Sunday, July 5, 2015

Celebrating Freedom With A New Pistol

Happy belated 4th of July, Independence Day, etc.

I think it's strange that there isn't more politically correct guidance about the 4th of July. You know, those pricks that would be like, "it's not the 4th of July, it's 'Independence Day'!"

Celebrated some freedom with a new pistol - I'd be eyeballing a full-frame 9mm for a while. Carrying the Walther PPS I know it's not ideal for home use so I picked up a Sig P226 (MK25). By the way, this might be old news for guys with the cash to buy a couple or more guns per year but I picked the Sig up at Bud's and I'll never pay the listed price for a gun on their site again.

"Sticker" price was $950 or so and I offered $840 on the "name your price" tool, which was accepted. Now I just feel dumb having paid the sticker price for guns in the past.

First trip to the range was a pleasure. Definitely a better experience than shooting several boxes through the PPS in terms of recoil and stamina.

Check out the difference at 21' below firing Sellier & Bellot 9mm, 115 grain:

Targets fired at from a Sig Sauer P226 and Walther PPS

I didn't time my shooting so this is far from exact science but I can tell you the per round fired is about the same between the two. I'd always expected my accuracy was better with a full frame but never was able to visualize it side-by-side like I did today.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Breaking: I Just Can't Help Myself

I give CNN a hard time.

I will continue to give CNN a hard time.

Wolf Blitzer Didn't have a beard in the '70s

Alternate title posts:

  • "When Self-Promotion Goes Wrong"
  • "Update on Wolf's Facial Hair Status 40-years Ago"
  • "Hillary Still Isn't Talking So Here's Wolf's Beard"

Monday, June 8, 2015

Entourage Movie - I Need A Shower But Not Penicillin

Public Service Announcement: If you watched Entourage when it was a television show, the movie isn't THAT bad.

Don't judge me too harshly for this. I feel some shame. Not a lot. But some.

poster promoting Entourage the movie

So, back when the show Entourage was on HBO - at least in the early seasons, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I was a fan.

Keep in mind, I was younger and probably a bit more pent up so the juvenile Hollywood storyline fit me well at the moment. You know, womanizing, gross sex jokes, etc...

As the show progressed, I became less interested but finished as the show completed its run on HBO. There were still some golden moments and some of the characters like Jeremy Pivens' portrayal of the ruthless agent Ari Gold were, well, pure gold.

This past week, HBO released an Entourage movie. The critics have pretty much lambasted it as horrible and pointless. I can't say I disagree with the latter of the two criticisms.
"By the time it reached the end of its HBO run in 2011, “Entourage” had grown staler than last night’s Axe Body Spray. The passing of a few more years has not improved the aroma,"  A.O. Scott of the New York Times said in his review.
Scott wasn't wrong in his assessment but I got exactly what I expected out of the film. Maybe my expectations were low but it entertained me for about an hour and a half, which is more than I can say for a lot of what's on television these days. That said, this movie isn't going to make you think. It's crude. It's a little gross.

As a bonus, I fully expected to need a shot of penicillin after leaving the movie theater because, frankly, a lot of the humor is crude and nasty. But it wasn't that bad. I think a shower should get most of the sexually transmitted germs off.

I'm headed out to the range for a bit now - hope to share some pics later. Good way to start the week!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Col. Sanders Is Now A Senile Old Man... Thanks KFC

Let me start by saying, Kentucky Fried Chicken can do whatever it wants and armchair marketers are a dime a dozen.

They're (Yum Brands) a private company. I'm not trying to start a movement here. I just think they're dumb for what they've done to devalue their brand and its history. Personally, I'm a bit insulted as a resident of Appalachia because it feels like they're making fun of the history of this region of the country.

The New Colonel Sanders

If you haven't seen the spots yet, KFC has brought back Col. Sanders from the dead and apparently, he's now a bastardized mix between a poor man's George W. Bush impression and a senile, creepy uncle.

Maybe it's a southern thing. I don't know. Colonel Sanders is sort of an icon in Appalachia and even more than than in Kentucky. KFC's birthplace, Corbin, Kentucky is an easy hour from Knoxville so I guess I've falsely considered the original Colonel Sanders an East Tennessean (he was actually born in Indiana).

The Real Colonel Sanders

Here's a great video that gives you a sense of what the real Col. Sanders was like as he explains their first restaurant. Sanders is a restaurant legend and even taught Dave Thomas (Founder of Wendy's) his way around the kitchen.

Col. Sanders is a huge part of the KFC brand and I can remember him personifying the brand when the first KFC opened in my hometown when I was elementary school aged. Hell, the guy made great chicken, had a mysterious secret recipe and even shot a man during his life. He was like Coca-Cola but with meat and guns!

But, like a lot of brands, KFC lost their brand when Col. Harland Sanders passed away due to pneumonia in 1980.

If you're not familiar, here's one of the original Col. Sanders commercials from 1969.

Why Hate The New Spots?

What's wrong with this current campaign? A lot of things.

1.) Col. Sanders wasn't about humor for humor's sake. Col. Sanders is a throwback. He's about customer service and making us feel nostalgia for a time when customer service "still meant something". 

2.) Col. Sanders isn't crazy and wasn't one to wander around empty baseball diamonds.

3.) It feels almost as if the Darrell Hammond character is making fun of Kentucky culture and the brand's Appalachian roots. Is it intentional? I don't know.

As a complete outsider, this whole campaign wreaks of the following:
  • Yum Brands hires a hip marketing agency or advertising agency to make Taco Bell (another Yum company) cool among the young crowd.
  • Taco Bell's edgy, MTV-generation style ads get the attention of Millennials and they start to sell a lot of tacos with Doritos shells.
  • Yum Brands says, "oh hell yes, we like people who like their food in a box rather than a bag! Let's get those guys to make KFC relevant again!"
  • Yum hires the ad agency to work on KFC who pulls in Darrell Hammond, a Saturday Night Live veteran. After all, you know how much kids love SNL - he's perfect!

What's the end result? 

Well, KFC got a ton of media play because they brought an icon back from the dead. But I think Yum Brands will see in a year or two, the kids are going to continue eating tacos while mothers and parents who make family meal planning decisions continue to ignore their chicken.

KFC should have learned a thing or two from Wendy's when they lost their brand and Dave Thomas passed away. They didn't try to resuscitate him through a two-bit comedian. They played up the family-angle and started bringing in the real life Wendy (Dave's daughter) into the mix.

That is, until Wendy's replaced the real Wendy... for hot Wendy. But that's a gripe-session for another post someday.

Wendy's restaurant spokeswoman
Can you guess which one is the actual daughter of a fast food magnate?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Stadium Review: Turner Field

The Ted holds a special place in the heart of a lot of southerners.

Turner Field - Home of the Atlanta Braves

Maybe not as close a place as Fulton County Stadium did but Turner Field in Atlanta is home to many a winning Atlanta Braves teams.

I had a chance to make another visit to the stadium last weekend as my beloved Milwaukee Brewers came down to Dixie in the final game of a four game series with the Braves.

The 50,096 stadium opened in the mid-90's and for the first several years, it saw a ton of winning. In fact, the first nine years of the stadium's existence, Atlanta was a playoff baseball team.

Of course, the stadium played a huge part in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta so even if you're not a southerner you probably have seen some event that took place inside.

The local powers that be are obvious inside the stadium, which you'd probably expect. You know, Atlanta-based Coke and Delta --- among others. I guess I've never thought much of "the ATL" but in its own way, Coke and Delta are community-based businesses I suppose.
Left Field at turner field
The view from near the visitor's dugout toward left-field

Next year will be the last season at Turner Field because any stadium that's more than 15 years old needs to be replaced, apparently. The team will be moving to the suburbs and "The Ted" is expected to be demolished by the city.

It's really sad, the new stadium is being financed with a bunch of a public money ($450 million). The new field, SunTrust Park is in the northwest suburbs in a place called Cobb County. The Braves' departure from their current just-south-of-downtown locale is definitely going to leave a huge gap on the city's south-side.

Still, walking around inside Turner Field, there's not much that seems to be in disrepair. It's a fine ballpark and at the surface, the only thing that shows obvious wear are sun-battered plastic seats.

Seat at Turner Field in Atlanta
Imagine what you'd look like after 20 years of hot Georgia sun!
There's nothing that's necessarily iconic about Turner Field inside. Some stadiums have quirks --- like Miller Park's slide that the mascot goes down after homeruns and things of that nature. I wouldn't say there is anything distinctive about the park. But there is one thing that is distinctly trashy southern:
Waffle House Inside Turner Field
Yep, just beyond the left-field bleachers you can get a greasy plate of breakfast!
Yep, there's a Waffle House inside. Crazy, right? As for food, this is about as crazy as it gets for The Ted.

Some of the coolest parts about Turner Field aren't even inside Turner Field. Outside, in the parking lots you can see the old footprint of Fulton County Stadium. In fact, they even still have the fence up where Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run (record breaker).

There's a certain sterility to Turner Field. But you know what, I feel that way about a lot of major league/professional arenas stadiums. Does Atlanta deserve public money for a new stadium? Hell no. Will I miss Turner Field? Nope, not at all. I just wonder what it's absence from South Atlanta will do to the metro area as a whole.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dancing with Crowned Heads' Tennessee Waltz

One thing that's kind of amusing to me about the cigar industry is the concept of "limited edition" cigars or "exclusives".

For instance, regional releases that are only available in certain parts of the country.

Basically, people creating scarcity for their product.  It's an old marketing technique that psychology claims to still work but it cracks me up. Seems a bit gimmicky.

Oh, and those "limited edition" sticks that were manufactured in 2010 and still haven't sold out? Yeah, they're really driving up demand by telling me it has only taken 5 years to sell...

Why do I mention it? Well, because of the Crowned Heads' Tennessee Waltz cigar.

The cigar itself is only available in Tennessee. Odd, right? If you have a product that's awesome, why only allow consumers in one area enjoy it (purchase it, use it, while you profit off it). 

Gimmicks or marketing strategy aside, a few thoughts about the Tennessee Waltz, which really is a fantastic cigar.

A look at the Tennessee Waltz cigar by Crowned Heads
The distinct orange band has "Tennessee" written all over it.

About Crowned Heads

If you haven't heard of Crowned Heads as a cigar brand, you're certainly not alone. They are a boutique producer (means low-volume... or at least allegedly low-volume). 

The company itself is based in Nashville, Tennessee. Because, you know, Tennessee is pretty much the epicenter for tobacco growing and cigar activity! :) 

Most of their cigars feature filler tobacco from Nicaragua and from what I can have been exposed to, their construction and smoke-ability is absolutely first-rate. 

The Tennessee Waltz - Construction

Upon picking up the stick out of my humidor, the weight of the cigar struck me. It's heavier than what I expected. A 5.5 x 52 sized stick, I'd call it a gordo but I haven't seen anywhere that Crowned Heads officially names a size for these sticks so I could be mistaken.

Appearance-wise, the stick is fantastic. Seems to be well constructed and looks like class.

I had a small tear in the Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper of my cigar that could have been caused when I removed the orange band from around the stick. I suppose orange was pretty fitting for the Tennessee Waltz. But a checkerboard orange and white design would have been an even better homage to The Volunteer State.

The Tennessee Waltz blend is actually produced by My Father Cigars - in Esteli, Nicaragua.

The Smoking Experience

Tennessee Waltz First Third

I can't say enough about Crowned Heads - the draw was fantastic. While I struggled initially to get a good light on the cigar, I think that was because of my lighting technique more than the cigar.

I recently picked up a big Colibri cigar torch lighter that's been somewhat challenging to use without overheating the cigar so I attempted to display more finesse this time around. It might have led to not enough flame actually hitting tobacco.

I enjoyed this stick on my back patio on a night with medium-humidity and temperatures in the high 70's.

In terms of taste - I picked up a bit of spice right from the start. It kind of surprised me to be honest and I was afraid this was going to deliver too much for my tastes. It was downright rude in its entrance into my mouth.

What was happening? I'd found the other Crowned Heads' offerings to be so balanced. How could this cigar bearing the name of my home state be so harsh? 

But... the spice quickly died off to my delight.

Into the second-third of the cigar, I noticed some espresso or possibly mocha notes enter. This was awesome and I was really starting to enjoy the experience. At this point, I'd say there was a little bit of citrus in the flavor profile. I'm not sure what to call it, it wasn't really orange and it was sour like lemon. It was different and I liked it.


These sticks aren't cheap at $10 a pop or so in my local brick and mortar. Would I smoke this again? Absolutely. Did I get as much out of this as I would some of the others from the Crowned Heads line-up, like the Four Kicks? Probably. It's a wash, I really liked the cigar but for the money, I'd probably lean toward some of the cheaper offerings from the company.

Oh, and what the heck is the Tennessee Waltz named after? It's one of the official state songs of Tennessee but certainly isn't as catchy as Rocky Top. :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Venue Review: The Shed in Maryville, TN

A shot of The Shed at dusk in Maryville, TN
A look at The Shed in Maryville, Tennessee.
Folks outside of the southeast, please bear with me on this one.

I'm guessing you won't find yourself at The Shed, a music venue tied to the Harley Davidson distributor in Maryville, Tennessee anytime soon. We had a chance to see Jason Isbell there and while I was trying to figure out details about the venue, I wasn't able to find much info online.

So, I figured I write up a little bit about what folks can expect if they're heading there and happen to stumble upon this post.

The Venue

A look under the Pavilion at The Shed in Maryville
A look from the back-end of the pavilion to the stage

The Shed is a weird concept in a lot of ways. Connected to a huge Harley Davidson retailer, "The Shed" is really just a covered a pavilion that's located a few miles west of Maryville, Tennessee. (Which is about 15 miles south of Knoxville, Tennessee).

When we arrived about an hour before the opening act went on stage, there were tons of lawn chairs set-up all around the outside of The Shed itself. (Signs indicated you can't set up chairs under the covered portion of the venue). We didn't have a great spot but it wasn't awful either, I'll have more on this later.

There were several smaller, portable type bars set-up all over the place and a big Harley Davidson merchandise tent if you're into that thing.

It's a small-town feel. I'm guessing there was parking nearby for about 400 vehicles and if forced to estimate, I'd guess there were 600-700 people at the show. (These are my unofficial figures).

Further proof of that small-town feel, the main act's tour bus pulled up right next to the stage. There didn't appear to be a green room or any sort of dressing room available. Before the show, we spotted Jason Isbell just standing outside the bus, seemingly to get some fresh air. I wasn't around for a lot of the old-school Buddy Holly style tours but from how Hollywood portrays that era in movies, it reminded me of that sort of environment.

Amenities & Food

Image of The Smokehouse and Juke Joint
A view of the area near The Smokehouse.
It's definitely a unique set-up. There is an indoor bar and restaurant area, known as The Smokehouse. We didn't eat so I can't attest to the quality of the barbecue but it smelled great.

The nice part about the venue is that most things were relatively cheap. The tickets to the concert itself were $20 each, which included parking in lots right next to The Shed. At the bars set-up, we had a couple of beers that ran $4 each, which isn't like grocery store prices but since they had us in the middle of nowhere, it definitely was ripe for fleecing --- which they didn't take advantage of to our delight.

Beer at the Shed
Checking out the local beer, Bluetick Brewery.

Restrooms were an odd situation as well. There is an indoor, permanent style restroom that was incredibly hot and fit the motif of a "shed" well. The sinks inside were large metal tubs like you'd expect to see at a farm. I had to do a double take, at first I thought that was the urinal... which probably wouldn't have been the best place to wash my hands. For the concert, there were about a half dozen portable toilets on-site. I'm guessing these disappear on nights there isn't a live performance.

The Performance

So, we were a bit spoiled in this regard the last time we saw Jason Isbell as he performed at the Tennessee Theatre --- an awesome venue that is gorgeous inside and has fantastic acoustics, in my non-expert opinion.

The Shed wasn't bad. It was an outdoor show so you never know what you'll get in terms of sounds bouncing off things and hitting you awkwardly. In this regard, it definitely passed with flying colors.

The viewing situation was pretty bad, however.

I mentioned earlier that lawn chairs were set-up around the outside. We had a couple in the trunk of the car so we set-up in line with everybody else. We were probably 60-yards from the stage and had a clear view of just about everything.

Then the concert started.

A look at the stage from where we set up

People flooded to the front and blocked out our view. For much of the concert, I couldn't see much other than Jason Isbell's face, when he swayed to the microphone. Even while standing, it was tough to see much --- which was a bit frustrating.

There were several older folks who got up and left out of frustration. We didn't leave as we're a little accustomed to this sort of thing at concerts but it was sad to see those folks who got there, set-up properly where they were supposed to and thought they had a nice relaxing evening ahead leave feeling upset.

Also, as you might expect, Harleys make a lot of noise. There were several times where we heard the crackle of a bike starting during a quiet portion of a song. It's not an ideal situation in that regard and felt a little bit rude of the bike owner --- but what are they supposed to do? Wait until the concert is over in order to go home?

If You Go...

The Shed's primary sign

If you're heading to The Shed for a concert, be sure to pack a couple lawn chairs with you. Even if you're not planning to sit for the show, you'll want them for in-between sets. 

If we could do it again, we'd have set-up our chairs and then stood under the pavilion. You can essentially reserve a seated spot by setting up your chairs and walking away.

Also, plan your night and meals accordingly. 

The concert was set for 6 p.m. according to our tickets --- which was nowhere near accurate. Jason Isbell didn't take the stage until 9 p.m. and Anderson East, the opening act didn't take the stage until somewhere around 7:45 p.m. It seemed like they wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to shop, buy food and spend money on beer before the concert.

Finally, Isbell was great. We wished he would have mixed up his set list a little more from when he played at the Tennessee Theatre a few months back but it was still a great performance. It's easy to see how he sold out four consecutive nights at The Ryman over in Nashville later this year.

If you're unfamiliar, here is a look at Jason Isbell playing The Shed from a few years back: