Monday, March 28, 2011

Range Report: Ruger LCP

When I talked to Big Mike the other day about going out to the range, I informed him that I'd cleaned and oiled all my hardware and so was only bringing two pistols. No worries, Mike informed me. I could shoot his new pistol, a Ruger LCP. This is a brand new, just out of the box with barely 50 rounds through it pocket pistol in .380.

Ruger LCP

The pistol is small, being 5.16 inches long, 3.60 inches high and 0.82 inches thick. It's also very light, officially 9.4 ounces. So, what with summer coming on, if you're the type that can't find just the right pistol for your Speedo swimwear, this pistol is definitely on your short list. Even if you just want a pocket pistol, I'd still put this one on your short list. Here's what we found during our unscientific range test.

The LCP has a steel slide and a steel barrel. The rest of the gun is made from synthetic glass filled nylon, which accounts for the light weight. As I said, the gun is small. Here are a few photos to illustrate that point.
Big Mike holding a standard size Kimber 1911 .45
Mike doesn't have hands; he has chow hooks. He finds a full size automatic, such as his top of the line Kimber, very comfortable to hold. Okay, who wouldn't? Here are a few photos of Mike holding the LCP.
Ruger LCP
Ruger LCP
Note the two finger grip. The pistol is so small that Mike's ring finger wants to overlap. Here's another photo:

Ruger LCP
Now you see it, now you don't. We put it next to the Kimber .45 for comparison, along with .380 and .45 auto ammunition. Note the slide position on the Ruger.

Ruger LCP .380 and Kimber 1911 .45

The LCP holds six in the clip and one in the chamber. It's a double action only autoloader, and there is no safety on it (much like you would expect from a revolver). The slide does not lock back when the last bullet is fired as most autoloaders do. To load the LCP you put the clip in and slingshot the slide - the LCP won't chamber a round successfully if you simply work the slide back and forward. You must pull the slide all the way back and let it slam forward, and you must do this in one fluid movement. The gun is particular about this.

The LCP isn't particularly stiff or hard to load. It's small, and the size is what makes it somewhat difficult to bring the LCP in battery without catching the meat of your hand between the moving parts of the gun. That being the case, I could not envision carrying this pistol without a round in the chamber; the very last thing you'd want is to have to draw your pistol and screw around trying to get a round up the pipe.

Once in battery, you'll squint down the barrel and notice that there isn't much by way of sights. I'm not too surprised by this, as the pistol is designed to be carried in your pocket and having adjustable sights would only provide something to catch on your clothing or holster.  The LCP has a long, smooth trigger pull. It isn't overly stiff, as I've noticed with a number of double action autoloaders, but it isn't the smooth ball bearing pull you'll find on a Colt Python. I found it adequate for the job at hand. Both of us were able to hold the pistol on target and actually do pretty well with it, all things considered.

Ruger LCP Results at 15 Feet
All of the shots are on the paper, and given the lighting, age and decrepitude of the shooters, I'm not going to entertain many complaints about my performance here. Besides, no one knows my real identity.

For those of you who haven't shot one, the .380 has a nasty snap to it. People think that because it isn't a .45 or .357 it doesn't kick much. They're wrong. The LCP has no weight to soak up any of the recoil, so when I torched the first shot off the gun slammed back into the web of my hand and hurt like billy be damned. I adjusted my grip and tried again, with similar results. I ran ten shots through the LCP, and it took me five to decide how to hold on to it, and another five to decide what to do about the lack of sights. I finally resorted to pointing and shooting rather than sighting in on the target, and my score began to improve. While your mileage may vary, my own best results happened when I simply ignored the sights and concentrated on pointing the little gun at the target and pulling the trigger.

The good news about this pistol is that Ruger didn't compromise. The goal was a small pocket pistol in .380, and Ruger achieved that goal very nicely. The LCP is finely machined with no sharp edges or any protrusions to catch in your clothing or in a holster. It has no safety; like a revolver you just point it and pull the trigger. Some people will argue that .380 is light for self-defense. My rejoinder to that argument is that you can buy special .380 self-defense ammunition. You now have a pistol the size of a .25 auto that packs a lot more punch than that feeble little bullet.

Both Mike and I agreed that the LCP should be carried with a round in the chamber and should be in some sort of holster, the danger being that the you might snag the trigger while putting the gun in your pocket and thus do yourself a mischief.

I like the Ruger LCP and will probably end up buying one for concealed carry.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sylvania Township Government: Less is better

I thought the Sylvania Township Trustees might learn something about the township and the people they are supposed to be representing. Maybe, maybe not. Here are two stories from the Toledo Blade:

Refuse pickup on agenda in Sylvania Twp.; Trustees schedule vote after postponement
Trustee Kevin Haddad, who made unified trash and recyclables collection a key part of his election campaign...
That's it. Kevin Haddad can't seem to understand that Sylvania Township residents will handle refuse collection as the individual household sees fit; not as Kevin Haddad desires. I think the other two might understand this concept a little better than Kevin. Here are the results courtesy of The Blade:

Board rejects townshipwide trash pickup
When he ran for Sylvania Township trustee in 2009, Kevin Haddad made townshipwide collection of trash and recyclables a cornerstone of his campaign.
But as debate came to a head on the subject last week, with a trash-collection firm's price to provide such a service due to expire, Mr. Haddad promised to never revisit the subject if his colleagues on the township board voted it down.
Trustees John Jennewine and Neal Mahoney soon tested that promise by forming the 2-1 majority against the idea.
I've got news for Kevin Haddad: He wasn't elected because of his ideas about trash collection. He was elected because Kevin Haddad was slightly less objectionable than the alternatives. Slightly less. My congratulations to John and Neal for making a wise decision.

The real question is: Why are we even wasting time with this? Reading a little further reveals that:
Previous township boards rejected townshipwide trash collection, but Mr. Haddad said he revived the idea because he had become weary of being awakened most mornings by garbage trucks on township roads and of having to cart his own recyclables to drop-off stations.
The emphasis is mine. So let me get this straight. Maybe it's just me, I'm a little fucked up here... Just because Haddad's beauty sleep is being disturbed, the rest of the world should roll over and capitulate to whatever hair brained scheme this oxygen thief comes up with to allow Himself to rest unmolested by people earning a living until a suitable hour. Would 10:30 AM suit your royal benevolence?

What a jerk.

Kevin isn't alone. The Lucas County Commissioners have the same idea. Check the link if you want: Countywide trash plan touted; Gerken invites residents, officials to vote with wallets
"You decide. We do not have the authority to force you to do this. Nor do we want to," Mr. Gerken said. "We've got an opportunity that I haven't seen here in 20 years, with the city of Toledo willing to change the way they do business. That opens opportunities for our suburban communities, villages, and townships."
What Gerken means is that regretfully we do not have the authority... I keep getting visions of Barone Sanitation.

People that live in townships do so to escape government. They want less civilization, not more. The Lucas County Commissioners understand this and they don't care. They want everyone under their greasy thumb. Me, I'm voting against it.

Sylvania School Levy

They're at it again. The Sylvania public school system went into an apoplexy when the voters defeated a property tax increase in the last election, and that was when The Anointed One was on the ticket. Here's the latest from The Blade:

Sylvania school board to kick off levy campaign with rallySylvania school board to kick off levy campaign with rally
Having persuaded its employees to give up $1.4 million in pay and having cut spending by a further $5 million for the upcoming school year, the Sylvania Board of Education now has six weeks to persuade district voters to change their minds about a tax levy they rejected in November.
Clearly cutting pay, benefits and school spending is not going to cause the schools to close. Instead, it's going to force the school system to live within the means of the tax paying property owner. This isn't a bad idea.

This property tax was defeated once, and once should have been enough. That the school board has the audacity to bring it up again when they think that the opposition - property owners in Sylvania - will have a poor turnout is unscrupulous.

The school system doesn't need more money. The employees need to get along with a little less, and if they don't like that they can always seek employment elsewhere. Many property owners are retired and living on a pension that doesn't go very far these days. Other property owners are suffering from the lousy economy. Money is scarce. It's time our elected officials realized that even those who are willing to pay just do not have the money.

I'm voting against this levy, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Film Review: Limitless

Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 105 min
Genres: Mystery | Thriller


Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra
Robert De Niro as Carl Van Loon
Abbie Cornish as Lindy
Andrew Howard as Gennady
Anna Friel as Melissa
Johnny Whitworth as Vernon
Tomas Arana as Man in Tan Coat
Robert John Burke as Pierce
Darren Goldstein as Kevin Doyle
Ned Eisenberg as Morris Brandt
T.V. Carpio as Valerie
Richard Bekins as Hank Atwood

I want a new drug
One that won't make me sick
One that won't make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

 - Huey Lewis And The News

Watching The Lincoln Lawyer put me in the mood to see another film, and since I'd seen the previews for this one somewhere and it didn't look too awful bad, I thought I might roll the dice again. Turns out I pick better films than I do ponies. I'm writing this review with a few spoilers, but I will not spoil the finish.

I took in the Tuesday night 9:20 PM show at a local theater attached to a shopping mall (Westfield Franklin Park Mall if it matters, and I don't think it does). I picked the week day late show because I thought the crowd would be sparse. Fat chance. As soon as I walked into the theater I considered walking out again. The place was packed with people who do not have to get up for work tomorrow morning. They understand such terms as vitamin b-40, deuce deuce and can use the word shizzle in a sentence without having to think about it. They put their feet up on the seats in front of them. Talking on their cell phone and carrying on a normal conversation during a movie is normal behavior for these people. Truly, they do not understand the value of a quiet theater. The alternative to Limitless is Red Riding Hood, and I'm just not in the mood for a werewolf movie. I remained seated, resolving to tough it out.

The plot for Limitless involves a writer who accepted an advance that, like most writers who are foolish enough to do such things, he should have declined. Now Ernest Hemingway has a bad case of writer's block and associated disorders such as alcohol abuse, and it looks like someone else will win the Pulitzer this year. Next year isn't looking too good either. Then his girlfriend kicks him to the curb.

In a scene reminiscent of something out of Alice in Wonderland, Our Hero is ambulating down the sidewalk and runs into the Mad Hatter, who invites him to the tea party where he is given a little pill with some fairly simple instructions: Eat me! And he does, mainly because if he doesn't there will be no film.

Now think: If a pot smoking total waste of space that you used to know and haven't seen in over ten years bumps into you on the sidewalk and hands you some story about working for a huge pharmaceutical company and gives you a free sample of something that is due to go on the market in a year or two with a somewhat cavalier explanation about FDA approval and brain receptors, would you actually swallow any of this? No? Me neither.

Turns out the little pill jumps Our Hero's IQ from a very shaky 105 to about 200. "Red hot damn on a Saturday night!", says Our Hero. "I gotta get me some more of this mental go go juice!" And he does. Now naturally since one pill is good, five may be better, and so it's down the hatch and off we go to conquer the world with an IQ of about eight zillion. All this happens in the first 30 minutes of the film, so having got down to business the filmmaker has to stay there or risk failure. That means there have to be a few obstructions, otherwise everyone would all live happily ever after. We begin by getting rid of a few people who would only cause trouble later on. Then we learn that you can't run the family sedan on nitromethane and not have it suck up a value or throw a rod when you drop the hammer at five grand for the eighth time in one evening.

I think I'm going to leave it at that. You can see the film for yourself and enjoy it or not as the case may be. What I found more interesting than the film was the audience.

In the film Our Hero is someone that almost everyone in the audience can identify with. He isn't wealthy, he's unemployed and his woman has just kicked him to the curb for reasons that everyone can agree with. He lives in a messy apartment and he's behind on his rent. He's unshaven, unkempt and having spent the entire advance, dead broke. One pill changes all that.

One pill turns him into someone that everyone would like to be. He's smarter than everyone else, he has ambition and drive to succeed. He wins at poker, then he moves on to win at the stock market. He doesn't expend much effort to do this, either. Listening to a foreign language is enough for him to learn to speak it. Watching martial arts movies is enough to give him the fighting skills to bust a few heads during a confrontation on the subway. He becomes a sort of super man.

The audience was dead quiet through the whole thing. They watched, and I believe they spent their time imagining what they might do if they ever found the right pill. Side effects wouldn't matter, the length of your life would not be a factor. Live half as long but twice as well? Just tell me this: can I kick that up to a factor of five or six?

Limitless is a great film. I found it entertaining and it ends well. In fact, the ending is worth sitting though the film even if you don't especially care for it. I'd give it four out of five stars and I consider it a good value at regular price admission, and a real bargain at matinee prices.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Film Review: Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.
Genres: Drama


Matthew McConaughey as Mick Haller
Marisa Tomei  as Maggie McPherson
Ryan Phillippe as Louis Roulet
William H. Macy  as Frank Levin
Josh Lucas as Ted Minton
John Leguizamo as Val Valenzuela
Michael Peña as Jesus Martinez
Bob Gunton as Cecil Dobbs
Frances Fisher as Mary Windsor
Bryan Cranston as Detective Lankford
Trace Adkins as Eddie Vogel
Laurence Mason as Earl
Margarita Levieva as Reggie Campo

Memorable quotes: I'll tell ya this, ya got more balls than a Chinese ping pong tournament.

After taking my dear old Mom to see Black Swan, I decided I should do something nice for her, such as taking her to another film. I had two things going for me here. One, Mom is a kind and forgiving person, as evidenced by my own survival into maturity (chronologically speaking, anyway). Two, Main Lady selected the film and told Mom that she had selected it based on something she heard on NPR. I have decided to write this review without spoilers, so anyone who hasn't seen the film yet can enjoy it.

Our protagonist is a street wise criminal defense attorney who is fast on his feet and will represent anyone to the best of his considerable ability for money. The man keeps his office in the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car. He employs a chauffeur due to a misunderstanding about blood alcohol limits and bad driving. He is divorced, his wife being the prosecuting attorney. He does not have a drinking problem, as he has plenty of money and a friendly bartender who is willing to serve him drinks as long as he remains on his bar stool. Our hero takes a case and lives to regret it.

The strong points of this film are not in the plot, which is standard courtroom drama without any new twists or turns. It's in the presentation of the plot that the strength is revealed. Major characters develop, and they do so for good reason. People have convictions, and although the supporting characters are a little over done, it doesn't detract from the film or make the characters boring or tedious. For instance, when one somewhat addled man on the witness stand tries to recall a few details about past events, he casually remarks, "Let's see, that was back in '06... I don't know - I was pretty high that year."

When the drama is broken up with some comic relief, the timing is perfect. The characters the protagonist meets are colorful, and somehow someone managed to hire a writer or two who could actually write good dialog for the characters. The actors really bring it off well.

Compared to most films the sets and costuming are minimal, but then this is a crime drama. I'm not looking for plane crashes and car bombs, and I don't get any. Which is a big relief, by the way. The drama stands nicely on its own without crude distractions - explosions, strip clubs and gratuitous violence are eliminated. While I wouldn't take small children to see the film, I don't really see anything wrong with taking anyone 16 or older to see it. It's a great film.

It's likely that the worst part of the film is the over drawing of supporting characters. The police are all stereotypes, as are other attorneys. As is everyone else who appears in a supporting role. So, if you are easily offended by such things, park the chip on your shoulder and watch the film anyway. It's likely you'll enjoy it.

This is one of the few films that I think is worth the full price of admission. Watching it reminds me of reading a great crime novel. I'm giving it five out of five.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Film Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles
Rated PG 13
116 min
Genre: Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller

Aaron Eckhart as S Sgt. Michael Nantz
Ramon Rodriguez as 2nd Lt. William Martinez
Cory Hardrict as Cpl. Jason Lockett
Gino Anthony Pesi as Cpl. Nick Stavrou
Ne-Yo as Cpl. Kevin Harris
James Hiroyuki Liao as L Cpl. Steven Mottola
Bridget Moynahan as Michele

Spoiler Alert: I write about the film here, and I summarize the film including the ending. If you don't want to know how it all comes out in the end, stop reading and go see the film. Otherwise, continue to waste your time.

I haven't seen an action film in a long time, so I went to see Battle: Los Angeles after reading the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I note that 32% of the official Rotten Tomatoes staff liked it, while 64% of the voting public liked it. I'm betting that the producer of the film along with everyone else directly involved in profit sharing care more about the proletariat than they do about a bunch of approved critics who have little better to do than regurgitate whatever they read in the New York Times or Chicago Tribune. As of today, the film has grossed $35,000,000 and that's a lot of dead presidents.

The deal is that scientists (who else?) discover a swarm of meteors that appear suddenly on the edge of our solar system and begin converging on the third planet. That would be us, genius. Just as everyone at the bar is ignoring CNN, scientists announce that instead of slamming into the third planet the meteor swarm is slowing up and taking aim – at us. The invasion is on.

The aliens employ all the diplomacy and subtlety of Attila the Hun passing through Gaul. Seeing that any kind of treaty is something to be ironed out after the war, we mobilize our military. Meantime, scientists discover that the aliens want our water. Salt water, fresh water, even sewer water. The aliens want all of it. Evidently there's a water shortage in the entire universe. I noted that since the aliens were using water for fuel the implications to the petroleum industry were significant, which would explain the motivation for resistance. The aliens begin by hitting Los Angeles and other major cities along the coast. I've lost track of the number of times Los Angeles has been destroyed in one way or another, but I kind of wonder if the film industry isn't trying to tell us something. We get to see the aliens right away and they are ugly looking things, a kind of cross between Hitlery Clinton and an octopus. The alien ground pounders carry several hundred pounds of combat gear, and they all resent this enough to lighten their load as they ambulate along the streets of L.A.

Our hero Staff Sargent Michael Nantz inherits a walking cluster fuck of a ninety day wonder (Lieutenant, in this case 2nd Lt. William Martinez) and a host of jar heads that don't trust him any further than... well, words fail me. They don't trust him though, because Nantz has a lot of baggage over his last mission. So when the aliens pull a beach invasion, Nantz and the jar heads saddle up and move out under command of the second looie. Naturally they all get japped on an open street by the alien ground pounders who have taken to the roof tops. High ground, you see. I'll spare you the rest of this, mainly because it's so predictable that everyone knows what's going to happen right from the start of the film, and you know this for the same reason everyone watching the old Star Trek TV shows knew for a fact that not all the red shirts were coming back to the ship, just like everyone knew Kirk, Spock and McCoy would return safe and sound. About the only cliché I didn't hear in this film was “A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.” The rest is covered, as is every single over used plot device known to Hollywood. That leaves acting and special effects.

How the actors manage to deliver their lines with a straight face is beyond me. I couldn't do it unless I was hammered, or at least half in the bag. Okay, so maybe that's how they do it. They all come through and that's good, because if they didn't it would detract from the film's saving grace: special effects.

The film is a non-stop, massive battle which destroys everything in sight. The special effects are great, and are solidly backed up by costume, sets and makeup. The place looks like a war zone and the aliens have some great gear. When our side shoots up the aliens, there aren't any gratuitous slime shots. Instead, the fifty cal machine gun tears up everything and hits a fuel tank, which blows. Grenades blow stuff up. I particularly liked one scene where they've got a wounded alien hiding in the murky water of a swimming pool. Our Hero casually orders a grenade tossed into the pool. Excellent! Since the aliens are tough to kill (what, you thought they'd be easy?), our side manages to capture a wounded alien, then a civilian veterinarian and the protagonist use his K-Bar to try and find the alien vital spots. This takes time and is a scientific learning and growth experience for everyone. The dialog is priceless.

In the end our side discovers an alien command center, paints it with a laser and calls in a missile strike. The giant command center goes airborne just before being hit with a few missiles and is destroyed in a truly spectacular display of falling debris, fire and smoke.

I liked this film for the special effects and sets. The story is nice and simple, and the aliens are not wimpy push overs, or misunderstood buckets of cottage cheese or anything like that. They want to kill all of us and won't surrender. We rain on their parade.

I'll give it four out of five for special effects only. If you want anything more than that, wait for the DVD.

Film Review: Black Swan

I went to see Black Swan at the Maumee Indoor Theatre (601 Conant Street, Maumee, OH, (419) 897-8901) mainly because I was bored and felt like getting out. It wasn't a complete waste of money or anything, it's just that I have yet to find a review that actually told the truth about the film and what the story is all about. Hence my review of a film that's been out so long you can probably get it on DVD now. Anyway, if you haven't seen it, here's a review complete with spoilers.

Black Swan
Rated R
108 min
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller

Starring -
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
Mila Kunis as Lily
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers
Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre
Benjamin Millepied as David
Ksenia Solo as Veronica
Kristina Anapau as Galina

For those of you unfamiliar with the off stage and behind the curtain life of a professional dancer that isn't pursuing her career at Platinum Showgirls, allow me to enlighten you. First off, ballet dancers are born, not made. If a girl isn't able to turn her toes out by rotating her hip joints, forget it. She's out of the line up. Likewise if she starts to resemble a real woman instead of a stick figure (like if she gets a nice set of bazzongas) she's passed over. Then, should she fail to have talent coupled with obsessive desires and deeply rooted insecurities, she won't work hard enough and so will be passed over. On top of this her parents, friends and family will have to accept her ignoring them in favor of ballet lessons, ballet practice and the injuries dancers get from wearing toe shoes and striving to contort themselves into unnatural positions. Then there's the personalities involved.

Dancers are mean. They tend to be unscrupulous and more than a little immoral. Most are insecure and display emotional problems that are as fluctuant as their bodies. Aberrant behavior is normal; these crazy little time bombs will explode into violent tantrums at the drop of the wrong name. Hell, you don't have to take my word for it; go talk to a few burned out ballet dancers and get the straight story for yourself. Anyway, Black Swan gives some insight into this. The choreographer acts like a real prick who tries seducing our poor protagonist, as do several other men and women. Mom smothers the girl and displays the emotional maturity of a failed ballet dancer who is now living vicariously, complete with neurotic behavior, through her daughter. Dad is no where to be found - the poor bastard probably saw the train wreck coming and decided to move to Thailand and send support and alimony checks once a month, that being a whole lot easier than failing to cope with two possibly dangerous screwballs at home.

The ballet company is performing Swan Lake, which is the very first ballet set to the score of a symphonic composer, namely Tchaikovsky. Ah-ha! That explains everything, right? For those who still lack an explanation, the short of it is that there's this swan who's really a gorgeous princess, and a bunch of people get together and do predictable things including showing each other their equipment, then everyone dies. Which, when you think about it, provides a nice, tidy ending with no room for a sequel. An error that wouldn't happen today, I assure you, but a blessing none the less.

The lead dancer for Swan Lake in the film is severely neurotic at the very best of times. Under stress she gets a little crazier every day until the astute audience member (hell, anyone who isn't asleep) will note that she's moved from neurotic into full time psychotic, complete with violent hallucinations and a set of compulsive, self-destructive habits that would cancel her ObamaCare in a New York minute. As the protagonist (Nina Sayers) gets through her day without benefit of medication, the R rating gets strained to the maximum. I'd have rated this gem with an X and left it in the art theater where it belongs, but somebody got their palm greased and here it is at the Maumee Indoor.

So what happens? On opening night someone puts a penny in Nina's fuse box, the crazy meter pegs and burns out, right along with our protagonist.

I liked the film, but it isn't for everyone. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, but I would not see it with Main Lady unless she insisted on it. I damn sure wouldn't let my kids see it, and not just because of the blatant sex scenes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rant: Toledo, Ohio

P.J. O'Rourke from Newsweek magazine was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and goes on a tear which was published in Newsweek - The City: Toledo. O'Rourke states that:
Downtown, the department stores are closed, as are most of the shops, theaters, restaurants, and bars. The city’s center looks plucked. Half the buildings have been razed. Toledo is a failure.
In an effort to establish credibility by association, Newsweek also published a typically fascist piece about gun control, explaining that if we don't act now we may all wake up dead tomorrow. You can read about it here if you have the stomach. Pardon me while I check on Betsy and see if she got loose again...

Skipping a diatribe concerning Newsweek, gun control and the idiocy of Moonbats, I'll get right to the point of this contribution to the worldly knowledge of mankind. Some years ago I wrote about Toledo and was subsequently published. The publisher is long gone, so I thought I might clean up the article and publish it again. Here it is:

Toledo, Ohio by Mad Jack

Famous for: “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio” by John Denver, Jamie “Corporal Klinger” Farr, Tony Packo’s, Toledo Mud Hens, Basset Nut Company, Jeep, Carty Finkbeiner

Overview: Founded in 1833 when two small towns that no one has ever heard of, Port Lawrence and Vistula, snatched up land next to a proposed canal that was going to bypass some rapids on the Maumee river.  The two rival towns managed to bury the hatchet long enough to get Toledo started.

Michigan and Ohio fought a war over Toledo, called the Toledo War (1835-1836).  This family feud ended abruptly when governmental leaders in Michigan realized what they were fighting over.  Michigan was the first to surrender, simultaneously providing the great state of Ohio with the city of Toledo and its only victory.  Ever.

Around 1936 the first building with glass walls was built in Toledo for Owens-Illinois.  This led to a new appreciation of the old saw about glass houses and stones as well as the famous International Style of architecture (see below), sometimes criticized as stark and dehumanizing.  Think: Huge cement box with floor to ceiling windows.

In 1943 Jeep began producing… Jeeps.  This is a spike both economically and culturally.  When Jeep threatened to relocate its massive factory to a different city some years later, Mayor Carlton Finkbeiner offered them the keys to the city tax coffers if they would only stay.  Private property was confiscated by the abuse of eminent domain and Jeep stayed.  Carty is no longer Mayor.

Toledo is located, more or less, at 41°39'56" North, 83°34'31" West (41.665682, -83.575337).  You can find Toledo on Ohio Interstate Route 75 just before you get to the Michigan border, on your way to Detroit.  Toledo is split into unequal parts, both geographically and economically, by the Maumee River.  The city is North of what used to be the Great Black Swamp, which gave rise to another nickname for Toledo; Frog Town.  Oak Openings park, or Mosquito Town, is slightly West of Toledo.  The population of Toledo pegged at around 310,000 in 2002 and has been declining ever since as college graduates migrated elsewhere to find a decent career.

When the populace of Toledo can afford a collar, it’s blue.  There are many quaint, ethnic neighborhoods in Toledo, but don’t go there unless you are fluent in native language and custom.  This is particularly true of the East Side and the Old North End.  The New and Improved North End isn’t much better.

Famous Quotes: “Move the deaf people next to the airport.” C.  Finkbeiner.  This is paraphrased, but unless you know the lyrics to the John Denver song, it’s the only quote worth remembering.

Books About: Banksters, Bosses, and Smart Money: A Social History of the Great Toledo Bank Crash of 1931 by Timothy Messer-Kruse; High Drama in Fabulous Toledo by Lily James; Great Lakes dredging and the environment: Hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Second Congress, first session, July 29, 1991, Toledo, OH (S.  hrg) by United States

Architecture: International Style (see above).

Attractions in Toledo: Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoo, Raceway Park (rumored to be closing and/or moving)

Attractions close to Toledo: Put-In Bay (an island in Lake Erie), Kelly’s Island (largest island in Lake Erie), Cedar Point Amusement Park (Sandusky, OH), Lakeside, Ohio (small town), The Butterfly House (Whitehouse, OH), Wolcott House (Maumee, OH)

Food: All kinds.  Fifi's Restaurant, 1423 Bernath Parkway.  Really expensive, really pretentious, really crappy service, really weird food.; Mancy’s Italian, 5453 Monroe St., Second only to Fifi’s.  Expensive and pretentious.  Good service once you get seated, which can take a few hours unless you are a regular customer, in which case you’ll get in ahead of everyone else.  Mancy’s does this on purpose.; Tony Packo’s Café, 1902 Front Street, Casual, noisy, spicy food.  Good place to get loaded.; Seafood, 5504 Alexis Rd, Good food, good prices.

Music: Murphy’s Place, 151 Water St Live jazz, good booze.  Great place.; Frankie’s Inner City, 308 Main St, Check it out.  If you don’t like it, leave.; Mickey Finn’s Pub, 602 Lagrange St, Live music, good place.  Not far from the famous Lagrange Street Pool Hall.  Carry your pistol with you.

Movie Showtimes: Pick up a copy of the Toledo Blade.

Prostitutes: One of these days somebody will actually go to an oriental massage parlor and want a massage.  Check the sports page of the Toledo Blade for entertainment coupons (Under new management! All new girls!).

Little Known Gem: J&G Pizza, 5692 Main St, Sylvania, OH.  The place is always packed.  Get pizza or a gyro dinner.  Toledo Art Museum.  One of the best museums in the entire United States.

Secret That Everybody Knows: Ann Arbor, Michigan is only 45 minutes North on US 23.

Secret That Few Know: Village Inn, 4984 N Holland Sylvania Rd, Sylvania, Ohio.  Corner of N. Holland Sylvania and Brint Rd.  If you are just regular folks and like beer, rock and roll, good chili and hearty parties then this is the place for you.  There are no BWM’s in the parking lot, but you’ll find a few bikes, trucks and regular guy type cars.  There is an outdoor patio and during the summer the party spills out into the large parking lot.  There are no fights or ass hat drunks.

Getting There and Away: If you stay in Toledo for any length of time, you'll want to leave. Put your car under you and take I-75 either North (to Ann Arbor - see above) or South and keep going.  If you want to head East or West use I-280. The Toledo Express Airport is still open, but at the time of this writing service from any major airline is unreliable. Moreover, be aware that these days the TSA security personnel are more obnoxious than usual.  If you don’t feel like flying, take the train.  Amtrak station is at 415 Emerald Ave.

Public Transport: Toledo Area Regional Transport Authority (TARTA) bus lines. Do not screw around with the drivers.

Taxi! Phone: 419-244-7206 or 419-255-9000 or 419-241-1234.  After about eighty years, someone will show up.

If You Get Busted: If you mess up and do something incredibly stupid and get busted for it, call attorney at law John “Johnny the Hammer” Coble at Albrechta & Coble, 4334 W Central Ave # 224 in Toledo, phone (419) 841-8584; Johnny the Hammer will improve your situation, especially if you have money.

Things to Avoid: Carty Finkbeiner.

Local Twitches: Outlying areas such as Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Perrysburg, and especially Bowling Green are not a part of Toledo.  The locals are sensitive to this.  Sylvania isn’t Toledo, get me? It's also worth mentioning that Sylvania Township is not the city of Sylvania. The police forces are different, as is the form of government.

Some people claim that O'Rourke's article about Toledo was too harsh and one sided. I maintain that O'Rourke's article bears more resemblance to Toledo than the gun control article bears to safety and common sense.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Of Bad Investments and Bailouts

Consider the empty field in the photo below.

Most everyone who looks at this area will define it as undeveloped land, but not so long ago some enterprising individual saw it as a walled enclave containing a desert (think New Mexico) several hundred upscale homes and a golf course with fairways wide enough to cut the discriminating player's mulligan rate by half or more. The golf course would contain an artificial hill, be 7000 yards and closely resemble Las Sendas in Scottsdale, Arizona without the difficulties one generally encounters when playing Las Sendas. Take it all around, this was an ambitious project at best, and would incorporate buying up perfectly good farm land, getting the zoning changed and ultimately forcing a selective area drought so as to make a Southwestern desert in Northern Ohio. Undaunted by the complexities involved in the radical change of an established climate, the developer damned the torpedoes and ordered full speed ahead. The news became official when ground was broken in June of 2000 and the story hit the press in September of the same year. Happy Y2K, and here are two links to a business site and the local bird cage liner.

The desert is coming to Sylvania
The man behind the daunting task of bringing the desert to northwest Ohio is Jack Sparagowski, an avid golfer and president of Sparagowski and Associates market research and criminal investigations firms.
'Desert look' planned for golf course, homes
Hoses are expected to be priced in the $500,000 to $1 million range with villas priced at about $300,000.
Remember that these are year 2000 prices. At the time the Toledo area was sliding even further into the gravel pit, but Sparagowski decided that his project was immune to failure. It was during this period that I was reminded of the six phases of any project: Enthusiasm, Frustration, Despair, Search for the Guilty, Persecution of the Innocent and Praise for the Non-Participants. We have just seen the Enthusiasm phase.

Moving right along to the fall of 2002, it looks like the swamp has failed to drain and the promised desert is still on the drawing board.

Desert Village Limited Partnership fights litigation
We contacted Jack Sparagowski, the key principal behind Desert Village Limited Partnership, an Ohio Limited Partnership involved in developing this project. Sparagowski confirmed that several delays had occurred with the golf course construction. He also confirmed that he has become aware of a number of rumors concerning the financial situation with this development.
"There is simply no truth to any rumors about financial problems," Sparagowski stated.
Litigation stalls work on upscale subdivision
Lawsuits allege default by project's developer
The future of a pricey Sylvania Township golf course and housing development is in doubt after a series of lawsuits filed against its developer has brought construction to a standstill.
Evidently there was some question about earth moving, contracts and invoice terms. Well, these things happen. Then there's the little problem about bank financing and how it's no longer available. In one case Sparagowski found a loan officer who was an avid golfer and was willing provide an enthusiastic green light. When news of the latest investment floated to the top, the green light was turned off, removed from the light socket, the wires to the socket were cut and the light along with the loan officer were instructed to leave the banking industry and take up street sweeping. The bank then began the arduous process of damage control. Perhaps a bit late, as in the spring of 2003 we see the developer reaching out for some help:

3 Area Developers In Deal For Proposed Golf Site

180 Acre Western Sylvania Township Development - New Park Included In Plans

Then there's the rumor mill, which keeps passing notes about financial problems - the same problems Sparagowski claimed he didn't have. So... if there aren't any problems, then why did this hit the news?

Chapter 11
On April 28, 2003, Desert Village Limited Partnership (“Desert Village”) filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

Looks like there might be some truth to the rumors after all. With Desert Village filing Chapter 11, the land is up for grabs. The Olander Park System of Lucas county snatched up a hefty parcel and started trying to change the man made hill into something suitable for sledding.

Olander Park system takes steps to add hill for sledding

"The Board of Park Commissioners ran the park system just the way my little Polish mother runs her household: If we didn't have the cash, we didn't buy anything," said Gary Madrzykowski, Olander's director.

But while the park system has retired the loan for the original Sylvan Prairie purchase, it isn't free from debt yet. That's because it also borrowed money for the 51 acres it bought 11 months ago for $875,500 from Brint Park Holdings, LLC to boost the site's total to just under 150 acres.

While grants covered $495,390 of that cost, a 10-year mortgage was taken out from Huntington for the rest. Mr. Madrzykowski said the park system intends to pay that off in three years.
I think Gary doesn't remember much about the way his mom ran their household, as it would seem that a ten year mortgage was required. What really bothers me about this entire business is that the government bought the land at a good deal less than a fire sale price, and it shouldn't have. Now I wonder just who oversees the purchases for The Olander Park System and how this purchase was approved.

This is quite a history for land that still sits empty. Quite possibly everyone would have been better off if the project had never been started. I know that a few of the vendors who were involved likely feel that way, and I also note that many of these people were from out of town and didn't understand the Toledo metro area or never gave any thought to just why a project that specifies transforming farm land into desert is not going to work. Clearly building permits were issued by the local government and the zoning for the land was changed without incident. Me, I just put it down to the new economy: I'll build it and the government will cover my mistakes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Politics: Collective Bargaining

I've resisted writing about this civil flare up, mainly because I believe there isn't any good solution in sight. A few weeks ago I read that a select few Wisconsin legislators had packed their bags and headed for Illinois so as to forestall passing legislation in Wisconsin that will sharply curtail collective bargaining. I'd expect behavior like that from a group of eight year old unsupervised boys who, when they realize they can't win a game of sand lot baseball, pack up and go home. I'd think State senators would have outgrown such behavior, but in a new low for the Moonbats I'm proven wrong. Oh well, it isn't the first time and not likely to be the last.

Wisconsin legislators removed all references to allocation of funds from the legislation and passed it without a quorum, which is perfectly legal. Now they're getting credible death threats. I got this from Instapundit, who referenced Don Surber in an article Obama silent as liberals make death threats where he notes that The Anointed One is keeping mum about the Moonbats who have clearly gone around the bend and are headed upriver to Crazy Town. Charlie Sykes at DEATH THREATS By Charlie Sykes lists the email in question as well - here's a brief excerpt:
Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks.
Now, I'm fairly certain that a law or two has been broken here, but I'm equally certain that the recipients of this cowardly missive have the good sense to arm themselves and practice some basic security. Here's a list of the recipients:
Sen. Kapanke, Sen. Darling, Sen. Cowles, Sen. Ellis, Sen. Fitzgerald, Sen. Galloway, Sen. Grothman, Sen. Harsdorf, Sen. Hopper, Sen. Kedzie, Sen. Lasee, Sen. Lazich, Sen. Leibham, Sen. Moulton, Sen. Olsen
The Anointed One's immediate reaction to this behavior should have been to denounce it in the strongest of terms. Himself has not seen to do so. Little wonder, as He is safe and secure in his new digs on Pennsylvania Avenue. Enjoy it while you can, Pookie.You have to worry about re-election, and that isn't looking like the slam dunk you wish it was.

Moving right back to collective bargaining...

The genii has been out of the bottle for a long time now, and he isn't going to go back in just because a law or two gets passed. Case in point, just look at how well the drug laws are working. Now consider that the police are also union members. How much enthusiastic enforcement of anti-union law does anyone think will actually take place? Anyone who stops to think about things for a minute or two, that is. Besides, collective bargaining isn't the problem. Political support is the problem.

In the public sector, consider the person or persons that sit on the opposite side of the negotiating table from the labor union and think about just how and why those people occupy those particular seats. They've won a popularity contest - no more, no less. None of those people had to pass any type of qualification exam to hold their office, nor must they have a degree. All they needed to do was gain the majority of votes from the people who voted in the last election - check the voter turnout rate in Ohio as you think about this. Now, were it not for the political contributions and campaigning by the labor union, the elected official might still be an unemployed office worker. I suppose that little fact will never influence the way the elected official negotiates a new contract with the union, but you never know. Now remember that those elected officials are spending your money, money that the government takes away from you in the form of extortion taxes.

Right on the heels of political support is the misnamed 'right to work'. This actually refers to the fact that if anyone accepts a job with anyone, and their job is represented by union labor, the new worker is forced to join the labor union. The individual has no choice in the matter - legally he or she must join and union dues will automatically be deducted from their paycheck. The right to work prohibits this. So, if you find a position that is open and that you'd like, and the pay, working conditions and benefits meet with your approval, you can accept the position and succeed or fail on your own merit without a union contract and without union representation. Which is what I've done all my life, and what a lot of other people have done. You go to work, and if you don't like the job you can quit and find something else. Sounds simple, right? That's because it is simple. You work, you get paid, you drink good and the wife is a wife indeed (credit to Alan Dugan).

All that being the case, in part anyway, there are certain people who work for the government whose jobs are critical to the preservation of the life we enjoy. Anyone working for the fire department falls into that category, as do police and emergency medical services. While we could do without these services, it's a long way from desirable to do so. Therefore, if people in the fire department, police department or EMS belong to a labor union, government has decreed that they should not be allowed to go on strike. This presents the obvious quandary - if they can't strike, how can the union negotiate?

To begin with, I wouldn't trust our elected officials to negotiate a labor contract with anyone, let alone the police or, Lord help us all, the fire department. Remember, we need qualified people in these departments; we won't get that with a group of popularity contest winners at the negotiating table. One alternative might be for the government to hire one or more experts to examine the department, look over the contract and represent the residents. I'm not thrilled with this idea either, as the conflict of interest will simply be passed down the line. Another alternative is to let the citizens vote on the contract. While this is a long way from a perfect solution, at least the citizens are voting on how their money will be spent which is a brand new idea and definitely not in favor with any politico I've ever heard speak. Still, I'd try it for a year or so and see what happens.

Several things that should be removed from labor unions is the automatic deduction of union dues, the automatic renewal of union representation each year, and workers being forced by law to join a labor union. If a worker wants to join, fine. If not, the labor union should let that worker alone.

As things heat up even more in Madison, my thought is that the police who are responsible for keeping order and protecting the politicians who have been threatened are all members in good standing of a labor union. Having some experience with the Madison police, I can attest to the fact that they are all highly qualified people and enjoy solid financial support from the city. The current situation with all the violent Democrat protesters is certainly a little tough for them, but not impossible. Democrats have a history of violence and are probably used to it. Consider the 1968 Democratic National Convention and check the history here, at A Brief History Of Chicago's 1968 Democratic Convention. Now granted, that was in Chicago where the Moonbats fled in time of trouble... but still, it could happen in Mad City, couldn't it?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dog Fighting Ring

My most sincere congratulations to the Federal, Michigan State and local police who arrested 26 criminals during the service of a search warrant at a home in Monroe County, MI, which is near Ida, MI. A large dog fighting ring was destroyed in the process. You can read about the particulars in the Toledo Blade:

Large dogfighting ring raided in Monroe Co.

Police raid dogfighting ring

The Detroit Free Press also carried the story:

Monroe County dogfighting scene: Blood everywhere, dozens arrested

Police arrest 26 in Monroe County dogfighting raid

I despise dog fighting, and the people who participate in it and support it represent the very worst of the dregs of society. What none of the stories mention is that there are dog fighting supporters who are still at large; manufacturers of dog fighting equipment, publishers of underground magazines, other kennels that breed and train fighting dogs and the veterinarians who treat the dogs and provide drugs.

My only disappointment with this action is reported here, from the Detroit Free Press:
Eighteen people were taken into custody at the house. Police dogs tracked eight more in the woods, barns, and walking away from the area, Sgt. Jeff Kemp said. Some of them were arrested two to three miles away, he said, and took more than three hours to find them.
Which should have read:
Eighteen people were taken into custody at the house, nine of which are now in the intensive care unit at Mercy Memorial Hospital due to injuries received when they resisted arrest. Police dogs tracked down and savaged eight more in the woods, barns, and walking away from the area, Sgt. Jeff Kemp said. Some of them were arrested and summarily shot two to three miles away, he said, and took more than three hours to find them.
Someone remind me again just why we can't give these low life sons of bitches a fair trial and a fine hanging - or firing squad, as I recommended some time ago.

Review: Museum of Dreams Preview and Extra Stout

Last Friday Mopsy was in town and suggested we all go see the free preview for Toledo Ballet's Museam of Dreams, soon to be shown at the Valentine Theater. I'm not much for ballet - a bunch of odd looking under thirty types dressed in non-revealing tights, leaping and contorting themselves across a stage to esoteric classical music without a brass pole in sight. Mopsy sensed my lack of enthusiasm (I think my comment about 'wandering around the museum while you watch the ballet' might have had something to do with this, but Mopsy is a perceptive woman and knows me pretty well) and quickly suggested that we could follow the ballet with a visit to the museum's common area and catch Extra Stout, an Irish band that was playing there. We could also have a beer. I capitulated. What can I say?

To begin with, the venue was poorly chosen. If you want to actually see a ballet, the dancers need a stage with auditorium seating. What we had was a large room in the museum, five rows of metal folding chairs and walls adorned with fine art. This means that if you want to take a few photos of the dancers, you should not use a flash as you'll damage the paintings. It also means that if you aren't seated in the first two rows, the chances of you actually seeing the ballet are roughly the same as being killed by lightning while seated inside the museum, and that's with the thunderstorm in Colorado.  Since I wasn't really interested in seeing the ballet I didn't care about this, but the rest of our group - Main Lady, Mopsy and Mom - all go in for this kind of thing in a big way. Fortunately they managed to shark some better seats after the first number.

If strike one was the venue, strikes two and three was the Toledo Ballet's EmCee, who is evidently convinced that there is nothing in this world so pleasing as the sound of his own voice, nor anything so important and informative as whatever the hell it is he has to say. The man's conceited palavering went on so long that I began to wonder if we'd ever see the preview, or if his overweening lecture actually was the preview and he would presently describe what the dancers would do in precise detail. I didn't get the man's name, which I regret only insofar as I could avoid him in the future.

Mister Microphone, the EmCee

The EmCee treated us to ten or fifteen minutes of his invaluable insights and philosophy after each routine. I couldn't find anything to throw so I sat through it, idly wondering if the man actually had the hubris to believe that what he had to say was as interesting and important as he thought it was, or if he was just an outstanding actor. About halfway through his second speech, I realized who he reminded me of: Obama. The style and narcissistic comportment were a dead ringer for The Anointed One on the campaign trail. Little wonder I found his speech repugnant.

The Ballet
The photos in this essay are terrible, for which I apologize. My equipment is not up to the task of low light photography. Moreover, there is little point to photographing a ballet in progress unless you have excellent equipment, a position which irritates the patrons in the $100 seats, and you are familiar with the ballet and so can anticipate a dramatic shot. Even then it's likely you'll shoot several hundred photos, planning on getting about one photo out of 100 that's worth keeping.  I shot five, mainly out of boredom, and this is the best of the lot. I grew tired of not watching the ballet, and so abandoned my seat in the last row for a standing position near the wall.

All I can say is that this is not The Nutcracker. The dancers are young. Some are obviously talented, but that doesn't make them seasoned professionals. Still, it's obvious that they worked hard on this presentation and they did a good job with it. If you like ballet, I think the show at The Valentine is worth seeing.

On to more important things, our intrepid party traipsed downstairs to quench our respective thirsts with the elixir of the evening, which I would have supposed to be Guinness beer of one sort or another. Fat chance, Ace. The bar ran out of Guinness in fifteen minutes, having ordered two whole cases of Guinness in preparation of having an Irish band playing, thus attracting Irish Band aficionados whose thirst for the hops appears in Irish legend and song. Losers.

Extra Stout
The band was loose. The players on both ends trailed the leads in the center, then slammed into them at the end of every eight bars. The group played Irish standards as well as select popular music, such as can be played on the instruments represented here. I think I should note that I don't really believe Extra Stout is a real, straight whiskey Irish band. For one thing I saw them drinking water.

Spoons Player
My favorite member of the band is this fellow on the end, who is playing the spoons. He appeared to be getting into the spirit of the thing, as the saying goes.

No Guinness - Here's Outburst
The sure cure for any loose band is one or more bottles of Guinness, but this is a good substitute. I've never had Outburst IPA before, and it is a very nice ale albeit a bit strong - 8.5% by volume. The more Outburst I drank, the better the band sounded. I'd go and hear Extra Stout again, but mainly for the beer.