Special missions "Boot camp" is in Guyana and has former members of the American Rangers, British SAS, and Russian Spetsnatz amongst its cadre.

    The system that he will be using is Cartoon Action Hour RPG. For a demo, check out For a full chapter, go to

    From one of the players during brainstorming sessions at Midnight's Lair:
    I'm thinking I'd like to play the older scientist guy with the deep voice. "Watch out for that Cynthiallosauras, Timmy. She may look soft and cuddly, but her fur emits a dander that can cause a severe allergic reaction in humans. If you look here, under the fur, you'll see where the dander—well, bless my microscope, in explaining to you this phenomenon, I appear to have touched the fur myself and—AH CHOO! AH CHOO!"

    Doc Sinclair collapses into a sneezing fit while the rest of the crew stands around laughing. [Arms akimbo, chests moving up and down simultaneously, cut to commercial.]
    The full character info on this character (Dr. Alan Sinclair) can be found at

    Other characters are:
    Dr. Khoraj Singh is a native of the Punjabi region of India. He was educated in England and is considered a leading specialist in tropical diseases, as well as a practicing general surgeon He served in the British army medical corps.

    Nate Bowie is originally from Arizona, he is the great grandson of the famous adventurer Jim Bowie. Nate is an exceptional pilot, qualified in virtually every type of aircraft known. Nate was a Marine Corps Aviator Korea. In addition to his piloting skills he is an accomplished mechanic, and an extraordinary marksman. He is well known in Hollywood circles as the best stunt pilot in the business.

    While reading all of this, I also ran across American Science & Surplus, an on-line surplus store that's more Dr. Quest than Sgt. Rock. It's the kind of place a mad scientist would shop to get all of his global domination needs. They have "Robot partz," German Navy scuba gear, old Warsaw Pact mine detectors, and more lab coats and beakers than you can shake a Bunsen Burner at.

    The Swiss Army surplus carrier pigeon backpack ($14.95 each) made me wonder what an evil genius could do with a squadron of winged warriors using American Science & Surplus as their quartermaster. In short, it's a great place to brainstorm for wannabe Cartoon Action Hour GMs.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    Don Stivers: Action Artist

    As anyone who has checked out the header to my blog can attest, I have fondness for the art on the old G.I. Joe Adventure Team packaging. I've used the stuff for headers, wallpaper, userpics/icons, but I've never known who did all of that magnificent work. Everyone who knows anything about action figures knows that Don Levine invented G.I. Joe, but it wasn't until this morning I found out who did most of the artwork on the old A.T. boxes. The man's name is Don Stivers.

    Nowadays, Stivers sticks to mostly military art. I've admired his work I've seen in Civil War magazine over the years -- pieces such as "An Act of Compassion" and "Will You Give Us Our Whisky Now?", and never made the connection until now.

    At Master Collector On-Line, Barry Kay wrote the story of the evolution of the Adventure Team 30th anniversary poster: "30 Years of Adventure".

    This year marks the 30th anniversary of the GI Joe Adventure Team figures and accessories. When it came to my attention that there were not any plans to release any "AT" merchandise to commemorate this anniversary, I contacted the GI Joe Collector's Club. I thought that it would be a shame to let the anniversary pass without some acknowledgment and fanfare, so Brian Savage and I discussed what we could do to commemorate the anniversary.

    One thing that has always set the Adventure Team apart from other GI Joe product lines is the artwork that was featured on the packages. Many people collect packaged "AT" sets today simply because of the artwork. The images on the packages bring back fond memories of birthdays and holidays gone by for children of the era. In most cases, the boxes were immediately ripped open and discarded so that the toys inside could be played with, which is why packaged items are so rare and why they are treasured collectibles today.

    One of the ideas that we came up with was to create an Adventure Team poster using artwork from the original packages. With a little investigating, we found that most of the paintings used to create the original packages had been damaged or destroyed a long time ago, and the few that remain are in private collections around the world. That's when the idea changed from a poster using existing artwork to having an all new painting commissioned. Once that decision was made, our first step was to contact the original artist Don Stivers.

    Stivers is a freelance artist, who did work for Hasbro in the 1970's. He was the artist responsible for most of the artwork used on the GI Joe Adventure Team packages, but he is best known for his paintings of military life from the Civil War era through the present day. For years, Don has been publishing limited edition prints of his work, with most of them selling out as fast as they are printed. I interviewed Stivers about his work with Hasbro and GI Joe for the April 1998 issue of the GI Joe Collectors' Club newsletter. He was also a featured guest at the 1999 GI Joe Convention, so we already had an established relationship with him; he knew about our club and what we do for collectors.

    I contacted Stivers to see if he would be interested in painting GI Joe again. It had been twenty-five years since his last GI Joe painting, and he said it would be like working with an old friend, so he agreed. The next step was to come up with the concept. What should the painting depict? Should it be one figure, a group of figures or should we pick one of the most popular Adventure Team sets? How could anyone choose just one? That's when we decided that it should be a collage featuring the original team members and the most popular sets from the "AT" era.

    Brian knows that I am an avid fan and collector of the "AT", so he gave me a lot of latitude in laying out the design for the painting. I felt that it would be best if we limited the items depicted to the ones that were released in the first few years of the "AT" line (1970 - 1973.) I drew a very rough sketch of what I thought the painting should look like and I faxed it over to Brian. I am not an artist (a fact that became very obvious when Brian and Don saw my sketch) but it was good enough to show them what my basic idea was and we all decided to go with it.

    Next, I needed to provide Don with all of the necessary reference material he would need to do the painting. I sent him photos of packaged items, GI Joe figures posed in different positions, and GI Joe books to use as a reference for color and detail. Don assigned me the job of art director on the project and would periodically send me pictures of the painting in progress. He would ask me to point details that needed to be changed. I made suggestions and Don made changes based on them. I had a lot of great conversations with Don over the course of this project, but one of the funniest things that he said to me was right after he received all of the photos I sent to him. He told me that he was looking at artwork that he had done thirty years ago in the photos, and that I should be very happy with the finished painting because he is a much better artist now than he was back then!

    Part of Don's process as an artist is to photograph himself in the same pose as the person (or action figure in this case) that he is painting to use as a model. Don used the same process back in the 70's, and as amazing as it may seem, he has saved all of the photos that he has ever taken. It took some time to find all of them, but he was able to dig up nearly all of the reference photos that he used for the original paintings. Now, not only did we have the original "AT" artist working on this project, but he was using the original reference material that was used thirty years ago as a guide. You can't get more authentic than that.

    When the painting was about 80% finished, I went to Virginia to visit with Don and his family because he wanted me to see the painting in person. When I arrived at his studio, he sat me in a chair directly in front of the painting and told me not to get up until I had examined it thoroughly. He wanted me to write down anything that needed to be changed. No detail was too small he said, so I had to check the hair color of each figure, make sure that they all had the proper insignia on their uniforms, and that they all had the trademark scar on their cheek. We know that GI Joe collectors are sticklers for detail, so everything needed to be accurate. I wrote a few pages of notes and we agreed that some minor changes should be made.

    We spent the rest of the day working out the final details of the project. Don does not release posters of paintings, instead he has his work printed on much heavier stock than a typical poster would be printed on. The end result is a high quality, fine art print rather than a poster. We decided to do the same for this project. Since GI Joe collectors are "collectors" at heart, we thought that they would appreciate the quality of the piece. The last detail that we needed to address was the caption. All of Don's prints have a caption that serves as the spirit of the painting as well as the anniversary that it was created to celebrate.

    When the painting was finished, it was sent to the printer and 100 test prints were created. They were sent to Don so he could review the layout and make sure that the colors were correct. The prints were perfect, so rather than destroy them, we decided to use them as a special "Artists Proof" version of our print. To set them apart from the rest of the print run, Don Stivers has hand signed and numbered each of the Artist's Proofs.

    The "30 Years of Adventure" Limited Edition prints are available at the 2000 GI Joe convention and through the GI Joe Collectors' Club. The hand signed and numbered Artist's Proof is available for $50 and the Limited Edition Print is available for $25. You can find more information on Don Stivers and his limited edition military prints at A lot of work went into this project, and I hope that fans of GI Joe and the Adventure Team get as much joy out of the print as we did from working on this project.

    I also discovered that Don Levine himself was behind the Almighty Heroes Old Testament action figures line that hit the shelves a few years back. His website is now defunct, but it can be found at

    My Top Ten Movie Spies
    1. James Bond (Various, Dr. No, etc.)
    2. Derek Flint (James Coburn, Our Man Flint, etc.)
    3. Dr. Jonathan Hemlock (Clint Eastwood, The Eiger Sanction)
    4. The Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Serenity)
    5. David Jones (Patrick McGoohan, Ice Station Zebra)
    6. John Clark (Willem Dafoe, Clear and Present Danger)
    7. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine, The Ipcress File, etc.)
    8. Colonel Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine, The Eagle Has Landed)
    9. Austin Powers (Mike Myers, Austin Powers, etc.)
    10. Matt Helm (Dean Martin, The Silencers, etc.)

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Secret Agent Sham

    Joshua the Anarchist at Spill has posted his listing of the Top Ten Film Spies. Although he acknowledges the greatness that is Bond, the rest of the list is laughable and shows only that Mr. the Anarchist needs to put his keyboard aside and do some spy-movie watchin'. His list includes such spy "greats" as the Hoff's Nick Fury, Vin Diesel's Xander Cage, and Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt. The only excuse for Mr. the Anarchist's list is that he is serving house arrest in Peau-Dunque Bayou, Louisiana and his parole agent only lets him out of the house for one hour to hop down to the local Mom and Pop Video Shop.

    Three words, Mr. the Anarchist: Derek Frikkin' Flint.

    Secret Saturdays Secrets
    Janet Hetherington interviews Jay Stephens, The Secret Saturdays creator, at Animation World Magazine.

    Spy-Fi Trivia Moment
    Phil Morris, the guy that does the voice for Doc Saturday on The Secret Saturdays, is the son of Greg Morris, who played Barney Collier on the old Mission: Impossible television series.

    Quote of The Year
    I'm only 43. Still a young man. Maybe a little frayed around the edges, but who wouldn't be between my work and raising two boys. Crap, who am I kidding, my looks are going down the toilet faster than an unwanted pregnancy on prom night. I was Rusty Venture, boy friggin' wonder. Now look at me.

    --Thaddeus Venture

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Homeland Security

    JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

    U.S. Secret Service agents perform a security sweep on Ukrainian cultural performers before Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and U.S. President George W. Bush arrive at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kiev, April 1, 2008.

    h/t Feral Jundi

    Magazine. TIME Magazine
    To mark the centenary of Ian Fleming and the theatrical release of Quantum of Solace, TIME takes a look at the World of Bond: the bad guys, the booze, the broads, and more.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    The Denali Diogenes

    The Denali Diogenes
    Given my own recently revived interest in the outdoors, I've been reading about Christopher McCandless, a born-with-a-silver-Brunton-MY-Ti™-Spork-in-his-mouth hobo who journeyed into Palin country with minimal food and gear, hoping to turn an abandoned Fairbanks City Transit System bus into his own private Thoreauvian hermitage. It was there that he died in 1992, after living for five months off wild plants and the game he could bag with his Remington .22.

    Before his grand adventure, McCandless matriculated at Emory University where he wrote a number of opinion pieces for the student newspaper, The Emory Wheel. Graduating in 1990, McCandless left behind a number of pieces that seem very interesting in light of the impending vice-presidency of Joe Biden, the election of America's first black president, and the hijackings on 9/11.

    On September 11, 1987, penned the following about Joe Biden:
    He has reportedly been seen wandering aimlessly, uttering incoherent phrases like, ‘ light of Powell’s special role I want a justice with an open mind...I don’t want someone with a predisposition on every major issue...I can be President...’”

    And now, twenty-one years later, he is about to be one heartbeat away.

    Then, on April 1, 1988, on the subject of Jesse Jackson's ill-fated bid for the Presidency, McCandless wrote:
    Some people might argue that Jackson ‘doesn’t want’ to be President. They maintain that Jackson is merely in the race to try to benefit the cause of black citizens. (...) Is it to become precedent that a black man can never be on the ticket because that ticket could then ‘never win’? Or is there supposed to be some ‘better time’ in the future for a black man to be on the ticket? When would this be, year 2000, year 3000?

    The Democratic voters are the backbone of the party, and through their votes they have shown a strong interest in Jackson as the nominee. Let’s leave these ‘can’t’ win’ people to rot in their mire.”

    The "better time," as we have seen, was 2008.

    In April 12, 1988's “Hijacking crisis shows new tactics are needed to deal with hostages,” McCandless, a student of history and cultural anthropology, wrote:
    “The recent events that have transpired in the Kuwaiti airliner hijacking clearly demonstrate that a bold new policy is needed to rectify such situations. (...)

    First, airport security must be tremendously overhauled. It is essential that an adequate military force brandishing assault rifles be present at the airport. (...) A couple of security guards with pistols is not going to offer adequate protection of airport gates. (...)

    Second, security measures during the flight must also be tightened. Central to this idea is the in-flight guard himself. In-flight guards should carry assault rifles and wear some type of body armor. (...)

    Armed only with his Leatherman multi-tool, Mo' Atta would have had a hard time convincing an H&K-armed Air Marshal to let him fly the plane.

    After Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild and a film of the same name made McCandless famous, Emory University compiled several of these excerpts at The Emory Wheel's website. To read the full text of these excerpts, go to

  • Chris McCandless segment on 20/20
  • Into The Wild Trailer
  • Reel Geezers review Into The Wild
  • Monday, November 10, 2008


    Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Armistice Day to those of you who remember the Kaiser. Whatever you call it, and whatever you call yourself -- 'Publicrat, Democan, Liblab, Neocon, Paleaocon, Blue Dog, Yellow Magnet, Red Stater, or Green -- there are men who are in harm's way and generations of men and women who have stood on the ramparts, huddled in trenches, squatted in ball turrets, and manned battle stations when our nation has been threatened.

    As a rule, I try to avoid calls to action. But, when I do, I don't call upon my readership to do anything that I haven't done myself. So, if you've got an extra five bucks, or ten, or whatever, show those who are still serving a bit of thanks. Click on the button below and send some love.



    h/t The Designer Monologues

    Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin are now cult names in the thriller genre with well over a million copies of the Modesty Blaise series sold worldwide. Penguin India has resurrected the Modesty Blaise series and is releasing them as part of their new series—Retro Revival. Time to start saving my rupees.

    ( Read more... )


    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    TSA: Finishing Up Where The Luftschutz Left Off


    I've been a fan of The Collings Foundation ever since they parked their B-17 bomber at our local airstrip. Thanks to them I, and legions of history geeks like me, have been able to walk the catwalk between the bomb bays on a B-24 Liberator, stare down the sites of a .50 caliber machine gun from the waistgunner position on a Flying Fortress, and hear the trademark whup-whup-whup of a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter. Now, the very existence of this noble group of living historians is threatened by a piece of backdoor legislation.

    I received the following in the organizations newsletter. Any help would be appreciated:
    Tuesday November 4th, 2008

    Critical Information!
    TSA Proposed Legislation
    Bottom line: If this TSA Legislation passes, it will be the end of the Wings
    of Freedom tour and programs similar.
    We need your support. This is time sensitive. Please read below:

    TSA Proposed Legislation Represents Potentially Significant Regulation of Private Aircraft Operations

    RE: Docket Number TSA 2008-0021, Large Aircraft Security Program, Other Aircraft Operator Security Program and Airport Operator Security Program

    On October 30, 2008, the TSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) with only a 60 day comment period (which includes several holidays and a period when, typically, Washington becomes a “Ghost Town”) calling for sweeping new security requirements on the operation of all aircraft exceeding 12,500 pounds. The Collings Foundation’s preliminary assessment of the proposal is that this legislation would be so cumbersome, far reaching, and virtually impossible to comply with, that our flying of historic aircraft would not be possible.

    Because of the onerous requirements and encroachment on personal freedoms suggested in the NPRM, three major aircraft associations, AOPA, EAA and NBAA, have called for extending the comment period to120-days, plus public hearings to evaluate the impact and interpretation of the proposed ruling.

    Industry estimates are that over 15,000 aircraft, 10,000 operators and 300 airports will be impacted by the 67-page proposal. New concepts of third party auditors, security program training and approval, and third party watch list checking firms with timely approvals-- which would allow the general aviation community to comply with these regulations do not exist, thereby resulting in a real Catch 22.

    Furthermore, there seem to be no discussions of the cost vs. benefits of this huge Federal Program, and who would pay for it other than “the General Aviation Community.” As it is proposed, TSA-2008-0021 would have an enormous impact on general aviation, plus violation of Constitutional Rights issues.

    As to its effect on the Collings Foundation, our assessment is that, as proposed, it would be fatal to the Wings of Freedom Tour and our ability to take these historic aircraft around the country and share them with millions of Americans annually. Please note that with some concern for political correctness please use “historic aircraft” rather than “bombers” or “warbirds” in your communications and correspondence.

    The bottom line is that we need your help both short-term and long-term. Short-term, we need you to support the aviation communities’ request to extend the comment period by a minimum of at least 60 days. The current deadline for comments is December 29, 2008.

    Official Response: You may submit comments, identified by the TSA docket number TSA 2008-0021 to the Federal Docket Management System, a government-wide electronic docket management system, using any and/or all of the following methods:

    * By Mail, In Person or Fax to the Docket Management Facility, US Dept. of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington DC 20590-0001. Fax 202-493-2251.

    * Electronically through the Federal eRulemaking portal at Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

    * Higher Level Responses. If any of the Aviation Committee members of either the House or Senate, are your representatives, the same appeal for extension could be even more effective. For a list of Transportation/Aviation Committee members in the House of Representatives and Senate, click the appropriate link below:

    House of Representatives: click here.

    Senate: click here.

    D. Contacting your Senator or Representative: You can reach your Senator or Representative by calling 202-224-3121 and asking for your Congressman. Upon being connected to the office, ask for the legislative assistant in charge of transportation issues. You won’t get to speak to your Senator or Representative directly, but their aides for the respective areas are the right channels to get action.

    E. Your Comments may also be sent to:

    1. The Honorable Edward “Kip” Hawley, Assistant Secretary, Transportation Security Administration, 601 South 12 th Street, Arlington, VA 22202-4220.

    2. Branch Chief-Policy, Plans & Stakeholder Affairs, Office of General Aviation, TSNM (TSA-28), Transportation Security Administration, 601 South 12 th Street, Arlington, VA 22202-4220.

    Please join in with us now to get this comment period extended. In the longer term, we’ll be updating you further on the interpretation of this proposal, discussions regarding how this might impact us and what we can do about it. Thank you very much for your support.
    Please take 5 minutes and contact the above representatives! Your support is what counts!

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Obama Macht Frei

    Thank God the fascist police state of the Bush Administration is about to come to an end.

    "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set," he said Wednesday. "We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded."
    --Barack Obama

    What exactly does he mean by "civilian national security force?" That could be anything from Dad's Army to the Tonton Macoutes.

    [ source : AARP Bulletin ]

    Speaking of jack-booted thugs, here's a little video depicting the bounty hunter try-outs from The Empire Strikes Back by Jim Mehsling at

  • Pre-election commentary by aging seminal alternative rock icon Henry Rollins
  • Obama, Shaman: The candidate’s post-masculine charisma tempts America in the age of Oprah by Michael Knox Beran
  • Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Decision '08

    Over the past couple of weeks, it seems that most of the people I've talked to and most of the blogs that I have read have been complaining about the election. If there's one thing that most folks can agree on, it's that they are ready for the whole damnable affair to be over with. Whether it's Republican robocalls or orisons to Obama, people are tired of Decision '08.

    This weekend, I found the remedy for what ails us: camping.


    This weekend, our Cub Scout unit spent some time in the woods. We shot BB guns, toyed with computer parts, learned about rocks, and went through PT. Not once did I think about John McCain or Barack Obama or their fight over who gets to hang George W. Bush's albatross around their distinguished necks. The great decision to ponder over was "hamburger or hot dog." The most important race of our lifetime (which at this point was an average of 8.5 years) was a relay.

    It reminded me of George Carlin's old suggestion concerning elections: find someone who is going to vote the opposite of the way you are going to vote and take them fishing on election day.