Archive for January, 2018

TMQ Watch: January 30, 2018.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Ah, the week between the end of the playoffs and the Superb Owl: or, as we like to call it, “the most boring week in sports”.

What does TMQ cover this week? Would you believe there’s almost nothing about television shows?

After the jump, this week’s TMQ


Obit watch: January 29, 2018.

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Mort Walker, creator of the “Beetle Bailey” comic strip. NYT. WP “Comic Riffs”.

Brian Walker said that the strip will continue, and that he and his brother Greg had been working on it with their father for decades.

Quaint and curious

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Lawrence forwarded me a link to a website that looks interesting, and that I hope to be able to explore further in the near future:

Yes, yes, I know: you didn’t know targets had balls. Ha ha, very funny. But seriously: is “the online presence of On Target!, The International Journal for Collectors of Target Balls”. “Target balls” being what exhibition shooters used in their demonstrations if they weren’t shooting live birds, and before the “clay pigeon” was introduced.

Quoth the “About” page:

These balls, similar in size and appearance to today’s glass Christmas tree ornaments, were the “only substitute ever invented for the living bird,” something that Annie Oakley is said to have had silk streamers stuffed inside, something that in one summer the Bohemian Glass Works (in New York City) was making at the rate of 1,250,000 over six months’ time, something Buffalo Bill Cody chased after on horseback, “old ladies” darned socks on and babies allegedly cut their teeth on — all according to an 1878 ad! In their heyday, target balls sold for a little over a penny each; today one ball has sold for as much as $28,500, although “common” balls, generally in amber or blue, can be acquired for as little as $100.

Of course, you can’t really talk about target balls without talking about the people who used them. Which is why On Target! tickles my fancy: I’m going to have to scrape up the bucks for a subscription and set of back issues.


Found at Half-Price Books a few days ago:

Precision Shooting at 1,000 Yards, edited by Dave Brennan. I’ve written before about the late and much lamented Precision Shooting magazine: I think I’ve also mentioned that there was a small press associated with it. I try to snap up books from that press whenever I find them, because:

  • they’re usually jam-packed with information
  • Even if they are old, the fundamental principles of accuracy don’t, and won’t change, barring some major revolution in arms technology (like caseless cartridges and electronic ignition systems, both of which have been ten years away for the 45 years I’ve been an avid person of the gun).

This is a collection of articles from the magazine. I paid $40 minus a 10% coupon for it, which is a little more than I usually like to spend on gun books. But asking prices for used copies on Amazon are in the $75 and up range, and the condition was good…

…and what made me pull the metaphorical trigger, so to speak, was the two-part article included in the volume, in which a small handful of eccentrics (and I mean that in the best possible way: I want to hang out with these guys) attempt to recreate Billy Dixon’s legendary long shot at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874.

Whodewhatnow? Billy Dixon was a buffalo hunter. He was part of a small group that was attacked by Comanches at Adobe Walls, Texas. They were besieged for the better part of three days (the Comanches initially intended to slaughter them in a sneak attack, but rolled a critical fail on initiative): on that third day, Mr. Dixon, encouraged by other members of the party, took a shot at a group of mounted Indians about 7/8ths of a mile away (remember, he was using an 1874 vintage Sharps rifle, with black powder cartridges, and no telescopic sight)…

…and knocked one of the warriors off his horse. The Comanches broke off the siege shortly afterwards.

For the rest of his life, Billy Dixon never claimed that the shot was anything other than a lucky one; his memoirs do not devote even a full paragraph to “the shot”.

(Side note: the Dixon memoirs are available from Project Gutenberg.)

(Side note 2: Mr. Dixon sounds like another person I’d love to have a few beers with. I love one of the things the authors of the Precision Shooting article say about him: to paraphrase, he didn’t hunt buffalo for the money, but because he loved long range shooting. Hunting buffalo was a great way to indulge that passion, and by the way make a few bucks on the side.)

Last time Mike the Musicologist was in Austin, this came up in discussion, though I disremember exactly how: I think we were discussing contemporary makers of falling block rifles, which led to a Google search, which led to me finding either this one or this one.

One other thing I find intriguing about this article: the shooters used rifles and bullets as close to Dixon’s as you could get at the time of their experiment, but used a modern smokeless black powder substitute instead of actual black power. Their reasoning for this:

What many modern shooters might not know is that black powder was, in that era, as highly developed as today’s best smokeless powders. Produced in England, Curtis & Harvey’s Diamond Grade was the world’s best, likely because of a superior charcoal root stock and extended blending time. As folklore had it, their charcoal came from a certain type of willow tree that grew only in one locale. Further, C&H could afford to prolong the blending operation because they could get a premium price for the superior product they produced. Serous target shooters widely acclaimed Kentucky Rifle from a United States producer, Hazards, as the best alternative choice but, nonetheless, a second-best choice. Behind these two premier powders came an entire plethora of brands, manufactured in various places around the world.

The author goes on to note that, if there was sufficient demand, someone somewhere would be turning out super-high-grade black powder today. But there isn’t enough demand, so the quality smokeless BP substitutes seem like a good choice for consistent results.

This casts a new light for me on a quote of the day I highlighted a while back from another buffalo hunter: “…by then I had begun to use the English powder…and it added 10 to 30 percent efficiency to my shooting.” I suspect this might have been a reference to the C&H product. Sadly, the Mayer book does not appear to be on Gutenberg, so I haven’t been able to confirm this.

History repeats itself…

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

…first as tragedy, second as farce.

TMQ Watch: January 23, 2018.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

After the jump, this week’s TMQ


Ken is the man that we all need.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Ken White is my new favorite person in the world.

At least, for the rest of the day today.

(Subject line hattip. Yes, I realize it’s about a vastly different Ken in a vastly different context, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to reference one of Kate’s more obscure but still rocking songs.)

Nostalgia is a moron.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

When I was a teenager shooting the (stuff) out of BB guns in my backyard, I wanted a LARC M19-A “Annihilator” badly.

I’m not sure why I never got one: as I recall, they were around $35 in 1983 money (about $86 in today money), and I’m pretty sure I had that from my lawn moving ventures. It may have been some other minor petty inconvenience, something like parental permission.

In retrospect, that was probably a good thing, since:

  • I probably would have gotten into trouble with it somehow.
  • I would have had to feed it BBs and Freon. And while BBs were readily available at the places we shopped, I don’t remember if Freon cans were. I know you could get them at auto supply stores, but those were sort of off the beaten path for me.
  • I hear in retrospect that the M19-A had some QC problems.

(Side note: that review the writer talks about? It was written by Peter Hathaway Capstick, and is reprinted in one of his collections.)

Anyway, I have a job now, and can drive. And the world has changed, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better.

On the better side: the Crosman DPMS SBR Full-Auto BB Air Rifle.

Completely useless for any purpose other than fun, and it probably eats BBs and CO2 cartridges like they’re going out of style. And I plead guilty to kind of wanting one anyway.

(Hattip: Say Uncle.)

…you can’t authentically get your ‘80s Miami Vice LARP on without 10mm Auto.

I’m kind of glad to see the 10mm is making a comeback: maybe this will lead to cheaper ammo, and more loadings for the caliber. But none of the guns Tam discusses really turn my crank.

Then again, I’m still hoping to find a reasonably priced S&W 1076 before May, so take my opinion with a few grains of salt, some lime, a little Cointreau, and some tequila.

Obit watch: January 24, 2018.

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

Edited to add: David “Cloud Atlas” Mitchell on A Wizard of Earthsea.

No kidding.

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Jason Kidd was fired yesterday as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In case you were wondering, this is a NBA team.

ESPN says this is the third NBA firing this year. (Memphis and Phoenix were the other two.)

He was 139-152 overall.

Obit watch: January 22, 2018.

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Hemmingway and Ruark have a new hunting partner.

Harry Selby passed away on Saturday at the age of 92.

I’ve touched briefly on Selby in the past, but more in the context of Ruark. So please indulge me:

Mr. Selby was a postwar protégé of the East Africa hunter Philip Hope Percival, who took Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway on safaris, and he became a professional hunter himself in the late 1940s. He took the American author Robert Ruark on safari in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), and with the 1953 publication of Ruark’s best-selling book “Horn of the Hunter,” Mr. Selby became one of Africa’s most famous hunting guides.

Without cellphones or evacuation helicopters, Mr. Selby had to be the doctor, mechanic, chauffeur, gin-rummy-and-drinking partner and universal guide, knowledgeable about mountain ranges, grassy plains, rivers, jungles, hunting laws, migratory patterns, and the Bushmen, Masai, Samburu, Dinka and Zulu tribes. He spoke three dialects of Swahili. And he improvised; if there was no firewood, he burned wildebeest dung.
He was no Gregory Peck, but had an easygoing personality that made for good company in the bush. He coped with emergencies, pulling a client clear of a stampede or a vehicle from a bog, treating snakebites or tracking a wounded lion in a thicket — his most dangerous game. He was left-handed, but his favorite gun was a right-handed .416 Rigby, which can knock down an onrushing bull elephant or Cape buffalo in a thundering instant.

For 30 years, Mr. Selby ran company operations in Botswana, and guided hunters and photographers into leased concessions covering thousands of square miles in the Okavango Delta in the north and the vast Kalahari Desert in the south, home of the click-talking Bushmen. He cut tracks and built airfields in the wilderness.
In 1970, he established Botswana’s first lodge and camps for photographic safaris. He hired guides and a large support staff for what became a dominant safari business in Southern Africa. After Ker, Downey and Selby was bought by Safari South in 1978, he remained a director, and even after resigning in 1993 he continued to lead safaris privately until retiring in 2000.

Noted actor Bradford Dillman.

Mr. Dillman played prominent roles in “The Enforcer” and “Sudden Impact,” the third and fourth films in the “Dirty Harry” series, and won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1975 for his work on the TV series “The ABC Afternoon Playbreak.”

He was “Capt. McKay” in “The Enforcer” and “Captain Briggs” (not to be confused with Hal Holbrook’s “Lt. Briggs” in “Magnum Force”) in “Sudden Impact”. As we all know, Callahan went through captains like CNN goes through Russian conspiracy theories.

And finally, more of local interest: Hisako Tsuchiyama Roberts. Mrs. Roberts and her husband, Thurman, founded the Salt Lick barbecue restaurant in Driftwood, a little outside of Austin.

Tsuchiyama Roberts, who held a masters degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, dedicated her professional life in Texas to running the restaurant in the idyllic setting. She brought her flavors of her own culture to the smoked meat specialists, according to her son, Scott Roberts, who in his 2014 book “Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family, and Love,” wrote about his mother’s tempura frying of vegetables and shrimp for the menu along with her addition of poppy seeds to cole slaw and celery seeds to potato salad.

…with her passing, family shared a tale of the diminutive Tsuchiyama Roberts felling a charging buck with the swing of a pecan bucket she was using for shelling and killing it with a rock while her husband and his friends were away on an unsuccessful hunting trip.

She was 104.

Convenience store news.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

The Trump administration has drafted plans to strip key authorities from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, senior administration officials said on Friday, an acknowledgment that the agency has all but abandoned its legacy of fighting liquor and tobacco smugglers.

Under the Trump administration’s plan, the Treasury Department would inherit the authority to investigate tobacco and alcohol smuggling. The A.T.F. would need a new name. One possibility: the Bureau of Arson, Explosives and Firearms, or A.E.F.

Good, but not good enough. As I’ve said before, there’s no reason for the continued existence of BATFE: let Treasury handle the tax collection part of their mandate (including NFA), and let the FBI handle the criminal investigation part.

Worth noting:

At the heart of the proposal is cigarette smuggling, a venture that becomes more lucrative with every tax increase. Cigarette taxes vary wildly. Virginia charges $3 per carton. New York charges $43.50. A simple plot to buy cigarettes in one state and sell them in another can generate tens of thousands of dollars. Criminal organizations rely on more complicated schemes to move untaxed cigarettes in bulk, evading federal and state taxes. By some estimates, more than half of New York’s cigarettes come from the black market.

Is there really a compelling reason for the Federal government to spend money from Texas taxpayers to keep people from buying smokes in Virginia and reselling them in New York without paying the $43.50 a carton tax? I know, organized crime: but New York has their own law enforcement agencies, and if they really wanted to shut down organized crime, they could drop the $43.50 a carton tax.

Obit watch: January 20, 2018.

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Paul Bocuse, one of the great French chefs.

I don’t have my copy of Alice Let’s Eat in front of me, but I remember Trillin quoting Bocuse: “Without butter, without cream, there is no point to cooking.” Bocuse was 91.

Dorothy Malone, Texan and retired actress. She was in Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” (and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). She also played Constance McKenzie for four out of five seasons of the “Peyton Place” TV series. (She was written out after season four.)

Dorothy Eloise Maloney was born on Jan. 30, 1924, in Chicago and grew up in Dallas, one of five children of Robert Ignatius Maloney and the former Esther Smith. Two of her sisters died of polio in childhood, and a brother was fatally struck by lightning in his teens.

Stansfield Turner, former CIA director.

Peter Mayle, author. I never read A Year in Provence but from the description it sounds a lot like a French version of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.