Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween at the Towers 2010 - "The Walking Dead" Premiere Liveblog

What: AMC's "The Walking Dead," complete with running commentary and discussion
When: 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
Who: Hosted by Mulliga



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween at the Towers 2010 - Elvira's Movie Macabre

Halloween has come again, and Shangrila Towers will feature Halloween-themed posts until October 31st hits, when we'll cap the season off with a liveblog of AMC's adaptation of "The Walking Dead." Today, we'll look at the resurrection of a comedy-horror icon...

If you want a lesson in how lucrative merchandizing deals can transform a cult figure into a nationally recognized celebrity, just look at Elvira. Starting as a hostess for horror flicks shown on a TV station, the character quickly gained notoriety for her low-cut black dress and quirky, valley-girl demeanor. The actress who plays Elvira, Cassandra Peterson, explains:



For awhile there, you couldn't turn your head at Halloween without seeing an Elvira costume (for my part, I remember the Elvira-themed pinball machine was great fun). You might think that, once her popularity faded in the '90s, she'd never come back...

...but you'd be wrong, since Elvira's hosting horror movies again. No worries about the mileage, either - Cassandra Peterson still looks great in that V-neck dress. Check out the trailer:



Normally, old icons from the '80s and '90s don't translate well, but Elvira seems hellbent on proving she's culturally relevant. This is probably the best spoof of the Chrstine O'Donnell "Witch" ad I've seen:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miscellany: Mulliga's Urban Survival Kit, Part 4

While my blog is mainly about escaping the mundane through art and adventure, this series of posts addresses "escape" in a more literal sense. Here, I present my ideas on a lightweight, inexpensive collection of items for surviving an urban or suburban disaster. Part 1 introduced the concept and went into my choice for the survival kit's container. Part 2 discussed some options for your first aid kit. Part 3 examined water and food. We also looked at some books on survival. Part 4 features some clothing accessories for your kit. Since I live in Florida, I'm mostly concerned about sun and heat protection - people in colder climes might have to think more about staying warm:

Gloves

The urban jungle is filled with sharp, hard surfaces. Asphalt, chain link fences, and pieces of broken glass can slice your hands into ribbons if you're not wearing a decent pair of gloves. That's why I like to pack as many pairs in my kit as space will allow. I look for finger dexterity (can I make a cell phone call while wearing them?) and abrasion resistance (try sliding your palms on a concrete sidewalk - is the material giving way?).

Nylon Baseball Cap

Unless your workplace is in the middle of a forest of skyscrapers, the daytime sun will likely be beating down on you as you attempt to evacuate out of a disaster-stricken city. A lightweight, nylon cap will give you some shade and won't take up much room in your kit. Avoid the cheap all-cotton hats - they hold in heat and take forever to dry. Here's one cap that I highly recommend:

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap Review

The Sun Runner is the latest in a long line of legionnaire's caps. Most famously associated with the French Foreign Legion, these caps have an extra curtain of fabric attached to the brim that blocks out the sun in harsh conditions (Ivan Lendl wore a makeshift one that helped him win the Australian Open in oppressive Melbourne heat).



Here, the mesh curtain attaches positively with two button snaps - a huge plus. The curtain can hold the heat in a little at the start, but once it's absorbed a little of your sweat, it becomes fairly cool. The cap itself is a standard adjustable ballcap with a velcro strap, though the Sun Runner isn't one-size-fits-all (I wear the XL size, for instance). All in all, it's a good choice, but a little pricey - try to find it on sale.

Bandana

In very high temperatures, even a baseball cap may not absorb enough sweat. You can wear a bandana as a headband or simply wipe your face periodically. There are a 1,001 other uses for bandanas, of course - you can also improvise a sling for a broken arm, staunch bleeding, or carry things hobo-style.

Sunglasses

Most people already have a pair or two, but it's still a good idea to keep an extra pair in your kit. The fancier kinds can even double as rudimentary eye protection. If you wear contacts or prescription lenses, it's also important to carry a spare, lest you be forced into a live-action reenactment of the ending of the "Twilight Zone" episode "Time Enough at Last":



Sunscreen/Lip Balm

These items are cheap, compact, and last for awhile. They're also lifesavers if you find yourself out in the sun. The $1.00 travel size sunscreen tubes will fit in all but the smallest survival kits.

Earplugs

Depending on what happens, you might be exposed to some loud noises - rescuers going through concrete with bulldozers, crowds of people, large trucks, etc. Ear protection will help you preserve your hearing and your sanity. Additionally, when you do finally get a chance to sleep, it might be in an airport, a bus terminal, a public school, or some other shelter area. It'll be much easier to catch needed Zs with earplugs.

That's it for Part 4. Part 5 will hit on signaling and navigation tools. See you next time!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween at the Towers 2010 - Top Five Non-Candy Treats

Halloween has come again, and Shangrila Towers will feature Halloween-themed posts until October 31st hits, when we'll cap the season off with a liveblog of AMC's adaptation of "The Walking Dead." Today, we'll discuss some of the best ways to satiate trick-or-treaters without resorting to a big bag of candy...


5. Plastic Spiders - In terms of holidays that keep novelty prank stores in business, Halloween is just behind April Fool's Day. As a kid, I loved getting fake spiders and bugs while trick-or-treating. since they tended to laste longer than the buckets of Tootsie Rolls in my bag destined for immediate consumption.

4. Temporary Tattoos - These tap into a primordial desire in all children - the wish to be a grown-up. While kids can buy them from supermarket vending machines and family fun centers, there's nothing quite like getting a temporary tattoo for free. These are even more irresistable when you consider the fact that you're already dressed like a pirate or a superhero.


3. Squirt Guns - There were always a few families stupid kind enough to give out squirt guns and similar tools of playground anarchy. Doubtless, most of the cheap super balls, mini slinkies, and paddle balls would be lost within a week, but the squirt guns were a special breed. Refillable from water fountains and other, less savory places, they really jazzed up the first few weeks in November.


2. Sliding Puzzles - Even in our digital age, grade school children still have a weakness for tangible toys (witness the continued success of Play-Doh and Legos). These cheap plastic sliding tile puzzles were simple, but fun to play with, especially when your brain is racked with the temporary sugar high of a bag full of candy.

1. Antique Popcorn Stand - In our old neighborhood, there was one family who had one of those movie-theatre popcorn machines, complete with a bright red handcart in gold trim. They would give out bags of freshly popped corn on Halloween night, and there was always a big crowd outside their house. After all, that stuff was much better than the dubious popcorn balls and mini microwave popcorn bags people usually give out. But, they can be pricey:

Guns: The True Safety is Between Your Ears

CNBC recently aired an exposé on problems with the Remington 700 rifle. In the report, there were several videos showing people getting the 700 to fire without the trigger being touched (in some cases, just moving the bolt slightly caused the striker to release), along with the requisite human interest stories of people killed or injured by the malfunction. Remington has since countered with their own PR campaign, and I'm sure the lawyers on both sides will fight it out.

Anyhoo, I thought the whole thing dovetailed nicely into the recent talk of gun safety rules going around the blogosphere (Tam covered it, as did Snowflakes in Hell). If you believe the allegations levied against Remington, most of the people in the CNBC piece followed two of the four rules: they knew their gun was loaded, and they didn't have their booger hook on the bang switch.

That isn't enough, though. Those two particular rules are designed to keep people safe from negligent discharge - "I'm the only one professional enough" type situations. They do nothing if a gun is not mechanically sound - a true accidental discharge. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, a gun that does not go off is a failure. That is its purpose, no matter how many little gizmos and devices you hang off the side of it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halloween at the Towers 2010 - A Tribute to "The Rocky Horror Show"

Halloween has come again, and Shangrila Towers will feature Halloween-themed posts until October 31st hits, when we'll cap the season off with a liveblog of AMC's adaptation of "The Walking Dead." Today, we'll examine one of the seminal sci-fi/horror parodies...

"The Rocky Horror Show" is one of those pieces of pop culture that, on paper, shouldn't be as successful as it is. After all, the show features a wispy plot, a transvestite mad scientist, and enough curious sexual encounters to fill several Lifetime films. How is it that this British stage show is now so mainstream that it can be featured on major network TV show?



I submit that the reason "The Rocky Horror Show" has thrived where so many goofy '70s properties have faded is because of its music. Even with outrageous costumes, tongue-in-cheek effects, and a raucous atmosphere, a musical can't get a cult following without good songs.

Take the signature song of the RHS, "The Time Warp." It's an absurdly catchy piece of music, with lyrics that are easy to sing and dance directions that are easy to follow:



Even the lesser-known songs are fun to listen to. My personal favorite is "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul," a rollicking number sung in the movie by - who else? - Meat Loaf:



Anyway, this Halloween, grab your wheelchair, put on your Riff Raff cap, and enjoy the sounds of "The Rocky Horror Show."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Food: Mustard's Last Stand


In a world where most hot dogs come from gas stations and street vendors, Mustard's Last Stand in Melbourne, Florida is a stubborn hold-out. As its name suggests (and there are quite a few establishments around the country that have adopted the moniker), the restaurant serves all manner of dogs and sausages, often with toppings that you can't get anywhere else.

For the staid, value-minded consumer, Mustard's Last Stand features a $5 footlong special that includes fries and a drink. Most people will be better served, however, by picking up one of the more esoteric hot dogs. My particular favorites are the Discovery Dog (a dog with chili, cheese, jalapenos, and salsa) and The Surf and Turf (fried, with popcorn shrimp, onions, and chili sauce).

The atmosphere is laid back, with an open-air porch that's perfect for an autumn afternoon in Florida. The quirky decor isn't the result of some cynical corporate branding scheme, because the place is a small, family-owned business with only two locations. Anyway, if you're in Brevard County and you want to have a "garbage dog" with all sorts of stuff on it, you should probably visit Mustard's Last Stand.

2/4 stars

Saturday, October 09, 2010

News: The Congenial Dissident

The Nobel Peace Prize is like the crazy old uncle of the Nobel Prizes. Since it's not awarded in retrospect, there are a long list of laureates who make Otto von Bismarck look like Mahatma Gandhi. Still, like a broken clock that is right twice a day, the Prize is sometimes given to a person who actually deserves it:



Liu Xiaobo is currently being incarcerated for "inciting subversion of state power" (do Chinese officials know how Orwellian that kind of charge sounds to the rest of humanity?). Here's an interesting excerpt from his final statement in court:

In 1996, I spent time at the old Beikan (located at Banbuqiao). Compared to the old Beikan of more than a decade ago, the present Beikan is a huge improvement, both in terms of the “hardware”— the facilities—and the “software”—the management . . . This style of management allows detainees to experience a sense of dignity and warmth, and stirs their consciousness in maintaining prison order and opposing the bullies among inmates. Not only has it provided a humane living environment for detainees, it has also greatly improved the environment for their litigation to take place and their state of mind. I’ve had close contact with correctional officer Liu Zheng, who has been in charge of me in my cell, and his respect and care for detainees could be seen in every detail of his work, permeating his every word and deed, and giving one a warm feeling. It was perhaps my good fortune to have gotten to know this sincere, honest, conscientious, and kind correctional officer during my time at Beikan.

This is the kind of person the government fears - not exactly the avatar of hatred and rage you expected, right? In America, Liu would be just another kindly old hippie college professor, publishing books and fighting the Man and the Power. In China, he's a dangerous terrorist who gets jailed for eleven years. Hopefully, the contrast between the state's depiction and the actual person will be farcical enough that even the Chinese public gets the idea that something is screwy in St. Louie.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Guns: Two Approaches for Women's CCW

For female shooters that carry a concealed weapon for self-defense, there are two ways to hide a firearm in everyday clothing:

Option #1 - Get a variety of holsters and guns, enough so that you can adapt to almost any outfit save a bikini.

To demonstrate, here's a video posted by a woman named "The Traveler" (she has a blog that details how she lives on the road) describing pretty much every CCW method I can think of (ankle, thigh, belly band, shoulder, IWB/OWB, pocket), and in the process showing how to finagle a Ruger LCR onto your person without compromising your wardrobe or carrying off-body:


(The Traveler also did an interview with Gunholsters.com - well worth a look).

Option #2 - Change your entire wardrobe around the gun

This is Tam's approach - forget wearing skintight jeans and skintight shirts, get a good solid IWB rig, a compact-to-fullsize autoloader or revolver, and just deal with it. You won't be fashionable, but fashion won't matter if you're facing down a pack of criminals, a school shooter, or a terrorist - 8+1 rounds of .45 ACP will.

Which is better?

Well, I'm not really qualified to answer, since I have a Y chromosome (guys have it so much easier - I can pocket carry a 642 in dress slacks). I would argue, though, that neither is "better" or "worse." The first rule of a gunfight is to bring a gun; both approaches satisfy that prime directive.

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