28 August 2007

A rather silly bit of thought I just had. Puccini sounds like a kind of pasta. And Mostaccioli sounds vaguely like a 19th century composer. On that note, why do pastas all seem to have these very distinctive names, when they are all pretty much the same product pressed into different shapes? Linguine, spaghetti, fioriettini, cavatelli, rigatoni, vermicelli, etc. Very descriptive, colourful names, but it's basically same cookie dough, different cookie cutter.

With that transient flash of spell-binding brilliance behind us in the annals of blog history, we'll move on. Saw "Mr. Bean's Holiday" last weekend with my wife and parents. I liked it a lot more than I thought I might. We watched via Netflix the 1997 "Bean" movie with expectations of utter crap (compared to the original BBC shows), and it didn't really disappoint those expectations...it was moderately enjoyable, but overall a great disservice to how funny Bean actually is, with its limp attempts at an American-style plot and dialogue. Funny moments shone through occasionally, but byly and largely those were only momentary lapses of a raging crapstorm. That said, the new one is much better. The title alone suggests as much, using "Holiday" instead of "Vacation", thus not becoming a craven, pathetic attempt to translate it into a Rob Schneider style American comedy. LET BEAN BE BRITISH!

Willem Dafoe was great. One of my favourite actors, actually, ever since he shot up the vast majority of Columbia in "Clear and Present Danger" with Harrison Ford. He played an archetypal ego-obsessed art film director at the Cannes film festival. On the whole, it is a movie I would actually buy, and watch again. I'm glad Atkinson got it right this time! Maybe that's why he did this one, so he wouldn't be 0 for 1 in the movie department.

On to other movies (pretty varied blog post today, isn't it?)...I watched a pair of great movies last week, Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars. The latter is one of the classic Eastwood "spaghetti westerns", and it derives almost completely from the original Japanese samurai film Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa. I actually enjoyed Yojimbo a bit more. A very dark film, not quite as good-and-evil as Seven Samurai, but more comic. Basically a lone ronin (masterless samurai) walks into a corrupt town full of evil men with two feuding factions, and he ends up seeing the two warring houses destroyed by pitting them against each other. The Clint Eastwood one is, well, a classic, and the first in the "Man with No Name" trilogy that ends with the better-known "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

And Pastor Sam was good enough to pass on this interesting article, with which I generally agree:


It is a very interesting look at how the writing of Christian songs has changed in the past century or so. Ironically after reading this article yesterday afternoon, I hopped into the car to go to band practice, and I decided to give 88.5 the benefit of the doubt. The song on there was "Miracle of the Moment" by Steven Chapman (no, you are not special; no, you don't people to type your middle name). Here's the first verse or so:
It's time for letting go
All of our "if onlies"
Cause we don't have a time machine

And even if we did
Would we really want to use it
Would we really want to go change everything
Cause we are who and where and what we are for now
And this is the only moment we can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There's a wonder in the here and now
It's right there in front of you
And I don't want you to miss the miracle of the moment
After reading through the lyrics I did manage to find an obscure reference to "the One", although of course it is hard to hear the capitalization of "One" when it is being sung, don't you know. Here's another great little nugget:
And if it brings you tears
Then taste them as they fall
Let them soften your heart
And if it brings you laughter
Then throw your head back
And let it go
Let it go, yeah
You gotta let it go

And listen to your heartbeat

I used to get mildly sick to my stomach when I worked a job where they had country music on all the time, just because the treacle-sweet sentiment crammed into some of those songs is just a bit off-putting occasionally. But geez, just using the above random song as a reference, Christian music has it beat, bad. It's like crossing Dr. Phil with New Age Christianity with Up With People.

It is too easy to mock this stuff. Steve Chapman talking about sodding time machines! "Would we really want to use it?" Yes, Steve, I want to use it! I want to go back in time and kick the first recording engineer that thought pop songs should have those cheesy repeating backing vocals, square in the...

Tonight I'm going to be grilling cajun-style pork sausages over apple wood. Woohoo! I've got my Zatarain's cajun mustard at the ready! I also have to find a good recipe to do some roasted potatoes with a spicy cajun kick.

21 August 2007


Despite that sounding vaguely like either an acronymous insult or a 1970's disco/funk outfit (Funkity Parliament Unicycle), I refer instead to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, which my wife and I started (along with others at Midtown) on Sunday. As Debra alludes to on her new blog, we are mourning the loss of the Sunday afternoon nap, but the Ramsey video was actually quite funny and entertaining. My boredom threshold is higher than others (I read books on 19th century colonialism for crying out loud), and while I think the video was done in a style to make it palatable to the Easily Bored, I found it rollicking good entertainment, for a financial education video, at least.

Now from the senseless, wanton slaughter of migrating chichimurra penguins we turn to my usual blog cop-out; instead of exploring deep thoughts, portentous observations, and meaningful concepts on spiritual, philosophical, logical, or even political topics, I delve into the happy and meaningless realm of my hobbies.

First off, I should have linked this earlier, but check out Bram Wijnands, one of the highlights of our local KC jazz scene (not that I know anything of said scene):


His audio section has some great downloadable tracks, check out "Darn That Dream", "Black Orpheus", and well, pretty much all of them:


From jazz gurus we turn to the shooting sports. Debra and I trotted down to Morgan County this weekend, visiting her parents. Of course, there were two suitcases: one of clothes and other travel necessities, and one packed to the brim with ammunition. I didn't quite achieve my goal of emptying that suitcase to lighten the load for the return journey, but I did manage to release enough carbon dioxide via the combustion of Cordite and other smokeless powders to make Al Gore shed a single, solitary tear like the Crying Indian of those commercials from the 1970s. Ah, what fun. Highlights:
  • The Saiga 12 is, as already known, a very, very fun gun to shoot. Very painful afterward, especially when using no method of recoil reduction and shooting 10 round magazines of magnum slugs and buckshot in rapid fire. It certainly moves a lot of lead down range in an awful hurry, but it brings to mind (or rather, to shoulder) Newton's Third Law (equal and opposite reaction).
  • The Bersa Thunder 380 remains one of the best compromises in small handguns, with minimal recoil, easy trigger action, and overall fun-to-shoot-ness. Accurate, reliable, and just a good buy, if one can accept the slightly underpowered round it is chambered for.
  • The Kel-Tec P3-AT is sort of the opposite...rather like touching off rounds in your hand, it is tricky to control but much more easy to control with repeated practice. It isn't a range gun by any stretch, but its small form factor is impressive. Less than 10oz loaded, and extremely thin and small.
  • The Kel-Tec PF-9 had some strange malfunctions on its first range outing since returning from factory repair, but they were worn through as I put somewhere around 150 rounds through it; just some teething to get done, and its pretty smooth now.
  • My Enfield did not in fact blow my face off, and did not even rupture a case, so I'm fairly confident it is officially safe to shoot. I didn't have the right range to sight it in properly though, so I'll do that some other time at Lake City.
  • My 1967 Smith and Wesson Model 12 got a celebratory 40th birthday shoot, even if only 24 rounds or so. I added an aluminum T-grip grip extension from Tyler Manufacturing to it this time, and it really helped with the grip ergonomics, and made the trigger vastly more controllable. I'd highly recommend that to anyone shooting a stock K-frame that dislikes the grip feel. As expected, it ate every single 158gr semi-wadcutter without a hiccup. That's the nice thing about wheel guns...
  • I also plinked around with my father-in-law's Ruger Single Six, and shot some .22 Short out of it. Didn't even need hearing protection shooting those things, they were practically caps, and probably were moving at BB gun velocities.

And for those still wondering:

Do Battleships Move Sideways When They Fire?

The Answer

10 August 2007

Cleaning up some loose ends...

Seven Samurai was indeed as good as I anticipated. Not a movie for the impatient or easily bored, but highly entertaining to the patient and interested sorts, of which for the moment I was. Kyuzu was of course the admirable warrior, the ultimate expression of self-denial, self-control, and martial skill, and I found myself a little embarrassed as the young Katsushiro dives down at his feet in pathetic, dog-like worship...I thought the Kyuzu guy was pretty admirable, too! Anyway, an excellent movie. I was a little disinclined to like it at first, because it is one of those movies that borders on an "art film". Whenever you hear movies referenced by their director's name, be wary of that. Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", etc. When people reference a director like he is an artist and the film is his artwork (Michaelangelo's David, for example) you run the high risk of subjecting yourself to poncey, heart-stoppingly dull art films. But this movie is not rife with "art" for art's sake, it is a good movie, and whatever artistic beauty or virtue it may possess were not a result of it being designed as an "art film".

Not all art movies suck, of course, but I've seen enough that do to adopt a "caveat emptor" attitude towards movies openly broadcast as principally "art" and secondarily entertainment. This movie on the other hand is highly entertaining, and has none of the pretense of a self-aware art film...you know, those films that seem to exult and rejoice in how artsy and inaccessible they are...damn the viewers, full abstraction ahead!

Still, best war movie of all time belongs to Zulu, 1964.

More mesquite experimentation in progress...so far, steaks, burgers, and jerked pork have all benefited from pure wood grilling. The jerked pork, well, I'm getting a little bored of it, and I may try a good BBQ sauce on it next time, or perhaps the salt/pepper/red pepper dry rub I've been using lately. Hot dogs tonight! All this on a $20 grill! Muahahahahaha!

08 August 2007

Me Gusta Mesquita!
-Chapter Two-

So last night a couple 1/2lb K.C. strips met their demise on my grill. Not an entirely uncommon occurrence, but last night things were a bit more unique.

Charcoal? What charcoal? Not even all-natural lump charcoal or "charwood". No, I grilled over hefty chunks of mesquite. The smoke was awesome, let me tell you. The steak didn't magically become otherwordly in comparison (charcoal grills a mighty fine steak) but it was very good. And the fire, well, it just smelled right. I like a mildly charred steak so the high heat and flame from the mesquite worked well, and it could be regulated by closing the lid...which had the side benefit of producing a thick, aromatic smoke, much thicker than the smoke provided by my previous method (soaked mesquite chips on charcoal).

Yes, it was hot enough to boil a monkey's bum last night, and I'm sure it will be tonight, but I've got 1lb of 100% Angus ground sirloin begging to be transformed into that most classic of American dishes (ironically named for the principle port city in Germany) and no amount of heat will stop me.

On a side note, I can hardly make a review or recommendation yet, but I'm halfway through watching Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai" and it is quite an enjoyable movie. Even though I have heard Kurosawa described as one of the most Western of Japanese directors, I find it interesting that this was a Japanese film written for Japanese audiences, at a time when world cultures were more distinct and unique than they are in the modern age of communication. So it feels a bit more authentic than a modern samurai movie might feel; the perspective is authentically Japanese and not an Americanized version. Very interesting, and well-accompanied by a glass of nigori, though you may feel a bit like a bastard with such indulgence as you watch peasants weep over the loss of a small quantity of life-giving rice.

The rest of the review will follow when I finish the movie! It is a long one, that is for sure.

06 August 2007

The Four Commandments of Gun Safety (Again)

I. All guns are always loaded.
While this is a bit of an exaggerated rule, in that it is not always literally correct, the attitude and principle are essential. Firearms accidents are all too often connected with a naïve neglect of this rule. The famous and tragic last words: "it's not loaded". It is best to assume at any given point that a gun is loaded, and this informs later rules involving gun handling. Especially with autoloaders (semi-automatics) it is very simple for a beginner to neglect this rule. For example, if a beginner has a semi-automatic pistol, he or she can remove the loaded magazine, and it is common to then assume the pistol is unloaded. It is essential to rack the slide or bolt (preferably multiple times, with visual and tactile confirmation) to ensure there is no round in the chamber, ready to fire. So this is one of the big rules, no matter what sort of gun it is: treat all guns as if they were loaded. Resist the temptation to assume a gun has been made safe; unless you can clearly determine it at the moment, and you understand the gun enough to properly make it safe and fully unload it, assume the gun is loaded and ready to fire, and this will help keep you and those that are around you safe.

II. Do not allow your muzzle to cover anything you do not wish to destroy.
"Muzzle Control" is essential. On a range, keep the barrels pointed down range. No one likes having a gun pointed at them, and if you have a gun pointed at someone and they register displeasure, DO NOT respond with the typical "but it's not loaded" line. We don't care. No one cares that you have assumed the gun not to be loaded. We assume it is loaded (see the First Commandment) and we do not like seeing the business end of your firearm. Whether in a gun shop, or a range, keep that gun pointed in a safe direction and do not point it at people, accidentally or otherwise. Don't take a casual attitude towards muzzle control, or you will end up at best pissing off more safety-conscious shooters, and at worst accidentally discharging your gun, possibly killing someone.

III. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
When you handle, draw, or aim a gun, the proper place for your trigger finger is NOT in the trigger guard resting on the trigger. The proper place for your finger is straight, alongside the edge of the frame, above the trigger guard. I made this mistake regularly when I first started and luckily I didn't have any negligent discharges as a lesson. Keep your trigger finger out of the trigger guard until you have your firearm trained on the target and you are ready to fire. The two times when this is the biggest problem is when handling guns in a store or elsewhere, and when drawing or reholstering a pistol. In the first situation, the gun store attendant and other customers do not at all feel at ease when you're swinging a handgun around with your finger on the trigger. If you need to feel the trigger pull, first ask permission of the owner as many people (myself included) would not want someone to be dry-firing without the use of a snap-cap. Then clear the gun and check, doublecheck, and triplecheck the gun to make sure it is unloaded, and dry fire the gun in a relatively safe direction. Don't do this if you don't really know what you are doing, because if you don't understand the design of a gun you might not clear it correctly and you really are going to prefer a click over a bang in that situation when the hammer falls. And if you try to holster or draw a pistol with your finger in the trigger guard, you may end up shooting yourself in the leg. Particularly on reholstering; I've read about a number of instances where that has happened to cops and other relatively experienced shooters, so be careful!

IV. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Modern pistol and rifle cartridges are very, very powerful. You would be surprised at how many walls a pistol rounds can knife through, and still have enough velocity to severely injure or kill someone. Drywall will not stop anything larger than BBs or birdshot (if that!). Even a solid core door would be hardpressed to stop any of the major centerfire handgun and rifle cartridges. Therefore, you need to know what is beyond any target you fire upon, because you cannot assume a bullet will stop until it hits a reinforced brick wall or an earth berm. And of course, you need to be entirely certain of your target. There was a tragic case in Oregon recently where a young teen was shot by his brother when they were out target shooting, and the older brother shot at what he thought was an inanimate object, and turned out to be his brother. I know the EMT that had the unfortunate duty to respond to this accident onsite. While the tragically preventable nature of this goes without saying, it is worth mentioning to drive home the importance of this fourth rule.

So there you have it. I know I've probably mentioned the Big Four before on here but for those out there that may ever purchase or handle a firearm, it's good to remember these...assume its loaded, keep it pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger, and be sure of your target.

That said, I can't speak highly enough of the shooting sports as recreational fun. Once safety rules are trained and ingrained, it is a lot less stressful than maybe I have given the impression of. A Ruger 10/22 makes a great plinker rifle with low recoil, minimal noise, and cheap cost of ammo...an easy recommendation for someone interested in a good target gun.