Sunday, November 30, 2008

Do Books Have a Future?

If you've followed Mad Padre for a while, you know that I'm a bibliophile. In face, I'm sitting here in my little room at Canadian Forces Base Borden, my home for another 12 sleeps (not that I'm counting!), and I'm looking at this stack of books that I've accumulated in the last three months:

Hmmm, and that picture doesn't include the volume of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics I brought out with me. I'm hoping I can ship this pile home in the unaccompanied baggage allowed me by the military, but I'm not exactly sure where they'll go when I get home.

Maybe I need to embrace the kind of future that James Gleick discusses in yesterday's New York Times, a future in which the published book may be entering a golden age of "the long dreamed-of universal library, its contents available (more or less) to every computer screen anywhere".

For my part, I'm taking some tentative steps in that direction, learning to access and manage books digitally via Google Reader, at the same time as I learn to use Itunes. But the problem, as Gleick notes, is that people like books. While it's true that I probably spend more time per day reading on a computer screen than I do reading the printed word on paper, I want to have a book in my hand, and I want it to last. Some of my most cherished books, including a Folio Society reprint of Kipling's poems that my dear friend Patsy gave me when I left my parish, are aesthetic as well as literary treasures, and that's the hope that Gleick offers the printed book. However, as he notes, the internet and the digitizing initiative of Google now means that there are millions of titles, copyrighted but out of print, that have been rescued from limbo and are now available to we book lovers.

Here's the article by Gleick.

Oh, and if you have any spare room on your bookshelf, give me a shout.


Friday, November 28, 2008

An American Air Force Chaplain in Iraq

I'm always interested in the stories of military chaplains at work, even if it's the quiet, day by day work of chaplains living and ministering to ordinary service men and women. This piece, couresty of Kendall Harmon's Titus One Nine Blog, is from a Charleston, Virginia newspaper, and describes the work of one Air Force chaplain in Iraq:

The Rev. John Painter's desire to serve abroad pulled gently at his conscience, then grew strong and clear when the Air Force Chaplain Service called in June.

Painter, who is a chaplain at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, voluntarily deployed Sept. 5 to Ali Air Base in southern Iraq. He will forego Thanksgiving and Christmas, and his two children will turn a year older before he returns home in January 2009.

Read the whole article

As the Christmas Mess Dinner season approaches

For military and civilian folks alike who are approaching the Christmas dinner season, this one is just too funny. I wish I could take credit for it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pastor Advises Flock to Have Seven Days of Sex

I think Christians always get a bad rap for being anti-sex, so it always does my soul good to hear a pastor who is willing to defend sex as part of God's good plan for creation. This article from the New York Times caught my attention the other day and is worth repeating. I'm not sure if the "let them eat cake" advice for singles will give much comfort, however ...

November 24, 2008
Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage: More Sex

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — And on the seventh day, there was no rest for married couples. A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”

On Sunday parishioners at the Grapevine branch watched a prerecorded sermon from Mr. Young and his wife, Lisa, on jumbo screens over a candlelit stage. “I know there’s been a lot of love going around this week, among the married couples,” one of the church musicians said, strumming on a guitar before a crowd of about 3,000.

Mrs. Young, dressed in knee-high black boots and jeans, said that after a week of having sex every day, or close to it, “some of us are smiling.” For others grappling with infidelities, addictions to pornography or other bitter hurts, “there’s been some pain; hopefully there’s been some forgiveness, too.”

Mr. Young advised the couples to “keep on doing what you’ve been doing this week. We should try to double up the amount of intimacy we have in marriage. And when I say intimacy, I don’t mean holding hands in the park or a back rub.”

Mr. Young, known simply as Ed to his parishioners, and his wife, both 47, have been married for 26 years and have four children, including twins. They have firsthand experience with some of the barriers to an intimate sex life in marriage, including careers, exhaustion, outside commitments, and “kids,” a word that Mr. Young told church members stands for “keeping intimacy at a distance successfully.”

But if you make the time to have sex, it will bring you closer to your spouse and to God, he has said. You will perform better at work, leave a loving legacy for your children to follow and may even prevent an extramarital affair.

“If you’ve said, ‘I do,’ do it,” he said. As for single people, “I don’t know, try eating chocolate cake,” he said.

Read the whole article

This Week's Caption Contest

Click on the picture to see the full image. I don't know why blogspot is cutting off the right hand side of the pictures I post.

The picture for this week's caption contest comes via my friend Martin.

Here are the captions submitted thus far:

"The World of Warcraft Convention swimming outing turned into a panic when someone spotted a girl."

"Last on in gets to hot tub with Richard Simmons!"

"FIRST one in gets to hot tub with Richard Simmons!"

"Cold water increases sperm count. Yet another great big kick in the face for natural selection"

Hey dummies! I said I dropped a Rolaids, not a Rolex!

"At this point, Tom began to wish that he'd spent more on airfare to do the Hawaii Ironman."

Feel free to add your own, or to vote for one of these. Results announced next Wednesday.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans help their own

This video is produced by a US organization called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. I learned about it through Bob Herbert's wonderful op-ed piece in the Nov 22 New York Times. Check out the video, read the column, and visit IAVA's website. There's a ton of resources there for chaplains and soldiers dealing with PTSD or wanting to help a buddy deal with PTSD and reintegrate at home.

November 22, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Help Is on the Way
With so much attention understandably focused on the economy and the incoming administration, the struggles being faced by G.I.’s coming home from combat overseas are receding even further from the public’s consciousness.

If you’re in your late teens or early 20s and your energies have been directed for a year or more toward dodging roadside bombs and ambushes, caring for horribly wounded comrades and, in general, killing before being killed, it can be difficult to readjust to a world of shopping malls, speed limits and polite conversation.

Bryan Adams is the face of a sophisticated new advertising campaign that is trying to get troubled veterans to come in from the cold and piercingly lonely environment of post-wartime stress.

Bryan, now 24, was an Army sniper in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. At an age when many youngsters go to college or line up that first significant job, he and his squad-mates were prowling Tikrit with high-powered weapons, looking for bad guys.

He was shot in the leg and hand during a firefight, and he saw and did things that he was less than anxious to talk about when he came home.

“I wanted to go to college,” he told me. “I had all these plans, but I couldn’t seem to make them happen. I couldn’t focus. I would get, like, depressive thoughts.”

He said that he would party a lot. “Party” was a euphemism for drinking.

The drinking made him more depressed, and then he would get angry that he was “partying but not having a good time.”

Bryan said he would “flip out,” and friends began to shun him. “I just didn’t care what I did or who I affected with my actions. I would break stuff. I’d break, like appliances. It was bad.”

Returning to civilian life from combat is almost always a hard road to run. Studies have shown that a third or more of G.I.’s returning from the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan — more than 300,000 men and women — have endured mental health difficulties.

Many have experienced the agony of deep depression, and alarming numbers have tried or succeeded in committing suicide.

A CBS News study found that veterans aged 20 to 24 were two to four times as likely to commit suicide as non-veterans the same age.

The advertising campaign, initiated by the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was designed to increase the number of veterans seeking treatment for their mental health difficulties. Many are embarrassed to speak about their problems or are unaware that help is available, or even that they need help.

As Bryan Adams told me, “I didn’t know anything about these symptoms. I didn’t know what post-traumatic stress disorder was.”

To get the word out, IAVA hooked up with the advertising giant BBDO and the nonprofit Ad Council, which is famous for such public service slogans as, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” and “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

This campaign is titled, “Alone,” and focuses on the sense of isolation so many veterans feel when they come home. The television and print ads encourage the veterans to visit a Web site,, as a place where they can share their experiences with other vets.

IAVA tells veterans in its promotional material: “Just listen in or share your experiences in a judgment-free environment.”

The site is filled with features and news updates on many topics and information on a wide range of mental health resources.

The ads are powerful.

In one, a somber Bryan Adams is shown, in camouflage fatigues, standing alone in an airport, then riding an otherwise passenger-less subway train, and then walking through empty streets in Manhattan. He is eerily and absolutely alone. There is not another soul in sight, until a marine in civilian clothes walks up to him, extends his hand, and says: “Welcome home, man.”

The ad then flashes the message: “If you’re a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan, you’re not alone.”

Bryan, who lives in Palmyra, N.J., is a real-life example of what the timely intervention of mental health counseling and treatment can do. At his family’s urging, he enrolled in a treatment program at a V.A. hospital in Boston. It turned his life around, and he is now back in college.

This ad campaign, if disseminated widely enough (it is depending on donated media), will reduce the heartache of G.I.’s and their families, and will save lives.

The need for more attention to this issue is tremendous. Combat does terrible things to people. As Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA’s executive director, put it:

“Nobody can cross this river without getting wet.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

American Civil War Meets Jurassic Park

This little gem came to me via the twisted minds and English humour of the chaps from the Too Fat Lardies mailing list. I've been to Virginia several times on Civil War reenacting trips, but I've never seen this little attraction before:

The attraction, called “Professor Cline’s Dinosaur Kingdom,” imagines a lost chapter from Civil War history. It supposes that in 1863, a group of paleontologists inadvertently stumbled upon a valley of live dinosaurs. The discovery comes to the attention of the Union Army, who, recognizing the destructive power of the giant lizards, decide to capture them and unleash them on the Confederate Army.

I haven't done reenacting for some years, but if I go again, I think I may try going as a stegosaurus.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weird Church News Roundup

Three items of strange church news recently caught my attention as being suitably "mad" to merit mentioning on the madpadre blog.

The first involves a Russian church that was was stolen, brick by brick, an act of blasphemy according to the Orthodox priest who is now hoping the police find his church.

The second story is about a man who was wrestled to the floor in a Florida Roman Catholic church after attempting to steal a handful of communion wafers from the priest during mass.

Finally, this item from England about a Church of England vicar (priest) who turned up in the emergency word with a potato stuck inside a certain part of his anatomy. His excuse deserves credit for being breathtakingly lame, that he was naked and hanging curtains in his dining room, fell backwards onto his table and was thus afflicted with said potato. Mind you, if he was telling the truth, then his neighbours might well be asking, why is the Vicar naked in his dining room window? Doesn't bear imagining, really.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice

Anglican readers of this blog may recall the furor earlier this year when the Archbishop of Canterbury got himself in trouble for musing in public the inevitability of sharia law in Great Britain. This piece from today's New York Times reminded me of that debate and of how difficult the question of religious accomodation can be in a liberal society, and, if you believe conservative commentators like Mark Steyn, how dangerous it can be. As a friend of mine on my current chaplain course saiid, pluralism works fine as long as the numbers favour the dominant group in a society. Here's an excerpt from the Times article:

November 19, 2008
Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice
LONDON — The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.

The Church of England has its own ecclesiastical courts. British Jews have had their own “beth din” courts for more than a century.

But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.

Boxed between the two, the government has taken a stance both cautious and confusing, a sign of how volatile almost any discussion of the role of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims can become.

Read the whole article

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Crisis

The fallout from the current financial crisis and economic slowdown in the US is impacting wounded and disabled veterans from America's current wars. This article from the New York Times offers some sobering facts about how these families are falling through the cracks. I have yet to see any comparable Canadian data. Here's an excerpt:

November 18, 2008
New Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Crisis

After a mortar sent Andrew Spurlock hurtling off a roof in Iraq, ending his Army career in 2006, the seasoned infantryman set aside bitterness over his back injury and began to chart his life in storybook fashion: a new house, a job as a police officer and more children.

“We had a budget and a plan,” said Mr. Spurlock, 29, a father of three, who with his wife, Michelle, hoped to avoid the pitfalls of his transition from Ramadi, Iraq, to Apopka, Fla.

But the move proved treacherous, as it often does for veterans. The job with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office fell through after officials there told Mr. Spurlock that he needed to “decompress” after two combat tours, a judgment that took him by surprise. Scrambling, he settled for a job delivering pizzas.

Read the whole article.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Account of Charge of the Light Brigade Auctioned

It's always pleasant when the voice of the archetypal Private (or in this case Trooper) Bloggins is heard over the years. In this case, an ordinary soldier's account of the Charge of the Light Brigade was recently auctioned in England. As you can see below, he must have watched stonefaced but full of foreboding as Capt. Nolan gave Lord Lucan his famously vague orders. Even my fellow chaplain candidates, after a week of training on NATO battle procedure, would recognize those orders as being fatally flawed. It's very gratifying to hear that Trooper Olley was rescued from a shameful beggardom and lived to a ripe old age.

From BBC News:

A soldier's account of the doomed Charge of the Light Brigade is expected to fetch up to £2,500 at auction.

Private James Olley, of Knapton, Norfolk, was 16 when he lost an eye and suffered a broken skull in the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Scores of cavalrymen died when they galloped straight into enemy fire after being sent in the wrong direction.

The soldier's handwritten account, which pinpoints some of the confusion, is being auctioned in Shropshire.

The document, which is believed to be one of only a few surviving eye-witness accounts of the charge, is being sold by Mullock's Auctions at Ludlow Racecourse on Thursday.

The auction will also include the sale of a map used by Sir Winston Churchill before D-Day.

Pte Olley penned his account to escape begging on the streets.

After returning to Norfolk, the injured soldier fell on hard times and begged with a placard around his neck.

Just as we saw the Russians a bullet from the enemy took away my left eye

Private James Olley

Pte Olley's account suggests the miscommunication between the head of the British cavalry, Lord Lucan, the Light Brigade's Commander Lord Cardigan and Captain Edward Nolan, who ordered the charge.

He wrote: "I was within 10 paces of the Earl (of Lucan) and his staff when the order was brought in - 'He (Lord Cardigan) may advance but what can we do?' said the Earl.

"'There is the enemy and there are the guns' cavalry,' replied Nolan, pointing to the Russian squadrons."

However, Captain Nolan indicated the wrong guns and caused confusion by commanding the entire valley, instead of a select number of troops.

Pte Olley told how he came across a horse with an empty saddle after his own horse was shot down.

"I mounted it and rode down to the guns, when I was attacked by a Russian gunner who I cut down with my sword," he wrote.

"I received a severe wound on my forehead, which went through the skull bone."

Pte Olley said the soldiers were soon "overpowered by the enemy".

"Just as we saw the Russians a bullet from the enemy took away my left eye, " he wrote.

"I still rode and fought through the lines of the enemy.

"When we got through we rode into our encampment, what few there were left of us."

Richard Westwood Brookes, of Mullock's Auctions, said the charge was a "spectacular example of dreadful leadership and lack of communication".

He said: "What makes this manuscript so important is that Olley was present when those crucial orders were delivered."

Pte Olley was seen begging by a squire who wrote an angry letter to the press about his treatment.

He was later granted a subscription fund and went onto work as a horse trainer.

He died aged 82.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How Militaristic Has Canada Become?

In this essay from today's Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy throws a bunch of points of view at the question of how militaristic we have become as a country. Certainly it's true that the military has a greater visibility today than it has since the Korean War. I also think Valpy is acknowledging a nerve in certain Canadian intellectual circles that, as Trudeau acknowledged during the FLQ crisis, gets twitchy when uniforms are seen on the streets. If he had tried harder, Valpy could have parsed the word "militaristic", which has connotations of fascism and dictatorship. I think Canadians have the common sense to value their military while knowing exactly where it belongs in our society - an honoured institution firmly under the control of a democratic government, without being "militaristic" or even "militarised". Anyway, here's Valpy:


From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

November 10, 2008 at 11:29 PM EST

It is Remembrance Day. At cenotaphs, war memorials and in schools and civic squares across the country, what Canadians will be asked to remember Tuesday is as complex and contested as their own uncertain culture.

They find themselves living with the fascinating phenomenon of a military presence once hidden from sight on government instructions, now more visible than at any time in the past half century.

Read the whole article.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What I'm Reading: Shock Troops

Tim Cook. Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War,1917-1918, Volume Two, Toronto: Viking Penguin, 2008.

Tonight, most likely, officers and senior NCOs of my former reserve unit, Fourth Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment, are gathering in London, Ontario for an annual event called The Pursuit to Mons dinner. This custom falls on the Saturday before Remembrance Day, and commemorates the last Battle Honour earned by the Regiment in the First World War. On November 10th, 1918, the Canadian Corps was attempting to capture the Belgian city of Mons, where the British Expeditionary Force had been thrown into retreat by the overwhelming power of the Imperial German army in August 1914. Thus the war came first circle, with the Empire’s new army of shock troops from Canada regaining what ground the mother country’s professional army had lost at the outset of the war.

Canada’s military coming of age in 1917 and 1918 is the subject of Tim Cook’s book, Shock Troops. Cook, the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, completes in this volume the story he began in At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916. Shock Troops begins with the Canadian Corps battered after the 1916 battles of the Somme, and shivering in the winter of 1916-17. Herbert Burrell, an infantryman at the unimaginable age of forty-six (my age next week) wrote that “We are like the rats which infest the trenches burrowing in the ground; sleeping by day; grovelling in the mud at night. Mud in your bed. Mud in your bed; in your mess tin; on your food. We seldom wash. No water to spare. One marvels at the cheerfulness of the boys who have been out here a long time” (p. 14). Comradeship in the midst of unrelenting hardship and casualties is a constant theme in Cook’s study. His other major theme is the increasing professionalism, operational and tactical organization, and national pride which made the Corps such a powerful force on the Western Front.

Under their last two commanders, Sir Julian Byng and Sir Arthur Currie, the Canadians spent the winter of 1916-17 reorganizing and training in ways that allowed the Corps’ four divisions to build on their staff strengths and lessons learned. “Canadians understood one another, often knew their counterparts in their division or other divisions from prewar life in Canada or from serving in the First Contingent, and would come to know each other better in the various divisional and corps training schools that were established from 1916 onward to impart lessons and bring senior and junior officers together” (21).

The story of how Currie and his staff achieved their goal in the methodical, set-piece battle of Vimy Ridge is well told by Cook and is too well-known to deserve much space here. We can be grateful to Cook that he spends as much time describing the Canadian effort at Passchendaele, a battle which has been memorably and lyrically evoked in film this fall by Canadian actor and director Paul Gross. Passchendaele, a winter battle fought in appalling conditions amidst bottomless quagmires of mud, has long been a symbol of the idiocy and sacrifice of trench warfare. However, given the bleak strategic situation of 1917 for the Allies, with Russia failing and the French army in a state of mutiny, there was a grim logic in the British general Douglas Haig’s plan of keeping the pressure on Germany. While Currie won his demand to fight the battle on his own terms, he only had two weeks to plan the offensive, far less time than the Canadian Corps had to plan the attack on Vimy Ridge. Cook gives Currie full credit for standing up to his British superiors to win every possible advantage for his Canucks by spending shells instead of lives:

“Currie needed more guns to adequately prepare for the battle. Returning from his tour of the front, the red-faced general barged into GHQ demanding replacements for the guns that had sunk beneath the mud. Kilometres from the front, the British staff chided Currie and asked how he could know for sure if the guns where there or not. Currie exploded, cursing and pointing to his mud-stained uniform; he had been there to inspect the bloody guns, he bellowed, and there were far fewer of them than the British claimed in their handover reports! The surprised and chastised British acquiesced.” (p. 321)

Passchendaele, as one Canadian gunner remembered, was “really hell on earth … a complete nightmare of mud, slush and everything else. It was frightful, and if I’d been in for a week I’m sure I’d have gone mad” (p. 364). However, it was a tribute to the Canadian Corps that it managed four set-piece attacks in October and November, using increasingly sophisticated tactics. During the capture of Passchendaele village, spotter aircraft from the Royal Flying Corps, using state of the art wireless radios, called in seventy artillery missions from the air to support the Canadian attacks. The use of aircraft for fire control and ground attack, combined with tanks, armoured cars and mobile artillery, all assisting infantry with robust tactical leadership and initiative at the section level, would be widely used in the above ground battles of the Hundred Days in late 1918 as the Canadians got better and better at the art of war. Readers who think that the Western Front was simply the repetition of mindless and stupid tactics by idiot generals need to read Cook’s book.

The battles of the Hundred Days (August to November, 1918), when the Canadians broke the German lines at Cambrai, Amiens, the Canal du Nord and Valenciennes, deserve to be as equally well known to Canadians as Vimy Ridge. In these last, desperate battles, against German lines lavishly equipped with machine guns, the Canadians infantry was often forced to attack before their supporting artillery could be brought within range over recently captured ground. In these last days of the war on the western front, the Candians suffered 45,835 casualties, an eighth of the losses of the British Expeditionary Force during this period, even though the Canadians only made up one-fifteenth of the BEF’s total strength (579). The breaking up of the Fifth Division in England, plus the arrival of conscripts from Canada, allowed a flow of replacements to keep the Canadian infantry at full strength and fighting. When one considers the number of men who flowed through the Canadian battalions, being destroyed and rebuilt five and six times over (the 1st CEF battalion, with an OOB of about 1000 men, had 6,449 men pass through its ranks during the war), it’s a marvel and a tribute that the Canadians fought as well and as hard as they did.

The surprising cohesion of the Canadian Corps, as Cook suggests, came from its camaraderie, the loyalty of mates in a platoon to one another when Generals like Currie seemed far away. It came as well from the special discipline of the Corps, noticeably more relaxed and democratic than the tone of the British army, but still an army that prided itself on its soldiering reputation. And, as Cook suggests memorably, it came from the fact that they embodied a nation:

“Close to seven percent of the country’s total population left Canada during the war years, which included an astonishing twenty percent of the total male population between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. And when they arrived in their camps, and later in the fighting formations of the Canadian Corps or other units, they met men who hailed from across the country. English Anglo-Saxon Protestants served next to French-speaking Catholics; east-coast fishermen rubbed shoulders with big-city Toronto factory workers; Natives, blacks and Japanese fought side by side with men who might never have seen them in Canada, let alone talked to them. This is not to suggest that the Canadian Corps was one big, happy family that experienced no friction or fights. But the country did come together in its corps, taking great pride in the significant victories on the Western Front, which created a new pantheon of soldier heroes. The corps’ success in the war also created a new sense that Candians had done something important together, that indeed something “Canadian” existed beyond the political federation of provinces and localities.” (p. 630)

If this all seems rather abstract and academic, read the book for the many soldier’s voices that Cook includes in its over six hundred pages. Among these voices is Gunner Robert Hale, writing a poem home to his girlfriend Alice, knowing, as all Canadian soldiers did, that the odds were stacked against them ever coming home. Hale wrote:

Remembrance is all I ask
But if remembrance proves a task
Forget me. (p. 189)

As another Canadian historian, Duff Crerar, has written, “all of our historians gaze across the white crosses and memorials with awe and sympathy for the grief and pain that still haunts those who have been lovers of those who signed away their right to life for the defence of Canada”. Thanks to Cook, Gunner Robert Hale and others like him will not be forgotten. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Toying With History

Toy soldier enthusiasts and Canadian chauvinists will enjoy this statue, currently on display in Toronto, as a reminder of the War of 1812. It depicts a British soldier from the War of 1812, triumphing over an American soldier. The war visited Toronto, then Fort York, in 1813.

The whole story can be found here. The article quotes a US museum curator as saying:

Connie Barrone, the site manager of the Sackets Harbor state historical park in northern New York, had in a previous interview with the National Post declared the American troops victorious. But Monday, she applauded Toronto for its "strong" monument.

In an e-mail, she wrote that "historical or aesthetic interpretation must be made by the viewer."

"Depending on one's point of historical interpretation, the figures could be reversed, for example representing the Battle of York, or the figures might both be standing eyeball to eyeball when interpreting the War of 1812," she wrote.

Tnis quote spurred a professor friend of mine to write:

Funny that the US 'historian' is curator at Sacketts Harbour. That's recorded there as another 'victory'.

"Executive summary: Drummond raided the place in 1813 with 800 militia. It was defended by 6000+ US militia and regulars. Aim was to burn the naval yards, and naval supplies. US militia fled at the first approach. While the US regulars defended earthworks against the Canadian skirmish line, a US militia officer (Cornelius Spunkmeyer -- I'm not making that up) fled through the town, shouting that all was lost. US Militia fired the town, including the building supplies, the dockyards, and the ships under construction. Drummond withdrew. US victory."

I suppose as a wargamer, my only criticism of the statue is that there isn't a big dice and a bag of Doritos beside the toy soldiers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Caption Contest

This picture courtesy of my brother Al (you have to click on the picture to see the whole thing:

Captions courtesy of military friends in London from 4RCR:

"For this I shaved my legs??"

"I said, 'Watch out for the Shitzu'..."

"At the 2008 All Alumni Olympics, the 1956 Chinese Women's Gymnastic Team enters the stadium."

"Sexy Asian Villains March in Protest of being cut from the latest Bond film. Allegations surface that cameras were void of film during bikini oil fight in submarine. Daniel Craig and Producers silent."

"The US...Who's Bitch is She Now?"

"The US Economy...It's Not Sizzlin', It's Fizzlin'"

"Maoist supermodels attempting to emulate Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and as usual, the PRC doesn't get it quite right."

Finally, my favourite, thanks to Photoshop (again, click on the picture to get the whole joke):

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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