Saturday, December 30, 2006

Piano for Katrina

Piano fans looking to contribute to Katrina relief should pick up George Winston's album, Gulf Coast Blues and Impressions. If this music doesn't move you, you ain't got no rhythm.

Check it out: George Winston's webpage

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fool on the Hill

An ongoing online discussion in Todd's Serak group on Yahoo has reminded me of something I have come to realize of late:

I am past the age where I will suffer fools gladly.

The genesis of our online argument comes from somebody who knows nothing about the art we practice, but who purports to tell us what we are doing wrong in the practice thereof. He arrived, then in an ingenuous, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth manner, asks a "question" which is obviously nothing other than an axe he came to grind. Then when I pointed out the error of his manner and fact of his comment, he became all indignant -- I was just asking an innocent question ... bat, bat went his eyelids ...

Pah. I'm guessing he's young, and certainly he is full of himself, and once upon a time, I'd have cut him more slack, as my kinder-hearted classmates have been doing, but -- bag that. If an atheist goes to a Baptist tent revival meeting and stands up to proclaim there ain't no God, his lack of judgement borders on idiocy -- it might even be fatal. Them Baptists can get passing fierce ...

These days, I'm of the mind that if you come into my clubhouse and say something really stupid? I'm gonna call you on it. If you persist, then you are going to be made to look bad.

Youth. So wasted on the young. There surely must be angels who watch out for fools and children ...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

One More Gun Thing ...

Gary Reeder's .500 Max Revolver

There's a story about the guy who moves to Alaska and who wants to go hiking, but is worried about the Kodiak bears. So he asks one of the locals what would be a good handgun to carry to protect himself. Would a .357 Magnum be enough? Or a .44 Magnum?

Well, the local says, it doesn't much matter which. Just be sure to file the front sight off flat and smooth.

Huh? Why should I do that?

Well, that way it won't hurt so bad when the bear takes it away from you and shoves it up your ass ...

Gunmaker Gary Reeder, who made the piece pictured above, has come up with a handgun that negates that old story. On a hunt he was on not long ago, he apparently was sitting at the campfire when a rather large brown bear came to call, at speed. He managed to clear his sidearm and fire, dropping the charging bear almost literally at his feet.

I don't own this one, but Gary very kindly lent it to me when I was doing research for a novel a couple years back. It's passing expensive, but extremely well-made, and if you are looking for Thor's Hammer, this is the piece you want. Check out his page:

Reeder's Custom Guns

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ammo redux

Some factoids about the handgun ammuntion pictured. (For identification, see the post just prior to this one.)

Although it is the worst fight-stopper compared to the others, more people have been killed by the itty bitty .22 round on the far left than any of the others. That's not because it is wicked- bad-deadly, but because there are more weapons that chamber that round worldwide than the others, and it can be fired from a rifle as well as a handgun, so more people have been shot with .22's than with any other caliber.

In a gunfight, killing people is not the goal, it is to stop them shooting at you. If you hit them, and they get off six shots that all hit you and kill you, you probably wouldn't be greatly comforted knowing that they died eight hours later from your shot.

So far, no humans have been shot with the .500 Max, according to the guy who came up with the guns that fire 'em.

For stopping power -- and let's avoid the long, drawn out argument between the jello-junkies and the morgue-monsters -- of the rounds pictured, the .357 Magnum is the round of choice from a handgun. There are others that are close -- the .40 S&W (not pictured) and the 10mm, but the .357 Mag is the best of this lot.

"Stopping power" here is defined as the number of people who, when hit solidly in the body, are unable to continue aggressive action against you after you shoot them; i.e., they fall down and lose interest in bothering you. For the best .357 Magnum rounds, this is a hair over 96%, based on actual shootings.

Though I have to say that I suspect anybody shot with the .50 cal is going to fare very badly, and if I was betting money, I'd lay odds that's a better stopper than anything on the table.

The .32 auto and .32 Long Colt are marginal stoppers. The .38 Special so-so, and the 9mm slightly better than the .38. The .45 ACP is a hair better than both in most loadings, but not the one pictured, which is the military round.

... and pass the ammuntion ...

I was cleaning out my office and came across some old handgun ammo, so I thought I'd put up a comparison vis a vis size and shape of a few assorted kinds. Not anywhere near complete, there are many others, but a few representative calibers for writers who might find it useful.

From left to right: 1) .22 LR (Long Rifle) lead bullet; 2) .32 auto, lead; 3) .32 Long Colt, lead; 4) 9mm semi-jacketed -- lead with copper or brass over it; 5) .38 Special, semi-jacketed hollow point; 6) .357 Magnum, semi-jacketed hollow point; 7) .45 Colt ACP, full metal jacket, aka "hardball;" 8) .500 Maximum, lead bullet.

While there are some bottlenecked rounds for handguns that are slightly smaller than the .22, the .500 Max is, as I understand it, the largest production diameter round allowed by law for current civilian handguns.

Any of these bullets (which is the top bit and not the whole round, which consists of several parts -- bullet, gunpowder, cartridge, primer) will do the job, properly placed, but with some, the placement must be precise, while others, there is considerable wiggle room.

The .22 is good for squirrels. The .500 Max will stop a charging Kodiak bear. The others fall somewhere in between for efficacy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Wishes

So, whatever your spiritual or religious persuasion or lack thereof on this Christmas Eve, best wishes for a happy holiday season. Remember Desiderata: You have a right to be here ...

The picture (from earlier this fall) is why I leave my hummingbird feeder up year-round.

Thursday, December 21, 2006



My daughter called this morning to tell me that her dog, Howard, a Cardigan Corgi, had to be put down last night. He'd had a couple of seizures, and the vet suspected pancreatic cancer -- insulin and blood sugar problems -- and last night, he had a series of seizures that got progressively worse.

Named after the horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Howard was a big part of the reason that we decided to get a Corgi. Howard was a playmate for Cady when they were puppies, and later, for Scout. He was a distant great-great uncle to our dog Jude.

Yesterday was a bad day for dogs in our family.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Scout - 1992-2006

As dogs' lives go, Scout's was well-lived and long. He was a beloved part of our pack, and content with his place in it.

His first year was hard, he had been abused, and he was adopted by my sister-in-law Judy from a San Francisco animal shelter, and brought to a home where he was wanted and cared for.

When Judy died and her husband moved to an apartment in the city, we took Scout, who became a companion for our female shepherd, Cady Jo.

They had ten years together before we lost her. She was the leader, queen of the house, and he was happy to have somebody to follow.

When Cady died, Scout grieved, and we thought he was going down then, but a new puppy perked him up, and he made it through Jude's puppyhood, and the arrival of the newest pack member, Layla.

But pushing fifteen is old for a German Shepherd, and he slowly began to run out of steam. He had arthritis of the spine, his back legs started to go, he wobbled, and eventually could hardly walk without falling. He didn't see or hear well toward the end, and his appetite faded. His systems started to shut down.

Old dogs sleep a lot, and we hoped he would just drift away one night, but that was not to be. There comes a time with some dogs when you have to help them go, and it is your responsibility as the leader of their pack to know when that is, and to step up and do what needs to be done.

I believe in assisted suicide for people -- and I certainly wouldn't allow my dog to suffer. Today, Dianne and I took him to the vet's. Our vet came out to the car, and a few minutes later, Scout left us.

I cried like a baby.

There are too many good memories to recount, but one recent one stands out:

Scout had been slower and slower to rise, and unable to go very far. But on a short walk a few days ago, one of our neighbors left a gate open, and their black lab got out. It is not a friendly dog, and it came at us, snarling and snapping.

And tired, sick, old Scout, who had nothing left, who was barely able to stand up without falling, found something, and surged forward to protect us. He stood his ground against the lab, teeth working, going on the attack. He didn't back down an inch. The lab did.

I shooed the neighbor's dog back into its yard, shut the gate, and came back to see that Scout had a big dog-smile. He looked pleased with himself, and maybe that's just me anthropomorphizing it, but I can say I was pleased with him, as proud as I could be. Such a good boy.

Scout. He was a stand-up dog, a good boy straight across. I loved him, and I will miss him, as I still miss Cady, until the end of my days.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

Scout Joe

My old dog Scout is on his last legs. We thought he might not make it through the day yesterday, but he rallied a bit. Kind of like a bouncing ball now; each bounce is a little lower than the one before. Tonight, he didn't want to go for a walk when I took the other pups out.

Scout, who used to lope like a marathon runner, loose-limbed and quick as a wolf. Who once ran a hundred yards across a field and nearly caught a blue heron who saw him coming half way there, leaping eight feet into the air and just missing the bird.

He's old for a German Shepherd, fourteen and some, and that's a couple years past the average. He can barely move, and isn't eating or drinking much. At some point, the quality of his life will drop too far, and we'll have to send him on his way. We are talking days.

It's the nature of things, but it breaks your heart even knowing that.

Still Magic in the World

Never let it be said that all the magic has gone away. While trying to change the fuses in a string of outdoor lights this evening, I managed to drop my pocketknife, with which I was prying the nasty little suckers out. I was in my front courtyard, in a patch of dirt. I saw the knife fall at my feet.

And then it disappeared. Not into thin air, but into hard ground. I searched, but it was gone.
It was a smallish knife, but all in stainless steel, and you'd think you could spot something like that using a diver's flashlight bright enough to take the paint off a passing jet airliner, but, you'd be wrong ...

And the damned string of lights didn't work after that anyhow.

I hope Vulcan enjoys the little knife as much as I did.

The picture is of special palming coins made for a turn-of-the-twentieth-century sleight-of-hand expert, T. Nelson Downs, aka the King of Koins. You can read about him in the book The New Modern Coin Magic, by J.B. Bobo. First published in 1952, it has been revised a whole bunch of times since. I have the 1966 edition, which was a gift some thirty-eight years ago yesterday. Bobo's book, a collection of sleights and tricks from various stage magicians, is still the standard by which all other coin-magic books are judged, and rightfully so.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sex, Politics, Religion, Abortion, Gun Control ...

I just bailed from a discussion on a friend's blog about The War, after realizing yet again there are some subjects for which reasoned debate just doesn't cut it.

This guy with whom I was arguing was for it, and I was agin it, and never the twain shall meet.

I like to think of myself as open-minded and reasonable, but I have my beliefs and the ones that are the most deeply held are simply not going to be changed by somebody espousing the opposite view. I have come to realize that the folks on the other side cling to their beliefs, too -- wrongheaded as they are ...

It's always been amazing on some level that people can disagree with me on these things. I mean, I've considered these subjects in depth, collected information pro and con, and determined what, for me, seems the rational position. It's like there's a part of me that thinks, "Well, if folks have the same information I do and they approach it logically, they can't help but come to the same conclusions I have reached."

Wrong, bucko, not just No, but Uh Uh, ain't gonna happen, no way, no how!"

For the record, I think war in general is the height of mankind's group-stupidity, and that the war in Iraq was and is particularly boneheaded -- launched on lies, prosecuted as badly as it possibly could have been, and there never was a remote hope of "winning" it in any realistic sense of the word.

I couldn't and still cannot imagine how anybody could have been so short-sighted as to not realize how things have been done forever in the Middle East -- didn't anybody running the show realize that those folks who live in the sands carry grudges for seventeen generations? That they are still willing to kill each other over an argument their nine-times great-grandfathers had a thousand years ago? That God, family, tribe are primary, and everything after that is a shrug?

The belief that the U.S. Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force and all those poor reservists -- were going to swagger in, kick ass, take names, and that the country would welcome them with flowers, and then convert to a Republican Democracy and live happily ever after was, to my mind, the height of arrogant, new-shurf-in-town cowboy stupidity.

It's not as if there weren't stadiums full of people saying this all along, but the Bush Administration had its own axe to grind, and nobody was listening.

Anybody who thinks the world is a safer place for these actions is not listening, either.

I can't imagine that history will look kindly upon Bush and company. I sure as hell don't.

We have sown the wind, and now, as Hosea tells us, we reap the whirlwind.

Friday, December 08, 2006

White Trash Christmas

So we decided to do a white trash Christmas this year, it's been a while.

Bought a fake white tree on sale at Rite-Aid -- see the previous post -- and for a grand investment of twenty-six bucks (which included three strings of lights), voila!

Turned out to look a lot better than we thought it would.

And then, there are the little dogs that make it too cute for words ...

Hope for Humanity

I like to think I'm a pretty positive guy; I look generally for the bright side, and wish to attribute to people good intentions more often than not. Live and let live.

However, it is true sometimes that good intentions pave the road to you-know-where.

If one is looking for evidence that the human race is not yet ready to go to the stars, or achieve world peace, one needs look no farther than my neigborhood Rite-Aid's parking lot, just around the corner from my house.

I find it astounding that people who supposedly passed a driving test before being allowed onto the public roads can get so confused in a store's acre-sized parking lot.

Really, it looks like outtakes from a Keystone Kops movie -- with a fair dash of the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello sprinkled on top.

Hey, Moe! Hey, Larry! Look at me, look at me, woo-woo-woo-woo-woooo -- !

It's not that complex a parking lot. It is large, mostly square, a drugstore on one end, and bermed on three sides, so there's nowhere to go except in and out and there is only one way to do that. It has one-way rows, head-in, angled parking off each row -- bright, yellow, parallel, painted lines to delineate the slots, each space wide enough to pull a big honkin' truck into with room to open doors on both sides -- you wouldn't think there'd be a problem, but trying to cross that space is as risky as traversing a minefield. At night. In a rainstorm. While drunk. Wearing sun-glasses. On acid.

People stop, miss turns, back up, cut across the lanes, and generally look as if somebody had just that morning picked them up from some tiny, remote, radioactive atoll where they had been raised buck naked by rabid bats, then handed them a set of car keys, and pointed them at the Rite-Aid parking lot. Their entire education in the art of automobile driving could only have consisted of flapping wings and ultrasonic cheeps, and not many of those.

It's amazing to watch. Better from atop the berm, though.

Coming home an hour ago with a couple sets of Christmas tree lights -- 30% off on the price this week at Rite-Aid -- I saw a woman pull a minivan into the lot and drive smack into a concrete island bristling with signs that Stevie Wonder could have avoided, bam!

I mean, she could have driven around for hours and missed it, but no, she made a beeline for it, looked like Wile E. Coyote smashing into that painted tunnel on the rock wall.

Another woman pulled a station wagon in, and on a row that held two cars in twenty spaces, missed turning into the slot she wanted and had to back up and jockey back and forth three times to get lined up. Why she didn't just take the next one? Or go around?

Maybe God knows.

A guy in a pickup truck crossed the entire lot diagonally, missing me only because I was agile enough to leap out of the way.

And they all honked at each other so that it sounded like a flock of Canadian geese going south for the winter.

And get this -- none of them I could see were on cell phones.

All of this in the space of time it took me to haul ass across the lot to the safety of the berm.

Hahahahhaaa! Missed me, you bastards!

I hate to say it, but if these folks are the hope for our future?

We're doomed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Living Here in the Future

The first computer I owned, bought in the early eighties, was a CP/M system from Epson, the QX-10. This system ran something called "Valdocs," and was mostly a word processor with a small screen featuring pale green words on a dark background, almost no memory, RAM or ROM, and software that was, on its best day, buggy.

My then-collaborator and I learned how to send files back and forth over something called "the internet" at the blazing speed of 300 baud, which was almost as fast as I could type!

Now and again, that first system would start to print the letter "D" over and over onscreen, and nothing could be done to stop it, save to shut down and reboot. And that wasn't the half of it.

The second time I saw Sorry, that file does not exist, I nearly threw the thing out the window. I spent many an unpleasant hour cursing the machine and the people who made it, as I tried to get it to do what it was supposed to do.

Since that first home computer, I have owned perhaps a dozen more systems, each of which was bigger, stronger, less buggy, and more reliable than the previous one. The current machine on my desk is more powerful and has way more memory than the first six or eight computers put together, and is generally very stable. Shoot, the flashmem stick back-up is the size of my fingertip, I can carry it on a keychain, and it has what? two hundred times as much memory as the first computer did, storage and operating system combined? Way more, anyhow ...

Point of this is, I learned very early on, to BACK EVERYTHING UP! and that being a belt-and-suspenders operator was the only way to go. Sooner or later, all systems crash, and only the Boy Scout motto will save you blowing an artery when it happens.

Currently, I save my work file to disk every two or three pages. Each time I get half a chapter or so, five or six pages, I back it up to a flashdrive. At the end of each work day, I also email a copy of the complete book ms to myself and leave it on my server, so that even if my hard drive dies and the flashdrive goes belly up, I will still be able to download a copy onto a different machine. Every month or so, I burn everything onto a CD, which goes into the gun safe.

Belt, suspenders, safety pins, sashes.

I am compulsively careful.

And even so, yesterday, I lost eight pages of the book in progress. Worse, I have no idea how. I saved it, backed it up, and when I reopened it, they were gone. I checked the automatic backup file for the word process. Made visible all invisible files. Cursed like a battleship full of sailors who just found out they had the clap.

All to no avail. Gone. Poof.

Yeah, it's great living here in the future and all, and I wouldn't go back to the days when we couldn't go play in the ditches when it rained because our mothers told us we'd get polio, but never once did my typewriter burp and say, Sorry that file doesn't exist ...

Or, Ho! That's a good one on me ...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fan Mail

People in the public purview sometimes get fan mail. Actors, famous writers, rock stars. Even us lowly midlist writers get, now and then, a note from somebody telling us how much they a) enjoyed something we wrote or b) hated it. I've gotten both. Plus I get a fair amount for the former lead singer of Journey, and let me hasten to add, I'm not him.

And, now and again, I've sent snail- or email to folks who have written things I found enjoyable. Or to point out that when they shoved a clip into the butt of that revolver, they ought not to have said that ...

Um. Anyway, once upon a time I sent a note to Dave Barry, in Miami, who for years had a very funny column in the Sunday papers, until he got so rich he didn't have to work any more. (Dave was also in the Rock Bottom Remainders, the rock band made up of rich and famous writers, with people like Ridley Pearson, Amy Tan, Matt Groening, and Stephen King. I'm waiting for my invitation to join, but so far, no love ...)

People who get thousands of letter every month seldom remember the contents of most of them, but if I ever have a chance to meet Barry, I'm guessing he'll remember mine.

True story:

One Sunday fifteen years back, my wife and I were in bed, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper. I had just gotten to Dave Barry's column -- something about cows, I think -- when Roxanne, our Chow-Chow dog, who was next to the bed, started heaving.

Those of you who have dogs know this impending horror -- dog opens her mouth, leans forward, and makes an unmistakable noise, kind of a sloshing sound, and normally you try and get her to the door and outside real fast ...

Being that our bedroom was all the way in the back of the house, I knew we'd never make it, so I leaped off the bed like Spider Man and thrust the paper I was reading under Roxie's nose, just as she puked up a torrent of half-digested dog food.

Saved the carpet, but the paper was, ah ... no longer readable ...

Next morning, I wrote a letter to Dave Barry. Explained what had happened, and finished the note with, so, Dave, how'd that cow story end ... ?

A week or so later, I got a manila envelope from Florida, the Miami Herald, and inside was a tearsheet of Barry's column for the previous week, with a note clipped to it that said, "Dear Steve -- Here. Try and take better care of this one ..."

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Blog

My old buddy Mike Byers, an expert artisan who works primarily in glass, but also in assorted sculpture media, has put up a blog. Check it out.

If you like the image above, you might find some of his other artworks would interest you. I have a few of his pieces -- a stained glass version of Dirisha Zuri, from the Matador books; and some fused glass panels, one of which is on the brick wall just behind me in the picture of me 'n' the grandsons with guns, posted here just after Thanksgiving.

The Other Kerambits

The other two kerambits I mentioned a few posts back. On the left, Chuck Pippin's design, you can see more at Tribal Edge Knifeworks.

On the right, the double-bladed version Bobbe brought back from Java.

I didn't insert a scale into the image, but if I put my forefinger through a ring, my hand will pretty much occupy the rest of the grip, so you can see they are smallish knives. The cutting edge on Chuck's blade is a bit over two inches long.

The single-edge model is relatively easy to wave about doing djurus; the double-bladed one is a little trickier. One needs to be careful, else one might slice something upon one's own person one might not wish to slice ...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Karma Never Dies

Two-Tone Malone

So I get this email from a woman whose name I don't recognize and she's asking about music, says she's a fan of Two-Tone Malone. I assume she's looking for Steve Perry, the former lead singer of Journey -- I get that a lot -- and I send her back a note saying I'm sorry but I'm not the droid she's looking for.

(There is also a Steve Perry who is the lead singer for Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Common as dirt, us Steves.)

Then she writes, "Are you the guy who taught martial arts to Mike Malone in Baton Rouge?"

Wow. What a nostalgia rush! That was back in the kung-fu days, when I thought I knew everything about martial arts -- but actually knew very little.

Yeah, I said, I am.

It was thirty-five years ago. I didn't recognize the name "Two-Tone" -- he was "Little Mike" when I knew him, a tall, skinny, long-haired kid who lived in the semi-commune next door at Fred Fabre's, aka "Filthy Fred, " the city's only qualified Rolls Royce mechanic.

So apparently Little Mike grew up, got into the blues, cut a couple albums, and now lives in Nashville doing gigs. Six-four, two-fifty, and shaved bald. I look at the picture, I can see him, but had I seen the picture by itself without the reference, I'd have missed it.

It's always fascinating when an old karmic thread you haven't thought about in years turns out to still be connected.

Oh, and a Filthy Fred story: Fred owned a couple of classic and antique Rolls Royces, and a 1954 Bentley ( a Rolls without the squared-off grill, essentially.) Beautiful car. On a fine sunny Sunday, he'd fill the Bentley up with a bunch of long-haired hippie-types and they'd drive to somewhere crowded, get out and leave. After a while, when anybody who'd seen them arrive had left, they'd come back and pretend to be admiring the car, as though they'd never seen it before.

A group of long-haired hippies in Baton Rouge looking at such a vehicle were, on the face of it, cause for concern.

Once they had an audience, this is how the street-theater went:

"Wow, what a cool car!"

"Yeah. Look -- the keys are in it!"

Whereupon they'd all pile in and drive away.

It was great fun to stand nearby and listen: "Did you see that? That bunch of hippies just stole that car! Somebody call somebody!"

Ah, those were the good old days ...

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Kerambits

Title sounds like an animated feature about superheroes, but actually, kerambit (spelled in a variety of ways, sometimes "kerampit," or "karambit," "korambit," among others) is an Indonesian knife that usually features a short, curved blade that may be sharp on both edges or sometimes just the inner edge, and a finger ring on the butt. Is a close-quarters weapon, designed for more for hooking and slashing than stabbing, and one may use the ring end to strike.

For a fight scene featuring these, you should run right out and buy a copy of The Musashi Flex, Ace Books, by Yours Truly.

Um. Anyway, having posted a photo on the previous entry, I thought I'd re-post it and name the knives pictured therein. These live in the gun safe, and there are a couple more knives in it I haven't had a chance to photograph with the collection. One is by Chuck Pippin, and you can see it at:

Along with Mushtaq Ali's designs, including the Tiger Claw, which is a cousin to the kerambit, and as I have pointed out before, a very nifty little knife.

I have also a nice double-bladed Javanese ring knife that was a gift from Bobbe Edmunds, and I'll get a picture of that one eventually. Way cool.

Meanwhile, clockwise, starting at twelve:

1. Steve Rollert's original prototype for the "boxcutter," with faux-ivory scales by Yours Truly. Western Knife tool steel.
2. & 3. Shiva Ki's 
250 layers of laminated damascus kerambits.
4. Traditional Javanese kerambit with buffalo horn handle, in wos wuta pamor steel.
5. Traditional Javanese kerambit with cast and sculpted silver handle, also wos wuta pamor.
(These traditional blades are sharp on both edges.)
6.One-off, sabertooth knife, made from a circular saw blade by Rick Perry, (from a resin cast of an actual sabertooth fang pulled from the La Brea tar pits.
7. Folding kerambit, Cutter Knife & Tool, ATS stainless steel, titanium handle, aluminum ring.
8.&9. Steve Rollert's production kerambits, skeletonized handles, tool steel.

Stick 'em, Dan'l

Recently, there was a discussion on Martial Arts Planet, in which a fairly well-known MMA (mixed martial arts) teacher talked about how silly the art of silat was.

MMA guys tend to judge all martial arts by how well they do in the ring, and since some martial arts don't go in for sporting applications, you don't see them in the ring.

The argument usually starts when one of the MMA folks allow as how anything that isn't what they do is pretty much worthless, which tends to ruffle a few feathers. They really like the phrase "alive training." This is basically sparring against an opponent, and they think that anything that isn't sparring is waste of time. Well, except for a few drills, like hitting the bag or shadowboxing, like that.

In silat, we call our drills "djurus," or "sambuts," but apparently, according to the MMA folk, these are "dead training," and useless.

My response tends to come down to, "Okay, you bring your Speedos and I'll bring my knives and let see does that alter the rules in my favor ... ?"

To which they immediately say, "Yeah, well, we can fight dirty, too! What makes you think we don't know how to swing a knife?"

Maybe, I say, you do. But if you knew squat about knives, you'd know you don't want to dance with somebody who is really adept at swinging one, because even if you have one of your own, YOU WILL GET CUT -- exclamation point and end of sentence.

If you are barehanded against someone who barely knows which end to hold and which one to poke, and you are an expert, it's still likely you'll get cut, but maybe in a place where you can get stitched up and be home in time for supper. Steel against flesh is a bad trade, generally.

Barehanded against a expert with sharp steel? I don't fancy your chances -- 0r mine, and I've trained for some time in a blade-based art. One of the things I've learned is, barehanded against a trained knifer is not the way to go. Even if you have a knife, better to find a path elsewhere if at all possible. (There's a Javanese saying: In a knife fight, the loser is ashes -- but the winner is charcoal. The term "Pyrrhic victory" covers it pretty well.)

In the ER getting sewn up is better than being in the ICU full of tubes and needles, but neither is as good as sitting at home having a quiet beer and fried shrimp.

The point here is -- excuse the pun -- that somebody who doesn't spend a lot of time playing with and against sharps likely doesn't understand just how nasty they can be, and they might have the notion, ala Richard Pryor's famous comedy routine, that they can just take that knife and shove it up your ass.

Good luck on that one. True, a knife isn't a magic weapon that will drop you faster than Obi-wan taking off a drunk's hand; somebody can get cut and fight on. But a knife is a better weapon than a fist, else we'd still be having wars barehanded.

The military dictum sums it up: You're not an ape, use a tool!

An art that plays with knives frequently tends to give you a certain respect for them. For thirty years of assorted martial arts training, I didn't have much interest or regard for knives -- I carried a pocket knife for cutting string or boxes or whatnot, but I liked sticks and swords, spears, sai, even nunchaku. Knives were up-close-and-personal, in-your-face, and scary.

The more I learned, the scarier they got.

After getting into pentjak silat, I came to understand that a knife was not just something you used to spread butter on biscuits. And one of the things I got was that a guy who trains barehanded all, or most, of the time who thinks he can dance in and slap a knife out somebody's hand and then KO him with a punch, no sweat, is a fool.

Such fellows might also be called by other names, like say ... "Dinner steaks ..."