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How To Train Your Dragon

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How to Train Your Dragon

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Parents need to know that How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent book-based adventure comedy about a clever young Viking that includes some fantasy violence and potentially frightening images of dragons which could scare some young movie-goers. The dragons attack the Viking village, causing mass destruction, and in a couple of cases, they cripple characters. There's some mild flirting and two brief kisses between teens, and one bittersweet discussion about a deceased mother (and her armored breast plate, which has been fashioned into two helmets). Younger or more sensitive kids may jump during the dragon-fighting scenes. On a positive note, with a strong female character and an honorable, brainy protagonist, kids will learn the value of cooperation, teamwork, and seeing beyond the surface of a situation.

In HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, on the Viking island of Berk, everyone is bestowed scary monikers and is taught how to kill invading dragons except for a young teen named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) who's the exception to the rule. He's a lanky young blacksmith's apprentice with little dragon-slaying potential -- a fact that chagrins his father, the clan chief Stoic the Vast (Gerard Butler). During a nighttime dragon attack, Hiccup manages to capture the most mysterious dragon of all -- the Night Fury -- but when faced with the creature, he can't kill it. Instead, Hiccup, who is accepted into dragon training with other new recruits -- arrogant Snotlout (Jonah Hill), bickering twins Ruffnut (T.J. Miller) and Tuffnut (Kristen Wiig), timid Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and the beautiful and brave Astrid (America Ferrera), gets to know his new pet dragon, who he names Toothless, and uses his knowledge to quietly calm all of the dragons the recruits must face. But when Hiccup's secret is revealed, will the Vikings (particularly his father) thank him for discovering the dragons aren't all cruel killers or brand him a dragon-loving traitor?

Based on author Cressida Cowell's book, the story is surprisingly touching. It's not just about a nerdy kid hoping to show-up his peers and win the attentions of a pretty girl in the process. It's about the pressure of living up to your father's expectations, self identity, war and peace, growing up, and other seemingly heavy themes that are seamlessly woven into a funny, gripping adventure. Ferrera, who at first seems like an odd choice to voice a platinum blond Astrid, is pitch-perfect, with her authoritative voice making Astrid sound appropriately confident and mature. As in Baruchel's live-action comedy, Astrid seems out of Hiccup's league, but she's open-minded enough to realize he's special -- just like this movie.

How to Train Your Dragon is actually worth the momentary headache that 3-D glasses can cause. It's spectacular, particularly when coupled with fire-breathing dragons flying around a colorful fictional island. The detailed animation on the Vikings (who are inexplicably depicted as more Scottish than Scandinavian, perhaps because Butler and Craig Ferguson, who's the dragon-training teacher, have such great accents) and the dragons (so many different kinds, all with their own quirks and strengths) is on par with Pixar -- the standard-bearer of animation.

The franchise primarily follows a young Viking named Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, voiced by Jay Baruchel, who eventually becomes a dragon expert alongside his trusty companion Toothless, a rare Night Fury dragon.

"First catch your dragon" is the initial step in this loopy tale of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, "a smallish Viking with a long name." Few think him capable of passing the Dragon Initiation Program that is required of members of the Hairy Hooligans tribe. But he may just surprise them. Washington Post columnist John Kelly recommends this title for summer, particularly for reading aloud.

"Our dragons are what set us apart!" bellowed Gobber. "Lesser humans train hawks to hunt for them, horses to carry them. It is only the VIKING HEROES who dare to tame the wildest, most dangerous creatures on Earth."

Gobber spat solemnly into the snow. "There are three parts to the Dragon Initiation Test. The first and most dangerous part is a test of your courage and skill at burglary. If you wish to enter the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, you must first catch your dragon. And that is WHY," continued Gobber, at full volume, "I have brought you to this scenic spot. Take a look at Wild Dragon Cliff itself"

The cliff loomed dizzyingly high above them, black and sinister. In summer you could barely even see the cliff as dragons of all shapes and sizes swarmed over it, snapping and biting and sending up a cacophony of noise that could be heard all over Berk.

Hiccup swallowed hard. He happened to know considerably more about dragons than anybody else there. Ever since he was a small boy, he'd been fascinated by the creatures. He'd spent hour after long hour dragon watching in secret. (Dragon-spotters were thought to be geeks and nerds, hence the need for secrecy.) And what Hiccup had learned about dragons told him that walking into a cave with three thousand dragons in it was an act of madness.

"I need not tell you," Gobber continued cheerfully, "that if you return to this spot without a dragon, it is hardly worth coming back at all. Anybody who FAILS this task will be put into immediate exile. The Hairy Hooligan Tribe has no use for FAILURES. Only the strong can belong."

I think this could possibly be the worst moment of my life SO FAR, thought Hiccup to himself as he waited for the blast of the horn. And if they shout much louder, we're going to wake up those dragons before we even START.

At the end of the Cold War, democracy promotion (Scott & Carter, 2016; Gilbert, 2020; Carothers, 2020) quickly emerged as a central foreign policy tool for the Euro-Atlantic powers in the post-communist world. In the first two decades after the Cold War, the Western powers enjoyed significant access and leverage in shaping the political systems and societies in the newly independent states (Levitsky & Way, 2010). This expresses in their funding structures and their support of the nascent civil societies, political parties, civil service training, to name a few (Carothers, 2020; Obydenkova, 2007). However, with resurgent Russia in the Putin era, the Western levers of democracy promotion, particularly in the post-Soviet space, quickly became liabilities for these new states. Largely top-down, such policies became intertwined with geopolitical push-and-pull between the West and an increasingly assertive Russia (Carothers, 2020; Sakwa, 2017; Ohanyan, 2018d; Broers & Ohanyan, 2020; Orenstein, 2019). Carothers (2020) explains that geo-politicization of democracy promotion by the Western policy makers has translated into support for particular short-term political preferences in target countries, at the expense of fostering more durable democratic processes and institutions. He also cautioned that this trend of geopoliticized transitions is likely to intensify as efforts to counter the global projections of Chinese and Russian influence increase.

As we argue in this work, the civic dimension only partially explains the democratic breakthrough and Russian restraint as a factor in it. The stateness, and the type of authoritarianism on which it has been built, is as critical in explaining democratic outcomes in Armenia. More specifically, we argue that the institutional variables, or a qualified conceptualization of stateness, provide an important causal and systemic explanatory framework in accounting for both the Velvet Revolution and the associated Russian restraint as a factor.

In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, the Police slowly began a process of institutional insulation, whereby the institution served the interests of the ruling elite, but only to a certain degree. Thus, corruption, fabrication of evidence, and intimidation continued, but previous acts of severe human rights violations, torture, extra-judicial killings, and collective political persecutions, to a very large extent, ceased as an institutional practice. Thus, an incremental increase was observed in police integrity (Ivkovich & Khechumyan, 2013) and a more qualified understanding of institutional rules and norms (Khecuhmyan & Ivković, 2015). Further, structural changes were undertaken from 2012 (Police of the Republic of Armenia, 2014), and by 2016 important systemic reforms were made, specifically in the fields of personnel training, public service, and public-police relations (Police of the Republic of Armenia, 2016).

Further, noting that institutional self-perpetuation is the norm, as an institution, the Police were cognizant not to surpass a certain red line in the type of behavior that they are willing to engage in. Consequently, the administration, at the public level, did not receive any positive signals from the institution of the Police when the subject of the possible use of brute force against the people became a subject of public discussion. The overwhelming show of restraint by the Police remains commensurate with these developments. Collectively, what was informally possible ten years ago was no longer formally possible during the Velvet Revolution, and for this reason, the relative institutionalization of the Police curtailed the options that the Sargsyan administration had in attempting to preserve its regime.

This comparison of Armenia and Belarus is limited in scope. While advocating for dual-track approaches to explain democratic breakthroughs in illiberal alliance systems, at this point the comparative treatment of Belarus and Armenia is intended to generate initial research directions for a more comprehensive comparison. This early comparison is also promising in understanding the conditions of Russian restraint, or intervention, when democratic breakthroughs develop in its vicinity. 041b061a72


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