Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Movie Review - Mortuary

Can roller-disco eventually lead to insanity and murder? The undeniable answer is yes! In director Howard Avedis' Mortuary (1983), we get to see not only the horror of that short-lived craze but also a séance, cool custom vans, great early 80's hair styles and clothes, and of course let's not forget that wacko in a black hood and clown make-up running around killing people with an embalming tool, he is the real star of this sideshow.Poor Christie (Mary McDonough), first her father was murdered when someone whacked him on the head with a baseball bat, sending him tumbling into the family swimming pool. If that wasn't bad enough, no one, not even her own mother (Lynda Day George) believes her when she begins telling people that her father didn't die in an accident. If all that weren't more than enough for our little heroine now she knows that someone (maybe the same someone that killed her father?) is following her, some mysterious nutcase in a black car and a black hooded cape has been following her all over town. And if her plate wasn't full already with all of those problems, since her father's death Christie has also developed a problem sleepwalking. She is apt to get up anytime in the night and wander around, jump in the pool, put her hand through a window or do any number of crazy things to help convince her mother that perhaps she really is crazy after all. But looking on the bright side, it does give her an opportunity to romp around all night wearing nothing but a revealing nightie and a glazed look. Despite everything poor little Christie sticks to her guns though, her father was murdered and she is not crazy!Fortunately she has a big handsome blonde boyfriend to help her out. Greg (David Wallace) has his own problems, his best friend Josh (Denis Mandel) is missing after they broke into the warehouse of the local mortuary owner, Mr. Andrews (Christopher George) and no one has seen Josh in days. Before Josh got himself run through like a shish kabob he and Greg saw some strange happenings at the warehouse. Mr. Andrews and several women (including Christie's mom) were seen there performing some type of strange ritual. Together Christie and Greg decide to investigate the case, and with these two on it we know we'll get results.I think I forgot to mention that Mr. Andrews has a son, Paul Andrews (Bill Paxton). We know very little about Paul, we know that he loves Mozart. We know that he works at his dad's mortuary. We know that as a child his dad locked him up with dead people. But most of all we know that Paul has a big crush on our little Christie. Paul wanders through the film on occasion, giving little clues to who he might actually be. He does everything but wear a big sign around his neck, "Hi, I am a crazy killer who stabs people with a embalming tool." But even without such an obvious clue our two detectives finally solve the case and have a kind of happy ending after all (unfortunately not before several more people get punctured).

Originally posted 6/26/2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SW99 - Smith & Wesson's forgotten stepchild

First introduced in March of 1999 the Smith & Wesson SW99 was a joint effort between the Massachusetts company and Carl Walther of Germany. S&W's new handgun was an offshoot of Walther's own P99 and like that pistol was initially offered in 40S&W and 9MM. Unlike Walther however, Smith & Wesson would also eventually produce the design in .45 ACP.

In time the SW99 would be offered in several calibers and configurations, the full sized models (12, 16 and 9 rounds normal capacity in 40S&W, 9MM and .45 respectively) and in a smaller compact model in 40S&W and 9MM (8 and 10 rounds respectively). All of the SW99 series pistols were based on the same polymer framed, striker fired design with a traditional double action/single action trigger. The TDA SW99 would be the first of two variations the gun was offered in, the 99 and the 99QA (Quick Action). Walther produced the frames and internal lockwork in Germany and then sent them to S&W who made the slide and barrel and finished assembly here in the United States. Pistols were supplied with three front sights of different heights and three (two in .45 and compacts) interchangeable back straps so that each owner could modify the pistol to their individual needs. It also had other useful features like loaded chamber and cocked striker indicators, windage adjustable back sights and equipment rail.

In addition the SW99 introduced features not usually seen like a decocking button located on top of the gun's slide and a new magazine release that departed from the norm. Instead of being the typical button on the left side of the frame, the type of magazine release known to generations of American shooters, the SW99 featured an innovative ambidextrous lever design. While the more conventional type was pressed in to release the magazine the SW99 was pressed downward. With the S&W the shooter could drop the magazine with their trigger finger and with one hand, never having to change their hold on the gun. While very effective it didn't "feel" right to many traditional gun owners. The magazine release and odd decocker location were probably major contributors to the gun's less than spectacular reception in the U.S. market.

In 2004 the SW99 was remade into the SW990 and the SW990L (Lightning). It was still offered in all previously available calibers and sizes. The main difference between the new models and its predecessor was a redesigned trigger that functioned like a DAO pistol. With that change the decocker was no longer needed and also eliminated. With continued lackluster sales S&W would drop the pistol from its catalog entirely for 2007.

Unfortunately the odds were against the SW99 from the beginning with several varying factors contributing to the demise of this fine pistol. First was the pricing, having a suggested retail nearly a third more than the most popular polymer handgun, the Glock, was a major problem. To many shooters "plastic is plastic" and they buy what is most affordable. Another problem was Smith & Wesson. They never really seemed to get behind this product and (in this author's opinion) only did a half-hearted job of marketing their newest offering. Maybe the complexities of production and profit sharing with a foreign company were too much to bother with. Another issue that certainly didn't help was the agreement that S&W made with the Clinton era HUD department in 2000. That deal significantly hurt the company's reputation and caused their sales to plummet overnight, including the SW99 that was only introduced a year earlier. But ultimately the biggest factor of all was the gun itself. While numerous reviewers reported it to be a solid, reliable sidearm, well designed and executed, it just didn't seem to matter. The SW99/990 was perhaps too innovative, too different to be successful with American gun owners.

Nowadays the SW99 and SW990L are seen for sale most often and can be found relatively cheap for a high quality semi-auto pistol. A brief tour of the various internet gun websites found many excellent condition used (some new old stock) in the $300-400 range. By far the most common are the SW99 full size in 40S&W followed by the 9MM and finally .45 model. The compacts and SW990L (especially in .45) are seen for sale less often. While the SW99QA and the SW990 seem to be the hardest variations to find.

I've been interested in a .45 model since they first came out ('03) but the suggested retail at the time of over $800 stopped me even considering one. I've kept my eye out for a used pistol since. I just recently purchased this SW990L in .45ACP. A well made, new in the box, American/German .45 for $399.99 seem to me a real bargain.

I just finished my first range session with the Smith & Wesson model SW990L and here are some immediate thoughts. While I am very happy with the S&W (overall) I did have two minor issues with the pistol and will cover them first.

The bad - The back sights could be the only real weak spot on the gun. They're adjustable for windage and my first impression is that they're not very robust, they might be susceptible to drifting or breakage. The jury is still out on that one for now. But even if it were to become a issue later the slide does appear to have a standard dovetail cut and if needed replacement shouldn't be a problem. Another (very minor) concern I have is the finger grooves in the grip. I am not really a fan of finger grooves but I must say that these are more conservative than others I've seen and fit me fairly well. Although I don't have an issue myself I could see them being a problem for people with smaller hands and fingers.

The good - How a gun fits the user is one of the most important issues when choosing a gun, the 990L fits me very well. With the exception of the Glock 21 and my HK USP every other .45 I've ever owned had single column magazines so I'll use these two for comparison. Actually I owned two Glock G21s over the years, both first and a second generation guns. I really wanted to like the Glock but ultimately never could. My biggest issue was the size of the grip. 13 rounds of .45ACP is a great idea but I found the G21 just too much for my hands. While the HK with 12 rounds is also a big gun I find it much more comfortable than the Glock. The main issue with the Glock (for me) was not only the large grip but also its shape, the Glock just seems more square and "blocky." The SW990L has the Glock and HK both beat in that regard. The grip itself is a good size and shape and I consider it one of the gun's best features, it fills the hand without being too much. The S&W seems to be a good compromise between comfort and capacity. To quote Goldilocks it feels "just right." No, 9 rounds are not as good as 13 (or even 12), but then I also don't feel like I'm losing grip on the gun when trying to fire it fast like I did with the G21. The sides of the grip also have a raised dot pattern and the front and back strap have a modest checkering that allow for a firm hold without being abrasive. Another area where the SW99/990 has the Glock beat is the takedown lever. That was always for me the most annoying feature of Glock pistols, those two tiny take down levers were always a chore to use. The Smith & Wesson (and Walther) is a similar idea but much easier in practice. As for the trigger the S&W is like a Glock having the same pull each time. My trigger scale measures it at nine pounds but I must say it feels lighter because of its very short travel (less than .5 inch). It is also very smooth with no stacking which contributes to the perception. The magazine release is very similar to the HK USP and they are the only two pistols I own that I can drop mags one handed and without taking my sights off the target. With every other handgun I own I must either use my weak hand to release the magazine or shift my shooting grip. I find this type of magazine release very quick and instinctive and I like it more every time I use it.

After my initial workout with the SW990L I am very impressed overall with its quality and performance. Although there is a lot more testing to be done, so far it seems to be well made, well designed and a bargain.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gone Shooting - About time edition

Its been three months since I've gone shooting, almost the whole summer wasted. Since that last session I just haven't had the time or desire to go. Between a family situation and some miserable weather I couldn't make myself although I most certainly needed to. I have guns that I bought nearly a year ago but haven't shot yet, and the list keeps growing. Something had to be done about it. Finally I decided that today was the day. I was off from work and would make myself go shooting no matter how I felt or what the weather was like. Fortunately it was nearly perfect weather for it.

Today I took one new gun, a Smith & Wesson 990L .45 that I purchased nearly two months ago. It has been sitting in my safe since then collecting dust. I also brought along my HK USP .45 that is my current "House" gun as I need to keep in practice with it. All shooting this day was at 7, 10 and 15 yards using a Weaver stance. Ammunition taken along was Remington and S&B 230gr ball and I used my usual target, a standard USPSA/IPSC silhouette with a Shoot-N-C 5-inch stick on over the "A" zone. As long as I can keep in the A I'm happy. If I keep it in the black I'm very happy.

I bought the S&W back in June at a good price but as I said it is only now that I've got around to trying it. The 990L is a striker fired pistol with a double action only trigger pull and is comparable to the Glock. I needed to know if this one was a "keeper" or if I should trade it off on something else. The USP I've had for a while now and I like it more every time I shoot it. As I said it's mainly for home defense but I have carried it a few times in the colder months when the weather allows me to cover it with a coat.

First up was the Smith & Wesson. Out of the box it was pulling a little right and the first three shots out of it were the only ones not in the A zone the whole day. No matter, the 990L has an adjustable back sight so I just got out my screwdriver and it was a quick, easy fix. From then on it was right on target. The pistol performed flawlessly, 200 rounds without a hiccup. My precious hollowpoint stockpile is getting low so I didn't bring any along today. I'll bring some next time but I suspect it will be just a reliable with them. This pistol is lighter and smaller than my USP and it seemed that recovery times between shots was slower. I'm sure that at least some of the problem was the fact that this gun (and its trigger) are entirely new to me. When I get some more range time I expect to shoot it faster and the groups to shrink too. The photo above was from firing at seven yards as fast as I could and is typical of the guns performance today. So far I'm very pleased with my new .45.

Next up was the USP and I put another 100 rounds through it this morning. As usual function was perfect. Since I've owned this pistol I've put hundreds of rounds through it including numerous kinds of hollowpoint ammunition without a malfunction. Despite its size (or maybe because of it) the USP is one of my most pleasant .45s to shoot. Follow up shots seem quicker and easier and you are really having a bad day if you get out of the A zone. I have had this HK for two years next month and it has yet to let me down. This pistol was well worth the price of admission.

Had a great day shooting two impressive .45s and hope to do it again real soon!

Going Shooting

Been way too long. Gotta go. Post later...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maybe, possibly

The internet is ablaze right now with talk of Beretta's entry into the who can make the smallest pocket 9mm race, the Nano. It looks like a practical design but until the specs and reviews are out I'm holding judgment. I've been thinking about getting a light pocket 9 for a while now to supplement (or maybe completely replace) my lightweight J-Frame. 6 or 7 rounds of 9mm +P are better than 5 rounds of .38+P. Of those currently on the market I gave the Walther PPS the most serious look. It had what I wanted above all from a pocket gun, to be light and very slim, although it had other features I didn't like. From the photos I've seen the Nano is comparable in weight and might even be smaller than the Walther. But I am not in any hurry. I've still got plenty of time before I have to spend any money, time to read the reviews and see what early owners say. My pocket guns rarely get used except in the hottest summer months of July and August. So I've still got at least until spring of next year before I make a decision. The new Beretta also seems fairly priced at $475.00 and says "MADE IN USA" on the side, which doesn't hurt either. A lot of posters are commenting on how ugly they think the Nano is, certainly no uglier than any Glock ever made. And speaking of Glock it's a good thing they don't seem particularly interested in making a pocket 9mm with a single column magazine. Undoubtedly they would end this interesting contest overnight.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The King is dead!

I'm talking about that plastic face goon that has been haunting television sets (and my nightmares) for several years now. Burger King has finally decided to give their creepy laminated spokesman the pink slip. About time. I don't know what marketing genius came up with the idea to begin with, whoever he was he should be flipping burgers now instead of selling them. I rarely eat at BK and their mascot with his lifeless eyes and unnerving smile sure didn't inspire me to go more often. Mostly he just freaked me out. Spent most his time just silently skulking about, frightening adults and especially kids. So long, scary disturbing whopper man!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A question

How come the only time Kentucky makes the national news is with the Derby, basketball or nutcakes like THIS? He ain't even one of ours. Just asking.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apologies Part II

Apologies to anyone left out there still reading my post apocalypse novel Joshua. It's been a bad couple of months around here and I really haven't had much time for my book. Even when I could find some time I still didn't make much progress, my heart just wasn't in it. When I first started writing last year I planned to be finished by this coming Labor Day. That was an attainable goal and it looked like I was going to make it but unfortunately my plan didn't include a family member with major health problems. That (and some other issues) has slowed me down quite a bit. Starting in September I will have a new chapter posted and Joshua will be finished in 2011! Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Flip the switch!

Yesterday a storm came through my region of the country leaving numerous downed trees and communities without power before it was quickly gone again. In Indiana some people even lost their lives when a concert stage collapsed. But for me and my neighborhood it was nothing more than an annoyance, 23 hours without modern conveniences just as a reminder that life after electricity is really going to suck.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Movie Review - Prettykill

"Hello 9-1-1? I'd like to report this woman, sometimes she can be this sweet southern gal, very innocent and childlike, a real cute blonde that you'd really like to know better. But at other times she can be this complete psycho bitch who runs around in a bad wig cutting people to pieces with a straight razor. What should I do? Sir, this line is for emergencies only and you really don't have an emergency, you're simply describing the laughably horrible 1987 drama Prettykill directed by George Kaczender, so please just sit back and enjoy the movie."Police Sgt. Larry Turner (David Birney) has several problems, first his girlfriend Heather (Season Hubley) is a prostitute and a madam, wait that's not really a problem for him, in fact he doesn't seem to be bothered by it at all. He does have other things on his mind though; the biggest would be "Lightning Boy" (Gary Majchrazak), a big time drug dealer that is pushing dope on playgrounds all over New York. Turner is going to get this pusher that is selling death all over the city and who is also responsible for the murder of a fellow police officer. Turner's boss (Yaphet Kotto) doesn't like him or the way that he does his job; he blames Turner for the cop's death and wants him off of the force. Another problem is that Turner (Birney), as we all know is a tough street cop, and tough street cops have to kill scumbags on occasion which causes him much distress. But like any other normal New York cop he relieves his anguish by getting hammered and having angst ridden pillow talk with his hooker girlfriend. Turner's girlfriend Heather is the one you should really feel sorry for, it's not easy to be a high-class prostitute and madam in 1980s New York. First there are the customers, obnoxious and demanding. Then you have to be seen at all of the right parties, if there isn't lots of cocaine, naked people in clown makeup and life-sized nude cakes you can just forget it. You'll also have to deal with the occasional deviant ambassador and lets not forget the personnel problem, finding good employees can really be a hassle. In her unending effort to find quality girls Heather recruits Francie (Suzanne Snyder). Francie is a sweet small-town girl all the way from Georgia, she is a little too "low class" but Heather thinks she has potential. They meet at the strip club were Francie is dancing and hit it off. Of course Heather can't have any of her girls working in such a place and since our little trailer-trash waif has no place to call home Heather takes her home with her. Bad move, because it would seem that Francie might just be slightly unbalanced, lets face it her little noggin is cracked wide open. It seems she has more than one person up there in her head, besides Francie we have the sad little abused girl Jodie, the sophisticated worldly Stella and even her own abusive father lives in her head. If it weren't crowded enough up there already, now it would seem that she might also be turning into her new benefactor. Can Francie be the one responsible for the unexplained murders that have been occurring in the city lately? And lets not forget that mysterious man with a limp, the man who has been following Francie around from the beginning of the film, watching her, dumping dead bodies in the river, spontaneously crying, could he possibly know something about these murders?This production has all the earmarks of a very badly made television movie that somehow, inexplicably made its way to your local cinema. This film is just so bad at so many levels that it really can't be described. It all adds up to the most enjoyable experience in badness. While it was originally intended to be a serious shocker it actually ended up being a very (unintentional) funny comedy instead. The story itself is laughable, the directing non-existent and the acting, well lets just say it's not award winning by any stretch of the imagination. You would think that David Birney would be tops in this department, having appeared in so many truly awful films, but you would be wrong! Yes, he is in way over his head trying to play a hardened Dirty Harry type street cop on the mean streets of N.Y.C. but in this film Suzanne Snyder has him beat for the top prize in scenery eating. I can find no words in English that can completely describe just how over the top she is in this film. I defy anyone not to bust out laughing when little Francie turns into her own abusive, redneck "Daddy". Everyone in this film is just bad (some more than others), even Yaphet Kotto, who is probably the best actor in this production ends up just giving a lot of mean stares and reciting some pretty stupid lines. As an extra-added bonus this film also happens to feature one of the worst movie soundtracks that I have ever heard, some very bad 80s elevator music that never quite seems to match the scene that it was intended for! It's very possible the makers of this film only used this music after getting a good deal on it when it was rejected for Dynasty. Yes, you will have to go a long way to find another movie as bad (and funny) as this one, although I am sure there are probably quite a few contenders waiting in the wings, Hollywood just never seems to stop churning out monstrosities like this do they?

Originally posted 8/8/2005

Sunday, August 07, 2011


For those brave men (and their families) that were killed in Afghanistan's eastern Wardak province yesterday, and all the others that hardly make the news anymore. It takes an immense tragedy like this to remind us of the small tragedies too. May they all rest in peace.

People with guns collection # 39

"Denver, Nov. 23 -- SMALL BOY, BIG GUN, BIGGER LION. Glenn Neigenfind, 12, of Denver grins as he 'throws down' with a large revolver on the carcass of a mountain lion. He used the big pistol to kill the lion after dogs treed it 15 feet above ground on a hunting trip in mountains southwest of Denver Saturday. Glenn will collect a $50 dollar state bounty." November 23, 1953