The Power of the Gun


I just caught up with Walter Kirn’s excellent article in the New Republic last January, “What Gun Owners Really Want.” Kirn is a gun owner, but the article takes a very common-sense approach, showing where both sides–the anti-gun people, and the pro-gun people–are sometimes silly and unreasonable. It’s well worth reading.

I was intrigued by one part where he talked about some of the appeal, at least to him, of shooting guns.

“They push back when they’re fired. That’s the elemental fact involved…. They kick at your will in the instant they also project it, reminding you that force is always two-sided. It’s a shock the first time, an insult to the senses, but once you’ve learned to expect it, absorb it, ride it, recoil becomes a source of pleasure. You’re up on your board turning turbulence to flow….

“When I shoot at the range, I don’t feel personally powerful, but like the custodian of something powerful. I feel like a successful disciplinarian of something radically alien and potent….It’s not the gun that the so-called ‘clingers’ cling to and don’t like the thought of anybody screwing with. It’s not even the power of the gun. It’s the power over the power of the gun.”

Obviously, that’s not the only appeal of shooting. But it can be one thing, to at least some people. It resonates a bit with me.

This same principal, I’m guessing, applies to the allure of driving powerful cars, of engaging in extreme sports, of bull-fighting, of white-water rafting, and many other things. It’s the raw thrill of prevailing over something risky, powerful, or dangerous.


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Taking the Fun Out of Boyhood


As a young kid, I remember friends coming over, and we’d play cowboy-and-Indians or Army. We would mow down the enemy, and we would die in dramatic fashion…over and over…while continuing to pop up after a token period of death to fight again. It was fun, it was imaginative. It was what boys do.

Read a fascinating article on about how schools aren’t letting young boys do what comes naturally–be boys. One 7-year-old boy was suspended for using a pencil to “shoot” a bad guy. In another school, a boy was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade at “bad guys” to save the world. Tug of war, dodgeball and tag–these are violent and hurt the self-esteem of the “losers.” Superhero play–inappropriate and violent.

For boys, imaginative play typically involves action, but schools are banning it with zero tolerance policies. Innocent boys are getting suspended, punished, publicly humiliated for doing what most of us grew up doing.

Would schools be happier if boys played with dolls? Would that meet the school goals of reducing violence and improving self esteem? Just wondering.

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Make Up Your Mind

There are two ways to let people know you’re starting a new paragraph.

1. Indent the first line of the paragraph.
2. Leave a space between paragraphs.

But don’t do both–leave a space, AND indent. Unless we’re talking about a bulleted or numbered list. It’s wrong. It’s redundant.

And it looks stupid.

I needed to get that off my chest.

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“Suffer the Little Children….”

Congressman Scott DesJarlais

Congressman Scott DesJarlais

Last week, a Republican Congressman from Tennessee, Scott DesJarlais, held a town meeting. He’s a Tea Party guy. An 11-year-old Hispanic girl named Josie Molina, whose father was about to be deported, came to the microphone. She said, “I have papers, but I have a dad who’s undocumented. What can I do to have him stay with me?”

Desjarlais said, “This is a big, intimidating crowd, and I appreciate you coming forward and asking a question. But the answer still kind of remains the same, that we have laws and we need to follow those laws, and that’s where we’re at.”

Desjarlais is being criticized for an “uncaring” response. However, watching the video, I felt he handled it okay. It was a good, on-the-spot response. He’s got stupid views on some subjects and a terrible record of personal immorality. But in this instance, I don’t believe he was being insensitive.

However, what really disturbed me was the crowd’s reaction.

Here’s this courageous little girl who faces the prospect of having her father forcibly taken away, or of leaving her home, friends, school–her country–to be with him in a foreign land. She takes the risk of going before a person of power to seek help. And as the Congressman gives his answer as she returns to her seat amidst this unsympathetic crowd, the people around her whoop and cheer and applaud the Congressman’s answer.

“Yeah, put those wetbacks in their place!” they seemed to be saying.

“Take her daddy away!” is the sentiment Josie Molina would have heard.

It just struck me as very, very wrong. Turned my stomach, in fact. As one writer put it, “If there’s one place I wouldn’t want to be, it’s in front of a crowd that delights in the suffering of children.”

Would Jesus have sided with a child wanting to keep her family together, or with the crowd zealous about enforcing The Law?

Attitudes like this from Tea Party types is just another of the reasons I will no longer identify as a Republican. The Republican Party of my youth has been taken over by extremists.

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Messiah Complex

How about naming your baby “Messiah”? It’s been steadily growing in popularity, rising from about 900th place in 2005 to 387th place in 2012. Apparently, there are a lot of Messiahs running around. As it was in the time of Jesus.

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Fraud at the Dessert Counter


See that cupcake? I bought it from the dessert case at Fresh Market. It beckoned to me, this huge lump of diverse calories which Pam and I could split.

You may notice the chocolate chips embedded in the frosting. WRONG. In what ranks as one of the most egregious acts of culinary fraud ever perpetrated, those chocolate chips turned out to be raisins.

Yes, raisins! What depraved sicko puts raisins on cupcakes?

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Book Review: “The Deep Blue Good-bye”

deep-blue-goodbyThis is the first book in the Travis McGee series; Random House just began republishing the whole series.

I’d read one other book by John D. MacDonald, and was not overly impressed, but decided to try the first McGee book. Wow! This guy can write!

McGee signs on to help a young woman recover some gems which her Dad illegally brought back after the Pacific War, and which another guy stole. I was quite engrossed, and know that I’ll be devouring more MacDonald books.

When I was growing up, I remember seeing MacDonald books on bookracks in grocery stores and elsewhere, usually with risque covers. They went alongside Mickey Spillane and Sidney Sheldon books with similar covers. So I just figured MacDonald’s books were very racy.

But this first Travis McGee book isn’t that way at all. Sure, there’s some sex, but the plot and very fine writing predominate.

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Book Review: “A Quiet Flame,” by Philip Kerr

A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)The fourth Bernie Gunther novel ended with our German detective fleeing with Adolph Eichmann to Argentina somewhere around 1950. This fifth installment begins with his arrival in Argentina. He is drafted by the national police to find an abducted girl…though it gets a whole lot more complicated than that.

As always, Gunther (like Forest Gump) finds himself rubbing shoulders with famous historical people–in this case, Juan and Evita Peron, Joseph Mengele, and assorted Nazis who fled to Argentina after the war. A good chunk of the book involves flashbacks to 1932 Germany, where Gunther pursues a case very similar to one in Argentina.

Philip Kerr is an excellent writer, producing detective mysteries that are more literary than most. Kerr has written several more Gunther novels. One awaits on my bookshelf, and I’ll track down the others in due time.

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Who Wears Short Shorts?


I just read something very disturbing. For men, shorts that come only part-way down the thigh are now trendy. Some call this the “John Stockton” look, after the famous Utah Jazz point guard who kept wearing short shorts long after NBA fashion had moved on to much longer fare.

On the positive side, the real long shorts extending halfway down the shin are falling out of favor.

I’m a knee-length (or slightly longer) kind of guy. Those types of shorts will (I hope) remain a valid fashion option for many years to come. The trendy fluctuations will be at the long/short end. At age 56, I’m not real interested in being trendy.

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So Long to the Ever-Cheerful Ruth Benner

My heroes have always been missionaries. I grew up in United Brethren churches where United Brethren missions was emphasized, and names of missionaries from the 1960s and 1970s are firmly implanted in my memory. Working at our national headquarters, I’ve crossed paths with nearly every United Brethren missionary during the past 35 years, and have interviewed and written about a number of them.

One of the names from my childhood was Ruth Benner, a single missionary who served in Sierra Leone 1965-1972. Ruth passed away last week. Her funeral is tomorrow, August 6, in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Ruth, a Canadian, served a number of years in leadership with the denominational Women’s Missionary Fellowship and on the Global Ministries leadership team. In those capacities, she came through Huntington, Ind., (where I work) many times. I didn’t know her well, but I was around her quite a bit.

Ruth is one of those persons who always seemed to be in a cheerful mood. She had a distinctive voice, and a ready laugh. Observing her relationships with other persons, especially former missionaries, it seemed she excelled at friendship. I can’t think of a single even slightly negative thing I ever heard about Ruth. She always struck me as a genuinely good person with a pure heart and an enviable sunny disposition. Ruth served just six years as a missionary, but those years very much formed who she was and what she was passionate about.

Ruth made the world a better place, and she will be missed.

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