Sunday, December 28, 2008

Old Western Movies and TV Shows

Year’s End is traditionally a time of looking back, assessing not only the past year but the years of one’s life in general.

One of my favorite observations is that “Age doesn’t necessarily bring wisdom, but it does provide perspective.” The more years an individual has seen, the better viewpoint is available. Well, I perhaps have a few more years on me than most current bloggers. Okay, maybe a few more DECADES. I kind of enjoy it.

Old friend and coworker Robert Powell passed along a
flash movie file called Those Old Westerns which provides a fascinating look back along the happy trails of my youth. Watch it now, or read my scribbling and THEN take a look. Do yourself a favor and spend the few minutes to watch the entire presentation. And make sure your volume is set to hear the accompanying music.

Western movies were a BIG deal when I was a kid. I was just a touch too young to recall the first-run days of the Saturday afternoon matinees founded on the rush-produced two-reelers. Most of those, I saw on a series of old, snowy, black-and-white television screens. Oh, I saw my share of Saturday flicks, too, and was enthralled by them. In the ensuing few years, there were literally dozens of western-themed television series advancing the cowboy culture ideal over the then-new medium. But TV did NOT replace the western on the movie screen, but rather was a valuable adjunct.

I believe one of the main meanings behind the site linked above is the reminder of the core values of that simpler, happier era. It’s hard to say if those films were primarily responsible for instilling the basic principles of the age in my malleable mind. I think not entirely. I learned much -- often without being aware of it -- from my family. Rather, I think the movies provided a backdrop, a visual aid, illustrating how strength, self-reliance, honesty, and loyalty would see us through in the face of adversity. Those western guys INSPIRED us, as did the all-too-few staunch, strong-willed female stars alongside ’em.

Anyhow, without going TOO far into this hip-pocket philosophizing, I submit the presentation. It was a valuable reminder of the kinder, gentler days of yesteryear. I enjoyed the look at the names of the heroes and villains. Some of them are as well remembered and timeless as John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Others evoke a striking, “Oh yeah! I remember HIM.” And all too many were not recalled at all, simply providing a backdrop against which my favorites would perform.

Year-end nostalgia. Wallow in it. I did, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

More on the GM Bailout Program - - INTERESTING!

I received most of this in an e-mail from my good friend, Doug Smith. My efforts to verify authenticity are detailed below.

Can we elect this guy president? He seems to have a clue. [Mr. Knox, that is -- the person who wrote the open letter reply, below.] He seems to have a clue. Truly the first sane voice I've heard in a very long time. Too bad logic like this is completely lost on liberal democrats (unfortunately their are a lot of POLITICIANS of all stripes in that group!!). I hear now that the
SIPC is expected to pay out up to $500K each to the morons that lost their money in the Madoff ponzi scheme. How come no one wants to bail me out??? [I added the links to Doug’s e-mail.]

Abridged letter from Troy Clarke, President of General Motors. Please - - read through it and then carefully consider the response from Gregory Knox.

Dear Employee, next week, Congress and the current Administration will determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation's history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis. As an employee, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard.

Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support.

Troy Clarke
General Motors North America

This open letter of reply is from Gregory Knox, President of Knox Machinery, a manufacturer of precision machine tools which supplies the auto industry.

In response to your request to call legislators and ask for a bailout for
the United States automakers please consider the following and please also pass this onto Troy Clark, the president of General Motors North America for me.

You are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has bred like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades and whose plague is now sweeping the nation, awaiting our new "messiah" to wave his magical wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep "living the dream."

The dream is over!

The dream that we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the worlds most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded "laborers" without paying the price for these atrocities, and that still the masses will line up to buy our products.

Don't tell me I'm wrong. Don't accuse me of not knowing of what I speak. I have called on Ford, GM , Chrysler, TRW, Delphi, Kelsey Hayes, American Axle and countless other automotive OEM's and Tier ones for 3 decades now throughout the Midwest and what I've seen over the years in these union shops can only be described as disgusting.

Mr. Clark, the president of General Motors, states:
"There is widespread sentiment in this country, our government and especially in the media that the current crisis is completely the result of bad management. It is not."

You're right - it's not JUST management. How about the electricians who walk around the plants like lords in feudal times, making people wait on them for countless hours while they drag Ass, so they can come in on the weekend and make double and triple time -- for a job they easily could have done within their normal 40 hour week.

How about the line workers who threaten newbies with all kinds of scare
tactics for putting out too many parts on a shift...and for being too productive (mustn't expose the lazy bums who have been getting overpaid for decades for their horrific underproduction, must we?!?) Do you really not know about this stuff?!?

How about this great sentiment abridged from Mr. Clarke's sad plea:
“ . . . over the last few years we have closed the quality and efficiency gaps with our competitors.”

What the hell has Detroit been doing for the last 40 years?!?

Did we really JUST wake up to the gaps in quality and efficiency between us and them?

The K car vs. the Accord?

The Pinto vs. the Civic?!?

Do I need to go on?

We are living through the inevitable outcome of the actions of the United States auto industry for decades.

Time to pay for your sins, Detroit.

I attended an economic summit last week where a brilliant economist, Alan Beaulieu, surprised the crowd when he said he would not have given the banks a penny of "bailout money." Yes, he said, this would cause short term problems, but despite what people like George Bush and Troy Clark would have us believe, the sun would in fact rise the next day and something else would happen. Where there had been greedy and sloppy banks new efficient ones would pop up. That is how a free market system works. It does work, if we would let it work.

But for some reason we are now deciding that the rest of the world is right and that capitalism doesn't work - that we need the government to step in and "save us." Save us, hell! We're nationalizing and unfortunately too many of this once fine nations citizens don't even have a clue that this is what's really happening ... but they sure can tell you the stats on their favorite sports teams. Yeah, THAT'S important!

Does it occur to ANYONE that the "competition" has been producing vehicles, EXTREMELY PROFITABLY, for decades now in this country?

How can that be???

Let's see. . .

Fuel efficient . . .

Listening to customers. . .

Investing in the proper tooling and automation for the long haul . . .

Not being too complacent or arrogant to listen to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, four decades ago . . .

Ever increased productivity through quality, lean and six sigma plans . . .

Treating vendors like strategic partners, rather than like "the enemy" . . .

Efficient front and back offices . . .

Non union environment!

Again, I could go on and on, but I really wouldn't be telling anyone anything they really don't already know in their hearts.

I have six children, so I am not unfamiliar with the concept of wanting someone to bail you out of a mess that you have gotten yourself into. My children do this on a weekly, if not daily basis, as I did at their age. I do for them what my parents did for me (one of their greatest gifts, by the way,) I
make them stand on their own two feet and accept the consequences of their actions and work them through.

Radical concept, huh?

Am I there for them in the wings? Of course - but only until such time as they need to be fully on their own as adults.

I don't want to oversimplify a complex situation, but there certainly are unmistakable parallels here between the proper role of parenting and government.

Detroit and the United States need to pay for their sins.

Bad news people - it's coming whether we like it or not.

The newly elected Messiah really doesn't have a magic wand big enough to "make it all go away" I laughed as I heard Obama "reeling it back in" almost immediately after the vote count was tallied. "We might not do it in a year or in four." Where was that kind of talk when he was RUNNING for the office?

Stop trying to put off the inevitable.

That house in Florida really isn't worth $750,000.

People who jump across a border really don't deserve free health care benefits.

That job driving that forklift for the big 3 really isn't worth $85,000 a year.

We really shouldn't allow Wal-Mart to stock their shelves with products acquired from a country that unfairly manipulates their currency and has the most atrocious human rights infractions on the face of the globe.

That couple whose combined income is less than $50,000 really shouldn't be living in that $485,000 home.

Let the market correct itself people - it will. Yes it will be painful, but it's gonna be painful either way, and the bright side of my proposal is that on the other side of it is a nation that appreciates what is has and doesn't live beyond its means. Gets back to basics, and redevelops the work ethic that made it the greatest nation in the history of the world and probably turns back to God.

Sorry - don't cut my head off, I'm just the messenger sharing with you the "bad news."

Gregory J Knox
Knox Machinery, Inc.
Franklin, Ohio 45005

Frankly, I’m usually a little leery of internet schtuph like this, with little or dubious attribution. A great majority of the writings that appear “too good to be true” are exactly that. In this case, however, when I ran a Google search on Gregory J. Knox, I found him: a real person, with a real company. Then I went to the Urban Legends page and found that the whole thing is properly attributed. There are even a couple of good quotes by Mr. Knox himself. Read it for yourownself. I know I enjoyed seeing it.

Hope everyone's enjoying the run up to the holidays.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Things I've Done, Places I've Been

During the past week or so, I’ve seen this meme on some of the blogs I regularly read. Can’t recall where I saw it first, so I really can’t give proper credit ( - - or assign blame - -) for the idea. Still, it's sorta fun.

Here’s my list. Stuff I’ve personally experienced is shown in Bold, with explanations where needed.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.

24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.-
29. Seen a total eclipse. (Lunar, not solar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run. (If pickup games after grade school count.)
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (A short stopover at Llandrindod Wells, Wales; A drive through the North Carolina mountains.)
35. Seen an Amish community. Not a real visit - - Drove through a couple on my travels.)

36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.

39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted (drawn.)
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie. (Low budget, made by a pal.)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business. (It lasted about four weeks.)
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades. Only from the air. That was plenty.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby. Did my part, anyway - - x2
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.

If you have a blog, you are hereby invited to adopt and modify this one. It’s a way for us to know a bit more about one another.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not a Lincoln Town Car, but - - -

21.5 miles per gallon

Created by The Car Connection

I first saw this on Roberta X’s blog. Frankly, given my age and some other factors, I’m surprised I scored as well as I did. I believe they gave me the benefit of a doubt, on a couple of points.

Fun, huh? Give ‘er a click and let’s see what sort of vehicle YOU equal.

Concerning HR 1022, Assault Weapons Ban renewal

It’s seldom you’ll read an out-and-out political article on this blog. There are so many writers more eloquent than I, more qualified than I am, that it seems presumptuous of me to try to influence others. Well, here’s a rather out of character bit of writing. Please bear with me for a few minutes.

My old friend Stephen A. Camp
sent along the link to this petition, with the comment that he doesn‘t know if these do any good but doesn’t think they can hurt. I believe that the situation now pending compels us ALL, not just firearms enthusiasts and gun owners, to do all we can to halt additional restrictions on our liberties.

It is a lot of trouble to send personal mail, paper or e-mail, to each of your legislators asking that they ALL oppose HR 1022, the proposed reenactment of the “Assault Weapons Ban.” Bothersome, but definitely worthwhile. At least SOME of the lawmakers in Washington and in the state capitols recall that they are there because the voters sent them to represent our interests. Justice and basic human rights should NOT be a popularity contest, but the fact remains, most representatives see their PRIMARY job as being re-elected. I believe that if we show them that a great many citizens decide our votes based on how THEY behave in the capitols, we can get their attention.

A personal request, friends - - Whether or not you sign THIS petition, please take a look at it. It will cost you maybe five minutes to look it over, make your decision, and sign up if you agree. Lots of individuals want to “keep a low profile,“ and not be noticed, lest the faceless “THEY“ single them out for attention. Well, think of it this way: The more good people who DO NOT MIND being noticed standing up for their rights, the less likely the anonymous functionaries can victimize individuals. Per Benjamin Franklin, at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “. . . we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Now, RIGHT NOW, is the time to stand up and be counted. In two years, in even ONE year, we'll be too far behind the curve and it’ll be too late. Let us take every opportunity to place legislators on notice that we, the people, are watching what they do. Do they represent our best interests, or are they more concerned with silencing dissent? Please, write the letters, send e-mails, make phone calls, talk to friends who are NOT particularly active “gun people.” Don’t be shrill, but give them to understand: If the second amendment is trashed, diluted, ignored with impunity, what then of the REST of the
Bill of Rights? Shall the government act “for our own good,” and regulate the news media? What about your church? Any thoughts on being secure in your possessions and papers? How about forced self-incrimination, or that bothersome idea of trial by jury?

Hey, make no mistake. I am NOT a rabble rouser. I do NOT advocate the violent overthrow of our form of government. Far from it. But, by the same token, I don’t want to see this government, our veery freedoms, “regulated away,” one step at a time. I spent an entire career as a peace officer, a minion of the government -- of LOCAL government, subject to laws and ordinances mainly enacted by my community and state. City councilpersons, county commissioners, or state legislators sent to Austin from their home districts - - If any of these fail to represent their constituencies properly - - Texas voters are not bashful about replacing them. The system is not perfect, but it can work. So why not insist it work in our nation’s capitol?

Help us, friends. Help YOURSELVES. Do all in your power to resist passage of HR 1022, the reenactment of the "Assault Weapons Ban.” If Amendment II is made to fade away, what hope is there for the other nine?


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Ammunition Day

Internet pal Jay G (No, we’re not related,) operator of MArooned blog reminds us that today is (was) National Ammo Day. That last link explains the rationale in detail. In brief, the idea is to buy at least 100 rounds on WE19NOV.

Brigid, at
Home on the Range tells HER reasoning about buying her 100+ from a locally-owned shop. She feels it important enough that she won’t buy it from a huge, nationwide chain. (Okay, SHE named WalMart - - why shouldn’t I?) I certainly can’t argue with her reasoning, and in fact would “buy local” if the option was open to me. Unfortunately, I can’t locate a home-based store that retails ammunition anywhere in the county where I live.

This evening, I mentioned to Beloved Bride that National Ammo Day had kinda snuck up on me, and I hadn‘t bought any. (The 500-odd .45 ACP I reloaded in the past week doesn’t really count.) She reminded me that she was shooting a tactical match this Saturday, and if I wasn‘t going to get off the dime and hand load her some 9mm, I could just go out and buy her some. I’d planned to be shooting in the same match, but I’ve been asked to assist on the range at a scout activity on Saturday.

Anyhow, at 7:30 p.m. I drove to the Wally World in the county seat. I bought some Winchester White Box 9x19mm for Holly to feed “my” Browning High Power. Oh, you noticed those quotation marks? They’re because she’s coming more and more to think of it as HER pistol. Hell, I’d already given her a Kel Tec P11 AND a Colt Officers ACP of her very own, and now I have to ask her where she’s stashed my/our Buckmark .22 as well as the 9mm. Every time I grumble about this fact, she sweetly reminds me that Texas is a community property state. Additionally, she rather smugly makes not-so-casual mention of how she single-handedly tracked down and bought a vintage Colt Super .38 for my last birthday. And she didn’t bat an eye at the last two .45s I purchased. I mean, it’s not such a bad arrangement, and I didn’t carry the P35 that often anyway.

Back to the primary topic - - It would indeed be nice if each and every one of the estimated 75 million gun owners in the USA would each buy a hundred rounds of ammo this week. (It’s getting a bit late in the day, and the effect will be very similar if the ammo is purchased any time this week.) How about if some of those who would sacrifice our Second Amendment rights were to notice that the ammo shelves at the local stores are darn near empty? I wonder if any of ‘em are perceptive enough to get the message. As Brigid pointed out, if everyone participates, this is 75 BILLION fresh cartridges in circulation.

So, please - - If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to go find a shop that sells what you shoot. Pick up a hundred rounds or so of center fire ammo, if you can possibly afford it. If you’re into .22 rimfire, maybe a couple of ten-box bricks would be nice. You’ll feel good about having it on hand, and you MAY just possibly be helping make a point with the gun grabbers. Besides, it’s nice to be able to drop word of your purchase into conversation.

Good shooting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Killer Contests?

In her always-entertaining blog, View From The Porch, my esteemed friend Tamara wrote a piece on 10NOV (Happy Birthday, USMC!) which she titled, Ninja combat powers, activate! The premise is that a recent publication, Guns & Ammo Book of Personal Defense, included
" . . . a piece by Chuck Taylor on how competition shooting will get you killed. Heck, even thinking about attending an IPSC event could get you grazed, and shooting an NRA Bullseye match is guaranteed to cause a mugging.. . . . the article was long on telling you that Chuck was a former world-class IPSC shooter, IPSC sucks, and... well, that was pretty much the long and the short of it, . . . ."

Tam’s article is well worth the reading, and I understand just what she’s saying, perhaps somewhat better than most of her readers. In 1980, I spent a week at Jeff Cooper's original Gunsite, largely under Chuck Taylor’s instruction. It is interesting that at that time, he was already a veteran IPSC shooter, but had nothing bad to say about that particular discipline. In fact, after my class, I stayed over an extra day to participlate in a large, local IPSC match, run by - - Guess who? Chuck put on an excellent and challenging match, during which I used to good advantage much of what HE had taught during the previous week. No, I didn't win, nor even place really high, but I was happy. At the end, I told Chuck that my decent performance was largely due to what I'd just learned from him and Jeff. He seemed quite gratified by my comments.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation was set up to provide a framework within which the PRACTICAL usage of firearms by individuals, and the Modern Technique of the Pistol
embodying the principals Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (Accuracy, Power, Speed) could be fostered and advanced. Founded in 1976, IPSC at first worked on the premise that, in a match setting, a shooting scenario would be posed, and it was up to the individual shooter to “solve the problem” within broad rules, mostly concerned with safety. In this manner would the state of the art progress.

Now, (why even bother to state it?) no match stage, no matter how well thought-out, can hope to exactly simulate all the stresses and variables of a true armed confrontation. But you should compare the IDEA of a match or stage so structured with a regular bullseye shooting match, or even the well conceived but totally obsolete
Practical Pistol Course (PPC,) originated by the FBI. About all those two types of shooting have in common with IPSC, or the later IDPA, shooting are that they involve the use of handguns. When the shooter is required to exercise judgment in choice of targets, using strategy, tactics, and cover, while being scored for speed, noticible levels of stress are experienced. In matches which require the use of “street worthy” arms and holsters, frequently hidden by cover garments, a certain level of realism is truly present. A smooth, rapid draw, initiated by an external signal, combined with accurate hits, often on multiple targets, oft times needing to reload “on the clock,” is necessary to make a good showing in such a match. Who’s to say that these would NOT be good talents to possess if confronted by a deadly situation on a parking lot or in a dark hallway?

Whatever pressures are or are not present in this type of “game playing,” how could it fail to be more valuable practice and training than what we see on the range day after day? The shooter strolls up to the firing line (choosing a distance at which he feels comfortable) and loads up his pistol, often without even using a holster. Shooter takes his time, aims carefully, and fires off a magazine at a target. Shooter congratulates himself if he fires as many as TWO SHOTS A SECOND! We watch as the shooter repeats this same thing, over and over, until -- usually-- a box of ammo is expended. And you can see the same thing when the shooter is a police officer. The difference may be that the practicing cop USUALLY wears his duty rig on the firing line. Knowing that he is not being timed, the office seldom makes any attempt at a rapid draw. Periodic qualifications are about the only time that most officers make any attempt toward speed, and standards are seldom very high.

Speaking of periodic qualifications on the police range - - - I’ve been chided by more than one rangemaster, “You’re allowed 20 seconds on this string, JP. Why don’t you take your time and shoot a tighter group?” Well, there’s no good purpose to backtalk the guy in charge, especially in front of rookies. But I’ve been tempted to observe that while HE might give me a full third-of-a-minute, sumdood coming out of the Seven-11 with fifty-six stolen bucks and a Jennings .22 might not be so generous.

As I say, Tam’s article is good reading. Re-checking it while preparing this little effort, I note that some of her commentators also have some interesting and relevant observations. There is pretty wide agreement that, with proper mind set, participation in shooting matches is NOT necessarily an invitation to disaster on the street. Chuck Taylor has an impressive background in shooting, but I fear he may currently be sending a misleading message, just for the sake of controversy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Winner of the Pink AR

You may recall that a while back, I wrote a bit entitled Breast Cancer Charity Gun. It concerned the raffle set up by Larry Correia and Gunsmith Joe, to benefit the fight against Breast Cancer, a truly worthwhile charity.

I see in Larry’s Monster Hunter Nation Blog that the pink AR15 was won by Mr. Bo Smith of Utah. The raffle raised over $3000 which went directly into the coffers of the excellent cause, and we all owe Larry and company a vote of thanks for promoting this contest. I’m mildly proud for having taken the opportunity to participate. I really hope MHN and FBMG will make this a regular event. Thanks to everyone who took part, and thanks again to Larry and his crew.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Ah, Fame!

My Beloved Bride sent an image she captured along to the LOLDogs site. And, this morning, there it was!

The caption is especially clever, as the big blonde Lab's name is, indeed, Ben. He is ably assisted by the incomprable young Tip. The Victim Vehicle is played by Holly's Sebring ragtop.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yes, I remember 11SEPT2001

Here I am, with too little, and too late in the day.

I’d decided NOT to write anything about the anniversary of the second terrorist attack on America. I can’t add anything material by my small efforts. But I got to thinking this evening, that not to write something seems almost disrespectful to the memory of all those who died and those who lost loved ones that day. And also to all those who have gone to war and died and been maimed as a result of the terrorism.

This is not my memoir of where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the World Trade Center. And the Pentagon. Oh, I clearly recall sitting at my desk and hearing conversation in the hallway outside become shouts and curses and prayers. I looked out and someone asked if I had the news up on my computer. I got it quickly, and then went to the nearest TV set. I probably had no emotions not already described by others, better than I can craft the words. I had no family at or near any of the crime scenes. I had met several NYC cops in the past, but hadn’t talked with any in the past few years. I had no idea of their current duty assignments or hours, so I never thought to make any phone calls. The lines would have been jammed anyhow. No, there was no personal concern for family or close friends - -only that MY COUNTRY had been attacked.

So, here it is - - my small, humble observance of the day. I know several others who have carefully crafted blog entries well in advance of this day. Mine will not hold a candle to theirs. This is very much a spur-of-the-moment article. I just want to say, no matter that the frenetic pace of the calling for revenge has slowed somewhat. No matter that many are now opposed to the war - - -


Our people were killed, our way of life attacked. Sacrifices have been made in the ensuing years. They continue. I thank God for our service men and women in the field, fighting the terrorists. For those who are preparing to go -- or to return. And for those who recovering from the offerings they’ve already placed on the altar of liberty. Thank you. Thank you all, and thank our allies who have stood shoulder to shoulder with Americans in this fight for all of civilization.

May Almighty God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Meme: Omnivore's Hundred

Don’t you hate lengthy introductions? Yeah, me, too. But this meme wouldn’t be nearly so interesting without a word or two in advance. I first saw this meme on The Adventures of Roberta X. She gives a bit of back story and the original link. The British Very Good Taste blog looks very interesting, and I’ll be checking back on it ftom time to time. Anyway, further information on this Omnivore’s Hundred meme starts on the VGT installment of 19AUG2008.

All that being said, here’s the meme. It’s about meaningless without the detailed insttructions.

Omnivore's Hundred

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. [I didn't know how to do cross-outs, and, if I become sufficientrly hungry, there's vary little I won't at least TRY.]
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.
[Disregard the underlining. Dunno where it came from.]

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
Huevos rancheros
Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
Baba ghanoush
PB&J sandwich
Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
Foie gras
Rice and beans
Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted
cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
Prickly pear
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
57. Dirty gin
58. Beer above 8% ABV
Carob chips
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
69. Fried
Chitterlings, or andouillette
72. Caviar and
73. Louche
Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
Lapsang souchong
Tom yum
Eggs Benedict
84. Tasting menu at a three-
Michelin-star restaurant.
Kobe beef
86. Hare
89. Horse [of which I was aware]
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
Soft shell crab
93. Rose
94. Catfish
Mole poblano
96. Bagel and
Lobster Thermidor [I'm allergic to lobster and shrimp}
98. Polenta
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Roberta comments on several delicious but-exotic taste treats not included, musing that the list seems to be focused more on challenges than epicurean delights.

Anyway, that's MY version. Post yours, either on your own site, or in comments below.


Friday, September 05, 2008

In Gustav’s Aftermath

In my previous post, I observed that prayer and good wishes, sent from afar in times of collective hardship, gives those afflicted warm and fuzzy feelings.

HAH! I almost wrote, “Victims.” Well, the hardy souls of Louisiana, at least outside metro New Orleans, are hard to classify as “Victims.” Most would probably resent being called such. According to reports from our Bayou Renaissance Man and others in the area, most of those hit by the storm were simply being human - - They took a hit, sometimes a major hit, and many were seriously knocked around. Then they did what real live human beings DO - - They got back up, looked around, and went to doing what needed doing - - Bootstrapping themselves up, helping themselves and their neighbors as possible. Giving assistance to others when and where they could and getting on with the business of life. Yeah, they’ll accept help when it’s at hand, and be grateful, but they don’t waste effort in whining.

Sometimes, Life contains adversity, with which Real People must deal. There’s no sense of entitlement in such an occasion. There’s just The Situation, and the Real People “cowboy up,” give thanks for blessings received, and DEAL WITH LIFE. Good on you, friends.


You can’t properly tip your hat to each and every person and group who did their own part to restore a measure of normalcy to a chaotic situation.

It’s hard to write up the difference between individuals and organizations and public services that do the right thing in a time of crisis. After all, organizations, agencies, companies, and whatever - - These are made up of individuals. There are some really outstanding ones, some just plain ol’, average folks, and maybe some just a bit below par. It’s really nice to see how well most of them can pull together and get stuff done when it’s really needed.

It is encouraging to learn from Peter that electrical power and cell phone and most routine services are back up and running in so short a time after such a major hit. This is entirely to the credit of those who stuck at their posts and carried on during difficult times. To mention only some of them - - -

The peace officers - - City cops, deputies, state troopers, and all the rest, the ones who showed up for work and STAYED on duty for as long as needed. The firefighters: Maybe there were few enough fires to extinguish, but lots of those people do more rescue and relief work than smoke eating anyhow. These people are expected to rush toward violent situations, or run into burning buildings. But who expects them to leave behind their own families to go out and serve their communities?

Emergency medical services personnel were on duty. They didn't take the week off in honor of the storm. The Ambulances were ready to roll, the emergency rooms were staffed. Praise God, casualties were light. Had they not been, EMS were ready.

Those downed and broken power lines and blown transformers didn’t splice and replace themselves. Power and Electric and utility services emergency crews came early and stayed late, local and from the next-door parishes, and from hundreds of miles distant. Local and state road and bridge crews made repairs and dragged downed trees out of the roads. On duty, off duty - - Was ANYONE off duty while their friends and neighbors were in trouble? Yeah, it’s what is expected - - but those people DID it.

Those private individuals less hard-hit were very apt to go down the road to the church or community center or just over to the neighbors’, to see if they could lend a hand. The volunteer service groups and civic groups and other organizations and agencies, public and private, were on hand, fetching, carrying, running errands, pouring coffee and ice water, serving lunches. Nice going, friends.

Individuals like Friend Peter, dealing with their own problems but still ready to furnish such support as they can during The Crisis - - Nothing short of inspiring.

And there were all those private residents of all the afflicted Louisiana areas, who stood ready to provide armed and aggressive support to their neighbors, against the opportunists and scavengers who appear in the wake of natural disasters: WELL DONE! This is the sort of thing your kindred spirits in other areas expect to see -- HOPE to see -- but is so often lacking in many localities. I understand that looters did NOT prosper during the Gustav crisis, even in the metropolitan environment. And in the hinterlands, the situation was downright hostile. At the very best of times, cops can’t be everywhere, and especially when the strong winds blow torrential rains around, the trees breaking and the waters rising . . . . But gimpy old men can sit on porches with bird guns and deer rifles and give unwelcome visitors to understand that southern hospitality has sharply defined limits.

The forces of nature, when out in all their fury, are indeed intimidating. I mean, downright SCARY at times. But communities, neighbors, friends, pulling together, can cope. That’s what Real People do: They reach out to one another, and they cope.


Bayou Renaissance Man back on line!


Peter is back to posting his blog now, having survived Hurricane Gustav‘s trek into Central Louisiana. I and others who posted updates for him were certainly grateful for the opportunity to help out, but we’re very happy that the situation as moderated to the extent it has. Our assistance was indeed small enough, consisting only of awaiting word and passing it along to concerned friends. As he has time to post, we can all go back to getting the word directly from him.

Many disparage the “Power of Prayer,” I know. But in times of personal, individual and collective, hardship, it gives those afflicted the warm fuzzies to know the kind feelings and good vibrations being sent across the miles. I know Peter and his local pals are glad to have had your good wishes and sympathy.

I wanted to get this announcement on line ASAP. I’ll try to post some additional observations later today.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wednesday Update -- Bayou Renaissance Man

Holly and I heard from Peter at about 10:30 this morning. He’s physically okay, battered but unbowed, soaked but not drowned. The damage to his residence caused by the falling tree is fairly minimal. It is bothersome, but happily, his house is some 60 years old, built to old standards, with massive structural members and roof trusses. The damage should be repairable without actual removal of the roof. Of course, this has brought to a screeching halt the restoration efforts following last week's fire. The contractors handing THAT project, largely smoke abatement and repainting, are now involved in emergency repairs of damage done by Gustav.

The entire area where Peter lives is totally waterlogged. His place is at the top of a long, gentle hill, but he cannot even walk across his yard without sinking in above his ankles. He edged his truck off his gravel driveway only a touch and it was immediately stuck. There’s still a lot of rain and lightning. He has to drive several miles to acquire a cell phone signal to make any telephone call. He’ll likely be unreachable, either by land line or cell phone for the next few days. Any internet connection and/or blogging are out of the question. It is hoped that electrical power MAY be restored by Friday, but it could take a few additional days. Peter will lose all his refrigerated and frozen food. He’s seen dozens of electric company emergency services trucks from all over.

There is clearly much damage to the various feeder electrical lines. When electrical services tried to restore connections, transformers exploded in series for a long distance. It will take a lot of work to reestablish all the connections and damaged lines.

A great many people are vastly inconvenienced, certainly, but loss of life and serious injuries have been minimal. Peter is impressed with the general level of preparations for the storm, and the function of emergency services following. The efficiency of Louisiana State Government, compared to that during and after Katrina, has been tremendously better.

More information follows as available.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday Morning Update from Central Louisana

At 9:24 a.m. CDT, LawDog posted that he’d heard from Peter this morning and all is relatively well. He had some property damage but he is uninjured, all praise be.

Things look pretty good for now. Overall, internet news sources indicate that, compared to the preparations made and earlier estimates, casualties have been relatively light. After the storm caused some 94 deaths across the Caribbean, eight deaths in the US have been attributed to the storm, five of them in vehicle crashes. [Associated Press reports] While relatively few, the families of the dead will grieve no less.

All of which means that thousands of refugees are NOT still in jeopardy, and we may expect that practically all will soon be touching base with family and friends. The Gulf Coast has again dodged the bullet, and while the media may be a little disappointed, the Real People directly effected are thankful. This morning, “News” about Gustav has been scant. That’s fine with me. On to the next circulation stimulator, News Guys. Plenty of potential disasters still a-brewin'.

Best to all,

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Blogger Update from Central LA

Peter, Bayou Renaissance Man, mentioned that he would send updates by several friends in our area. The last I heard was a phone call at 12:40 p.m. CDT, and all was well - - weather kicking up but so far not too bad. He indicated he'd probably loose power fairly soon, and this seems to have been the case. He posted his most recent update a few minutes later.

I notice that Peter communicated with LawDog a little before 3 p.m., so that looks like the most recent information. PhlegmFatale was unable to get through to Peter a bit after 5 o'clock.

7:59 p.m. I was unable to reach Peter's cell phone. More news as available.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Breast Cancer Charity Gun

Internet pal Larry Correia and Fuzzy Bunny Movie Guns are putting on a raffle to benefit Breast Cancer Research. Larry started this since a member of his family has been undergoing chemotherapy, and it is an entirely worthwhile charity. How many of us HAVEN’T had a friend or family member so afflicted? I know Holly and I have one close friend just now recovering.

Larry took one of the excellent Stag 15 carbines and submitted it to the tender mercies of Joe, the FBMG gunsmith. Joe is an absolute master at Duracoating firearms, and he’s come up with an excellent paint scheme for this one. It is being raffled off for this benefit.

Anyway, read more about it on Larry’s Monster Hunter International (MHI) Blog. Yes, Larry’s the author of that excellent book.

Joe provides additional details at his own site, Gundoctor’s Blog

Go to one of their sites and send them some money. Tickets are only $5.00 each. You have a chance at winning a truly unique, high-quality AR in the process, and even if the odds are long against winning, you can feel really good for making the donation.

I’ll maybe edit this post if/when they send me some more info and images. If not, there’s already enough here for you to get in on the action. Believe me, I don’t usually shill for any charity -- There are many worthwhile projects out there -- but I really believe in this one, and I’d like to see it be a big success.

Many thanks,

Perspective and Intent

In June, I made my second visit to the J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. I'll write more about the museum later. For now, suffice it to say, if you’re at all interested in firearms and have ANY reason to be in Northeast Oklahoma you owe it to yourself to pay a visit.

While there, I noticed a plaque displayed with the following on it:

My Arms Collection

These are man-made Tools of War or Peace, of Love or Hate
Labeled at will by man, their Creator.

Tools, ingeniously designed, used by Aggressor or Defender
classed again by man, their Maker.

Blameless, products of metal and wood, shaped by the skill of
Master Mechanics, embellished
by the hand of an Artist --
condemned because of mis-use by man, their Possessor.

A mighty Protector on the side of right -- A Destroyer on
the side of Evil -- an eternal Chameleon.

Look upon them as they are displayed -- impotent Curios of a
day now past, outliving their Masters.

Let their purpose and history be forever in the eyes of the
beholder; romantic, destroying or preserving; weaving untold tales
of daring or cowardice, of chivalry or cunning. But see them as
they shall always be -- ominous reminders of sudden action --
the instruments of the Quick and the Nemesis of the Dead.

Ray Riling 1960

Ray Riling was a long-time collector of arms and books about them. He also wrote several specialized works on various aspects of arms collecting. He established Ray Riling Arms Books Co., Inc., said to be America's oldest mail order arms books company. His son, Joe Riling, continues the business.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Missed It!

I'm a little embarrassed. It's not as if I have a huge lot of posts to brag about, but there ARE certain little milestones. For the past couple of days, I've been sort of paying attention as I approached 50,000 visits to my blog site. I was busy earlier today, doing stuff away from home. When I returned, there were some chores to be done.

Sure enough, when I checked in on Sitemeter a few minutes ago, I saw that the counter said 50,102. Well, blast! The way my Sitemeter account is set up, I can only check back for the past one hundred visits. I was just a little bit late - - No way to tell anything about hit number 50,000. I wasn't really going to award any prize or anything, just to make mention of the origination point and such.

I guess it wasn't such a big thing. I'll make a point to notice it when I approach number 100,000.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Opinions, Informed and Uninformed

T’other day, friend Tamara did a blog post entitled, “Everybody’s an Expert."

If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you do so, and be sure to read the comments. It may make my points more clear. Her post, deceptively brief, is based on the idea that there are so many self-styled internet experts who are truly less informed than she is, that there’s little use in bothering to read most of them. The Comments section on that post provide all the documentation she needs for HER PREMISE: ". . . one reason I've shied away from intarw3bz gun boards so much; everybody's an expert, and nobody's opinion counts for more than anyone else's. Any enthusiastic hobbyist can hang out a shingle and profess their expertise."

In the above-linked blogpost, Tams includes links to several individuals whose opinions she holds in some regard. They are worth looking at. MOST of ‘em, anyhow. I was honored -- and utterly stunned -- to see that she also linked to my own poor efforts at writing. Puzzled, too - - I swear, I have absolutely nothing on her. No possibility of blackmail, extortin’ or anything else. I am indeed unworthy, but - - Many thanks, Sis.

A couple of the commenters write stuff that has the crystal-clear ring of truth to it. I’ve never encountered Ed Foster before, but if he has half the background he indicates, he’s very knowledgeable. In this case, a hour’s diligent Google search turned up a couple of references that give me to believe they refer to the same Ed Foster. If you see anything he wrote the AR15/M16 series of weapons, he seems to bear reading.

Tamara likes guns. She collects, them, shoots them on the range, reads about them, writes about them, and has sold them for a living. She is extremely knowledgeable about marketing, merchandising, stocking, and counseling individuals about the various brands, types, and uses. If asked about something on which she is uneducated, she’ll likely say, “I dunno. Let me do some checking and I’ll get back to you.” She may share whatever she DOES know on the topic, but I can’t picture her trying to bluff or lie her way through with some BS pontification. When she encounters such behavior in others, she is apt to be less than tolerant. This is likely one reason she is sometimes less than totally forthcoming with her firearms knowledge. An excellent and amusing example is HERE.

She has a secondary blog, though she hasn’t posted on it recently. I still check by occasionally, though, hoping she’ll take pity and favor us with a new installment on The Arms Room. Even if she doesn’t, it’s highly worth your while to wade through the archives on that site.

Anyway, while I was mowing the lawn, Tam’s post set me to pondering. I’m formulating a theory to at least partially explain the “Uninformed Expertise” or the vanishingly narrow line of informed opinion so readily visible on the ‘net nowadays. To limit the scope of this article, I’ll restrict it to firearms matters. Freely shared topics of apparent misinformation frequently include a few common - - -

Regarding infantry weapons reliability:

My great-aunt’s second husband served two tours in THE ‘NAM and says the jam-o-matic M16 got 80% of his best buddy’s cousin’s regiment killed.” First, how much third- and fifth-hand hearsay and anecdotal embellishment is considered acceptable? You kind of hate to challenge a story-teller by flying the BS Banner, because this impugns the integrity of someone HE doubtless considers of flawless credibility.

Beyond doubt, many M16s, used by poorly trained troops, often with improper ammunition, DID NOT work well at very inopportune moments. With all respect to those who actually met their end under such shameful circumstances, I must wonder how many such cases were truly documented. I believe it is mostly a matter of some significant number of real instances being told and retold and “made better” to the point of saturation.

About firearms effectiveness:

"Ol' Uncle Joe told me about the time he killed a twelve-foot polar bear stone dead with one shot from his .25-20. A man don't need any of them big guns for huntin'. "

"My Cousin Bill says it always took 30 shots from his M16 to stop an Iraqi."

So, what can one do? Tell them that this information is contrary to all logic? Call him a liar, or, worse, impugn the cuz or uncle?

While a teenager in the late 1950s, I learned that the pastor at our little Methodist Church, a WWII veteran, had been a prisoner of war. I asked him about his experiences. In brief, as a young company commander, he’d waded onto Omaha Beach on The Longest Day . He evaded questions about how rough it was. He did say that he landed with an M1 carbine and a .45, but during the advance, he left the carbine and obtained a Garand rifle, wanting the additional range and effectiveness. It impressed me that he’d not only commanded men under fire but had actually shot people himself. It never occurred to me to ask about his other expertise. He decided what he needed, surviving not only combat, but months as a POW. He WAS an expert on that particular aspect of small arms lore, but never cared to stress it.

It is logical that any combat veteran will have a working knowledge of the weapons in his unit. A World War II infantryman, of whatever rank, would have been quite familiar with the M1 rifle, carbine, .45 pistol, B. A. R., Thompson or M3 submachine gun, and probably a Browning machine gun. Other specialties would have known the "bazooka" rocket launcher, flamethrower, mortars, and heavy machine guns. It should be stressed that most individuals could be considered highly competent with only one or two of the various weapons.

The weapons changed in succeeding conflicts but the principle applies. Many men were good - - perhaps excellent-- with their primary tool, but usually cared little for firearms as a whole field. They did what was needful and most survived. Many assume that this gives the veterans across-the-board expertise. Think, though: One may know many competent mechanics, but only a couple of truly talented machinists; many good drivers but precious few automotive enthusiasts who know cars inside and out.

Much of the above also applies to police officers. Really, the typical cop has far narrower weapons knowledge than a soldier. I’ve known several long time State Troopers whose sum total of weapons experience encompassed a .357 magnum revolver, a pump shotgun, and a Winchester .30-30. Many had previous experience with a .22 rifle, perhaps a deer rifle and a bird gun. That’s it.

A city police officer’s experience is likely even more modest. Many enter police academy never having fired a gun of any type. The candidate trains diligently on, say, the Glock, Smith & Wesson, or SiG pistol. They devote a lot of time teaching the rookie firearms orientation, weapons maintenance, marksmanship, and a bit on tactics. Integral in the course is familiarization with the pump shotgun. Once the rookie graduates academy, the department cares not if he ever does more than fire the qualification course with the issue pistol, and, perhaps once a year, the riot gun. The patrol carbine is becoming more common, but it is still a toss up as to whether the individual officer may be termed even competent with an AR15, Ruger Mini-14, or something else. He may have “fam fired” it, and even been issued one, but well trained and practiced? Unlikely.

Those soldiers and those peace officers may be well qualified to discuss their particular weapon. Possibly even to compare it to another gun or two of the type. But having packed a particular weapon for months or even years, gives a certain person standing ONLY to discuss it, and not all those of various types.

Now, next time you read someone who writes that he was “on the job” for years with some police agency, large or small, read closely what he/she writes. If it deals with one or at most two firearms types, then this may be a measure of credibility. If the writer makes free to say THIS brand is teh VERY best, or THAT brand sux big time, there needs to be some recitation of credentials. Reading Mason Williams’ features in old issues of Law and Order magazine, and a couple of articles by Massad Ayoob is not in-depth research.

It is one thing to say, “current literature indicates that that the Remchester patrol carbine doesn’t reliably feed Ely match .416 ammo.“ Better still if the writer furnishes at least one link to someone who has done a bit-o'-testing. It is quite another thing to imply personal knowledge of a firearm/ammo combination with which the writer has ZERO experience.

I’ve been a firearms enthusiast and hobbyist since my early teens. I read ALL I could find on small arms, police and military, and EVERY chance I had to fire one and/or take one apart, I did so. In time, I felt pretty secure in my knowledge of certain areas, though perhaps relying too heavily on what others wrote. It took me years to learn that reading something in print doesn’t necessarily make it true. Today, many accept anything they see on-screen as gospel. You’ll seldom go wrong seeking second and third sources for ANY controversial statement. Unfortunately, it is now possible for the most egregiously uninformed -- or downright MISinformed -- person to aver something as UTTER and ABSOLUTE fact. And, a certain writer managing to claw his way to an internet connection may lead the unsuspecting reader to ascribe a measure of reliability to the “information.”

“The Supreme Irony of the Information Age is that it gives new respectability to uninformed opinion.”
John Lawson, US Journalist – 1995
- - written some 13 years ago, before internet proliferation made it ten times as true. Anyone with a computer and a connection can get his words, however unworthy, spread around the globe n a matter or hours. In minutes, if he comes up with something controversial.

In recent years, I’ve pretty well resolved not to post anything technical about which I don’t have some measure of personal knowledge, or at least a credible, attributable cite. I do sometimes write my opinion off the top of my head, based solely on knowledge gleaned from several decades of handling and shooting various firearms. I have some standing to do so, based upon my personal experience and research, simply because this is my area of interest. I’m fully aware that there are many great gaps in my knowledge the of things which do interest me. I’m moving to fill some of them as fast as I can. I won’t last long enough to get ‘em all, but it’s always fun to learn, and maybe even understand, interesting stuff.

Most other topics, of perhaps more general interest, hold no fascination for me. Back in the day, I learned how drive a car pretty well and could do a minor tune-up on my own vehicles, purely for economic reasons. And I could stumble through a basic recitation of the operation of the internal combustion engine, but had no deep concern about the underlying principles of automotive design.

I tried to play golf but it bored me. To this day, I can’t tell you the numbers or purpose of a basic set of clubs. I know many individuals who are mightily challenged by the pursuit and punishment of the little dimpled ball, and if it makes them glad, hurrah for ‘em.

I am content to try to learn more about more and different shootin’ irons. I occasionally stray off into the philosophy which attaches to them. I’m getting tired tonight, though, and maybe I’ll cover some of that another time. If you’d like to know more on this last topic, go read these two excellent essays:
Metal and Wood, b
y Dennis Bateman, and Why the Gun is Civilization, by Marko Kloos, the REAL author.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Film Nostalgia? Space Film.

The Valley Theatre, Alameda Blvd, El Paso, Texas - - some time in 1954. High anticipation. The previous week, I’d seen the preview of the newly released science fiction feature, “Riders to the Stars.”

The trailer was full of swoopy rockets, dauntless men in space suits, a beautiful woman, futuristic electronics gear in a lab, all kinds of nifty stuff. For a ten or 11-year-old kid all agog with the newly discovered wonders of sci fi, it was like a dream come true.

The taglines:
SEE! the breathtaking sight of earth as seen from outer space!
SEE! the fantastic 'meteor attack' as rocket and meteor crash head-on in a space-splitting collision!
Hurtle toward the far reaches of the universe with the space vikings of the future!
SEE! men and equipment float in air, trapped where there is no gravity - no up or down!

I can’t be sure of exactly when I saw the movie. The date of release shows January 1954, but I met my pal David Glenn in the fifth grade, and that wasn’t until Fall of ‘54. Doesn’t matter now, though.

On Saturday, I rode the bus from home and met Dave at the theatre for the matinee. Our normal routine was to see a movie, ride the bus downtown, eat a hamburger at a stand on the north side of the San Jacinto Plaza, hit the public library for new books --anything in aviation, war, or science fiction - -, wander around downtown, and ride the bus back to Dave’s home. Total cash expenditure, under a buck apiece.

That particular Saturday, the movie was different. Not the usual western or adventure stuff, but a real, Technicolor, SPACE MOVIE. Yes, we saw it. I’d like to say that big parts of the film were clear in my memory, but I can’t. At this late date, I recalled the general plot, but only a couple of specific scenes. Unlike so many other old flicks, I’d never seen it on re-release, on TV, or seen it offered for rental.

Flash forward several decades. This morning, flipping through the cable TV menu, I encountered the title. It had already been running for about an hour, but I eagerly switched channels. Thomas Wolf wrote, “You can’t go home again.” So true. No, I didn’t expect to recapture the juvenile excitement of those long ago days. I did think to enjoy the nostalgia of it, though. Too bad.

The premise: Scientists needed to capture a chunk of rock from a meteor shower before it went through entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The government was sending up three rocket drivers to scoop up the space debris and bring it back safely. I missed the early preparations for the mission. I tuned in while the Crusty Chief Scientist (father of one of the space pilots) was giving the mission briefing. His visual aids? A medium size white board and an early Marks-a-Lot. Main assistant to CCS was a female physicist who was also sweetheart of main rocket driver.

The film makers kinda skimped on the props. All the rockets and peripherals were simply stock footage of captured German V2 gear, filmed at (then) White Sands Proving Grounds. The trailers, cranes, guys in army uniforms - - all US Govt gear and personnel on stock film, with the New Mexico mountains in the background. The rocket cockpit interiors were huge. Each pilot had ONE guy to help him don space helmet and strap onto an acceleration couch (an aluminum lawn lounge with extra padding?)

The preparations for the big mission reached a hasty, if not fevered pitch. The love interest told everyone ot hurry up, and the next announcements were, “Two minutes to firing . . . One minute . . . Thirty seconds,” and then a whole five-second countdown. Three rockets in formation, like 50 feet apart at 18,000 miles per hour. Yeah, I expected some rather primitive special effects, but there had been pretty good animation around for a couple of decades. Too expensive, I guess. You can see the models sway on their threads.

Intercepting the meteor shower, one rocket collides with a rock and disintegrates. We see a close up of a pressure suit floating in space with a skull inside the helmet. A second pilot freaks out and the rocket is last seen departing for the outer galaxy at full acceleration. Naturally, our hee-roe completes the mission and he and physi-chick live happily ever-cetera.

Well, at least I didn’t pay money to rent the film. Hey - - You weren’t REALLY expecting this to be a reprise of Peter’s Weekend Wings series, were you?


Happy flu, reconstruction

Well, I saw this thing about Happy Flu on Roberta X's blog, and got curious. Hey, why not give it a try? I bit - - So can you.