Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thursday Thoughts - 1 - My Favorite News Stories From 2008

Due to a personal illness in the family of one of the Thursday Thirteen founders, the official Thursday Thirteen Meme has been cancelled. Because this has been the highlight of my week for 88 weeks now, I've decided to keep the basic set-up of a Thursday Thirteen, but will now be calling it Thursday Thoughts.

My prayers go out to the creators of the original meme, whose wonderful site brought together so many bloggers and started so many blog friendships. Thank you for giving me so many weeks of joy, discovery and a sense of event.

This post is a rather mammoth one - feel free to skim over it and return whenever you have a minute. Here are my absolute favorite news stories from 2008:

1 - Muntadhar al-Zaidi sends George W. Bush an extra-special send-off to his stellar presidency

"The plot so unexpectedly thickened in Iraq on a Sunday like no other. The two main actors — US President George W. Bush, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki — took to the stage to perform another well-rehearsed press conference. The scripts were ever so predictable: Bush to tout the 'progress' achieved in Iraq, Al-Maliki to express gratitude for the freedom bestowed on his country.

"Few have dared to violate the carefully prepared, monotonous media appearances, which often end with a handshake, unconvincing smiles and the mutter of disgruntled journalists for failing to land a last minute question.

"Muntadhar al-Zaidi changed all of that when he hurled his shoes at Bush at the exact moment the two main actors were scheduled to exit the stage — compelling the US president to duck twice, astoundingly escaping the makeshift but largely symbolic weapon. Truth be told, Bush’s timely dodges were as impressive as al-Zaidi’s seemingly impeccable pitches.

"What also confused the script is that al-Zaidi was not Al-Qaeda, or an Al-Qaeda sympathizer. Not a foreign fighter, not a member of the dissolved Ba’ath Party, nor was he affiliated with it in any way. He's not even an Iraqi Sunni, for any such affiliation would fit perfectly in the political and media scripts that would demonize the man as an enemy of the Iraqi people, of stability, democracy, freedom and the rest of the redundant clichés.

"Al-Zaidi is simply an Iraqi man who, as a journalist, highlighted the suffering of his people as objectively and professionally as he could. When he could no longer tolerate the lies told in the Green Zone, he scrapped the script altogether, chucking his shoes at the main actor: 'This is a farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.' His words, although uttered for the first time in the Green Zone theater, echoed the voices of millions of Iraqis outside, who have chanted these words, for six long, tragic years." - Ramzy Baroud, Arab News

2 - Stephen Harper gets stuck in the crease - his longed-for majority government sent to the penalty box by the ref - then provokes a near coup by the three opposition parties, just in time for the holidays

"A single, if monstrous, U.S. miscalculation caused a chain reaction. After rippling around the world, it brought Canada's economy tumbling down and Stephen Harper to his knees.

"As if scripted, the fourth election in eight years came to an end just as reality intruded into contrived fantasy. Boom went bust, taking with it much of a generation's accumulated wealth. In Afghanistan, the Canadian death toll rose above 100, a threshold no less disturbing for its artificial symbolism.

"In the U.S., a cerebral, young and graceful African American won the presidency, forcing Canadians to reconsider the self-imposed ceilings of their own aspirations and reach higher. In Ottawa, there was optimistic talk about lifting Parliament out of the primordial muck of partisan abuse to the higher ground of civility and consensus.

"A country waiting anxiously at home for the fiscal stimulus Harper promised was told to hold on for a winter federal budget - while the government got on with the apparently more pressing task of swiping at pay equity, civil service unions - and the ruling party's rivals.

"The Prime Minister decided to forego the conciliation that allows minority Parliaments to muddle along in favour of a lethal lunge at his rivals' throats. Whatever the merits of public funding for political parties, Harper effectively signed this Parliament's death warrant by including in the financial update a plan to give his party a potentially decisive advantage by ending the subsidies. Partners the Prime Minister needs to sustain his government now know his purpose, and it is not just to win but to crush.

"Canadians who disengaged from the October election re-engaged in November. Having reinforced the point that legitimacy flows up from the public, not down from political rulers, Canadians with a different perspective on leaders, their parties and, most of all, the economy, have left the bleachers and are back in the game." - Jim Travers, The Toronto Star

3 - Barack Obama clearly and easily wins an unusually-high-voter-turn-out election

"Lines began forming across the country before the sun had risen, with queues starting at 4 a.m. in New York City. The outcome across most of the Democratic-leaning Northeast was never in doubt, but many felt it was their responsibility - and privilege - to vote.

" 'I needed to cast my own ballot today, not just because it's my duty as a citizen but because for once it feels like it counts,' said Eric Schwartz, 36, a computer specialist on New York's Upper West Side. 'It's a more global feeling. Like I needed to make a mark on a day when things matter. Today, everyone matters.'

"Barack Obama, the son of a father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, was elected the nation's 44th president Tuesday, breaking the ultimate racial barrier to become the first African American to claim the country's highest office. When Obama was born, people with his skin color could not even vote in parts of America, and many were killed for trying.

" 'If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,' Obama told more than 240,000 celebrants gathered along Chicago's waterfront. Many had tears streaking their faces.

" 'It's been a long time coming,' said Obama, who strode on stage with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia. 'But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.' " - Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times

4 - Boris Fyodorov manned the economic helm of the USSR's transformation into the Russian Federation, steering it past the shoals of complete chaos by his unyielding demand for reform - then passed away on Nov. 20th, 2008 at age 50

" 'Boris was a shining example that one person could combine Russian patriotism and liberalism. He was fervently pro-Russian and fervently pro-market,' said Florian Fenner, who set up UFG Asset Management with Fyodorov six years ago and now leads the company.

"Everybody talked about corporate governance but he was one of the only people who stood up for it, at extreme personal risk to himself, in the bad old days of Gazprom," said Fenner. - Reuters

"Fyodorov was unusual in speaking out against corruption. At a time when the commanding heights of the Russian economy were being sold at knock-down prices to Yeltsin cronies - the oligarchs - his reforming zeal made him powerful enemies.

"He gained a reputation as a tough campaigner against excess spending and inflation. Serving as finance minister, deputy prime minister and founder of one of Russia's leading investment banks, Fyodorov even created his own party in 1995, Forward Russia, which supported market reforms.

"A prolific author, he published a book of blank pages under the title The Economic Achievements of the Chernomyrdin Government. He wrote the very popular English Russian Dictionary of Bank Terms, as well as A Chronicle of the Destruction of Old Moscow, 1990-2005, a detailed account of 650 buildings that disappeared from the city over those years. Though he was a passionate financial reformer, he wanted to express his disgust at the way the city's architectural heritage was being sacrificed in the cause of progress.

"The United Financial Group, his investment bank, established a reputation for integrity and innovation. By 2003, when it was bought by Deutsche Bank, it had become one of the country's most respected financial institutions.

"Fyodorov returned to government in March 1998 as head of the state tax administration, conducting an aggressive campaign against tax evaders. But his drive to extract back taxes from Gazprom, the state-controlled energy giant, was unpopular. He remained an outspoken advocate of further liberal reforms and from 2000 he served as a member of the board of Gazproma, where he defended the interests of minority shareholders against oligarchs." - The Telegraph

5 - Maxime Bernier and Julie Couillard prove that Canadian politics is anything but dull

" 'This is to inform you,' Bernier wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 'that I am resigning my post as Minister of Foreign Affairs, effective immediately. I informed you late this afternoon, that last night I became aware that I had left behind classified government documents at a private residence.

" 'Prime Minister, the security breach that occurred was my fault and my fault alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.'

"Bernier left the documents in the home of former girlfriend Julie Couillard - a woman who had once been involved with members of the biker underworld. The documents involved material related to the NATO summit held in Bucharest, Romania in early April.

"In August, 2007 Bernier was promoted to foreign affairs minister. He replaced Peter MacKay, who was moved to defence. Julie Couillard accompanied Bernier to his swearing-in ceremony. Her plunging neckline caught some attention.

"In April, 2008 Couillard accompanied Bernier on a trip to Afghanistan. She would also eventually accompany him to 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister's official residence. Due to a diplomatic blunder in Afghanistan, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae demanded Bernier be fired, calling the minister incompetent and irresponsible.

"In May, 2008 the Bernier-Couillard story exploded.

"The news broke that Couillard, by then Bernier's ex-girlfriend, had been in relationships with two men involved in the biker underworld in the 1990s. One of them, Stephane Sirois, had been an associate of Maurice (Mom) Boucher, a Hells Angels leader in Quebec currently serving a first-degree murder sentence for ordering the 1997 murder of two prison guards. Another, Gilles Giguere, died in a gangland slaying.

"Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said it's important for Canadians to know whether Couillard ever had access to ministerial documents.

"Prime Minister Harper called Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion a 'group of gossipy, old busybodies' in remarks outside of the House of Commons. The Bloc Quebecois called for a national security probe.

"The RCMP wanted to speak with Bernier about a photo of him - shaking hands with Michael Chamas, a Montreal businessman arrested in March on charges of possession of illegal weapons. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae called for Bernier to be fired.

"Montreal's Le Devoir reported that Couillard had been involved with Robert Pepin in a high-tech firm that had bid on airport security contracts. In fact, she had once lived with Pepin, who owed money to a Hells Angels loanshark and had pleaded guilty to possessing stolen property. Pepin committed suicide in 2006.

"Finally, on May 26th, 2008 a grim-faced Harper announced that he had accepted Bernier's resignation for leaving classified government documents 'in an unsecured environment' - an act he described as 'very grave.' " -

6 - John Walsh finally gets a positive ID on his son's killer, 27 years after the murder that completely changed his life

"Hollywood Florida Police Chief Chad Wagner decided it was time. Time to ease the suffering of the Walsh family and time to point the finger at the man Wagner said had been the prime suspect all along: Ottis Toole.

"Not much had changed since 1996, when Toole died in prison while serving a sentence for an unrelated murder. He had twice confessed to killing Adam and twice recanted.

"The drifter from Jacksonville, Fla. passed through Hollywood on July 27, 1981. That was the day 6-year-old Adam disappeared from a Sears at the Hollywood Mall - across from the police station - while his mother shopped for lamps.

"Adam's severed head was found two weeks later in Vero Beach, Fla.

"Among the problems which Chief Wagner acknowledged: Police lost a bloody carpet from Toole's 1971 Cadillac, then lost the car. They also missed leads, took poor investigative notes and didn't properly document evidence.

"On Aug. 19, 1981 - four days after Adam's funeral - the Walsh family established the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children. It has since become a national clearinghouse for families and law enforcement officers dealing with reports of missing children. The Walshes also lobbied for stronger laws before Congress and at the White House. John Walsh's television show, America's Most Wanted is credited with helping to solve hundreds of crimes.

"Police took another look at 27 years of tips, psychic revelations, often-botched police work and a serial killer's chilling admissions. 'We could have charged him back then,' Wagner said. 'I've taken cases much weaker than this to the state attorney's office.'

" 'We can now move forward knowing positively who killed our little boy,' John Walsh said. 'I believe wherever Toole is, he's paying and being held accountable for his actions.' " - John Hollans, Los Angeles Times

7 - Trevor Greene, Canadian peacekeeper, quite miraculously recovers from a severe-trauma head injury - after an Afghani teenager sank an axe into his head

" 'I had my last drink with Captain Trevor Greene before he headed to Afghanistan to take part in what was then coined “Operation Archer,” writes Shane Gibson, Vancouver-based speaker, author and entrepreneur who co-authored a non-fiction book with journalism grad Greene. 'I met Trevor through my cousin Robyn Gibson who went to Kings College (Julia's note: here in Halifax, NS) with him many many moons ago.

"It was with great sorrow and angst (I hope I hid it well) that I bid Trevor farewell from the Yaletown brewing company in Vancouver, gave him a big hug (wasn’t something we did normally) and watched him walk out the door. A reservist turned full-time military officer, he was heading to Afghanistan to emancipate those without a voice. Trevor dreamed of fresh water, young girls with access to education and renewing hope for those who had lived under tyranny, ignorance, and war for decades.

"Three months later - just before 7:00 am in early March 2006 my phone rang. The call displayed Gregory Kirkpatrick, a mutual friend and rugby buddy of Trevor’s and mine. I knew it could only be one thing. Trevor Greene.

“ 'Trevor’s been hit in the head. He might not make it. He was ambushed.'

"I originally thought he had been shot in the head. I later learned that while meeting with some village elders in a small town, attempting to find out what rebuilding they needed (schools, infrastructure etc.) he was 'Brained, LITERALLY' (as Trevor describes it) with an axe to the head by a young man. The axe literally chopped part of his skull and brain in half, leaving bone, blood and gray matter on the ground. They all thought he was dead.

"First he had to stabilize. Then they flew him to a US Military hospital in Germany where they operated on him. Debbie Lepore, Trevor’s fiancée arrived in Germany and began an incredible journey with Trevor.

"He will not wake up.
He woke up.
He will be a vegetable.
He responded and was aware.
He will not talk.
He talked.
He will not survive several bouts of pneumonia.
He healed. He survived.
He will not have use of his limbs. He will not be able to move on his own.
He now can feed himself, he can now push his own wheelchair and sometimes if he’s really motivated he can tip his own beer.
But he will not walk again.

You don't know Trevor" - Shane Gibson

You can watch a documentary on Trevor's injury and recovery HERE.

8 - Falling gas prices prove that consumers really do control market forces - and not the other way around

" 'You're looking at Economics 101,' says Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. 'People throughout the United States are altering their driving habits, which means that demand is going south.'

"U.S. drivers have cut back, causing a 1% drop in demand for gas this year compared with the same period in 2007. That has forced refiners and retailers to reduce their profit margins. With drivers buying less, retailers are making about 12 cents per gallon, barely enough to cover expenses. More than 3,000 gas stations closed last year, the most since 2001." - Richard Wolf and Paul Overberg, USA Today

" 'We’d gotten away from that price shopping mindset,' said Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing manager for the Alabama division of American Automotive Association (AAA). 'The idea was, if we’re paying over $3 per gallon anyway, what’s a few cents difference? Which makes sense, but it sends a message to the gas companies that we’re going to buy it no matter what price they charge. We’ll complain about it, but ultimately we’ll buy it.'

"More and more motorists have been conserving fuel, carpooling when necessary and just simply staying off the road." - Tiffany Woo, Eufaula Tribune

9 - A meteor out west was widely witnessed as it streaked across the heavens

About 10 years ago, when I lived in Toronto, I was taking the TTC (transit system) home from downtown. It was very, very late, about 3 in the morning. But Toronto being Toronto, there were still people around enjoying the nightlife.

I was on the Blue Line, the all-night buses and streetcars. I'd just switched from the Queen streetcar to the bus stop at Dufferin, waiting for the Dufferin bus. There weren't as many people around, the night was beautiful and I was looking up at the sky, just enjoying being alive. I happened to be on the east side of the street, waiting for a bus to take me north.

That's when the night lit up in a metallic blue. From right to left, heading toward Lake Ontario, a meteor sizzled its silent way across the sky. My breath stopped, my heart swelled and my whole body sang inside at the incredible gift I'd been given.

This recent meteor over Alberta really excited me. So many people managed to see it, and capture it on video. Enjoy!

10 - Hope For Wildlife rescued a seagull coated in grease which I found in a bookstore parking lot - the day before a winter storm

The day of my choir concert, my mom, my husband and I headed over to the book store to nab a few goodies. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a rather spikey looking seagull standing by the fence next to a car dealership. I made a joke and said, "Wow - that seagull's been on a bender."

But seagulls are smooth and really shouldn't look like that, so as they went into the store, I went over to check out the bird. Both my mom and sister have had well-loved budgies, and once you have loved a bird, you can't bear to see one in obvious distress.

This poor thing had been standing on a frozen puddle, having managed to melt the ice just beneath his feet. He obviously wanted to wash off, but he was coated in some kind of grease. His wings were stuck together as though he were handcuffed behind his back. He kept trying to raise his wings, but only managed to raise the part of his wing closest to his body. His face was just miserable.

I broke the ice with my foot so he could get to the water, at least. Don't laugh, but I told him I'd get some help.

When we got home, I looked up a local wildlife rescue which I remember my sister telling me about. She'd called them to rescue a baby bird who was in distress in her backyard. I left a message on their voicemail and started praying that someone would come for him.

After my concert, I checked my messages. They were going to send out a volunteer, but needed the exact street address. I said out loud to my husband, "I wonder if it's too late to call?"

One second later, my Simpson's-Moe's Tavern alarm clock said, "Duffman!"

"I guess not!" I laughed. So I left another message, and asked them to let me know how things turned out. I couldn't get the look on the seagull's face out of my mind.

Hope Swinimer, the 'Hope' in Hope For Wildlife, did call me back. She reassured me that they'd found him and had already cleaned him once, but that he'd need another cleaning. She said he'd gotten into restaurant grease, which is apparently common at this time of year.

Bless you, Hope, for running this wildlife sanctuary and being there for that beautiful seabird in total distress. I realize Nature has its own timetable for the lives of wild creatures, but having seen this one with my own eyes, I absolutely had to help it.

Here's a picture from their photo gallery of orphaned baby raccoons eagerly feeding.

This is a shot of Hope releasing a rehabilitated bird of prey. I'm just so grateful that her sanctuary was there for me to call. Brava, Hope! And here's some footage of an eagle release - Enjoy!

11 - Richard Armitage joined the cast of MI-5 (Spooks) for its 7th and most exciting season yet - proving that exceptional writing really can exist in a long-running television series

"It’s a white-knuckle ride all the way in this superb season closer as the MI5’s Section D risk their lives to foil the most devastating attack on the UK ever planned.

"News begins to filter through that the collapse of Operation Sugarhorse may have triggered a far more devastating Russian counter-measure, codenamed Tiresias.

"As KGB sleeper agents begin to 'wake' all around the UK it becomes clear that Tiresias is a pre-Glasnost plan to detonate a nuclear device in central London. With the clock ticking loudly, Lucas (Richard Armitage) and Ros (Hermione Norris) have to get across the City to retrieve information, with a team of Russian killers from the FSB in hot pursuit, determined to stop them by any means necessary.

"It’s all terrifically exciting – the streets and Underground tunnels of London have rarely been used to such climactic effect – with great performances from everyone involved. Not only that, it also sets up a great cliffhanger ending that will leave fans absolutely gagging for the next series." - Gerard O'Donovan, The Telegraph

CLICK HERE to watch a clip of Richard as Lucas North from season 7.

12 - Director Timur Bekmambetov made his Hollywood film debut without having to leave his Russian nationality behind

Timur Bekmambetov is one of my favorite directors. I am grateful beyond measure that the world has progressed to the point where this man's incredible talent is available to the whole world without his having to leave everything behind, as ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov had to do.

I'll let his films speak for themselves:


An ancient brotherhood of assassins recruits a new member and seeks vengence against a rogue agent.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor)

The forces of Light and Dark keep watch over one another in a Cold War-like atmosphere.

Day Watch (Dnevnoy Dozer)

A young boy with incredible powers must choose whether he will serve the Dark or the Light.

The Irony of Fate 2

The trailer is in Russian without subtitles - here is a rundown of the story as given in the trailer:

This is a sequel to a Russian New Year's film that has It's a Wonderful Life significance to Russians. Revisiting beloved characters from the original film, we find our hero dressed as Father Frost, hired to tell fairy tales to children on New Year's Eve. This is Lukashin Jr., who has come to this moment through a series of farcical left-turns.

Middle-aged men in a Moscow bath meet up with their old friend, Lukashin Sr., to tell him his drunk son is in trouble in St. Petersberg. It's really a set-up to bring former lovers back together. While a fast-track Neo-Russian businessman tries to propose to his girlfriend at midnight on New Year's Eve, the arrival of the drunk Lukashin Jr. spins everyone's lives into chaos, especially the young about-to-be-engaged couple and the long-separated lovers.

13 - A certain author dear to my heart - okay, my cousin, Julianne MacLean - had the most exciting news of all this year

That's Julianne at centre on Christmas Day, here at my mom's for dinner. To the viewer's left is fellow blogger Heather (can I just call her my cousin-in-law?), and my sister Michelle is at right. Michelle is Julianne's very trusted critique partner.

After a 3-book run with Harlequin Historicals when she began her career, and a 9-book run with Avon Historicals, Julianne had the experience for which every writer dreams. Her newest series got swept up into an auction between several publishing houses.

Yes - an auction.

After the dust settled, and hairstyles patted back into place, who was the lucky winner? St. Martin's Press.

My cousin joins the ranks of Lisa Kleypas, C.C. Humphreys, Sharon Kay Penman, Jude Morgan, Kat Martin, Celeste Bradley, Brenda Joyce, Susan Donovan, Janet Evanovich and Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Julianne is hard at work on a new Scottish highlander series, and I can tell you - an excerpt from her opening scene was read aloud at one of our chapter meetings this fall, to unanimous breath-holding suspense. This new story drives its hero into readers' hearts like a sword to the chest.

As many people may be aware, I love Scottish historical heroes. I'm working on two of them, myself. The combination of Julianne's writing and a highlander hero is enough to make me rip my hair out with the waiting...

Being a Scorpio Dragon, however, I'm obviously keeping the hair-rending under wraps - to the casual observer. This is a shot of my husband and me chatting with Julianne about Dexter during Christmas Day after-dinner mellow-down. You can see our dog Xena sitting near me, and Heather's daughter Sarah, the budding photographer, in the foreground.

During the meanwhilst, Julianne's final installment of her Avon Pembroke Palace series releases on Jan. 27th, 2009. We'll be running a contest for When a Stranger Loves Me next month here at A Piece of My Mind.

A very, very Happy New Year to you from me. Thank you for making my blog one of the best parts of my life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 80

Monday, December 29, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 81 - You Are So Beautiful

On Dec. 28th, my little beagle/Nova Scotia duck toller mix turned 8 years old.

Here's a few recent pictures of her:

My cousin's daughter, Sarah got a preschoolers' camera for Christmas and took as many shots as me at Christmas Dinner.

Here's her picture of Xena:

Notice the 3-year-old's vantage point!

For the Poetry Train today, I'd like to dedicate this song to Xena, and thank her for 8 beautiful years together as a Pack. Happy Birthday to my little furry chum.

You Are So Beautiful

You are so beautiful to me
You are so beautiful to me
Can't you see
You're everything I hoped for
You're everything I need
You are so beautiful to me

Such joy and happiness you bring
Such joy and happiness you bring
Like a dream
A guiding light that shines in the night
Heavens gift to me
You are so beautiful to me

- Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, 1974

Enjoy the song performed by Joe Cocker:

Check out the other stops on the Poetry Train.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Present to Me - Admiral

Tonight my husband and I settled onto the couch - which luckily is right across from the computer monitor for comfy viewing - to watch a Russian film that I've been longing to see for months. My husband found it for me on Russian Remote, a Russian site where you can watch films - but there are no English subtitles. Admiral is the kind of film that would have been inconceivable a decade ago. It looks at the leader of last century's White Russian Army as a complex and honorable man, the type of story that was utterly forbidden during the Soviet era.

You can check out the official Russian site for Admiral - complete with Cyrillic alphabet. The film was directed by Andrei Kravchuk.

Admiral stars one of my favorite actors, Konstantin Khabensky. You may remember my mentioning the Russian urban paranormal films Night Watch and Day Watch. I discovered him in that film series.

Admiral also stars Elizaveta Boyarskaya, whom I discovered through YouTube clips of Konstantin Khabensky's work.

She appeared with him in The Irony of Fate 2, a Russian Christmas/New Year's holiday film. The Irony of Fate 2 is a film sequel by one of my favorite directors - Timur Bekmambetov, who did Wanted with James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie. It's the Russian equivalent to making a sequel to It's a Wonderful Life.

Elizaveta plays a married woman who falls in love with the also married Kolchak in Admiral. Their relationship is restrained, intense and they barely share several onscreen kisses for the duration of the film. But the sexual tension and longing is magnificent.

Here's some background on Admiral Kolchak:

"Admiral Aleksandr Vasilevich Kolchak began the war (Julia's note: between the White Army, or monarchists, and the Red Army, or Bolsheviks) as the commander of the Russian Imperial Black Sea Fleet. Kolchak had been promoted to rear admiral at the extremely young age of 43. A year later he was promoted to vice admiral and given the command of the Black Sea Fleet. He was at the height of a very promising military career when the Russian Revolution destroyed the Imperial Russian Navy. After the Tsar abdicated in March of 1917, the navy was thrown into chaos.

Erosion of the fleet's discipline led to many of the ships' crews revolting against their officers. Kolchak was only partially successful in keeping his Black Sea Fleet operational. The fleet mutinied in June 1917, demanding that the officers be disarmed. Kolchak assembled his crew on the deck. Declaring the demand that the officers be disarmed was a personal insult, Kolchak hurled his sword over the ship's rail and into the sea, ending his naval career and beginning a political career for which he was not prepared nor equipped to succeed.

As a naval officer, Kolchak inspired loyalty in his men and superiors. He was honest and chivalrous, had a sense of duty and personal honor, and was a true gentleman. He has been called one of the 'great tragic personalities of the Russian Revolution.' When Captain G. Hunt wrote The History of the Twenty-Seventh Infantry, he considered Kolchak to be one of the greatest men that Russia ever developed.

Kolchak's obvious command experience and a 'kingly quality... that made men eager to place authority in his hands' made him a good choice to send to Omsk to help organize the White Russian forces. A few days after he arrived in Omsk he was appointed as the Minister of War, maintaining his close ties with the British. Kolchak writes about 'the terrifying burden of Supreme Power' and that he thought of himself as 'a fighting man, reluctant to face the problems of state craft.'

Not all the blame for the Kolchak government's inability to win the support of the people can be placed on the incompetence of government officials or on the fact that regular army officers encouraged desertions by their degree of cruelty to their own men. They believed that 'salvation of Russia lay in the whip and only in the whip: the whip in the barracks, the whip in the villages, the whip against the peasants and, in particular the whip against the workers.'

When Kolchak was in the navy, his advisors would have been men who were trained, motivated, and sincere in their careers. The army was one of the inherited problems for the new government. Brutal recruiting techniques filled Kolchak's army with conscripts who would not fight with their hearts and would run if given the opportunity. Poor discipline was not limited to the soldiers. Many of the officers were hiding-out in the bars and restaurants of Omsk instead of fighting on the front, or busy 'swindling the men of food and equipment.' The job of actual fighting went to the non-commissioned officers.

Some of the blame for the fall of the Kolchak government can even be placed on the British government and the other allies who pushed Kolchak into the role of Supreme Ruler. Perhaps he'd been selected because he was the strongest option. In Admiral Kolchak's defense, is is possible that no one may have been able to control the many and varied intrigues and political agendas, the insubordination of army officers, and the lack of support by the population.

Kolchak was turned over to the Red Army by Czech forces while he was traveling eastward to Vladivstok. The allies had sufficient strength to free Kolchak but chose not to.

The White government represented all that was unpopular with the Monarchy. Nepotism, corruption, brutality, greed and incompetence spread and grew until it took on a life of its own and became uncontrollable. Admiral Kolchak ended his ill-fated political career with the same courage that he showed in Sevastpol Harbor, when he threw his sword into the sea rather than submit to the orders of those he thought beneath him.

After being interrogated by the Bolsheviks, he was led out into the cold Siberian pre-dawn for execution. True to his nature he remained outwardly calm as he faced a firing squad, even refusing a blindfold."

- Fedor Babanine

Here are two trailers - the first one has English subtitles, and the second is in Russian only. Enjoy!