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Movie review: “White Tiger”

When we think of Russia today and now, our mind might wander off into brutal poisonings of ex-spies across international borders, brutal assassinations of journalists inside Russia, brutal repressions of Chechen independence movements, brutal invasions of South Ossetia, Ukraine, and Georgia (THAT Georgia, not our Georgia), poorly chosen relationships with Iran and Syria, and the current czar riding around bare-chested on a horse with a rifle slung over his back.

Perhaps it was always thus. But if we think and search back a hundred years or more, we will stumble upon buried treasure in the farthest reaches of Russia.

Yes, it is true, Russia was not always just a military force to be reckoned with, it was also a significant cultural center of the very highest magnitude, the very highest achievement. World class music, literature, arts and crafts, poetry, ballet, and so on all were major hallmarks of the Russians.

Not of the oppressed Soviet satellite states, but the actual Russian people themselves.

Rachmaninoff, Dostoyesky, Faberge, and so on, so many great minds contributing in a singularly unique way, native to Russian culture.

Russians had this knack for art that you would not necessarily see if you looked at the simple surface of their culture or landscape. Behind the eightball on technology, Russian writers and poets and musicians bedazzled Westerners with their brilliance and inspiration.

That all started to die in fits and starts after the violent 1917 revolution led by the Democrat Party of that day and place, but nonetheless art persisted until the 1950s, when Soviet socialist control firmly held every thing and every person in its crushing grasp.

To dissent from all that big government with a pink pussy hat or with a snarky hashtag was unthinkable. Not that people wouldn’t try to do it, but the Soviet thought police, much the same as our own politically correct thought police in America today, would catch the thought crime even before it had taken physical form, and, as our own thought police openly wish they could do, WHOOSH, off to a starvation diet in Siberia went that ‘evil’ free thinker.

I am not sure that the Soviets used the words “sexist,” “racist,” homophobe,” “Islamophobe,” and other overdone American generalities meant to crush dialogue and debate, but if they could have used these terms, they would have. Different words then, but the same anti-democracy process then and now.

So for the past seventy years Russia has had an especially harsh Russian winter, art-wise, because of the Soviets and then their control freak successors, whatever Mr. Putin’s political party is named.

To be an artist in that Russian cultural winter was to walk around every day muzzled, daring not to say much less think your own creative thoughts. Too much was at stake.

But somewhere, somehow, that beautiful old Russian voice began to quietly break through the repressive walls. Finding acceptable subjects and means to convey them became a new form of creativity in and of itself.

Nationalism, patriotism, history are all legitimate subjects of artistic creativity, and so Russian artists have adapted. Very, very well. Albeit with throwback Soviet-style imagery, which is lamentable. Gosh, if the Russians could only be our friends…the things we could achieve together.

And so here we now have a truly artistic Russian movie we can all be proud of, in the mould of the old-time Russian artistic capacity. It is called White Tiger and debuted about 18 months ago. I have been wanting to write about it since watching it back then, but as we know, the past 18 months in America have been pretty intense.  Every time I thought I could breathe again, some new issue would pop up. There was more compelling competition for writing space and creativity of my own.

At least this is how I have experienced the past 18 months.

If you are afflicted with a love of liberty, as I am, then you have shared my somewhat anxious condition as the American “deep state,” or Obama holdovers, or career bureaucrats, or whatever you want to call them, have attempted to reverse the outcome of a presidential election they thought they would win and still cannot stomach the thought of losing, by any means necessary. Which means illegal, unethical, immoral, un-American, anti-democratic means.

That all seems to be unwinding now.

And so now, for this moment, I get to bask in the glow of art, thanks to the Russians. And I really mean it, thank you. Seeing this movie took me way back in time to when my own mind was creative and artistic.

Dear Russians, I lift my glass to you: Tvoye zdorovye!

White Tiger is on its face a war movie set in World War Two. It is about Russians versus Germans, good guys versus bad guys, the Eastern European version of cowboys versus Indians. It is also about tanks and heavy armor, about technological superiority versus the grass roots spirit to survive, and history. Lots of history. And lots of action.

At its core, this movie is mythological and Darwinian, with a lot of symbolism, not the least of which is the theme music, an artfully done refrain of Wagner’s pilgrim’s chorus.

If you care to pay careful attention, and walk a mile in a Russian tank tread, you will end up being impressed by this low-budget, high-performance film.

Briefly summed up with no spoilers, the unlikely (and yet so likely…there’s that symbolism thing) Russian hero is reborn, a plausible enough biological fluke consistent with species adapting.

He goes on to learn his enemy’s ways, to anticipate his next moves, and in the end, he goes on a ghostly chase into both past and future, bound up in one of Russia’s most enduring identities: Not German!

And speaking of German, Germany, and World War Two, no better representation of Adolf Hitler has been captured in cinema than the movie’s very last few minutes, where Satan’s boots on the ground has a heartfelt confession with his sponsor, who sits patiently listening in the shadow.

White Tiger.

And as an aperitif, try this Russian music to settle your soul before bed time.

Keep yer dirty mitts off our history

July 1st is the anniversary of the beginning of hostilities at Gettysburg, the beginning of the end of the first American Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, or War Between the States).

For weeks, anti history activists have been openly discussing their intentions to defile Gettysburg battlefield’s monuments and markers.

Following recent anti history actions in New Orleans, where the mayor simply removed valuable old Confederate army statues he said were “offensive,” there is now a war against American history.

This attempt to destroy historic statues  and markers here is the same as ISIS blowing up churches, synagogues, and Buddhist carvings, as well as quite ancient carvings from Sumerian civilization.

In ancient Egypt it was fairly common for subsequent rulers to chisel out the names of a politically incorrect forebear from the many stone monuments that relayed the nation’s history

It’s all an attempt to destroy history so it can be rewritten to suit a modern narrative, be it now or 3,000 years ago.

History belongs to everyone. You cannot rewrite it, or destroy it, or damage it. If there is something in history you don’t like, then don’t judge it by today’s standards. Rather, try to understand what was in the minds of the people originally involved.

That understanding is how we use history to inform our decisions today. It’s why so much effort is put into researching history, and uncovering artifacts. We want to know. Well, civilized people want to know.

The people threatening to destroy Gettysburg don’t want to know and they don’t want you to know. They want ignorance, so they can present an alternative rendition that suits their political views today.

They’d probably write a textbook about how the evil Republicans were defeated by ANTIFA kids at Gettysburg. Or something like that.

The rest of America has a message for the disrupters and anti history people: Keep yer dirty mitts of our history.

Downton Abbey’s “field sports” Part II

Guess I shot from the hip, shot first and asked questions later, didn’t identify my target too well, or another euphemism you may enjoy applying to the lack of foresight I brought to yesterday’s analysis of Downton Abbey’s field sports.

Yes, I could have sneaked a peak ahead of the coming scenes, like many other avid watchers of PBS’s hit show do, but because I lack the time and the inclination to sneak anything, I just sat down in my easy chair and watched the show unfold last night without advance knowledge of its content.

My Sunday afternoon essay about the mediocre depiction of the field sports of Downton Abbey was written beforehand.

So, yes, there was a shooting scene last night, or more accurately, some scenes of wing shooting at driven partridge from bona fide shooting butts, using authentic guns and nice clothes, woven in and out of the story about the Scottish castle party.

But once again, there was more focus on the clothes on the people holding the guns than on the Purdeys, Rigbys, and other Best-quality side-by-side shotguns being used to down the birds.

In 1924, $150,000-then-equivalent Purdey shotguns do not get left with the menial help in the kitchen. They are fussed and obsessed over by their owners, kept locked in their rooms, cased with abundant hand-made accoutrements, labeled beautifully by their makers, and often proudly handed down from generation to generation and worn with traditional hunting clothes.

Scottish castles are loaded with arms and armor, and we barely got a peak at the edged weapons welcoming guests through the front door.

The wagons taking the hunters to the field were right, and a nice touch.  I have ridden in such wagons on traditional hunts, and they are today an unnecessary throwback.  But back then, they were a necessity through muck and muddy moors.

Shooting driven partridge from the butts was mostly done right, with gun loaders ducking to avoid being seen by the birds, and we did see some people bunched up waving white flags, but a real drive could have been filmed for full authenticity.  Actual dead birds could have fallen.  Smoke could have emitted from the barrels.  Etc etc.

Depicting the shooting sports in so briefly and so shallow a manner is the equivalent of dressing Lady Mary in a perfect 1920s top with modern hip-hugger blue jeans below. It is just wrong.  Don’t do that!

A lot of non sequiturs occurred last night that really deprive the Downton Abbey audience of a full appreciation of the English field sport lifestyle, which actually reached its pinnacle in the 1920s (when cheap skilled labor was matched with newly superior steel and modern technology to create firearms that even today still command huge sums of money, not to mention the introduction and propagation of Asian pheasants to the English countryside), the time we are watching in the show.

I am sorry to criticize you, Julian Fellowes, because Downton Abbey is otherwise a great show, everything we want it to be. 

Last night was disappointing, because the rich details of noble Scottish and English hunting rites should have been indulged.  As a student of English history, you are missing a great, even important opportunity here to dig into a meaty subject which your audience will surely enjoy, even if it involves G-U-N-S. 

Maybe in January 2016 we will get a more thorough treatment of a subject that may be missing from Mr. Fellowes’ life today, but which was a nearly daily ritual for the actual residents of Downton Abbey and their peers in the 1920s.

Guns – Your individual right

Gun ownership is an individual right, not a “collective” right.

There is no such thing as a “collective” right in the American liberties enumerated in our Constitution.

If you think otherwise, you really must study the Constitution more.  Local to the Harrisburg area is an organization that provides classes on Constitutional issues: http://reclaimliberty.com/

The “collective right” idea was ginned up out of thin air in the 1970s by anti-freedom activists.  The US Supreme Court has rejected it twice, and there is not an honest scholar anywhere who believes in it.

The Bill of Rights is exactly that – a list of individual rights and liberties that belong to American citizens.  No one can take them away.  Whether you choose to exercise those rights, or not, is your choice.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye…step back in time

Last Sunday was the Maple Festival at Fort Hunter, here in Harrisburg.  Today and tomorrow is the Honorable Company of Horners at the US Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, PA.  If you enjoy mingling with people dressed as if they just emerged from a 1770s time machine, this is the event to go to this weekend.  Flintlock rifles, lots of modern and antique powder horns and various accoutrements like knives, tomahawks, etc.  I find this sort of diversion from politics, work, and politicking refreshing.  Maybe you will, too.

Ukraine: Obama batting zero, his cheering section still loud

Math was not always my strongest interest (although I did self-learn calculus in graduate school), so disregard the headline here. Obama’s foreign policy is such a catastrophic failure that he is way in the negatives; he is not at zero.  Being at Zero would actually be a success.

Here is a partial list of countries and peoples seeking freedom from tyranny who have had the rug of American promises pulled out from underneath them by Obama:

Poland (defensive missiles).

Georgia (South Ossetia, invaded by Russia).

Israel.

Iranian citizens.

Syrian citizens.

And now it’s Ukraine that has learned the hard lesson of Obama’s recklessness. Whatever promises were made to get Ukraine’s nuclear weapons, like protecting Ukraine from Russian imperialism, have been openly tossed out the window by an Obama administration bent on destroying America from within.  Wrecking America’s international standing is one way to destroy America at home.

Allowing aggressive imperial powers like Russia, China, and Iran to  willfully expand their spheres of influence and domination lets Obama off the “aggressor” hook.  He can claim he’s no “warmonger.”  But his inaction and failure to live up to his own red lines and promises of American protection have created a vacuum into which the aggressors, the real warmongers, have stepped.

Growing up in a pacifist household, I used to ask the hard questions that no one could answer, like Why should someone not actively oppose an Adolph Hitler and a Nazi Germany?  Answers were hard to come by, because there are no substantive answers to these questions.

Pacifism is evil because it legitimizes evil.  Pacifism equates doing nothing with active aggression, imperialism, domination, subjugation, tyranny and all the barbaric cruelty that goes along with them.  By failing to act, by failing to confront evil in a meaningful way, pacifists lend credibility to the aggressors.  If Russian imperialism in the form of subjugating Ukraine is not confronted and thwarted, then it must not be so bad. Such is the message from Obama and other pacifists, intended or unintended.

This unwillingness to act creates a vacuum, and this vacuum is seen correctly as  weakness.  It invites even more aggression.  History is replete with examples, so an Obama would have to willfully ignore the obvious historical truth in order to do what he is doing (and not doing) now.

I know Obama has his cheering section.  That is the greatest sadness of all, because those same people claim to be ethical, humane, loving.  So strong is the messianic love for this charlatan among his believers, that they will forgive and forget his greatest deceptions, his greatest failures, the trail of destruction and misery in his wake.  Other people, other families, then pay with their lives, at best to be the subjects of pity by groups like OxFam and Rotary, intent on picking up the few broken pieces later on.

For shame.

Curious things afoot in our American republic

Some time ago, actually not too long by the measure of human history, Communists, Capitalists, and Fascists fought each other in the streets of Weimar Germany.

Each fought for what they believed in. What the Fascists and the Communists believed in was equal amounts of totalitarian evil, served up slightly differently. Only the capitalists had a track record, and it was a successful one that had led Germany to a place of such prominence and financial success that human nature and poor judgment had then sought to use those riches for imperial gain and human subjugation.

Weimar Germany was bad for every German. What naturally followed on its heels – Nazi Germany’s National Socialism – was bad for the entire world.

Capitalism creates such great wealth, across such a large number of people, that like bees to honey, the evil inclination of human nature is drawn to it with bad intentions.

Politicians of all stripes cannot keep their hands off of the private money created through capitalism. Whether it’s high taxes to fund government grants to preferred political allies, or outright confiscation/ theft and wealth redistribution, politicians always seek to appropriate capitalist success for their own careers and their own ends.

Yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of watching New York City’s new mayor, Bill deBlasio, get sworn in. De Blasio is a kook, a radical whose communist views are well known. No one can predict for certain what will befall the Big Apple after one term of his management, but it probably won’t be pleasant to watch from Pennsylvania (he is first-off aiming to end the handsome cab business, where tourists get pulled around in horse-drawn carriages in Central Park). And my New York friends will probably suffer significant losses to their home values, businesses, and other investments they have made in the area. Wealth would naturally flee de Blasio’s presence.

One cannot help but be intrigued by the similarity between Weimar Germany’s otherwise unremarkable circumstances, and those America is sliding into today: High unemployment, sliding currency value, inflation, and increasingly hot friction wherever mutually exclusive political interests collide.

Human history repeats itself so often that it’s both kind of silly to even suggest that America will become another Weimar Germany, and it is also silly to blow it off and pretend it isn’t happening.

De Blasio has his sights set on other people’s private wealth, and he is likely to lose a great number of wealthy people from NYC as a result. What is more worrisome is the friction that will arise and ripple out as he presses forward and is met with the natural resistance reasonable people expect to greet thievery.

“Income inequality” is his byword, and it’s just another way of saying he’s going to steal from the makers and give to lazy takers, using the coercive power of government force and threat of loss of liberty for dissenters. Other politicians are watching de Blasio, and they have already signaled their inclinations to follow his lead in their local venues.

It is difficult to imagine a more explosive arrangement or set of circumstances. Once again, one is reminded of either the 19-teens and 1920s, or even the 1850s in America. Such incompatible political philosophies are afoot, banging into one another, and one must win, and one must lose.

I hope de Blasio loses. I hope. To think otherwise is to be against the very American republic that first created the wealth he is now after.

Your Property Rights: Born, and Maybe Dead, on the Fourth of July

Your Private Property Rights: Born, and Possibly Died, on the Fourth of July
July 4, 2013
By Josh First

One hundred and fifty years ago today, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, America’s most hallowed ground was established. Over fifty thousand casualties among both Union and Confederate forces resulted from fierce acts of bravery and heroism on both sides over just a few days, including Pickett’s famous last-ditch assault on the Union center, into the teeth of point-blank cannon fire, canister, and grape shot.

The ferocious hand-to-hand fighting along Pickett’s front established the “high water mark” of the Confederacy, and produced the most focused military effort to date by the Union, the success of which gave impetus to the North’s final push to end a malingering war. To make those sacrifices and take those personal risks, you’ve got to really believe in something, a truth summed up brilliantly in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The fact that the battle culminated on Independence Day was not lost on either side.

Ten years ago, I had the honor of purchasing the last outstanding parcel of land on which Pickett’s Charge occurred, at the far eastern end of the field, where the Ohio 8th Regiment was dug in. Over the prior 19 years, the National Park Service had unsuccessfully pursued the “Home Sweet Home” motel, a 1950s-era no-tell hotel on two acres there. It paved over a hasty trench and a temporary field hospital where men from both armies had been treated, before archaeology became vogue.

By 2004, the motel and its blacktop were themselves things of the past, the site archaeology was done, and the final resting place of so many distinguished soldiers was returned to serene grass. It was one of the high points of my career, and I worked so hard on it because, like other Americans who visit Gettysburg, read the Gettysburg Address, and understand Gettysburg’s role, its meaning inspired me. Preserving the Union meant continuing and expanding the American dream. Protecting the Home Sweet Home site meant preserving Gettysburg’s symbolism, protecting that hallowed ground, and enshrining the American Dream of opportunity for all.

One of the most inspiring aspects of America, and core to the American Dream, is the universal concept of private property rights. Because of America’s unique private property rights system, generations of immigrants have moved across mountains and oceans to become Americans, toil hard, and take risks and make sacrifices to improve their standard of living. For hundreds of years, anyone who was willing to work hard could use their private property rights to shelter and feed their family, purchase an education for their children, and build equity for the day when their hands and back might no longer be able to physically toil.

But here in Pennsylvania, just days ago and, oddly, just days before Independence Day, the state legislature passed a two-sentence bill gutting the private property rights of landowners who have leased their land for oil and gas exploration. It was a shameful thing to do, and it is an echo of the midnight legislative pay-raise that cost so many incumbents their seats a few years ago. It is the shady act of some self- anointed few to enrich their political friends, at the huge cost of Pennsylvania’s private landowners.

As I understand it, Governor Tom Corbett is weighing whether or not to sign it into law. I hope he does not sign it. To enact such a law flies in the face of everything that is American. It is against everything that Independence Day stands for. It is against everything that the men at Gettysburg fought and died for, and against everything that America’s Founding Fathers and brave patriots fought for in 1776.

I wish you a happy Independence Day today, and in its spirit I ask that you call your state legislators, and ask them if they voted for this un-American oil and gas bill. If they did, vote them out of office, and show them that the Spirit of 1776 still stands strong. You deserve better, I deserve better, America deserves better.

Join our conversation at www.joshfirst.com or on our Facebook page, Josh First for PA Senate

Newt Gingrich speaks truth to power

Enough lying about the Middle East. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tells the facts about the so-called “Palestinians” and the propaganda war against Israel, the Jews, Christianity, and America.
And Gingrich speaks in contradistinction to candidate Ron Paul, a man whose foreign policy ideas will spell the end of America.

Watch this YouTube clip and smile, enjoying the truth: