Thursday, February 28, 2019

Movies: Solo: A Star Wars Story

In my eyes, the House of Mouse's takeover of the "Star Wars" franchise has had decidedly mixed results. The new sequel trilogy started off strong, but then made the first six movies irrelevant by the second act of "The Force Awakens." The spin-off movie "Rogue One" was a pretty decent action flick, but it felt like a throwaway since it didn't tell us anything we didn't already know.

That said, all of the new movies have been profitable except for "Solo: A Star Wars Story." The movie had a famously troubled production, and it tanked when it was released six months after "The Last Jedi"...did it deserve to?

Seeing "Solo" on Netflix probably helped, because this is a small stakes heist film about the origin of everyone's favorite space rogue, Han Solo. It's more like a TV series than a big-budget action piece - while the effects were good enough to get nominated for an Oscar, they're more like juiced-up versions of a "Firefly" episode than the grand battles we're used to seeing in "Star Wars."

What saves the movie is the game cast (Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are excellent as Han and Lando), a straightforward script that has a lot of humor, and workmanlike direction from Ron Howard. There's a certain freedom that comes with working on a story that doesn't have to connect to a 9-film arc, and Howard and Co. milk it for all it's worth.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Guns: PHLster

PHLster is one of those rare holster makers where I can wholeheartedly recommend their entire lineup. I have bought several of their products (with my own such thing as a paid promotion here on Shangrila Towers), and I've used them in both daily carry and training courses. Each one is excellent:

Skeleton holster - This minimalist appendix inside-the-waistband holster is slim, comfortable, and tough as nails. I used it to carry both my G26 and the G17T force-on-force trainers in a Shivworks ECQC class, and it never let me down, despite all the rolling around and wrasslin' inherent in a Craig Douglas course.

Skeleton universal magazine carrier - A decent solution to an age-old problem: getting a generic pouch to retain a wide variety of double-stack magazines, including the mags for your weirdo Hungarian Blast-o-matic 9mm.  PHLster uses a shock cord wrap that tensions the pouch for polymer double-stack magazines (think GLOCK and M&P), thought it might not work as well for slimmer double-stack designs.

City Special revolver holster - This is the best AIWB revolver holster I've ever used, bar none. I have a couple of the early ones for my S&W 642 and 640; the newest versions have been remolded to fit almost any J-frame, including ones with Crimson Trace grips.

Flatpack tourniquet carrier - While I don't generally carry a tourniquet on the belt, I've found the Flatpack is a great way to stash a CAT or SOFT-T on a backpack strap or bike frame.

TDI Fightworthy Sheath - The Ka-Bar TDI is a good small fixed blade that comes with a middling sheath. PHLster's popular Fightworthy sheath remedies all the OEM sheath's retention and draw issues, in a package that's much smaller and more concealable. It's spendy, but worth the coin.

Books: Human Errors

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
The human body is the subject of Human Errors, but rather than marveling at how intricate our anatomy is, the book concentrates on our glitches and faults: the stupid inability to make essential vitamins and amino acids, the pointless bones in our hands and feet, the cognitive blindspots caused by our wild origins. As author Nathan Lents contends, these flaws stem from the random process of mutation and natural selection. It turns out that millions of years of evolution can develop a brain capable of reading these words, but also leaves us with an (arguably) inverted retina.

The first two-thirds of Human Errors is breezy, full of fun if familiar quirks of the human body (such as why the sickle cell mutation is actually selected for in malaria-prone areas). Things bog down a bit when Lents gets into speculation about the fate of human society and the future of our species; I've also seen some of this material presented better elsewhere. Still, it's an entertaining read, and worth checking out if you feel like laughing at our shared flaws.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Music: Love Gone Wrong

Folk trio Lula Wiles's new album "What Will We Do" contains several subversive songs that turn roots tropes on their heads, but the record's catchiest number is a little bit more standard: "Love Gone Wrong."

It's a song about that dead time when you know a relationship's failed but you haven't formally broken up yet. The bubbly harmonies of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin contrast perfectly with the downer subject matter, bringing to mind other neo-folk bands like Nickel Creek and the Wood Brothers: