14 July 2006

Discourse on Randomly Selected Topics

First off, Henry V remains firmly the greatest of Shakespeare's works...challenged in my view only by Hamlet and Richard III. Henry V on the surface appears to be a simple patriotic history, but what a great play it is. Cheers to Lucian Cannole and the rest of the cast in the KC Shakespeare festival. All did a great job. I'll address what I think were the strengths and weaknesses, in comparison to Kenneth Branaugh's cinematic version, which I hold in high regard. Henry V in the stage version does well and seems very reminiscent of Branaugh, but the one area he lacks is due to the nature of stage performance. He doesn't get to cooly whisper lines with "hard favour'd rage" on his brow, the subtlety and self-control that Branaugh's character showed (thanks to closeups and good audio, luxuries the stage version lacked by nature) was one of my favourite things about it. Exeter, as well, had a kind of John Rhys Davies sort of authority as he was cast in the movie. The scene where Exeter addresses the French council in a full suit of armor and thunders his message...again, with some subtlety and a certain awing sense of bridled power...was excellent. "Scorn and defiance...slight regard...contempt..." And lastly, you just can't really upstage Derek Jacobi as Chorus. He put an almost comical amount of energy into that performance. The stage actor did well, too, but Jacobi had a fierce, visceral intensity that befits the seriousness of the play. Now, on the other hand...I think the "ethnic" portion of the play (Welsh, Scotch, Irish, and lower class English) had loads of great actors. The Welsh captain Llewellyn was particular excellent ("aye, leeks is good!"). And Captain Jamie, of course...played by Mr. Cannole quite well. But on the whole, I think you get more of an authentic Shakespeare experience with the staged version. A movie version offers a great many advantages and I admit I tend to prefer them (Gibson's Hamlet being another favourite of mine...and try as a I might I have never really liked Lawrence Olivier versions). But you get the feeling you are at a traditional play when they cast off the luxuries of movie sets, special effects, and the like.

Plans are progressing for an English brewpub in Kansas City. My responsibilities will be creative direction for the food, atmosphere, and all aspects of brewing. The financial and managerial tasks I will leave to my associate. But I am working aggressively to expand my repertoire of British cuisine and enhance my brewing techniques. Perhaps in the not too distant future there will be a place for you to watch the BBC while enjoying bangers and mash and a pint of freshly brewed bitter. Trust me, bangers and mash and a pint of bitter is a lot better than you might assume. I've had the real stuff at an expat joint in LA.

Next...firearms safety, and a discussion of autoloader malfunctions. First the four basic rules of gun safety:

1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Additionally, always check the chamber carefully before considering the gun "safe" or unloaded.

2. Muzzle Discipline: never let your muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Never shoot at shadows, and always realize that bullets can penetrate quite a lot, including interior walls (easily).

4. Keep your finger off the trigger and outside of the trigger guard until on target and ready to fire.

Next up, a discussion of typical autoloader malfunctions. I've experienced a few of these lately and as such have investigated them a bit.

First, failure to go into battery. This means that the bolt has cycled but failed to fully bring the next round into battery, and the symptoms are that the slide doesn't fully close and the trigger is inactive. Simple fix...strike the back of the slide to send it fully into battery. Had two of these but I treated them as duds (type I malfunction and racked the cartridge out of the gun).

Second, a Type I malfunction, failure to fire. Hammer falls and gun does not fire. It is best to hold for 30 seconds to ensure that it isn't a retarded primer, but then you tap the magazine to ensure it is fully seated, rack the slide to eject the dud and chamber a new round, and get back on target to resume firing.

Third, a Type II malfunction, failure to eject, or the "Stovepipe". This happens when a casing gets caught by the returning slide as it was ejecting, jamming the gun. Simple fix, similar to the Type I. Rack the slide back while simultaneously turning the gun to the side, throwing or dropping the spent casing clear, release the slide, and fire.

Fourth, the dreaded Type III, failure to feed/failure to extract. A spent casing fails to extract out of battery and the slide tries to chamber a new round, causing a double feed jam. I had one of these, and the important thing to remember (it took me 3 minutes to figure this out) is to immediately, before doing anything else, lock the slide open. Then remove the magazine (you might have to slide the half-fed cartridge back into the magazine to get it out). Then rack the slide at least twice to eject the spent cartridge...then put in the magazine securely and rack the slide, and you're ready again to fire. This one had me flummoxed, but at least now having dealt with it, I understand it fairly well. Better to be flummoxed by a jam on the range than under a God-forbid situation of extreme circumstances. But this is a tricky one to fix and I'll admit, its a good reason why people should either have a backup gun, or consider the slower firing but more reliable revolver. Autoloaders are excellent machines but they require more dedication, training, and maintenance than a simple double action revolver. Someone who doesn't know how to rapidly and safely address the potential malfunctions listed above should probably stay away from them. They are like racehorses...excellent performance but slightly finicky and jumpy, requiring an expert handler. At this point, anyone considering a firearm for home defense would be best served in my view by a medium frame double action .357 Magnum, or a 12 gauge pump action like a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870.

I've got to step up my dry fire drills, I think, as my marksmanship is a long way from what it needs to be, and I need to smooth out things like my draw/presentation considerably. I'm not sure how I feel about controversial topics such as point shooting. I've read avid praise of it, and ever so much more passionate criticism of it as well. I lean towards the "always use your sights" persuasion, because simply getting a hit will not stop an attacker necessarily, and as has been said before, the three principles of stopping power are marksmanship, marksmanship, and marksmanship. But on the other hand, sometimes you aren't given the luxury of extra time, in the case of a closing-within-arms-length attacker.

I have of late created what I think might be the best beverage I've ever run across. In Normandy there is a drink called "Pommeau de Normand". Normandy is famous for its fermented cider, as well as calvados, its oak-aged apple brandy. Pommeau is an almost equal blend of young apple brandy and fresh, sweet, unfermented apple cider/juice. The brandy preserves the juice, which is typically in the 17% to 20% ABV range. I simulated this hard to find beverage by blending a glass of Martinellis Sparkling Apple Cider (which I have found to be the most flavourful of sweet apple juices I have tried) with Laird's Straight Apple Brandy. The resultant beverage was extraordinary, full of complexity and flavour. Butterscotch, vanilla, floral notes, and of course crisp apple...very unique! I'll be blending and bottling some more of this, definately.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I partook of some Trappist ale this weekend provided to me in celebration of my birth by a Brandon Briscoe. It was amazing. I, of course, thanked him by leaving the bottle, unattended, and on its side, so that the pressure built up and it spilled all over his sofa. Brilliant!

Anyway. I saved the bottle for you.

Oh, and here's a link to an online version of Phantastes, if you would be so inclined to read an entire book on the computer and not in print. I'm not too good for it, my eyes can't handle it.