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I was a more than a little uncomfortable recently at the Canadian coverage of a Canadian special forces sniper apparently setting a world record for killing at a distance. The fatal shot was something over three and half kilometres and fired by a soldier from JTF2 attached to a training team in Iraq. Much of the coverage was celebratory and revelled to a pornographic level in the technical aspects of the shot - stuff like allowing for wind strength and direction, the curvature of the earth, etc. I suspect much of this so-called technical information was left over from the Hollywood publicity material for the film American Sniper. I just don't think killing another human being is a matter for public celebration. It sometimes has to be done but it is not something that should be loudly applauded by people who were not there. Did those who wolfed down the discussion of windage also want to know how far the enemy soldier's brains, or lung tissue or whatever, were spread across the sand as a result of the large calibre bullet? Sadly, I suspect some would want to know that. War Porn.  

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I've been reading a couple of histories of the First World War and couldn't help noticing that the top United States field commander is always referred to as "Black Jack" Pershing. But that wasn't his nickname. The original version wasn't "Black". The actual word rhymes with Tigger - as anyone who has seen the 1954 British film The Dam Busters will know (you would have thought whoever they used to dub the dog's name change would at least have sounded a little like Richard Todd's Guy Gibson). I've decided not to use General Pershing's actual nickname because I don't want barred from the internet by some webcrawling bot. Or by the kind of retired old fart from the University of Upper Dingley Dell (Est. 2001)  who appoints themselves a super-administrator on Wikipedia. Anyway, the nickname was actually a sneer conferred on Pershing by military cadets at West Point when he taught there. He aroused their contempt by being an advocate for the African-American troopers of the US Army's 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments, the famous Buffalo Soldiers. Pershing went against US Army orthodoxy in believing the troopers were just as good as their white counterparts. In the old black and white Westerns, when the cavalry is seen charging across the desert to the rescue, the troopers should in most cases be African-Americans. The Buffalo Soldiers bore the brunt of the campaigns against the Apache. I would like to think that the change in Pershing's nickname was due to some degree of sensitivity. But I doubt it. More probably the way he earned the original was too much of a reminder of a group of warriors who were in the process of being whitewashed out of US military history - the Buffalo Soldiers.    

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Every freelance journalist worth their salt keeps a calendar of forthcoming anniversaries handy. There's nothing like the centenary of an event or at least an anniversary to justify pitching an article on some historic event. But it seems that these days magazines and newspapers are afraid of being "scooped" when it comes to history-related articles. Few seem to wait until the actual anniversary. At first the articles were about a week early. Now they can be a matter of months premature. The centenary of Winston Churchill taking command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers was in January 1916 but I spotted at least one long article about his time in trenches in the summer of 2015.  Articles about the centenary of the start of the First World War in August 1914 began appearing in early 2013 and I think I even saw some in late 2012. By the time August 2014 came around, the number of anniversary articles appeared to be tailing off. So, what's my point? Things are starting to get silly. When is an anniversary piece not an anniversary piece? When it's two years early.

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It would seem that radio programme researchers have gone the way of the dodo. I never hear any mention of them among the team who "helped put the show together". By the way, it seems a news or current affairs programme is now a "show". And "shows" are surely all about entertainment rather than providing information. But back to the topic in hand. No-one is credited as a researcher any more. But there do seem to be a lot of producers. When I was on the radio there were two producers. One was never seen and was the boss of the producer who put the programme together, along with the researcher. I suspect that most of the people now described as "producers" are what used to be called researchers. "Producer" sounds more important. But I bet they get paid what a researcher would have, if any still existed. Most of soldiers here in Canada who would be privates in the British Army hold the rank of corporal. Promotion to corporal is automatic after something like four years in the army. So, Canadian sergeants are section commanders, assisted by master corporals,  and the same rule of thumb goes pretty much up the chain. Knock Canadian soldier down a rank to work out that level of responsibility they would have in the British Army. Maybe it's all part of the "everyone gets a prize/sweetie" culture that's so prevalent these days.

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I sometimes come across folk who make their living as writers. What I've noticed is that the good writers are nearly all nice people and very easy to talk to. I don't know if we've got a chicken and egg situation here. Are they easy to talk to because they are good at their job and comfortable with themselves? Or are they good writers because they are basically amiable people who have little problem making a connection with readers? Sadly, the converse is also true. The snottiest and most unpleasant "writers" I come across are usually also pretty bad at what they do. Perhaps even in their arrogance they still  have an uneasy awareness at the back of what passes for their minds that they are actually talentless. That's why they stand on their pretentious dignity so much and go into such a snit if they feel they are not being shown the respect they somehow feel they deserve. Many of them struggle to even reach the giddy heights of mediocrity. 

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