Think back on the last time you walked out onto your cul-de-sac and saw your neighbors resolving a property-line spat via a gentleman's duel with comically oversized pistolas. It's probably been a while, right? A while, as in never? Because dueling as a dispute settlement option died out once people realized how cool it is to go to TV court and settle things there. Or in the latter part of the 19th century. We can't remember which.
Above: What college students did before beer pong.
But Actually ...
While it's true that dueling has been an anachronism since before World War I, that hasn't stopped individuals from using one-on-one combat to settle matters of honor. Hell, we've all seen the video for "Beat It."
"Wanna drop some acid before we try this?"
It started when Defferre called his colleague Ribiere an "asshole" for fidgeting during a political debate. You'd think that Ribiere would be the one who'd have an ax to grind over getting publicly humiliated, but no -- it was Defferre who demanded their differences get settled by the sword.
And Ribiere accepted. He also lost the duel, which was formally refereed by another colleague. The good news was that Ribiere didn't die during the fight. He just got slashed twice before he quit. Oh, and we have video -- here's footage of the very last duel (which was captured by French newsreel cameras):
3Biplanes in Military Service
In the early days of flying, half of the fun of getting in the air was impressing your friends with acrobatic feats and novelty stunts, and that was where the biplane came in handy.
"You know, we really should have brought a spare ball."
Sure, it was an awkward early start to what would eventually develop into sleek flying machines, but what could you expect from people who sat on poles for a good time? Thanks to jets and common sense, the clunky, laughably slow biplanes went the way of the flapper.
But Actually ...
Meet the extremely popular Russian-built Antonov An-2.
Dmitry A. Mottl
"The bottle of vodka under the seat may be used as a flotation device."
It looks better suited for pesticide dumping than strategic military purposes. Yet 50 different nations are still cleaving these clunkers to their military bosoms, and some of them, like Germany and China, aren't even that poor. They're using these relics on purpose! To find out why, we have to look harder at the planes themselves.
For one thing, the An-2 was designed for agricultural work, so it can fly pretty close to the ground. You'd think that would be a bad thing, on account of anti-aircraft guns and trees and such, but it's not. Because radar looks way higher when trying to detect aircraft, the An-2 can go unnoticed -- when you get close enough to the ground, radar loses you in the clutter.
Berry Vissers, Airliners.net
"Now we just have to hope they don't, like, use their eyes or anything."
And the other thing about the An-2 is that it can sustain flight at wicked slow speeds; we're talking 30 mph slow. Apparently, the wings have slats that stay closed until the plane hits school-zone speed, then the slats lift, which allows the plane to glide to the ground like a drifting autumn leaf. When you want to be sneaky, there aren't many better options.
That's why oil-starved North Korea switched from bigger, badder planes to the An-2 for reconnaissance missions as late as 2007, and why Croatia used them for bomb-dropping in the Croatian War for Independence in the early '90s. Can you imagine fighting a war today and seeing this thing coming after you? You'd be only slightly more surprised if you were attacked by Snoopy on his flying doghouse.