Saturday, September 14, 2013

Resistanceless Resistance

Nearly everybody of note (and any number of un-notables) seem to want to bat around the concept of "leaderless resistance" and its pros and cons like a cat at Christmas with a wad of wrapping paper.

Well, spiffy, blogfodder for me, yay, and no muscle strain involved.


1) There ain't no leader.
2) There ain't no army.
3) There ain't no Rebel Alliance with an air force and a secret base squirreled away anywhere, or most of us would have run away to join that circus long since.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone reasonably well-informed.
But the deal-breaker is
4) There ain't no Resistance.

Because, there isn't.
There's a trail of people ranging from the mildly amused to the frothingly malcontented who are all opposed to what passes for governance in these here United States. The vast majority can't and won't be gathered into anything larger than what would constitute a big rush at Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon.

Most of the few who'd actually show up couldn't pass muster at the recruiter's office, even were they inclined, and many of those because they already did so, and so long ago as to be time out of mind.

And what that leaves is nothing but a mob and a rabble, which is as far from a resistance as amoeba are from apes, even if we assume Darwin got it mostly right.

So, long before we get to a Rebel Alliance trying to reinstate the Old Republic, it would probably be helpful to have some actual rebels.

We aren't going to have those anytime soon, and here's why:

Americans are not "joiners", until push comes to shove comes to somebody starts shooting at somebody else, and then some.

Historical precedents?
The Declaration of Independence languished in Congress for more than a year after Lexington and Concord.
John Brown and his abolitionist fanatics were jeered by the bulk of the nation, not just even, but especially in the north, as a bunch of bomb-throwing lunatics. He was hung in short order without so much as a burp or hiccup from society. Fort Sumter was another matter.
It took Wilson the better part of three years of chivvying and multiple U-boat attacks, and Roosevelt two years, to get the US into separate World Wars, and even FDR had to wait until the Japanese helpfully sneak-attacked us. But the next day, the lines at the recruiters' offices were a mile long.

So we have a long and strong tradition, and not entirely unreasonable, to wait until someone starts shooting at us before anybody is inclined to reach for the rifles. This separates us from most of Europe, and all of Africa and Central and South America, and it's not really a bad thing.

So forget a leaderless resistance, or a led resistance, until you've first gotten Darth and his Evil Empire to square off against, unless you want to look like the 21st century equivalent of John Brown and his hapless bunch of nutballs. (Of which, even a casual tour of the interwebz will attest, there is currently no shortage. And most of them truthfully are people you wouldn't even speak to in person, and if you had the unfortunate luck to greet, would induce you to bathe afterwards, after securely bolting your doors.)

What does that leave?

Well, 21st century life has left us severely short of stevedores and farm and ranch hands of sturdy build and long hours of physical labor since youth. Which, once again, anyone who's ever run a platoon of recruits would confirm.

So the most important thing anyone can actually do, and which ups the stakes from internet bravado to actual get-off-your-ass commitment, is undertake the same regimen beloved of drill instructors since time immemorial:

> Go do PT.
Not pilates, or yoga, or tofu wrestling and coffee swizzling at the Bean and Bonehead Cafe.
Get off your ass, work on pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups, until you approach and/or exceed military-grade levels of performance (available any number of places online).
Then do at least a Daily Seven (look it up if you're unfamiliar!) of calisthenics as a warm up, and proceed to run, increasing distance and endurance, until you meet or exceed the same levels as the military ground forces expect.

> Get at least a decent rifle (first!) and a decent pistol, and learn to shoot both proficiently.
And not just at paper targets while you stand stock-still at rock-throwing range.

> Start hiking, and up the distance and weight carried, until you can carry say 60# for 20 miles in a day.

Boot camp takes sedentary videogamers and turns them into hardcore military animals by instilling physical fitness, rapid obedience to orders, and practical marksmanship into them, at which point they are barely qualified to begin to learn how to be part of an army, or the equivalent.

If any or all of that is beyond your means, will, or ability, then you've already self-selected yourself out of the pointy end of any resistance anywhere anytime.

Even if you do accomplish it, you may only end up more physically fit, and able to defend yourself from the dregs of society, which is no mean improvement in your status. But it isn't a green beret either. You undertake the preparation in the knowledge that events may transpire such that your further services are never required. O happy day.

And failing to do that means you also flunk the "rapid obedience to orders" component, in this case the order of common sense in making basic preparations, and which skill no one can inspire on the internet unless Jedi mind tricks would also work on you.

Those who attempt this, and have the will but not the ability, have thus selected themselves down from the pointy end, to a lower level of the pyramid, into the ranks of what John Mosby calls on his mountainguerrilla blog, the support or Auxilliary levels.

But if you aren't motivated to do something beyond banging on your keyboards, you're just part of the "chattering class", of which there is no shortage, and frequently little utility once things get sporty.

Less than one person in one hundred (or, probably, a thousand) will make or is making any attempt to achieve even such a basic level of personal preparation as basic physical and martial prowess coupled with the ability to take a hike.

Hence the title of this post, and the observation that the first ingredient for a salad is the unstated necessity to begin by planting a garden.

Go plant that particular Liberty Garden, or shaddup already.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9/12 Thoughts

I'm not a day late on this. I don't have any 9/11 thoughts. 9/11/01 was twelve years ago. The victims and perpetrators, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, are still dead. The man who planned and orchestrated the attack is dead. (Huzzah, Navy SeALs!) So are several successive generations of Al Queda's second tier, and countless thousands of jihadi wannabes, courtesy of the finest men and women serving in any military at any time in history. Because after watching mere office workers step off the 90th floor into Oblivion, how could anyone sane or intelligent (which eliminates jihadis on both counts) not know with utter certainty that we were going to deliver a smackdown of biblical proportions, because America?!?

But that's the past.

My thoughts turn to 9/12, and dealing with right here, right now. This whole thing went all pear-shaped the moment we started restricting our civil liberties here, instead of blowing the imaginary civil liberties of terrorists there to Mars on a cloud of shrapnel and nitrocellulose.

In no particular order:

Dear President Assclown: Just stop. Go sit down. Dubbya, love him or hate him, spent months building a coalition, and making the case worldwide for more months before committing a single troop to harm's way. Of course, unlike you, he actually served, so golfing and doing reefers before this bong-hit decision making wasn't the option it apparently is in the White House today. When you finish the box of cupcakes and three bags of potato chips, c'mon back to Earth, and sit your ass down. And hang up the phone. 87% of your own "supporters" know you've fallen on your head on this thing. Step away from the red phone, before you get a blister from thinking too hard. If you hadn't mostly sacked everyone above brigadier who'd tell you that your crack-smoking fantasies about how we go to war won't work here, they'd all stand up and tell you the same thing, and a good bit more tactfully, but as you've shown no sign of intelligence thus far, let alone listening to criticism, in your entire life, I feel I'm on pretty safe territory here, as the odds of you reading this are only slightly lower than the odds of you being able to comprehend it in the first place. But just to cover the bases, I say it again: step away from the military option. Guns are for grown-ups, and you're hopelessly under qualified on that score.

Abandon forever the asstardian idea from Colon Powell (that's not a typo, he must've been talking out his back end) of "You break it, you bought it". That's fine for antique shops, but retarded foolishness in international affairs. Which folly has been amply demonstrated in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, to date. 
It's time to return to our traditional response: "If we break it, you damned sure had it coming, and we're going to keep on breaking it until you jackholes stay in your little effing swamp and leave us the hell alone. And if high explosives don't make the point, we can start dealing cards measured in kilotons and megatons. Ask Japan how that works with fanatics who don't understand the concept of unconditional surrender. Tell 'em Harry Truman sent you."
Let's just call that the Aesop Get Off My Lawn Doctrine of American Geopolitics.

And we let Iran know their clock runs out in 24 hours, then we send the bombers every day until they surrender.

If terrorists shoot an American, we should bomb their village into powder. If they hijack a plane, we should erase their home country's airport, and forbid its reconstruction indefinitely. If they attack a ship, we seize their fleet of oil tankers. They get hissy and kill people over cartoons of their prophet, we level Mecca. That is how you break bad habits from childish thugs with access to adult toys. When the countries who harbor them and give them aid live in mortal fear that anyone remotely connected to them is going to bring the entire USAF down around their heads in the morning, to the point that they bring us a platter of heads of the guilty if an American tourist gets so much as a stubbed toe or an undercooked steak, we can focus on more important things. I'm betting they run out of villages and airports and oil tankers long before we need to go to three shifts a day at the Amalgamated Ordnance Factory, but either way, I'm willing to risk it to send that message. You've reached our saturation point, so either straighten up and mind your own business, or else we're dusting off plans for your country after we eradicate you from it and re-introduce endangered species to graze over your bones and rubble. Simple, clear, and unambiguous.

Disband the TSA, and break up DHS into its constituent pieces, minus DHS.
We don't need the reichssicherheitshauptamt here, and never did. Those fat bozos couldn't find their asses with both hands, a map, and a rear-view mirror, and all they've done is molest millions, irradiate millions more, and never do anything but terrorize law-abiding citizens, rape the Constitution, loot luggage, sleep on the job, and generally fuck things up seven ways to Sunday. We don't need them; we have the IRS and the US Postal Service for that, and we can't afford the pensions, even if all the president's cronies and illegal alien relatives are currently qualified for the TSA accelerated management program.

It's time for Church-style hearings on the NSA.
Frank Church gutted and crippled the CIA in the mid-70s, just in time to handicap us from seeing the tsunami shift coming in Iran, and totally miss the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
The NSA, nominally about keeping us safe from foreign threats, has instead turned their energies on the much easier target of ass-raping the Bill of Rights, and creating 1984 on steroids among harmless Americans. Just because Hopey Dopey is the incompetent jacktard of all-time as an Affirmative Action President, doesn't mean one of the next few screwballs won't be Stalin or Napoleon. So if ever an agency needed to be gut-shot, filleted, and fenestrated from a twelfth-floor window, it's the mostly secret leviathan at Fort Meade.
And the first senator who calls for these hearings, and offers blanket amnesty to Snowden, is the front-runner in 2016.
When the NSA puts their energy into spying solely on foreign enemies once again, and none into their current Orwellian nightmare program of hometeam civilian snooping, maybe they can be safely turned loose, provided they have actual adult supervision. 

Reagan, the consummate D.C. outsider, knew this 35 years ago: government isn't the solution to anything (except unbridled freedom and prosperity, both of which it consumes like a grizzly on crack), government is the problem.

We need to kill Obamacare, wean down Social Security and Medicare, and gut entitlements before they suck the last drop of life out of this economy. If we don't, it's already past too late, and the only question will be the severity of the Depression we embark upon when the music stops, and there aren't any chairs for anyone in this rigged Ponzi scheme of an economy.
Our Founders recognized that political and economic freedom go hand in hand, so it's no wonder Obama and his burrowing socialist would-be overlords have done everything both incompetence and malice could achieve in order to undercut, undermine, and hamstring our economic health.

Including throw open the floodgates to tens of millions of illegals. Slamming that door once and for all, on both security and economic grounds, and taking a pause on legal immigration, except for those with actual English-speaking ability, documented higher education sufficient to establish a weekly income, and a burning desire for life as a free American, for about the next 50 years. That'll give the hordes of faux-indigenous peasantry time to either return home to their former Third World paradises, or assimilate to the dominant American culture and let their children take a crack at learning English and making a successful life, rather than jacking it at the point of either their knives or Uncle Sam's gun from those who've figured out how to earn a decent living following the rules.

If we hack away the nonsense that's strangling this country, the rebirth of freedom would be like a rocket launch from Cape Kennedy. If we don't, it's going to be like the launch of the shuttle Challenger, and we're all inside the cockpit.

And on that note, a free people are a restless people, and a questing people. When I was but a small boy, we not only conquered space, we kicked its ass, early, and under-budget. And we haven't equalled that feat in 44 years, nor even come close, which has been more than a peripheral reason for the malaise that socialism inflicts every time it's tried.

So it's time to stop resting on the laurels earned by men now nearly all dead, and earn some of our own by people not even yet selected for the next missions. It's time we got the bureaucrats out of space exploration, and brought back the engineer-dreamers, and started exploring the rest of our solar system and the rest of the universe, just because we can.

And anyone who can't understand that about America needs to move to a hut in the Third World rainforest, weave some flip flops out of palm fronds, and live on a diet of grubs and tofu cakes.

 Our people are too great to be contained by a stagnant prosperity, little dreams, and big government, they need the freedom that comes from small government, booming prosperity, and huge dreams. We aren't built for anything less, and we demand nothing more.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Of Shortages: Ammunition and Brains

Some of you, doubtless, have noted a dearth of .22LR ammunition.
It isn't just your imagination.

For dissemination far and wide:

The genius jacktards of the Greater Gun Conglomerate Community have independently and individually decided, some months back into the Great Ammo Debacle Part II, to simply cease outright and for unspecified future notice, all production of .22 rimfire ammunition.

Some observations, by the numbers:

1) Yes, it's their ball, and their game, but it was still asinine, stupid, shortsighted, and every other Dictionary of Synonyms reference for having their heads firmly clenched somewhere north of their diaphragm from an entry point south of the pelvic girdle.

2) It allowed them to focus on fulfilling with much greater rapidity the demand for centerfire ammunition of all types, where their own mark-ups are suitably higher per pound of product.

3) It totally overlooks the marketplace which, rightly or wrongly, uses the availability/dearth of .22LR as a keynote species of scarcity, concluding that if bread/milk/eggs/unleaded gas/.22LR is in short supply, even if 9mm is available by case lots, the zombies must nevertheless be right up the road shuffling hereward as we speak.

4) The predictable result of 1, 2, and 3 above being people with a 20-year supply of .22LR flinging themselves on any sighting of .22LR sufficient to achieve their goal of a 30-year supply of same, with all the alacrity of a DSC/Navy Cross candidate hurling himself on a hand grenade to save his buddies, or any past or current mayor of Washington D.C. hurling himself on a bag of crack rocks.

5) The utter yet predictable oblivion of The Powers That Be in the Greater Gun Conglomerate Community to the market forces resulting from 1, 2, 3, and 4 being that .22LR will continue in short supply until the manufacturers either catch up with demand on everything else (with currently only 3 years' backorders instead of the recently reported 10 years' worth), or decide that they are, in fact, creating and exacerbating this problem themselves, which epiphany will be notable by the sounds of a loud series of THWUNK-like sounds from somewhere behind the production panjandrums of the folks who run Federal, Remington, Winchester, CCI/Speer, etc., et al, and a notable pinkening of their complexions from increased oxygenation to their cranial spaces.

As such a remarkable confluence of them pulling their collective heads out simultaneously has never been observed before in the wild, I wouldn't expect to sight such Black Swan-like events anytime in the foreseeable future.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Good Judgement vs. The Other Kind

Recently both a friend's experience and a recent local news story have highlighted once again the dangers of driving while tired.

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. Lest I appear to be holier than thou, I offer the following cautionary tale.

After having finished approximately six weeks of desert maneuvers in the garden paradise that is Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, we returned to Camp Pendleton, and germane to this story, on a Thursday. The plan was to return to work on Friday, clean up everything, and then enjoy a long Memorial Day weekend. Like my charges, I was to clean up, get a good night's rest, and awake refreshed and ready to confront the one-day blitz of work before a well-earned 72-hour liberty.

I, however, was invincible and immortal, and had a fiancee only a short hour and a half north in the greater Los Angeles area, not to mention friends and family in my home of record therein. The fact that I'd been awake 22 hours a day for most of that six weeks meant nothing but that I could surely make the easy drive home, enjoy home cooking and a real bed, and return early and refreshed to supervise the de-crudding of trucks, howitzers, men, and personal gear, thus having my cake and eating it too.

Thus it was that I set out, attired in PT gear and flip-flops, for a journey in sunny SoCal pre-summer broad daylight, for a trip much shorter than the S.S. Minnow's "three-hour tour", and which, in realty, was to be about as eventful.

I headed northwards along a relatively lightly-trafficked stretch of I-5. My trusty steed, a vintage Ford Escort, hummed along doing 80 in the fast lane along the center divider, and just about at the halfway point, nearly adjacent to the I-5/I-405 split, nature took its course.

I was on a straightaway, trying to stay between the inevitable clots of traffic, in the empty stretch in between two herds of cars. And then, the Nap Monster tapped my sleep-deprived tender head from wide awake to out like a light.

Probably for only a split to at most a full second, whereupon I awoke, drifting gently but inexorably towards the only other vehicle anywhere around me, the old green pickup truck in lane #2. Being as young and stupid as any 25-year-old, my brain immediately commanded a full-on goggle-eyed spaz attack, and a panic stab of the brake before I hit the truck a few feet further along.

And now, Physics made an appearance, as the rear of the car made the decision to try and pass the front end, where the engine and drive train was located, the weight therein making it slow down more firmly that the lighter rear wheels.

Fully awake now and stone-cold brilliant, I deftly did exactly what one should do, having made at least two other mistakes already: I got off the brakes, and gently steered the wheel to the right, into the skid the rear end was attempting. And by cracky, it worked! Steve McQueen couldn't have done as well as I did in arresting the skid before it became catastrophic. But being less experienced than Steve, I had mildly overcompensated, and in short order, the rear end now tried to pass me on the left.

It was less urgent this time, and I steered into that skid as well. And once again, it was working. Car still doing 75, and brains doing 190, things were looking pretty good at this point. I worked a couple of smaller corrections in, and things were settling down, but Physics wasn't quite done with me for the day.

Because all this correcting had used up the last thing I didn't quite have enough of, which was space. In this case, between my car, and the adjacent, brand new, concrete barrier rail in the center divider.

Which is when, for an incredible moment time stood still, or at least moved with glacial slowness.

The left front tire kissed the edge of the barrier. Now, a steel barrier would have simply meant grinding metal, slowing, and an annoying slow-motion crunch. But CalTrans had cleverly decided that concrete barriers don't need replacing from accidents as often and expensively as metal barrier rail. And the new concrete barrier was wider at the bottom than the top, with an ever so graceful curvature to its profile.

The result, as wheel kissed concrete, was that I become the newest stuntman on the Dukes Of Hazzard Ride on the I-5. The concrete, instead of slowing me down, merely became the fulcrum to redirect that 75MPH of forward energy, and turn me into the most amazing Flying Corkscrew one could ever witness or experience first hand.

I am now airborne, still headed forward, and starting to spin clockwise.

At this point, the most glaring deficiency lighted the final caution light on my brain's Master Warning Display: seat belt not fastened. Well, FML.

No gibbering moron, I knew what that meant. Impending projectile status, followed by pain and agony, and probably a mangled end to a brief life. Because, pursuant to driving on several military posts, I'd dutifully attended and watched all the mandatory  Blood On The Pavement-esque matinee training films thrown at me, and knew with exquisite clarity my chances outside the vehicle at the speed it and I were currently travelling. Realizing at the last the magnitude of this error, I made a hasty bargain with God: He could, indeed, kill me at His pleasure, but I assured Him that were it so, t'would only be thus if the steering wheel were found at the scene firmly clenched in my lifeless hands, snapped off at the bolts from the steering column from which my trajectory had wrenched it. And so I spun onwards towards Eternity holding the only thing that mattered in a literally death-defying grip.

I'd like to say I saw everything, or that I clenched my eyes and saw nothing, but the truth is somewhere mixed between those options. But I absolutely heard every sound. And it went like this: metal-metal-metal-rubber-metal-metal-metal-rubber, as the car slid on the side, the roof, the other side, the wheels, and continued thusly, all the while as I sat, crouched over, seatbeltless, on the passenger seat, in a washing machine of broken glass and all the other items inside the car, until, after somewhere between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 twists, we - I, the glass fragments, the debris, my belongings, and my trusty Escort, all came to a simultaneous stop.

And, Sweet Jesus, I was alive and unharmed!
Guardian Angels 1, Senseless Mangled Demise 0!!!
And the crowd went wild!

I braced, in sudden unnatural silence, for what I was sure would be the counter climactic impact with a semi truck hitting me and shattering me into a thousand pieces.
I counted to ten silently.

Then, realizing the ride had come to a full and complete stop, I exited. Upside down, I disentangled my bare feet from amongst the pedals, removed my hands from the steering wheel where, I was certain, one could find my fingerprints pressed into the very plastic to this day. And I crawled out through a much smaller than normal passenger side window to face the day. I emerged, facing upstream in traffic, to a phenomenal sight.

From left to right, there were five lanes of traffic, completely dead-stopped, about 40 feet away from my car, now resting all the way over on the right hand side. And behind each wheel of every car as far as I could fleetingly note, every driver, white knuckles on the steering wheels of their cars, and three huge black "O"s on their face: two huge eyes, and one gaping black mouth, all like giant donuts.

I should have done a quick circus bow, having survived my stunt with such aplomb. Instead, I looked down, saw the handy white line to my left, and stepped approximately three feet over, to now stand off the actual driving lanes of the freeway. I'd crossed 5 lanes in about as many seconds, and ended up upside down and sideways. Driving between packs of cars had evidently given the following traffic time to stop and watch the show without joining in.

My military duffle bag, with six weeks of nasty clothes, had been sitting in the back seat. The ruckus had strewn it across 5 lanes of I-5 for 300 yards. Out of nowhere, a pickup truck with a couple pulled up on the right. They got out, handed me a full duffle bag, and said, "We saw your stuff go flying, so we got out in the stopped traffic, and put it all back in the bag." Which they plopped next to me. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Thanks!" I said.

"Our pleasure!" they replied, jumped into their truck, and were gone, that fast.
{Wherever and whoever you are, God Bless you.}

Traffic now picking it's way around my car, after suitable gawking, I decided getting my other items was in order, so I got down, reached inside, and retrieved my wallet, keys, flip flops and Timex watch from among the glass shards now resting on the roof of the car. Everything important had stayed with the car! The Timex, which 3 years of Marine Corps service on three continents had not broken, now had a shattered crystal, finally killed in a way military service couldn't accomplish. Then I started brushing and picking glass from my hair, eyebrows, and clothing.

Less than 30 seconds post exiting, the unheard off: CHP officer pulls up, looks at me, looks at the car, and asks, "Any survivors?"

"That'd be me."

"You were driving?"


"Didja have your seat belt on?"

"Oh, yes, officer, that's the law!"

He looked inside to assure himself there was no other headless blood-dripping corpse inside, then returned to his car to radio for a tow truck.

Less than a minute later, the local fire truck and ambulance are there. (Nota bene this is a good ten years pre-cellphone era.)
They look at the car, look at me, and ask "Any survivors?"


The paramedics see to me, make sure I haven't suffered some hidden calamitous injury.
Learning I'm an off-duty Marine (the high-and-tight haircut, and red and gold PT gear with obvious EGA emblem sort of let that cat out of the bag) "Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital? The base is right there." And they point to MCAS El Toro over yonder, from which the occasional jet is taking off and landing nearly overhead.

{Why yes, off course, sir. Please take me to the El Toro Base Naval Hospital, thus insuring that I'm in trouble there, and with my CO once he's informed at the speed of telephone that I elected to drive home, crashed my car, and was in all probability going to drive about 20 miles beyond the overnight liberty limits for my post, because I'm not only a lousy driver, but stupid, and I'd like a court martial to go along with my wrecked car, and soon to be jacked insurance rates. Because hey, since I can't drive anywhere, I might as well get a bust in rank and a pay cut plus a gratuitous kick in the junk to go with my misfortune, right?}

"Uh, no thanks sir, I'll be fine once I get the car towed away."

He looked really disappointed not to be able to help me, then his eyes lit up. "Hey, you're bleeding."

I had, in fact, acquired about a 1cm scratch through my t-shirt onto my right shoulder, barely skin deep, as I crawled out of the shattered glass passenger window. Still refusing the hospital ride, he wordlessly rummaged in his jump bag, handed me a band-aid, and an alcohol swab, and the fire department departed.

Now I was left to consider my car. All four wheels folded in flat against the undercarriage, it was, clearly, deader than canned tuna. And in looking at it, I was the one-in-a-million guy: if I had been wearing my seat belt, I'd have been belted upright in a car where the roof was now smashed down to about my collarbone level, and I too would be as dead as the car, and still happily strapped right behind the wheel, with my head helpfully folded out of the way down to the shoulder blades. Kids, don't try this at home!

The tow truck was in reality one of those flat-bed things, that lowered the bed, winched the dead car carcass onto it, strapped it down like an upended turtle, and proceeded to the nearest wreckatorium.

The drive over surface streets was what really drove home my great fortune in being alive, as pedestrians would stop and do a triple take, then stare at us as we made our unescorted procession to the car cemetery.

I finally got to a phone. My fiancee was relieved, because she'd heard there was a terrible accident on the I-5, and she knew how much I hated being stuck in traffic.

Breaking things to her gently, I told her I had good news and bad news. She elected for good news first, so I asked her, "You know that new car purchase we've been thinking about after the wedding...?"

In total, there were anywhere from 3-7 different highly improbable circumstances involved, which having been the recipient of, I have no shyness about calling miracles.
I should have been dead, then and there, several ways.

Instead of laughing about it at home a couple of hours late, as I did my laundry, ate pizza, and arranged to borrow a car to drive back in the morning.

So please, learn from my then-stupidity: If you're tired, pull off the highway and take a nap, or do whatever you need to do to be more awake. Don't drive tired, because it leads to dead with incredible rapidity, and it's just pointless. I don't ever risk it now, because I figure I've used up my share of miracles for one lifetime.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Plaintive Plea From the Peanut Gallery

I read, watch, listen to, and otherwise digest a lot of media content, particularly survival, preparedness, and related content. I appreciate those who've learned a thing or two sharing it, usually gratis, with the rest of us. And the last thing I ever want to do is complain about free ice cream, but...

I know, let's just consider this my free advice about your free advice.

1) EDIT is your friend.
I don't care whether it's a dissertation, a blog post, or a YouTube spot. You aren't showing your street cred when you leave in all the ummms, burps, hiccups, and perambulations across the pages of the English language with nary a visit to Dictionary Drive.
Instead, you're showing your @$$.
Computers have spell-check. Learn to use it. I confess to fingers which don't obey my personal rather anally-inclined spelling and punctuation, but that has more to do with the limitations of a laptop or smartphone keyboard than to poor grades in English or latent (or not-so-latent) retardation. I read over what I type, even in answer to someone else's blog, and catch as many mistakes as I can. I run these posts through spell-check when it's available as an option, multiple times. When there aren't any tell-tale yellow screw-ups highlighted, I shed a little tear of joy. There may be a few variances from the Oxford English Dictionary, but they're purposeful, or non-standard words, for the most part. When I find mistakes from posts I imported from earlier iterations and never spell-checked, I fix them, and they still piss me off. More so because I know there's always another one out there. So if whatever you're posting is worth your time, or mine, show a little consideration for your craft, if not your mother tongue, and don't sound like a refugee from the 4th grade.

If you did a video, get ANY non-linear editing program out there, and learn how to compose a better video. Cut out the oopsies, the hemming and hawing and umming, and all the other stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with your topic. They practically give away video editor programs with any laptop or PC, so use one, any one at all, and cut out the crap. Give me back the two minutes of my life when you had the camera pointed at the sun, your dog, or shoved in your armpit.

2) COMPOSITION is key.
Somewhere back in the mystic chords of memory, at least one of your English teachers probably made some vain attempt to convey to you that sentences and paragraphs have structure, and that when they follow this structure, you can communicate an entire paper, blog post, or video coherently to other people who speak the same language.

The same is true for pictorial efforts as well: Don't stare at the camera and talk us to death; in a video, point the camera AT what you want to convey, even a crayon drawing by your five year-old son, while you talk over what you're showing. Don't tell me, e.g., how to bait a hook, SHOW IT while you tell it, and you double the chances of getting the point you intended across.

A perspicacious person might note that having this stuff WRITTEN DOWN beforehand, in a logical order, would be a great help in this respect. Industry professionals refer to this modern marvel as a SCRIPT.

Compose one for the talking part, and a SHOT LIST for the camera work, and you'll be already almost as bright as some big-time Hollywood directors. Give it a shot before you make your next YouTube masterpiece.

3) Silent film died in the 1920s.
And if you can't grasp this, you should have done so too.
You can shoot video that's absolute @$$, with a crappy handycam, pointed out your back end. But if the audio is flawless, people will watch it until the end most times. On the other hand, you could rent a Panavision or RED digital camera that resolves freckles at 50 yards, in crystal focus, with Oscar-worthy cinematography, but if the audio sounds like you tied the microphone to your spastic chihuahua on crack, and had him wander into a rotating room fan in between helicopter flyovers, most people will click "Screw That" in about 1.5 seconds. Think about how long you'll tolerate a crappy connection on a cell phone call, and realize this is how everyone feels when you screw the audio on your video.

So, for instance, when you're shooting outside, put a windscreen on the microphone.
Put the microphone somewhere close to who or what is making the noise you want to hear.
Turn everything else we don't want to hear off. Your fans, air conditioners, wind chimes on the patio, your toddler, or barking dog. Make them quiet, or make them gone. I'm begging you.

Amazingly, just like your would-be masterpieces, all these and many more tips are available from video and audio professionals, for absolutely no cost whatever, except the investment of time and brain power you could make to learn from them. Dozens of them are right next to your videos on YouTube, for frick's sake! Consult them, learn from them, and live them, and bring us your A game.

The only thing worse than being the only expert to post a video on YouTube on some arcane subject, is that you did so with the sense of a bull in a china shop, crashing around trying to get somewhere, and mainly making would-be fans of your work, like yours truly, instead want to either kill you outright, or perhaps just duct-tape you to a chair, and force you to watch your own videos for a few days until you confess to being the gunman on the grassy knoll.

I really appreciate the time, and in many cases, unique expertise you bring to any given subject. Show a little respect for yourself and your audience, by presenting what you know at least as professionally as how well you know it. You'll sound as smart as you are, and your view counts will climb.

Thank you.