Saturday, August 24, 2019

Miscellany: Condition White EDC


On a typical weekend in the office, I'm working behind three sets of locked doors with no one around, so I let my guard down and go into the much-maligned "Condition White". I do still have some minimal gear on me in case I need to ramp up my awareness level quickly:

Keys (with Fisher trekker pen, Victorinox Rambler knife, and Surefire Titan flashlight)
Phone (iPhone 5s with cellular data, wireless, and Bluetooth disabled for max standby time)
Wallet (SlimFold Micro softshell)
Leatherman Skeletool
Shivworks Clinch Pick (in Dark Star Gear belt wrap sheathe)
S&W 642 Performance Center (in PHLster City Special holster)

And while it's not ideal, there's a Dark Angel Medical trauma kit stashed off-body in my desk drawer, because you can never be too careful.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Books: Forrest Griffin and Sam Sheridan Double Double Feature (Part 1 - On Doomsday Prepping)

In a strange bit of synchronicity, author/fighter Sam Sheridan and fighter/author Forrest Griffin have each written a bestselling book on fighting and a bestselling book on surviving the apocalypse, so I thought it'd be fun to review all of them.

The second pair of books are about preparing for the End of Days:

The Disaster Diaries, by Sam Sheridan


Author Sam Sheridan chronicled his experiences learning survival skills with all sorts of subject matter experts in "The Disaster Diaries." From the obvious (defensive shooting with Tiger McKee and primitive survival with Cody Lundin) to the esoteric (boosting cars with an ex-gang member and stunt driving with Rick Seaman), each chapter deals with stuff you'll probably need to know in a grid-down, end-of-the-world type situation...or even just your garden-variety hurricane or earthquake.

Speaking as someone who has taken classes in shooting and wilderness survival and reported on them in this very blog, "The Disaster Diaries" reads like the world's best after-action report. While it isn't a how-to manual and certainly won't replace real training, Sheridan does a fine job of giving the reader an idea of what to expect in the kinds of courses he writes about. His training vignettes are interwoven with a post-apocalyptic frame story that feels contrived at first, but gets better as the book goes on; I wonder if he'll ever try his hand at fiction.

Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down: A Survival Guide to the Apocalypse, by Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss


Forrest Griffin and co-writer Erich Krauss's first book, "Got Fight?" was crudely humorous, but also fairly well-rooted in Griffin's life as a pro MMA fighter. Their second book, "Be Ready When the Sh*t Goes Down," ups the humor (just look at the cover) but unfortunately loses many of the biographical bits that made the first one more than a joke.

The book cycles through some of the same stuff Sheridan's did - Forrest and Erich recognize that skills like shooting, driving, wilderness skills, and hunting will all be critical in a SHTF situation, and there are some accurate nuggets of information scattered throughout the book. The problem is that there's a lot of juvenile fluff obscuring that information, including a lengthy-and-sorta-useless manliness "test" at the front. The signal-to-noise ratio is such that I can't recommend the book to anyone but the most hardcore Griffin fans who want to have some yuks on a long flight.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Music: Abzû

Since one of my clients does work related to marine science, I've been drafting stuff for them whilst listening to the lush score for "Abzû," a walking swimming simulator set in a cosmic ocean. Composer Austin Wintory (who also worked on the music for "Journey") does a fantastic job accompanying the game's setting. The soaring strings, haunting choirs, and playful oboes evoke the teeming sea life in "Abzû," and make perfect background music for an otherwise-ordinary Friday at the office.

Listen here:

Friday, August 09, 2019

Books: Forrest Griffin and Sam Sheridan Double Double Feature (Part 1 - On Fighting)

In a strange bit of synchronicity, author/fighter Sam Sheridan and fighter/author Forrest Griffin have each written a bestselling book on fighting and a bestselling book on surviving the apocalypse, so I thought it'd be fun to review all of them.

The first pair of books are about fighting:

A Fighter's Heart, by Sam Sheridan



Writer Sam Sheridan has led a pretty colorful life - he's been a sailor, a firefighter, a cowboy - but one of his biggest passions is fighting. In "A Fighter's Heart," Sheridan takes the reader on a global tour of his fight training, whether it's trying to get a ground game from the Brazilian Top Team or learning the "soft" arts in a New York tai chi chuan studio.

The book's best and longest sections are Sheridan's description of his early experience training Muay Thai at Fairtex, and his time with then-new boxer Andre Ward and his trainer Virgil Hunter. But I thought a chapter dealing with Hollywood stuntwork seemed out of place (it does include some insight into the late Paul Walker), and Sheridan unfortunately glosses over the serious problems of the combat sports (CTE and PED use, for starters).

Got Fight?, by Forrest Griffin and Erich Krauss



Much like Sheridan, Forrest Griffin started out as an amateur, doing local fights whilst working as a bouncer and Georgia cop. Unlike Sheridan, Griffin stuck with fighting, got a big break by winning "The Ultimate Fighter," and went on to become UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. "Got Fight?" is Griffin's summation of his experiences - part biography, part self-help book, and part MMA technique manual.

"Summation" is probably too fancy a word for it. While clearly co-writer Erich Krauss (a former Muay Thai fighter) ironed out some of the rough edges, "Got Fight?" is not one of those sanitized martial arts memoirs. There's a ton of juvenile, crude, non-PC humor and goofy inset testimonials from Griffin's friends (seemingly to assure the reader that, yes, Griffin is that crazy). Still, if you want to read a book from someone who has been there and done that, this is one of the best out there.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

News: QFT

Clayton Cramer connects the dots on mental illness and the recent horrific mass murders:
The Navy Yard shooter?  He told police that he was being controlled by microwaves.  He was not taken in for observation.  The Virginia Tech shooter? A judge told him to go to a mental hospital, but it wasn’t mandatory.  He left after one day.  The Sutherland Springs church shooter?  The military involuntarily committed him, but neglected to inform the FBI that this guy was now prohibited for life from buying or owning a gun.  The 2012 Aurora shooter?  His psychiatrist warned the police that he was dangerous, but Colorado law essentially asks a person to show up to discuss if he is crazy.  The Parkland shooter?  School staff had wanted involuntary commitment; Florida’s Baker Act would certainly have allowed that commitment  if the police had used it.  As with everything else, they dropped the ball.  Unfortunately, I can give you lots more.  I am writing the least cheery book in history.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Summer of Kaiju: Neon Genesis Evangelion (Netflix release)

As a kid, I spent summers watching old Godzilla VHS tapes from the local Blockbuster. Since then, I've associated the sweltering season with giant monsters flattening cities into rubble. In that spirit, I'm doing a series of kaiju-themed posts for the dog days of June and July...

The opening of the classic TV series "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is perhaps anime's greatest head fake. The first few episodes prefigure a fairly standard mecha show about teens piloting robots to save the world from giant monsters called Angels. You think you know how things go - the reluctant hero pilot Shinji will slowly gain in skill and confidence, and will eventually fight a final boss enemy in a climactic battle.

It's not until episode 4 (when Shinji starts battling crippling despair and almost runs away from the whole thing) that the viewer realizes NGE is going to be something different.  Stick with the series long enough, and the narrative melts into a soup of psychological turmoil, Kabbalistic references, and an abstract referendum on the nature of existence. Studio Gainax and creator Hideaki Anno famously contended with tight budgets and Anno's depression while making "Neon Genesis Evangelion," but the end result is an idiosyncratic work that ranks as one of the best anime ever made.

Netflix recently released "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and "End of Evangelion," the movie retelling/remake of NGE's infamous final two episodes. Thanks to the intricacies of international IP licensing, the Netflix version has puzzling additions (an English re-dub), puzzling changes (a new translation that messes with the gay subtext in a famous episode), and puzzling omissions (the memorable covers of "Fly Me to the Moon" that ran over the end credits are now gone).

It might not be the best way to experience the show, but this is certainly the most available the series has ever been, and it's a must-watch if you're an anime fan who's never seen it:



Miscellany: Krav Maga class journal, months 5 through 8

I was getting really out of shape, so I started taking a local beginner's Krav Maga class last year. This will hopefully be my final regular update, since I am getting ready to take the Level 1 test to get into the intermediate/advanced course.

For this update, I'll just cover the noteworthy class sessions:

Session 43 (Fight Class)

This was my first "fight class."  The first half was a brief warm-up and punching on focus mitts. We then learned a couple of front kick defenses (using your arms to pull a low kick past your side, whilst rotating your forearm to block a high kick) and practiced them against each other. The last half of class was a free sparring session - I get hit a lot.

Session 45

In this one, we learned front, side, and back kicks, and then did a fun drill where you had to hold a "baby" (a tombstone bag) in your arms and kick away multiple attackers. The side kicks reminded me of playing hacky sack:


Session 51

The techniques in this one were all old hat (rear hammerfists, defense for chokes from the side, and delivering knees from the side position). Unfortunately, during the hammerfist portion, I tweaked my neck and shoulder and had to miss a couple classes. This brought to mind the fundamental training principle from Krav Maga's founder, Imi Lichtenfeld: "don't get hurt."

Session 56

This class was marred by yet another injury, this time to a fellow student named Chris. We did round kicks, grounded side kicks, wrist releases, and a side headlock escape and takedown. In a last drill at the very end of the class, Chris dislocated his kneecap and had to be taken to the hospital by an ambulance. It was not pretty, and we all felt bad for him.

Summer of Kaiju: Godzilla (Criterion Collection release)

As a kid, I spent summers watching old Godzilla VHS tapes from the local Blockbuster. Since then, I've associated the sweltering season with giant monsters flattening cities into rubble. In that spirit, I'm doing a series of kaiju-themed posts for the dog days of June and July...

Back when I was young, the original "Godzilla" was the movie rental of last resort. The 1954 black-and-white film just couldn't compete with the action-packed Fujicolor wrestling matches of the Shōwa era, which featured multiple-monster-beatdowns, space aliens, and giant robots.

Now, older and wiser, I can appreciate the original film for its groundbreaking (literally) model work and somber tone. That's why I recently picked up the excellent Criterion version in honor of the Big G's 65th anniversary:




In "Godzilla," the eponymous King of the Monsters is unearthed by hydrogen bomb testing and wreaks havoc on central Tokyo. The movie's screaming civilians and crowded hospitals must have been eerie in postwar Japan, and the nighttime shots of Godzilla surrounded by a Tokyo in flames are still haunting.

Unlike modern day riffs on the "nation under siege" theme ("Attack on Titan," "Knights of Sidonia"), the movie is deeply pacifist. Godzilla is portrayed almost as divine punishment for the misdeeds of WWII, and the film ends with the suicide of the scientist who wants to take the secrets of an anti-Godzilla superweapon to his grave, lest people force him to build more of them. It's a mournful, melancholy take on the monster movie, and well worth watching for a generation that may have forgotten the horrors of the atomic era.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Music: I Don't Want to Live on the Moon

In 1969, humans first walked on the Moon, and the first episode of Sesame Street aired, so this video seemed appropriate today:

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Links: The Life Of A Frontier Gunsmith

In addition to hawking reproductions of 18th and 19th century dry goods, Jas. Townsend & Son Inc. maintains a delightful YouTube channel featuring how-tos and demonstrations of colonial-era cooking and crafts.

I particularly liked this interview with vintage rifle maker Mike Miller - it is astonishing how labor-intensive it was to make guns back in the day:

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