Streetwise Professor

December 24, 2013

How Many Rooms In the Kalashnikov Mansion?

Filed under: Guns,History,Music,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:22 pm

The widow of the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. fortune, Sarah Winchester, believed that her home in New Haven, CT was haunted by the ghosts of men shot with Winchester rifles.  A medium told her to move west and build a house big enough to house all of the spirits.  So she moved to the Santa Clara Valley in California, and in 1884 began construction of a house.  Construction continued, day after day, for 38 years, as Winchester directed the addition of room after room after room to appease those haunting her. Today the Winchester House is a museum.

Yesterday, the inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, left this mortal coil at age 94.  It is almost certain that the ubiquitous AK-47 (and its successors like the AK-74) has killed more people than any firearm in history.

Pace Mrs. Winchester, how many rooms would be required in a Kalashnikov mansion to house all of the pour souls slain by Kalashnikovs?  A city of Winchester Mansions, probably.

Kalashnikov himself was disturbed but realistic about what his mechanical genius had wrought:

Mr. Kalashnikov said he regretted that it became the weapon of choice for guerrilla armies. “It was like a genie out of the bottle, and it began to walk all on its own and in directions I did not want,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2003. But he added, “I sleep soundly. The fact that people die because of an AK-47 is not because of the designer, but because of politics.”

This is true.  In particular, the politics of the USSR (and the People’s Republic of China), which liberally supplied AK-47s to its clients around the world, and which armed, directly and indirectly, numerous guerrilla forces engaged in conflicts euphemistically known as “wars of national liberation.”  Once millions of AKs were in circulation, as Kalashnikov said, “they began to walk all on [their] own” to every corner of the globe.  The genius of the design is that a child can use it.  And tens of thousands of child warriors have.

Look at the photos from any of today’s most brutal conflicts.  Syria. Central Africa. You see AKs, not FNs or M-16s.

A toxic combination.  A weapon of brilliant simplicity and durability produced by one of the most malign states in history, which had no compunction against indiscriminately flooding the world with them as part of a geopolitical strategy intended to realize the imperatives of a twisted ideology.  Meaning that Comrade Kalashnikov’s mansion would have to have rooms almost without number.

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September 4, 2013

Last One to Die

Filed under: Music,Punk — The Professor @ 10:59 pm

And now for something completely different.  No Eddie.  No Vova. Nothing about clearing or derivatives or Obama or Gary Gensler. Instead, this is a concert review-and crowd review.

This evening I spent 80 minutes in full body contact/hand-to-hand combat at the Rancid show at House of Blues in Houston.  By far the wildest, most intense show I’ve ever seen.  I thought the Dropkick Murphys crowds were insane, but they had nothing on the crowd tonight.  I was at the rail the entire show: close enough to read every letter on Lars’s somewhat fading “skunx” forehead tattoo.  I’ll say that I forced my way up there with brute strength, but truth be told it was more like I was propelled there, and then spent the night fending off attacks from three sides.  The advantage of the rail is that you are protected in the front and can use it for leverage :-P  I made some new friends-Niko, who shouted all the lyrics in my ear, and who clung to me for protection, and the burly guy who kept trying to elbow me aside until he finally gave up, put his hand on my head and shook it around, saying “you’re a bad motherfucker. I like that.” Mom will be so proud.

Because of the way things were, there was no way I could take pics, except a couple during song intros which I’ll post later.

As for the show.  Rancid killed it.  I’ve only seen them once before, at a bigger venue, and in an abbreviated (50 minute) set where they were the lead in act to Rise Against (which is a lame band, IMO-Jeez I can’t stand them).  Here they were the headline act, and played 80 minutes with just a 5 minute break.  They were excellent.  High energy, very tight.  They played songs from every one of their albums, including several from my favorite, Rancid 2000.  Black Derby Jacket was my favorite.  Matt Freeman just killed it on the bass.  That guy is unbelievable.  Best bass player I’ve ever heard or seen.  His fingers just fly over the frets.  It’s not just rhythm, it’s melody, and melody that you feel in your solar plexus.  No one else even comes close.

One interesting observation.  Lars was wearing Oxfords.  Very funny.  Another observation.  One kid went over the rail and security grabbed him, and put him in a headlock.  Stupidly, he put up a fight against the burly security guys (probably because he was obviously very wasted) .  As he was being wrestled away, Lars bent down, put his hand on the kid’s hand and told him to be cool and settle down.

Um, when Lars Frederiksen tells you to chill, you know you’re out of control.

Tim Armstrong did double duty, performing with Tim Timebomb and Friends as the second act.  Very entertaining ska and reggae influenced set.  That alone would have been worth the price of admission.

I hope Rancid doesn’t wait 5 years to return to Houston.  Hell, I’ll be old by then.

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August 4, 2013

Bloodhound Gang v. “Cossacks”: Is Death an Option?

Filed under: Music,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:24 am

I thought The Bloodhound Gang was lame during its heyday, such as it was, in the late-90s.   Which is probably why they’re playing FSU hotspots like Odessa, rather than the Warped Tour.  While in Odessa, the bassist tried to suck up to the western Ukrainians by using a Russian flag as something that is in very short supply in Venezuela. (Perhaps they got wind of stories like this and figured that an anti-Russian gesture would go over quite well right now.)

Not a bright move, given that the band’s next stop was in Russia.  They were kicked off the bill of a festival in Kuban/Krasnodar.  While hotfooting it to the airport, their car was pelted with eggs and tomatoes (that wouldn’t have happened in the late-90s!, given the economic conditions at the time).  When in the airport, they were set upon by a group of self-styled Cossacks, fittingly dressed in black shirts.  The band was roughed up before security personnel belatedly intervened.

And of course, the Cossacks needed to celebrate their victory over the evil американцы. And since two wrongs make a right, their response to an insult to the insult to the Russian flag was to insult the American flag. Which I’m sure just happen to be readily available in the Anapa airport. Oh, and that was after the “Cossacks” attempted to smother the bassist with it.

Keep it classy, folks. Keep it classy.

Here’s a video of the confrontation (h/t LL). All those thinking of going to Sochi next February might want to take a look, though if you’re so clueless as to still be entertaining that idea, it probably won’t make a dent.

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July 23, 2013

A Musical Interlude

Filed under: Music — The Professor @ 2:46 pm

Haven’t posted any tunes lately, but the last line of the last post brought this to mind:


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June 8, 2013

A Recurring Nightmare

Filed under: Music — The Professor @ 8:43 pm

I know you have all been waiting for my review of the Social D show in Asheville, NC on Wednesday.  Well, not all of you, maybe:  commenter Green as Grass wrote to say that the bands I like sound “bloody awful.” De gustibus non est disputandum, Green.

The show was good.  This was the seventh time I’ve seen Social D, and they lived up to their previous standards.  The set list was quite different, with several songs that I haven’t heard live before.  Mike Ness was basically all business, and didn’t engage in a lot of patter this time.

The funniest part of the evening relates to one of my experiences when I went to the Social D show in Asheville in November, 2010.  (The band has played in Asheville twice . . . I’ve made both shows.)  At the 2010 show, there was a girl next to me with “Nightmare” tattooed on the back of her neck, and “Goth Bitch” tattooed across the knuckles of her hands.  So who was standing in front of me in line to get into the show? A girl with “Nightmare” tattooed on the back of her neck, and “Goth Bitch” tattooed on the knuckles of her hands.  I wonder.  Could it have been the same person?  I surely remembered her, but I don’t think she recognized me: of course, I am totally lacking in any memorable tattoos.  But at a Social D show, that should make me memorable.

And in case you are wondering . . . I didn’t come across any motorcyclists sprawled in the middle of the street on the way back to my parents’ house.  Totally uneventful ride home.

Here are a couple of shots from the show.  I was pretty close to the front, right on the edge of the mosh.

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June 5, 2013

Social D at the Orange Peel

Filed under: Music — The Professor @ 3:55 pm

Headed off in a while to see Social Distortion at the Orange Peel in Asheville.  Hopefully this time I won’t have to give first aid to the <a href=”″>casualty of a motorcycle accident, </a> like I did when I saw them here in 2010.

I’ll post a review in the next couple of days.

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June 2, 2013

Leaks For Me But Not For Thee

Filed under: Music,Politics — The Professor @ 7:53 am

In response to the furor over the AP and Rosen investigations, Obama noted the threat that leaks pose to national security:

“As commander-in-chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. “

In a rational world, he would be referring to things like this:

It was the Obama administration that sealed the fate of the Pakistani doctor jailed for helping nail Usama Bin Laden, by divulging key details after the fact and dooming any chance Shakil Afridi’s cover story could win his freedom, according to a confidential Pakistani report.

When former Secretary of Defense and ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta publicly acknowledged Afridi’s role in the ruse which helped the CIA pinpoint Bin Laden’s presence in an Abbottabad compound, any chance that Pakistani authorities could help him get out of the country vanished, according to what some have called Pakistan’s version of the 9/11 Commission, a 357-page report from an independent body set up to probe the aftermath of the 2011 raid by Navy SEALs in which the Al Qaeda leader was killed.

“The statement by the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was the CIA Director when May 2 happened, confirming the role of Dr. Afridi in making the U.S. assassination mission a success, rendered much of what Afridi told the Commission very questionable if not outright lies,” states the report, which has not been released, but which has viewed.

As I wrote about a year ago, this administration leaks furiously information that makes it look good, even though these leaks (like the one involving Afridi, or the apprehension of the would-be junk bomber in Yemen, or the US involvement in Stuxnet) are deeply damaging.

In every administration there has been a considerable amount of for-me-but-not-for-thee hypocrisy when it comes to leaking about national security.  But nothing like what we’ve seen in the Age of Obama.

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May 12, 2013

Istanbul, Not Constantinople

Filed under: Music — The Professor @ 1:23 pm

I’m in Istanbul for a conference on CCPs.  I’ll post when I have time.  In the meantime, for your listening pleasure, They Might Be Giants:

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May 3, 2013

Off With Their Heads!

Filed under: Music,Punk,Uncategorized — The Professor @ 4:05 pm

Oh, there are a lot of candidates who are just begging for the Red Queen treatment, but that’s not whom I referring to.  I’m referring to the band.  Headed out to see them at House of Blues Houston tonight.  Just what I need.  Some spiritual, uplifting music.

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March 1, 2013

Punk Cures That Punk Feeling

Filed under: Music — The Professor @ 10:39 am

I was feeling a little punk yesterday.  Punk as in “blah.”  But I had a ticket for the Dropkick Murphys so I sucked it up and went to the show, and I’m glad I did.  Punk cured my punky feeling.

I’ve seen them 5 times now, so I knew what to expect, and they met expectations.  Some new stuff, some old stuff, all good stuff.

I arrived only 15 minutes before the went on, so initially was  at the very edge of the floor crowd.  But I worked my way to the front.  Mainly by following a woman about 4’10″ tall and 3′ wide who went through the crowd like a bowling ball.  I just followed in her wake, and made it to the rail as the attached pictures show.  A little rambunctious, a lot of checking, a lot of “Oi!”‘s but not too crazy.  Just fun crazy.

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