Say What?

Because I used to buy ammo from by the pallet, I ended up on their “Great Customer!” mailing list, which means I get bombarded with “deals” on a daily basis. (Seriously, CTD: you guys need to update your customer purchase history algorithms.)

Anyway, I used the word deals in quotes, because I just got this offer:

Wait wait wait: fifteen bucks for a small ammo can? The ones they used to throw in if you bought a case of ammo from them? I remember gun shows where the dealers had them stacked high and were trying to sell the things for $5 a pop. Most went home with them.  Hell, I used to give the damn things away at the range once I’d emptied them — a reasonably frequent occurrence — just so I wouldn’t have to schlep them home.

Gah. This is what happens when you disappear from polite society for a few years; you come back, and everything’s suddenly unaffordable. You never see stuff like this make it into the economists’ calculation of inflation and the rising cost of living…

Nice Surprise

This may come as a surprise to many people, but I’ve often had a hole in my gun safe when it came to .22 semi-auto pistols. The reason was simple: I donated my Browning Buck Mark to a worthy cause (a young lady who couldn’t afford to buy a gun, ever, because she was a single mother in a low-paying job), and anyway, everyone else in the family had a .22 pistol (Daughter and The Mrs. each had a Buckmark, and the Son&Heir a couple of Ruger Mk IIs), so I never really needed one for myself. If I was going to teach someone to shoot — which was often — I just borrowed one of the Buckmarks, and off I went. Then the kids started leaving the house, taking their pistols with them, the little beasts, and we had to sell Connie’s Buckmark to pay the water bill one month. So while my other pistol needs were (ahem) more than adequately filled, for the longest time I had no .22 semi-auto pistol of any description in my safe. (I have never mentioned this before now, because I’m pretty sure that not owning a .22 pistol may actually be breaking some Texas state law.)

Well, everyone should have a little .22 pistol in the house because… do I really need to explain this? Anyway, one of my friends got sick of me bellyaching about it, and for my birthday in November last year, he got me an excellent present: a prepaid order for the new Ruger Mk IV 22/45 model pistol — due for release “sometime next year”, as he put it. Well, “next year” became this year, and what with recent events, the thing slipped my mind completely.

So last week I got a call from the gun store saying in essence, “How long do you want us to hold onto this shiny new gun for you?”, and after kicking myself a few times, off I went to pick it up.

I’ve respected Ruger .22 pistols in many respects for a long time, and owned a couple before, but my major quibble — in fact the thing that made me pause before buying a new Ruger (back when I had the money to actually buy guns… aaah, those were good times) — was not Ruger’s perennially iffy triggers, but the hassle involved in field-stripping the little buggers for cleaning (Cliff Notes: disassembly, easy; reassembly, “I’m-gonna-throw-this-bloody-thing-in-the-pool! “). This was why for many years, my .22 pistol of choice was the Browning Buckmark, which was far less problematic in this regard (and had a better trigger, too).

Anyway, the hole in my gun safe has now been filled with this creature:

Note the shrouded barrel (which is a little “tactical” for me, but it also means that yay, there’s no room for Ruger’s annoying little message that — get this — guns can be dangerous). It also has a threaded barrel tip, which means that if suppressors are taken off the NFA registry soon (and they might be), I’ll have one badass-looking .22 pistol.

“Yeah, yeah, Kim… but how does it shoot, and what’s it like to take apart?”

The shooting is fine. The trigger is about the same as or even slightly better than other Ruger .22 pistols, i.e. acceptable, and the gun is more accurate than I can shoot it. (I forgot the targets at the range, sorry.)

But the real surprise comes with the field-stripping — and this is going to cause the prices of Mk II and Mk III pistols to drop as their owners sell them off to replace them with the Mk IV.

This new Ruger pistol is probably easier to field-strip and reassemble than any other .22 pistol on the market. Here’s how it works:

  1. Remove all boolets (and the mag) from the gun. (I can’t believe I still have to tell people this, but every year…)
  2. Cock the piece and click the safety catch up into SAFE.
  3. Press the little button under the slide tabs at the back.
  4. Lift the slide assembly off the frame.

And that’s it: no special tools, no screwdrivers, no coins, nothing. The firing pin assembly is loose in the slide, and just drops out into your hand for cleaning. Here’s a pic-by-pic:

And now for the best part: the reassembly.

  1. Slip the firing pin assembly back into the slide (it can only go one way).
  2. Place the hinge hook back into the front of the frame.
  3. Drop the slide back onto the frame, and push it closed until you hear the click.

And that, my friends, is why this new pistol from Ruger is the frigging bee’s knees. (I should point out that the field-stripping routine is the same for the regular Mk IV Standard “Luger-style”grip as my 22/45 model with its “1911” grip.) I don’t know how reliable the Mk IV is — I’ll report back after a few hundred more rounds have passed through it, oh, say by the end of the month — but it’s a Ruger, so the chances are good

I have only two more words to say about the Ruger Mk IV pistol: get one.


Also from my Disqus history (and yes, this actually happened to me):

“I’d never heard of the term “nooner” until I came to the U.S. back in the mid-1980s. I thought it meant a lunchtime cocktail. So when I suggested to a couple of the ladies at the office that we nip out for a quick nooner… HR was not impressed.”

Asking For It

As we all know, the dreadful Kim Kardashian was attacked and robbed while in Paris attending some fashion show or other, several months ago. Needless to say, as this chick (and the entire Kardashian coven) has become rich by being, well, famous and Kardashian, whole swathes of the population experienced some kind of schadenfreude because, the thought went, she’d brought this on herself by her exhibitionism of wealth and endless self-promotion. Of course she was going to become a target for thieves and other lowlifes.

I remember commenting on this when it first appeared at Insty’s site (can’t find the link, it’s too long ago), but thanks to the eidetic memory of Disqus, I was able to retrieve my comment on the topic:

I’m calling “bullshit” on this whole disgusting line of thought. On that basis, nobody should drive a Bentley because it “invites” car thieves and/or carjackers, no pretty woman should wear sexy clothing because it “invites” rape, nobody should seek celebrity because it “invites” stalking, and no one should live in a showpiece home because it “invites” burglary.
The essence of self-control and civilized behavior is that one does NOT give in to temptation, no matter how severe the apparent provocation. Believe me, if I were alone in a room with some foul liberal, there would be considerable temptation to beat the crap out of him, but of course I’d never do that because it is a.) wrong and b.) illegal. (And if you think there’s no difference between the two, the Clinton Foundation has a job for you.)
I yield to no man in my distaste for the entire Kardashian coven, but to suggest that they’ve “invited” wrongdoing upon themselves by their revolting behavior is simply excusing larceny, and it says more (unpleasantness) about the speaker than it does about the Kardashians.

For some reason, this whole thing has stuck in my own memory, and my disgust towards the Perpetually Envious (for there is no other explanation for the phenomenon) has not dissipated over time, but grown.

We see this over and over again in other manifestations, not just of celebrities like the Kardashians, but even leveled at heroes or people with some kind of exceptional ability. Here’s a good example: Tiger Woods. Tiger became famous like few other sportsmen ever have other than maybe Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. Tiger did this by being a Black (okay, half-Black) kid who invaded a white-shoe Male Patriarchal country-club sport and absolutely crushed it under his Nike golf shoes. Yet, when it came out that he’d been a busy little beaver — or maybe busy with little beavers — and his beautiful White wife threw him out of his own house, most of his sponsors dropped him like a rock because of his immorality or some such bullshit. His career tanked (unfortunately coincidental with a series of devastating injuries to his back), and the Jackals Of The Press had a field day, lording it over the unfortunate superstar with allusions to Icarus and other such smug, condescending crap.

As I said, all this schadenfreude stems from no other emotion than envy — the envy that small-minded people have for others who have done better than they have in their own miserable little lives: “too big for their boots”, or “the higher they fly, the harder they fall” and similar disgusting tripe.

Well, I called bullshit on this back then, and I’m doing the same now, only with feeling. Actually, I feel even more sympathy for Kim Kardashian than I do for Tiger, because at least one can say that Tiger engaged in self-destructive behavior; all Kim ever did was flaunt her body, celebrity and wealth to a fawning media — the very same media that trashed Tiger, lest we forget.

And I’m not blaming just the journalists (especially the loathsome British tabloids and magazines) who published this nonsense; quite frankly, if people didn’t want to read their crap, those articles wouldn’t be published, so clearly there is a large group of people who feel that way.

We need to be better than this. It doesn’t matter whether we approve of how the Kardashians make their wealth — how someone makes their money should be  of no concern to anyone (unless it’s illegally done, in which case we have police and such to deal with it). And if we’re going to be talking about distasteful ways of making money, let’s talk about the disgusting record industry… [25,000 words of angry rant deleted] …and yet nobody would say, if some record company executive’s wife was robbed, that she had it coming.

No: if hundreds of thousands of people are going to tune into “Life With The Kardashians” or whatever they call their stupid TV show, and buy the merchandise that is quite unexceptional but for the “Kim” brand on it, then it is a perfectly valid way for the Kardashians to make money. Hell, talking about shit products, even I paid good money to watch the Chicago Cubs fail, year after year; I’m not going to call someone stupid for buying some celebrity-endorsed cat-piss perfume. (Yeah, I know the Cubs finally won the Series last year; we can all now look forward to another hundred years of failure while the franchise fleeces the rubes again.)

The whole mindset comes from the “tall flower” syndrome — the notion that the person who stands out of the crowd will have his head cut off (corollary: and deservedly so) — but speaking as one who has often been that tall flower (mostly because of my big mouth), let me tell you, it’s a stupid, disgusting notion and we would do well to be rid of it.

Cara Mia

Back in the old days, I used to post pictures of beautiful women on Sundays, mostly of screen sirens of the black-and-white movie era. I’m not going to do that anymore, because I think I mined that particular vein pretty thoroughly, and anyway it’s too constricting a topic. Instead, on Sundays, I’m going to talk about anything that takes my fancy — stuff that’s not part of the normal rants and gun worship during the week. Today, and for many Sundays to come, I’m going to talk about Beautiful Things (of any definition)… and if I run out of those things to talk about, well, we’re all in trouble.

I have often been teased about my love for Italian cars — not just Ferraris, Maseratis and Lambos, but for the… lesser brands like Fiat and Alfa Romeo, if we can call them that. Here’s what I wrote about Alfa Romeos many, many years ago.

You get into your Alfa, and wonder of wonders, it starts first time. You set out on your journey, a journey that will take you over fifty miles on curving, twisting mountain roads. You accelerate, and your Alfa whispers in your ear: “Come, cara mia, I can give you more than that; you may use me, use me hard, and I will reward you beyond your wildest dreams.” So you accelerate, and still that soft Italian voice urges you on: “Is that all you ask from me, cara? I have more to give, if you will just ask me for it.” You drive at what you think is an impossible speed; surely, you think, you will crash soon. But the miles fly past, the curves disappear in your rearview mirror (assuming you have the courage to look into it), and still your Alfa purrs encouragement into your ear. Finally, you reach your destination, shaking as though you have just made love to the world’s most beautiful Italian woman. You sit there for a moment, savoring the experience. Then you get out of the Alfa, and the door handle comes off in your hand.

Alfa Romeos aren’t like that anymore. Oh sure, they can be maddening to drive, their cars are more suited for the track than for everyday use, and they’re still built for runty Italians than fat Americans.

Until now.

Allow me to introduce to you the greatest performance sedan on Earth, the car that costs less than half any other performance saloon car, yet still delivers 512hp (!) and a top speed of nevermind: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

It derives its immense power from a smallish 2.9-liter V6 engine, rides like a dream, and is an order of magnitude better than any other Alfa sedan ever made. More impressive still is the build quality, which is apparently on a par with any luxury performance sedans extant, in that its door handles aren’t going to fall off, the electrical system works just fine, and the automatic transmission, astonishingly, is better than the manual gearbox. I haven’t yet driven the Giulia, of course, but from all accounts, this is not your father’s Alfa Romeo. And most important of all, it costs around $85,000 versus, say, a Maserati Quattroporte GTS Lusso ($165,000 for a 3.9-liter V8 yielding 455hp) or a Porsche Panamera 4S ($125,000 for a 2.9-liter V6 yielding 440hp), and is only a few grand more expensive than its nearest real rival, a loaded BMW M3 — and the M3 isn’t nearly as exciting to look at and, from all accounts, to drive, with its 425hp I6 engine. Only the Mercedes CL AMG 63 ($88,000 for a 4.0-liter V8 yielding 503hp) comes anywhere close to the Alfa in cost and power — and like the Beemer, the Merc is dead boring to look at.

But for me, comparisons are boring. What’s exciting is that Alfa Romeo USA will at last be selling not a go-kart like the 4C, but a real car for grownups.

(I can’t afford a Giulia, of course; a Fiat 124 Spider Lusso  ($28,000 for a 1.4-liter turbo yielding 160hp) is much more to my wallet’s capacity, and I’ll be writing about that one later.)

But Alfa is back… and it’s just as exciting a prospect as its last beautiful sport saloon car worthy of the Alfa name, the Alfetta GTV6 (2.5-liter V6 yielding 160hp):

I have driven this beauty, from memory, back in about 1983 — and my earlier description of driving an Alfa Romeo is based on this model, driven through South Africa’s mountainous Van Reenen’s Pass at frightening speed. (I should point out that the GTV6 also won the European Touring Car Championship for an unprecedented four years in succession, from 1982 to 1985.)

Today, the 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio would eat its lunch.

An Unexpected Find

I was wandering along some tributary of Teh Intarwebz looking for something or other, when I came across a series of paintings of extraordinary beauty done by Russian-Israeli artist Leonid Afremov, and completely forgot what I’d been looking for. Here’s one that caught my eye first, called Heavy Rain:

Now, the thing about traditional Impressionism is that it was created at a time when light in cities was soft, made by gaslight and candlelight  — and needless to say, the en plein air trend of 19th-century Impressionism meant that most paintings were daytime scenes. Night, in the countryside, means darkness (unless you’re Van Gogh, of course, and see the stars as miniature suns). Cityscapes were mostly lit by the sun, and to those painters, the city sun was harsh (which is why there are so many Impressionist paintings of dusk, dawn or rainy scenes, where the light is softer). Here’s one by Edouard Cortès, to illustrate [sic] the point:

Édouard Leon Cortès Tutt’Art@

But Afremov is a modern Impressionist painter — he was born in 1955, which makes him a year younger than I — and the light he sees is harsher, brighter, more artificial: neon, light bulbs and florescent tubes, and he uses a palette knife rather than a brush to make the contrast even more pronounced. That doesn’t take away from his wonderful skill and expressiveness, of course; just look at his exquisite Promenade, and tell me it’s not evocative:

If you go to DeviantArt, you can see more.

I just love his work. If I could, I’d buy prints of almost everything he’s ever done and hang them on my walls.