Category Archives: Aesthetic Standards

It Starts (or Should Have Done) with a .22

I visit gun shows. Gun store owners groan about this, but I give them enough of my business that they have no reason to. The best practice is to go without any expectations (sounds Buddhist, no?). I never find what I’m looking for, or I find a desired weapon, but it’s price is far above reason or what I can afford. These days, for example, even Mosin Nagants run in the several hundred dollar range–thanks, Mr. President. (Under a hundred is a rational price for that rifle.) But when I plunk down my $5 for a few hours in heaven and just wander the streets of lead and blued steel, something I didn’t expect always pokes its muzzle crown above the others.

Last weekend (2 July 2011), I did my duty as a rebellious colonial and went to the convention center in Springdale to tempt myself into commerce. A friend had to tell me about it (thanks, Duke), since there weren’t the usual billboards up, and I really wasn’t planning to buy anything. There was the usual plethora of overpriced and overhyped whizzbangs (can anyone tell me what the purpose of a Taurus Judge is [and don’t say snakes, ’cause that ain’t it!]?) and reasonably priced, but out of my financial reach beauties. Someday, I’m going to have a flintlock rifle and a Mauser Broomhandle, but not today, alas. Still, as is the way of things, in my sweep through the aisles, a lonesome little belle waited coyly in a rack until I was close enough to see her batting her scope at me.

Oh, dear me, what was this thing of aesthetic pleasure? A Marlin 60W, semiautomatic, fourteen plus one shot (see end note for a tangent), .22 LR rifle with a Tasco 3-7 x 20 scope. $150, and she was mine.

There are two points here that must be explained. I tend to approach things in my own unique, individual, special (and bassackward) manner. My first rifle was an aforementioned Mosin Nagant, and I’ve been working upward from there. My reasoning was that I had no interest in hunting squirrels, so I ought to go for full power. The problem with this is that full power means full recoil, and that means flinch. To this date, I’m not much good at shooting for groups (the goal being to put many rounds through as small a circle as possible from a great distance away). I can hit a two liter soda bottle at a hundred yards when I have time to practice (as long as the bottle sits really still. . .). Well, perhaps I’m just hitting near it and scaring the poor thing into jumping.

I always excused this by saying that I can put a round into the kill zone of an evil Coke or an offensive Dr. Pepper, and that certainly would meet the requirements for minute of deer. But bad guy holding a hostage? Myeh, how likely is that? But none of this felt satisfying, since perfection is the goal, and we all must work ourselves as close to it as we can get.

The other point is that Tasco scopes may be derided as cheap. That I can dismiss easily. Cheap is good enough for me at my current level of expertise. I’ll go for Leupold when I’m good enough to use it. But more than that, a .22 Long Rifle weapon isn’t going to rattle the optics all that much. One characteristic that makes the expensive scopes cost so much is their ability to take abuse from powerful cartridges, but .22 rimfire is a different order of business.

Now that I’ve given the background, let’s talk about why I love this rifle. For one thing, the .22 Long Rifle cartridge has much to recommend it. A box of 550 costs around $15. Compared to fifty rounds of .303 British surplus that go for $30, you can see the advantage. The .22 is also the gentlest round in common use today. It’s quiet, and the recoil is a feathery plink, instead of a punch to the shoulder. This means that shooting it just involves basic technique–breathing, trigger squeeze, sights on target, hold. This is the rifle with which to learn how to be good.

After setting up at the range, I loaded the tubular magazine (no thumb-busting spring-loaded floor plate to push down) and took aim on a bench rest. The first rounds were off, as I expected from an unzeroed scope, so I sighted in and then settled in to see what could happen. Pop. . . pop. . . pop. . . pop. . . pop straight into a group that I could cover with a quarter at twenty-five and fifty yards. In rapid fire, the group opened up a little, but each round was still within an inch or two of my point of aim. Was it the .22 cartridge? The microgroove barrel (sixteen shallow grooves, instead of two to six or so deep ones)? I can’t credit myself for shooting that well.

So much for paper. My next targets were my favorite bottles. Now, as I said, I’m much better with those than with flat bulls eye sheets, but this sweet little Marlin let me shoot better than just the bottle. At fifty yards from offhand (unsupported, without a sling), I was hitting bottle caps!

That whole day, I was giddy. Townsend Whelen once said that only accurate rifles are interesting, and my Marlin 60 is mighty interesting. She was also cheap to buy and is cheap to feed. In that, she sounds like me. If you want to find us, check the local range first.

End Note:

The Marlin company originally made the 60 rifle with a seventeen round tubular magazine (seventeen in the tube and one in the chamber), but the pissant legislature in the People’s Republic of New Jersey decided that semiautomatic weapons that could hold more than fifteen rounds were assault weapons. Uh huh. The Mujahideen and your neighborhood crack dealer both carry .22 rimfire rifles when they want to bust a cap on a squirrel. So Marlin reduced the capacity to fourteen in the tube in the 1980s to comply with the new law.

If I had been a Marlin executive at the time, I’d have looked into just how many rifles we were selling in New Jersey (seriously, could the numbers have been above two digits?) and told the whole state to get down on its belly and beg for forgiveness, something like what Ronnie Barrett did to the People’s Republic of California. But I was just a teenager then, living with anti-gun parents.

Shocking Moral Decay!

Today, I must inform my dear readers about a shocking decline in morality. Friends, there is trouble in River City. There’s trouble in the valleys and in the high places. There’s trouble in the capitals of the nations and in the lowliest villages. We are all participating in this wickedness, and unless we put a stop to this, we’re all doomed.

Of what am I speaking? Why do I stand on the mountaintop, crying in the wilderness? Why am I scrambling my allusions? It’s because all around me, and all around you, shocking sin is taking place. We know from years of solid Biblical instruction that monogamy is God’s law. Abraham and David and the Apostle Paul all married only one woman and were faithful to her throughout their lives. (She was well used by the time that Paul got to her, but hey, being faithful is being faithful.) But we see others around us violating this every day.

Not only are they spreading their filthy behavior about to any takers, they are doing it in front of us, in public, in front of children and dogs. I see it, and what is worse, I smell it everywhere I go. It makes me itch with irritation and weep for the shame of it. This wanton sexuality without regard to decency is the characteristic of the age, but I don’t have to accept that.

Now some will say that this behavior is none of my business. Some will ask why I feel the need to impose my own morality on others. Some will observe that much of our economy depends on tolerating and even promoting this wickedness. That’s as may be, but I, for one and I fear only one, cannot permit my soul to be coated by the sins of others just for a little convenience. That’s base cowardice, and I call anyone who goes along with this sin yellow.

But this is nothing new. You can read about this evil going on in the great texts of literature throughout human history. This sin has been going on as long as we’ve been around, and we’ve done nothing to stop it. We’ve even encouraged it. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this.

What’s to be done? Write your member of Congress. Write on your blog. Put up signs. If you have two cloaks, sell one, and give to the campaign. Whatever you do, you have to join the movement. Only we can save the world from sin.

We must stop plants from having sex in public!


Where’s my Benadryl?


MGM is producing a remake of the 1984 film, Red Dawn.  The original is a classic, in the same way that The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is:  interesting story with cheap effects and bad acting.  It starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, if that tells you anything.  That being the case, the idea of the story was a good warning.  It has illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, pretending to be migrant workers, with the purpose of disrupting lines of communication with the Soviets begin the invasion.  As speculation about what could happen, it worked.

So much for the original.  As has been noted many times, film studios these days are incapable of making anything new, Hollywood having adopted the principle of recycling.  Sometimes, the result is worthy or good fun–True Grit or The A-Team, for example.  But usually, we get abominations like 2009’s Star Trek.

Since the film has yet to be released, I haven’t seen it.  According to the news this morning (17 March 2011), MGM is worried that since the new version had the Chinese as the invading power, China might get miffed and not let MGM play in its economy.  The studio is using an airbrush to change national symbols to those of North Korea.  It seems that the DPRK doesn’t have enough movie theaters to warrant MGM’s concern.

What an interesting world.  McDonalds is selling hamburgers in the former Soviet Union, and the Chinese get editorial power on our movies.  My response to all of this is simple:


Woodworking Observations

I’m nearly finished with the bookshelf that I mentioned in an earlier post, and I’ve had several observations during the process:

1.  Quality costs money for a reason.

2.  Screws are better than nails.

3.  The can of stain claims to cover 900 square feet, but a square foot of pine and a square foot of oak are not the same.  When it comes to pine, there’s no such thing as too much stain.

4.  Wood putty covers a host of sins.

5.  Don’t hide all the tool marks.  Modern industrial processes can produce flawless artifacts, but human beings show what they’ve done.

6.  Use proper ventilation when applying. . . um. . . oh, wow!  Double rainbow!  What was I saying?

7.  We’ve cut down all the old growth trees, so today’s wood is cross-grained and knotty.

8.  If I build it out of real wood instead of pressboard, that white elephant will hang around for a long time to come.

The deepest lesson, though, is the self interest in giving.  For the money that I’ve spent, I could have bought a decent present and had done with it, but I had fun building this piece.  I got to experiment with wood, working through the process and gaining as much as I’m giving.  I made the backing of the shelf out of 1″ x 12″ boards and got to practice joining three of them together with dowels and glue and then planing them smooth.

I’m not saying that it’s a lesser act to buy just the right present for someone when you know what that is exactly.  I’m also not suggesting that ’tis better to give than receive.  Giving is difficult, since really no one knows better what I want than I.  I like receiving gift cards to my favorite stores, and I think that wedding invitations ought to declare the bride and groom to be registered at all the better banks.  What I am saying is that there’s nothing wrong with getting both joy and value for oneself out of the act of giving.  Giving doesn’t have to be a Kantian duty that we don’t enjoy.


Stand Up Or Sit Down

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been on in my home quite a lot lately, but not by my choice. I dislike this show, and I’ve been contemplating why. It occurred to me recently that it’s a working class Seinfeld, and that answered my question. Yes, I disliked Seinfeld as well. I find both of those to be only occasionally funny and constantly obnoxious. The problem here is that those two shows are good material for a stand-up act, but don’t work as a situation comedy.

Remember when you English teacher told you to show, not tell? That piece of instruction is of mixed value. A sitcom shows, but stand up tells, and confusing the two will ruin each.

In stand up, a comedian–Jerry Seinfeld, for example–tells jokes. He recounts events that he has witnessed (and made up, of course). Occasionally, he will imitate one of the characters, but mostly, his job is to tell. We laugh at the humorous characteristics and actions, and we may see something of ourselves in the joke, but we aren’t living with the characters. Each joke lasts only a few seconds to minutes.

By contrast, a sitcom is a developed story. We are living with the characters. We get caught up in the totality of the story, which goes beyond just building toward a punch line. Think about The Andy Griffith Show. Barney Fife was funny, and we laugh at him, but he isn’t detestable. He has redeeming qualities and seems fully human.

My objection to Seinfeld and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that the characters in those shows are flat and rightly so. They are merely amplifications of boorish qualities without any depth. In other words, they are the proper subject of telling, of a joke. I don’t want to be shown them, since showing involved filling out the story and the person.

Stories need to be shown in all their depth; jokes need to be told for the narrow characteristic that is humorous. Confusion between these two creates the aesthetic failures that I’ve discussed.