The Eco-Friendly Claymore Mine

Every time I turn to the social media pages, there seems to be something that is eco-friendly – whether it is eye makeup or a motor car. And oddly enough, each mention of this wonderful property seems to be connected with an offer to sell me that product. I am starting to see a pattern.

I wonder if it would be a good thing to extend this to items – like the standard claymore mine or phosgene artillery shells – that are normally looked upon with horror. They need a better press and perhaps the idea of making them green is a good one.

Of course pedants will point out that claymores and gas shells are already green in colour, but this is merely playing with words. We want to make them desirable on an environmental basis. Given the fact that they are designed to kill, this may be a hard thing to do, but spin doctoring is a skilled profession – just ask the practitioners who attend the American president.

Let’s start with the phosgene gas shells. Okay, they have been estimated to have caused 65,000 casualties in WWI, but that was 100 years ago and surely no-one would remember that now…In any case, it was used by the French and we could always show pictures of a girl in a french maid’s uniform to make it seem a lot nicer. And remember that it is a valued industrial compound for other chemical manufacture. The fact that it is sitting in artillery shell…in some cases very old artillery shells…is just incidental. If we paint them pink we can probably sell them as sex toys.

The claymore mines are another thing entirely. They’re pretty new and much more likely to find their way into the hands of school children and people at senior citizen centers. Indeed, there are few better ways of clearing pesky teenagers off your lawn if yelling at them from the porch doesn’t work. They also keep your walkway free of religious callers and pizza delivery people.

What the manufacturers want to do is develop a claymore that does not spit out steel balls when fired – just a humongous blast of flame. These could be supplied in packs of ten at the local Home Depot store for use as snow clearing devices in northern cities. You open the front door on a snow day when a drift has buried your walkway, place the mine on the doormat, and squeeze the clicker. WHOOMP! Clean sidewalk. Think of the number of heart attacks this would prevent in middle-aged people.

Also on the cards would be a festive claymore for the Latin countries. Brightly decorated  and filled with Jaffas and Skittles instead of the steel balls, they could be hung in the trees and detonated during the fiesta instead of a pinata, No more danger of blindfolded little children swinging bats. Might be a good idea to reduce the charge in the candy ones to prevent melting the chocolate…Olé!

 

 

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The Drones – Part Three – The Right To Menace

I am good at menacing. I do it every time I can find an innocent person who is in no position to defend themselves. There are plenty of these about – they work in retail shops. If I have five cents in my pocket I can go and browbeat them, traduce them, and terrify them with threats of exposure on Travelguide, YouTube, and Choice magazine. Or I can buy five cents worth of sweets and bugger off.

Some days it is a close run decision.

The drone menace, on the other hand, is less clear-cut. It would appear to have several aspects:

a. The drones may fall upon people and injure them. Quite apart from the physical weight of the things – which can be considerable if they are larger commercial jobs – they have anything up to eight flailing propellers working at high speed like knives in an abattoir. It’s not just the dropping on people that is dangerous – swishing through the crowd sideways may be horrifyingly worse.

If this is an inadvertent thing – failure of control or bad flying – it is one thing, but what it if were deliberate? We’ve seen people drive into crowds with murder in their hearts before.

b. The drones may be modified to carry destructive payloads. They need not drop themselves into a crowd if they can be rigged to drop something else. You can make up your own list of frightfulness that might be precipitated on others.*

c. The drones may interfere with other aircraft in the air…or even on the ground if they are operated within airports. We’re told that there are automatic controls that prohibit this in signals sent by the manufacturers via internet to the drones. From China. Now there’s foolproof, if ever I’ve heard it.

d. The drones may interfere with essential public services like firefighting by flying where aerial tankers are in operation. This has apparently happened.

e. The drones may intrude into secret governmental and military areas. Again we are told that there are controls in place to stop this…here I am inclined to have more faith. I’ll bet the SAS would love to open up on a drone over Campbell Barracks, and perhaps they have already. We’ll never know.

f. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on commercial properties for commercial or governmental purposes. Someone has already suggested council surveillance of blocks in rural areas to spy on people erecting sheds without permission. It sounds just petty enough to be true.

g. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on private matters for private delectation and troublemaking. Leading to private defence and public nuisance. What price privacy and good order?

h. Drones might be used to disrupt and harass legitimate events – sporting venues, religious ceremonies, weddings, civic affairs. Political parties could be targeted by their rivals.

Some of these troubles may be fended off already by technical means. Others might be circumscribed by the law but the fact of the matter is that at the moment of the offence any obedience to law would still rest with the person running the drone…and they might be willing to do it at any risk. There are already enough people who commit offences in all other divisions of law despite clearer sanctions and a history of enforcement. The drone situation is still very much in the ” hold my beer ” stage.

*Naturally I exclude the Air Force and Army drones that drop Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon shells on people. These are perfectly all right.

 

 

 

 

Returning To Somebody’s Roots

I am prompted to write today’s column by an advertisement that appeared on a Facebook timeline. It touted some form of cultural cringe session entitled ” Return To Roots “. The images fronting it suggested that the participants would be from Central American jungles, but I suspect that this was nothing more than graphic designer’s code for ” Come along and get drunk on expensive beer. ”

Nothing wrong with that, as many of my friends will attest, but using it as a catchphrase was damnable. If you REALLY want people to return to their roots, you are going to have to accept that the roots that they return to are neither exotic, erotic, or interesting. The crowd you are going to get is going to have to revert to being teenagers in the 1980’s in outer city suburbs…and you can get fresher versions of that at any servo on the Albany Highway right now.

No – what the advertisement was calling for was for a to return to someone else’s roots. What exactly it wanted us to do there is questionable. Root around? Dress up? Play act? I can do that in the traditional garb of my forefathers – a shirt and trousers – while drinking the mystical potion of the tribe – the highball. I do not need to put warpaint on my cheeks and shake a spear to be warlike. Our tribe put on khaki clothing and shook rifles…and it worked.

I’m as guilty as the next re-enactor of aping something that none of my family ever remotely enacted in the first place. As far as I can tell, none of the Steins or Sheedys were ever at Waterloo – except me – and I was 180 years late, thank goodness. What I did then and others do now is not re-enacting…it is acting. If we were better at it we would be paid money and solicited to give our political opinion on CNN.

But as far as returning to roots? I hardly remember some of their names, let alone addresses or faces…I still have a rash, however…

Featured Image: Fake Petzval lens effect. Real geezer.

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory…

Have you ever noticed that whenever Hollywood movies play ” The Battle Hymn Of The Republic ” someone is going to get a well-deserved pasting?

The rest of the movie might have been occupied with the Americans getting slaughtered in great numbers – tanks, planes, and ships blowing up and all – but when the chips are finally down the old Civil War song comes on and business starts to pick up. This has been the case ever since it was written, and I hope it continues in the future.

Make no mistake about it – I am on the side of the US in past and future wars. It was a point of polite contention when I was a guest of the old Confederate Historical Society here in Western Australia, and it is bound to be a factor when in social gatherings in the future. People who point out that I was raised in Canada and am a naturalised Australian citizen and thereby hope to change my mind can go and get knotted – and I am prepared to buy them a Boy Scout manual to assist them at it. I still admire the US and the US military.

It’s not a popular view – at least not in the trendy pink-tinged circles I frequent. Contempt for the American military is a basic tenet of the locals – and I have learned to largely ignore it. For my part I have developed my own assessment of foreign claims to military or historical fame…but have kept them to myself. I shall continue to do so – I prefer to live on speaking terms with my friends.

I also keep my opinion about political figures in the USA to myself – aware that it would be as pointless to air them as it is to listen to others. We in Australia are…to put it bluntly…in Australia…and would do well to concern ourselves with our own governance. We’ll need all our wits about us to remain on good terms with the Asians now that the price of iron ore has fallen and the price of apartments in Sydney has risen…

I wonder – is there any other piece of music – save the ” Marseillaise ” – that is so evocative in a motion picture? I can’t imagine Canadians turning steely at ” O Canada ” though I must say that whenever I heard ” The Maple Leaf Forever ” I experienced an overwhelming desire to beat up on a Quebequois. To be fair, I felt that way when I heard a doorbell. French-Canadians’ll do that you ya.

 

 

The Little World – When You Try To Decide

The business of decision in the Little World is a great deal more difficult than it used to be. I do not envy a beginner in the various hobbies; diecast collecting, plastic model building, miniature houses, or r/c hobbies.

What a crock… I envy them prodigiously and wish I was starting out again in half a dozen different fields. With half a dozen separate sources of hobby money, I hasten to add…

The peep at the plastic modellers show was reminiscent of what I have seen in lots of other places; literally hundreds of kits available in any division of endeavour. The days of half a dozen Airfix plastic baggies and one model of the Bismark at the local toy store plus two tins of gloss Humbrol are well surpassed. I was staggered at the number of kits of things I would be delighted to build, and equally at the number that left me cold. The limiting factor would be money and time…no other technical restriction seems to exist.

The scale problem always exists, of course, and is nowhere more painfully evident than on the display tables for general modelling societies. There are wonderful models of all scales jumbled cheek to jowl and they all suffer from it – you can’t really appreciate any one thing unless you see it it concert with others that match it in scale and period. This is not what the exhibitors want, or can achieve, so it is no good me grousing about it. I noted that a society dedicated to a particular scale like the 1/72 ship modellers or to one era like the WWI airplane people do have a much better chance of a coherent show.

But the choices seem to be far more than I as a child would have been able to cope with. I had Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and AMT to choose from – now there have to be a couple of dozen major makers to add to that and who knows how many specialist, garage, or wildcat makers. Of course some of them have priced themselves past what a child or sensible adult could ever afford to purchase…but then there are any number of foolish adults ( bless them ) wandering the aisles of the hobby show and some of them are seriously cashed-up. They are the golden hope that buoys the retailers and wholesalers and makes it possible for the lesser fish to have food as well.

How DO you decide what to do? I’ll explore the mindset of this in a future post…in the meantime grab whichever kit is nearest to you on the counter, pay for it, go home, and start cutting into the tips of your fingers.

The Little World – Let’s Be Civil About This, Shall We…?

The cry of the scale modeller can be a bellicose one at times. Wherever I turned at the recent plastic model exhibition I saw instruments of destruction. Very well done, mind, but nevertheless reminders of war and disaster. I made a point of searching out equally well-made models that might have had a gentler theme:

Off on vacation with a Mercury woodie and a teardrop trailer from the late 40’s or early 50’s. The trailers were every bit as popular in the Big World too – if you were prepared to crouch a little you could save big on petrol.

Cruising for girls on a Saturday night. Wait a minute – that’s sort of like borderline warfare…better go to the next one…

Air racing – can’t get safer and saner than that. Well, at least the only one likely to get killed is the pilot and a few spectators.

Water bombing in Canada. Exciting and good for the environment. I’m surprised Justin Trudeau isn’t leaning out of the cockpit waving at the camera…

The dear old Calypso. Peacefully mapping the ocean floor for the French navy so that they can find quiet places to park their submarines…

I noted in the rulebook for the competitions that the organisers reserved the right to ban anything that they deemed offensive. It might sound silly, but I suspect it is a good rule – there have been a number of figurine models produced that seem to transcend the boundaries of good taste without ever approaching artistry. It was a family day and the families had a very good time of it.

The Alternate National Day – Up Spirits!

unknownHere in Australia we have a national civic holiday on the 26th of January called Australia Day. Original aren’t we? It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in New South Wales in 1788. Some aborigines now say they are upset about it and some local politicians who want to benefit from this distress want to use their position to promote an alternate holiday two days later. It is all very sad, silly, and cynical…and ultimately just an exercise in publicity. The national holiday will go ahead as it has always done.

But another intriguing prospect has been suggested by a Facebook post: the use of the 26th of January to remember a military coup in New South Wales in 1808 by members of a British Army colonial regiment against the Governor of the colony. It was memorable for two reasons; the Governor was ” Mutiny On The Bounty ” William Bligh, and the whole affair turned to some extent upon rum.

The spirit was being used as currency in the colony and Bligh forbade it…as well as angering the moneyed classes by other rulings. Eventually, it all became too much and several officers led the New South Wales Corps to Government House  – with colours flying and band playing – to arrest Bligh. He was confined, shipped elsewhere, came back, went elsewhere again, and eventually was replaced. The mutineers were tried and very lightly punished and the whole embarrassing incident got over.

But what a fine way to give an alternative reading to the national day! I intend to buy a very good bottle of Barbados rum for the occasion and toast all parties involved.