Passport

Is This the Most Interesting Opening Paragraph Wikipedia's Ever Published?

Most Interesting Man in the World, meet your match.

On Sunday, Twitter user Matthew Barrett created something of a sensation by linking to the obscure Wikipedia biography of the British army officer Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart. His tweet -- "This guy surely has the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever" -- has been retweeted more than 3,200 times over the past several days.

 

 

So just how mind-blowing is the introduction on Carton de Wiart's page? Judge for yourself:

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart[1] VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 - 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn't amputate them. He later said "frankly I had enjoyed the war." [2]

On Twitter, some are simply in awe, while others are pointing out that the rest of the bio is pretty stellar too:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So who was this man of extraordinary valor? A Daily Mail profile last year relays much of the same information contained on Carton de Wiart's Wikipedia page: By the end of his life, the British soldier had been awarded his military's highest honor for bravery during World War I and served in the Second Boer War and World War II, commanding troops in a daring World War II raid in Norway. He wore a black patch to cover a missing eye, and had been wounded in the skull, groin, ankle, and stomach. A missing hand betrayed a grisly backstory -- he had once chewed off his own wounded fingers. He had tunneled out of an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, and had wound up there after crashing his plane in the Mediterranean. To top it all off, he had also served as Winston Churchill's special representative to China's Chiang Kai-shek. He had indeed remarked that he "enjoyed" World War I, going on to add that "it had given me many bad moments, lots of good ones, plenty of excitement and with everything found for us." (Readers in the U.K., you may want to go check out Carton de Wiart's 20-bore, double-barreled shotgun, which just went on display in Leeds.)

Judging by his autobiography, Carton de Wiart adopted his swashbuckling ways from an early age, when he left university at Oxford to fight in the Boer War

At that moment I knew, once and for all, that war was in my blood. I was determined to fight and I didn't mind who or what. I didn't know why the war had started, and I didn't care on which side I was to fight. If the British didn't fancy me I would offer myself to the Boers, and at least I did not endow myself with Napoleonic powers or imagine I would make the slightest difference to whichever side I fought for.

I know now that the ideal soldier is the man who fights for his country because it is fighting, and for no other reason. Causes, politics and ideologies are better left to the historians.

Readers, if you have a suggestion for a Wikipedia page that rivals this one, leave it in the comments.

Wikimedia Commons

National Security

Russian Security Now Using Typewriters to Thwart the NSA

Looks like the Luddites at Russia's Federal Guard Service are headed back to the pre-digital age. The agency, which guards Russian officials -- the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service -- is placing an order for typewriters, according to Russian newspapers Izvestia and the Moscow Times. The reason? Information security.

"After the scandal with the circulation of classified documents by Wikileaks, the revelations made by Edward Snowden and reports that [Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev's phone was tapped during his visit to the G-20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the use of paper documents," a Russian official reportedly told Izvestia.

The Russian government has approved $15,000 for the purchase of new typewriters for the Federal Guard Service, along with new ink ribbons for older-model machines. (It seems like a lot of money for antiquated word processors, but it's not unheard of. A quick search shows this top-of-the-line Swintec still costs nearly a grand, and the new Triumph-Adler T 180s, for which Russia is ordering replacement ink, sell for over $260.)

Izvestia cites experts who say that typewriters are still used by several Russian ministries and security services, and, Radio Free Europe notes, "the typewriters in question are designed for printing classified documents, in that each machine has unique 'handwriting' that can be traced back to the source."

But there are reasons Russia entered the digital age in the first place -- hard copies can be lost and are still difficult to transport quickly and securely. And 20 typewriters doesn't mean Russia's diplomatic security is getting offline entirely. Still, it's a serious step, and a sign of how leakers and espionage in the digital age are making governments wary all over again.

Wikimedia