Friday, December 30, 2011

Empire of the Gods by David Stag (Book 2011)

Transparency: I was emailed a copy of this (very long) book to read and review so here is an unbiased report.

To start out, the author’s writing style is very detailed and articulate. It can get a little too wordy at times, but there is no loss for descriptive measure. As the story progresses, a lot of the writing diverges off into philosophical and moral inner-monologs of main character, Linus. This assists with making the subject-matter concepts more interesting and intelligent, but it does detract away from story progression.

In all honestly, plot does not seem all that important in this book. Things happen to carry Linus to different locations and meet different people, but that’s about it. A lot of the book is about what Linus is thinking and how or why he does not agree with what is going on. So a lot of it is about analysis and not about action or drama.

Character development for Linus is terrific since the story revolves around him and his experiences & thoughts, but any other development that occurs with other characters becomes irrelevant as the setting of the story abruptly changes too frequently: 3 major times by my count. Each time this occurs, Linus is shoved into a new environment with a whole new group of characters and it seems a tad odd that the previous personnel are eliminated as if they were old candy wrappers. This causes a non-fluidic change in story atmosphere that seems a bit artificial. This is where improvement can be made in terms of writing an actual story.

Because of the fact that most books I read are plot-driven, this one was quite a change. It was intelligently written and makes you think, but it was definitely not an “exciting page-turner”, although I doubt the author meant it to be like that. I would recommend this book to those who want to experience good writing but are not looking for a particularly thrilling story.

I do appreciate David Stag’s efforts and encourage him to write more. He really is a good writer…much better than a lot of other authors I’ve read in the past. There is room for improvement though as the ending was a bit too underwhelming and “Pleasantville-ish”.
Rating - Mid

Warrior (Action Drama 2011)

Just finished this movie a few minutes ago. Not too bad, just like a modern Rocky but with better music. One of the mains, Tom Hardy, is a friggin' beast. He got some very intimidating traps, just like those roided out WWE wrestlers.

But yeah, the movie was nice and exciting. It never got slow and was kept up a good pace. Nick Nolte actually did a really good job being a recovering alcoholic although I doubt he'll get any props for it. And of course the music was very inspirational. Good evening watch.
Rating - B

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Help (Drama 2011)

Yeah so this was a pretty solid movie. Lots of drama back in the 60s...I wonder if housewives back then were really that caddy. So the story followed around these maids down in the South as they faced segregation and other racially non-kosher actions by the white peeps back then. Odd how much has changed in the 50 sum years since those days.

But yeah the drama was real and the acting was good (for some of the characters), but the main character of Emma Stone was kinda sub-par in my opinion. She seemed fake and non-convincing. Be forewarned that there were a few scenes of some female emoting going on. Yeah I think you have to be a girl to feel anything with these scenes; I find them uncomfortable and lasting a few minutes too long...

Overall it was a good, solid movie with a great story.
Rating - A

Crysis 2 (FPS PC Game 2011)

Gosh it's been close to a year or so since the last time I played a FPS game. I kinda gave up on PC gaming for a while there since there weren't many games out there and having a dedicated desktop machine seemed like a waste. But good thing is that I build an eGPU rig and now I can still have my laptop and game at the same time. In a while I'll post a review of that setup, but for now off to this game.

Crysis 2's visuals were better than that of Crysis and Crysis Warhead. It did support DX11 but damn did my video card not like that one bit. I'm sure if you had a badass SLI box, everything would be A-OK but yeah I could not play on Ultra when everything was maxed. There was also a large texture file that could be applied for more detail and that was a nice addition.

So for this game they took out the "strength" mode for the armor and added some weird alien bonuses. Besides that the game was just like the other two. I don't know why but I just don't find fighting aliens fun. It's just like Halo where the mobs are these humanoid alien type beings that are overdrawn. Crysis 2 had mobs just like these except they were glowing red instead of glowing purple. I'm sure my dislike stems from the fact that finding the head for a head shot is not intuitive enough.

Gameplay was just like any other EA game + FPS...the story was fair but forgettable. It was nice for a one-time thing but I'll probably never play the game again...good thing I got it for a small $10 sum. Yeah I've decided that a game has to be under $10 for me to purchase it unless it is so sick that I have to play it immediately. These days you can't resell games anymore so that totally put a dent in how I buy this stuff.
Rating - Mid

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Contagion (Drama Thriller 2011)

This movie had a lot of potential. It was really good at the beginning when the outbreak first started but then near the end it got kinda boring. Maybe this was because I was expecting a total breakdown in the system and a post-apoc world to take its place, but sadly they found a vaccine to the disease.

I think the main kudos to this film was how it demonstrated pretty accurately how governments and the CDC would try to "contain" information about any outbreak that were to happen. That and how people would start freaking out and start breaking laws and such to survive. It's always nice to have a few guns around just for this...

The whole ending had to do with finding a vaccine. I dunno how all that science and testing works but I would think that it would be more difficult to pull off than it was in this film. Either way, freaky plot...but I think it would be way worse in real life. There is a very thin line that keeps people from taking what they want from others or doing what they want when there is little to no rule of law.
Rating - B

Cowboys & Aliens (Action 2011)

Well this movie wasn't too bad. It had an OK story with enough action to keep it interesting. Harrison Ford made a nice appearance. Haven't seen him in any movies in a long time so that was a good change. All his character did in this one was scowl though; that sorta got old. Daniel Craig played a silent cowboy so there was very little talking coming out of him.

The plot was different...aliens attacking a small area of land in the West while looking for gold. After abducting some Indians and townsfolk, people started to gather up and go hunting for their peeps. So yeah, not a terrible watch but a little slow at times.
Rating - C

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Star Wars: Crosscurrent by Paul Kemp (2011 Book)

This book wasn't half bad. The beginning was slow as all hell, but at around the 70% mark, all I wanted to do was finish it because the story drew me in.

This book is the first part of a pseudo-new series so there aren't any other books that are required in order to understand what is going on. The second book, Riptide, was just released a while ago so I'll be sure to put it on my list.

The story was split up into 2 sections, the past where a Sith cruiser and a stowaway Jedi are battling it out, and the present where another Jedi is trying to get to some mysterious beacon on a frozen moon. The stories collide when the 5000 year old Sith ship has a freak hyperspace jump and warps through time to the present when drama ensues.

The action was pretty good as was the story after it picked up. The likeable characters all survived so the next book should be a nice ol' adventure with the crew. Good times.
Rating - High

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Conan the Barbarian (Fantasy Action 2011)

Man, where is Arnold when you need him. This movie was so crappy when you directly compare it with Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. Even with the new visuals that can be accomplished with today's CG technology, it still doesn't hold a candle to a better written and directed movie. And yes I just made the statement that old school Conan had a better story...yeah this one was that bad.

I don't even know why they chose to remake this with such an asstacular screenplay other than to hopefully try to make money. The plot did not flow at all it was straight out of a Sci-Fi special. Stephen Lang from Avatar was in it..."I'll get you your legs back". And Rachel Nichols was not too shabby for the main chick. Her IMDB account says that she graduated with a Math and Econ major from Columbia? No shit...she can do Calculus and Linear Algebra and Differential Equations? Fucking amazing. The main guy, Jason Momoa, is Drogo from Game of Thrones so that just showed that he can't really act, but I'm sure he'd be a cool guy to hang out with. Oh yeah...that's something to mention...there was tons of overacting in this film. Lots of grunting, barring of teeth, and scowling. So bad...
Rating - D

Friday, December 02, 2011

Arsenal Bulgarian Milled SLR-95 AK-47 Rifle

So I acquired this rifle late last summer at a local gun show. I was looking for a VZ-58 but surprisingly enough all they had were WASRs, a shit ton of SKSs, 2 overpriced MAK-90s, and this beauty. The price was good so I went ahead and nabbed it. Of course my intention was to convert it to a normal AK, but after I got all the parts, selling it became a more profitable option.

So let's get to the nitty gritty. This gun was brought into the country through Arsenal back in the mid 90s in a thumbhole stock format. It has a milled receiver and a Styer chrome-lined barrel. It had 2 possible additions: a muzzle brake and/or a side mount for optics. Mine only had the muzzle brake. Compared to my old 1960 Polish, for a milled rifle, the SLR-95 felt substantially lighter. Fit and finish were also on a much higher scale than that of the CAI Polish. 30-round steel mags fit very well and had next to no wobble. The safety that annoyed the fuck out me on the Polish locked in perfectly on the SLR. The only physical negative I saw was that the front sight was slightly canted. Not as bad as the polish but still canted.

The whole purpose of getting this rifle was to, of course, pay a little less while maybe being able to put in some elbow grease to turn the rifle into a regular-looking AK with a pistol grip. Doing the math it should've come out a little bit cheaper than your run-of-the-mill stamped SGL Arsenal. What is discovered was that for parts, yes, but for time and effort it didn't seem worth it for me personally.

So first off you have to know that most milled AKs are supposed to have 2 tangs on the rear: one on the top and one on the bottom. These tangs are thinner and a lot less sturdy than the single tang used on stamped AKMs. Because of its configuration with a thumbhole stock, the SLR was made with only 1 upper tang and no bottom one. People have solved this problem by purchasing a lower tang through K-var or on the secondary market like Gunbroker. To install you have to either drill & rivet or weld it onto the receiver.

So you have 4 options for a buttstock:
  1. Get a buttstock for a milled receiver and only screw in the top tang without a reinforcing bottom tang. This is the cheapest method but it is not as secure and there is a chance that the buttstock can come out of the half-an-inch hole and maybe even break or bend the top tang.
  2. Get a buttstock for a milled receiver and also get and install the lower tang. This one is doable but you have to have the tools and/or skills.
  3. Cut off the top tang and attach an Ace Receiver block and then put on one of their buttstocks. This process will bubba the rifle and it is quite expensive for anything made by Ace.
  4. Purchase a custom buttstock from Ironwood Designs. I went with #4.
So here are some pics of what comes with the Ironwood set. I refinished the wood so it looks all nice and shiny. They essentially made a custom stock with a hole drilled through the middle so a long bolt could be connected to a nut at the end. The nut stays inside of the receiver and is tightened from the wood end. This way it gives the stock enough stability with only the top tang, but yeah it's definitely a custom solution vs that of a regular, 2-tang milled AK.

The bottom handguard that came with the set didn't fit into the front trunnion so that was very annoying. I'm not sure if the lower was measured for some other obscure AK model, but all I know is that the rectangular cutout was much too large for the rectangular hole in the front trunnion. 20min with a Dremel would've solved that problem but I really didn't want to go through the hassle.

Pros
  • Great quality
  • Cheaper than other milled AKs
  • Can get very good deals if you look hard enough
  • Considered one of the more accurate AKs.
Cons
  • Rifle + Costs to make it a PG with a correct buttstock = the cost of a current-production Arsenal AK
  • Non-standard configuration with the rear tangs
  • Muzzle break pinned on
  • Front sight block also non-standard
  • Tapco 30-round polymer magazines will not fit (much too tight; would have to remove material from the magazines in order to get a good fit. I had the same problem with my Russian SKS)
Don't get me wrong, the rifle was a sweet AK. But for me personally, it was a much greater hassle to get the rifle to look like how is should with a pistol grip, wood furniture, threaded front sight block, and a bayonet lug. If you have the patience, tools, and ability then it's a great project gun. It shot great, had a very smooth action, crisp trigger, and it never had any jams with cheap Wolf ammo.