Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Hurt Locker

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -
George Orwell

I was quite pleased to see that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture and Director over Dances with Smurfs, er, I mean Avatar. Avatar was a visual feast with a somewhat weak story I heard, but The Hurt Locker is all around an incredible movie, one that should have had a lot more attention when it was in the theaters.

For a woman of words, there are few that describe this film well. Taut, incredibly intelligent, going somewhere deep in the heart of the psyche, a place some people really don't want to go. Some will view it and not pick up all the noise going on, there in the silence, or the silence there in all the noise, but it was there and deeply felt. I don't say this often but it was film that literally took my breath away.
The main character, James, appears on the surface to be a one dimensional cowboy, find the explosive, break the rules, disarm it, yet he remained to the very end, endlessly enigmatic for the illusory contradictions that perpetually fray his very being. The others, contradictions perhaps, yet not, with an adherence to structured direction and a guarded camaraderie so steadfast as to be almost baseless. I found the film psychologically astute for I've seen some of the personalities, working along side of them in the field, and now at home, many transitioning back to jobs stateside. These are the individuals who lived such days.

I read reviewers that seemed to dislike the movie because of their personal feelings about the war. There were others that said "wooden characters". Flawed? Yes, Wooden? No. Those that say such things are people that obviously have lived life in the safe little aquarium of kum ba ya land.

But I'm not above picking apart any film. Certainly parts of me looked at it closely. Let's just say I know a fair bit about explosives (from the good guy perspective) . And of course, there were some deep inaccuracies there, but not so the layman would notice. I'm not shy about critiquing the technical aspects of movie as it's watched, even if sometimes only Barkley listens.

Of course there are the guns. I notice those gaffes as well. Sure there were a few technical "huh's?", but overall I would not fault the film for that. Likely bringing in weapons for filming was a challenge to say the least. But I noticed a few familiar faces. A Beretta 92 (distinguished by a rounded trigger guard and butt-mounted magazine release) which later somehow changes to a Beretta 92 FS.

A Glock 19 (carried by the "on screen too quickly" Ralph Fiennes).

An M4A1 Carbine (oldie but goodie) but hey, wasn't there was a buttstock exchange between the 3rd and 4th generation stocks in the same scenes and in one scene an ACOG scope was briefly replaced by a red dot sight, before switching back. I think I saw an M16A4 (but those might have been airsoft replicas) .Then, a great sequence with a sand blasted Barret M107 (below with the main character spotting). In that scene you saw how really difficult it is to sight and kill a target operating behind and around cover. (Though I think the 50 cal bullets from the M107 would have cut through that mud hut like butter). A contractor's weapon in the movie, used after an ambush, you get a good look at. It's a weapon that can be used to detonate IED's as an anti material rifle so it made sense to me anyway, that the characters picked it up and used it to their best advantage.

Then, of course the AKM rifles, carried by both insurgents and the Iraqi National Guard. There was an FPK/PSL sniper rifle. an M2HB mounted on an Army Humvee and a host of things this gal isn't trained enough to recognize at one viewing. But still, a great view of equipment in action and handled well by the actors.

But all the gear wasn't wasn't what made this a "must see" movie, for me anyway. It was the psychological experience of being there with soldiers, good and not so good, brothers and enemies under the harsh sun. What made this film was not the technical aspects you could pick apart, but the real look into the adrenalin rushed, agonizingly difficult life of a soldier in a combat zone. It put a face on so many who really do not get the recognition for their service they deserve. There were a couple of scenes that really stood out for me, one in which James has a metal box of bits of the bombs he's diffused - "things that almost killed me".

His comrades are looking at it and one pulls out a wedding ring on a chain and queries why that is in there. James says "like I said, things that almost killed me."

Too often we forget that the people fighting overseas are more than soldiers. Flawed or perfect, they're still husbands, they're wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. Those we know and love, far from home.
Safe in our own world, we too easily forget the dangers these courageous souls face each day. We turn on the news and see news of an attack, another roadside bomb, another suicide bomber.I recalled another attack, this one hitting close to home. The massacre at the Radisson at Amman, Jordan, where I had just stayed just days prior, my survival not a matter of my fundamental beliefs, just timing.
Yet I almost hate to turn on some channels to only see another liberal diatribe against the war on terror. I agree with James Pavitt "The terrorist organizations are penetrable. I want every one of those SOBs looking over their shoulder." Honor requires difficulty. Keeping this type of terror away from our own shores will be on ongoing battle requiring resources and physical courage that are not limited by our past conceptions of what defines war.
John Stuart Mill said it best. " War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

But the coverage again shifts from the weather back to another show with historical footage of an Al Qaeda attack. As photos of adults carrying dead children from yet another site of collective human failure fill the screen, I am forced to confront a harsher truth. that of all God's creatures, man can be the cruelest. Only man, blessed with the ability to reason, is capable of reasoned hate. Will Durant, the great historian, once said that, "barbarism, like the jungle, does not die out but only retreats behind the barriers that civilization has thrown up against it and waits there always to reclaim that to which civilization has temporarily laid claim." As civilized people, we can think of no cause that justifies the deliberate taking of innocent lives. But as the years pictures of attack after attack tell me that there are those that do.

As I poured a cup of tea, I searched the channel for something of a lighter mood. There was coverage on the tornadoes down in Mississippi. Watching footage of the damage reminded me that for all our advances in technology, we are still vulnerable to nature's awesome power. Having survived over 20 years in environments that were happy to kill me on a daily basis, I developed a early on respect for mother nature. As the Tao Te Ching puts it: " Heaven and earth are inhumane; they view the myriad creatures as straw dogs."
I can look out an airplane window and see the terrible power of nature, I can look on TV and see the damage that it can do. But I can also look and see something worse and even more dangerous: Man's inhumanity to man. Durant argued that, "civilization is not imperishable. It must be relearned by every generation." For that is the bleakest truth of all, the one truth we must never forget. The truth that sustains our continued efforts, be it in Iraq, In Afghanistan or in the bustle of a street on U.S. soil. The replayed image of a man holding his head in his blood soaked hands, in great pain, puts the war into my living room, as it should, lest I forget as I wing my way home.

I turned the TV off when I felt the tears well up, and quietly left my safe and warm room. I went out into the back field, remote below the lightening sky, listening to the audible celestial stillness of stars drifting past. I sat perfectly still in the quiet, watching the ink seep from the sky overhead while in the east all is blood and fiery sky.

I saw a hawk dive down black and clean as a shadow. It's wings cleaved the shimmering air and the rising air was the pristine lift that moved it forward, the perfect stream in which it swam, and dwindled and vanished, having killed not for hate or some warped ideology, but simply to eat, taking not any more than it needed. These are the days of doubts, of long dark nights, when even the devout wonder if we are keepers of more than this, if we will know safety and peace or simply inherit the wind and the dark.

Yet, knowing these "rough men" (and women, Mr. Orwell) stand ready for us, I know we have a fighting chance.

- Brigid

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hands On Turkey Dinner

It's Spring Turkey Season. I've actually met people who did not equate the wild turkey seen around their property and town as being something that was edible. They believed that ALL turkeys come from the grocery store.

Store bought turkey is a convenience and can be tasty, plump and tender, if cooked well. But wild turkey does not have to mean that it's gamey and tough, if prepared properly. Brining and marinating are two popular ways to prepare the wild bird.

Turkey with Red Chili Gravy -courtesy of Gourmet Magazine.. Food that any cowboy would come running to the table for. But dinner is the easy part. What about bringing HOME the Turkey.

In hunting Spring Turkey, there are many things to consider, such as weather, gear, and calling one in..

Weather - You don't have to be a meteorologist to know what bad weather means for hunting. Cold. Wet. As a rule, turkeys gobble best on those high-pressure Spring mornings, where it is clear and calm. Get on a ridge or a bluff if you are not in a "flat" state and you will likely hear the gobbles a mile or more in all directions.

Windy days are not a turkey hunters friend. If you'd been whipped around all night in a tree, would you feel like gobbling in the morning? Even if they speak up, you may not hear the calls in a stiff breeze through the trees. If it's forecast to be windy through the day, dawn is your best bet, as the wind often dies down a bit at that time. A friction call might also work better than a diaphragm in piercing a stiff wind. Remember that the wind limits your hearing as well, so if you hear the Tom, he's likely closer than you think.
Nobody likes hunting in the rain. The turkey's don't like it much either and are pretty quiet, even roosting like a teenager and getting up as late as possible. I've seen gobblers that didn't bother to fly down until after 8 am on a day with rain.

Gear - Unlike whitetails, turkeys have been found to see and assimilate some colors. Both the females and the subordinate toms react to the changing blues, reds and whites of a dominant gobbler’s head and neck during the Spring breeding season. For the female turkeys (hens) the color-pulsing head stimulates them for mating, for the beta toms, it suppresses the breeding urge (no thanks, you take the pretty one. ) Even so, laws are such that you must wear some hunters orange on your person when hunting turkeys. I've known people that turkey hunted in "street clothes" but if your clothes are not patterned to be in harmony with the local environment and you stick out like an elephant at a steel plate shoot, you might as well say goodbye to the hunt and go home. I like RealTree products, but I have also hunted in some generic brands from Big Box Mart. But whomever the manufacturer,is you want clothing that becomes part of the environment you are in that day.
Care of your hunting attire is also essential. If you are a female hunter, you are likely to be doing your own laundry. Having three brothers I know that "look I did the laundry for you and (insert one here) shrunk, dyed pink, ruined your favorite shirt" is a plot to get out from doing laundry again. It's OK. We know that, and we love you anyway. Call me old fashioned but I like taking care of my guy's stuff. But no matter who does the laundry in your house, use a soap free of scent. The turkey's sense of smell is nothing like a whitetails (it's their hearing,not smell, that is acute). If UV brighteners are utilized, the dyes present in some fabrics make the UV wavelengths stand out or "bounce",(look at me Mr. Turkey!), making them more visible to game. There are specific detergents that prevent this from happening; absorbing the UV so the clothes do not fade easily. When not in use, store your hunting clothes in airtight bags after thoroughly drying (I dry outside on a line) to keep them safe from dust, insects and household "man-like" odors.
These products are a favorite in my house, for both turkey and whitetail and can usually be had at a reasonable price.
Turkey Physiology Basics - You don't need ear lobes to hear like no one's business. Turkeys have amazingly acute hearing. Using small holes in the sides of their head, they can pinpoint the location of another turkey (or a hunter mimicking a turkey) with remarkable precision. As you go out to where you are going to hunt, remember, heavy footsteps, the slapping of body or hands against brush, or even that distinctive "click" of you pressing your shotgun safety can send the turkey running and ducking for cover. You may NOT see him again, that day. On the plus side, turkeys have a poor sense of smell. You don't have to study the wind to the degree you do with whitetail hunting. I don't have to worry my shampoo will be too much scent and if I put on some cherry lip gloss, it won't scare away the game.
A turkey has monocular vision (eyes set in the sides of its head). But they make up for the lack of 3D sight by cocking the head left or right to gauge distance between them, other turkeys and danger, including you. If you thought that grade school teacher had eyes in the back of her head, think again. A turkey can twist it's long, limber neck 360 degrees, literally giving it eyes in the back of its head. Their night vision is poor, which is why I set up while it is dark. During the day, the turkey sees more sharply than a human with 20/20 sight. These laser-like eyes are the turkey’s primary method of "home defense" and you can be assured he is looking for you.

Turkeys are fast, preferring to run. You think you've got the perfect shot, turn your head where he can see you for just a microsecond, and he explodes!. Ducking his head and tucking in low to the ground he'll dart off faster than a 67 Cuda. Turkeys have been clocked at up to 12 mph, and their lean, strong muscular legs, though making only for good soup stock, not eating, can catapult him into the air for flights up to 400 yards. Turkeys have been recorded at flight speeds up to 50 mph, and even after that short burst of flight, the turkey can set its wings and glide another half mile to elude you. This is one area I will caution the beginner. You do need to learn to sit still. Scratch your head, lift your arm and if they sense or see you -bye bye, bird. Turkeys are skittish from the moment they peck out of their shells, growing more so each day of life as they elude their many predators. A falling limb, the shadow of a hawk, that turkey you are hunting is burning holes in the brush with his sharp eyes looking for danger. It is not a hunting sport for the fidgety. You also might want to consider who you invite to tag along. On one hunt, right as we called in three nice Jakes (young male turkeys), the vegetarian girlfriend of one of the guys, who begged to go along, jumped up and yelled. "Run, Mr. Turkey, Run for your life!" Nice girl, but I didn't ever see her again agter that.

Calling - a mouth call is popular, but I certainly didn't take to it like a "duck to water" or even a "turkey to Spring". So mostly I have used a slate call. There's lots of good info on the web for choosing a turkey call., so I won't get into it here. It sort of goes without saying that when you make your call in Springtime, it's best to mimic a love starved hen. But don't rule out some gobbler clucking and yelping. That might work better than you think as you sound like a happy drifter amongst turkey society. A subordinate longbeard who's getting neither "lucky" or rich, looking for a buddy to hang out with may come to check you out. Or a dominant gobbler may strut over to kick your ass.

I once had a helpful fellow at my favorite large outdoors store sell me a hoot owl call, guaranteeing me it would get the turkeys to gobble. He also gave me some guidance on good places to hunt where I was going, close to town, but "off the beaten track" and open to the public. "A park service road would take you up to a perfect hillside spot to hunt, with lots of turkeys", he said. So I drove in a ways to hunt, deep into that forest in southwest Missouri, setting up on the side of an Ozark mountain. You want to sneak up as close as you dare to a roosted turkey, then set up and
listen. If the Tom thinks he's Tom Jones and starts belting out love tunes and you hear no hens clucking, yelping or throwing their underwear at him, don’t call too early. Wait until the sky glimmers pink, then cast out a tree yelp and a few soft clucks to let the bird know you’re there. There on the side of that desolate Ozark mountain hillside, I did just that. As light broke the landscape I hooted. I waited. I heard another hoot. Then silence, then another hoot, and another, and another. Oh My Lord- it was an OWL convention! I never did see or hear a turkey, or see a turkey. Going back to area's only hotel, I ran into about a dozen empty handed hunters in the lobby grabbing coffee, hunters who apparently had the same idea to hunt this remote spot. I looked at them and said "hoot owl call? Salesman Bill at Bass Pro?" They looked at me and said "yup".
I had better luck closer to home, where I drew a nice Jake in with a slate call. Remember if he gobbles at you loudly, BE QUIET! He thinks you’re a hen, and he knows where you are. If you don't hear him trying to chat you up though, cluck and yelp just a bit more to get his attention over to where you and your trusty shotgun are sitting. If it's too quiet, relax. Listening carefully for thumping wings as he heads down out of the tree. As he lands, throw out a little cackle his way. He might wander over to check you out. Once he starts walking your way, you may not have to call again.

Allow the turkey to approach within 30-35 yards. Do not raise your shotgun quickly, so not to spook him. Bring the shotgun up slowly and smoothly and take aim for the turkey's head or the eye. Body shots often result in a wounded bird or a big mess to clean up to prepare him for the pot. Be sure of your target.
Do not shoot through brush, thinking you see a turkey. As in ANY shooting, clearly identify your target before getting near the trigger.

These are just a few tips I've learned. I'm always learning, never the expert, just someone that loves to hunt and shoot. Make a friend of a turkey hunter, someone to learn from. There are organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, made up of men and women that know turkeys and hunt turkeys. If you don't know any turkey hunters, ask at your local sporting goods dealer. He or she should know some of the turkey hunters in your local area from purchases made and may be able to steer you towards individuals, clubs or groups that love to share their knowledge. Don't forget your state's Department of Conversation. They may also know those in your area that can teach you as many states have a hunter mentoring program. If you have a mentor, your chances of learning quickly and more easily are assured.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Home on the Range Canines

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Photograph (c) Home on the Range and Company

Jayne: "See, Vera? Dress yourself up you get taken out somewhere fun."
- Firefly

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weapons of Mass Breakfast

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The one positive thing you could say about the bread products around him was that they were probably as edible now as they were on the day they were baked. Forged was a better term. Dwarf bread was made as a meal of last resort and also as a weapon and a currency. Dwarfs were not, as far as Vimes knew, religious in any way, but the way they thought about bread came close.
-- (Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant)

In the Discworld novel The Fifth Elephant a pivotal plot point is the theft of a dwarven artifact called the Scone of Stone, a very well preserved bit of dwarven battle bread that is used in their coronations. A parallel is drawn between the Scone of Stone and actual history, in that it is also broken and replicated.

The real Stone of Scone was also known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone, an oblong block of red sandstone, about 26 x 16 inches (and over 330 pounds). At each end of the stone is an iron ring, for transport. Historically, the artifact was kept at the now-ruined abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland. It was used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland and later in England. One legend has that it was the pillow stone used by the Biblical Jacob. More believe, however, that it was the Coronation Stone of the early Dál Riata Gaels when they lived in Ireland, which they brought with them when settling Caledonia.

Eventually housed in Westminster Abbey, the stone was stolen by four college students in 1950 with the purpose of returning it to it's rightful home in Scotland. Their well intended larceny resulted in it being broken in two. Later repaired, it was returned to the Abbey though rumor persisted that what was returned was a duplicate copy made and the original was hidden in Scotland.The other reference I remember for it was the The Highlander TV series, that featured a humorous episode called The Stone of Scone where Duncan MacLeod, Amanda, and Hugh Fitzcairn were responsible for the 1950 theft. The end of the episode implies that the authentic stone was left on a golf course in Scotland
Oatmeal Scones with raisins and cinnamon. Dense, full of whole grain, but tender, with just at touch of sweetness. Worth grabbing for breakfast. But don't throw at anyone, they're too good to waste.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Movie Night Madness

Oh Please. NOT a Steven Seagall movie?


There's not too many nights I have a lot of free time. I write my blogs mostly very early in the morning or at hotels at night, when I'll do 2 or 3 at a time and save them for those days I don't sit down. Weekends, there is work to be done around the house, brass to process, critters to corral and friends and family to feed. And sleep. The nights in a hotel will add to that sleep deficit thing. But it's always fun to have a couple friends over, make some snacks and watch an action flick.

Especially with a big bowl of Appetizer Crack and some chips.

Last week's selection was "The Replacement Killers".

If you didn't try appetizer crack, otherwise known as "disappearing appetizer" on the recipe sidebar, you should. It's healthy, low fat, no animal products for my two vegetarian readers, Survival Chick and A.R., and it's unbelievably good. The first time I made it, for Tam and Bobbie and Data Viking, we polished off the bowl. (And it was not a small bowl). If you're watching your carbs, celery sticks make a great transport unit for this stuff.

It was snack food for a recent movie night. And a good movie it was. But like any movie involving guns, things that blow up and action, you just can't help but notice the small details. Out loud.

Sniper setting up on a hill to take out his target.

"The Gun is totally disassembled?"

"The scope is completely off of it, WT. . . ."

"No Free Floating Barrel?"

9 MM. " 9 MM?????"
Then, later on, towards the end.

"Why do all the bad guy guards have short barrelled AR15's? They're going to make so much noise the every cop in the county will be here to arrest all the now deaf people".

Sigh. But the plot was interesting, the acting very good and I was actually silent for a while, until the last action scene.

"Oh come on! M203 doesn't work that way!!"

There's probably a reason guys brave enough to ask me out never wanted to take me to the theater.

If you haven't tried the recipe, do. If you haven't seen the movie, good flick. Next week - Zombieland on DVD . And 7 layer dip.