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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Beginning of Something Wonderful

So this is the post that started last week's kerfuffle:



I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brownell on the last day of the NRA Annual Meeting, and despite him being terribly busy -- he'd just been elected President of the NRA and suddenly had to deal with with things like needing bodyguards -- he met with me and listened to me. I was impressed with his graciousness, and for taking the time to talk to me, a political nobody. He asked me to get back in touch with him in July, after he'd been sworn in and had time to get acclimated to his new position.

So earlier this month, I called the number on the card he'd given me. I wasn't surprised that I encountered one of his gatekeepers, because I never once expected that the man would give his direct line to someone he'd never met, and I was just happy to be able to ring his office. His secretary told me to call again on Monday at 4 pm.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received a telephone call at precisely 4 pm -- I swear, I think the clock just clicked over from 3:59:59 when it rang -- and it was his personal assistant calling to apologize because Mr. Brownell was busy, and would I mind waiting for him to call me in 15 minutes?

Heck yeah, I'll wait!

And so it transpired that the very busy Mr. Peter Brownell, CEO of Brownells Inc and NRA President, called ME, Schmucky the Wonder Clown, from his personal cell phone to ask for my thoughts on how to make the NRA more welcoming and inclusive to LGBTQ people.

We talked for 45 minutes.
 This very busy man spent three quarters of an hour asking me questions, listening (actually listening!) to my replies, asking follow-up questions and making suggestions on how to make his organization more inclusive.

I'm not at liberty to discuss the things we talked about, but I am confident that this is something he is committed to doing. In this month's "President's Column" of the various NRA magazines (this link is to American Rifleman), titled  "Second Amendment Belongs to All Americans, Regardless of Race, Creed or Gender", he said
"The Second Amendment belongs to every American. The freedom secured by the Second Amendment cannot be put asunder by any conceivable element of discrimination—not by color, race, age, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political ideology or national origin.

"This is the simple, direct message of the National Rifle Association to all Americans. I’m proud of our minority outreach efforts to date, but more work needs to be done. A central focus of my NRA presidency is to help the NRA be more inclusive than it’s ever been."
And those are just the first two paragraphs.

Now, I realize that these are just words, and actions are what matter. But I have full faith that Mr. Brownell does indeed want to make the NRA more inclusive and more welcoming to the LGBTQ community... because, you see, I have his telephone number and I'm not afraid to nag him until that happens.

Great things are going to happen!... or else. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #153 - First, Do No Harm


Actions have consequences.
  • Beth has had enough of the madness! Yet another woman has been shot, by her own gun, from inside her purse. This kind of tragedy is 100% avoidable if you use your brain and follow the do's and don'ts of purse carry
  • An assault suspect is found dead in the basement of a Winston-Salem home. What killed him? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Just this week, a guy sneaked into the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather press conference with badges he cloned from images on Facebook. Barron tells us how it’s done
  • Miguel is on assignment and will return next week.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the third of a three-part interview series, Charl explains the Christian justification for self defense.
  • What is your calling? Do you know? And are you really being honest with yourself about what your true calling might be?
  • Tiffany salutes those who answer the call of law enforcement, but she also has a warning for those who only do so half-heartedly.
  • Erin breaks a promise this week, but it's so she can explain something you'll need to know for next week. Are you primed for an emotional reaction to stress? Erin explains what that means.
  • Shannon Watts does an interview about the Origins of Moms Demand Action... or at least, how she CLAIMS it happened. Weer'd explains what’s truth and what’s fiction inside Shannon Watts’ mind!
  • And our Plug of the Week is for The Lawdog Files, on Amazon for Kindle.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Emotional Priming
Last week I promised that I would talk about PTSD and ways to break the cycle of flashbacks. However, I’m afraid that I have to postpone that segment for a week, because I need to talk about emotional priming first. 

Put simply, witnessing trauma is itself traumatic to the viewer. This is because humans have structures in the brain called Mirror Neurons, which fire when performing an act but also when seeing an act. This is why you have the urge to yawn when you see another person yawn, why you often vomit when you see or hear or smell another person vomit, and why you wince in pain when you see another person get hurt.

 Mirror neurons are essential to our development during childhood because they are how we learn. “Monkey see, Monkey do” isn’t just a childhood taunt; it’s literally how we and other primates, learn. It follows, then, that if we witness something horrible that happens to another person, our mirror neurons simulate that sense of horror, that pain, that shock within us. And while the sensation isn’t as vivid, it’s still real, and therefore it’s entirely possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder from watching tragedy happen to another person.

In other words, PTSD can be considered an environmental or occupational hazard as much as a psychological one, especially if you work as a first responder. This means that you are more at risk for developing PTSD if you’ve already been exposed to extreme stress one or more times, and this vulnerability can last the rest of your life. This is what is known as being “emotionally primed” for PTSD. 

Think of your mind like a plate. Each traumatic event you witness is a crack within that plate. Some cracks are minor, but get enough of them, and the plate will fall apart. Get a single big crack, and the plate will fall apart.  Unlike bones, which can heal over time and become stronger, the mind retains the memory of the horrors it sees and this can make it weaker, more prone to injury. This explains why so many first responders take up unhealthy habits in their desire to forget what they’ve seen. They’re trying to erase those memories, to heal the cracks in the plate of their psyche. 

So if you have witnessed anything truly horrific or traumatic, I urge you to seek counseling from a professional. Not because you are crazy, not because you are broken; think of it as preventative maintenance. Just as you see the doctor every 6 months for a physical to keep on top of how your body is doing and to get ahead of potential issues so too should you see a therapist if you have a history with trauma, especially chronic trauma. A professional will be able to detect patterns of unhealthy behavior and poor coping mechanisms, and hopefully will help de-prime you so that you don’t suffer PTSD. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Week From Heck

I can't really call it "The Week From Hell" because I know that things can always get worse.

Here's the short version. I had hopes of getting caught up this afternoon by writing back-dated posts for the past week but I had the chance to go see Spider-Man: Homecoming so I took it. (Go watch the movie, it's Amazing.) I'll likely just turn this into blog posts for next week, because I'm tired of playing catch-up.

But just in case I don't, here are the highlights:
  1. On Monday, I received a call from Peter Brownell, the President of the NRA. We talked for 45 minutes on how the NRA can be more inclusive and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals. 
  2. Also on Monday, Florida started having thunderstorms every afternoon. These storms cause intense sinus headaches for me, because the weather brings a pressure change (either as the storm comes in or when it leaves) and the sinus cavities within my skull try to normalize with the outside pressure but cannot do so due to my allergies/ This means I just have to take painkiller and/or take to my bed and wait for the pressure to equalize and the pain to subside. 
  3. This pretty much tanked all the creativity I have, because constant pain is a bit of a wet blanket. 
  4. The announcement that I and Operation Blazing Sword would be working with the NRA to help make it more inclusive was not met with favor by some people. In fact, some considered it a betrayal to the LGBTQ community, while others just thought the NRA was insincere (lying) and/or using us. While I am always happy to listen to the objections of others, this rapidly turned into a verbal blanket party that lasted for about three days. 
  5. By Thursday, I'd had enough and drafted up an Official Statement On the Matter, along with a clarification regarding our Policy On Receiving Comments and Criticism
  6. I am drafting a Mission Statement to further explain, hopefully in precise detail, why working with organizations which reach out to us is indeed part of our purpose. 
So being in pain, monitoring the various threads, and crafting a precisely-worded mission statement is what has consumed most of my available time this week. Fun, eh?

Hopefully next week will be more productive. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Exponential Outrage Theorem


I'd like to propose a thought experiment. (Bear with me here, I've always been rubbish at maths.)

Something big, something monumental is announced. This thing that is announced is a change. Let's say, just for the example, the casting choices in a major science fiction franchise.

One hundred idiots get mad about this change and over-react. From the reaction of these one hundred idiots, a far Left or far Right blog whips up an article containing six tweets from people who are literal nobodies with an insignificant amount of followers (I don't use my Twitter, so let's say 24. 24 sounds like a nice insignificant number.)

Ladies, gentlemen, and multi-forms, your Twitter nobody.
One thousand people read this article, and become outraged by the "huge backlash" of the one hundred over-reacting idiots. They, in turn, overreact. Ten more extreme-end blogs write articles, including the six tweets and six more attacking the original. Ten thousand people read these articles and are now annoyed. They start a hashtag movement which catches the attention of a few mainstream news sites, which write about the massive outrage over the initial decision, more than likely using words like "manbabies", "piss babies", or "garbage humans." One hundred thousand people read this article and are now annoyed. The reaction is no longer the story -- the outrage is -- and it continues well into the millions.

So, then. On a completely unrelated note. What do I think?
Nice coat.
I think she's not Peter Capaldi. But then, as much as I adore Peter Capaldi's Doctor, I knew it wouldn't be forever. Like the man himself said, nothing is sad until it's over, then everything is. Everything ends, and it's always sad, but everything begins again and that's always happy. So I'll let the Doctor handle everything else. To me, he's been the best thing about the show since it came back, and I pity anyone who has to follow in his footsteps.

Capaldi's final episode hasn't even aired yet (spoilers!) so we're a little premature on pronouncing judgement on her ability. Do I like the choice? I have no idea yet. But she shows promise, and I maintain there has never been a bad actor in the role. Strange choices, maybe, but never bad ones. Here's what I think:
  • I remember her from Attack the Block and Broadchurch, and looked up a series she'd starred in on Netflix called The Assets
  • I think she's a talented actor. Does a surprisingly good American accent. 
  • I think she's very distinctive-looking, which is far more important than attractive for the role. Prominent nose, high cheekbones, slightly strange-looking (Erin's informed me that saying someone "looks a bit like a ferret" isn't a flattering thing that normal people do, even after I assured her that I think ferrets are adorable), I think she looks distinctive enough for the role. Smith and Tennant both looked a bit weird, with Tennant being very thin and goofy but exuding confidence, and Smith looking like a literal alien with vaguely unformed facial features and an enormous chin. 
  • I think she has enough intensity and range to play the role, and the outfit they chose for her looks decent, if a bit unremarkable, but no Doctor keeps the same outfit forever - even Eccleston changed his jumper periodically. 
  • I was hoping for Emma Thompson if we were going female Doctor, but then I doubt the BBC could afford her.
So as far as Jodie Whittaker goes, I'm definitely going to give her a shot. This isn't the first time I've lost a beloved Doctor and I'm not about to quit watching because I'm not 100% sure on the 'new guy.' If I were type to do that, I'd never have seen Paul McGann be tremendously let down by his TV movie or Eccleston shine for a year. But as I said, there's never been a "bad Doctor."

There has, however, been bad writing. One thing we need to keep in mind is that all the groundwork that's been laid for this change to happen is due to the allegedly EVOL MISOGYNERD that is Stephan Moffat. The Corsair, the General's regeneration, Missy, River changing from white to black and back to white, and even Eleven's throw-away line wondering if he was a girl because of his hair all happened under his watch. Now Moffat's leaving the show, and the incoming show-runner, Chris Chibnall, wrote one very good and several very bad episodes of Torchwood, and was the show-runner for the two series it was on BBC.  He wrote several episodes of Doctor Who that... varied in quality. And while it's true that Broadchurch was his show, it was equal parts good and very, very slow and grim.

Moreover, Chibnall is a fan. As a friend and I recently discussed, fans should be kept well away from the reigns of the show, and Chibnall once appeared on the BBC in his capacity as a fan bemoaning the state of the writing during Colin Baker's tenure. While he wasn't wrong, this would be like a modern fan (say myself or my friend) publicly decrying the state of the writing under Stephen Moffat, then decades later running the show ourselves, and that would be very, very bad. I'm more worried that, in a year or two, we'll be begging Moffat to come back than we will be wishing Jodie hadn't come on board.

I have a final thought here: If you're celebrating something based on the negative reaction that you feel a demographic will have, then you're celebrating it for the wrong reason. The legions of "screaming manbabies" have not manifested. The outrage against Jodie Whittaker is as overblown as "black stormtrooper" or the "Fury Road boycott.' In fact, the demographics of the outrage are so wrong that even The Mary Sue has had to address it (albeit in their condescending and short-sighted way), admitting that there are a substantial number of women that aren't satisfied with the decision (the words "internalized misogyny" were thrown around).

Don't mistake this for me saying you're not a "real fan" or a "fake nerd." I'm saying that if you're salivating at the thought of "evil white men", you might be valuing message over entertainment. You may be a fan for the wrong reasons. And it's supremely annoying to someone who considered the Doctor a role model not because he was a man, but because he was clever and cared and helped people while trying not to resort to violence. As Twelve would really like to hear, he was, all in all, a good man. And I hope he can be a good woman, too.

I just hope it doesn't get lost in causes and messages.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #152 - Facepalm, Give a Sigh, Everybody Roll Their Eyes


This episode is brought to you by the letters W, T, and F, and the number 8.
  • It’s more than just a mom’s dilemma: What do you do when you’re too busy to get to the range for some recoil therapy? Beth gives us some advice.
  • What kind of person cuts, strangled and tries to rape a woman? Sean takes a closer look.
  • What happens when an insurance company decides that they’d like to “help” their customers by sending them information on a USB stick? Barron facepalms himself so hard that he gets a concussion, that’s what.
  • Miguel wanted a break from ranting, so he pulled some books from his book pile. This week, he’s recommending two: The Siege and Jim Cirillo’s Tales of the Stakeout Squad.
  • GunBlog VarietyCast Radio is proud to introduce Special Guest Charl van Wyk to our show. Mr. van Wyk was a member of the Saint James Church in Capetown, South Africa, when it was attacked by terrorists, and he was able to save the lives of many by returning fire with his pistol. In the second of a three-part interview series, Charl tells us how he went from being an ordinary young man to a responsibly armed citizen.
  • Tiffy’s back, back again. Tiffy's back, tell a friend. In this installment of The Bridge, Tiffany talks about that Dana Loesch video and what it means to her.
  • Following up on her segment on "proprioception", Erin explains how our brains think of loved ones as extensions of ourselves, and why losing them is like losing a limb. 
  • Protect Minnesota is against a new bill that would bring Stand Your Ground to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Weer’d is back with part three of his three-part series on their anti-self defense press conference.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
To Our Brains, Loved Ones Are Limbs
In last week’s segment about proprioception, I asked the question “if an inanimate object can be considered part of someone’s body by the brain, then why not another living being?”

And the answer is “This already happens. We just don’t realize it as such.”

The classic example is a mother with a baby. The act of bonding with that child produces critical changes within the mother’s brain, re-wiring parts of it. While it can be joked that we now have definitive proof that having kids causes brain damage, these changes are in fact vital for the continuation of our species.

When you think about an infant in a clinical, objective sense, what you see is a helpless bundle of needs that feeds parasitically, consumes resources and deprives sleep, and generally acts as a detriment to the parent. Without these changes to the brain, humans would not love their children as themselves, and we would see a huge increase in infant death.

But the fact remains that parents love their children as their own flesh, because their proprioception, their body map, has extended into the child. We see this most strongly in mothers whose arms ache to hold their children. As those children grow, the body map slowly changes to accommodate the growth; the need to hold morphs into a need to have them on your lap, which evolves into the need to hold their hand. This is why parents will forever see their children as, well, children; there’s still a part of them that years to hold us and cuddle us in the same way that those of us who have pets still sometimes wish our dogs and cats were still puppies and kittens.

But this proprioception of another as ourselves doesn’t begin and end with children. It happens with those we love, as well. When you think about it, sex violates the desire of the body to keep its DNA and fluids to itself, but in order to reproduce, we need to bypass this isolationist urge. Seeing our lover as a partial extension of ourselves is how our brains trick our body into violating one of the key principles of our immune system.

This is why losing a loved one causes an aching sense of absence that is above and beyond emotional pain; we are, quite literally, experiencing a phantom limb pain, except the missing limb is the person we lost.

This also explains why so many people seek out rebound relationships: just as a mirror image of the missing limb was able to cure phantom limb pain, so too does finding another person to fill the void of the missing relationship.

So looping back to my first segment on the topic a month ago, losing someone is like losing a part of yourself, which causes anxiety, which activates the rage pathway in the brain.

Next week. I’ll talk more about PTSD and discuss ways to reprogram the “fire together, wire together” clusters which cause flashbacks. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Save Oro

https://www.gofundme.com/saveoro
Oro is a gay Muslim who has fled persecution in Tunisia. He is now in Egypt and hopes to move to a western country that will accept him instead of trying to kill him for his sexuality. The funds contributed to his GoFundMe account will be sent to him as soon as he is able to find an apartment, and will be used to help him get started living on his own or possibly to go to school elsewhere - he wants to attend the New England Culinary Institute and become a chef.

If you are an ally of the LGBTQ community, please donate so that he can begin a new, productive life. Under Sharia law, being gay carries the death penalty.

If you're concerned about his religion, don't be. I've talked to Oro. He's friendly to Jews and Christians. He loves Western culture and shares our values. By helping him, you are supporting love and inclusion and fighting hatred.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Preacher: Adaptation Blues

When I was 18 years old, I shared a flat with a couple. Odd pair, a slightly plump bisexual girl and her effeminate, slightly hippy, slightly techno boyfriend. One of the defining moments of this period of my life was discovering Garth Ennis's Preacher comic series. I remember clearly one night finishing one of the volumes and racing over to Books-A-Million (forgive my plebian tendencies, we didn't have a Barnes & Nobles in the roughly-six-horse town I lived in at the time) and begging them to open the doors a minute before their closing time to pick up the next volume.

When I initially heard Preacher was being adapted for television I had very mixed feelings. I felt that television was the best medium for the series, as the story was far too broad to tell within the limitations of a roughly two hour film, but I was wary at the involvement of Seth Rogen. Rogen has made his name in awkward/pothead humour films, which are some of my least favourite genres in existence, with Pineapple Express, Neighbors, Superbad, Knocked Up, and the unfortunate This Is The End, which had to stand up against Edgar Wright's finale of the Cornetto Trilogy, The World's End and really didn't fare well in my eyes. Seth Rogen is not somebody who I trusted to understand Preacher properly.
Picture courtesy Business Insider
As a young Atheist, banished from a church a year prior (for reasons maybe I'll go into later), Preacher was a story that struck a chord with me. A man of God, given a great gift with a terrible knowledge, sets out to hold God accountable. The anger against organized religion that was boiling inside the 18-year-old me resonated with that message at the time. Now, an undisclosed-but-significant amount of time later, I've calmed somewhat, and despite how juvenile and (ironically) preachy Ennis could be at times, now I just want to see the story done justice.

Preacher premiered on AMC last spring. When it first came out, I missed the premiere, so about a month later I watched the first four episodes... and it was rough going. I have to admit, over the years, I've read the series multiple times, and own a trade paperback release of every volume, including the cover collection and the side stories with Cassidy and the Saint. The series had a very high bar for me, and in those first four episode, it did not meet that bar. Annville was there, but it seemed like every single story element in 7 volumes of the comic series had been packed into a single town, and somehow the series still moved at a snail's pace. Aside from a decent joke about Tom Cruise being vaporized by Genesis, nothing really appealed to me. The Reverend Jesse Custer seemed to be a good translation from comic to screen, only losing his wilder hair and white jeans in the process, I was confused by Tulip being black (until I realized that I'd lived 10 years in the armpit of Texas and the demographics actually justified that entirely) and I absolutely hated Cassidy. I was confused why Arseface lived in Annville and why his dad actually spoke to him. I was confused why DeBlanc and Fiore dressed like business-casual cowboys and were in Annville. I was confused why Odin Quincannon's meat-packing plant was located in Annville. And I was confused why it felt like, in the first four episodes, absolutely nothing happened.

This week, I've sat down and watched the remaining six episodes of the first season as well as the first four (that have aired so far) of season 2. I've softened a little, as starting near the end of season 1 the pace has picked up considerably and the "road trip" tone of the comic series is starting to manifest, and I've even gone so far as to purchase the Jesse Custer figure that NECA released (but not the Cassidy figure). Some of the more drastic changes they've made to the series (why is the Saint immune to Genesis? Why did they nerf his guns? Every shot kills and no shot misses. That's the Saint's Colt Walkers. Why was he just in Hell and not a replacement for... well that's getting a little too much into the lore. Read it for yourself, trust me) are bothering me.
Taking his place on the DC Screen Shelf. Anyone tired of my toys yet? 
I have to wonder if Seth Rogen and friends read the books or just a summary of them. Irish vampire? Check. Girlfriend named Tulip that's good with guns? Check. Texas preacher with the Voice of God? Check. But the details, almost every single one, have been changed, and I can't say for the better. I always give a series the first season as a trial ground and assume it's going to suck, and I grant it that the second season, so far, is better than the first, but I have yet to have any confidence in this adaptation. We'll see how it goes from here on out, and I'll check out the episodes as they come, but I'm still wary.

The Fine Print


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