Miscellany: Presidents Club Lounge
If you have any complaints which you'd like to make, I'd be more than happy to send you the appropriate forms.
"The Dark Knight" is kicking butt at the box office (and deservedly so), but I've always thought comic book characters were more at home in panels and pages than on the silver screen. While browsing the 50% off rack at my local comics shop, I picked up a few new Batman stories, some I enjoyed, some I didn't. Check them out:
The more I think about it, the more I think Mayor Fenty and his D.C. administration might be secret RKBA absolutists, since they keep provoking lawsuits that have the potential of undermining gun control everywhere. Why else would they invite yet another lawsuit from Dick Heller and company? Why else would they openly flout an order from the Supreme Court of the United States? I can picture it now - in some backroom in the mayor's office, Fenty is busily reloading .45 ACP while wearing a "Μολὼν λαβέ!" baseball cap....
"Whale Rider," directed by Niki Caro, is probably unique for its blend of magical realism, family drama, and Māori stickfighting:
For a certain group of people, the following opening will instantly flood their minds with nostalgia:
Learning to play the fake plastic drums on Rock Band takes some practice. Not nearly as much as playing real drums, obviously, but there's still a learning curve there that needs to be climbed. The breakthrough song for me, where I realized I had gotten pretty good at the game, was "Dani California" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers:
"The Dark Knight" is a film directed by Christopher Nolan, sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins":
Ryan Gosling, to his credit, refuses to by typecast as a Hollywood heartthrob. His latest performance is also one of his best - his turn as the shy Lars Lindstrom, protagonist of "Lars and the Real Girl":
I've gotten a lot of trade-in credit at Gamestop recently, so I've been combing the bargain bins of some of their local stores in search of deals. On one trip, I saw a Mad Catz Arcade GameStick for $10 (that's $30 off of the MSRP), so I snatched it up. Here's a video of someone flailing around on it:
When I first heard about "Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes," I thought it would be a hatchet job, made to stereotype gun owners as kooky or unhinged. After all, the media has had little success in convincing people that owning a gun is actually dangerous (just look at the many discredited studies littering academia); the other logical step is to stigmatize firearms ownership itself.
The book, written and illustrated by photographer Kyle Cassidy, has a simple premise - show gun owners in their homes, and relate why each person owns them. Cassidy tries to be neutral, although he claimed not to know any gunowners at the start of the project (really? not a single person?), something that's probably only possible if you live in an urban area. On the whole, though, everyone seems to be portrayed fairly, which is laudable in and of itself.
Most of the pictures are pretty good portraits, and the individual reasons for owning a gun are as varied as the people who own them. There's no manufactured drama here - I appreciate that Cassidy doesn't have pictures where people point their guns directly at the camera or other such foolishness. All in all, it's worth picking up.
"Appleseed Ex Machina" is a Japanese animated film directed by Shinji Aramaki. It's completely computer-generated; sometimes the technique works pretty well, but most of the time the movie makes its characters look like Barbie dolls.
The plot is pretty simple. Deunan and Briareos play tough-as-nails E.SWAT officers who are investigating a mysterious series of terrorist incidents in a futuristic metropolis called Olympus. There's some light post-apocalyptic overtones, but the film downplays its global war backstory in favor of action scenes.
Aramaki is mostly known for his mecha designs, so it's no surprise that "Appleseed Ex Machina" features a ton of futuristic fighting robots. When one of the protagonists, a cyborg with an artificial body, climbs into the belly of a robotic powered fighting suit, and then that suit gets in the belly of a flying robotic gunship, you know things have sort of gone off the rails.
All the gadgetry would be tolerable if the story was decent, but it really is pretty formulaic. In fact, Appleseed Ex Machina feels more like a series of videogame cutscenes than a feature film. Even the action sequences aren't exciting; the final battle shamelessly rips off the Zion shootout in "The Matrix Revolutions." All in all, a forgettable excursion into the world of high-powered anime police fisticuffs.
This week, I'll be talking about a common AR malfunction, as well as its possible causes and solutions:
As you might recall, my first experience with my new AR wasn't particularly pleasurable. In order to solve my short-stroking problem, I checked everything I listed above, and the only thing that was out-of-the-ordinary was how hard the bolt was to manually cycle. I figured there was too much friction between the carrier and the rest of the gun, and it was that friction which was preventing the action from cycling completely. So, I took some high-temperature lithium bearing grease, covered the rails with a light film of the stuff, and worked the action by hand for about half an hour (maybe a couple thousand times). By the end of that time, like I expected, the grease had turned into a slurry of debris, and it had smoothed out the cycling of the gun considerably. I cleaned out the excess grease, and headed to the range.Did all the hard work pay off? Well, the rifle now feeds pretty flawlessly, cycling through 120 rounds without any kind of stoppages. It even locks back consistently on an empty mag, which is a sure sign that the system is in good working order and not short-stroking. Woohoo!
Decent, sit-down Italian food in Gainesville is difficult to come by. Francesca's Trattoria is a new place on 43rd, across from Las Margaritas, one of Gainesville's most popular Mexican restaurants. Like Las Margaritas, Francesca's is not really concerned with the authenticity of its cuisine, but more about providing the right atmosphere for an oldschool Sicilian dinner.
Michel Gondry, director of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," tends to play with reality. "Be Kind Rewind," his latest effort, is curious in its relative normality. The movie follows a standard Hollywood plot - struggling business has one last chance to make good, and two determined but bumbling friends try to execute the plan.
The struggling business here is an antiquated VHS rental store, and Jack Black and Mos Def play the two bumbling friends. Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, and Melonie Diaz all turn in supporting performances. As the trailer indicates, what begins as a stopgap measure to fool an old lady soon mushrooms into a guerrilla filmmaking phenomenon. The story is heartwarming, I suppose, and the film eschews the usual happy ending with something that's just as hopeful, but perhaps a bit more plausible.
I liked "Be Kind Rewind," but at the same time I don't feel it's worth seeing more than once. For one thing, the movie remakes/parodies aren't as funny as they should be. Some of the low-budget techniques used to replicate expensive special effects are impressive (particularly the "Men In Black" scene), but aside from the initial "Ghostbusters" and "Rush Hour 2" gags, there just isn't much comedy. I would have preferred more ridiculous "errors" and changes rather than impressive low-budget recreations of the originals.
AnJ is a rock band from Russia, and here's their metal-tinged tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev:
"Assassin's Creed" is one of those games that you really want to like. You play as Altair, an assassin during the Third Crusade, tasked with killing some high-profile evildoers, and from the outset, it's apparent that Ubisoft Montreal spent a lot of time on the game. There's a well-crafted in-game tutorial that actually makes sense in the context of the gameworld, for instance. And if the gameplay doesn't attract you, the high-quality graphics and sound will.
So for the first few hours of "Assassin's Creed," you're having the time of your life. Altair is wonderfully powerful in almost everything he does, whether it's jumping from rooftop to rooftop or scuffling with the game's many foes. The game does a good job of making you feel like a deadly assassin, since even groups of soldiers are no match for you once you learn how to combo and counter with your sword.
But after the fourth assassination or so, you realize that you've seen all there is to see. "Assassin's Creed" is a sandbox-type experience, but without the fun little plastic pail and shovel. Before each of the assassinations, you're forced to do investigation missions that are, to put it mildly, boring. The game just never throws anything different at you. I kept expecting guards on horseback, or ninja-like soldiers specially trained to counter assassins, or something. Instead, you battle the same braindead guards for most of the game.
Towards the end, the combat difficulty ramps up dramatically, with some tough fights near the end that are almost guaranteed to try your patience. Throw in an ending that lands with more of a thud than a blinding revelation, and you have a game that is at once fun to play and enormously disappointing.
Well, my Heller memorial AR is all together, so it's time to shoot - here's my impressions on the rifle as well as my initial range report:
The first thing I thought when i finally mated my new Stag upper to the lower I had cobbled together was "Dang, this thing is a lot heavier than my last AR." The barrel is a 16" M4gery type, but it's the heavy variety, ostensibly designed for the rigors of fully automatic fire. Given that a happy switch isn't in my future barring a change in federal law, I don't really see the point of saddling what is supposed to be a quick-handling carbine with a bricklike barrel. Oh well.
The overall fit and finish of the upper was good, if unspectacular. The carrier key screws were staked improperly, as I've come to expect from all but a handful of AR manufacturers, but a couple restakings did the trick, and at least the screws came tight from the factory. There was a crack in the finish of the A3 detachable carry handle, but other than that, the rifle was cosmetically fine.
Safety Note: Before actually shooting any homebrew AR, it's important to do a function check - in particular, make sure the safety, disconnector, and trigger are all in working order. If you bought a complete upper you won't need to check headspace, but if assembled your upper from scratch you should grab a set of headspace gauges (should be available from any website that sells gunsmithing tools) and make sure everything's okay.
So I finally got down to shooting, and the first 120 rounds were dismaying, to say the least. The carbine kept "short-stroking" or "short-cycling," a term used when the bolt carrier doesn't move far enough rearward to feed in the next round. I had the exact same malfunction - successful ejection, but with the bolt jammed into the middle of the top round of the mag - about once every five shots or so.
Some months back, the developers of "Rock Band," my favorite music video game, announced that they would be releasing the seminal rock album "Who's Next" as downloadable content. Unfortunately, it seems the surviving members of The Who have lost the master recordings of some of the songs on the album, preventing the whole thing from being put into the game. Instead, we're getting a "best of" compilation of the band's work on July 15th.
My favorite Founding Father has long been Thomas Jefferson, and a big reason for that is because he wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important political documents in history. The Declaration is special not because it announces any radically new philosophy or idea, but because it seeks to be the practical, common sense culmination of centuries of Western thought, from Athenian democracy to the Enlightenment - the end of history, so to speak.
James McAvoy is quickly becoming the new heartthrob from the British Isles (he was the love interest in "Becoming Jane" and "Atonement"). It's not surprising, then, that he's in almost every frame of "Wanted," a comic book adaptation directed by Timur Bekmambetov (best known for "Night Watch"), and that the movie largely rises and falls based on his performance.
McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a man trapped in a boring office job, wasting his life away. One fateful night, however, he runs into both a man out to destroy him, and a mysterious woman who protects him. He soon learns that he's the son of a famous assassin, and that he's inherited his father's superhuman physical abilities.
The film differs significantly from the comic books in that the guild of assassins is depicted not as a cadre of supervillains, but as a force for stability. McAvoy is strongest here when depicting Wesley in his awful, office drone life, or when showing Wesley feeling joy and confidence with each assassination he participates in. The third act, though, is a bit less fun, mostly because McAvoy never really presents rage and the thirst for revenge appropriately.
The film is pretty derivative, with obvious cribbing from "The Matrix." We've seen this brand of carefree, effortless gunslinging before in "Equilibrium," too, and to be honest, it's just not as fresh this time around. Still, the production values are high, the action scenes are decent, and it's a fun popcorn movie that probably has the most impact on the big screen.
From what I've seen of him in the past couple of years, Roger Federer has exhibited two playing modes.
I'm not a dancer, but my sister is. From her, I've learned to appreciate not only a well-performed dance, but the long hours of practice necessary to rehearse complicated choreography and difficult moves. I've also started watching the second season of "Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew" (ABDC), hosted by Mario Lopez: