Photography Dancing verses Snapshot Dancing.

I had an art teacher who liked to say "Pictures can be photographs or snapshots.  The difference is that a photograph has artistic merit and matters to the viewer, even if they don't know the subject personally.  A snapshot only matters if you know the people in the picture.  There's nothing wrong with snapshots!  But you're here to learn photography."

We might have been there to learn photography, but a lot of the people in the class spent the first several weeks just learning how their camera (and light) worked, and only a few of us were, by the end of the semester, capable of (occasionally!) taking a photograph--generally it was those of us that had already been hobbyists, and knew what the controls of our camera were meant to do, even if we weren't particularly good at applying them.

So people spent some time learning how cameras worked, and what the controls did, and how light interacted with their cameras--and something about how to relate to their subject in terms of composition.

I believe dancing is kinda like that.

Genre dances (dance styles that have some level of codification due to evolving out of generations of dancers all choosing to dance to the same genre of music), when done well, have meaning to anyone that knows that dance genre, and, as you progress in skill, even start to matter to people who don't know how to dance at all.

They generally have a strong, well-defined aesthetic, and if I take a couple of dancers that are masters of Salsa and put them on a dance floor with nine other couples who love to dance but have no idea what they are doing, the outside observer is going to choose to watch the masters, unless they know one of the other couples personally.  The dancers in the room who know salsa are also going to make a mental note to ask those two people to dance.

Fusion dancing (what I spend most of my time thinking about, teaching, and doing, when there's music on) often lacks that meaningful-to-the-outside-observer element.

Why?  Because much of my study and teaching is the equivalent of your first camera class.

Not your first "photography" class.

Your first camera class.


So I'm mostly teaching things people don't learn as they grow up about dancing--especially if they don't come from dancing families.

For the photographer, these equate to : "Here's what the aperture control does.  Here's how to put your model at ease.  Here's how to angle your face to get the picture you want as a model.  Here's how to adjust the light so you get the right level of Bokeh.  Here's how to recognize when you are backlit and move."

Not "here's how to take a good landscape photograph."  Not even "Here's how to compose a shot of a person."  This is far more basic stuff than that.

Often, genre dance instruction, in an effort to maximize the ability of the student to do a very specific type of photography well, skips over all that basic stuff.

At its worst, it says "Here's a table with fruit on it(partner).  Stand here(frame).  Turn on this light(music).  Set your shutter speed to 1/125 and your F-stop to 8(steps).   Take the photo(You're Dancing!)."

And a person who doesn't know what camera controls do, but knows what they are,  could do all those things.  And the photograph they take might be excellent.

But they won't know why they were able to generate an excellent picture that way, even if they can recognize it as excellent or looking at it feels right.

It's not that genre dances don't expect you to figure it out!  It is just that many of them seem to rely on time to supply that knowledge of why.  They have the person take thousands of pictures and let the patterns blossom in the person's mind through repetition and "this is just how we do it here." classes.

And lots (maybe all) advanced dancers eventually "get" dancing at some innate level, even if they never realize what it is they've "gotten."  Most (good) dance teachers try to seed their genre classes with arrows that will point you towards the "why" so that you discover it for yourself faster.

But the fusion approach is "here's how your camera(body) works. Here's how you can change your body to relate to light(music).  Here's how you can relate to your subject(dance partner connection) in ways that will improve the picture."

And that's huge for a lot of people.  It brings me great joy to help a person understand what dancing should feel like, and then let them seek more codified instruction in genre dances when they want to refine or hone certain aesthetic elements of their dancing.

And then things get interesting.

We've all got a camera, these days, right?

How many of us take pictures that matter to strangers?  How many of us take photographs?

The majority of us don't.  At least, not often.   Most of us have Instagram followers we know personally (and that one weird dude from Istanbul that loves our pictures of Tea kettles? Why did we hashtag that with #imalittleteapot? Who knows).

I digress.  We send snapchats to lovers and friends and aunts.  We take a picture of the family for the Christmas card.  Knowing how the camera works helps us take better snapshots, but most people just aren't all that interested in photography.  But almost everyone is interested in taking pictures.

For a Real Photographer (ha!), there is a temptation to sneer at these people.  We are tempted to look down our noses at people who just use their cameras to take pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror.  And even if we can always tell the difference between a person who knows good lighting and one who doesn't by scrolling through their Instagram, only some of us will say "oh, hey, that person is good with a camera, but these are all still snapshots" and move on.  Otherws will get angry.  Because "that's not art, and that person is just vain and why should they bother.  They're so self centered. I hate people that take selfies."

"It's just so masturbatory!" They'll say.  Then they will justify their artistic elitism and vitriol with high-minded phrases like artistic merit and rants about "form".

Fuck those people.  Do I like you?  Then I probably like your bathroom selfie.  Do I not care about you?  Then, news flash!  I can keep scrolling.

In the dance community, these are people who are so infuriated by the idea that a person would dance only for their partner and themselves and the moment that they will take to the internet to write furious screeds about how much they hate Fusion.

Direct (hilarious, to me) quote from a total shit-storm that developed on a friend's wall after she mentioned going out Fusion Dancing: "Self-expression without form is movement masturbation. It serves a purpose, but only for one person, and left unchecked long term, contributes to a pattern of selfish behavior."

These people have learned how they think all art must work, and they hate you for taking pictures that make you (and other people) happy.

They're probably miserable.  And frankly, I hope they stay that way.

And the vast majority of people that might love and enjoy dancing are never going to move past the selfie stages--and that's ok. They're going to have a good time, hopefully put a smile on their partner's face, and go home at the end of a long night of dancing happy, and maybe a little bit more fulfilled.

Those that want to move past that, from a fusion background, have a very strong platform to work from in their study of genre dances.  If they turn their gaze outward, towards a specific dance, they can push against the foundation of "why" that they have from fusion to pick up a new style and benefit from what it has to offer.

Assuming they can get past the prejudice of their genre dance teacher, that is.

As for me?  I love taking photographs.  Getting a good enough picture that it counts is a meaningful, rewarding endeavour for me.  But I also know that I'm only going to get there consistently if I understand the why.  And all this snapshot practice will make me a better photographer in the long run.

So I don't see fusion as a thing to hate, or a thing to suppress, or a thing to avoid.  I see it as a way of embracing the core of my dancing and spreading it to other people who will enjoy it.  And I see it as a way of letting myself experience just a little bit of joy in the arms of a friend.

So if you need me, I'll be in the bathroom, taking a selfie to send to someone who will smile when she sees it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Getting the Language Right: Responsible means more than just "I haven't shot anybody on accident."

Most members of the gun community talk about the four rules of gun safety a lot.  Most of my pro-gun readers can rattle them off from memory.

1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
2. Never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy.
3. Finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Always be aware of what is beyond your target.
One part of responsible gun ownership is following these rules.  Teaching them early and often to every person who will ever interact with a gun is vital--whether it's your spouse or your 10 year old that you want to take to an Appleseed mother/daughter shoot.

But there's more to it than that.

Responsible Means You Lock Up Your Shit

A buddy of mine had his house broken into a few years ago, while he was on vacation.

They stole his gun collection.

Actually, that's not true.  They stole most of his gun collection, except the newest gun he had purchased.

"Why" you might wonder "would they leave one random handgun while stealing two other handguns and a couple of rifles?"

Because it was still in the box, and they didn't notice it while they were carting everything else out quickly to the car.

Where were the others?

They were scattered around his home office in plain view, like a college student's maybe-still-clean-enough-to-wear laundry.

In case you're wondering what a responsible gun owner looks like: that ain't it.

He had chosen to purchase that last handgun instead of a gun safe, but was pricing gun safes and intended to pick one up "soon."

I'm not saying every human being who owns a gun needs a giant thousand-dollar gun safe.

That's a bit of a stretch.

But if you think you're a responsible gun owner, and your guns are laying around on random surfaces in your home like lethargic cats while you're away all day?  You're part of the problem.

Eat some ramen, mow a couple yards, or (heaven help us!) skip your next range day, and start saving up a little money for a gun locker.  A stack-on that will at-least inconvenience a casual burglar is $90.  That's less than the cost of three date nights at Applebee's and the Amstar 16.

http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/stack-on-8-gun-steel-security-cabinet#repChildCatid=1483370

And when you leave the house in the morning?  USE THE LOCKER.  Don't forget to lock it because you're running late, don't leave one of your guns leaned up against it because you're going to clean it "later this week."

Lock up your shit.

Responsible Means You Don't Rely On Fate


https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=1+year+old+climbing+wall

Go ahead, watch a few cute videos of babies.

Now, next time you hear someone say "well, I keep my gun in the top of my closet, so it's safe from my toddler" I want you to visualize punching that person right in their big fat stupid mouth.

Children can't swim.  They drown when left unattended around pools, and pools claim the lives of a lot of children every year.  And so we talk about: hey, maybe don't ever let your kid near a pool unattended before they learn to swim, and maybe do something to deny unattended children access to your pool when you aren't watching it.
Children climb things, and are (shockingly!) not immune to bullets.

Think your kid isn't strong enough to rack your semi-automatic pistol, or pull the trigger on your revolver?

Guess what?

1) you're wrong.
2) fuck you.
3) If you've spent more than 10 seconds with a first time parent, you know that every. single. one. of. them. has a story about how their child surprised them by being so far ahead of a physical development curve that they were just shocked!  Shocked! by how strong their little bouncing bundle of joy was.  If you're a first time parent, you've told a story about how surprised and pleased you are, I guarantee it.

So, considering you clearly have no idea how strong your child is, maybe don't rely on their lack of strength as part of your safety plan.


Responsible Means You Know the Law


Or at least, knowing that you don't know.

I have lived in Georgia since 2006.  I have been a gun owner in Georgia since 2008.

Throughout the last ten years I have heard, many times, that open carry of a loaded pistol is legal in Georgia without a license.

This has not been true at all during this period.

handgunlaw.us has existed for at least as long as I've been carrying, as I used it when I first researched getting a carry license in 2008.

You go there, you click on your state, and the server tosses you an easy-to-read pdf with all of the state gun laws for your state in it, a map of where you can use a Georgia permit to carry, and a list of all the restrictions on carrying.

And the entire time I've lived here, it has been available, and it has reported, correctly, that open carry is illegal in Georgia without a permit.

And I have heard intelligent, educated gun owners--guys with engineering degrees and families and security clearances--volunteer the information that open carry is legal in Georgia without a permit.

Which they clearly were told by somebody, and never fact-checked for themselves.

That's not responsible.

If you don't know the law, don't speak up about the law.  Instead of sharing your ignorance, spend that energy reading.  Then speak from a position of awareness about the laws that you've personally fact-checked.

Responsible Means You're Willing to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.


90% of Americans--give or take about 3 percentage points--support background checks on all gun sales.

Even if you check just in Texas, that number is north of 75%.

About a third of all Americans either own a gun, or live in a household with someone who does, so even if you imagine that every single person that doesn't support the checks owns a gun, that still means the majority of all gun owners support them, in addition to every single non-gun-owner.

And yet, gun owners consistently turn out to show their disapproval of poorly worded, poorly funded, overly grasping laws aimed at mandating background checks.

Why?

Well, there's a lot of reasons that I'll be getting into in a future essay specifically about that issue.

Basically, Gun owners might support the ideal, but they want it executed elegantly and carefully.  They'd like it to enhance public safety without unnecessarily besmirching individual liberty.  And none of the recent proposals have been the least bit elegant, or careful.

But if you support the ideal, then there are places we can work within the law to improve the existing background check database (NICS) as I mentioned in my previous essay.

And actively working to sabotage those systems so that you can avoid supporting new laws is not in our best interests as a nation and puts us at odds with our own admissions about what we believe should be true.

So let's cut the bullshit and stop pretending that the fact that the other team is horrible is justification for being horrible ourselves.

Let's start actively pulling for a well written, liberty-respecting solution to the background check problem.  If we don't want to do that, then we should at least stop lying when people ask us about background checks.

---


So what does "responsible" mean?  It is more than just knowing gun safety and giving lip service to stronger background checks.

If you want to claim that you are a responsible gun owner and the government shouldn't take our guns away, first ask yourself how you're doing with the list above.
Maybe, just maybe, we "responsible gun owners" should see to the logs in our own eyes before we gripe about the splinters in Bloomberg's.
---
End note:


Patrick! Where is your

Responsible Means You Don't Freak Out

section?!
I could lecture you about staying calm when you carry and not shooting the wrong person, but I won't.  Why?
1) everybody likes to harp on this point, and gun owners and carriers are already browbeaten about it constantly.
2) it's a red herring.  There are millions of Americans that carry guns every day, and plenty of demonstrated cases of concealed carry permit holders stopping crimes, shooting the right guy, and refusing to draw or retreating when they didn't have good intel.

The idea that there is some trigger-happy jerk citizen out there that is constantly ready to shoot the wrong person and is doing so on the regular is not supported by either anecdotal evidence or statistical data.

So I won't bother chiding responsible gun owners about that because, on the whole, they're doing fine on that front.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Getting the Language Right : Background Checks and Balances

We have a national background check system.  The FBI is responsible for it.  It is a legal requirement for every Federal Firearms License holder (FFL - aka: "gun store") use it.


It's the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, but most people just call it NICS.


Here's the annual report for 2014.  I'm not sure the 2015 report is out yet.

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/2014-operations-report

Here's how it works.

You go into a gun store to buy a gun.  You fill out a form called a 4473.

(https://www.atf.gov/file/61446/download)

If a gun store sells you a gun without making you fill out a 4473, they are committing a crime.


The FFL checks your valid photo ID, and puts in a request to NICS using the information you provided on the 4473.

Over the next few minutes-to-few-days, one of three things happens.

1) NICS responds with a "Yes" and the FFL is legally permitted to sell you the gun.

2) NICS responds with a "No" and the FFL is legally obligated to cancel the sale.

3) NICS responds with a "Wait" and the gun store owner waits up to 3 days for either "Yes" or "No".  After those three days are over, without a response from NICS, the FFL is legally permitted to sell you the gun, at their discretion.

In the first case, your record, as far as NICS knows, is totally clean.

This is what happened in the case of Seung-hui Cho.  Legally he should have been barred from purchasing weapons from an FFL dealer since he had been declared mentally ill and faced a commitment hearing in front of a Virginia district court.

NICS didn't know that, because Virginia law on mental illness reporting has a hole in it.  Virginia law only requires reporting due to an involuntary commitment, and he was instead ordered to undergo outpatient treatment at that hearing.  So NICS never received a notification, even though the federal law requires one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seung-Hui_Cho#Psychiatric_evaluation

In the second case, as far as NICS knows, there is something on your record--placed there as a result of a court-date of one kind or another--that bars you from owning a firearm.

In the event that is an error, you can appeal to have your NICS record corrected.  Which is good.  People who have common names often find flaws in their records when it comes to population-spanning databases.  A system of redress to reinstate access for people who deserve it is important to any just implementation of any law.

Note: it is illegal to lie on a 4473, but law enforcement does not commonly follow up on this crime, for a variety of reasons.  So what usually happens is the gun store says "we can't sell you this" and then the person just leaves the store, even if they knew they should be barred from owning a firearm and lied on the form hoping that NICS didn't have good records.  The gun store isn't really in a position to restrain them.  It's unfortunate and I'd like to see more resources put into catching these people.

( https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/28/25.10# )

In the third case, there is something about your record that NICS doesn't know and it takes them too long to find the answer, because there is a 3 day time-limit imposed by federal law (It's a clever check on federal power--it keeps the Federal government from manufacturing a useless de-facto waiting period or temporary ban by stalling all record releases for as long as they want).

The result is called a "default proceed" and it's how Dylann Roof picked up the Glock pistol he used in the Charleston shooting, despite having a confession on his record that should have barred him from purchase.  The record wasn't filed correctly, and the response to the request took too long to reach NICS.

It takes NICS an average 25 days to get back whatever additional information they need to complete the record.

So by the time NICS figures out that there is something on the books barring that purchaser from buying a firearm, it has probably already been purchased.   They then send a "Firearms Retrieval Referral" to the ATF who has to go try to collect the gun.

So what happens during a NICS check for one of the 100,000 people on the No-Fly list, or the 90,000 Americans on the "Terrorist Watch List"?  Nothing.

Those lists include many, many names erroneously.  There's no judicial oversight and no pressure to remove names, or even a reasonable system for protesting your placement there.

Hell, someone at the FBI could decide they don't like this essay and add my name and I would have no legal recourse to correct that.

So when someone on one of those lists tries to buy a gun, NICS checks if there is any reason to keep the person from purchasing a firearm.  And, because of the 5th amendment guaranteeing due process, for that reason to count--it must involve a court of law at some point.

No reason?  You get a "Yes" and can buy your gun.

This is what the Republican bill called the "Cornyn amendment" was going to address.  It would have given the FBI a legal avenue to approach a judge as if they were requesting a warrant as soon as the NICS request for the purchase came in

The FBI would go to the judge and say "hey, we are in the middle of an ongoing investigation about this guy.  We believe he's dangerous, here's why.  Stop this sale." and the court could exercise their judgement based on the presented evidence and write a stay.  In which case NICS would have had a legal reason to reject the sale inside of the 72 hour window even though there wasn't anything on the person's official record.

It sounds like "common sense gun law" to me.  It's the law that Democrats voted against so that they could vote instead for a bill that violated due process, which I am thankful to say was voted down by Republicans.

This resulted in zero forward movement on the FBI's options when facing a default proceed situation with a suspected terrorist.  Because the Democrats didn't like the fact that the judicial system was going to have a check on the power of the executive branch to randomly deny the rights of American citizens.  It is my believe that if you identify as Democrat, that should trouble you, immensely.

Ok, back to NICS.

 Let's talk about the numbers, because I recently stumbled across the 2014 NICS operations report.

NICS processed 21 million requests in 2014.

It denied 90,000 of them.

Approximately 19 million of the determinations were immediate (Less than 2 minutes before the record determination was returned to the FFL after receiving the 4473).


Of the 2 million non-immediate determinations, there were 2,511 cases where they sent a Firearms Retrieval Referral to the ATF.

So, overall, the system is doing pretty well on the majority of cases.  But it has three big problems.

The first problem is
: Not all the states report everything correctly to NICS.  Some records are out of date, some are just not getting sent at all.  Some are cases like Virginia where the state laws and the federal laws don't line up correctly.  Who knows how many more of the 19 million "Yes" responses would be "No" if the records were correct?

Additional funding, guidance, and pressure from the White House (since NICS is an FBI project, which is part of the DoJ, which is a part of the executive branch) could help get the state records in line, online, and improved.

Weirdly, we passed a law about this back in 2007, which Bush signed into law.  It promised over a billion dollars in funding to NICS and to the states that needed to update records keeping databases.

https://www.thetrace.org/2015/07/nics-background-check-congress-spending/

Then we sat on the money.

There's a lot of reasons we sat on the money, and they're all bad.

Pro-gun-control Democrats sat on the money because they knew that their voters weren't keeping a close eye on the appropriations board decisions, so as long as they voted in favor of the law, it didn't matter whether they actually funded it or not.  Republicans sat on the money once our new president took office because it didn't jive with their goals of strangling any effort run through the executive branch, no matter how legitimate.

My least favorite reason is an allegation that NRA lobbied against releasing the funds so that NICS would continue to look "flawed enough" that they could argue against extending NICS to private sales.  I'm against mandating a universal background check on private sales, for a lot of reasons that I'll address in a future essay, but keeping NICS handicapped in order to achieve that aim is the wrong approach.  If the allegation is true, it's despicable, and the people at the NRA that hatched that plan are going to go to the special hell.






This was the topic of that other Republican bill the Democrats voted against last week.  It would have allocated more money, plus put more pressure on appropriations to release the money, and more pressure on the states to use it.

Unfortunately, that one failed too.  Shot down by democrats because it didn't mandate universal background checks, which were shot down by Republicans.

Now, I'm against Universal Background Checks.

Next time I write, I'll get into what the problem is with a UBC system, and what we can do to get closer to a world where a private citizen doesn't accidentally enable a mass-murdering fuckhead.

In the meantime, I'd like you to take a few moments and consider whether or not these two bills that were voted down last week sound like "common sense gun law" to you.

They do to me.

If you're a gun-control advocate, understand that hijinks like this week are why no-one on my side of the problem believes you when you try to insist that you're in favor of "common sense gun regulation"

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Getting the language right: Assault What?

This is going to take a minute.  Please bear with me.

Imagine you like to cook, right?
There are a series of house fires.  And so it becomes illegal to install new gas stoves.
And so thirty years pass, and you have an electric range, like everybody else in America.
And then someone leaves a towel on his stove.  In a large apartment building.
And the apartment building catches fire.
And a lot of people die.
And you notice that the people that don't cook seem to be pretty well convinced  that everyone should just use induction cooking.  And you understand why a non-cook would feel that way, but you really hope they don’t get electric ranges banned, for a lot of reasons.
But to start the debate about switching to induction, all those people insist that it is just  atrocious that all these gas ranges are causing house fires.

"Wait"  you say "look, those people shouldn't be using their electric ranges wrong, but they aren't using gas ranges.  Gas ranges are banned."
"DO YOU WANT ANOTHER HOUSE FIRE?"
These people say.
---
Or perhaps you're a car enthusiast.
And you drive a Mazda Speed3.  Now it doesn't have a stick shift because standard transmissions have been banned since there were a series of fatal accidents caused by members of the street racing community in the 80s.  But it's got a sport shifter, and it still looks fast.
And then a guy in an Automatic-Transmission Trans-Am spins out at 90 and clips a schoolbus.
And a lot of innocent people die.
And you discover to your anguish that there is a widespread push to insist that all modern cars are built with CVTs.
But to start the argument, the people who commute to work on the train start talking about how awful it is that all these stick shift cars are constantly getting in crashes.
"Hey"  you say "There's like. . . millions of us on the road with sport shifters that didn't hit anybody.  And stick-shift transmissions are already banned."
"ALL THOSE DEAD SCHOOLCHILDREN." The mass-transit commuter crowd screams.
---
Not clicking for you?

Let's try again.
You’re a geek.  Marvel, DC, Star Wars AND Trek.  Dr. Who. You love it all.
And  then after Jessica Jones comes out, there are a series of copycats that decide to deify Kilgrave and try to hypnotize people into doing horrible things.  And a few of them succeed, and there is a very understandable outrage.
And you think to yourself that you really liked Jessica Jones and maybe those people are missing the point and you really hope that it isn’t yanked from Netflix.
And so the people who haven’t watched Jessica Jones but who have fear about more copycats say that all of that stuff with the 9th doctor who abducts that woman is just atrocious and all future episodes of Dr. Who should be banned.
“What?” You say, momentarily bewildered.  “That’s a totally different character in a totally different show!  I mean yes, If you’ve never seen Jessica Jones or Doctor Who, the actor is playing both roles and so they look really similar but the internal motivations of the characters are totally differ--”

“EVIL ABDUCTING HYPNOTISTS.” The masses shout.
Can you imagine that feeling in your mind?  That confused outrage at someone else doing something wretched and criminal with something you love?  And a huge and ignorant mass of people getting angry at a thing they barely understand, but then also calling for something only marginally related to be banned?
This is how people who own AR-15s feel every.
single.
time.
that someone says “Assault Rifle” in the context of the modern gun debate.
So every.
single.
time.
you use the term “Assault Rifle” wrong, a couple of things are going to happen to the person you’re talking to, if they are a member of the pro-gun camp.
1) Their opinion of your familiarity with firearms is going to plummet, making it very hard for them to continue taking your position seriously.
2) They are going to get defensive, and sidetrack whatever your actual point is with a combination of a half-baked firearms history and linguistics lecture and defensive rhetoric.
if you want to be heard--not just argued with--by people on the other side of the fence, learn what an assault rifle is, and then stop using the term to describe the thing you want more closely regulated.
If you want to be informed about guns, so that you can speak about them eloquently, that means you need to understand the differences between a semi-automatic rifle and an assault rifle.  There are lots of passionate gun guys out there that have made diagrams, and written essays, and updated wikipedia pages, and even created excellent videos like the one in the comment section below.  Go forth and be educated.

Maybe, if you get the language right, you’ll even change someone else’s mind.

And wouldn’t that be worth it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Want to talk about guns? Step One is Getting The Language Right

You're an passionate, caring, American patriot.  You believe in less bloodshed.  You believe in liberation.  You want men and women of all colors and origins to be treated the same under the law. 

And you think that we are currently caught in an untenable morass of terrible laws and horrid arguments about guns  People are wrong on the internet, again.

You're right of course, but being right isn't enough.

You need to be able to lay out your position, thoughtfully, patiently, logically, and do so in such an approachable and non-threatening way that even the people who think they disagree with you realize that they're wrong, and come around to your side.

 Who are you?  Well, that doesn't matter.

You might be a responsible gun owner who loves to teach new people about gun safety and judicious marksmanship, who grew up in a small town, shooting with his brothers on the family plot, who thinks that all these constant new gun laws are just more nails in the coffin of the American dream.  You think that we already have a background check system in place, and that these mass shootings where people who shouldn't have guns buy them without getting stopped demonstrate that the background check is useless anyway.

You might be a passionate liberal who has never fired a gun, and who believes that guns in the hands of private citizens are a relic of a bygone era, that more and more people are dying every day and that our lax gun laws (and the evil NRA!) are to blame.   You think that assault rifles can be purchased over the counter with a 10 minute wait, and that every gun nut is just one lost argument short of snapping and shooting up another place where guns have no business being, like a school, or a church.

Well, I've got some good news and some bad news.

You're both right.  And you're both wrong.

Guess what?  That's the good news.

That's good news because it means you have a platform to start from, and that you have room for improvement.  Those are both good things.

So what's the bad news?

You're ignorant.

And that's different than just being wrong.
 There are holes in your arguments that I could drive a bus through, and they're not flaws in your principles or motivations, they're flaws in your facts.  You are consistently saying things about guns and US gun law that are just flat out wrong.  And you ought to be ashamed.

And I know you probably just thought "Yeah!  Those guys from the other paragraph that wasn't about me should be ashamed.  I saw so many flaws in the description of their opinion!"

I've got some news that the clever ones of you have already figured out: Those paragraphs are both laced with huge errors.

The truth is, most of the anti-gun crowd genuinely thinks that they aren't arguing for confiscation.  They just feel like there's no rules about guns, and maybe we should have a few? That the NRA is a bunch of vile jerks that have dismantled any chance of reasonable, common sense gun law in this country.  Who could blame them?  That's what the internet has been telling them this whole time.

And the truth is, the pro-gun crowd is heartbroken at every shooting--yes, even ones where most of the victims were gay, and were targetted specifically for being gay.  They still think every innocent American has a right to live.  And they think that the anti-gun movement wants to disarm every last one of them and equip a militarized police state with the highest quality military hardware it can find and then put a boot to the necks of every citizen.  And who could blame them? That's what the internet has been telling them this whole time.

And when I say "the internet" I don't mean "mass media" or even "bloggers".  What I actually mean is "you."

You've been telling them that this whole time, because you keep using terminology and rhetoric that is so atrociously wrong that the only possible explanation someone informed could imagine is that you're actively lying so that you can try to push your agenda.

If you want the person  on the other side of the screen to listen to you, you need to slow down, get your mind right, and do your homework.

If you just want to stir shit up and throw rocks from the comfort of your glass house, feel free.

If you want to make changes--real, positive, healthy changes, in this country?

Well then buckle in kids, we've got a bumpy road ahead.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Forty Miles of Bad Road

I'm not sure what mile we are on. My gut says it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Monday, April 25, 2016

In defense of causing offense.

Recently (in a discussion about what constituted appropriation, and whether a person was "allowed" to use a concept learned from studying the linguistics of Native American tribes) this sentence was written.

"We as costumers and performers are constantly checking to make sure that no one is offended by our work."

Allow me to speak plainly.

As a costumer.  As a performer.  As a writer.  As an artist.  As a truth-seeker.  As a storyteller.  As a dancer.  As a dreamer.  As a lover.  As a soldier. As a friend to the downtrodden.  As a Christian. As a citizen of the united states.  As a world traveler.

In every one of those roles, in every way that I can convey, that sentence horrifies me.  It grates at my soul.

It relies on the notion that offending people is--in and of itself--morally wrong.  And that allows people to weaponize their opinions and use them as bludgeons against us.  It allows the diplomatic fascist to silence your outrage against oppression.  It allows the puritanical zealot to smother your expression of joy and celebration of love.

My life could very easily be summarized a long list of moments in which I am proud to have offended someone.

I helped found a student organization at Mercer that hosted an informational table for National Coming Out day.  After I had graduated, the Georgia Baptist Convention found out about that table, and used it as a wedge to lean on the university--trying to get it to kowtow to the notion that it was wrong to support people in that way.  The president wrote a letter saying, in essence, that the intellectual integrity of the student body outweighed any perceived or imagined outrage.  The GBC disowned the university.  I couldn't have been prouder.

I asked a two star general who was a base commander "why is our purchasing system broken" in front of 1100 people, and described our exact excruciating case of red-tape-hell, while the head of the purchasing organization for my facility squirmed uncomfortably at her elbow.  He was at my side the moment after the Q&A session was over, offering a card and telling me to let him know if I had any trouble getting my project the resources it needed.  My team hit a deadline that had been made almost impossible by purchasing delays as a direct result.

I nearly jumped a racist on Cherry street, who had been rebuffed by a photographer when he asked a couple for money while they were trying to have their engagement photos taken, and decided the appropriate course of action was a loud and explicit discussion about what he thought of her race.  I was just eating lunch on a patio, but suddenly I was a part of that discussion.  And he was advised that he should probably find himself a different place to be.  Soonish.

These people were--I am sure--uncomfortable, and offended, by the things I have said to them, and the choices I have made.

Good.

There's a reason that when I am drawn into discussions about Art I like to talk about Guernica.  A masterpiece is also often a protest. 

And yes, I will talk about Strange Fruit too.  The notion of old, rich, establishment types having their dessert interrupted so that they can be told, in excruciating, beautiful, horrible detail what was happening in the rotten heart of the deep South makes it one of the most beautiful, tragic, and glorious songs I will ever hear.

But you don't have to have your fist in the air and risk prison to get people frowning.  Even Monet's Water Lilies were once considered offensive--expressions of art in a manner inconsistent with the old master's opinions.  How dare he reject the establishment's notion of what is correct?

Sometimes, the only way to get people moving is to start stomping on toes.

So if you need me, just look for the clamour and the scowling faces.


I'll be off in the thick of it somewhere. making sure someone is offended by my work.

Thursday, October 22, 2015