Desert Eagle .50: a (non)guide to getting your firearms license

if someone told me a year ago that i would be on the road to a gun license i would have laughed in their face. up until this moment my only interaction with firearms has been a misguided attempt at shooting an air rifle while bush-camping with a bunch of drunken frenchmen; in an effort to initiate them into canadian camping ways we provided a giant fire, too much pilsner and the requisite beer can pyramid for target practice.

enter the great war collection: one soon finds oneself needing a firearms license as every collection worth its salt must have at least one gun. so, my excuse is professional development.

when you announce you’re taking the test people react in variety of different ways. utter horror that you too will soon have a living room full of guns, and start taking pictures of yourself with a sub-machine gun and bible. consternation, at why a mostly urban girl would feel the need to interact with a gun, or (if you’re talking to the average male) you immediately become a substitute for lara croft and the girls who play with power tools in the video for “satisfaction”. i might as well just put on my bikini and have done with it.

everyone forgets that before the firearms license and the requisite firearms, there is the firearms license test. a more trigger-happy version of the learners license book. ugh. BUT, i have a secret memorizing weapon. i love gangster movies, so for every type of action (the firing bit), barrel, and safety step, i make a visual reference to where it appeared in a movie. “hobo with a shotgun for instance uses a shotgun (smooth bore obviously…) bullet tooth tony, a semi-automatic handgun for which i would need a restricted firearms license (though i doubt tony has one, that rascal). finally, in the bookie robbery scene in “snatch”, the boys make (poor) use of a pump action.

here’s hoping all those movies help me pass!

scots wha hae: highland uniforms in world war one

scots may hae, but they also have an excellent tartan warehouse in london… i found this bill while looking through the personal archive of a canadian highlander, edwin stewart turner of the 42nd battalion. turner had been promoted to lieutenant the year before, and while in england recovering from a bronchitis brought on by mustard gas exposure he also thought to buy himself some tartan for the hefty price of thirteen pounds sixpence.

bill to lieutenant turner, scott adie ltd. 1918.

bill to lieutenant turner, scott adie ltd. 1918.

commissioned officers were expected to supply most of their own uniforms and for one in the highlanders, who had lots of extra accessories, it must have been dauntingly expensive. scott adie of london, as we can see from the bill, was appointed official supplier of all things tartan to the queen (probably queen victoria, who popularized tartans and scottish tourism after her first visit in 1842) and also offered a number of nifty items like eagle feathers, bonnets and the terrifyingly named ‘scotch hosiery’ (tartan tights anyone?

during his recovery, lieutenant turner spent quite a lot on outfitting himself; his archive includes cheque stubs for all sorts of gear, including tartan trews (trousers), a sporran and a glengarry ( a specific type of hat). the company existed from 1854 until 1954 in london, it’s products are now considered highly collectable.

en français s’il vous plaît: adventures in bilingual curatorship

one of the joys (and miseries) of being a small collection in québec is the need for bilingual tours. as chief cook and bottle washer this task usually falls to me; the token albertan. what usually results is a manful struggle to maintain my french (and composure) while trying desperately to figure out what exactly ‘trench foot’ might be in la belle langue. nothing breaks your sense of embarrassment more quickly than being corrected by small school-age children about the proper usage of their language.

in order to save my dignity i have begun making a list of useful great war words that i have to memorize. they include (but are not limited to): gangrene (gangrène), tank (char), artillery shell (obus d’artillerie), trench foot (god only knows) and gun emplacement (another mystery). in between, i thank my lucky stars that i don’t have to do it in russian as that would probably kill me. i can only imagine that a language that uses three words of no less than 4 syllables each to describe a department store has wonderful things in store for those silly enough to attempt to describe a trench…

forward the revolution: early soviet posters

here i am, back from the academic pit! thesis submitted, passed and generally commented upon. in celebration, i give you my most recent wall addition. sadly not an original, but a late 1970s copy.

враг у ворот!!! original c1918-1920 (reprint). Moscow.

враг у ворот!!! original c1918-1920 (reprint). Moscow.

in addition to their other, less savory activities (socialist-realism comes to mind) the bolsheviks were master visual propagandists. their images were simplistic, forceful and graphically eye-catching, and paved the way for modern advertising. this particular poster was originally used during the civil war period (1917-1922), when the RED ARMY found itself at war with multiple factions within the country, and foreign armies with an interest in a non-communist russia.

soviet propaganda often used red as a visual cue to identify their work. if you think of the old hammer and sickle flag for instance, and the red star insignia, they are instantly recognizable as bolshevik ( and later soviet) images. the image here is red, black and white with no gradations for maximum effect. you can also see that visually the soldiers are divided into two groups, officers (identifiable by their shoulder tabs and peaked caps) and workers. in the background, the artist has helpfully added a factory, so we know whose side the bolsheviks are on. no beautiful nevksii prospekt for these boys.

the poster (if it was the original) would also be easy to date, since it refers to the RUSSIAN SOCIALIST SOVIET FEDERATION REPUBLIC and not the more groovy (and less tongue twisting) CCCP. my daily russian practice now centres on how quickly i can spit out RSSFR and not start drooling from the effort.

a small hiatus

well, it’s that time of year. the one where i try to finish everything in about 2 weeks. so, in honour of my sanity (and so that i DON’T end up with sticks up my nose and underwear on my head) i am taking a small break from the world of blogging.

don’t worry loyal fans (yes, that’s you mum) i will be back in april; we can only hope that it will be as a well-rested individual. cheers!

“wearing nothing but a fur coat”: lucia casati

while trying to figure out a theme for my upcoming birthday party (yes, i am actually five years old), i was scrounging around for pictures of 1920s women draped over things and found this one. who can resist the fur coat, jewels and cheetah on a leash combination??

Joseph Paget-Fredericks "La marchesa Luisa Casati" c.1940

Joseph Paget-Fredericks “La marchesa Luisa Casati” c.1940

given that my cat is not really cheetah sized and that putting her on a leash would probably be a supremely bad idea, i am going to have to skip the wildlife and settle for some serious sparkles. however, the whole point of this expedition was then to find out who this woman actually was. this LUISA CASATI… turns out, she was an italian marchesa who lived her life to “be a work of art” (sound familiar, LADY GAGA??). casati hosted the DIAGHILEV and the ballets russes, collected exotic animals and was generally pretty fabulous. unfortunately, being fabulous also cost a lot of money and by the1930s she was 25 million dollars in debt. whoops. casati went on to go where all poor nobility goes, LONDON, and died there in 1957.

interestingly, GEORGINA CHAPMAN’s fashion line, MARCHESA is named after her and apparently takes inspiration from our lovely , cheetah walking friend. you can also see CARINE ROITFELD, pre-baby, prance through vogue with a leopard here. obviously, it’s going to be as great birthday.

movie hunt: trying to find “generation war”

sometimes i love the internet, especially when it lets me watch GIRLS on a wednesday night, but when you’re trying to find new films its a real pain. you frequently find yourself rerouted through about 17 different file sharing programmes, with horrible names like “filesocker”, dodging continual demands for your credit card information and ads for “slutty asian girls”. truly the wild west out there.

“so hilft dein geld”, German c.1914-1918 image wikimedia.org

why bother?? well, to try and find the german war film series GENERATION WAR (unsere mütter unsere väter to be precise). i blame this entire saga on THE NEW YORKER, which tantalized me with its review of the trilogy this week. even though the review wasn’t all that steller, i can’t resist a good war film. the last german one i watched was the super A WOMAN IN BERLIN, which is also a brutal book; a very hard read to say the least. also out is the english production of THE BOOK THIEF, another great book about the war experience of the ordinary german during the second world war.

the proliferation of german films examining the second world war promises an interesting change in the presentation of the country during the war. unfortunately, the question of germany, and the role of its people in the rise and consecration of HITLER and his government , has been such a sensitive topic that it hasn’t really been discussed until after many survivors of the period are gone. while it is very good to see a dialogue opened, i can’t help but feel regret that it didn’t happen sooner, so that more people who lived through the period could comment.