Monday, March 30, 2015
Those of you who shoot those calibers, call your local Walmart ASAP. I was doing some other shopping there an hour ago when I happened past the Sporting Goods department (funny how I find myself at the ammo locker so often, isn't it?). They were unpacking Perfecta brand 9mm. 115gr. ball and .308 147gr. ball ammo at the ridiculously low price of $6.94 per box (of 50 and 20 rounds, respectively). I haven't seen prices that low for those cartridges in years. (To put it in perspective, that's 14c per round for 9mm. and 35c per round for .308. It's hard to reload for the same price per round today, if you use jacketed bullets.)
Needless to say, I bought as much as I could afford. The staff hadn't even finished unpacking the stuff yet, and they laughed that I was ruining their efforts to set up a display of it. Too bad - by the time I'd paid for mine, two other shoppers had come by, done a double-take as they saw the price on the shelf, and reached for their wallets.
I predict this is going to fly off the shelves. My local Walmart had several cases of each caliber, and I'll be surprised if they last until this evening. If you shoot 9mm. or .308, grab some while you can (and check whether other calibers are available at your local store). Perfecta is decent ammo - see here and here for just two threads reviewing it. It appears to be made by Fiocchi in Italy. For practice and plinking, I'd say it's as good as anything else - and it's brass-cased, so you can reload it.
I was infuriated to read about protests by students in Cape Town, South Africa, that have led to the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes, imperialist, pioneer, visionary, mining magnate and former Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.
Yahoo! News reports:
A bucketload of human excrement flung at a statue has toppled a symbol of British imperialism in South Africa, marking the emergence of a new generation of black protest against white oppression.
The senate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Friday bowed to student demands that a brooding bronze statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes should be removed from the campus.
UCT, the oldest university in South Africa and regularly ranked as the best on the continent, was built on land donated by Rhodes, a mining magnate who died in 1902.
Many of the students involved in the protests never lived under the injustices of white minority rule, but say they still experience racial discrimination 21 years after the end of apartheid.
The large statue of a notoriously racist Rhodes gazing across an Africa that he coveted for the British empire made them feel alienated on a campus still dominated by white staff, they said.
. . .
One white letter writer probably spoke for many when he suggested in the Cape Times that the student who threw the excrement at Rhodes should leave UCT and attend a university established by "his own ancestors".
But students have dismissed the argument that Rhodes should be honoured for donating land for the campus, saying he stole it from black Africans in the first place.
There's more at the link.
Those closing paragraphs say a mouthful. I endorse wholeheartedly the views of the letter writer in the Cape Times, and I reject with contempt the students' response. After all, the history of Black tribes in South Africa, dating back long before the arrival of white settlers, is one of continual internecine warfare, atrocities against other tribes, and forcible occupation of their lands - until the occupiers were in turn driven out by stronger foes. To complain that whites dispossessed blacks of their land is to ignore the reality that far more blacks were historically dispossessed of their lands by other blacks over many centuries, just as Native American tribes forcibly took over each others' territories for centuries before European colonists arrived in North America. It's been that way all over the world since the beginning of the human race.
(For that matter, where do you think most of the black slaves imported to North America came from? The majority of them - probably the vast majority - were enslaved by other blacks in West Africa before they were sold to slave traders who brought them to America. Slavery isn't only the fault of the whites.)
A different, more radical perspective on the protests is provided by Equal Times:
On the surface the campaign has been successful, with UCT agreeing to remove the statue, but students continue to occupy the university’ administrative offices with a list of demands that include: reducing the “extortionate” tuition fees; paying all UCT workers a living minimum wage; implementing “a curriculum which critically centres Africa and the subalter”; and recognising that “ the history of those who built our university – enslaved and working class black people – has been erased through institutional culture”.
. . .
UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) president Ramabina Mahapa has been quoted in the media as saying that “black people can’t be proud at UCT, because UCT doesn’t speak positively about [our] image.”
According to Mahapa,“through its use of symbols, such as the monument to Rhodes, the university is discriminating against black people.”
. . .
The “continuing whiteness of UCT,” as 2008 report of the Ministerial Committee described it, strengthens the sense of racial belonging for whites at UCT, while at the same time, it alienates and ‘others’ blacks.
Again, more at the link.
If I had the chance to talk to these student radicals at UCT, this is what I'd say to them:
You have not earned the right to criticize one who achieved so much in his lifetime - particularly not one who, even in the context of imperialist racism that every single European nation practiced in the 19th century, could say things like, "I could never accept the position that we should disqualify a human being on account of his color".
You have not earned that right because you have not achieved anything to set against, and be measured against, his achievements. His example inspired more than one generation, and was remembered long after his death by both black and white Africans. What example have you set by which to be remembered? Flinging excrement at statues?
It doesn't matter what color your skin is, or what your background might be, or what your aspirations are. What matters is what you achieve - and don't tell me that the lack of things of which you feel 'deprived' holds you back from achieving. That's politically correct claptrap. Good men and women in every nation, of every tribe, ethnicity, language, creed and color, have achieved great things after beginning in absolute poverty with nothing and no-one to help them. They earned the right to criticize others on the basis that they proved themselves by their deeds. You have not - at least, not yet. When you have, come and talk to me again. Until then, shut up.
The Rhodes Scholarships that Cecil John Rhodes founded have educated many of the world's leaders, including US Presidents. His philanthropy is visible in the grounds on which your university stands, which he donated, and in Rhodes University in Grahamstown. You apparently see no contradiction between deriving personal benefit from his generosity, and throwing excrement at his statue. Shame on you.
I'd say that to them . . . but I don't suppose it would do much good. I guess it's a good thing I left South Africa when I did, because if I was still living in Cape Town (my birthplace) I'd have no hesitation in telling these jackasses what I thought of them. Nowadays, that might not be survivable in what Alan Paton called 'the beloved country'.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
It's been just over 40 days since the publication of my latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm'. It's exceeded all my expectations, thanks to your support in buying it and spreading the word about it - even though it was the most difficult novel to write that I've yet experienced. It seems that all the hard work has paid off, which is very gratifying. That success means that Miss D. will soon be able to afford to leave her day job and help me with marketing and administration, whilst simultaneously setting up her own consultancy business as a marketing analyst and adviser to other independent authors. She has a real gift in the area of data analysis, definition of target markets, keyword selection, etc. I think she'll do very well at it. She already has several indie authors who've said they plan to hire her, so I'm excited for her prospects. I think in a year or so she'll be well established.
I'm almost finished the second novel in the Laredo Trilogy, sequel to 'War To The Knife'. This one will be called 'Forge A New Blade', and the third book of the trilogy (hopefully coming out in November) will be 'Knife To The Hilt'. I've completed 85,000 of my target 100,000 words, and it should be completed within the next ten days. After that it'll go out to a few beta readers for their impressions and comments, then I'll edit it before publication in May. The fifth book in the Maxwell Saga, as yet untitled, will separate Laredo 2 and Laredo 3. It's scheduled for August.
I'm also beginning a new project, which may or may not see the light of day - but it's a lot of fun. You see, I've always liked good Westerns. I'm not talking about the modern thinly-disguised pornography and beat-'em-up violent sort of books that one finds far too often; I mean quality work like Louis L'Amour, Harry Combs, the earlier writers like Zane Grey and so on. Therefore, I'm trying to write one.
I suppose I have a natural affinity for Westerns because South Africa had its own version of 'Western' history - except that there, it was more 'Eastern'. The USA expanded to the west; South Africa expanded to the east. The 'Great Trek' of the 1830's approximated what was happening in the USA at the time, movement westward into the Great Plains that would eventually reach the Pacific. The USA had its Civil War, where South Africa had its Boer Wars. The Indian Wars here were matched by the Xhosa Wars and conflicts between Boers and Sotho, Swazi, Zulu and other tribes. The frontier experience in both nations was pretty similar. Therefore, as a youngster, I read accounts of pioneers in Africa and those in the American West and instantly recognized the similarities.
I'm trying to write a worthy Western in the classic sense. I'll have to adhere to some of the myths of the genre, of course. No-one would read (or believe) a Western in which very few people died, even though in reality considerably fewer violent deaths occurred in the 'Wild West' than happened during the same period in Eastern cities. No-one would believe a Western where conflict between cowboys and Indians was rare - but in reality it really was rare, most clashes involving the military rather than civilians. History's a funny thing. The reality so seldom coincides with the myth. To quote from the famous Western movie 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'; "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
However, I'm also going to strive for historical accuracy in terms of dates and technical details. Nobody in 1865 is going to wield a Single Action Army revolver or a Winchester .44-40 rifle, both of which were first manufactured in 1873 and not widely distributed for a couple of years after that date. When I talk about my protagonist's journey westwards in 1865-66, the railroad will not have reached across the continent - it won't even be a third of the way across Kansas yet. Denver will still be an overgrown, raucous mining camp, not some sort of Eastern metropolis magically transplanted into the Rockies. My comments about Native American tribal culture will be historically accurate, not the stereotypical nonsense so often written. I'm going to write this book as well as I possibly can, even if I don't publish it, because I think that sort of accuracy is long overdue in the genre.
It may never see the light of day, but I'll have a lot of fun with it as light relief in between working on my science fiction books. If I do decide to publish it, I'll probably write three or four novels in the series first, then bring them out at short intervals, perhaps using a pseudonym. Would you be interested in reading a Western of that sort? If so, please let me know. If there's sufficient interest . . . we'll see.
Thanks again for all your support. You've been great!
Following the video I put up a couple of days ago about an enterprising (and hungry) sealion, I found this one filmed off the coast of Mexico. Looks like some of these animals have gotten more than casually acquainted with tourists.
Why bother to hunt fish when tourists will do it for you?
Saturday, March 28, 2015
The obituary of an Alaska man caused me to smile. It begins:
Captain Donald Alexander Malcolm Jr., 60, died Feb. 28, 2015, nestled in the bosom of his family, while smoking, drinking whiskey and telling lies. He died from complications resulting from being stubborn, refusing to go to the doctor, and raising hell for six decades. Stomach cancer also played a minor role in his demise.
There's more at the link. Read the comments below it as well. They're worth it.
Sounds like Mr. Malcolm lived a good life and lived it well. We need more like him, and we're diminished by their loss. May he rest in peace.
I have no idea of the backstory to this video, but Dude 1 is talking on a cellphone when Dude 2 charges him with a baseball bat. Dude 1 has some very effective moves.
Nice chokehold. Dude 2 was out cold. I suspect Dude 1 had done this (or something like this) before.
(Dude 2 is also fortunate he didn't try that on someone carrying a gun. Under those circumstances, a baseball bat is a potentially lethal weapon any way you look at it, so such an attack would have justified a rather stronger response, IMHO.)
Courtesy of a link at Maddened Fowl, we learn that no less than five Americans have shot themselves in the unmentionables over the past few years.
Personally, I'm sure there have been more than five cases. Ever since the advent of the Glock pistol with its 'safe action' system, followed by a host of imitators as soon as its patent protection ran out, I've been aware of the potential for accidental discharges from firearms so equipped. Without an external safety, there's nothing stopping the trigger from being depressed accidentally if something gets into the trigger guard. Those of us who carry pistols in our pockets on occasion know that danger very well. Most of us compensate by using a pocket holster that covers the trigger, or a firearm with a long double-action trigger pull that can't be easily discharged (e.g. a Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver). However, many who haven't thought things through don't take such precautions.
During my service as a prison chaplain, I can recall at least three inmates who were nicknamed 'Stumpy' for reasons that should be obvious in the light of the above. All three carried Glock pistols in their waistbands or their pockets without the added security of a decent holster. All three suffered the consequences (literally). The teasing to which they were subjected by their fellow inmates must have made their term of incarceration immeasurably more unpleasant . . . not to mention their (lack of) prospects (in the sexual sense at least, and most likely in others as well) when they were discharged.
Please, dear readers, if you pocket- or waistband-carry a firearm, make sure you use a holster that covers the trigger? Pretty please? I'd rather have your interest peaked, not sadly foreshortened.
Friday, March 27, 2015
One of the seminal figures of the English folk-rock and folk-jazz music revival of the 1960's and 1970's and founder of the group Pentangle, John Renbourn, has died. The Telegraph writes:
John Renbourn, who has died aged 70, was an innovative acoustic guitarist whose pioneering finger style not only provided great impetus to the 1960s folk scene but also influenced rock guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. His informal 1966 album Bert & John, with Bert Jansch, was a landmark in the development of the British folk movement and remains a highly influential work in the field of folk music accompaniment.
Yet Renbourn’s mastery of a wide variety of styles, including classical, medieval, jazz, blues and world music, and his eagerness to explore fresh techniques, endeared him to musicians from a variety of genres.
There's more at the link.
There are so many musical examples of John Renbourn's work that it's almost impossible for me to choose just one. I've therefore chosen a simple melody, made famous by Simon & Garfunkel. Here's an instrumental rendition of 'Scarborough Fair'.
Timeless and lovely. May he rest in peace.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
I was delighted to see video of a newborn baby elephant taking its first steps at the Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa. I know Londolozi well - or rather, I used to back when I still lived in that country. I've seen this elephant behavior before on several occasions. You can read about the event here.
I suggest watching the video in full-screen mode.
Another thing: if you see elephant behavior like that - the tightly clustering females, I mean - get the hell out of their way! They're being very maternal and loving towards the baby . . . and that means they're absolutely deadly to anything and anyone they consider might represent any threat at all. I've personally seen a lion about fifteen feet across and one inch thick in the Kruger National Park. According to the ranger with us, it had probably decided it was going to snack on a little Mtoto (baby elephant) - and Mtoto's mommy had decided it wasn't. Guess who won?
I've frequently mentioned in these pages the name of the late, great Jeff Cooper, one of the most important figures in firearms theory and practice since World War II. A DVD presentation about his life is titled 'Jeff Cooper: A Man in Full'. That's a pretty good summation of who and what he was. I had the privilege of meeting him in South Africa many years ago, and never forgot what I learned from him. It helped to keep me alive on more than one occasion.
In the NRA magazine 'American Rifleman' there's a regular feature called 'Throwback Thursdays'. The latest is an article dating back to 1993 about Jeff Cooper by the late, equally legendary firearms writer Finn Aagaard, a fellow African whom I also held in high regard. Here's an excerpt.
Cooper has written that "Man fights with his mind. His hands and his weapons are simply extensions of his will...” He says that of the 50 or so of his students who have been involved in lethal confrontations, not one student claimed to have saved his life by his dexterity or his marksmanship, but rather by his mindset.
He defines the combat mindset as “...that state of mind which ensures victory in a gunfight. It is composed of awareness, anticipation, concentration and coolness. Above all, its essence is self-control. Dexterity and marksmanship are prerequisite to confidence, and confidence is prerequisite to self-control.”
Cooper wrote about this new doctrine of practical pistolcraft, and presently he was being asked to teach it, mostly overseas. Working with the “good guys” in hot spots in Latin America, Europe and Africa, he evolved simple and effective ways of teaching the modern technique.
. . .
A man of many parts is Jeff Cooper, apart from being the guru of the combat pistol, warrior (as all true men are at bottom), Marine officer, spook, swordsman, bon vivant, historian, scholar, adjunct professor of police science, connoisseur of fast cars, expert rifleman and big game hunter, adventurer (“peril — not variety — is the true spice of life”), philosopher, NRA director, a superb writer and author with a wonderful command of the language, father and grandfather, husband to one of the most gracious, charming and delightful of ladies (doubt not her core of steel, though — else how could she have managed Jeff for more than 50 years?), a seeker of excellence whose creed is Honor, Duty, Country, a man with a great gusto for life, and, perhaps above all, a teacher.
. . .
... he is truly the father of the modern technique of the pistol. Others helped evolve it — and it continues to evolve — but he put it all together, promoted it, and taught it. No one since Samuel Colt has had a greater impact on practical pistolcraft than Jeff Cooper.
There's more at the link.
I have most of Col. Cooper's books in my permanent collection. If you haven't read them yet, you're in for a treat. His volumes of memoir and personal philosophy, listed below, are my favorites. Click on a book title to be taken to its page at Amazon.com.
All are highly recommended reading.