Sounds Familiar

It appears that the Royal Ginger is into meditation (through the efforts of his Hollywood strumpet consort, of course).

So am I, and always have been.

However, I don’t do it by way of yoga or Buddhism or any of that mystical bullshit.  I just call it “thought and reflection”, and I do it when I wake up — in that delicious period of time when my mind can wander freely — or else when I’m otherwise alone (e.g. in the car or on a long flight).  During that wonderful break, I think about life, my life, my priorities in life and my goals and ambitions.  I also reflect on my problems, my faults, and the hindrances which prevent me from living properly.

See, I always thought that everybody  did this stuff.  But apparently not.  Maybe it’s because everyone is too caught up in the here-and-now, or is being enslaved by technology, or is entangled in the machinations of others.

And in today’s world, it’s so difficult to cut oneself off, even for just a half an hour;  and even if one does, there’s a real need to empty the mind of the clutter before turning inwards for those Deep Thoughts.

Myself, I think a little range time is the perfect way to clear the mind — there’s no time to think about life’s minutiae  when you’re trying to slow your heartbeat, concentrate on the sight picture and drop each round into the X-ring.  And in that wonderful aftermath of a range session when the adrenaline levels drop and you reach that calm state we all know so well, you’ll find that this  is a good time for quiet contemplation and reflection.

So there you have it:  shooting  helps with meditation, not that airy-fairy yoga bullshit.

Opinions (reprinted from August 14, 2007)

One of the many epithets hurled my way is that I’m an opinionated man.

Guilty as charged.

I’ve often thrown around statements like “the best cheese ever made” and “the world’s greatest beer/brandy” (Wadworth’s 6X and Richelieu, respectively), and I would have thought it obvious that these were a.) opinions and b.) made after many years of careful (and in the case of booze, not-so-careful) sampling and experimentation.

What I never say, however, when it comes to these matters, is that people who don’t share my tastes are idiots or fools or whatever.  (Sometimes, I find their opinion inconceivable—e.g. if someone were to prefer the horrible Californian brandy over the wonderful South African stuff—but the expression “there’s no accounting for tastes” works perfectly to describe my mental shrug at so strange a position.)

I also make it plain, very plain, when I prefer one thing over another because of prejudice.  I don’t like Glocks, for example, because I think that black plastic guns are ugly (note:  opinion—yours may differ), Glocks don’t fit my hand very well (note:  physiological difference from your hand), and Gaston Glock supports the horrible idea of “ballistic fingerprinting” (note: my difference of position vs. Glock’s).  I don’t like Glock’s spongy DA trigger pull, but then I don’t like any DA semi-auto pistol (note:  generic dislike not specific to Glock), because I think that if you want to shoot DA, a revolver should suffice.

Thus I can see no reason why I should ever buy a Glock for myself.

BUT:

I have often recommended Glocks to prospective gun buyers, if the gun seems to fit their criteria, and especially if they tell me that the Glock fits their hand well.  I have never said that Glocks are unreliable, or inaccurate—in fact, I’ve often noted the precise opposite.  I have never called Glock owners “idiots” (although I have on occasion teased people about their choice—and, it should be noted, they have teased me right back).

It’s just my opinion.  And yes, some of it is based on freely-admitted prejudice, because I think that John Moses Browning’s design of the 1911 is the absolute zenith of pistolmaking, and why try to improve on perfection?

Most of the time, such statements are made tongue-in-cheek.  Like the last one.

What really pisses me off is when people insult me because of my opinion.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I mention that I dislike runny cheese, and in fact prefer older, firmer, even crumbly cheese.  I don’t like runny cheese because, to be blunt, it reminds me of the consistency of snot.  Nothing wrong, there: it’s a simple preference of taste and texture, backed up with a personal rationale.

What I don’t expect is for some dickhead to say that because I don’t like runny cheese, my taste buds are immature or inoperable, and that therefore I’m not a real cheese-lover.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But that’s the kind of bullshit that’s aimed at me almost every time I express a strong opinion:  at some point, someone is going to accuse me of some shortcoming, simply because my strong dislike happens to be his strong preference.

This doesn’t matter whether I’m talking about beer, cheese, cars, cricket or (gawd help me) literature.  Even my musical taste has come under attack when, say, I opine that while Rush are excellent musicians on an individual basis, their music leaves me cold, and Geddy Lee’s voice makes me want to eat the barrel of a Ruger Blackhawk.  Note that I have not, ever, called Rush fans a bunch of immature poseurs—and I’m not doing so now, because that’s just what we writers call an analogy—but others behave very differently towards me.  Using the same example:  because I don’t like Rush, there Must Be Something Wrong With Me, And All That Needs To Happen Is For Me To Experience This Song, And I’ll Change My Opinion—and every time I express a strong dislike of something, the same tiresome nostrum is shoved down my throat whether it’s beer, science fiction, football or any of the other (many) flashpoints of difference on this website where others hold equally-reasoned, and as passionate opinions as mine.

All bets are off when it comes to the Rolling Stones, however:  their music is awful, their playing dreadful, and their fans are, like the Stones themselves, a bunch of middle-class streetfighting wannabes.

And if the previous sentence made your blood boil, welcome to my world.

Note that all the above have to do with personal taste—in other words, it affects society not a whit that someone else may be bored to tears by The Three Musketeers or The Mayor of Casterbridge but is enthralled by When Planets Collide and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

Society is likewise unaffected, nay improved, by the fact that people’s tastes run to beers not Boddington’s Ale, but to lagers, porters, beers with a fruity flavor or those which need a squeeze of lime to make them palatable.

There is one opinion, however, which does not lend itself to a multitude of options, and that’s the political one.

Society is seldom improved by the wholesale introduction of, say, socialism into the polity.  Although some very minor aspects of same may not be too awful, it is simply lunatic to suppose that “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” has the slightest chance of working in the grand scheme of unalterable human nature.  Socialism requires endless self-sacrifice and altruism, and the submission of the self to the whole.  Ditto radical libertarianism, whose fierce adherence to “the primacy of the individual” requires success parameters that all members of society be innately virtuous, resourceful, reasonable and possess an IQ greater than 120.

Both sets of requirements are hopelessly unrealistic.

Little bits of both philosophies are not a bad thing, and each acts as a counterweight to the other.  But no government is just as bad as too much government, because both allow too much leeway for the powerful to screw up the lives of the not-so powerful.  History has proved that the best recipe for the success of the society is a political system which has as little government as possible, with a people as empowered as possible—once again, each acting as a check on the other’s baser instincts and behavior (mob rule, of course, being as bad as a centralized totalitarian system).

And a small government with an empowered populace is: ta-da!  our Constitutional, representative republic.

Now, we may argue about the details of said republic (and O! how do we argue), and of late, our government has become far too big for my liking.  Just remember, however, that the most vile situation to live in is one of constant revolution, with first one extreme philosophy and then the other contrary one holding the higher ground.  Allowing government to grow until too big for its boots, and then beating it back with sticks (okay, voting), seems to me to be preferable to the alternative, even though the prognosis right now is gloomy.

There have been rays of sunshine—the Assault Weapon Ban non-renewal, the immigration amnesty nonsense, and so on—where We The People gave Them The Gummint a bloody nose (not bloody enough for most, including me, but hey).

But the plain fact of the matter is that unlike my opinions on beer, cheese and literature, which are mine and where others may comfortably differ (without resorting to insult), when it comes to the realm of politics, there is no argument, because history, and the millions of people from other political systems who are trying to come here, tell us so.

Argument in that vein is not only pointless, it’s counter-productive.

Yes, Of Course

From Myron Magnet at City Journal (on another topic):

“Don’t you think the whole effort of modernism—in architecture, in literature, in music, in painting—might have been a huge dead end, from which Western culture will painfully have to extricate itself?”

Longtime Readers of my fevered scribblings and rants will know that I am an implacable enemy of Modernism (and its bastard child, Postmodernism), so to me, Magnet’s question should really be a statement, with no conditional verbs.

Modernism has been a spiritual dead end, in its subjugation of beauty and form into soulless utilitarianism and the inscrutable abstract, and wherever its proponents (Le Corbusier, Duchamps, Von Der Rohe, Kandinsky and all the other charlatans) might be today, I hope the temperature is set to “BROIL”.

 Kandinsky: Garden of Love II

As for Magnet’s primary thesis (that of the imperilment of free speech), I think I’ve covered it already in my recent “Kicking Down Fences” post, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading Magnet’s greatly-superior take on the topic.

Laziness, Or What?

Yesterday I lazed away the entire morning in bed, snoozing, catching up on a few old favorite websites, reading the news and watching a couple of stupid YouTube videos — you know, just yer everyday laziness.  I did have a couple chores to run, but none were critical so I kept putting them off till later until pretty much the whole day had passed by.

I’d like to say I felt guilty about it all, but I didn’t;  and when during a rare moment of introspection I paused to wonder why not, I realized that I am retired, and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to.

As I said, I don’t feel guilty about this, at all.  And the corollary thought came to me that this guilt (that I didn’t feel) is probably caused by the fact that everyone has to be busy these days:  that inactivity is seen as a Bad Thing, or Laziness, and that I should be more like those old fools who spend their retirement walking in the Andes or going on adventures in the Amazon, or (eek) bicycling across Siberia or some equally-foolish nonsense.  Good grief, even camping makes me feel jittery.  I don’t do the latter because I did enough when I was in the Army, and even if someone did force me to do it, my reaction might be to equip myself with something like this:

Note the rain shield, the wooden floor (elevated so you don’t have to walk on the dirt, and so that any rain will drain away outside the tent) and so on.  On the other hand, there’s even a word for this: glamping (glamorous + camping), which is such a precious term I would not only not do it myself, but I’d punch someone in the face who boasted about having done it.

If you want to really rough it, stay at a Motel 6 in some small country town.  That’s about as far as I’ll take it.

But let me drag myself back to the original topic.

I don’t have any problem at all with a life of idleness after retirement.  I’ve worked fucking hard my whole life — even my hobbies, like paying in a band, were strenuous.  (Yeah, driving miles to a gig, setting up all the gear, playing like maniacs for five hours, then, when all the partygoers have gone home to bed, having to pack the gear back up, drive back to town and unload it all into the storage locker to be ready for the next practice — it’s not all fun fun fun.)  And as for my jobs:  stress, long hours, massive responsibility, brain-draining calculations and study — it’s a wonder I survived to age fifty, let alone halfway into my sixties.

So now I prefer to live a life of quiet contemplation and idleness — reading books (not too challenging, because I don’t want to overload my already-overworked brain), shouting at the TV, writing this blog and in all senses of the word, letting my life slow to a crawl before old age stops it altogether.  (I know, there’s that Uber nonsense that I do, but it’s manageable and I do it on my own terms anyway in order to fund good things like travel, fine food, single-malt Scotch and, very occasionally, a decent gun.)  I have my friends and family, and all of them know this about me because I’ve told them, in no uncertain terms.

As for the rest of it, it can all drift away on the tides of my indifference because I just don’t care a fig about it anymore.  All I’m looking forward to is annoying my kids when and if they present me with grandchildren to spoil — and if they don’t, c’est la vie.

It’s called Splendid Fucking Isolation.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go out for some breakfast.  I’m lazy, but not that lazy.

Working Dogs Revisited

I received an email over the weekend which asked me to re-open Comments to my Working Dogs post from way back (okay, February).  He asked me this because he wanted to add to the conversation, but couldn’t.

Well, I don’t want to do that (reopen Comments), but instead let’s just use this as an extension.

So go back and read the piece and the Comment section, and if you’re one of the original commenters and have something to add, or want to post a different thought, please do so.  And if you’re a “newcomer” and want to comment, please do so too.

This is not a topic I want to let slide.

Staying Unknown

When I first started posting online, I used a nom de plume (Own Drummer, in case anyone’s interested) because I was nervous where this whole thing would end up.  Then a couple years in, I began using my real name to post under.  I did this for three reasons:  firstly, because I really didn’t (and still don’t) care what people think of me;  secondly, because I thought it was more honest and lastly, because I believe in that First Amendment thing.  And in the final analysis, using your own name to publish your thoughts can act as a brake on what you say to temper your speech — admittedly not so much in my case, but there it is.

Not everyone feels this way — in fact, most people don’t — and that’s fine;  what works for me might not work for everyone, and so I support the right of people to maintain their anonymity, because there are many good reasons to do so:  to keep your job (I myself lost one because of my fevered rantings);  to be able to publish uncomfortable truths without fear of retaliation or punishment  (especially under repressive regimes such as UC-Berkeley or Iran);  to avoid causing hurt to family and friends, and so on.  When people post comments on this website using pseudonyms, I respect their privacy and use them even though I might know their real names:  they want to remain anonymous for whatever personal reasons, and I’m not going to compromise that.

Of course, anonymity can be abused (and often is) because as we all know, 9.99% of people are rancid assholes and anonymity can be used to cloak malevolence, slander and just outright boorishness (to name but three).  Like all freedoms, the right to anonymity can be abused, but that’s the nature of liberty, isn’t it?  Foul trolls can say unspeakable things just as courageous people can reveal wrongdoing, but to protect the latter we need to tolerate the former.  It’s called the First Amendment Principle.

Needless to say, this noble sentiment doesn’t sit well with bastard government flunkies who want to control or lives and speech — for all the best and noblest of reasons, of course:  national security, good taste, etc. — and so we have the latest example of this bastardy:

Digital IDs should be introduced to stop mob rule and end anonymity online, the security minister has said.
Ben Wallace, the MP for Wyre and Preston North and Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, said bullying and grooming takes place on social media because people believe they can’t be identified.
He added that websites should be able to identify people online in the same way that banks do.
“It is mob rule on the internet. You shouldn’t be able to hide behind anonymity as much as you can now… If we’re going to make the internet safer, and cut out the abuse, we’re going to have to do something more about some form of digital identification.”

And of course, bossyboots BritPM Thing May had to chime in:

“We know that technology plays a crucial part in advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls, but these benefits are being undermined by vile forms of online violence, abuse and harassment.
“What is illegal offline is illegal online and I am calling on world leaders to take serious action to deal with this, just like we are doing in the UK with our commitment to legislate on online harms such as cyber-stalking and harassment.”

Yeah, it all sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it?  It’s to protect us from mob rule, and child molesters, it’s for the childrennnn!  So of course, countless millions of perfectly decent people have to have their privacy stripped away because of the actions of a tiny minority. 

Predictably, the perfessors chime in:

Alan Woodward, of the University, of Surrey, told the Times: “I don’t think it’s technically workable. For those who persist in the vilest online behaviour, there are so many ways to mask their real identities.”

Which is true, of course.  As we know with gun registration, criminals will always find a way to transgress the law or keep their nefarious activities hidden from official scrutiny;  why should online registration be any different?  Once again, the people most affected will be the law-abiding.  That doesn’t seem to matter to these statist tools:

Anthony Glees, of the University of Buckingham, said: “This is do-able and it should be done. Anonymity on the web is a threat to our national security of the first order. Legal compulsion will be necessary and we should go for it.”

But why stop there?  After all, if national security is involved… well, no sacrifice is too great (according to the State and this Glees person).

People get up to mischief in the anonymity of their homes too — bomb-making, child-beating (a.k.a. disciplining), un-PC speech, unclothed masturbation and who knows what other kinds of anti-social activity — so let’s monitor their behavior just as we monitor their online speech, why not?

It’s been done before — or at least, written about before:

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.  — George Orwell, 1984

And Orwell didn’t know about night-vision cameras, back then.

So here’s my response to those who want to strip away our online privacy:

Fuck you.  Fuck all of you, you totalitarian bastards.  Fuck you, your government departments, your sycophantic followers and the evil that lives in all State institutions, no matter their noble purpose or intent.  Fuck you, fuck the lot of you.  I hope you all die a painful, screaming death. — Kim du Toit

How’s that for “hate speech”, you evil bastards?  And I’m not hiding behind a pseudonym, either.