30 October 2008

Vogon poetry is of course the third worst creative work in the Universe.

The second worst is that of the Azagoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal haemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favourite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leapt straight up through his neck and throttled his brain.

The very worst creative work of all was an ill-advised Hollywood adaptation of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" in AD 2005 on the planet Earth, but it has blessedly passed out of all knowledge with the recent demolition of the same planet.

(with apologies to Douglas Adams)

So I went against my better judgment, the imploring pleas of friends, and a general prescient sense of foreboding, and I moved the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the top of my Netflix queue, and we watched it last night. Or rather, a more than sufficient quantity of it.

My expectations were low; I had watched and actually rather enjoyed the 1981 BBC television adaptation, which had low budget sets and even lower budget acting. Still, in its cheesy awful way I loved it, and Debra (who has not read the books) enjoyed it as well. I figured, might as well try the movie. We expect it to be bad, even worse than these, but it might be at least moderately entertaining.

I can't put into words how unspeakably awful this movie was. Obviously, you observe, I am attempting to do so, but mere words are insufficient and can never fully represent the depth of awfulness attained by Garth Jennings.

I am staring into the blank white void of a Blogger text window and I find it hard to come to grips with it, hard to find where to begin. The conclusion is inescapable. This was in fact the worst movie I have ever seen. It is possible that I have seen worse ones and they are simply unable to rise through my memory banks for recollection, but I have been contemplating this and I cannot think of a worse motion picture. There is a possibility that I will see one in the future that represents a lower nadir of supreme awfulness than even this, but that seems unlikely in that I don't own one of these.

I like Martin Freeman as an actor...I've always been fond of his character Tim from The Office, even if that is the only character he is capable of playing. However, his modern lower-class British was immensely skewed from the Arthur of the book, played to perfection by Simon Jones, and on the whole he was profoundly lame. Much of this wasn't his fault, in that the dialogue was nothing short of raped, but still, he was playing his usual Tim Canterbury character, not Arthur Dent.

Trillian/Tricia McMillan could have been worse. Admittedly she was a better actress than the one who played Trillian in the 1981 series, and was more believably intelligent, which is appropriate, but the horrendous, unnecessary romantic subplot, and the extra non-Adams dialogue...if Zoolander Deschawhatever could have simply played the part from the 1981 series, she would have done fine I think, but the absolutely vomit-inducing "romantic interest" subplot and related dialogue completely ruined her character.

Ford Prefect. Now, don't call me a racist ("racist!!!"); I was thoroughly open to Ford being of whatever race. In fact it could have added to the humor, particularly if Ford had assumed a race very unlikely to have come from Guildford. However, why in the world did they have to get someone who acted like Tracy Morgan's stand-in on 30 Rock? Again, if the man had a proper English accent and had stuck with the lines in the book, he would have done rather well possibly (well, as good as Tracy Morgan would have done). As it stands, he was bloody awful. When he starts referring to "people of Earth" in the first scene it is so out of character, he was henceforth lost to me as a character. That was the moment I knew the game was up, the movie was rubbish.

Zaphod Beeblebrox had a few good lines (most of the good ones taken straight from the book) and was perhaps the least awful adaptation of characters. I never heard him with an American accent, of course (Adams was likely hardly capable of writing dialogue from a non-British perspective), but the character was about right. His failing was outside of his control as an actor...in the awful extraneous dialog handed to him by the bastard writer-rapists, and in the stupid "creative" interpretation of the multiple heads. While the 1981 BBC Zaphod did look terribly awkward and reminiscent of Michael Scott in the Halloween version of NBC's The Office, I still preferred that more literal interpretation, because guess what, that is how EVERYONE that reads the book pictures his two heads. Nobody thinks he's got a hidden chin face.

Marvin was acceptable, and while the actor who voiced him is one of whom I think decently, I preferred the original Marvin voice from the '81 series, again. Also, his physical design looked too much like a playful, cheery Japanese toy robot. Bad design.

I am a huge Stephen Fry fan, but after V for Vendetta I realized that everything he does does not in fact turn to gold, so I can readily admit that I preferred the original narrator. Fry did fine, but his voice was just wrong. Also, the original lo-fi graphics were much better than the cartoon animated graphics in the new Guide, and it seemed to have less comic punch.

Whoever scored the movie either didn't read the books or didn't "get" the books. The playful incidental comic music thrown in throughout the movie was just horrid, and felt like it would be more appropriate in a Julia Roberts romantic comedy. Then, when Good Lord, they tried to make an ExcitingAdventurePlot! the music got even worse. Adams wrote an adventure comedy, that is, a comedy written with a background of a space adventure, whereas these script molesters turned it into a comic adventure, that is, a space adventure with humor sporadically sprinkled throughout it. Not realizing that the plot is the least interesting and worthwhile part of Adams' books. And also gutting and neutering the humor that they did manage to port over from the original.

Yes, the plot was abysmal. Why in the sodding arse did they have to go to Vogsphere? To establish an awful and awkward romantic adventure rescue? What Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh did to Tolkien's work is mild and completely acceptable in comparison to the awful plot liberties executed on this one. I grant, Adams may have had some role in rewriting parts of the plot before his death, and we will probably never know how much of the crap was his, and how much was put in later to make it more sellable to Hollywood. But the wanton abandonment of Adams' dialogue was the worst of it. Like Wodehouse, Adams excels at writing comic dialogue, inestimably more than the screenwriter on this film. Imagine a Wodehouse adaptation with Alan Alda as Jeeves and Ben Stiller as Bertie Wooster. IMAGINE IT!

We stopped it after the Vogsphere scene just as they had gotten to Magrathea. Neither of us could take any more. Debra had fallen asleep through the Viltvodle/Vogsphere section, which was her good luck, but I was transfixed by its awfulness and remained unable to avert my eyes until Debra, bless her, finally insisted that we turn it off.

I suppose I will continue to heal, coping with this, my burden, one day at a time. One day at a time.

29 October 2008

So the last month or so I've been getting fantastic prices on spare ribs, and I've been doing a lot of rib smoking on the weekends. Without further ADO:

Indian tandoori ribs, with a blended marinade of plain yoghurt, jalapenos, cilantro, and fresh ginger root, with added spices of cumin, coriander, mustard seeds (brought back from Zanzibar from Mister D. Gibb) and turmeric. Smoked for 3 hours, foiled for another hour at higher temps, then finished off with a slathering of a prepared tandoori marinade that had a nice mild pepper flavor. Served with jasmine rice (I know, not Indian) flavored with cilantro and ginger and a bit of the original reserved yoghurt marinade, and fresh cucumber.

The Thai ribs (kra duk mu yang) were marinated in a thick paste of cilantro, peanuts, dried chilies, garlic, lime juice and lime zest, and a few other ingredients that escape my memory. Smoked for 4-5 hours, which isn't authentic, but I prefer it, and then finished up with a slathering of the thick sweet Thai chili sauce, Mae Ploy as pictured, and grilled until the sauce was thickened up on the surface. Sprinkled with crushed peanuts, and served with a meatless phad thai with egg, cilantro, and peanuts. Served with fresh lime slices, and Unibroue La Fin du Monde, which seemed to match up nicely.

A couple racks of beef back ribs, dry rubbed with a Texas style rub heavy on chilies and garlic with no added sugar. Finished them up sauced with Gates Extra Hot sauce, which is fittingly not particularly sweet or rich. Served up with pickles, extra sauce, homebrewed hefeweizen, and three sweet potatoes that I smoked along with the ribs until soft, then mashed them up with brown sugar, milk, brown sugar, butter, and more brown sugar.

Pork spare ribs with a Carribean twist...the marinade is a blended green puree of citrus zest, fresh orange juice, scallions, parsley, a habanero, soy, vinegar, oil, allspice, and a mango. After resting overnight in the marinade, I smoked it for about 5 hours, and then basted them with a sweet rum BBQ sauce that used lots of brown sugar, blackstrap rum, orange zest, a bit of soy, some honey. A glass of the blackstrap rum (Cruzan) used with it shown to the side.

Chinese style sweet BBQ ribs...marinated with a thick mixture of hoisin sauce, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, grated ginger, and garlic. Half of the marinade is reserved as a sauce. Smoked 4 hours, then foiled for tenderness. I cooked down about a cup of reserved marinade into a thick, sticky glaze. I cut the slab into individual ribs, and coated each rib on all sides with the sauce/marinade/glaze, and grilled until a nice candy-like glaze developed. Topped them with scallions and served.

16 October 2008

Some interesting quotes:

"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." -Barack Obama

"Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence." -Karl Marx

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." -Barack Obama

"Democracy is the road to socialism." -Karl Marx

12 October 2008

So, after much deliberation, I decided that the Pants were simply just too wonderful to keep to myself, and I have published some videos of their last reunion concert on YouTube. In the interest of the fragile egos of Dugald, Nigel, Angus, and Quentin, I have disabled comments and ratings for these videos. In chronological order:

Flashpants - The Immigrant Song, Just What I Needed
Bloody Vikings! Get a load of that costly fog. We had no synth player for the Cars song so we decided to approximate it with out of tune unison falsetto.

Flashpants - Back in Black, With or Without You
A bit of AC/DC jarringly juxtaposed with U2's classic ballad. I whipped out the EBow and delay pedal on that one. Although, a couple minutes into the video, one should note a certain head-banging head pastor of a prominent Midtown church.

Flashpants - Crazy Train
I cannot vouch for the family friendliness of this video, thanks to a certain old friend (and bandmate, incidentally) of mine who felt the need to demonstrate his stripper pants with altogether too much ease and finesse.

Flashpants - Panama, You Really Got Me
Van Halen, with a healthy dose of Pants flavour.

08 October 2008

So there's this guy on a Japanese-style motorcycle that goes screaming up our street, at thoroughly unsafe speeds and surprisingly high decibel levels, at times like 6AM and 10PM. To give some perspective, our neighbors ride loud, rumbley Harleys and that has never bothered us...this guy is getting his RPMs up so high it sounds like a jet has just flown by over the house.

So, with that in mind, do you remember that classic scene in "The Great Escape" where Steve McQueen steals a motorcycle?

Remember how he got the motorcycle in question? A long thin wire?

Well, maybe that's not the way a Good Citizen would handle this, but hey, it was an idea...

05 October 2008

Range Report!

So we got back from visiting Debra's parents and spending a few nights down in Stover, Missouri. The weather was great, as we managed to visit during the brief fortnight of not-hot-but-also-not-cold weather Missouri enjoys in the autumn. Didn't do much except spend time with family, cook some food, and of course, perforate some paper. Here's the cabin we stayed at, my father-in-law built this one as a guest house on newly acquired property fairly recently:

I think he did a bangup job. Here's the kitchen:

So, I promised a range report, so we'll get on with that. Debra's dad had a few targets we set up on his informal range and unfortunately I didn't have the camera handy until later. Here is what remained of the target after putting the handguns through their paces. Some of those shots out to the sides aren't wildly off aim; we were trying to sight in on areas off the main target.

On to the individual firearms in question. First the Tanfoglio Witness Compact in 10mm Auto:

The Witness, back from the factory, did decently but had a number of easily resolved failures to feed. I think further shooting will help break it in in this regard, and I used a bit of grease on the rails and feed ramp when I cleaned and reassembled it. Nothing that couldn't be quickly rectified with a "sling shot" of the slide, though. The trigger pull is nice in single action, but the gun is still shooting low. The adjustable sight that was installed by the factory when it was in for service came loose, no doubt from the substantive recoil produced by the full-power 10mm loads I fed it. Still, the gun is ergonomically designed and has enough weight that the recoil is not uncomfortable. I'll have to contact the importer about the issue with the sight coming loose.

Next up, the Kel-Tec PF-9, in 9mm Parabellum.

The PF-9 ran quite well, chewing through 50 or so rounds. No ejection/extraction issues, indicating that the new extractor and extractor spring that I installed are doing the job. This is a light weight gun, barely clearing 12 ounces unloaded, and the +P ammunition, well, you feel it, like lighting off a firecracker in your hand. Even standard pressure 9mm, the majority of what I fed the gun, is somewhat sharp into the webbing of your hand. Still, it did well.

Next, the Bersa Thunder in .380 ACP:

As always this is an enormously fun gun to shoot. Great ergonomics for a small gun, reliable (at least now, after being broken in), and low recoil, with nice sights and a great trigger. Outside of my Ruger MkII, which I didn't bother to uncase to shoot this time, I shoot most accurately with this out of all my pistols. This by the way being officially Debra's gun, but hey, she lets me tinker with it.

Lastly, the mousegun, a Kel-Tec P-3AT in .380 ACP:

The micro Kel-Tec is not designed for ergonomics or for comfortable range duty...its sole purpose is to cram as much .380 ACP into as small and light a package as possible. I shared a bit over a box of .380 between this and the Bersa, and while the Bersa was easier to shoot, this one didn't jam and put lead on target. The miles-long trigger pull and non-existant sights take getting used to, but it is actually capable of decent accuracy despite its diminutive size.

So you guys are of course saying, "all very nice, but bring on the long guns!". I know my blog-audience like the intricate workings of a Kalashnikov action (meaning, I look at them somewhat mystified, spray them with a bit of CLR cleaner/lubricant, and hope for the best). Here are two lovely long arms that my father-in-law lent me to dirty up with some cheap Wolf ammunition:

On top is his Winchester 1300 Defender, a nice 18" pump 12-gauge. I ran a half box of target shells through this, simply because I've not used anything but autoloaders before and wanted to practice with a pump gun. Me likey!

Below that is a US M1 Carbine. More on that beauty later!

So let's crack out the Saiga 12!

This is one of my favorites, converted with US-made internal parts to comply with the ATF's 922(r) regulations to allow the use of my US-made 10-shell stick magazine.

I decided to check the pattern at (I think) somewhere around 10 yards, with a full magazine of 9-pellet 00 buckshot:

It was a serviceable pattern with some flyers over to the left near the outside of the 7 ring. It should be noted that the large holes in the paper up at the top and down at the bottom are not lead pellets but from the felt wad that flies out of the barrel with the shot. It flies at enough speed that even felt has no problem slicing through paper, at least.

Getting back to that carbine...

After putting around 75 shells through both shotguns, my shoulder was starting to dread the recoil from another rifle. But hey, I really wanted to shoot that carbine. I loaded it up with a 15-round mag and fired some rounds off from about 25 yards. Surprise! No recoil. Nothing like a full size, full power rifle round like .30-06, 7.92mmx57, 7.62mmx54R, .303 British, etc.

I didn't have a good rest, so the grouping wasn't great, but it was informal, anyway.

I was aiming for the line right above "7", and the holes above are buckshot leftovers, but the group from the carbine is to the right...the sight adjustment would have been simple and easy with the adjustable aperture on the carbine, but I left that for another day when I had more ammo to run through the gun.

Last but not least, the inevitable and long, drawn out process of post-shooting cleaning. Rather nice to be able to do that in perfect 70 degree weather on a screened-in porch outside, it prevents the permeating smell of Hoppe's No. 9 Solvent from filling the living quarters.