27 December 2006

Sung to the tune of "Tangerine" by Led Zeppelin:

Covering the action, and trigger spring
Even glued the mag plate on, damn Cosmoline,
Nastiest crud you've ever seen...

Yes, this glorious Christmas weekend what did I do? Why, learn how to clean 50 year old Cosmolene off of my new Mauser M24/47, of course! A gift from my parents ("you'll shoot your eye out, kid!"), it is a late 40s Yugoslavian-built 8mm Mauser 98k. While the stock was a bit rough, Cosmoline impregnated into every possible nook and cranny, and the action a bit stiff, I can see the inner beauty. This is a fine rifle! Completely disassembling a Mauser is quite a task, especially to those who have never taken a rifle completely down before (my Enfield has had its bolt taken apart, nothing more). I took the bolt completely apart, then I worked at getting the stock off. Took off little extra parts like the butt plate and sight shroud. Took out the magazine assembly and trigger assembly, and disassembled each of those...then finally the bolt release lever. Degreased every thing, soaked it in mineral spirits, and coated everything up with lots of CLP. The bolt and trigger assemblies are back on the receiver/barrel, and I'm finishing the stock nicely with some boiled linseed oil...after a good scrubbing with 0000 steel wool it feels slick and smooth, much nicer than the rough, raw initial feel. The oil gives it a natural, non-glossy finish, nicer than the mirror-bright lacquer they put on commercial hunting rifles.

Ordered some non-corrosive 8mm FMJ as well as a matching Yugo bayonet (goodbye, Christmas bonus!). I probably need to scrub the bore some more, it looked a little crudded out still, hopefully not too much corrosion. I need a better bore brush rod, the threads on mine are stripped out so I can't run it back and forth, to really scrub at it.

But yes, now I own an example each of what were probably the two greatest bolt-action rifles of the 20th Century...the Mauser, and the Lee-Enfield. Personally I much prefer the bolt on the Enfield, but it may just be familiarity...the "bolt cocking upon opening" thing is a bit strange to get used to. And if you somehow manage to decock the bolt when taking it off, you're in for a fun time, I can tell you. But the Mauser is probably the big one that influenced later designs, moreso...I just like the crude, sloppy simplicity of a good stout Enfield.

And now I'm defying reason by unceremoniously linking two previously written posts...one you have read already regarding my Mauser, from which I will now segue into an older post concerning, well, something that mixes rather poorly with firearms...

I pray your benevolent graces to grant me such indulgence as to expound fatuously upon both the salient and subtle virtues of some of world's most noble spirits.

[takes off the Poncy Hat]

Excuse me. Anyway, we're going to take this opportunity to chew the fat (aka performing lipomastication) on some of the classiest booze around. Sorry, there's got to be middle ground between noble spirits and classy booze. High quality adult beverages, there you go.

Anywhichwaybutanyway, the whole reason I started this post is that I'm in relatively high spirits (ha! ha!) because I have just entered another little seasonal quiz competition with Aberlour, which in the past has yielded not one (no!) but two (yes!) grand prizes. The first was a bottle of their ridiculously good a'bunadh, which is an old-fashioned, unfiltered, cask strength Speyside single malt. It is a bracing 120 proof, but the concentration of flavours is amazing. It leans much more heavily to the warm, inviting "raisin" notes imparted by aging in sherry butts (as opposed to the brisker, more austere notes of the other main Scotch aging method, used bourbon casks). It is a very vinuous whisky that is easily one of my favourites. And the other thing I won from them is a pair of fine Riedel single malt tasting glasses, etched with Aberlour's logo. So, yes, I'm partial to them...their 10 Year Old is probably one of the best single malts around in that age bracket (and especially at the price, a relatively modest $30). Maybe I'll win their 15-year, who knows! I've made the bottle of a'bunadh last what, two years now.

Right now I've also got bottles of Dalmore Cigar Malt and Speyburn 10-year (a very respectable whisky for the low price), as well as a few brandies. My latest interest in brandy has drifted away from the admittedly snobby and overpriced cognacs and armagnacs (yes, they are nice, though) and onto a less well known spirit, that of calvados. Calvados is apple brandy from Normandy...similar in some aspects of production and labelling to the grape brandies of the Cognac and Armagnac regions. Cider is fermented, and then distilled, and the resulting white spirit (raw apple brandy) is aged in white oak barrels for a period of years. The younger Calvados tends to be a paler, brighter spirit with a fresher apple flavour, and a rougher edge. As it ages, the fruity apple notes fade a bit to the background and the spirit becomes smoother, and incorporates more of the traditional old brandy aromas...dark aromas like oak and (I'm not making this up) leather. I've tried an XO calvados, and I don't actually think it is necessarily worth the increased cost...when the aging obscures most of the character of the original apple spirit it kind of defeats the purpose, and one might as well have a grape brandy. And Spanish brandy? That can be rather a treat, it tends (in my experience) to be immensely dark, fruity, and sweet. Much more appealing I'm sure to those new to spirits. In 2004, I bought a small 50ml bottle off an auction website of Hine Triomphe. Hine is probably my favourite cognac distillery, and the Triomphe bottling is a blend of 45-55 year old brandies. Very good stuff, although I'm hardly going to shell out $300 for a 750ml bottle. It was nice to try, definitely.

There are other spirits that interest me at least...high quality American whiskies such as Kentucky bourbon and rye, and Irish whiskey is quite pleasing I think. Rum can be good (and can be very, very bad) but I tend to prefer the older, well-aged sipping rums. I like gin, but certainly not as a sipper, it needs to be well diluted with good quality tonic water. Vodka and tequila....well, life is too short to waste my liver on those. Vodka might as well be Windex...pure ethanol, no taste, and if there IS any flavour it is because you are drinking cheap vodka with lots of nasty impurities. Tequila, well, tends to taste "planty" to me and I've never quite understood the appeal, although an 1800 Anejo Reserve I tried was peppery and interesting.

I'm bored. Time to end the post. Soupy twist!

18 December 2006

The coincidence of good music and good lyrics is definately the exception, not the rule.

(Note how I used that smarmy, fatuous blogger technique of taking an idea thought to be exceptionally insightful, and separating it into its own single-sentence paragraph.)

So, in my half-hearted quest to keep one ear open to the endless stream of crap music churned out by the uninspired rock musicians of the day, I listened to an interesting song on the radio..."Starlight" by Muse. I admit the fuzz bass hooked me initially, but the vocals and melody was exceptional for the genre, at least. The guy obviously has a Thom Yorke infatuation, but I'll forgive him that. They are British, and apparently from the same generation (starting in 1994). I've listened to the rest of the album (2006's Black Holes and Revelations), and most of it is hit and miss. Sometimes the music reminds me of stuff my old band did, when I was into what we pompously called "progressive alternative" (could a music style possibly sound any more "San Francisco" than that?). All around there is some good music in it, but the lyrics...

Perhaps they are simply marketing to the wealthy ignorati of American youth...but the gist of the album seems to be a huge anti-Bush screed. This being a BRITISH band, I remind you (not that that stopped their idols, Radiohead, from releasing the likewise childish "Hail to the Thief"). And its not even a logical anti-Bush screed. It contains the popular paradox of Bush as both a foolish simpleton and an evil genius. The first track, "Take a Bow", accuses Bush (or who/whatever) of "crimes against the Earth", "cast[ing] a spell on the country you run", and bringing corruption, death, and destruction to all that he touches. Then he ventures into an orgiastic fit of Bush-hating schadenfreude about how he will burn in hell for his sins. The final track has a line "how can we win when fools can be kings". I'd love to believe that the lyricist was venturing a bit deeper than just politics. "Take a Bow" would have been much subtler, surprising, and interesting if it was written about...let's see...the use of sodium bicarbonate in toothpaste. Or about Dick Clark. In fact, it would have been great to do it about Dick Clark, casting him humourously as the Dark Lord over the Earth. But no, it is a humourless amalagam of tired, childish cliches, served up to emotionally stunted people that find an irrational hatred of a government official to be a bedrock in their lives, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Imagine if they wrote this song about the Secretary of State in 1991. Anyone remember who that was, offhand? No?

My point is that they think that politics is this high ideal...that political protest songs are deep and meaningful. If anything, political lyrics only serve to sever any potential depth of a song, rendering them entirely shallow and shrill. If you think that your life is going to radically change depending on which brand of bureaucrats is helming the leviathan of federal government at the moment...then get a grip, and get on with your life. And if you care that much about the government of ANOTHER COUNTRY...then you're even more silly and pathetic! I can understand Radiohead and Muse seeing a market and exploiting it, I suppose. Just like Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, et al writing silly country songs about kicking terrorist keister and rememberin' them thar Twin Towers, this kind of music is just silly, shallow claptrap marketed to people who feel validated when pop stars sing mantras to them that seem to confirm their feeble thinking.

That said, I know that Eustace Lufgren is in the process of writing a song entitled "Hu Jintao", but it is far from a protest song. More a song of love forelorn, of admiration unspoken, and of funkitude inexplicable. "Hu Jintao...don't you know we gonna make it somehow....somehow."

Perhaps this is the biggest reason I gave up trying to be in a creative rock band. On the rare occasion that I've found creative, talented musicians that have the free time to write and play music, often they end up having a dream to be singer-songwriters as well and have ABSOLUTELY NO TALENT FOR THAT. Honestly, if you can't write good lyrics, shroud them in obscurity. These people would write gut-wrenchingly bad quasi-emo lyrics about the pain (the PAIN!) of whatever-despair-they-are-currently-subjecting-their-emotions-to. Hup-BLAAAAGGGGHH. But the crappiness of emo lyrics is a matter for another day. And...if you are reading this wondering if this rat bastard was talking about you in this paragraph, never fear. The people I'm referring to probably don't even remember me or know my last name, much less know of this blog. I've worked with a lot of great musicians actually, none of us (myself included) seem to have any free time anymore.

Oh, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (shoot me! shoot me now!) OK, sorry, I won't continue speaking Christmas lyrics. But I'm looking forward to it. Not least for the two days off that I have. Speaking of shooting...I got a Dremel polishing/cleaning kit at Walmart. Yet another tool in my slowly expanding gunsmithing kit. Did some light polishing on the feedramp of my Bersa...hopefully it will work nicely with the Magtech FMJ I still need to buy for the next range trip. Oh, and our Christmas tree may be a rather spindly and cheap Douglas Fir, but its real, at least! I'm not sure about alive, but at least it WAS alive. Although given that petroleum was developed from the organic material of prehistoric plant life, and plastic developed as a petroleum product, you could say the fake-o trees were alive, once, as well.

05 December 2006

Allow me (won't you?) to jabber nonsensically on about POVERTY.

Let me first say the obvious. I'm rich. I'm typing to you on a fairly high-tech computer (yes, its a Celeron, but its a computer, dangit!). And, as you are reading this on a warmly glowing CRT or LCD screen yourself, you're rich too! How fantastic, isn't it?

First off, the term "rich" is an annoyingly relative word as I have probably just demonstrated...I imagine most readers reading that would recoil and say, "I'm not RICH, I'm middle class" or "I'm just a student, I eat ramen noodles for Pete's sake". But my point is, everyone tends to think that THEY are not rich, but that people who make more than them are. The man who makes $100,000 a year will consider himself middle class while a millionaire to him is rich. The man who makes $30,000 a year will think of himself as far from rich, but to him the $100K earner is a rich man. And the man in rural Africa that lives on subsistence farming will certainly think a man who makes 30,000 US dollars in a single year is rich indeed.

America is a rich nation. Look at our nation's poor. They tend to have television sets. Many have automobiles. Starvation in America is more linked to the disease of anorexia than famine...how strange that would seem to the people of five centuries ago! Overeating and its ensuing obesity is more of a health risk to America's poor than malnutrition and starvation.

People in America, regardless of income level, can general achieve a relatively (compared to most other nations and civilisations past) high standard of living. How do you think that was accomplished? To me it is the triumph of free enterprise and capitalism. What has communism done for its poor? Where would our poor be today if we had adopted communism? Better off? I doubt it. But I'm eluding the point I wanted to make...

Basically, in the centuries past when the poor could barely survive, I could sympathize with the proponents of communism. I still feel that communism actually made people worse off (as proved by early colonial experiments) but the intent was noble. But now, socialism and communism as applied in this country can not claim such a noble goal. The concept of equality is the only thing left. "He has it, I want it, its not fair". And make no mistake, from screwed up tax structures (an inevitable result of politicians consistently hiking taxes on the "rich" and lowering taxes on the "poor"...always popular with the ignorant masses) to every form of entitlement that goes beyond simple provision of food to the poor, it is a sort of modular, piece by piece communism. I can at least respect the goals of helping the poor survive, but now that that is hardly a concern, the nobility is lost, and communism/socialism/leftism are completely bankrupt...bereft of good intentions, without historical success, and devoid of sound logic. Obviously nobody calls it communism anymore, but the entitlement/equality side of liberalism continues to thrive on two things...the guilt of the wealthy and the envy of the unwealthy. But it ultimately helps neither.

It seems like it may be about time to brew again...winter is an excellent time for that. The tapwater for immersion chilling is ice cold, the house temps are great for ale fermentation, and with the chilly weather its much more pleasant huddling over a boiling, steaming kettle for an hour or two.