Shared posts

08 Oct 20:01

Anything can be a sexy Halloween costume.

09 Oct 12:02

MeFi: Atom Town Krasnoyarsk-26

by daisyk
This town in Russia is called Zheleznogorsk, read the initial post. Their flag and coat of arms is a bear splitting the atom. That is all.

But that certainly wasn't all: Um, so. My grandfather actually built this town, and helped run it for many years..

Zheleznogorsk, known then by the PO box number Krasnoyarsk-26, was a Soviet closed city, built during the Cold War to produce weapons-grade plutonium in a reactor complex carved out of a granite mountain. With the fall of the USSR, along with other secret cities, Zheleznogorsk was forced to open up somewhat. Up to 100,000 people lived there in its heyday; in 2010, when the last reactor was shut down, that figure was still 85,000. The city is now the site of a commercial nuclear-waste repository, despite some environmental concerns beforehand.

You can view Zheleznogorsk on Google Maps, visit its official website (Russian-language only), or take a virtual tour on this photo-rich unoffical site: Zheleznogorsk, Last Paradise on the Earth. Or, if you have $125 to spare, indulge in the 1990 hardcover book by the town fathers, Atom Town Krasnoyarsk-26.

Bonus links:

Want more Russian flags? This blog has you covered.

Want more nuclear design? Check out the story behind the IAEA's atomic logo.
13 Oct 19:10

Risks leading to death put in perspective.



Risks leading to death put in perspective.

13 Oct 19:30

How To Change Your Name In 41 Easy Steps

by Kathleen Hale
by Kathleen Hale

The-Talented-Mr.-Ripley-e1354598725612
1.) Practice saying your new name. Say it aloud to friends, family, and police officers. Ask yourself these questions: Can I pronounce it? Can I spell it? Can I remember it?

2.) If you are changing your name as part of getting married, proceed to step 2b.) If not, skip to step 3.

2b.) Go online and print out an application for your marriage license. On the application, there will be a question asking what you want your new name to be, followed by a large blank space. Whatever you write here will be your new name! Congratulations! Mazel tov!

2c.) The application will most likely have some rules attached stating that you can only change your surname during the marriage process, but apparently this is bullshit. If say, you are going from Kathleen Hale to Kathleen Rich, but want to change your middle name from Erin to Hale (sorry Ireland) you should do it here. Otherwise you will find yourself going through the usual name change channels at the courthouse, which, as you can see by the length of this guide, is a total nightmare. Not to mention: once you have gone through weeks of bureaucratic bullshit, and endured a lot of snark from government employees, you will find yourself face to face with a particularly snarky government employee, who will tell you, "haha, you could have just done this when you got your marriage license—yeah it says not to, but they have to honor whenever you put down" and you will understand in that moment why he is talking to you from behind bullet proof glass. If you were stupid enough to take these bullshit rules at face value, proceed to step 3.

3.) Your only option is to Google "how to change your name in [insert your city, state, country here]." There will be application forms available through a government website. Fill one out. Press print.

4.) The printed application will include a list of things to bring with you to the courthouse in order to change your name. Some of these things are hard to find and scary to lose (birth certificate, etc.) Also, the courthouse might not accept copies, depending on where you live, so put everything in a special folder.

4b) Duct tape shut the folder.

4c.) Wrap it in chains.

4d.) Padlock the chains around your waist.

5.) Proceed to the courthouse.

6.) Take a number.

7.) Wait for the rest of your life.

7b.) You are surrounded by women holding screaming babies. Many are frustrated, pleading with the government employees that their husbands left them and they just want to change their name back to the one before. "It's not like I'm The Talented Mr. Ripley or some shit," one of the women yells. The man who is supposed to be helping her is talking loudly to another employee about Lebron James.

7c.) "This place SUCKS," you mutter.

7d.) "It does," says the woman sitting next to you. The look in her eyes says she has been here a thousand years.

8.) Your number is called. You find yourself face-to-face with the Lebron hater. He says you brought all the wrong forms. "But I brought the ones it said to bring on the application," you say. "We get to ask for whatever forms we want," he screams. He is screaming! You want to scream back but you also want to change your name. "Okay," you say quietly. "So what do I do?" (If you want to change your name because you got divorced, and want your old name back, proceed to 8b. Otherwise, skip to 9.)

8b.) One of the things that you need, if you’re changing your name because of a divorce, is a note from your ex-husband granting permission to change your name! This isn't legally necessary, but the judge is allowed to dismiss your petition on these grounds. A lady standing next to me was apparently turned away because she didn't have a permission slip like this, or a form of her ex husband's ID. "But he won't talk to me," she yells. "I can't find him!" The people who might help her keep talking sports. Your heart aches for her.

8c.) CURSE THE PATRIARCHY!

9.) Exit the courthouse. Go to your bank to get a notarized proof of residency and a cashiers check for $65.

9b.) Look at your watch. Five hours of your life are missing.

10.) Return to the courthouse. Return to the man who hates Lebron and apparently everyone else. "You took too long," he says. "We're about to have our government lunch break." He shakes his head, stamping your forms so slowly that you wonder if he is taking quick naps in between. He passes the forms back to you and sends you downstairs to pay, and then upstairs to see the judge. He makes it sound like the judge is the last step. "But you'll never make it," he says.

11.) Pay a man. This is what your cashier check was for. Race to the elevator, cursing how slow it is. You want to go home!

12.) Run from the elevator to the courtroom just as the court officer is locking the door. "THIS IS OUR LUNCH HOUR," she screams, her face a mix of rage and terror, as if you might steal her lunch hour, as if everyone everywhere is always stealing her hours. She keeps screaming and part of you wants to scream back but you also want to change your name. "Okay," you say, putting up your hands. "When should I come back?"

12b.) ONE AND A HALF HOURS???? OUR TAXES COVER A ONE AND A HALF HOUR LUNCH BREAK???? HOW DO YOU EVEN MAKE A SANDWICH LAST THAT LONG—okay stay calm. These people have hard lives. Eat something. You could probably use a lunch break too.

12c.) Try to make this lunch last 1.5 hours. You can't. It's impossible. Reach for the book you forgot to bring.

12d.) Wonder how people with day jobs run these kinds of errands.

13.) Return to the courthouse 30 minutes early and wait for 60 minutes for the court officer to unlock the door. The lunch break can take up to two hours.

13b.) Sit on the wooden bench, stare at the empty judge's seat, wonder if this is where you live now. Reach for your phone. Maybe there's something fun on Twitter—

13c.) "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" The court officer asks. "NO PHONES IN THE COURTROOM!"

13d.) Put away your phone. Go to a place in your head. Go to your castle on a cloud.

13e.) "STOP SINGING!" The officer shouts.

13f.) You are singing songs from Les Miserables.

14.) The judge approved your petition!!!!!!!! DAMN THE MAN BUT PRAISE THE EMPIRE!!

15.) Shit. You have to go back to that Lebron guy. You find out his name is Torres. "Hi, Mr. Torres," you say when he calls your number. You hope that being polite and respectful and using his human name will change his tone. "How do you know my name?" He snaps. He doesn't recognize you, but he does make a big performance about how creepy you are to his coworkers.

15b.) Torres stops sneering at you long enough to give you the certified name change thing and a list of local newspapers. He tells you that you have to get the name change published.

16.) Walk to the office of the nearest newspaper. Most neighborhoods have ones you've never heard of. Tell them you need to publish your name change. They will know what this means. They will be nicer than Torres but will charge you another forty dollars, and only accept cash or check.

17.) Wait two weeks for the paper to publish the name change. Receive a clipping from them in the mail.

18.) Grit your teeth and return to the courthouse. Torres will need to file this, the fucker.

18a.) Wait for your number to be called.

18b.) Get yelled at by Torres.

18c.) Find out the paper published the name change under the wrong five digit number.

19.) Return to the newspaper. Scoop handfuls of stale hard candy from the secretary's desk while explaining to her in a choked voice that they made a slight mistake. She will apologize so profusely that you will feel bad about how you're probably giving her dead bitch face. But when her back is turned you will steal more candy.

20.) Wait two more weeks for the paper to reprint the name change with the proper number.

21.) Return to Torres. Wait for him to call your number. Wait for him to stop talking about sports for a few minutes after he has called your number. Give him the published name change. "You have to send a copy of the name change to all these places," he says, pointing to a list of like, eight places, including the US prison system. You're pretty sure you can skip that one but you decide against discussing that with Torres, who seems particularly snippy today. "So…just to confirm," you say, "this isn't over?" He gives you a look that says it will never be over. He sends you to the basement for certified copies, 12 dollars each, and tells you that the name change won't be complete until you bring him certified mail receipts, which also cost extra, for each thing you mail out.

22.) Go to the basement. Meet a depressed-looking elderly man who seems to have been working there since the Great Depression. Hand him your official name change thing. Consult your list of places to mail to (the social security administration, the DMV, etc), and ask for six copies.

22b.) This will take the man 45 minutes to accomplish. Try to be patient with him because he is a million years old. Pay him $72 for the special copies.

23.) Mail off the copies. Tell the employee at the post office you need a certified mail receipt. He has you fill something out and says the receipts will arrive in a few weeks.

24.) Wait.

24b.) Receive the receipts.

24c.) Cry because this means facing Torres.

24d.) Hang your head.

24e.) Lift dat chin.

25.) Return to the courthouse. Wait for your number to be called.

26.) after yelling at a non-English speaker to "learn the language," and imitating "the Chinglish" for his coworkers, Torres waves you over. You hand him the receipts, hoping to get out of here without speaking. "These aren't the right ones," he says, sliding them back to you. "Looks like you messed up. Go back and get me the right ones."

"But I already got confirmation from the social security administration, and the DMV,” you explain, trying to control your mounting rage, “and the passport agency – can't I just show you those since it's all basically done as far as they are concerned?"

26b.) Torres laughs in your face. He needs the right receipts, he says. You will have to send new certified copies to every place you've already sent them, even though those places have already done your paperwork, simply so that the courthouse can have the receipt they like.

27.) Return to the basement man.

27b.) Pay him $72 again.

28.) Go to the post office. Show them a photo on your phone of the receipt you need. Mail the forms. Again.

29.) Wait a day. Regroup. You have been doing this for two months at this point and you need to meditate or eat some fried food or find a drug dealer with Valium before you can face Torres.

30.) Return to the courthouse, out of your mind on French fries and Valium, with some nice lady telling you nice stuff about chakras through your earbuds. Wait for your number to be called.

31.) It's not Torres!!!!!! It's some lady!!!!! PRAISE BE!

32.) Hand her the receipts.

33.) They have lost your file.

34.) "But it's somewhere," she says, waving her mouse around its pad. She is consulting your digital copy. Thank god they have digital copies, you think, you wouldn't have pegged them for people who do that sort of thing.

35.) She is making a face at her computer screen. "Says here that you were all set with your name change once the judge said so," she says. "So I don't know why you thought you had to do the mailings. That's just for certain folks. WHOA!" She's staring at you. "What's wrong with your face? Are you crying?!"

36.) Slink away to the elevators. Jab the buttons. When it finally arrives, it is empty except for one man.

37.) "Torres," you hiss, joining him inside the elevator.

38.) "How did you know my name?" He says.

39.) “We’ve spent a million years together,” you say.

40) “Who are you?” he says.

41) Look at him with defiance. “I was Kathleen Hale. But now I’m Kathleen Fucking Rich. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Kathleen Hale is the author of two novels, No One Else Can Have You and Nothing Bad is Going to Happen (the latter will be published by HarperTeen in 2015). Her essays and reporting have appeared in Vice, Elle, and Hazlitt, among other places.

10 Comments
13 Oct 19:48

Secretive X-37B Military Space Plane Could Land On Tuesday

by samzenpus
schwit1 writes After twenty-two months in orbit, on its second space mission, the Air Force plans to bring the X-37B back to Earth this coming Tuesday. From the article: "The exact time and date will depend on weather and technical factors, the Air Force said in a statement released on Friday. The X-37B space plane, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, blasted off for its second mission aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 11, 2012. The 29-foot-long (9-meter) robotic spaceship, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is an experimental vehicle that first flew in April 2010. It returned after eight months. A second vehicle blasted off in March 2011 and stayed in orbit for 15 months."

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








08 Oct 08:14

It took me an insanely long time to realize that these were in fact not tiny brontosauruses

Cary Renquist

Thought that they were toy dinos...

10 Oct 20:17

Brunton Power Knife

Traditional handymen never leave home without a trusty, multi-tool pocket knife. Modern day digital handymen don't leave home without the Brunton Power Knife. Measuring just four and a half inches...

Visit Uncrate for the full post.
12 Oct 13:50

Are you...



















Are you abnormal?

the-weird-wide-web:

magictransistor:

SubGenius

Be filled with the unflinching light of J.R. “Bob’ Dobbs.

08 Oct 19:30

zeroing: David Wojnarowicz

Cary Renquist

Amazing shot. I recall reading about one hunting technique for bison was to run them off of a cliff, but didn't imagine that photos existed of the practice.



zeroing:

David Wojnarowicz

14 Nov 22:37

Photo by John Margolies

Cary Renquist

I think that I recall that at our little county fair when I was a kid.



Photo by John Margolies

12 Aug 15:59

danagould: Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in...



danagould:

Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in San Francisco, and Robin came to the show with our mutual friend, Dan Spencer.

This particular batch of material was the first time I had touched upon my then still-fresh divorce wounds, and big chunks of it were pretty dark. The next day, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. Whoever it was had obviously been to the show and knew my number, so I figured they would reveal themselves at some point and save me the embarrassment of asking who they were.

The Mystery Texter asked how I was REALLY doing. “You can’t fool me. Some of those ‘jokes’ aren’t ‘jokes.” By now I knew that whoever this was had been through what I was enduring, as no one else would know to ask, “What time of day is the hardest?”

He wanted to know how my kids were handling it, all the while assuring me that the storm, as bleak as it was, would one day pass and that I was not, as I was then convinced, a terrible father for visiting a broken home upon my children.

I am not rewriting this story in retrospect to make it dramatic. I did not know who I was texting with. Finally, my phone blipped, and I saw, in a little green square, “Okay, pal. You got my number. Call me. I’ve been there. You’re going to be okay. - Robin.”

That is what you call a human being.

12 Aug 16:21

rikaer: A Russian cosmonaut has posted stunning pictures of the...



rikaer:

A Russian cosmonaut has posted stunning pictures of the supermoon, giving a preview to one of the most dramatic space events of the year. On Sunday, stargazers will be able to view the biggest and brightest moon in 20 years.

12 Aug 19:37

Next time you go walking around barefoot in the water…

Cary Renquist

I go barefoot as much as possible... Is there a land version of these?





Next time you go walking around barefoot in the water…

09 Jun 18:43

Photo



09 Jun 19:47

I feel this is necessary to show people who are non-christians that we aren't all homophobes.

09 Jun 21:10

Photo



30 May 23:35

Its that time

02 Jun 21:01

Surprise Motherfucker

08 Jun 21:30

Photo



















02 Jun 13:43

Photo

Cary Renquist

Great job CIA



03 Jun 15:30

Photo



04 Jun 14:58

An English brewery donates a sizable amount of fresh beer for...



An English brewery donates a sizable amount of fresh beer for the troops fighting in Normandy and a unique delivery method is created, strapping kegs to the underwings of Spitfires being shipped to forward airfields. Flying at 12,000 feet chills the brew to perfection. The troops love it, but the British Ministry of Revenue and Excise steps in and informs the brewer that it is in violation of law to export beer without paying taxes on it. End of “authorized” beer runs. June 13, 1944 

04 Jun 22:22

zoomin >:)



zoomin >:)

07 Jun 15:23

tastefullyoffensive: After 19 years, Bill Watterson, the...













tastefullyoffensive:

After 19 years, Bill Watterson, the reclusive creator of Calvin and Hobbes returns to cartooning as a secret guest artist in Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine (read the whole story on Stephan’s blog).

26 May 02:13

She knows what she did... Can't stay mad at that face though!

Cary Renquist

I wonder how deep the hole was?
Our golden used tunnel in deep enough that all you saw was his tail sticking out.

26 May 01:24

Why are the Koch brothers opposing solar energy?

by David Brin

General Stanley McChrystal (ret), in a TED talk, makes his brief but cogent “military case for sharing knowledge,” surprising all with his call for general transparency.

MCCHRYSTAL-TED-sharingOf course there are a million ramifications and complexities that cannot fit into a TED talk. It is a complex world and our Protector Caste has genuine needs for tactical (short term) secrecy. But needs become excuses for bad habits that are self-defeating over the longer term … and that could ultimately lead to Big Brother. There must be an ultimate trend toward an open world, and Gen. McChrystal makes about as strong a case as you could in a ten minute TED.

“I am more scared of the bureaucrat that holds information in a desk drawer or in a safe than of someone who leaks, because ultimately we’ll be better off if we share.”

Oh, for a more in-depth appraisal of this new era, see (of course) The Transparent Society.

== Those who want to shut down both light and enlightenment ==

koch-solarThe Yiddish word “chutzpah” means gall and utterly arrogant nerve. It should be re-spelled to “koch-spah” after this news… that the ever-meddlesome Koch brothers are now funding a major campaign against state efforts to ramp up solar energy.

It would be one thing if they limited their attacks to ending tax rebates and minor subsidies for solar and wind… hypocritical, given how much they have benefited from vastly larger oil-gas-coal subsidies, tax breaks and almost free access to resources on public lands.

No, they are also targeting “net metering” which is the law allowing a homeowner who owns a rooftop solar unit to sell excess power back to the utility.

KOCH-SOLAR-ENERGYPlease read that again. The Koch brothers do not want you selling your excess power to the market. Their beef is with filling energy markets with millions of little-guy producers. Their “institute” proclaims that its aim is to “preserve the public utility power company concept” — a state mandated monopoly system in which single companies control all access to energy. Some enterprise capitalists! Some libertarians!

But let’s dig deeper to the heart of it. WHY are the Kochs (and their Saudi partners) doing this right now? Because solar energy is taking off. Because efficiency and durability of photovoltaics have been skyrocketing, in part because we had the wisdom to use some mild incentives to boost an important new industry, the way the U.S. Postal contracts stimulated air travel, in the 1920s, or public roads spurred the rise of the automobile.

Only with this difference: renewable energy systems are improving far faster than airplanes or automobiles did, in their nascent days. And more spectacular tech advances loom on the horizon, that the Kochs can see coming fast.

citizen-solar-powerDig it well. They would not be doing this if renewables weren’t taking off and a looming threat to the brothers’ bottom line. Millions of autonomous citizens, generating and selling their own power is no longer a sci fi pipe dream. It is coming true fast…

…and parasitic dinosaurs are bellowing.

== focus where it hurts ==

Let’s get down to absolute fundamentals: what must shrink is ability of oligarchy to “capture” and corrupt government. Given how deeply committed the Koch brothers are, to meddling and altering our elections, we might want to show it goes both ways, by becoming aware of which products in your neighborhood store augment their Georgia-Pacific empire:

Koch-ProductsKOCH BRANDS: Brawny, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ‘n’ Gentle, Dixie cups/plates/etc, Sparkle/Vanity Fair/Zee napkins.

OTHER BRANDS: Charmin, Cottonelle, Scott, Bounty, Viva, Hefty cups/plates/etc, Kleenex/Bounty/Scott napkins.

Hmmm. Print it out. Keep it next to your shopping list. Make up your own minds.

== Bad Democratic Oligarchs? ==

This article in the Washington Free Beacon, Oligarchy in the 21st Century, pushes the meme — and with some fascinating anecdotal support (!) — that democrats do oligarchy, just as much as republicans do! And indeed, the essay is worth reading, with some informative moments… except a conclusion that is warped and sick and just plain wrong.

Actually, it’s kind of sad, revealing something dark in this writer’s core, that he assumes rich democrats must have the same reasons for donating to liberal causes as wealthy donors on the right.

To him, the only conceivable reason that a rich person would donate money would be self-interest, cheating and greed. But the narrative does not wash when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett publicly proclaim “my class should be paying higher taxes.”

There is another possible motive. Love of a country and civilization and middle-class society that was very good to them.

== Military Matters ==

The US Navy is showing off, announcing the deployment on-ship of a close-defense laser system and the imminent shipboard testing of a railgun system.

140410101202-navy-railgun-story-bodyYou might recall the dramatically exaggerated depiction of a railgun in one of the Transformers flicks. Railguns use electromagnetic energy known as the Lorenz Force to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. The high-power electric pulse generates a magnetic field to fire the projectile with very little recoil. Many sci fi tales have portrayed rail guns used either in space combat or as great big electromagnetic launch systems, hurling cargoes from the Moon or even from Earth. The development of smaller scale guns for the military was an intermediate step, necessary in several ways.

Combine all this with the Navy’s new Zumwalt class destroyer and you can see how advanced a service got that was not crushed and half-ruined by a decade of brutally self-destructive and pointless land wars of attrition in Asia.

Here’s a thought-provoking essay on how empires — mostly spread by military means — do allow (for all their faults) greater safety from violence and opportunities for trade and development. There are feedback loops and ironies. I do not agree in all ways! But interesting.

Defend civilization, especially the ways in which ours has been unlike any others.


25 May 18:21

SC pastor accused of turning Bible college into forced labor camp for foreign students

by David Edwards

The president of a South Carolina Bible college was charged last week with essentially treating foreign students as slaves by forcing them to perform work for little or no pay.

According to The Sun News, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Cathedral Bible College President Reginald Wayne Miller, accusing him of forced labor.

An affidavit included with the complaint said that students “described a pervasive climate of fear in which their legal status as non-immigrant students was in constant jeopardy, at the sole discretion of Dr. Miller, who threatened expulsion and therefore termination of their legal presence in the United States for noncompliance with his demands.”

Students told investigators that classes at the school “were not real,” and that the real purpose of the school was to force them to work over the maximum of 20 hours per week that federal law allows for student visas. The students alleged that Miller often forced them to live in substandard conditions without hot water, heat or air-conditioning.

The complaints said that students worked over 50 hours a week, and often received no pay, even though some had been promised $100 a week. Several students said that they were paid $50 a week for 40 hours of work or more.

The Friendly Atheist blog quipped that slavery was rampant throughout the Bible, allowing Miller to “still be considered a true man of the Bible.”

Miller was arrested in 2006 on charges of lewdness and prostitution after he exposed himself to an undercover officer in a bathhouse at Myrtle Beach State Park. Records indicated that Miller participated in a pre-trial intervention program, allowing his record to be expunged.

During a Friday appearance at Florence Federal Court House, a federal judge set bail at $250,000. He was also ordered to stay away from Cathedral Bible College, and its students. The former pastor could spend 20 years in jail if convicted.

Watch the video below from WBTW, broadcast May 22, 2014.

25 May 07:09

Video games do a thing that no other industry does...

25 May 13:48

I was the NRA

by TBogg

I was fortunate enough to have been born and to have spent my life living in a part of America where the climate is conducive to outdoor living year-round.

The San Diego of my youth was the fabled “sleepy Navy town” of yore; scrub-filled canyons and mesas extending to the beach and the communities that sprouted up along the coast.

My earliest days, before being shuffled off to Catholic school, were spent at a beach a few blocks away from our home. Because we were poor, a day at the beach with a packed lunch was the locus of cheap entertainment on the days when it was “too nice to be inside watching TV,” which was in black-and-white. My earliest memories are of scurrying along the waterline, my back browned by the sun, digging up sand crabs and putting them into a bucket filled with water and sand into which they would  burrow once again, believing they were safe from large probing toddler hands. When I grew bored they were dumped back into the surf where they no doubt buried themselves again only to someday be temporarily kidnapped once again by another bored child.

I was a born hunter and collector.

Because we were poor, my brother and I fished on Saturday mornings with our dad on his day off because it was cheaper than buying store-bought fish. We were given the choice of early mornings on Crystal Pier or going to St. Brigid’s for Catechism classes. Saturday morning cartoons were not an option. Fishing always won out because Crystal Pier offered hot chocolate, something never found on a nun’s menu. At an early age  we learned to tie a hook,  gaff a fish, and to handle a knife for when cutting was called for. We dropped lobster traps in  what is now called Tourmaline Surf Park, retrieving them late at night, measuring them in the beam of a flashlight, making sure the tasty crustaceans were legal-sized.

When I was eight, I attended gun safety courses put on by the NRA at the local community center where thick-necked men with serious faces and butch haircuts promised us hell and worse if we mishandled a rifle or a shotgun. There was no Eddie Eagle cartoon character who spent his time talking about the 2nd amendment because the important thing was to learn not to shoot yourself or someone else. It was serious people teaching the next generation how to safely hunt and not just how to shoot.

I waited another year before I was actually allowed to carry a shotgun, serving instead an apprenticeship in the field, walking and watching and learning and carrying the kill in the back of my new hunting vest.

When the time came, I was given a .410 single-barreled shotgun by my uncle and spent days at a shooting range learning how to lead and squeeze.

The first time I was allowed to hunt, we were walking a dirt-clod field in Imperial Valley during dove season. In dawn’s very early light, I spotted the distinctive beat-beat-glide of a single dove almost directly above us, but way out of range. After pleading with my father to let me take a shot because I had waited so long, he finally relented. I tracked the bird to the best of my then non-existent experience and pulled the trigger.  Far above us we saw the dove lurch, followed by a small puff of what were no doubt feathers, and then it plummeted to the ground, the victim of an overachieving bb or two that managed to find its mark.

I was a natural born killer.

Depending upon the season, we hunted pheasants, dove, quail, and duck. When it wasn’t hunting season, we fished. On summer nights we walked the edges of the vernal pools that used to dot the parts of San Diego that are now suburbs, gigging frogs for their legs. They really do taste like chicken, as did the rabbits we hunted as they hopped up to those same pools to drink at dusk.

We did this, not for the sport — although there was an element of that — but because it was a way to supplement what we ate.

And we did this for years, raising and breeding hunting dogs, spending hours in the garage at night reloading our own shotgun shells and hand painting decoys.

We felt safe in the field because the NRA had taught us how to be safe; to know where everyone else was when you pulled the trigger, to keep your weapon pointed at the ground, to open the breech and extract the shells if you weren’t hunting, to keep you finger off of the trigger unless you had reason to pull it.

As I grew older I began to notice a different breed of hunter; men who showed up with multiple shotguns as if they were golf clubs needed for specific shots. While most of us wore jeans, t-shirts and hunting vests, these newcomers dressed like they were going on safari, wearing bush hats, shooting jackets (in the 100 degree heat), and cargo pants with more pockets than there existed implements to fill them. You would see them walking the fields; shotgun draped over one arm, can of beer in the other hand. We learned to stay away from them.

For these men hunting was a manhood thing, a way to get in touch with their alpha male, a way to prove they weren’t soft city dwellers and what better way to do that than to get together with some buddies and shoot some guns at whatever moved.

It was no coincidence that, at this same time (this being early seventies), the NRA changed their focus from hunting programs to promoting gun ownership and defending the 2nd Amendment from imaginary enemies.

Each trip afield meant running into more men concerned with the idea of shooting but unburdened with any concept of the etiquette of hunting. For an adult, all you needed was the cash to purchase a gun and a hunting license and you were good to go forth and kill.

The last time my father, my brother, and I hunted together was pheasant hunting in Imperial Valley. We walked the short-grown alfalfa fields hoping to kick up a pheasant, or watched to see our German Shorthaired Pointer, Candy, go on point. When she did we would instruct her to chase the bird until it flew, at which time it was considered “fair game” to shoot it.  Rule of thumb: you do not shoot a bird not in flight. Not cool.

Having worked the field, we returned to our truck to get water. By our truck were several other cars and trucks with hunters standing around talking and smoking and looking for shade in the ninety-degree heat. While we sat on the truck’s tailgate, Candy — ever the worker — kept sniffing around and doing what came naturally to her. Somewhere, possibly by one of the canals that separate many of the fields, she kicked up a pheasant and gave chase, the pheasant running several feet in front of her, refusing to fly.  A large man, decked out in a bush hat, cargo pants, and vest with no shirt — his white skin blotchy and red in the heat — immediately swung his shotgun up despite standing amongst of hunters in all directions and fired off two quick shots at the running bird.  Poor shot that he was, he missed the bird but sent up two large explosions of dirt no more than two feet in front of Candy’s nose as she skidded to a stop.

It was deathly quiet afterwards as everyone looked at him, stunned by what he had done.

My father quickly walked over to him, cursing all the way, grabbed the shotgun out of his hands by grabbing it by the barrel — no doubt burning his hands — and broke it open ejecting the spent shells.  He then threw it end over end into the field. As my father berated him, using words I wasn’t well acquainted with at the time with but have learned to love since then, the hunter (known in family lore now as “The Great White Hunter”). His friends looked away and shuffled their feet, no one daring to come to his defense. I have no doubt, had the man shot and killed Candy, my father would have shot him if he’d had a loaded shotgun in his hand.

Having verbally unloaded on the man who didn’t dare to look upset that his gun was laying  in the field somewhere, my dad said, “Get in the car boys. We’re going home.”

I don’t remember if he said another word during the two-hour drive back to San Diego.

When we got home, we released Candy to the yard while my dad went into the garage and cleaned the pheasants we had shot. Afterward he cleaned the shotguns before sticking them in his bedroom closet without a word.

He never took us hunting again, and we never asked to go.

Years later, when I was working as a roofer, I became friends with a co-worker who loved to hunt and we made plans to go down to the valley for the start of dove season on Labor Day weekend. I stopped by my parents house to pick up the 20-gauge shotgun that my dad bought for me when I turned fifteen; a beautiful pistol-gripped Savage with engraved silver-plating.  It wasn’t there and neither were any of our guns, including the .410 that I used to shoot my first dove.  My mother explained that my father said they were of no use to him anymore so he sold them. The new breed of hunter, the events of that day, made him lose his passion for hunting and he turned to the solitary and more ruminative sport of lake fishing by himself.

I used to hunt and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the hell out of it. But I wouldn’t consider attempting it now, in an age where gun-owners lump AR-15′s in with sporting guns. Where a lousy shooter can disguise his inability to shoot with an extended clip that allows him to keep shooting until he finally hits something, anything. Where hunters feel the need for silencers for God knows what reason.

The NRA has killed off the sportsman with their neglect and replaced him with the gun nut who spends more money on more guns, not out of a desire to feed his family, but to stave off a mythical jack-booted government bogeyman coming to take away those guns. This paranoid vision of America  that the NRA sells is why we have the gun violence that we have today, because no sensible gun legislation can be passed because of what the father of one of Elliott Rodger’s victims described as “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.”

I’m not the NRA poster child that I was at age 8 anymore. I want nothing to do with those people.

I may be a natural born killer, but I’ll be damned if I’ll be an accomplice to murder.

[Vintage photo of boy with an air gun on Shutterstock]

23 May 03:33

A Good Time with a Bad Girl (1967) directed by Barry Mahon



A Good Time with a Bad Girl (1967) directed by Barry Mahon