Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the finale of the Skywalker Saga, and I have to say, it was in a lot of ways the most Star Wars of the 9 movies. There is a lot of Star Wars in this…like more than you might expect. And that is a good thing.

A quick warning. For those who linked in from Facebook, there are spoilers ahead. I will attempt to place them at least one screen down, and will add a note when they appear, but you’ve been warned.

So, first things first – I liked this a lot. It worked incredibly well as a closing chapter, and while it does leave a lot open for the future – including direct sequels – so did Return of the Jedi, and literally every concluding chapter of every series ever. So that can’t really be a complaint. It wraps up the current story nicely, deals with the death of Carrie Fisher nicely. And, in short, hits all the marks in needed to, and did so without being overly anything. Which is nice.

We begin with a flurry of ‘things happening’ scenes, crossing from heroes to villains, and no real explanation beyond what you see on the screen. Which is very much in the Star Wars model. We move on to the plot, which, as is the norm, has new places, old places, new toys characters, old characters, and lots to see. There is a lot of well done fan service. And then a satisfying ending, which is good to have, again, after the recent backlash.

There are issues to address, of course, as well as some things I realized about this particular trilogy, and Star Wars as a whole, just before I saw the new movie.

Star Wars is most like 40’s movie shorts. It draws inspiration from those, and is designed to mimic them. Keeping that in mind is crucial to understanding Star Wars in general.

Below here, there be spoilers

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Highland Gourmet Scones

Highland Gourmet Scones

downloadSo, we are currently down in the Birmingham area for Thanksgiving, and in a storefront in front of the hotel, I saw Highland Gourmet Scones. It looked like a decent coffee shop, so the first morning there, I wandered over. And wow.

Based on the smell alone, I ordered a custom tin, then took home the mocha, original (golden raisin), and an orange-cranberry. And we sampled, and both agree, this is a find! These are clearly the best scones I have encountered – from the mass-produced at Starbucks to the fancy at Third Coast Cafe in Chicago’s Gold Coast. These beat them all. Properly dry, epic flavor, and just that incredible smell.

I can’t say I have sampled them all, but of those I have, I prefer the Cherry-Almond, Original, and Orange-Cranberry. These are something you need to experience. And lucky for me, they ship!

Eagle Sports Range

Eagle Sports Range

eagles-sports-range-logob-600x190So the long-delayed Eagle Sports Range is finally open. And, of course, I took a bit of time to check it out. This has been ‘coming soon’ since early last year, and while I fully expected a gun shop and range to have a lot of hoops to jump through, and a nervous town leadership to reassure, I was about ready to consider it another Oak Forest almost-business. For those not living here, Oak Forest has a bad reputation when it comes to businesses, and several businesses have closed before they even opened. I was worried this would be one.

Nope! While much-delayed, Eagle is open, and busy. Occupying a former auto dealership, Eagle has a large showroom area, with tons of firearms, ammo, and accessories for sale. A large staff of friendly associates is on hand to answer your questions, unlock the cases to show the weapons, and talk up the benefits of each. For the casual shooter, there are several pistol options under $500, and for the collector, there are a decent amount of both ‘sci-fi’ and ‘evil black’ rifles and carbines. Several AK-look rifles, some FN-P90s, and the usual collection of AR-15 based rifles. I am not a rifle guy, so I can’t comment on the prices there, but they didn’t seem totally out of line. The pistol and revolver prices seemed in line with other prices I have seen at Cabella’s and BASS Pro. Which is to say, in my opinion, overpriced. Now, some of these are damn nice, including a CZ-owned 1911 build that is way too expensive for me, but just a work of art. The selection is, frankly, massive.

In the back are the pistol and rifle ranges, VIP Member lounge, several bathrooms (like 3 sets I think), a waiting area for the ranges, offices, meeting/class rooms, and vending machines. The pistol range is nice, divided into two sets of lanes, to help keep noise down (unless you are that dude firing the hand cannon when I was there – I literally felt the shockwave). The lanes are staffed by safety officers, and there is always at least one on hand, often two.

Overall, this is a great place for the gun hobbyist / enthusiast, and once the classes get going, they are sure to be popular.

There are two issues I had, and they are why this is not a 5 star review. They are both safety related, and both should be corrected by the ownership. There is too much anti-gun and anti-shooting sports mentality out there to let this go unremarked.

  1. Showroom Carry: While I didn’t see every holster close up, every employee holster I did see was completely insecure. Nothing holding the weapon in place, no strap, nothing. Not even a bad strap. Nothing at all. Again, I did not interact with every employee, so there may be some doing it right. But the ones I did interact with (and no, I don’t know names) had an insecure holster. One employee went further, and like a stupid TV character had the hammer of his automatic back. That’s right, he had manually pulled the hammer back on his pistol, and holstered it. This is way uncool, and needs correction.
  2. Pistol Range Carry: Less of an issue, but the ‘range safety officer’ with the shoulder rig should rotate that revolver 90 degrees. Instead, the barrel is pointing at everyone behind him. Shoulder holsters have their own issues, which make them less than ideal, and by pointing his weapon blindly behind him, he is breaking one of those core rules of using a gun. Just point that barrel down, thanks.

So that’s it. Great place, solid pricing, and helpful staff. If you are interested, I cannot suggest enough that you take a look.

La Finca Mexican Restaurant

La Finca Mexican Restaurant

La Finca Menu CoverI don’t usually do reviews for restaurants, but I do like the idea of giving some promotion to local restaurants that I think are worth keeping open.

La Finca, at 6050 W 159th St in Oak Forest is just such a place. I have been really pleased with the quality there, and while it isn’t the pinnacle of the Mexican food world, it is very solid, and they know what they are about. I’ve had the bistec mexicana and the bistec Oaxaquena, both very tasty, and well portioned.

For those not familiar, the bistec mexicana is strips (or chunks, cubes, etc.) of skirt steak in a reddish-brown sauce with green peppers and onion. It can also use jalapenos, but I won’t order it that way – too spicy for me. The bistec mexicana at La Finca was tender, flavorful, and in a sauce with the right amount of bite. I usually pass over the green peppers, and go right to the onions, also good. The sauce was thick enough to stick to the meat and onion, but not so thick as to overpower the texture.

Bistec Oaxaquena is the same preparation of strip steak, with the green peppers, but with bacon and Oaxaca cheese. This is really good – the only thing I would say about it (and this is about the dish, not the restaurant) is that adding some onion and/or sauce would punch it up a few notches.

Overall, La Finca is really good at providing fairly priced, quality Mexican food. The portions are good-sized, if a bit smaller than similarly priced options elsewhere. That is not a bad thing, I never feel that I have overpaid – not for a moment – and I get to finish it all off, and not feel like I overdid it. That is a total plus.

The only negative is that the service is a bit shaky – I attribute that to newness, and possible language issues (and one assumption about a single guy in a restaurant next to a nail salon). Seriously, though, despite that shakiness, nothing has ever been messed up, misinterpreted, or any of the other common service issues at restaurants.

If you are in the neighborhood, stop in for a bite. You should be pleasantly surprised.