His public speeches are even better than his setpieces:
His public speeches are even better than his setpieces:
A simple but effective video:
Hat tip: JoshuaPundit
In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near. I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images. This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive. It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments. This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Hat tip: Danny Lemieux
In today’s Britain, when something bad happens, all people of good will are trained to stand by. They watch and hope that the omnipresent CCTV will alert the authorities that someone needs help. Indeed, they’re so well-trained that, sometimes, even the authorities stand aside in order to take a break or follow department rules. That’s why it’s rather surprising to read about a 14-year-old boy who threw himself into a wild fight in order to help four security guards who were being assaulted by thugs (emphasis mine):
A teenager in his school uniform dived in to stop a fight which saw four security guards punched, kicked, head-butted and bitten.
Have-a-go-hero Jack Slater, 14, did not spare a thought for his own safety until after he saved the security man from four attackers.
Dozens of adults gathered to watch the spectacle, but only Jack jumped in to help.
Jack, who saw one of the four guards pinned to the ground, jumped onto the back of the assailant and pulled him away.
The teenager, from Maidstone, Kent, said today: ‘The security guards were getting flung around a bit and one of them looked like he was getting overcome.
‘I ran over and grabbed the shoulders of the person he was struggling with and pulled him away.
‘I’ve never done anything like this before and it was only afterwards I thought, “I could’ve been hurt there”.
‘My friend tried to stop me and said I was stupid for getting involved but it was a spur of the moment thing.’
His mother Michelle Slater, 42, said: ‘I told him off at the time for getting involved, but I’m very proud of him.
‘He won’t do anything like that again, hopefully.’
The salient points in that story are as follows: British grown-ups, trained by the state into passivity, watched hooligans attack innocent people. A young boy, whose state training clearly hadn’t taken hold (although it had taken hold in his peers), would not stand idly by but, instead, immediately helped, at no small risk to himself. His mother was angry at him for taking the risk.
Wow. Just wow. That’s what the mighty British empire has dwindled to: a single young boy who still has fire in his belly and courage in his heart.
Progressives and narcissists share an unpleasant trait: If you make a mistake, it proves that you and your ideas are inferior; if they make a mistake, it’s just a mistake. Your mistake is irremediable, because it’s intrinsic to who you are; their mistake is just one of those things, and can be either forcibly forgotten or lied about.
I seem to be aging backwards. I was an extremely self-disciplined young person. If a task needed doing, I buckled down and did it. Now, I feel like a teenager. I’m in perpetual, albeit silent, rebellion against the responsibilities in my life. Because I’m an adult, I don’t openly rebel, but I do take the route of procrastination and passive-aggressive behavior.
When a teenage girl says “I’ll be done in a sec,” resign yourself to a very long wait.
My liberal Facebook friends are not just less informed about current events than my conservative Facebook friends, they’re less interested. All year long, my conservative friends post “content rich” material — newspaper articles, magazine articles, long blog posts — that provide facts and opinion about events in the political and economic scene. And all year long, my liberal friends put up posts about and pictures of themselves. Then, when an election rolls around, the liberals suddenly become very active, putting up clever, albeit vapid and still content-free, political posters lauding Democrats and maligning Republicans. The liberals, however, do not link to longer articles, which indicates either that they don’t read anything beyond posters or bumper stickers, or that they assume that no one else is capable of reading anything longer than a poster or bumper sticker.
My mild dyslexia pops up whenever I type the word “bumper.” I always want to type it “pumber,” because the word “bumper,” more than any other, messes with my ability to distinguish “p” from “b”. If you ever see me write about a “pumber” sticker, you now know why.
Thankfully, here in Marin, we don’t get hurricanes. Sometimes, though, we get some nice winter storms, complete with wind, torrential rain, and thunder & lightning. We’re having one now. I always feel a bit guilty that I enjoy this weather so much. I’m only able to enjoy it because (a) I have a sturdy home that shelters me from the storm and (b) I don’t have to drive long distances through the rain. Those facts give me the luxury to enjoy wild winter weather in Marin.
The most torrential rains I ever experienced were in Texas and England. In both cases, the rain fell so hard that drivers had to pull off the road, because their windshields had become impenetrable. There were no individual drops of rain, just walls of water.
Any idle thoughts you would like to add to this list?
I thought about Margaret Thatcher today. Lord knows, she was something. Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness. She was the un-RINO. Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around. We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.
For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society. She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness. I was there during that transition period. The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down. She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media. She understood economics and human nature. The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance. Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.
I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America. He can — and will — damage it. If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around. And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.
Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January. Three reasons: First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect. Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick. When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.
This is what I’m reading right now, and with great pleasure too:
One of the things I find most distasteful about ObamaCare is its requirement that employers must provide insurance coverage for their employees’ children through their 26th year. I don’t find this just economically wrong, I find it cosmically, morally wrong that our federal government has officially extended childhood until citizens are 26. I cannot think of a single reason why our national policy should be to delay normal human mental and emotional maturation. Progressives seem to have added to the Constitution, right after “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” a coda saying that being Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a legitimate career goal.
I mentioned yesterday that, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I listened (and am listening to) both Joseph Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic and David McCulloch’s 1776. One of the things that comes through so clearly in these books is that the Founding Fathers were adults, not children, and they were adults because, from a very young age, all of them had taken on adult responsibilities, whether as soldiers, surveyors, blacksmiths, booksellers, lawyers, farmers, printers, or whatever other careers the Founders pursued. Even gentlemen farmers such as Jefferson still had myriad responsibilities for their estates and the people dependent on those estates.
That all of them took on responsibility so early was not unusual; it was the norm. What would have struck all of them as peculiar was a world view holding that, during your peak years of childbearing, physical strength, and mental adaptability, you should lounge around the house pursuing your bliss and living off of your parents. Necessity required the Founders to work and grow. A combination of affluence and socialism ensures that our children can remain adolescent well into their late 20s.
Nowadays, the majority of American children stay in school until age 18. In Colonial times, but for a few college-bound gentlemen, by 18 most would have been employed for years. The women would already have had children and that would have been true whether they were ladies of leisure, or working women responsible for a family farm, a washing business, housework, etc.
For too many Americans, though, adulthood doesn’t even begin at 18. The middle and upper classes send their children to college. For $20,000 to $50,000 per year (payable by their parents or the government, either through direct grants or guaranteed loans), they attend a few classes, take some tests, meet new people, party a lot, travel (always at someone else’s expense) and generally delay taking on any real responsibility. Many of them study subjects that will have no measurable benefit on their lives, either in terms of future income or acquired knowledge. Only once these youngsters graduate, at 21 or 22, do some of them finally start working for real. Some of them get married and have children. Too many, however, continue to be adolescents: they get low-level jobs (although it’s not always their fault in the Obama economy) and they still look to Mom and Dad for financial support and insurance. Partying remains important.
The degree jockeys further extend their adolescence with further education. Some actually study things that will prove remunerative (law, medicine, architecture, business, etc.), but many opt for purely academic disciplines, getting advanced degrees in History, Medieval French, Puppetry, Womyn’s Studies, etc. They do so despite knowing that there is almost no chance that they’ll get a job in their field. I would never make such a foolish decision with my time and money. When I finished my undergraduate education, despite my abiding love for history, I knew I would never get a job in my field. The grad students in the history department told me that, in my graduation year, there were only four PhD level job openings for history majors in the entire United States. I went to law school instead.
People need to grow up. They are just as stunted without mental maturation as they would be if a disease or dietary deficiency kept their bodies from growing properly. I realized the truth of this when I had children. Although I’d worked as a lawyer for many years, and had my own business, until I had children and truly had others entirely dependent upon me, I was still a kid. Nothing I did really mattered. When you have children, everything matters. Your choices are suddenly monumental, since they affect not only you but a helpless human being, who needs you desperately and looks up to you with love and respect. I definitely miss the irresponsibility of my youth, but I wouldn’t go back. I was biologically destined to mature, and it feels right.
What triggered this post about the terrible effect of ObamaCare’s perpetual adolescence factor is an email that has been making the rounds in Britain. Nick Crews, a British Navy retiree, apparently had a bad Christmas with his three adult children last year. By February of this year, he couldn’t keep it bottled up any more, so he sent them an email saying that they needed to stop whining and flailing about, and needed to begin taking responsibility for their lives. Crews is absolutely right, although I believe that, because his children were raised in a socialist nation that turns the state into a perpetual parent who feeds, clothes, and otherwise provides for the citizen-children, he’s fighting a rearguard action:
Dear All Three
With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.
It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.
We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they are faced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.
So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.
In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.
I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.
I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.
Despite the letter’s harsh tone, at least one of his children said it was something she needed to hear.
In Obama’s America, a lot of parents will soon feel like writing to their children the same letter Crews wrote to his.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing someone slice and dice Paul Krugman’s latest idiocies. Randall Hoven does a magnificent job. The only sad thing about it is that he’s preaching to the choir. The ones who really should read his article — namely, the ones who think Krugman is actually smart and honest — will resolutely turn their eyes away from anything that doesn’t bear the liberal media’s imprimatur.
I’ve been feeling smug because, next month, I’m going into San Francisco to hear Stephen Moore speak about his new book, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America. I’m feeling even more smug now, because the inestimable Thomas Sowell gives it the highest possible praise:
If everyone in America had read Stephen Moore’s new book, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America, Barack Obama would have lost the election in a landslide.
Now I’ve added excitement to my previously existing smugness.
There’s something wrong with America when it’s Germany that leads the way in announcing that it will not back the formation of a Palestinian state at the UN. Germany’s absolutely right, of course. The Palestinians, despite getting Gaza to themselves, have done nothing to create even a semblance of a state. They have no civil structure, no law, and no economy other than handouts from other nations. All they’ve got is a thriving genocide-centered terrorism industry. I wonder when Susan Rice, who currently does occupy the position of the U.S.’s ambassador to the UN, will get on board with this one.
Speaking of Rice, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and those few RINOs to whom the media grants access, are again allowing themselves to be silenced by the strident Progressive/Democrat bleat that they are “racist” for opposing Susan Rice’s possible nomination to be Secretary of State. As for me, I hadn’t realized Rice was black. I’ve seen her pictures, but I just assumed she was darker of complexion than I am.
Frankly, everyone is darker of complexion than I am. When I was a baby in my stroller, my mom stepped onto an elevator that already held a woman and her young child. The woman took one look at me, and then pulled her child towards herself, saying “Say away from that baby, Amanda. She’s a very sick baby.” I was not sick. That was me in the pink of health. I just assumed that Rice was really healthy. That she self-identifies as black actually surprised me.
But back to the topic at hand, which is the real reasons Rice is unqualified for the post of Secretary of State. (Although I will say that anyone who takes on the job from Hillary Clinton is in the fortunate position of having very little shoes to fill.) For those who lose their brain power every time the word “racist” comes from the Democrat party, Joel Pollak has assembled a list of the top ten substantive reasons to oppose her nomination. Because I wasn’t really paying attention in the 90s, I didn’t realize that her habit of lying to protect the Democrats is an old habit:
9. Refused to call Rwanda genocide a “genocide,” for political reasons. According to Obama advisor Samantha Power, Rice urged the Clinton administration not to call the Rwandan genocide what it was, for fear of the political impact on U.S. congressional elections in 1994. She and others worked to sanitize references to the genocide, scrubbing government memos to remove words such as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.”
The other facts in the top ten list are equally damning. It’s not Rice’s dark skin that means she’s not fit to serve. It’s her absence of any sort of moral compass.
And finally, while we’re on the topic of people lacking a moral compass, here’s a short primer on all of the photo and video fraud that Hamas and its media enablers were able to propagate during a conflict that lasted a mere seven days:
Consider this an Open Thread, and feel free to add your own interesting comments and links.
For our Thanksgiving drive to L.A., I went to our local library and got several books on CD. Since our small family manages not to have any overlapping areas of interest, this is always a challenge. One wants teenage hero spy books, another wants high school romantic dramadies (half drama, half comedy), another wants books on computer technology, and I like history books. Fate favored me because , on the day I went to the library, the only available books on CD that would meet any of those parameters were the history books.
The kids were not amused. In a compromise, we ended up spending half of each drive listening to the videos they got to watch from the back seat (fyi, The Simpsons is fun to listen to), and half the drive listening to David McCulloch’s 1776. My husband was so delighted with this book that, upon our return, he put it in his own car so that he could listen to the rest of it while driving to work.
I, meanwhile, put Joseph Ellis’ American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic in the CD player in my car. Since I drove about 100 miles yesterday to go to my pistol class, I was able to listen to the first disk. It’s a delightful book, because Ellis shares my approach to American history: it’s not about plaster saints or blinkered, evil white guys. It’s about real people, in real time, dealing with real issues. And yes, the Founding Fathers were special.
The Founders’ unique abilities came about by virtue of the particular historic time they occupied (what one might call the culmination of the Enlightenment), the incredible bounty of the American continent, their one hundred plus years of freedom as the British government ignored them (right up until the French-Indian War), and the education and class freedom that distinguished them from their European peers and from modern man. Despite these benefits and virtues, they still made mistakes, their personalities interfered with their decision-making, and they punted on the hard decisions because they wanted their own nation more than they wanted to free the slaves. Those nuances are what make history interesting.
Ellis has a nice turn of phrase and a good eye for historic details, so the book is an effortless listen (or read). I also detect in his tone a decided disdain for the Howard Zinn school of history, one that throws away the baby with the bath water. Characterizing the Founders as racist, sexist hypocrites not only obscures their great accomplishments, it also diminishes Americans’ ability to understand their past, to control their present, and, in some small measure, to affect their future.
Listening to the book reminded me that one of the things that makes the Founders so fascinating is that they were men of truly catholic tastes. Everything interested them. No man from the Colonial era better exemplifies this quality than Benjamin Franklin. (Thomas Jefferson loses first place because he was a bit too Southern elitist.) Franklin was feted the world over for inventing the lightening rod, a device that drastically reduced a terrible scourge. He also invented the Franklin Stove, bifocals (bless his heart), and the public library.
Before Franklin came along, libraries were reserved for rich people. Even with the advent of the printing press, books were still expensive, and it was the fortunate man indeed who was both literate and capable of putting together a library of his own. Now of course, we take libraries completely for granted. In my community, we have ten public libraries, all of which are clean, well-stocked, well-maintained, and have wonderful on-line resources.
In a historical irony that Ben Franklin would fully have appreciated, modern Britain also has a splendid public library, one that includes a suburb on-line system. The aristocrats of old might be rolling in their graves, but Ben Franklin, who was also an entrepreneur extraordinaire would especially appreciate the fact that the British library has a department devoted to business planning. Yup. That former bastion of intellectual and class exclusivity now has a great resource for British residents who want to see if they can make it on their own.
As a confirmed bookworm, I feel blessed to live in era that not only has public libraries, but that also puts so many resources on-line, so that one doesn’t even have to go to the library to experience the library’s benefit. Is this the best of all possible worlds or what?
(BTW, if you’re interested in learning more about Benjamin Franklin, I highly recommend Benjamin Franklin’s own quite delightful autobiography, and Walter Isaacson’s slightly more honest look at Franklin’s life as a whole.)
I’m on a mailing list that introduces potential book reviewers to newly published books. Today’s email was about “romances.” I quickly scanned the list of books to see whether any were worth requesting to read and review. None were, but this one caught my eye:
Kink is not my cup of tea, so it wasn’t the cover of the book that intrigued me, with its intimations of whips, chains, Great Danes, and three on a chandelier, nor was it the description of the various esoteric activities the book covers:
Christmas is a time of love and joy, and the New Year is a time of renewal. But they are also times of stress and strife, family drama, pressure and heartache – a potent mix of high expectations and conflicted emotions. Add in power exchange relationships, kinky gift swaps, and unconventional love in a sometimes unforgiving world, and you have a formula for a sizzling anthology of stories that tug at your heart.
Nope. None of that was interesting. What made me laugh, though, was this bit of information:
20% of all proceeds from O Come All Ye Kinky will be donated to the Domestic Violence Project of the National Leather Association–International.
First of all, I didn’t know there was a National Leather Association, international or domestic. Second of all, to the extent it celebrates, not just wearing leather, but using leather for “disciplinary” purposes (or, as it calls these activities, BDSM), it seems funny (to me, at least) that this organization focuses on domestic violence. I guess it’s not “domestic violence” if your partner agrees with the whole whips and chains thing.
Did any of you catch a story the other day claiming that a study of porn actresses showed that they’re happier and better adjusted than their non-porn peers?
The report in the Journal of Sex Research found that porn stars are not more likely to have psychological problems than other women.
In fact, they discovered those in the sex entertainment industry had a more positive outlook on life with higher self-confidence and more flattering views on their body image.
‘In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction and spirituality compared to the matched group,’ the report summarises.
The way that study reads, it sounds as if those dealing with depression or other mental health issues should head for the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, home of myriad porn studios, rather than seeking out more traditional options, such as a therapist, anti-depressants, or, in more serious cases, a full-care residential facility. Sadly, we have a thread of depression running through my family’s history, and various family members have (or could have) benefited from some or all three options.
Such options weren’t always available, of course. My mother’s maternal uncle and her paternal grandmother both suffered greatly from mental illnesses that were probably bi-polar disorder in his case and histrionic personality disorder in her case. The Nazis dealt with these problems quite efficiently by killing my great-uncle and great, great grandmother. I don’t know about my father’s family’s mental health history, although most of them ended up being killed by the Nazis too. Maybe all of them could have avoided these fates if they’d become happy porn stars.
Let me say that I don’t believe this study at all. For one thing, it’s got a very small sampling: 171 porn actresses. For another thing, these actresses were compared to some magical “average” woman. Lastly, I’m dubious about this kind of self-reported happiness, given the lives they lead. I know people who practice . . . hmmm . . . let’s say “alternate” sexual lives. These women tell me, almost aggressively, that they’re “happy” with their choices and that having myriad sexual encounters with nameless, faceless men makes them feel like sex goddesses.
That’s what they say. What I see are women who rely heavily on pot and other drugs to maintain an anesthetized distances from their life choices. Indeed, the study acknowledges greater drug use amongst the porn actresses studied:
While the report challenged the stereotype of porn actresses as drug addicts, drug use was found to be more prevalent among the entertainers. They were more likely to have tried ten different types of drugs compared to the control group.
These women also age much more rapidly than their cleaner-living peers. I don’t know if it’s the sex or the drugs, but you can tell that they’ve been around the block a few thousand times.
Of course, if you report yourself as happy, maybe you are happy. After all, our emotional well-being is a state-of-mind and, as the saying goes, mind over matter works: if you don’t mind, it don’t matter. If these women are convinced that they’re not prematurely aged, substance using (not necessarily “abusing,” but “using) people whose lives are defined by their exhibitionist sexual habits, but are, instead, desirable, beautiful women, than I guess they are — their perception of reality defines their reality.
We know, though, that young girls who are sexually promiscuous are less happy than their peers. Hearing that porn stars are happy shouldn’t be used as an indicator that exhibitionism is a recipe for happiness. At most, with such a small sampling, the study shows that people with unusual predilections have found their niche. Most people, I suspect, would find that niche to be a very demoralizing place, indeed, and certainly not a panacea for depression or just routine unhappiness.
I had a delightful reason for my blog silence today: I had a pistol safety and training class, followed by an instructor supervised hour at the shooting range. As you all know, on November 28, 2009 — exactly three years ago — I went to the shooting range with my brother-in-law and had a wonderful time.
Up until today, that long-ago outing was my first and last day at a shooting range. Back home, none of my friends are interested in going to the local gun range. I’ve heard it’s very good, but I was too intimidated to go on my own. Also, while our local shooting range has very competitive prices for the San Francisco Bay Area, it was more than I could justify spending on something that would be purely for my pleasure.
So I didn’t shoot any guns in 2010, or in 2011, or in most of 2012.
What changed this non-shooting pattern was a Living Social offer I got in my email: three hours of pistol safety and usage training, plus one instructor hour on the range, all for $75.00. Saying “yes” to that was a no-brainer.
Early this morning, feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I made the 50 minute drive to Burlingame to Bay Area Firearms. If you are thinking of going there, be warned: if you don’t have navigation on the car, memorize the route beforehand, because the exit interchange and overpass is one of the most complicated I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, I do have navigation in my car, or I think I’d still be looking for the place now.
Bay Area Firearms is tucked away almost invisibly in a little office complex. The front of the office sells and rents scuba gear. The back of the office is dedicated to weapons and weapon training. Scott, the owner and one of my instructors, had four or five gun safes, each about 4 feet tall, occupying the far wall of the room in which I trained. (I appreciated the fact that, every time he opened a safe, he was meticulous about locking it the moment he finished using it.)
I got lucky, because I was originally supposed to be part of a group class. When the other two attendees canceled, however, I had Scott all to myself. And when Scott started feeling ill (Get Well Soon, Scott!), he seamlessly passed me into Dean’s very capable hands. Both men were very patient and supportive. They fully agreed with my philosophy (at least when it comes to physical skills) that repetition is the best teacher.
The gun I learned on and used was a Glock 23. After going through the NRA’s fundamental gun safety rules several times to make sure I fully understood them, Scott and Dean taught me how to use the gun. This started with the stance (a good fighting stance), how to pick the gun up, how to insert the magazine, etc. They were very particular about my having a good grip, which I found very helpful. Not only did it stabilize the gun, but it also meant that my finger didn’t wander down to the trigger until I was actually ready to fire.
Because Bay Area Firearms doesn’t have an attached range, Dean and I headed even further south to Reed’s Indoor Range, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It is a very impressive place. I arrived at the tail end of lunch and the front room, where they process people and sell myriad guns and gun supplies, was packed. I later learned that firing a few rounds at the range during lunch is a popular activity at Reed’s. The staff was helpful and friendly. Also (and the ladies will appreciate how important this is) the single bathroom — that is, one used by both men and women — was immaculate. It seems that guys who shoot guns have good aim no matter the activity.
Dean was great. He explained everything to me, patiently took me step-by-step through the first few rounds, and was very supportive of my progress. Here’s the target I worked on:
The results aren’t actually as bad as they look. With straight-on shooting, at about 25-30 feet, I consistently hit inside the red part or inside the circle immediately next to the red part. My shooting degraded somewhat when we moved the target further back to about 45 feet. It took my a little while to compensate for the curve. Also my vision, when fully corrected, is only 20/30, so I was a bit outside of my vision range. Whether near or far, you can see that I periodically swung left. I’m left hand dominant, and it took a huge effort for me to keep absolutely straight. Still, I stayed within the No. 9 circle, except for a few very close eights.
The stray shots — the ones in the No. 8 circle and the black areas — happened when I tried the triple shot: tap, tap-tap. If I had been shooting an intruder, I would have gotten his torso every time, but only the first shot would have been on target. I also had a hard time doing one-hand shooting with my right hand, which accounted for a couple of those wild shots. I did much better shooting one-handed with my left hand. By then, though, I was starting to feel my muscles. I’m in very good shape, but holding a 31 oz gun at arm’s length was working muscle groups I didn’t know I had. By the last round, I had a fine tremor going on.
Dean paid me a very nice compliment, which was that I did a very good job of grouping. And, if you look at the first two circles (the red and the first white), I think he was right. “You have good focus,” he said. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I had good fun.
In addition to fun, I was reminded that, if used carelessly or with malice, guns are very dangerous. If used correctly, though, with proper respect for the harm they can cause, guns are a delightful form of recreation. There’s something viscerally satisfying about firing a gun and hitting the target — and the better the shot, the more satisfying it is.
The Watcher’s Council members took time off from turkey and stuffing to read and vote on the Thanksgiving week submissions. If you haven’t read the submissions, they’re good, damn good. The winners, placers, and show-ers are below. But first, a little reminder that the Watcher’s Council forum is up. I didn’t participate this week (for the same reason I didn’t blog, which was that I was on the road and the iPad sometimes defeats me), but you’ll enjoy what other Council members have to say about the Gaza ceasefire.