Gun Clubbing

November 18, 2012

While it should hardly be surprising to anyone following along that somebody at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke eventually became a gun nut hobbyist, it’s probably something of a shocker which one of us it was. Urban Sophisticat. Yeah. Him.

Now wintering in southern Florida, somewhere north of Fort Lauderdale, he has fully embraced what he calls ‘The Fear’.

“It’s a fearful world we live in,” he rationalizes. “Why not go where they do fear the best? Learn how to deal with it.”

Surely there are more fearful places on the globe than Florida, even some within the United States itself but none so beautifully overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Let’s call it fear with a to-die-for view.

And apparently, with an ease of access to guns.

“Gentleman. You’re down here, bearing witness to the reaction to Obama’s re-election. These people aren’t going to take it lying down. A working knowledge of firearm use will be necessary. Mark my words.”

I’d grown used to such hyperbole coming from the mouth of our colleague Acaphlegmic. Biblical in its proportions, with a wide-eyed strain of Revelations. But this was new terrain for Urban Sophisticat. Unhinged almost. Especially accompanying the cache of weaponry he now proudly touted. All legally purchased with the appropriate paperwork to prove it. You want a concealed gun permit? I’ll show you a conceal gun permit.

“Why do you need to carry a concealed weapon?” Acaphlegmic asked him.

“Because you never know,” came the response. “You never know.”

Acaphlegmic stepped back, keeping his distance. I must confess, I’ve never seen him do that before. He eyed me, stroking his chin like it might be some sort of signal that I’d missed. Was he ready to bolt and wanted to give me the heads-up?

We were down crashing with Urban Sophisticat to celebrate a milestone birthday of his. At the moment however, the plethora of booze we brought seemed like something of a liability, what with his arsenal in arms reach. Things could get real ugly, real fast.

Our obvious concern was waved off impatiently as the result of an inherent anti-gun bias we as visitors from Canada possessed.

“It’s not like I just went out and bought all these, willy-nilly. I took lessons. I am a trained… firearm enthusiast. Nothing to fear here.”

“Is that an uzi?” Acaphlegmic asked.

Again, Urban Sophisticat waved him off like he’d just asked the most ridiculous question an adult could ever ask in the situation. Following where Acaphlegmic was pointing, the killing apparatus looked pretty much like an uzi to me. But I really only had the movies and TV to go by.

“I’m not insane,” Urban Sophisticat assured us. “An uzi would be overkill at this point. But that little sweetheart would do the trick in a pinch.” He began gathering up the various fire arms.

“Come on. Let’s go. Let me show you how it’s done.”

At this point? What on earth could he mean by that? In a pinch?!

*  *  *

The shooting range was something of a disappointment, mostly because Urban Sophisticat’s behaviour had heightened our expectations for a hepped-up, Tarantino, bring out the gimp kind of experience. We’d pulled into the parking lot of a nondescript, side street unit on the other side of a southeast Florida interstate, mixed in with no-name auto parts stores, lawn furniture outlets and ubiquitous gentlemen’s clubs. A strip mall’s poor cousin; its anchor coffee shop, Dunkin Donuts, a couple blocks away.

The staff was very friendly. Clearly Urban Sophisticat had become something of a regular. No one was put out by us novices in their midst although the rules of the place were cited as if we were grade schoolers. That was OK since we were both too intimidated to take any umbrage. Results of not adhering to the rules around here could be fatal.

Not only was the place a shooting range but also a gun shop. There were lots of guns. Machine guns hung up on the walls behind one of the counters. Shotgun teepees positioned in a couple places on the floor. Cabinet after cabinet of hand guns, ranging from the tiniest of pistols favoured by riverboat gamblers to Dirty Harry’s very own Magnum opus. (Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? More ill-informed gun references generated from the movies.) Firearm accessories filled much of the remaining floor space.

Urban Sophisticat led us — now tricked out in protective eye and ear wear — through a set of double doors into what I’d call the shooting gallery. We were the early birds but were quickly joined by a surprising number of fellow marksmen, what with it being a Tuesday morning and all. Aside from that, nothing out of the ordinary or overly cinema-esque.

There was an older couple, three lanes to the right of us both of whom smiled kindly in our direction when they entered. The man twice giving me an encouraging thumbs up in a sort of, ain’t this a whole lot of fun kind of way. Another older woman soon occupied the lane beside them. Beyond her, a suspendered business man type popped in for a few rounds.

On the other side of us, there were a couple dudes you might find in a movie version of this. Deadly serious about the business of shooting, if I were to guess, I’d say they conducted an IT consulting business out of their respective basements or maybe ran a comic book store. A young guy further along seemed to be having a lot of trouble sorting things out. He had to go out for assistance a number of times during our stay. The last one ended with the staff member, mildly irritated, stating he had no idea what was wrong with the kid’s gun and suggesting he take it back to where he bought it for a refund.

No one else seemed too concerned over the fact there was someone within (a-hem.. a-hem) shooting range who wasn’t expertly handling what might be a faulty hand gun. So I tried to push the thought from my mind.

For his part, Urban Sophisticat was the model of patience and cool-headedness. Nothing like the wild-eyed, Ted Nugent zealot we thought he might be. We had a go with four guns he’d brought, a couple Ruger 22s, a magnum and a charger, and two handguns, a Ruger 22 Take Down and a Smith & Wesson 22.

Shooting with my first ever, non-air rifle I’d like to say I had some sort of epiphany about gun use. That I’d clicked into understanding the appeal and rabid devotion many have to the past time. But no. No, I did not.

I’ll take most of the blame for that. I’m just not relaxed or calm enough to ready, take a breath, follow the little red dot, aim, exhale, fire. My main concern was keeping all my digits away from any moving parts and not sustaining any injuries from, what did they call it again?, the kickback.

Acaphlegmic turned out to be much more sanguine about our outing, taking to the long guns like a natural. “His archery training,” he later claimed. He and Urban Sophisticat conversed about the ins-and-outs of proper technique, if the thing was drawing left and how to compensate, etc., etc.

At least I think that’s what they were talking about. It was hard to follow along, what will all the noise around us and my searing lack of interest. But mostly, the noise.

That was the main take away from my morning with guns. It was loud. Fucking loud. I gave up trying to talk much as to really hear anything, you needed to lift one of the protectors from your ear. If someone anywhere on the range pulled the trigger while you did so, it was deafening. Fucking deafening.

It all left me very jumpy. I couldn’t wait to finish up. In fact, I left the other two behind to empty their cartridges in order to head out to try and relax in the sunshine.

When we were all in the car, heading back to Urban Sophisticat’s place, I asked him how many times a week did this.

“A couple. Three times maybe. It’s an expensive habit to develop.”

“And fucking loud, too,” I added. “Aren’t you jittery all the time after doing it? Startling at any loud sound?”

Urban Sophisticat smiled, nodded his head for a bit. In the backseat, Acaphlegmic took aim at passing cars with a pretend rifle.

“You got to get used to being jumpy, my friend,” Urban Sophisticat finally answered. “We’re living in jittery times.”


I decided not to pursue the conversation and settled into the passenger seat to watch the passing scenery. Hopefully, this was just another phase Urban Sophisticat was prone to go through. Like that time he took up smoking a pipe. I far preferred him smoking a pipe.

gun shyly submitted by Cityslikr

The Age of Ralph Kramden

July 27, 2011

A wise person (with a tendency for using somewhat salty language) once said to me: If you want people to stop calling you a dick, stop being a dick and stop saying dickish things. Ahhh, granny. Never one to pull her punches.

Seems straightforward enough but I guess some people can’t help themselves. Being a dick is just part of who they are, it’s in their DNA. Dickish by nature.

On a completely unrelated note, what a past few days for Mayor Ford and Brother Doug, eh? The mayor driving around, talking on his cell phone, and may or may not have given another driver the finger when confronted about his illegal activity. Not to be outdone Councillor Ford continued his War on Books, slagging Margaret Atwood (who he may or may not know of), making up any old shit about the usefulness and numbers of libraries in his neck of the woods and just generally running neck-and-neck with his brother in a race to earn the biggest WTF?! headline.

Most people might be a bit, I don’t know, embarrassed by such glowing for the wrong reasons behaviour. But embarrassment doesn’t seem to be a particular Ford family trait unless it’s foisted upon them and then reluctantly mouthed because there is no other way to worm out of it. Enforced contrition, let’s call it, rarely worth the paper it’s printed out on.

Back in my day, such willful disregard of the truth, criticism and civility was greeted with a large degree of disdain and righteous mockery. I’ll even use a big word here. Opprobrium. In fact, such displays on my part might mean me, granny and a switch meeting behind the woodshed. People were not celebrated or esteemed for ignorance. Well thought out, well articulated ideas weren’t scorned as being elitist or out-of-touch egghead-y.

Or is that just me, looking back foggily through misty nostalgic eyes?

I don’t remember anyone arrogantly touting their know-nothingness. Except, of course, for the actual Know-Nothings, and they were a little before my time. We didn’t shy away from leaders who were smarter than we were. We didn’t resent them for their knowledge, education or erudition. Even the inveterate liar and all-round snake, Richard Nixon, knew stuff although it should be noted that he was a trailblazer in stirring up and appealing to the resentment that fueled his Silent Majority. Nixon was many things but a dummy was not one of them.

Not so, our current crop of politicians. They stumble over themselves to prove that they are as ill-informed, myopic and just-one-of-youse as the part of the electorate they successfully woo. We’re no politicians, they assure us, as they seek public office. Elect me and I’ll see to it that nothing smart, innovative or progressive is ever enacted while I’m in charge.

Let me confess at this point that I am not a Margaret Atwood reader, having never recovered from the imposition of Surfacing upon me against my will as a schoolboy. In fact, my fiction reading over the last few years has been in shockingly short supply. Neither do I attend the theatre much anymore. Atom Egoyan be leaning on my last nerve, yo. I’ve never been a fan of dance, modern or classic. And don’t get me started about opera.

I tell you this with no sense of pride or in boast. In fact, I consider it a serious character flaw on my part. Something I should try and rectify if only I could stop watching so much baseball on these sultry summer nights.

But I am not suspicious of those who are fiction fans or opera enthusiasts. On matters that I am interested in, I seek out those who know more about subject than I do. I want to learn from them to increase my own knowledge. To better myself as a thinker and citizen. Sure, it can be intimidating and you have to let go a little of the ego that keeps telling you you’re the smartest guy in the room. I’d like to think it’s worth it, though, in the long run. How can striving to be more intelligent or, at least, informed be a bad thing?

Or wanting that inclination in our elected officials? Where exactly does dumbing down get us? Into a litany of quagmire wars and occupations throughout the world. An economy teetering on the brink of insolvency. Anti-innovation. Antiquated urban development. Regression, regression, regression at every level of public policy.

This jonesing for anti-intellectualism is seemingly impenetrable too. Any questioning of it is seen as an attack from snobby elites. It’s not a debate or discussion. It’s denigration. You think you’re smarter than me? Yeah well, go fuck yourself. I knows what I knows and nobody’s going to convince me otherwise.

So being bull-headed and mentally intransigent is not a vice but a virtue. Honest deliberation and compromise is a weakness to be exploited. Gut beats brains, hands down. Dickish behaviour is now a proven winning formula. Girls swoon. Boys emulate. A Nation forms behind it.

Where once we succeeded in sending a man to the moon, we now endeavour only to send Alice to the moon. One of these days, Alice. One of these days.

gleasonly submitted by Cityslikr

Imitate The Sun

June 16, 2011

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

 — Henry VI, Act 1, scene 2

Yes, I used to know my Shakespeare, back when I believed such ‘fancy’ stuff like that made a lick of difference in this world. I was younger then. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. Hopelessly naïve. The real world had not yet set me on the more adult path of bitterness, despair and pitiful, pitiful acceptance of the ho-hum humdrum.

But I do remember this particular passage. Not so much the words themselves as the sentiment, the conceit. I am reminded of it often these days, watching in disbelief the antics of the low grade politicians that call themselves ‘conservatives’.

When the realization of their victory begins to sink in, whether in its inevitability running up to an election or in the hazy daze of their improbable win, we like to take comfort and soothe ourselves in the belief that, well, it won’t be so bad. They were just saying all that to get elected. Once in office, reality will set in. They’ll have to compromise. After all, we didn’t elect a king! This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia.

It is the lowered bar of expectations. Not a question of how good they will be but how bad they won’t be. By anticipating the worst, we are, if not pleasantly surprised when that doesn’t come to pass, relieved at least that the world didn’t blow up or the institutions of governance remain functioning even at a diminished capacity. The sun still rises and the birds continue to sing.

The one big difference, however, between our modern day conservatives and the Bard’s heroic man who would be king, Hal, is that the fictional prince actually cleared the bar, spectacularly so, much to the woe of Hotspur and, ultimately, the French at Agincourt. This story shall the good man teach his son/And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by/From this day to the ending of the world/But we in it shall be remembered/We few, we happy few, we band of brothersAnd gentlemen in England now-a-bed/Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here/And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks/That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

By the time Prince Harry became King Henry, his sordid youth, his delinquent past, those low expectations served only as a counterweight, a compare and contrast to the glorious achievements he would attain once he stepped out from behind “…the base contagious clouds…” that did “…smother up his beauty from the world…” and broke “…through the foul and ugly mists/Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.” Hoo-rah! Long live the King!

Conservatives these days never intend to clear that bar. They simply bull through, knocking it off its posts and insist on lowering it ever so slightly, incrementally so, to make another anemic attempt to hoist themselves awkwardly over it. We can survive the occasional misadventure but a steady stream of deliberate failures weakens us little by little, bit by bit.

In this rigged set-up, only the politicians and leaders who aim higher and exhort us to believe in the possibility of positive, inclusive change are the ones that flame out spectacularly. We expected so much. They promised us the moon but failed to deliver. Sure, we might be better off than when we started. But you promised us the moon.

Our conservatives suffer under no such illusions of grandeur. We expect the worst and appreciate it when that doesn’t actually come to pass. Oh well, we shrug. It’s bad, sure. But it could’ve been a whole lot worse. We sink back into a funk and seem content when we’re informed that we no longer want politicians who offer up grand visions or designs.

From Hal to Homer we’ve traveled. Homer Simpson that is, not the Odyssey Homer. “Trying is the first step to failure.” It is the mantra of the conservative movement. Hey. We can’t do anything for you. Stop thinking we can. Elect me. So we do and the sad fact is, we are never disappointed.

epically submitted by Cityslikr

The Day Conservatism Died

April 19, 2011

Does anyone know the exact date when conservatism ceased operations as a productive, positive contributor to society? At what point of time in its supposed illustrious history did it stop offering up ideas and solutions that consisted of more complex notions than could fit perfectly on a placard, bumper sticker or that a two year-old could remember and recite? Was it a sudden jolt like a meteor strike that made the post-Enlightenment air toxic to the more progressives in their movement or did they just gradually rid themselves of reason, rational thought and a belief in the common good?

Was the last true conservative of the Burkian mold in the plane with Buddy Holly that fateful night in February 1959?

We know traditional political conservatism has been under attack in the U.S. since the crushing defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. It was put on the endangered list under Richard Nixon and the last species spotted during the Reagan Revolution. Our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents’ conservatism went extinct when George W. Bush move into the Oval Office in January 2001.

But here in Canada, conservatism survived a little longer, dying a slower death. Perhaps it was fatally infected with the 1988 Free Trade Deal and our closer integration with the United States. The ‘neo’ in neo-conservatism began to rub off on us. With the rise of western alienation, the Reform Party and Alberta with its U.S. style conservatism as an oil producing, economic force. The progressive in the Progressive Conservative leaked away, lapped up by the Jean Chretien-Paul Martin Liberals, eager to bolster their right flank.

Ontario dipped its toe into the new conservative waters when it embraced Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution in the mid-90s, rejecting and ultimately putting a bullet in the head of the red Toryism that had ruled the land for over 40 years until 1985. After 8 years, the province return to its traditional progressive conservative roots when it elected Liberal Dalton McGuinty. The actual Progressive Conservative now exists in name only.

Unlike their neo-conservative soul mates at the federal level who, with the PC-Canadian Alliance/Reform Party amalgamation, jettisoned any last vestige of progressive thought or policy. Finally, it’s Morning in Canada. Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem. Taxes are bad. Science is bad. Peacekeeping is for pussies. In-depth gathering of data in order to more thoroughly define and guide public policy is an invasion of privacy and must be eliminated. An added bonus if you’re planning to build more prisons and get tougher on crime in the face of evidence pointing to dropping rates of criminal behaviour.

Statistics and facts be damned when we’ve got naked ideology to propel us forward back to the 17-century!

It wasn’t too long ago that kind of political thinking would’ve relegated you to the fringes. Yet now the Conservatives are within serious striking distance of securing a majority victory, able to count on a third of the electorate for steadfast support for what can only be described as an antediluvian outlook. Hell, in the so-called liberal hotbed of Toronto, nearly 50% of the voters rallied behind Rob Ford – the poster child for narrow-minded, anti-government, pithy slogans as policy platforms politicians — as their choice for mayor last fall. We are now in the process of witnessing up close and personal just much how respect we taxpayers should expect from neo-conservative politicians.

Which, judging by the craziness going on to the south of us at the hands of the self-proclaimed Tea Party movement, should be next to nil. The thing is, when conservatives abandoned their core principle as stated by Glen Worthington, “…the essence of conservatism lies not in a body of theory, but in the disposition to maintain those institutions seen as central to the beliefs and practices of society”, the day traditional conservatism died, all bets were off. Neo-conservatives bear no responsibility to anyone aside from themselves. What’s good for them as individuals is good for society. End stop. Edmund Burke and the like deposed by Ayn Rand. Ask not what your country can do for you because it’s going to do fuck all. And certainly don’t ask what you can do for your country as, well, that would just be an imposition, an impingement of my individual freedom and liberty.

And those of us not sharing that particularly libertarian worldview have much blame to shoulder for the current conservative-less situation. By accepting any tenets of the faith, from its creeping anti-governmentalism to the bogus trickle-down economic theory, we lent it credibility and gave it traction. We helped make the lunatic acceptable and now find ourselves having to defend against what is essentially an alternate reality where up is down, black is white and tax cuts generate increased revenue for the public purse.

An alternate reality where the likes of Ezra Levant are considered worthy of having a spot on television to discuss politics. Yes, as a matter of fact, he did compare the CBC to a North Korean state run broadcast. With a straight face!

Watching what I could stomach of yesterday’s launch of Sun TV, two words immediately sprung to mind: cable access. Back when honest to god conservatism was still alive and well, that’s where crackpots like Mr. Levant et al would’ve been relegated if they wanted to air their fetid, malignant views out in public. Or a soapbox in the corner of a park.While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly how it is traditional conservatism died, I think we can officially call time of death. It was April 18th 2011, 4:30pm EDT.

sympathetically submitted by Cityslikr

These Happy Days Are Yours And Mine

March 6, 2011

It is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile Mayor Ford’s approach to governing and his relatively young age. Just into his 40s, the Ford Nation feels more and more like one ruled by an octogenarian. Maybe it’s because the mayor’s blinkered sensibility is formed exclusively by his view out over his suburban backyard and through his windshield. City life, to his way of thinking, as depicted by the seminal documentary of the 1950s, Happy Days.

The latest manifestation of this is the mayor’s declared War on Graffiti. Signaling an about-face from an earlier decision just after the mayor was elected to target graffiti only on a complaint basis, the city issued over 150 removal notices along Queen Street in just 10 days, catching business owners and the local BIA by surprise in the process. The removal notices appear to make no distinction between your run of the mill graffiti and commissioned murals, bringing to mind a variation on that old standard, I may not know much about art but I know what I don’t like.

This follows an earlier eyebrow raiser last month when the Brickworks received notice for 13 graffiti violations. That chair of the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee that polices matters of graffiti, Councillor Cesar Palacio, has somewhat softened his original hard line stance that graffiti is graffiti, comes as little consolation in light of the Queen Street blitz. The city’s aggressive proactive approach puts the onus on homeowners and businesses to prove that they’re not besmirching the cityscape with graffiti regardless if there have been any complaints from neighbours, belying the mayor’s claim to be looking out for the little guy.

So the mayor campaigned on a promise of taking City Hall’s hands out of the taxpayers’ pockets but seems to have little compunction in unleashing the bureaucracy on them if they don’t measure up to his artistic or community standards.

Which must be a trait of his strain of Tea Party-like reactionary conservatism. As Bill Maher said on his show Friday night, in the U.S. the Tea Party got elected on a straight forward platform of slaying government spending and debt but has quickly moved on to things like attacking collective bargaining, reproductive rights and almost everything else with a progressive stench of secularism. Mayor Ford has similarly set his sights outside of the fiscal realm. He’s trying to push LRTs underground. He’s asked the province to declare the TTC an essential service. Now this wading into public order with an ill-defined, if-I-don’t-like-or-understand it assault on graffiti, he’s revealing his inner non-libertarian and very authoritarian self.

Mayor Ford’s also exposing an attitude toward urbanism that is decades behind the times. A clean, whitewashed main street, full of mom and pops stores, soda shops and cruising the drag on a Saturday night. (No, most definitely not that kind of cruising or drag.) It is an intolerance to differing opinions and tastes, chock full of patronizing father-knows-bestism. Not to mention counter-productive and, ultimately, carrying an additional financial burden to households and small business owners. Eliminating commissioned murals clears out space for less agreeable forms of graffiti and tagging which those owning the buildings will have to constantly spend time and money dealing with. It also appropriates police resources which surely would be put to better use on more pressing issues the city faces.

All in pursuit of what? In a speech he gave to the Board of Trade earlier this year, the mayor said “It’s [graffiti] just out of control. Nobody likes it. It doesn’t help our city. I want people to come to the city and say wow this is spotless, and it is safe.” Note the mental myopia. The world seen only through his eyes. I don’t like graffiti so nobody likes graffiti. It’s stunningly monochromatic and reveals a remarkable lack of empathy. Never mind the Sunday School logic of equating cleanliness with safety. In addition to the mayor having obviously spent his youth watching the wholesome adventures of Richie, Potsie, Ralph and the Fonz, my guess is he also overdosed on regular viewings of The Warriors.

This is the danger of electing a mayor with such unsophisticated thinking who lacks any sort of wider vision for the city. He governs based purely on pet peeves and petty prejudices. Unchecked, we face four years not looking toward the future but back at an idealized past that never existed except in the minds of those like Mayor Ford.

heyyyyly submitted by Cityslikr