Guns ‘R US

my-parents-open-carry-bookDespite living in the US for 20 years before moving to Scotland, there are many things I don’t understand about American culture. The most mystifying aspect of this strange country is its deification of guns. Some things I get, like the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Putting aside the dire need for a copy editor to clarify whether that means bearing arms as part of an official militia, or just anyone can have them, it’s an established right in one sense or the other.

But why has it assumed such importance in American culture? The NRA fights tooth and nail to defeat all legislation attempting to regulate the absolute right to own guns, even when there is clearly a need for background checks prior to purchase, a database of guns and their owners, and a limit to the amount of firepower individuals can amass.

The NRA has won hands down in most cases, despite America having the highest death rate by gun violence in the world at 4.5 deaths per 100,000. It is legal to carry concealed guns in all 50 states, and you would think that was enough to satisfy the most ardent 2nd Amendment fan.

Think again.

The newest thug on the block is the open carry movement, made up of gun owners who delight in walking around with their weapons on display. They even have demonstrations in favour of the right they already have, and which no-one is likely to take away from them.

The Guardian reported on one woman’s response to such a demonstration in Austin, Texas. She and few companions exercised their right to go topless at the event. Apparently this didn’t go down well with the demonstrators, who were more outraged at the womens’ breasts than with their own need to let their penis extensions hang out.

This is bad enough, but now the open carry movement want to pollute the minds of children with a book called My Parents’ Open Carry.

Come join 13-year-old Brenna Strong along with her mom, Bea, and her dad, Richard, as they spend a typical Saturday running errands and having fun together. What’s not so typical is that Brenna’s parents lawfully open carry handguns for self-defense. The Strongs join a growing number of families that are standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights by open carrying and bringing gun ownership out of the closet and into the mainstream.

Ah, the Strongs. Of course. The Strongs shall inherit the earth. It’s instructive that

“for a limited time only, White Feather Press is giving away a free copy of the fun book Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate! by Doug Giles, with every purchase of My Parents Open Carry in book form. That’s a $15.99 value!”

What? Don’t gun nuts like equality – who’d have though it? The author says of this “fun book“,

Parent, if you have a young son and you want him to grow up to be a man, then you need to keep him away from pop culture, public school and a lot of Nancy Boy churches. If metrosexual pop culture, feminized public schools and the effeminate branches of evanjellycalism lay their sissy hands on him, you can kiss his masculinity good-bye because they will morph him into a dandy. Yeah, mom and dad, if – if – you dare to raise your boy as a classic boy in this castrated epoch, then you’ve got a task that’s more difficult than getting a drunk to hit the urinal at Chili’s. Read this bold and hard-hitting guide by Doug Giles, the politically incorrect master, on how to raise your son in a world which more and more seems to hate masculinity.

And there you have it. Sometimes I despair. Let’s close with a poem by Roger McGough.

Why patriots are bit nuts in the head

Patriots are a bit nuts in the head
because they wear
red white and blue tinted spectacles
(red for blood,
white for glory
and blue … for a boy)
and are in effervescent danger
of losing their lives.
Lives are good for you.
When you are alive
you can eat and drink a lot
and go out with girls
(sometimes
if you are lucky
you can even go to bed with them)
But you can’t do this
if you have your belly shot away
and your seeds spread out over some corner
of a foreign field
to facilitate
in later years
the growing of oats
by some peasant yobbo

when you are posthumous
it is cold and dark
and that is why patriots
are a bit nuts in the head

The Incredible Shrinking Dinosaur

Good to see that evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs is coming together. The Conversation has a story about the latest Australian study, which traced the evolution of theropod dinosaurs over 50 million years, from 163 kg land animals to birds weighing less than a kilo. The Guardian also has this article, with a comments section that houses at least two real, live creationists, a species as much to be marveled at as the dinosaurs themselves. They were happily pecking away at the evidence with complete confidence that Biblical truth trumps the facts every time. Drab plumage, though, unlike the dinosaurs’ brilliant livery.

I’ve always felt a weird sense of loss at the disappearance of dinosaurs after a meteor strike 65 million years ago, as if something amazing had been lost for ever. Judging by the success of Jurassic Park (1993), millions of other people felt the same fascination.

I remember, as a boy, watching a documentary about dinosaurs. I woke up screaming in the middle of the the night, having heard a cow mooing in the field opposite. And there was an April Fool’s Day news broadcast about a suspicious research establishment that bought huge amounts of meat from the local butchers. Roars and bellows were heard coming from the place. I was completely taken in, elated at the thought that dinosaurs were back.

Then there’s the possibility of cloning extinct animals. We should be trying to preserve the ones we’ve still got, but the thought of woolly mammoths roaming our safari parks, or even domestic dodos peering shyly from the shrubbery of suburban gardens, sets my heart a-flutter.

But at least we have the birds, and a few dinosaurs may even survive in Scotland.

Grayson Perry: Playing To The Gallery

Grayson PerryThis year’s BBC Reith Lectures are on the subject of that mysterious place, the art world. I’ve never quite understood how it works. Fortunately, Grayson Perry is here to tell us, based on his 30 year career as a successful potter.

He’s an engaging speaker, direct, honest, witty, cynical, yet serious about art. The titles of the four lectures – Democracy Has Bad Taste, Beating The Bounds, Nice Rebellion, Welcome In!, I Found Myself In The Art World – let you know he’s going to places less honest commentators wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. It’s subversive and affectionate at the same time.

Perry gives the lectures in his alter-ego as Claire, but since this is radio, it falls to Sue Lawley to describe his frocks, all designed by his students.

Grayson Perry: Playing To The Gallery

And here’s a video interview from a year ago.

Act of Terror: Citizen Photographers

2013_01_AOT_Poster

In 2009, Gemma Atkinson filmed the police searching her boyfriend on a mobile phone. The police officers claimed that filming them was illegal under counter-terrorism law and demanded she hand over the phone. She refused, was detained for 25 minutes and handcuffed, while they tried to get the phone out of her pocket. In the end, both she and her boyfriend were released.

Atkinson made an immediate complaint, taking her story and the footage above to the Guardian. She took her case to the High Court to get a judicial review of the Metropolitan Police guidelines, which should clearly state that the Terrorism Act only applies where “the images are considered ‘likely to be useful’ to a terrorist.” The Met changed the language to avoid a judicial review.

Atkinson then made a complaint against the specific officers involved. But the IPCC exonerated them, despite their conflicting accounts, saying they weren’t aware of the law! The IPCC awarded Atkinson compensation, which she used to make an animated film highlighting the right to photograph the police while carrying out their duties.

In fact, they (and us) are being filmed all the time – by CCTV cameras – but the police “own” this footage in the sense that it’s rarely available to the public. Citizen photographers are essential to monitor police activities, to make sure they’re serving the public and not abusing their own positions of trust.

After all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to fear.

Below is the link to Gemma Atkinson’s film, with a Guardian comments section, and here’s the press pack. If this bothers you as much as it does me, please consider reblogging or publicising the film. There’s a copy inside the press pack. Thank you.

Act of Terror

TED Talks: Elaine Morgan says we evolved from aquatic apes

An occasional post featuring talks by innovative thinkers, sponsored by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). The internet is made for this – to allow challenging ideas to escape from their academic ghettos and hang out in a place where they can talk to each other.

Elaine Morgan is the most well-known proponent of the aquatic ape hypothesis, which says that our ape ancestors didn’t come down from the trees and suffer in the hot, dry savannah. Sensible beasts that they were, they headed for the beach to take advantage of the plentiful food supplies available in an aquatic environment. Hence us, hairless, intelligent, bipedal apes who have sex face to face. Most of the time, anyway. There’s a lot more to the hypothesis, obviously, and Morgan lays it out in this entertaining talk.

Thanks to the Guardian for reminding me. It has an article prompted by a major London conference next week, and the support of David Attenborough. If you’re interested in the subject, here’s Elaine Morgan giving a lecture at UCL: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

And here is a BBC documentary on the subject. Not great picture quality, but worth watching.