Saturday, August 25, 2012

Music: On Again, Off Again

I'm a sucker for dream-pop, and Lemolo is dream-pop all the way - jangly guitar, simple lyrics, and unhurried presentation. The band's first album, "The Kaleidoscope," is both cool enough for a coffee shop and mellow enough for a massage parlor:



Lemolo's already getting some exposure in the Seattle music scene; their single "On Again, Off Again" is a good example of why they're attracting attention. The song feels constructed and technical, the result of dozens or hundreds of passes to get every element just so. Think Cocteau Twins, but replace meandering valleys with percussive force.

Silly Season Double Feature

I dislike the kabuki theatre of American politics - millions of dollars spent, endless hours of TV coverage, all for a "choice" that isn't much of a choice at all. Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh at the whole thing, at these people scrambling all over themselves to be popular with a bunch of strangers. Today's post features two examples of political mockery...

The Campaign

Will Ferrell has made a career of playing man-children, so his latest character - four-term Congressman Cam Brady - is about as much of a stretch as Al Pacino playing a gangster:



Here, Ferrell's teamed up with Zach Galifianakis, who has a similar cinematic M.O.  Their fictional campaign is a childish, petty, and ridiculous game of one-upmanship that eventually destroys their families - in other words, the movie's exactly like a real election.

There are more chuckles than full-on laughs, but maybe that's because of the subject matter (whenever I see an actual politician, after all, I want to change the channel). The movie also has a general anti-Citizens United/anti-campaign contribution vibe, which some might take issue with. In any event, it's done and over with in 90 minutes, which is more than I can say for an actual political race.

Rating: 6/10

VOTE!!!

Modern debates are tedious exercises in soundbite swapping, so Chair Entertainment (makers of the wildly successful "Infinity Blade") decided to liven things up with good old-fashioned bloodlust:



Yes, it's just a re-skinned "Infinity Blade," but this is about as close as you're going to get to punching Romney or Obama in the face without getting taken down by security. It's free, the hits and combos have funny titles, like "Personal Attack" (worth a ton of points, natch), and the game takes only 50 megabytes on your iPhone. Play it long enough, and you wonder why we couldn't settle a real election with ritual combat.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guns: Carry Combo #3

Work has been cutting pretty heavily into my blogging time, but instead of running typical repeat posts, I thought I'd take a look at some of my go-to CCW rigs. In general, I pair the items featured below with a Wilderness Instructor's or Frequent Flyer Belt:

S&W M&P9c - All things considered, this is one of the best compact 9mm pistols on the market. Pros: nearly 100% reliable, durable, comfortable, easy to shoot. Cons: mushy trigger reset, so-so accuracy at ranges greater than 15 yards.

Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC IWB Holster - It's a good holster overall, but I've found that it's not retaining the handgun quite as tightly as it used to.

Comp-Tac Single Mag Pouch - Carrying spare mags for a double-stack pistol is a chore. Coupled with the IWB rig, this pouch is barely concealable under a T-shirt or polo shirt.

Ammunition pictured is the swanky Federal HST 124 grain +P load. Recoil is slightly brisk, but this is about as good as 9mm gets these days.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Miscellany: Riverbend Park

I've been cooped up in the office for the past couple of weeks, so it was good to stretch my legs in Riverbend Park, a park in Jupiter that shows off South Florida at its marshy best. You can rent canoes and bikes there, but I found it simpler just to grab my pack and a couple of Nalgene bottles, and walk the trails.




It's an ideal place to jog, really - nice 12' shell paths, no cars or traffic lights, and woods all around. One caveat - though there are picnic huts scattered around the park, there are no trash cans or bathrooms; if you carry it in, carry it out. 


Take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Food: Mrs. Smokeys Real Pit Bar-B-Q review

Many things in South Florida are transplants from New York and New Jersey, including Mrs. Smokeys Real Pit Bar-B-Q, a barbecue joint run by Elisa and Scott Hight that was originally a successful chain in Manhattan.

Is the Big Apple's best good enough for Palm Beachers? I ordered a "Feast for Two" to find out:




The Feast had a little bit of everything - ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken, cole slaw, beans, tater tots, and fried biscuits. It was a lot of food, but as the Duke said...



I have pretty critical barbecue tastebuds (going to college in Gainesville will do that to you), and Mrs. Smokeys' food had its highs and lows - the pulled pork and brisket were good, but the ribs and chicken were only average. I particularly liked the fried biscuit (who wouldn't?) and the BBQ sauces, which are spicy and flavorful. Add in the attentive, friendly service and more-comfy-than-expected Western decor, and you have yourself

2/4 stars, pardner.

Guns: Carry Combo #2

Work has been cutting pretty heavily into my blogging time, but instead of running typical repeat posts, I thought I'd take a look at some of my go-to CCW rigs. In general, I pair the items featured below with a Wilderness Instructor's or Frequent Flyer Belt:



Kahr CM9 - In my experience, this is the best overall pocket 9mm on the market. This does not mean it is as accurate, reliable, and shootable as a larger pistol (say, a G26 or M&P9c). But it's the best of the 9mm autoloaders that you can reasonably tote in a pair of khaki shorts.

DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster - Sort of the reference standard for pocket holsters here at Shangrila Towers; a design must be at least as good as the Nemesis before I'll consider using it.

Comp-Tac Single Mag Pouch - Just got this. It's a Kydex mag holder with integral over-the-belt clip (you can also get it with the bulkier-but-adjustableTek-Lok). It's comfortable, and the design feels pretty bombproof, but I'll have to use it for awhile before I give it a final verdict.

Ammunition is UMC 115 grain JHP, standard pressure. Early generation hollowpoint design, and tremendous muzzle flash, but it's cheap (very cheap), as reliable as anything else, and fairly accurate. Not my first choice for going into harm's way, but a heckuva lot better than 9mm ball.

Books: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

"Theory of knowledge" was one of my favorite courses in high school. Instead of trying to teach you material, TOK tried to teach you how and why learning happens in the first place. Metaphysics, science, and religion were all fair game in our pursuit, and class periods were usually spent discussing some interesting topic or work of nonfiction, like "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat":


The book is a collection of "tales" written by neurologist Oliver Sachs. Each "tale" is a clinical narrative about a patient with an unusual neurological condition. The symptoms of these conditions are often bizarre - there's a man who cannot remember anything after WWII, a woman who has lost all sense of where her body is in space, and the titular "Man," who has not only lost much of his ability to recognize things visually, but has also lost his inner visual knowledge, as well.

Thankfully, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" is not a freak show. Sachs goes beyond simply listing his patients' abilities and defects, and tries to capture how each person's condition has impacted his or her life on an emotional level. The book gives you an appreciation of how someone manages a problem that most of the outside world cannot understand. Some cases are tragic, some are inspirational, but all are human.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Music: The Best of Breaking Bad

"Breaking Bad" is pretty much the only show I watch nowadays, which you can view as either an indictment of television in general or a tribute to the quality of the show in particular. I've talked about it before, and stand by everything I wrote then; showrunner Vince Gilligan has packed the series with visually striking panoramas, great performances, and hefty doses of black humor.

Another well-crafted aspect of the show is the killer soundtrack (original score provided by Dave Porter and music selected by Thomas Golubić). Here are some of the highlights from the finale of Season Four and the beginning of Season Five (spoiler-free):

"Goodbye" - Apparat

So much of "Breaking Bad" is building tension. Danger looms over the proceedings (Walter White gets a death sentence in the very first episode of the show), and it's not hard to picture some life-or-death struggle (two grizzled gunfighters in an Old West showdown, say) with music like this:


"Black" - Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi, starring Norah Jones

The final episode of Season 4 ended with a startling revelation, and it needed to be paired with an equally revelatory piece of music. This cut, from the spaghetti Western-influenced album "Rome," became an instant classic to fans of the show last year. The lyrics are an eerily-good fit for Walter White's character.


"On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" - Mario Biondi

Not every "Breaking Bad" song is recent. An early Season Five episode used this cover of an American standard, covered by Mario Biondi. Again, it's a perfect fit for the scene it accompanies, both lyrically and mood-wise.

"Bonfire" - Knife Party

Okay, sometimes the music selection gets a little crazy. But then again, sometimes Walter White gets a little crazy, too. "Breaking Brostep" time, b----!

Guns: Carry Combo #1

Work has been cutting pretty heavily into my blogging time, but instead of running typical repeat posts, I thought I'd take a look at some of my go-to CCW rigs. In general, I pair the items featured below with a Wilderness Instructor's or Frequent Flyer Belt:




Ammo is my own practice/TEOTWAWKI load - 158 grain Hornady XTPs on top of a hot +P charge of Unique. It nicely duplicates the recoil of popular .38 carry loads.

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