31 May, 2011

You know what the most dangerous thing in America is?

A ninja with a library card.

And a gun.

(via Vintage Ninja.)

Obviously Not Drunk Enough

(via Modern Mechanix.)

30 May, 2011

We Can Beat Them

(Via Modern Mechanix.)

Just for One Day

French, British and American soldiers celebrate freedom from their Japanese prisoner of war camp, August 29, 1945.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Or however you're supposed to celebrate a day such as this.

(Via the Noble Man Bullshit)

24 May, 2011

One More Gun Before I Go

I like collecting images and stories of bizarre weaponry, especially guns. The Marklin Rifle is one thing, but there's a whole bevy of strange guns that are just out there existing between the memories of more famous guns like the Winchester or the Lee-Enfield or the Maxim Gun or the AK47. They're all there, just waiting for you to find them. That's one of the reasons I like this Western (or one of the Westerns) I am working on. The Old West and that whole time period is this very unique transition period between what firearms were and what they were going to become. The thing is-- what makes it so much fun-- is that at the time nobody knew what was the formula that was going to work. It's like this Cambrian Era of flourishing life and diversity right before a meteor hit the earth or something (in this case, that Extinction Event would probably be World War I).

Anyways, here's a bunch of guns. Enjoy.

Images in Fucking up the German Horde

P. Krivonogov. Soviet Cavalry’s fighting near Moscow.

The Marklin Rifle

Frederick Selous (left) with his Marklin Rifle (right).

The Marklin (or the Märklin, as my keyboard stubbornly refuses to spell out for me) was made famous by the Norwegian crime fiction writer Jo Nesbo in his book The Redbreast. In the novel Nesbo featured this weapon not as a hunter's rifle, but as the weapon of an assassin. Since then it's come into some prominence among his fans and among some amateur gun enthusiasts and people who just generally wonder, what the heck is this wonder rifle?

A brief search on the internet shows that therer is a lot of hearsay and what-have-you regarding the rifle and whether or not it actually exists. Unfortunately, the internet has far more bad information about the rifle and it's unusual history than it does accurate information.

This whole business reminds me of something I read about when I was reading up on the William Shakespeare and the conspiracy theory that he did not actually write his own plays (which, you'll trust me on this one, is an actual belief that some people adhere to, which, to me, just goes to show that sometimes all it takes to fool a smart person is another smart person). One of the counter-arguments to this theory is truly one of the most elegant things I have ever read. The counter-argument claims that that the absence of evidence does not necessarily mean the evidence of absence. Just because you can't find something doesn't mean it didn't happen, and just because you can't prove something that does not mean that it is suddenly and irrecoverably dispelled.

Or that's the reading I take from that whole business.

Much of the problem with the rifle has to do with the fact that it shares its name with a toy manufacturer. A lot of googling and yahooing and binging (haha, let's not kid ourselves) turns up nothing but toy cannons and trains or whatever else, which murks the water. At that point I know a lot of people give up, I know I almost did, but I can assure you, the Marklin Rifle is a very real weapon. There's more than a few elephants and men hanging out in the afterlife who will tell you the same (I mean, you know, if you speak elephant).

The Marklin was in fact designed around the turn of the century by a cannon manufacturer looking to branch out in sport shooting. Using the same falling block action design as the famous British Martini-Henry Rifle (with a significant scaling, naturally), the was very much a rifle in keeping with the late 19th century-- at least in terms of upscale hunting rifles. While it was hardly groundbreaking, it was a fairly unique weapon.

The problem with the Marklin wasn't that it was a just boutique weapon (which it was) or that it had a unique caliber (which being a 16mm makes it bizarre even among elephant guns) or that it was a falling block weapon in the age where bolt-action rifles were becoming popular-- it was all of these things. The Marklin Rifle hit the market too little and too late. The little cannon maker that could soon folded up its small arms division after only selling a small number of the weapons in the last decades of the 19th century.

In no time at all, the rifle was overshadowed by cheaper weapons with less fussy maintainance routines and less expensive ammunition. Why spend that many krones or marks or pounds or whatever when you could buy maybe two high-end rifles for the same price? Maybe if the rifle found a base of customers it could have driven down the price and really made something of it, but that only exists where some sort of jonbar hinge dropped in and made this finicky rifle something more than it was. That world doesn't exist, obviously and all we're left with is a story-- unless you're an antique arms collector.

If you ask Jo Nesbo, the real market with the Marklin rifle is exclusively Neo-Nazi psychopaths (a redundancy if there ever was one), so maybe it's for the best this rifle never took off.

Nesbo also mentions that the Marklin used a special type of bullet (beyond using a 16,, shell). Nesbo's assertion that it uses "Singapore bullets" is true, with some minor liberties. The Marklin's 16mm bullets used "Dum Dum" rounds, which is a kind of a ball designed to expand upon impact and create larger, uglier, and rougher wounds. Dum Dum bullets are so named from a factory in the Indian town of Dum Dum that produced soft-leaded bullets that were the predecessors to our modern hollow point bullets. This is one of the main reasons the Marklin is thought of as such a bizarre weapon. While one can chamber any firearm with soft-lead very few are designed to chamber that sort of shell exclusively.

This is one of the main reasons the Marklin was destined to become nothing more than a curio-- a stillborn one at that. The 1868 Declaration of St. Petersburg put an international ban on expanding bullets over a certain weight and the 1899 Hague Convention, reinforced the taboo on the sort of bullet that the Marklin was built for. In effect, these two treatises banned the 16mm bullets the Marklin required for use against God's largest and ugliest animals (man rarely being one and often the other).

Considering this, it isn't likely the Marklin ever saw much action in battle. The prohibitive price, strange ammunition, and general illegality likely kept it out of all but the most desperate hands. Besides, even back during the Second Boer War where it might have seen combat, it would be worth more as a collectible than as an instrument of war.

With all that said, anyone who thinks that the Marklin isn't real, I'd suggest they do an actual cursory search and then write about what they find instead of just giving up when they don't hit pay dirt. Unfortunately there's a lot of that sort of thing going on in the world. People read the first thing they see and they just believe it at its word. Oh well, at least it gives me a chance to talk about guns and crime books and in the end, isn't that what it's all about?

Anthony North, Ian V. Hog, (2004). Book of Guns and Gunsmiths, 2004. Quantum Books. p. 256
Arthur Augustus Thurlow Cunynghame, M. Balkind, (1880). My Command in South Africa, 1874-1878. Macmillan & Co.. p. 79.
Kirton, Jonathan: The British Falling Block Breechloading Rifle From 1865 (1997), p. 97

22 May, 2011

The Driest Crazy Thing You'll Read All Day

I was researching whether or not ingesting gunpowder has hallucinogenic properties (don't ask) and I stumbled onto the title of a paper written for the US Army. The title is:

Drug Intoxicated Irregular Fighters:
Complications, Dangers, and Responses

I wonder how somebody can manage to sound so clinical about something a mad as that. I mean, when you're writing about hash-smoking Taliban and coke-addled child soldiers, how do you not accidentally let passion slip into the project? I guess that's why I'm not a clinical psychologist or a scientist or anything. I just can't hack that kind of prose.

Because Great Whites Aren't Awful Enough

While doing a little bit of research, I stumbled onto this little tidbit:
The shark pup's powerful jaws begin to develop in the first month. The unborn sharks participate in intrauterine-cannibalism: stronger pups consume their weaker womb-mates. Delivery is in spring and summer.

I don't think it needs to be said, but this is one of the more grotesque things I've read this week. And it's certainly a first for me.

19 May, 2011

Point of Order

17 May, 2011

13 May, 2011

This Week in Maniac Fuckers

I tried reading Naked Lunch last year.
It didn't go all that well.

On the plus side, I got a grip of reference material for a thing I'm writing, so it isn't all a complete waste.

BONUS: The Onion AV Club on Fictional Drugs.

03 May, 2011

Richard Stark's Batman

(via Jhalal Druit.)

02 May, 2011

Blogs are For Pictures

Here's some pictures that have been bouncing around my head recently

(Mystery Photo.)

A Corsican irregular during WWII (Via Corbis)

(By Bill Phelps.)

(By Basil Gogos, who has the raddest name of almost any painter I've ever seen.)

The Many Loves of J.A. Kislingbury

The Bitch is Dead

I get why people aren't emotionally attached to 9/11 or even the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq. I probably felt the same about Waco or the Oklahoma City bombing or the USS Cole. For me 9/11 was one of the formative moments of my early years.

I remember my freshman year of high school, I was brushing my teeth in my bathroom when I heard my dad say "They just crashed two planes into the Twin Towers." I didn't believe him. I thought he was imagining things or exaggerating things. When I came down to the bathroom I was completely fixated, eating my breakfast, and watching this horror happen to my country. I didn't know what to make of it. I don't think my mom and I spoke the whole way towards my high school.

When I got there we found that our TVs had shitty reception, so we only had to imagine what was happening on the other side of America.

One memory I have, waiting outside my Biblical History class was watching kids from the high school next door go home because of the attacks on the Pentagon and New York and Pennslyvania. I remember that everyone was paranoid at the time and locals thought that they'd attack JPL maybe if they got the chance. That ended up being bullshit so we just called all the kids going home from classes pussies and wusses because they got out of school for the day.

When I got home I heard we bombed Afghanistan and it wasn't until a month later that we finally invaded. From there it's all kind of a blur and it all runs together in my mind. I was a dumb high schooler, but I remember that day so vividly. It won't ever leave me. And while Iraq and everything else changed in my mind, as did the war in Afghanistan, I don't forget what I went through and what I felt on that day.

I think everyone does. It's kind of funny, in a way. Le Monde, the leading French newspaper-- a paper that has no great sympathy towards Republican America-- ran the headline "We Are All Americans" the day after. Even Gadaffi condemned the attacks. It did matter. And it doesn't matter because it was America or because of capitalist bullshit or whatever else your college degree is feeding you, it matter because three thousand innocent human beings were murdered because of the worst kind of rationality and perversion. Go ahead and compare it with whatever else, but this happened while I was alive and it happened in my country and there's a lot of people who aren't as maybe directly connected as me or a lot of other people, but that doesn't disqualify what we felt and what we feel now.

It's a complicated thing and I get that. I know that. I read a lot and I read a lot about national security and terrorism and Afghanistan and a lot of other things and that still doesn't take away from what happened.

I remember when it was the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and as a kid I never got why that mattered or what the big deal was. I never felt it. But, when the tenth anniversary came-- which was post 9/11, obviously-- it hit me. I was amazed at how much time had passed and I remembered how much of my life had been involved with that. Now that we're less than six months away from the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I don't know what to feel. Not exactly, anyways. I imagine it doesn't involve any sort of joy. I'd rather Osama be alive and 9/11 never happened than what we have now. That doesn't mean I won't find the little pleasures in all of this.

I'm glad this has some sort of a cap for me and for quite a number of people in this country. A monster is dead. There's no amount of sour grapes that can take away what that means.