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Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: M-1 Garand Assembly Guide (so where you can look to find out about modifying your M-1 Garand)


Some people learn by reading; others learn by doing.

For the gun owners who lie in the latter category, a historic firearm becomes more than a relic to hang above their fireplaces while they sit under it and read of its exploits.

For those hands-on learners, historic guns become bygone battlefields for minds and fingers to explore--a way for you to connect with whatever past soldier first field-stripped that gun years ago.

Geared towards that hands-on historic gun collector, "The M-1 Garand Complete Assembly Guide" by Walt Kuleck aims to present a simple guide for someone with no Garand modification experience, according to its introduction.

Does the book meet that goal? The specific, detailed subject may frighten brand-new general gun enthusiasts into believing they will not understand Kuleck's book: not so.

In fact, the book simplifies Garand assembly for the new owner almost to the point of the ludicrous. The author wasn't satisfied just to write the caption "note the receiver" above an image of a receiver, for example; he also wrote it again two inches away on the image with a big dark arrow pointing to the indicated part, in case the reader, a consummate idiot, still does not note the receiver.

The clear, step-by-step images take the reader through disassembly from trigger guard to buttplate, and then back through assembly. The images makes the book: I only wish I had seen these pictures before interviewing Mr. Kuleck on Garand accuracy--it would have made researching the gun much easier.

Each set of basic directions includes safety features throughout that should also provide a solid aid to new Garand owners. "Always wear your safety goggles" brings back memories of high school robotics for me, but Kuleck's story about a gun exploding on his hand reminds the young and reckless that this isn't the science fair anymore.

Also for safety, Kuleck's book recommends a full read-through before an owner makes any modifications, and a final check with a certified armorer before the owner fires the finished gun. He illustrates, with images, the unsafe way to remove a trigger assembly--with a cocked hammer--and what used or welded gun parts could prove disastrous additions to a rebuilt Garand.

Despite the simple language and safety instructions geared towards beginners, long-time Garand owners may benefit even more than newbies as Kuleck, a Garand Collector's Associaton board member, builds on established knowledge with his experienced, trial-tested tips for the best techniques, the trickiest pitfalls big and small, and ideas for saving time.

Continue reading here:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to make an old gun (M-1 Garand) shoot like new. Okay, not really. How to make your historic M-1 Garand more accurate

M-1 Garand honor football game
                                                                                                                                 Image courtesy of
Reserve color guard honors World War II veterans at a football game Nov. 8, 2010 in WWII uniform, with M-1 Garands
Guns & Patriots asked Garand expert Dr. Walter J. Kuleck, a board-member of the Garand Collector’s Association and author of several authoritative gun manuals, what tweaks can give your Garand its best competition accuracy.

“First off, you need to make sure that the rifle is kept clean and lubricated with a high quality grease. If you don’t have a basic platform to start with—a clean, solidly assembled rifle--it really doesn’t matter what you do to it from there on,” said Kuleck, a doctor of psychology who spent many years as a Boeing engineer.

The former engineer said improving the accuracy of any rifle requires three critical points: the barrel, the fit of the stock, and what happens at the front end of the gun.

“If the barrel is rusted or pitted or defective in some way, you’re not going to get anywhere in terms of improving the accuracy,” he said.
The second critical accuracy point, the stock, may need adjustments to tighten its grip around the receiver, said Kuleck.

“The stock is held between the receiver and the trigger group. That is to say, when you field-strip a Garand, you swing down the trigger guard and remove the trigger group—that’s got the hammer, the trigger, the safety—the stock then comes off and you have the barrel of action, in other words the receiver,” he said.
“If that fit isn’t tight—in other words, if the receiver’s allowed to move around in the stock just a little bit—the accuracy is going to be materially affected, negatively,” he said.

When the Garand was standard military issue, finding a perfect stock for a rifle was easy for armories because they had so many Garands available, said Kuleck.

Today, when stock-fit decays, Garand owners can use glass reinforced resin or fiberglass bedding to tighten their aim, he said. “That enables you to get a perfect, lasting fit between the stock and the barrel receiver.”

Kuleck said the final focus area of the gun for accuracy enhancement lies on the front end of the gun: a study by the Marines showed that even just placing a penny on the top of the front end of the barrel by the sight would dramatically alter rifle accuracy.

“You would shift the place the bullets were hitting by feet at 600 yards,” he said.

The front end must always return to the same place with respect to the rifle--this means making sure that the gas cylinder does not bind on the barrel, because if it does, when the barrel heats up the cooler cylinder ring will bend the barrel, he said.

“On a service rifle, you want the front hand guard to rattle a little bit back and forth because as a rifle heats up, if it’s all jammed in there, it’s gonna have a similar effect—it’s gonna begin to warp as it gets hot. So on a match rifle, what you do is you secure the rear of the handguard to the metal piece that surrounds the stock, called the front-end ferrell,” he said.

Typically a gun-owner could secure the ferrell with glue, or drive screws in through the back and then glue it into place—while ensuring that the handguard does not have the freedom to touch the back of the gas cylinder, he said.

Tweaking those three critical points will help hone the inherent accuracy of the rifle, but a shooter must also find ways to reduce user error, Kuleck said.

“You can’t stop there. The interface—I hate that word, but some places it just works--between the shooter and the rifle is extremely important, and the two important elements that I’m talking about are the sights and the trigger,” he said.

Sights should enable the user to adjust placement with respect to the bulls-eye, so size matters: choose a sight that’s too big, and the shooter can’t tell where it is under the bulls-eye, while too small means hard to see through, said Kuleck.

Standardized Garand national match sights end up somewhat smaller than normal service rifle sights, and have a bit of a taper from back to front to reflect any glare forward rather than back towards the shooter’s eye, he said.

A smaller back sight aperture creates a sharper image, and for accuracy the aperture is adjustable so each click in the horizontal direction is one half minute of angle—half the normal adjustment for a battle rifle, said Kuleck.

“One minute of angle translates to one inch at a hundred yards, two inches at two hundred yards, three inches at three hundred yards, and so on,” he said.

The trigger forms the final accuracy-enhancing aspect of the gun/user interface, said Kuleck.

“If the trigger has a lot of what we call creep—in other words, you have to really move it a long way before it goes ‘bang’—rifle shooters don’t like that very much because it allows—it keeps you from discharging your rifle when you want to,” he said.

The weight and delay of pulling a single-stage four-pound trigger, for example, might cause a shooter to lose aim while the gun fires, said Kuleck.

To make a trigger pull more smoothly, Kuleck said owners can...

Can what? How can you make a trigger pull more smoothly? How not to not end a sentence. = P Keep reading here:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kim Jong Il is Dead--What Next? Clinton&Genba summit, persecuted Christians, and political analysis of life after his death

Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton met Japan's Foreign Minister Dec. 19 to plan a strategy with regards to North Korea as humanitarians worldwide expressed hope--and fear--in the wake of Kim Jong Il's death.
"We share the recognition that it is important to make sure that the latest event would not negatively affect the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," said Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba. "For this purpose we affirm to closely monitor the situation concerned and to coordinate closely with each other by sharing information."
Dictator Kim Jong Il died from working tirelessly for the North Korean people, said Ri Chung Hee, the same news anchor from the Korean Central News Agency who announced Kim's father's death.
"He died of a sudden illness on Dec. 17. We make this announcement with great sorrow," she said, dressed in black and weeping.
Genba said he hopes to see concrete efforts towards denuclearization of North Korea, and also expresses gratitude to the United States for raising the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens during every North Korea/US dialogue, he said.
"Due to the most recent developments we are seeing an increasing bubble of interest and attention to how the process of dealing with the abduction issue develops in Japan," he said.
Clinton said the Obama administration is relying closely on the advice of other countries in the region in the aftermath of Kim's death. "We reiterate our hope for improved relations with the people of North Korea, and remain deeply concerned about their wellbeing."
Prof. Ronald G. Dimberg of the University of Virginia, who teaches the history of inter-Korean affairs, said without understanding Kim's successor, Kim Jong-un, it is difficult to tell whether possibilities for healthy US/North Korea relations have improved or not.
"No one knows much of anything about him, including the extent of his apprenticeship. We know that his father had several years of training before succeeding Kim Il-sung, but the same is clearly not the case with Kim Jong-un," he said.
Kim Jong-un received part of his education in Switzerland--more exposure to the outside world than most North Koreans, including most of his family members, could imagine, said Paul M. F. Estabrooks, Canadian senior communications specialist with the humanitarian advocacy group Open Doors International.
"No one knows for sure if that's a positive thing in his outlook on the world," he said.
Dimberg said the US should tread lightly. "Of utmost importance now is to stay alert and to do nothing to raise fears and concerns in Pyongyang. Remember the importance of the year 2012 for the DPRK, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung. That was to have been, and will be, a very special year for North Korea, but now for reasons unimagined originally."
Dr. Carl Moeller, president of ODI, said with increased government surveillance following Kim's death; some underground Christians in North Korea have become fearful they might face more suffering. "Though this brutal dictator who was responsible for so many atrocities has died, the future is still unknown."
North Korean prison camps hold an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians, he said.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, another persecution advocacy group, said his contacts in North Korea do not expect much change in the government's attitude towards Christians following Kim Jong Il's death.
"North Korea doesn’t announce anything publicly until they are ready to deal with the situation and maintain control," he said. "So this public announcement means they think they are ready to deal with the situation and maintain control and power within the country."
However, officials have stepped up house raids on hidden Christians since the Oct. 2010 annunciation of Kim Jong-un as next leader, said "Simon," a Christian in North Korea whose last name was withheld for protection.

Continue reading here as "Simon" shares more of his inside view--also, the woman who stabbed herself to cry for Kim Jong Il's father

Friday, December 16, 2011

U.S. Infantry Weapons in Combat: A book review, snapshots of soldiers and the weapons they loved

American Soldier poster
                                                                                                                                 Poster image courtesy of
Foreground:(left to right) a 1945 Army tank guard with a submachine gun, a Major with an M-1 carbine, and his radioman, with an M-1 rifle.
Step inside this book, and you slip into heavy boots in muddy foxholes, stiff fingers shivering as you field strip a frozen M-1 or clean your Browning Automatic Rifle with its .45 caliber brass brush.  Look through the sights of the guns detailed in US Infantry Weapons in Combat, and you look into the soul of a bygone era.
The book, written by historic weapon enthusiast Mark G. Goodwin, consists of 65 interviews of American infantry soldiers who participated in World War II and the Korean War.
The author and publisher both have deep emotional histories with World War II weapons--especially the M-1 Garand: Scott A. Duff, the book's publisher and author of its foreword, believes that the M-1 won World War II.

Stories range from the lighthearted to the morose, from the soldier ready to return home to the young man hankering to stay on the battlefield, but they all hang on the common thread of historic guns.
The gun details make Goodwin's book riveting:  "The first thing this reader must know about this book is that it is a gun book," according to the foreword by Duff.

The book shows the tension Korean War hero Jack Walentine felt 40 or 50 feet from the top of a ridge during a final charge, as he asked himself, "Did I shoot four, five, or six rounds?"

In another interview story, World War II vet Marion Throne’s M-1 clicked without firing, alerting German soldiers to his presence. "I couldn't believe I was so stupid to not tap the operating rod,” he said.

This is no cut-and-dry thesis of statistics quantifying the technological contribution of a certain gun to military achievements. Through the medium of guns, the soldiers interviewed paint vivid pictures of their personalities, American wartime culture, and war as a whole.

It's odd--and rather funny--to think that no one thought to write this book 20 years ago and make it required reading for some obscure college history class.

Modern warfare is all about guns, but most educational histories on American wars focus on strategic maneuvers, politics, or large-scale socioeconomic trends. Personal histories and war memoirs tend to focus on family stories and cultural clashes.

Yet as a trigger for starting to tell a war story, guns have a definite advantage both because of the intense detail with which infantrymen learned their weapons, and because of the emotional attachment soldiers had to the only thing between them and inflicted or inflicting death.

Infantrymen spent most of their time clutching a firearm; it's impossible to understand their thoughts and relationships with their enemies and friends without understanding their perceptions of their guns...

Continue reading here:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting better at updatin' faster: MF Global CEO says it's not his fault, it's taxes!

For those of you who don't know, MF Global failed around Halloween, costing tons of people millions of dollars.

Here's my story about the Congressional hearing.

Testifying Dec. 8 before the House Agriculture Committee, the former CEO of commodities brokerage MF Global blamed new tax laws, not his bets on European sovereign debt, nor the $1.2 billion in missing client funds for the company’s Halloween bankruptcy filing.

The company’s losses that forced the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing came from new tax regulations removing assets from the company, said Jon S. Corzine, former New Jersey governor and senator, who is an intimate member of both the Clinton and Obama political families.

“The lion’s share of the quarterly loss was a write-off of approximately $119.4 million that reflected a valuation adjustment against a deferred tax asset,” he said.

The company’s repurchase transaction derivatives, also called RTM’s, were used to facilitate its bets on high-yield debt issued by European governments and carried an asset, not a liability, he said.

“That asset had been created by years of non-RTM tax losses cumulated—mostly before I arrived at MF Global—in the firm’s United States and Japanese subsidiaries, which had allowed MF Global to recognize as an asset potential tax benefits in future years,” he said.

“Under applicable accounting rules, by the second quarter of MF Global’s 2011 fiscal year the firm was no longer permitted to recognize those tax benefits as assets, and therefore, with the advice and knowledge of its external auditor, it recognized a loss in that amount,” he said.

This bookkeeping adjustment, related to practices that predated his tenure, caused the firm’s downfall, he said.

Corzine said the company did not fail due to risky European investments, which he conceded were done at his initiative.

“In light of the attention that has been given to RTMs, and the press reports that attributed MF Global’s loss to RTMs involving European debt securities, it is important to make clear here that the loss was not related to these positions,” he said.

The fallen CEO’s testimony was preceded by appearances from Jill E. Sommers, who leads the MF Global investigation for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and James B. Kobak, Jr., counsel for the trustee appointed to execute the Securities Investor Protection Act liquidation of the firm.

Corzine was often confident and engaging during his testimony, but when he spoke about the missing $1.2 billion in client funds, he played as perplexed as the congressmen glaring at him under hot television lights.

“I was stunned when I was told on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011 that MF Global could not account for many hundreds of millions of dollars of client money,” he said.

“I remain deeply concerned about the impact that the un-reconciled and frozen funds have had on MF Global’s customers and others,” he said.

Responding to questions from Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R.-Texas) about the missing funds, Corzine said that because of the turbulence in the days leading up to the bankruptcy, which came on the heels of his November 3 resignation, he only knows what is already in the public record.

“There were an extraordinary number of transactions during MF Global’s last few days, and I do not know, for example, whether there were operational errors at MF Global or elsewhere, or whether banks and counterparties have held onto funds that should rightfully have been returned to MF Global,” he said.

“I have not had access to my emails or any of the reconciliations,” he said.

Corzine said he hoped the situation will change as his attorney works to open company records to him before the end of the year.

The former CEO, who joined MF Global in March 2010, said he has no access to information on botched customer accounts.

“I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date. I do not know which accounts are un-reconciled or whether the un-reconciled accounts were or were not subject to the segregation rules,” he said. Segregation rules regulate how a company can put a client at risk against its own proprietary trading.

Sommers said MF Global’s issues revolve around customer segregated accounts: as a futures commission merchant, also known as an FCM, the firm was permitted to invest funds in protected accounts, but under certain restrictions.

“While an FCM is permitted to invest customer funds, it is important to note that if an FCM does so, the value of the customer segregated account must remain intact at all times,” she said.

“In other words, when an FCM invests customer funds, that actual investment, or collateral equal in value to the investment, must remain in the customer segregated account at all times,” she said.

Continue reading here: 

And a little note...why do I label all the newsposts as American History?
To make a statement, my make a statement.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rand Paul and the White House on Education--American Action Forum, vouchers, and how Dr. Paul Jr. wants to take away summer vacation = P

Rand Paul diagram
Sen. Randal H. "Rand" Paul (R.-Ky.)
At a packed education forum Dec. 1 a Bluegrass Senator urged changes like merit-based teacher salaries and vouchers to guarantee students better value for parents’ taxes--without increasing education funding.
“Let’s figure out how to have competition in our schools—competition for better schools,” said Sen. Randal H. “Rand” Paul (R.-Ky.) to the American Action Forum.
“Let the students decide where to go; attach the money to the kids, and the money will go to the better schools, and the poorer schools will meet their demise,” he said.
Teachers should also receive competitive pay, without union interference, said Paul, who was joined at the forum by a panel of education experts including Zakiya Smith, Anne Neal, Jeff Selingo, and Andrew Gillen.
“Why not on occasion give a really good teacher $100,000? You’ve got to break up the idea that every teacher deserves $55,000, no more, no less—the idea that everyone’s going to contribute the same and we’re not going to reward some teachers and not re-hire some teachers,” he said.
John Stossel wrote about some 400 teachers in New York who had inappropriately touched students but could not be fired because of union agreements, said Paul. “You can’t do that. You have to change—we’ve got to break up the ideas of what we’ve been doing.”

Paul’s son tore a ligament in psychology class while the teacher sat with his feet up on the desk and let the kids play basketball every day; that teacher should not get the same pay as the teacher who works in and out of the classroom, calling parents and engaging with students to increase their test scores, he said.
Often parents cannot blame teachers for failing students, said Paul: a study by Malcolm Gladwell showed that the education gap between impoverished and well-off students widens during the summer.
“He comes to the conclusion that the only thing that he’s identified objectively through statistics that would work would be longer school-years,” he said.
Constitutionally, states, not the federal government, should manage education, he said. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says anything about education. We’ve drifted from that.”
Increasing education funding will not fix the problem, he said.
“I think it doesn’t work. I mean, look at Washington, D.C., we spend what, $16,000--or is it $20,000--per pupil in Washington, so the school district that spends more money than any other school district in the country has arguably one of the worst educations in the country,” he said.
Annie Hsiao, director of Education Policy at the American Action Forum and major organizer of Paul’s talk, said funding for American college educations has also come to crisis.
“Based on 2009 numbers—the state of student loans right now--the default rate for student loans is 8.8 percent. Federal default rate is 13.8 percent,” she said.

“You do see a market increase in students being unable to pay back their student loans because in many cases they graduate—or in many cases they don’t graduate, half of students don’t graduate—and aren’t able to find employment because again they haven’t been equipped with the skills necessary,” she said.
Read the rest of the article here:
Are the long titles getting to be too much? Maybe I'll cut back next week. = P

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The State Department changes its response from "No M-1 Garands" to "Yes, maybe"--and I got to hear it first. = P

Big, big how not to no-no. No putting smileys in titles. Absolutely not. It looks juvenile. Teenage. Distinctly unprofessional. Smileys are great for personal blogs, and even for news blogging within the text when the tone allows, but absolutely not for this article:

"The State Department announced Dec. 2 that it will re-consider its stance against allowing M-1 Garands into the United States if South Korea offers another sale.

“The Department will consider a new request from the Republic of Korea (ROK) to transfer its inventory of approximately 87,000 M-1 Garand rifles into the United States for sale on the commercial market,” a spokesperson at the U. S. Department of State said to Guns&Patriots on Dec. 2. “We have not yet received that request.”

“These M-1 Garand rifles date back as far as 1926 and remain a legacy of decades of U.S.-South Korean security partnership. The ROK intends to use the net proceeds of the sale, estimated to be between $2 million - $10 million depending on the condition of the rifles, to upgrade its Homeland Defense Mobilization Reserve components with more modern rifles,” said the spokesperson.

Sen. Jon Tester (D.-Mont.) said the new developments encourage him and he hopes the State Department will move forward quickly.

“For over a year, I have pushed the State Department to allow the importation of M1 Garands, so it’s encouraging to hear that folks at the State Department are open to making that happen.  I look forward to the State Department and the Republic of Korea reaching an agreement soon so American collectors can start adding these historic rifles to their gun collections,” he said.

The Department of State made the decision to reconsider their ban in response to additional information received from ROK authorities, as well as in an effort to compromise between the competing sides for and against the importation, said the State Department spokesperson.

“The Department of State considered several important factors when reviewing the proposal for a limited shipment, including the close and enduring bilateral relationship with the ROK, the historic value of these firearms to collectors in the U.S., and the potential public safety, law enforcement, and cross-border transshipment implications attendant to the importation of these firearms,” said the spokesperson."
Continue reading here:
Oh wow that link formatting is so ugly I almost couldn't do it. But this is thehownotto blog, after all!
Enjoy the rest of the article, and the awesome picture of John Garand (the M-1's inventor) that I cooked up out of thin National Park Service air.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tester Introduces Defense Authorization Amendment to Prevent EPA from Banning Traditional Ammo and Tackle--(How Not to Link an Article on Your Blog). And I Make This Title Longer. Again.

A Treasure State Democratic senator introduced an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act Nov. 29 ensuring hunters and anglers can continue using traditional ammunition and fishing tackle.

“When it comes to our outdoor heritage, Montana’s hunters and anglers deserve common sense,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D.-Mont.), chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. 
“It’s my job to make sure that Montana’s sportsmen can access and enjoy the Big Sky’s great outdoors without having to look over their shoulders,” he said.

The EPA previously decided not to restrict traditional ammunition and fishing tackle, but with that decision now in the courts, Tester’s measure would have enshrined protections for hunters and anglers in law, he said.

The American Sportfishing Association and the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation also supported Tester’s efforts, Tester said, and the amendment would not affect current U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service safeguards aimed at protecting water fowl.

Christopher W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said...
Dun dun dun...want to know what he said? Click here! 
This is how not to get your reader to click into your full article. Silly gimmicks often make readers feel like you're wasting their time. But anyway, click there to read the rest, if you dare, and find out what happened to Tester's amendment. Will the EPA win in the end?
I'm not a scorched-earth anti-environment person, btw. Just trying to establish dramatic tension with the evil EPA vs. ordinary Jon the Democrat so you'll click this link.
See how obnoxious that is? That's exactly how not to do it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Military History: Two Medal of Honor Recipients In The Same Battle Treated Differently By Historians

This particular interview has great historiographic value, for Mr. Laplander compares historical treatment of two heroes in the same battle who received different citations. These men worked as an incredible team, saving each other, and when a gun jammed one man stood up in the middle of a hail of bullets to fix it, rather than giving up and staying down. They would not be stopped--but history treated them both differently.

So scroll around the podcast, I think Mr. Laplander and I come in around 40 or so. Play around until you hear a girl's voice--I'm the only lady on the crew.

Monday, November 28, 2011

History and modern uses of the M-1 Garand: The Gun that saved your Grandfather's Life

Somewhere across America, a man sights towards a competition target 600 yards away, finger tensed on a trigger that wears his grandfather’s fingerprints.

The stock of the rifle bolstered against his shoulder may have born the snows of Northern Germany or Korea or the sweat and steam of South Pacific jungles.

Somewhere, an American is holding an M-1 Garand.

Read here:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Being a History Major Is Awesome: I Interview Laplander On the Military Historian Who Cursed Those Who Carried Him Off the Field Of Battle

Wow, Long Title Galore.

Miles, the man in this podcast, became the biographer of the Lost Battalion, essentially, and his group of guys in World War II loved him. As a history major, I felt connected with a man unafraid to step into history himself and make a difference; yet I am awed by the historian who wanted others to become the center, not himself. This man was angry that he received the Medal of Honor without dying.

Listen to the rest of his story here--(Skip to 14:40 for Miles)

Should I feel concerned about how short these posts have become? I hope not. This is the How Not To Blog. I should only be concerned with how not to post. However, research shows that shorter posts get better reads on blogs--around 300 to 500 words max. I am trying hard to make sure I'm not doing this right, but I fear I actually have the length correct for this one. But I lose points for rambling--rambling is never good in a blog--so there, we're back to How Not To do things.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Only Gun Range in Manhattan: the risk it takes to run it, and what a super-liberal lady had to say

Movies and TV shows depict the streets of New York riddled with gunfire and violence—but on a normal day in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, most of the shooting happens under the street and inside.

Above ground, “another round” means someone has just ordered drinks, but at the Westside Pistol and Rifle Range, another round means “reload": Westside Pistol and Rifle is the safe underground where gun owners can escape the scrutiny of New York’s anti-gun attitudes.

 “It’s like a little oasis in New York City,” said Martin Vezzuto, a young pro-hunting New Yorker, upon an Oct. 19 visit to the range.

Westside is the only gun range in Manhattan, said Darren C. Leung, the range’s Chinese-American owner. He said the range is more than a business; it is his calling.

Read about the controversy, comradery, and conversation below--why would a super-liberal girl check out a gun range and enjoy it? And why would you attack a hunter with a dog? Crazy New York--read more here!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Better Late Than Never: Wisconsin Allows Concealed Carry, and I Allow You to Know About It

Oh my dear readers, I completely forgot to post this on Tuesday!
Dude. SO MANY GUNS in Wisconsin now, and so much fuss about the Governor. Can you imagine a third of Wisconsin's citizens armed? Also, what do studies say anyway? Read about pro-gun and anti-gun studies below.

Excerpt: "The response from Wisconsin citizens has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. “Contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice for details, but news reports have shown that 80,000 people downloaded applications for the permit yesterday." Wisconsin has a population of 5,654,774 according to the Census Bureau, so nearly 1.5 percent of Badgers have already applied for permits within the first day. If requests were to continue at that rate, within a month nearly a third of Wisconsin’s citizens will have applied for permits"
Read it all here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

In the beautiful state of Virginia, controversy is brewing as powerful 7-term state senator Ed Houck and a national anti-abortion PAC, the Susan B Anthony List--face off!

Breaking news for all you Virginians and the rest of you who don't care about VA--things are about to get strange in VA. Why would a national organization go after a state senator? And how many abortions do we have in Virginia a year?

Read about it there, by yours truly.

Click please!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gun Saint: A Review of a Book About a Catholic Who Shot A Lizard, Saved a Town, and May Become Patron Saint of HandGunners. It's like Boondock Saints All Over Again

That, my friends, is how not to write a title. But seriously, things are getting crazy all up in St. Possenti's life, like a real-life Boondock Saint only without the cursing and weird symbolism! Read about the book Gun Saint here!

"The Catholic Church celebrates patron saints ranging from the obvious to the obscure, from doctors to undertakers. Why not add a patron saint for responsible handgun heroes?

John M. Snyder, former Jesuit seminarian and gun rights activist, tells the story of that question with simplicity, detail, and persistence, beginning with the tale of the Passionist Patron Saint of Youth, who saved an 1860 Italian town from marauding rapists and thieves--by shooting a lizard."

Keep reading! There!

Toomey: Protect Conscience Rights: Keystone Senator Opposes HHS Contraceptive Regulation

Read my article about "a Health and Human Services regulation that orders health care providers to cover, with no cost sharing, all contraceptives and sterilization techniques approved by the Food and Drug Administration..." Meanwhile, "a freshman senator from Pennsylvania announced Oct. 20 he will co-sponsor the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act to thwart this regulation which he said forces Catholic organizations to cover contraceptives against their faith."

Read all this breaking news here:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Land, the Old West, and How the Government Owns It All: Ted Poe's Idea to Sell America to Solve the National Debt

Did you know the US government owns most of the land out West (over 80% of Nevada, for example)? Did you know a congressman thinks selling that land will help solve the national debt?

Did you know that I reported on this idea? It's a trip through American History, with grumpy old men like Jackson and stiff modern magazines like Bloomberg weighing in along the way. Check out the idea that Stephen Moore of Wall Street Journal told me privately was a 'pretty good idea'--and see what you think.

It's dry fact up until the end. I hope you like dry facts up until the end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My interview w/ Robert J. Laplander: on Military Hero Benjamin Kaufman and his Medal of Honor

So, this guy basically charged a machine gun by himself, got blown in the arm, kept going, chuckin' grenades the whole way, and got to them with an empty pistol. He took a prisoner and fought the Germans with a shovel. Yes ladies and gentlemen, they had a machine gun, he had a shovel, and he took a prisoner.
BAMF. (Beast and Macho Fiend, of course)
Click at 41:38 to listen to me! Or just listen to the whole thing. It's all good stuff.

Apparently, Laplander told me afterwards, everyone was hungry and tired and frustrated that day, and they weren't progressing through the woods as hoped, and people were dying, and Kaufman just had enough. He didn't care about anything but his men anymore.

Somebody needs to make a movie about this MF-er (Manly Fighter).

And yes, I believe in taking back those letters people have made repugnant. FU should be Free Yourself, WTF should be Why This Freakiness, and so on and so forth. I'm taking back the alphabet!

Also, I noticed my Russian crew have kinda disappeared--used to have a whole bunch of people from beautiful Russia following along. Sorry it's been all news-focused and not so much random stuff recently. I'm a reporter, you know. But I will, I promise I will, be posting more research soon.

And that, my friends, is how not to stay on topic when introducing a media interview you did. = )

Edit 10/26/2011: About taking back the alphabet--please, please don't take me seriously.
Edit five seconds later: Well, take me a little seriously. Just not like, enough to scare you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What the DC Protestors Are Really Saying--Occupy DC Interviews Oct 7

October 7 footage, interviews by Alicia Powe and yours truly. Here's what they told me--they're not waiting around to be co-opted by the Democratic Party.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Clean Comedy is the Answer to All The World's Problems. Yes, All of Them.

Brian Regan, comedian extroardinare, performed Oct. 20 to a crazy crowd--a crowd that included one guy who just kept shouting randomly until he left the theatre--and led me to believe that he can save the world.

This is nothing new.

As you all know, endorphins released by laughter increase life span. And even though scientists have found evidence of humor in some animals, no creature actively seeks out laughter the way human beings do. I would even posit that humor helped win World War II for the Allies, because comedy shows kept the soldiers going, fueled the war effort, and healed wounds after the conflict. So what? So laughter is a part of who we are. But I am not making some vacuous point that laughter makes us live longer or encourages us to live better lives or any such happy mumbo jumbo.

Laughter can save the world in two forms only: pure power, and pure innocence.

Let's sound the grim wake-up call about power: humor trumps logic in messaging. George Carland and other comedians win people's minds politically by making them laugh at the opposition. It used to frustrate me to no end when people I disagreed with used jokes to counter my logical arguments--and, without ever answering me, they won the support of those around them.

But laughter's manipulative messaging power can take any side and any form. That alone will save nothing.

Enter Brian Regan.

Much like the illustrious Jackie Chan, Regan focuses on the ordinary human being. He constantly makes fun of himself, and all of us, in a way that reminds us of our universal humanness: his hilarious comments on Mubarak's soldier riding a camel out into an angry mob did not excuse the dictatorship, but did turn the soldier into a human being for the audience--a feat that I could never accomplish with any amount of preaching about loving your enemies. Most importantly, Regan cuts out gratuitous violence, sex, and certain language, forcing himself to actually think rather than simply appealing to our easy instincts.

Why is that important?

I heard once that a study shows children laugh something on the order of several hundred times a day. Adults on average laugh fifteen. I posit that the loss of laughter rolls in with the loss of interest, the loss of sensation. Why do I say this?

Visit any video store and check out the adult comedy section. What's funny? Sex, Quinn Tarentino-style violence, and sex. Awkward cruelty in conversation, too, makes adults roar, but don't you dare forget sex.

Visit the children's section, and you find variety galore: puns, bloodless physical humor, universal awkwardness, and misunderstanding inhabit worlds ranging from the ridiculous to the every day schoolyard. The violence in shows like Tom and Jerry emphasizes optimism, a Peter Pan immortality--and even though pulverized and pounded cat and mouse never die, they often recognize a "too far," a meanness that makes them friends for a brief moment of apology. Brian Regan's comedy emphasizes that kind of humanizing sensitivity, where we laugh at everything from odd voices to pure stupidity.

We need that reminder of our common, embarrassing, silly humanity. We need it every day when we disagree or make the most important life choices. We need it in foreign policy so we see people, not ideologies or forces, as actors: when we think about Arab Spring, remembering humanity keeps us from only worshipping our favorite cause--democracy--and reveals human costs such as the increased religious persecution under the new democratic regime in Egypt. We need to see politicians as people when we think about the presidential debate, or we become so wrapped up in beating our opposition that we analyze candidates only in the light of electability, rather than paying attention to policy and character. When we learn to laugh like children, we learn to see people like human beings again, because we see their foolishness reflected in the little every day things that we do.

Is this absolutely absurd? Perhaps. Perhaps to alter our senses of humor we would have to alter all of society. I'm fine with that. But how? If we had more comedians like Brian Regan, would that change anything? Does supply ever create demand?

I don't know. But I do know that you are what you laugh at, and what you put into your heart will eventually escape. Laugh at the right stuff and save the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Part 4: The federal government paying for gun ranges? And can you have a gun at a beach?

These are both questions answered below.

Up there ^ Click! It will answer to all your wildest concerns! In all seriousness, this is the last part of the Gun Legislation series I wrote that they've been running over there at Human Events. I believe this is the only paper that has run articles detailing obscure gun legislation this way, so it should be at least marginally useful to you.

^_^ If not, well, this is the hownottoblog. Technically, I SHOULD include an excerpt to encourage you to read the link. But I won't.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Not To Podcast Maybe? Me On Radio...Or in Podcasts

Hear about laws stopping gun shows and keeping college girls from owning guns. Podcast with moi here!  (Scroll to 34:00 to skip to me and the guns--otherwise, enjoy Dick Cheney)
And tomorrow we'll be putting up more gun legislation pieces for you, if you're into that kind of thing.

I know I am. So, you know what G&P thinks--what do you think about these laws?

It's a shame that I'm so bound in my "how not to" ways that I can't even figure out what I may or may not have done wrong in this podcast. See, I'm not even able to correctly analyze for you how not to. Wow. I'm really good at this "not" thing. XD

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This Week's News Program...More Gun Legislation

I ran another gun legislation piece in Guns and Patriots. Any gun control advocates concerned about the danger guns pose to our society and any gun rights advocates concerned about the danger gun control poses to our society--read this. This new legislation affects your cause!

This time, I've got legislation that will make gun control advocates scream and gun rights advocates cheer.

Gun Legislation Part III

Also, this week's legislation has some special endorsement from none other than your all-time favorite Dr. Ron Paul.

That is, by the way, not an endorsement, although I dearly, dearly love his non-conformist fire. I love him partly because everyone else on the left and the right hates him for his "real-person-ness." 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gun Legislation for Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun Activists, Part II

For anyone else out there interested in gun control (or the lack thereof), I wrote another article on gun bills gun control activists will love and pro-gun activists will probably abhore.

Gun Leg Part 2 article

So yeah, another article published at G&P and Human Events.

I also wrote an article on South Korean vs. US economic strategies. It's pitifully short, but you can check it out in the print version of Human Events. I'm working on getting permission to post it here for you all to read.

Whoever you all are, of course.

I'm sticking to my original convictions--this is a blog on how not to blog, and every day I must show you how one does not blog. Perhaps my unnerving, unfailing unprofessionalism will carry the day in the end.

Enter random emo rant (which is exactly how not to advertise an article):
I am still me, no matter what media outlets I write for, no matter who tries to squish my free (and happily fat) self into a business suit, no matter who would like to control my language.

I don't know where that came from--well, actually I do--but anyway, there's your how not to for today! How not to advertise your current profession correctly.
(Yes, I'm a reporter)
(and associate editor)
(and kind of sad human being)
= P
That's how not to do it. Please don't seek pity for yourself. It makes people confused.
Don't be confused, my dear, wonderful people. For all the strangeness, I am absolutely thrilled that several hundred people have actually read these research articles that I originally posted up here just for storage. You are all amazing, and I wish you a very, absolutely, exuberantly, exceedingly, fabulously, exorbitantly, hands-down-no-holds-barred lovely day.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gun Legislation for Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun Activists

Whether you're a hard-core gun control or gun freedoms person, you're no doubt concerned about whether or not current legislation is going to challenge your view of building a safer society. Here's a link to an article I wrote on the current Senate legislation that will make activists on both sides get moving:


Monday, September 26, 2011

How Not to Start a New Blog


I starteded a new blog about an old project I been aworkin' on!

I believe that should be a pretty fair demonstration of how not to start a new blog.  If you would like to fail at starting a new blog, of course you must never tell your reader the actual topic of the blog.  Instead, you must rely on their blind loyalty to you, and assume that simply because you, the omnipotently wonderful author, have written said blog, they should see it.

If you would like to fail at advertising a new blog, you could also come right out as a blatant money-hog.  Yes, I said money-hog.  Like that little piggy bank you never put pennies in, so it remained empty and hungry, crying out in plastic or ceramic silence for jingling sustenance.  "Ads!  Ads to click on at !  I need money, and you have it!  So click on some ads!"

Don't ever do that.  It will cause google to remove you from their adsense program and quite possibly shut down your blog.

See how I'm waiting until the very end to tell you what the new project is?  See how by now you don't really care and may already have left the page?  That's how not to start a new blog.

I have, for several years, wondered what sounds define our world, for if music is merely sounds the mind interprets in numeric patterns--well, our entire earth's natural cycles and physics systems and even our history proceeds in patterns and repeats.  If you could live outside of that whole world and possibly comprehend all the patterns and repeats, and actually listen to the entire scene from the beginning until the end of time, would you hear music?  If I wanted to make a snapshot of that music, what sounds ought I include?

And so began the Most Important Sounds project.  I have asked people all over the world what sounds they consider the most important.  I have only recently begun to include celebrities, and to compile the data given to me by all the citizens of the world.  I have realized that when you begin asking this sound question of people, you begin to feel their hearts.  You begin to want to ask more sound questions.  You begin to know yourself.

And so I'm launching this new/old project to share with you all.  I want to brighten your day, one question and answer at a time, and put us that much closer to peaceful understanding of one another through sound.
Be there.  It's a blog about you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How Not To Share Your Feelings With Your Reader

I realize that I was once so poignant, so profound and beautiful.

Perhaps that's inappropriate arrogance, but I really don't think so.  I was reading over an old blog post where I simply poured out my poor, sad soul, and I find it much more attractive to read than all these academic articles and all the information that actually benefits you all. 

The weird thing--the weird thing dangles around me, but I generally ignore it.  Today I pluck it out of the air, off the string of thought that begins with checking my blog stats.  I pluck out that weird thing, and see that it is this:

You, who read this, know so much more about me than I know about you.  I know you are from Russia, and you use Firefox and Chrome, and sometimes those weird alternative webbrowsers that make you look so hipster.  I know that when you come from the US, you come to me searching for strange things like blog trampling or bike forum information.  What are you?  I know that once in a while, one of you will google my name. 

I wonder things about you.  I wonder if anything I write actually helps you or convinces you.  I wonder if you're only here to plaigerize academic papers.  I wonder if you're only here to creep out on me, if one day you'll strangle me in my sleep.  I don't worry.  My husband and I can keep you incapacitated until the cops arrive.  But I do wonder.

I wonder, because a large number of you google ""  What are you?  Are you robots?  Or do you just not know how to type that into the URL bar?  Are you a kindly eighty year old who prays for me every day?  Are you a hater?

Most of all, I wonder if I can actually do anything to help you.  I wish, I hope that I can, in some small way, write something that brings light to your day and fire to your heart.  But I suppose that's not my job.  I can write, but the light and the fire...

Well, they burst from the dying Prometheus.

Review of Bastiat's "The Law": If Only This Were Written Today

Some problems hang, like a dim light suspended in time, dangling over the sea of history to cast dreary reflection on every epoch. Frederic Bastiat's "The Law" addresses one such timeless problem.

The question of good government and the paradoxes of its involvement in the private sector have boggled politicians and philosophers for ages. In an era much like ours--an era of technologically-empowered government surveillance, complex social struggle, decreased personal privacy, and rising cries for government economic intervention--Bastiat attributes all policy problems to a common root. The timeless problem, he says, is a misinterpretation of the place of the Law in the lives of the citizens.

Unlike his more famous contemporaries, Bastiat insists that the only place of law is to uphold justice, protecting people, their liberty, and their property. Injustice and tyranny keep the people down: as long as the Law prevents injustice, people can manage social engineering, religion, welfare, education, or labor on their own.

Heartless? Not really. Despite his stunning sarcasm, Bastiat displays remarkable charity towards his opponents, even arguing that all his opponents have philanthropic aims at heart. Long passages, in context, from his opponents comprise nearly half of his book. Granted, he uses those quotes to expose the arrogant view of man that ultimately leads to tyranny and government micromanagement--nevertheless, his open-hearted attitude towards disagreement shines.

Bastiat's argument against "the white man's burden" and his critique of classical elitism alone makes him a must read. He quips that if the legislators spent nearly as much time trying to improve themselves as they spent reorganizing other cultures, they would find the task difficult enough to keep them busy. No legislator has the right to force improvement on someone else. Despite his insipid argument against universal suffrage--that in a perfect society, no rights would be infringed upon so no disadvantaged would need to vote--Bastiat ranks foremost among the progressives.

I did not want to jump on the bandwagon of hype surrounding Bastiat's nearly libertarian dissertation. I actually avoided reading the book because I didn't want to join his intellectual groupies; reading through it caught me on a river of livid prose that washed into an ocean of happiness and confidence in thought and soul. I, too, want liberty, and in an era filled with clamor for government to get out of our lives, you could not find a more timely or beautiful work than Bastiat's to translate the reasoning behind those cries.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I don't normally post stuff that doesn't belong to me, but this is just too awesome.  You need to look at this.  SEE IT LOOK IT'S DOWN THERE LOOK LOOK

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Almighty (almost) Hedgehog: Introducing My New Pet

"Touch me, and I will impale you so hard your grandchildren will perforate!"

It's morbid, but you might hear that if the puffing white pin-cushion could talk instead of hiss. The defensive "huffing" isn't just show: this spiny tank bleeds with immunity to snake venom, and devours any animal smaller than itself.

"In the wild, they kill cobras," the pet store worker tells me.

While the African pygmy hedgehog I poked probably never saw "the wild," varying species of hedgehog range free everywhere in the Old World continents, including the famous home of the cobra, India. In 2009 hedgehogs in Hebrides devastated the island bird populations, attracting animal control specialists armed with lethal injections. The British Hedgehog Protection Society reports today that hedgehogs thrive even in urban habitats; the Society promotes "hedgehog-friendly" gardening information to encourage this survival. Whether a menace or an attraction, free-roaming hedgehogs rule their habitats with fierce spunk.

The up-for-adoption African pygmy hedgehog I met at the pet store had suffered six months of neglect, making him more fierce than spunky. Hedgehogs are natural loners--even a male/female pair should never be housed together without supervision--but they warm up, I was told. Taken with the urchin and unable to resist the challenge, I bought the neglected animal. A t-shirt in the cage became my scented diplomacy, and within a few weeks the hedgehog became comfortable with my smell. Eventually, he began to play with me and eat from my hand.

Even now, my hedgehog huffs every now and then just to show his impressive spines, reminding me that underneath the cuteness pumps a heart full of poison resistant blood. This fist-sized animal demands respect--something not a lot of pets get these days.

And while his ferocity is humorous, respect is definitely something hedgehogs deserve.

How not to Update Regularly, Part 2 long has it been?  A month?
Well over that.  I'm getting good at this "how not to" business.  I went to the beach, got a new job writing in DC, worked on my book, failed at working on my book, and so on and so forth.
But you don't care about that.  Point being...this is just a papers blog, so I'm under no pressure to update.  Ha!
I guess that also means I'm under no pressure to succeed. =(

Monday, August 1, 2011

Comparison of Khirbet Khizeh and Returning to Haifa

Khirbet Khizeh reads almost like Japanese zuihitsu, "following the pen" stream of consciousness. The author places very intentional allusions and metaphors throughout, but in all of the intentionality he is repeatedly distracted by the land. Perhaps over half of the text pours and searches over the land, inherently showing why the Jewish people fought the way they did and what they wanted. He explains, with the beauty of the land, the desire for it. Other more obvious thematic metaphors--the lost stallion, the girl back home the soldiers bring up, the sheep--fall into a nice military line behind their powerful literary general, the allusion to Jeremiah's Lamentation. This particular allusion would have hit Jewish readers like a sledge hammer. Yet underneath all these, lies the consistently poetic descriptions of the land--the ultimate justification for both Jews and Arabs.

Perhaps the story is a bit unfair: not every Arab left out of fear, or because of forced evacuation, and the pictures painted of the pitiful, pathetic Arabs do not do much kindness to a favorable historical remembrance of the Palestinians. If anything, his portrayal of the weak Arab helps maintain the historical memory of the "primitive," disorganized Arab community falling to the superior European Jews. Out of all the Arabs, only two, at the end, do we see with strength and will. In some ways, his desire to set the Jews straight does not quite escape a certain stereotype.

Returning to Haifa reads much more like a conventional story. The poppy, strong descriptions carefully separate thought from reality, but all the more clearly emphasize memory. The author's use of third person allows him to stay within his character's mind, but describe the Jewish lady Miriam, and her experience finding the baby "Dov," on the same terms as his main character. This same third person narrative for all the characters and their memories gives Returning to Haifa a feeling of neutrality, even though, with its emphasis on the main Arab character's thoughts, we sense that neutrality lays outside of its grasp forever. The main character has gone through too much for "neutrality."

This story has a different historiography to its fiction than Khirbet does: the author includes footnotes, and works from as much cultural fact as he can, rather than from memory of the feeling of events. Perhaps this causes his emotional story to make more sense from both sides. We feel, of course, for the two Holocaust survivors, but equally do we feel for the two Arabs they have evicted, quite unintentionally, from their homes and their lives.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Petre Pan's Perspective on African Ingenuity

The computer light shines on a young eigth grader's face as he browses wikipedia, not for useful information, but out of pure curiosity.  Somewhere in the past, a young West African girl pushes sorghum into the earth just to see what happens.  Cultures aside, are people from the past so different?  Africans used their technical and social skills and strategies to adapt to changing or harsh terrain, to create hedges of "back-up" to protect themselves, and simply for the sake of developing and trying something else.  These strategies provided "progress" for some people, pushing them "forward" to lifestyles they found more fulfilling.  For others, these strategies created extra inconvenience and set them "back" in their life pursuits.

Every grown-up has, at some point in his or her life, adapted or changed to meet a new need.  The Aksumites SouthEast of Nubia had to adapt new strategies to fit their environment, or they would not survive.  Without pools of water and an efficient system of labor and control, crops would drown in the wet season and burn in cemented earth during the dry season.  For those at the bottom of the labor hierarchy--and for the slaves the Aksumites traded from the South up to the Hebrews in exchange for frankinsense--this hurt.  Trade brought food goods and workers to manage the environment.  It also robbed some people of a the opportunity to push forward to their own happiness.  For everyone who could eat and live and worship because of this strategy of trade, "progress" continued.

Similarly, the Nilotic farmers who created the Shaduf to irrigate their fields had to formulate some strategy to manage the changing height of the Nile.  Why did these hunter gatherers stay near the Nile, instead of moving on?  Living near the Nile kept them near the hub of the Middle East and Europe.  Given the "cultural environment," one can imagine reason almost forced Nilotic farmers to stay and adapt so they did not lose the wealth in trade and personal relationships they could gain by stabilizing their location in Egypt.  The hierarchies they developed to manage crowded access to the rivers benefitted a lot of farmers and traders, but again, slaves imported to help manage the work did not benefit.

South of the "Egyptian" region, in Nubia, the Nile splits and the fertile continent spreads out a little.  Nubians did not creat as aggressive hierarchies as the Egyptians did, although they did have pharoahs and taxation and religious organization.  They, too, imported slaves.  However, because the Nubians could spread out, they did not need to establish the intensive "big government" codified class stratification to manage crowded land.  Again, cultural, ecomonic, and physical environment led some Africans to turn to the solutions they adopted.

Other Africans did not grab a plow as a weapon to escape the rock-and-hard-place.  Instead, they lived in times of plenty, but, wary of fluctuations, created economic, social, and physical hedges for themselves.  The Akan-speakers may have invented the Akuabe fertility dolls as one such socio-religious hedge.  A woman may not have needed a fertility doll for pregnancy, and she could psychologically understand and prepare for her mothering without a doll to carry around and tend.  The doll reminded her of the work of a mother, and encouraged her to live in a way that would enhance her chance of having a baby.  It also reminded her ancestors to intercede for her before God because she hoped to become pregnant.  In short, the fertility doll hedges or safety-nets the mother's chance of having a baby.  Other groups from West Africa's warm forests invented the twin doll as a similar safety net.  The living twin may have survived even if his brother died, but having a twin doll with the living ("fleshy") twin reminded the ancestors and the dead twin that the parents cared for both children and would like to keep one.  Again, psychologically, the twin doll reminded the mother to tend her living child carefully, with vigilance, for she could lose this child, too.

These dolls, in providing a safety hedge psychologically and socially, helped the art of child-rearing and physical art in sculpture to flourish and progress.  They encouraged protection of children and enhance the place of the creative in society.  However, they may have limited the mother's social mobility.  A mother could become doubly responsible and psychologically haunted by a physical reminder of possible failure, especially if she carried a twin-doll reminding her of miscarriage.  As always, it depended on the individual--some people used these strategies to propel them forward to their individual happiness, while the same strategies held others back psychologically or physically.

The Zulu cattle herders may also have developed via this "safety-net" philosophy.  Before 5000 BC, hunter-gatherer-foragers may have led cows with them as an extra source of protein, through milk or the drinking of cattle blood.  Over time, someone who could "safety-net" a lot of people by having a lot of cows became much more powerful, even in times of plenty.  As having cows became a sign of status, people began to use them more exclusively as a source of food and trade.  As some "big men" accumulated more cows to compete with each other, other families wanted to ensure that they would not "miss out."  These families married their daughters to the "big men" in order to ensure relational debt and foster the passage of trade goods back and forth.  Through this "human capitalism," the big men would accumulate the most wives, and polygamy became an additional strategy for safeguarding the families of the women and of the big man.

Unfortunately, polygamy leaves some young men without wives because humans generally birth in almost 1:1 gender rations.  In many societies, the surplus of young energetic men without a hope of establishing family or economic success leads to higher crime and social unrest--but Africans used cattle as a "safety net" once again.  Both the eseZulu and the Maasai peoples found that sending young men out with cattle (and to battle for the cattle) kept them out of trouble at home.  Yet polygamy additionally created problems of power-separation (weakening via competition) of the women in the home.  The use of women as commodities to cement trade relationship and the removal of a woman's sexual monopoly over a man could create a society in which women became unhappy.  The eseZulu used sacrificial cattle to create ceremonies celebrating women's virginity, thereby praising and promoting the women who obey the system, pacifying them.  These ceremonies allowed the eseZulu to promote chastity for women, but allow men to have as many wives and as much control over them as they liked.  Thus the eseZulu used cattle to subvert a woman's sexual monopoly while maintaining that of the man.  Polygamy, as a social and economic safeguard, creates further difficulties that require the "safety net" of cattle used in more and more creative ways.  Clearly, the "progress" of these economic and social institutions furthered social rest and stability, and allowed for a relatively free form of government allowing capitalist accumulation of goods, but for women and unmarried men, the movement is backwards, not forwards.

Finally, sometimes Africans may simply have had intellectual curiosity.  The Khoi-san in Southern Africa took and interest in herding cattle, but needed no hedge from their successful foraging and hunting.  If anything, they could use the nearby Bantu farmers as a "safety hedge" through intermarried relationships that could provide food in difficult times.  The novelty of herding cattle they enjoyed probably just out of their desire to try something new.  People don't always have to be logical machines and boring old grown-ups.  Sometimes, like brilliant children, we simply want to flex our wings into the unknown--just for the heck of it.

All the information in this post can be garnered by reading and debating John Reader's book about Africa, Jan Vansina's article on the Bantu, Elphick's article on the Koi-San, watching (and debating) Skip Gates' film on the Nubians and the Egyptians, watching "Herds of Heaven" about the eseZulu, and taking James Le Fleur's African History class at UVA.  Check out some of this stuff--I disagree with most everyone on everything, but you can learn and synthesize a lot!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sticking People Together, Making People "Stick" Out: Oh, Honey

Sticking People Together, Making People "Stick" Out: Oh, Honey

Almost everyone around the world eventually discovers that food brings people together and apart. Bread and rice start medieval peasant riots, GMO's strain or heal international relations, family business for many people happens around the table, and in some countries chocolate may win a girl's affections for a day. In Charlottesville, VA, the Saturday morning City Market clearly brings people together, but an interview with a local honey merchant shows that homegrown food can form communal relationships while also setting people apart from each other within that community.

The Hungry Hill Farms booth sits next to the popsicle stand, the first booth in a long row of organic and homemade stalls. The couple working the booth first caught my attention when the friendly man complimented my friend's "I'm no rocket-surgeon" shirt. Other people who stopped by to look at the honey often just stopped by to chat; two ladies paused because, as they said, "I buy your honey at the Cville Market." The honey they had purchased at the local store had become a way to open up alliance in conversation; it had created a social "debt", albeit a very small one, between the person at the booth and the customer, and while the customer and the vendor did not know each other, they both acknowledged a small friendly bond. Colin Johnson, the friendly man watching the booth, said that often regular customers will come solely for conversation, not to buy honey.

Conversation and social bonds actually started the Hungry Hill Farms business back in 1968 when Glenn Clayton Sr. had a conversation with a friend from the fire department. The fireman had kept two bee hives as a hobby, but became allergic and gave them to Clayton Sr. as a gift. The two beehives expanded to the current 500, and the hobby became a business as the honey became popular among friends and family, who received it from the Claytons on holidays and as gifts. Honey, then, drew people together, and the drawing of people together produced surplus honey. The Claytons soon found that they had too much honey for use year after year, and began to sell it. As they sold honey, they expanded their hives and social linkages, and so the cycle continues. Colin Johnson, who told me the story about "her grandfather," actually joined the business himself through social bonds: he is in a relationship with Mr. Clayton's granddaughter, the confident-looking lady who sold us honey sticks.

The basic needs of food-provision are still a very real part of why Happy Hill Farms exists. In addition to honey, the farm has ten acres of garden which supplies much of the produce that the Clayton family consumes. The farm also grows shitake mushrooms to sell. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that social and communal connections form a great part, if not most, of the push and pull of Hungry Hill Farms.

While honey brings people together, it also establishes distinctions between people. When asked what kind of people bought Hungry Hill Honey, Johnson told us that "a smattering of people", from the "crunchy hippie types" to those who looked like they "just came off their yacht." While the purchase of the same product seems to establish a kind of unified identity between these kinds of people, Johnson's division of the customer group along sociopolitical lines--rather than racial, ethnic, or otherwise--mirrors a general mental division in the local food conversation. A largely false stereotype does exist to make local and sustainable food a liberal "hippie" issue; an additional stereotype, that conservatives have all the money for highly priced goods, breaks down as in Charlottesville, where it's an upper-middle class liberal bourgeois that provides the purchasing power for farm products. Elsewhere, in more stereotypically "conservative" rural areas, the price of sustainable and local food goes down. Generalizations may not provide true pictures of a society on the outside, but in the local food conversation, they do show glimpses of the stark mental and social attitudes that surround food consumption in the minds of the consumers, vendors, and the rest of the society. People in Cville set themselves apart from each other through the food they eat.

A conversation with one of Hungry Hill's customers further illuminated the way that food purchasing establishes uniqueness. She buys Hungry Hill, she says, because it's a walking distance from her house to the Cville Market that sells it "and besides it's local," but she goes to the Farmer's Market because "everyone's here." It's where the politicians campaign, the people hang out, and you can buy sustainable and local food, she says. She described a communal event that brings people together. As she went on, she explained how sustainable and local food was a lifestyle for her, not "the latest social trend", because she grew up on a farm. The conversation, while demonstrating how food became a unifying event, succinctly demonstrated that my interviewee's identity became set apart by her history with sustainable food. She distinguished herself not only from those who do not buy local, but from those who have a different purchasing history with local food. She wanted that distinction.

Quite obviously, the food that people sell also sets them apart. Every business strives to point out why its food is different or better than everyone else's: that's simply a factor of business. Hungry Hill Honey comes with an additional degree of vendor separation besides that which comes naturally with business products. Vegetable and meat farmers work directly with the crop they sell: bee farmers work with it second-hand from other living creatures. 

This distinction creates interesting environmental and political consequences for farmers. Johnson explains that large companies truck their bees across the country to try to hit all the different blooms. The first, the almond blooms, come in very early spring, and when the bees have gathered as much as possible, the companies truck them elsewhere, hitting cotton blooms down south, cherry blooms, and everything else. This travel weakens the bees' immune systems, and understandably leads to disorientation of their internal compasses. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon rocking the bee industry over the past five years or so, occurs when bees simply stop finding their way around, or fly away and leave the colony for good. Bees without a colony die, and the suicide of the colony becomes a suicide for the bees. A year or two ago Hungry Hill Farms also lost several colonies, even though most of their colonies remain stationary all the time. Johnson and Ms. Clayton attribute CCD primarily to bee diseases spread by the large bee businesses. 

The CCD discussion shows that inherent in the honey itself, and the manner in which it can be practically harvested and grown with minimal bee loss, one finds social and economic distinctions and decisions. This occurs, of course, for all products, but for honey, with its unique nature and source, these choices become especially pronounced and complex. The purchasing and selling of honey, then, says something about the people who purchase and sell it. Honey sticks people together in community; it also shows us who we are as individuals.