Burro Canyon KABOOM!

Had a fine time shooting at the Burro Canyon range up in San Gabriel Canyon near Azusa. Apart from screwing up and shooting a rifle on the pistol range, I did fine. I shoot high and to the right.

As we were all banging away the range officer called an emergency cease fire, and everyone on all the ranges stopped and stepped back per orders. A helicopter was coming to land. WTF?

In a few minutes the LASD rescue helicopter roared on in and landed a hundred yards south of us, and then left in a few minutes.

The story I heard was that someone on a private range was shooting a modified .50 caliber machine gun (!?) that only shot semiautomatic, and somehow it fired with the bolt partially open. This isn’t good, because then the hot gas from the propellant goes sideways as well as forwards, and one gets a faceful of fire and possibly chunks of stuff. Off he went to the hospital.

The story may be somewhat different, but this was from a range officer who should know.

This kind of accident is very, very rare. It’s possible that the guy loaded his own ammunition and made a mistake, or that the gun itself had been modified poorly in some way. But it’s also possible that it just broke. Scary stuff.

In any case I had a good time with my own unmodified, normal-powered stuff.

My War with Indie Rock

I started to write this thing and did it all wrong. There was a long-winded history of how “indie rock” happened, an examination of my own part in that, and then a whole list of reasons why “indie” gives me a headache. Dumped.

I know what I can’t stand “indie,” and it’s because “indie” is me. Indie rock has all my generation’s vices and even worse, all of my personal artistic crimes. I list these below:

Narcissism. False naivete. Excessive pastiche and homage in place of creativity. An aristocratic disdain for the popular. Rigidity. Excessive irony. Warmed-over modernism. Obscurantism. And no goddamn songs.

I keep having these Emperor’s New Clothes moments where I hear a breathy little girl voice over some feedback, or someone dropping a Velvet Underground quote into ten minutes of detuned guitar wiggling. I know what you’re doing there! You don’t have any songs or any substance, and you know your audience won’t care as long as you follow the style guide! You suck!

I like strange, challenging sound. My favorite artists include industrial bands that sound like a broken dishwasher, jazz that goes SKWONK, scary insane singer/songwriters, medieval European music, Central Asian wailing. No way do I want everyone to sound like Tom Petty.

And I still love pastiche, and quotes, and irony. And I still love Dada and the modernist revolt, 100 years later.

And I can’t fucking stand Klosterman and his celebration of everything popular for the sake of its popularity. That’s just this same attitude turned inside out, with extra patronizing.

I just want people to make good art instead of following rules. And this is especially true when the rules are the ones I rigidly clung to when I was 18 and a shining knight of the avant weird. At least two generation of musicians have looked to the “indie” of 1985 and duplicated it exactly, from the square glasses to the narcissism. Stop! Make a different thing!

So in conclusion, my war on indie rock is a war on my own failings as well as my generation’s. My appeal to indie rockers is: Please stop being me. I’m tired of me. Be more surprising.

What’s the next article? You decide.

I’m covered in writer’s block like a wet sheepskin. Help me out. If I can pick one of the articles that have been bonking about in my head and stick to it, things will be easier. The poll below has a list of titles. Pick one!

I have no idea how many people read this, or how many of those are interested, but this will give my brain a shove. Thanks!.

If you can’t stand my writing, don’t want me to write, or are disappointed in the lack of “Surface to Air Missile” option, the comments are there for you.

Dear Consumer Reports: an Open Letter

I have trusted Consumer Reports since I was a child for product ratings. Your policy of no advertising and no commercial use has been admirable and useful, and I’ve always been happy to pay for the service.

Now your website has a shopping section. The explanatory paragraph says that it’s intended to provide a safe, unbiased environment for shopping, and that you’ve surveyed us customers and found just the right places to shop. It also says that it’s “powered by” Pricegrabber.com.

So this means that you’ve cut a deal with Pricegrabber to send your members to their service. Pricegrabber is not a charity and anyone in the business knows how these things work. You have taken your very valuable membership as a commodity and rented us to an outside commercial service.

Your noncommercial use policy says: ” We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org®, and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants.”

What are the terms of your deal with Pricegrabber, exactly? What exactly are the criteria by which you or Pricegrabber choose vendors and products for the shopping site?

Consumer Reports is not BizRate.com. Neither are you AAA, or any of the other “organizations” that sell your membership to affiliates.

How much money will it cost you to dump this shopping nonsense, and when will you do it?

There’s no way to maintain the fiction that you’re following a noncommercial use policy at the same time that you’re selling your customers to a generic Internet shopping portal.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Note: This was also sent via their website as a Letter to the Editor

On Hating Vegetarians

Many of my friends are vegetarian. To clear up the terminology, I am talking about people who do not eat meat of any kind (not fish or chicken either, folks), but may use other animal products, e.g., eggs or honey.

Non-vegetarian friends rarely handle this well. If the subject comes up, at least one person will immediately and vociferously attack it in one of these ways:

  1. I don’t get it! Boy, I sure do love a big steak. And my mom’s meatloaf. So great! What is with this vegetarian shit? I love lamb chops, and fried clams, and lobster! You know, one favorite place of mine is Kelly’s down on the beach. Boy, they sure do make a great hamburger. Another thing I like…
  2. What is their problem? I’m so tired of all this preaching. Everyone’s telling people what to eat, what to smoke, what to say. Why can’t they just enjoy a normal life like anyone else? Let me tell you, my sister-in-law is one of those vegetarian types and I can’t eat at her house. Just broccoli and shit. Tofu! It’s not food! Who’d eat that shit?
  3. So what do you mean, like, I’m a bad person? Who are you to judge! I bet you do bad things, and you’re telling me I’m a jerk just for doing what everyone does! People like you are all hiding something.
  4. Wow, that’s really unhealthy. Be sure to get enough protein. I mean, you have to make up for it. Be sure to eat huge amounts of [food with high protein content] in it or you’ll get really sick. OMG you make your KID eat vegetarian? That’s like CHILD ABUSE!!!
  5. It’s ridiculously unnatural. Humans are hunters, we eat meat. I mean, c’mon, ancient cave paintings are about hunting. We aren’t meant to survive with out it. How else would we continue to be large, dominant creatures with upper arm strength and a killer instinct? People who don’t eat meat are girly and possibly homosexual. It’s a betrayal of our natural healthy state.

None of these make sense. Let’s learn!

  1. Other people don’t necessarily like your food, and you know it. Why should others like a whole class of foods you enjoy? For that matter, if you learned that a food you enjoyed was made from babies or profited al Qaeda, would you continue to eat it? Your taste has nothing to do with other people!
  2. Did anyone just tell you what to do, or what not to do? Other people not eating something doesn’t constitute restrictions on your habits. It’s their choice. If your sister-in-law can’t cook, either tell her so or push the food around on your plate until it’s time to go. And tofu is just another food, not some condensed symbol of Berkeleyite pseudo-meat hypocrisy. Like it or don’t, but leave the poor curdled soy alone.
  3. Wait, who said that? The person across the table from you just said she doesn’t eat meat. Did she go on to say that people who eat meat are psychopathic murderers without empathy? Did she just start with a lecture about where your burger comes from, or what some religious figure said about eating animals? Did she tip your plate over? If not, she’s just choosing to eat differently from you, and the implication of wickedness is all yours. Not everyone with principles is either a Tartuffe or an inquisitor. Drop it.
  4. You’re just wrong. People who eat a reasonable mix of foods don’t get malnutrition. And that reasonable mix does not have to include meat. When you hear people talk about getting enough “protein,” they are talking out their ears. “Protein” in U.S. culture is just a word for meat. Actual proteins come from many foods, and nobody is getting beri-beri or pellagra from lack of burger. Go look it up!
  5. If you hear an argument for modern behavior based on “instinct,” or “evolution,” or “basic human nature,” stop and investigate, or just dump it. Any human behavior can be justified or condemned based on unexamined assumptions about our nature. These arguments have been used to justify rape, celebrate war, demonize men, excuse cannibalism, and attack pantaloons. Humans have survived with and without meat just as we have survived in the Antarctic and the Sahara, survived genuinely destructive malnutrition, survived Pop-Tarts, and survived living in rivers of raw sewage without antibiotics. All evolutionary biology means is that someone lived long enough to fuck and someone else lived long enough to squirt out some babies of which some survived. It does not imply burgers.

What have we learned? We have learned that meat eaters like meat. We have learned that people who feel criticized morally become upset and defensive. We have learned that in U.S. culture, not eating something can get a person in big social trouble. And we’ve learned that the reasons for this are not reasonable. And finally, we have learned that reactions to food choices are visceral (ha).

It’s true that vegetarianism in the U.S. is almost always a moral choice rather than a tradition or a practical dietary one. Choosing not to eat meat implies a judgment on the act of meat eating parallel to the message of celibacy, sobriety, or boycotts. Vegetarianism also goes against deeply rooted (ha) beliefs about wealth, health, pleasure, and choice. It’s not neutral.

What I take from this is that many people are threatened by the idea of conscious morality. Of any kind. Someone who makes a moral choice and gives up some pleasure, adding some complexity and trouble to life, is a psychological threat. The immediate response is that the person making that choice is a stereotyped hypocrite from a Hollywood movie, an unhappy person who wishes others to be unhappy, an obsessed idiot. I’ve noticed a linguistic shift during my life that perfectly evokes this: I hear people using “righteous” to mean “self-righteous,” as if the very idea of moral choice implies hypocrisy and the need to control others.

I myself am not a vegetarian. I have no meat days twice a week. I am not a believer in “animal rights,” nor do I consider killing animals and eating them to be immoral. My reasons are humanist. Meat takes a lot of grain to make, and eating meat has an environmental and economic impact on others. I’ve been impressed by some calculations of how much better one can do just by eating less meat, and so far I’m doing so. I have no authority or desire to tell anyone else to do the same, or to say that I’m “more moral” because of this. It just feels right to me, and I enjoy my food more.

if you’re not a vegetarian, and vegetarians make you grumpy, consider why. Are there good reasons why someone else’s personal moral choice makes you upset? Are people who make a moral choice necessarily hypocrites, nannies, deluded utopians? Or have you avoided and denied ethical and empathetic impulses so much in your own life that anyone making the effort has you terrified?

Hating others for harmlessly doing what they believe to be right does not reflect well on us as individuals or as a society. Eschew that.