Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sturm und Drang

The term, sturm und drang, is German for storm and yearning–often translated storm and stress. It refers to the wild emotions and actions of romanticism in the arts of the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. But for today’s discussion, I’m using the phrase about black powder guns.


That’s me, touching off my Pietta copy of the muzzle-loader Remington New Model Army revolver–ably photographed by my partner at Oghma Creative Media, Casey Cowan. Regular readers of this weblog know that I enjoy firearms, but I have a special love for the charcoal burners. The revolver in the picture was, in fact, my first gun. Yes, my advice is to start with a .22 Long Rifle, but such words of wisdom as I have to offer come from going about things all the backward way. Or perhaps not, since pouring powder into one chamber at a time, ramming home a wad and ball, then smearing Crisco across it is an interesting occupation for an afternoon. Oh, and eventually, I get to shoot the thing…


But perhaps you need a little more to see the joy here. As I said, it’s a fiddly beast, and I enjoy fiddling. Then there’s the connection with history. As a writer of westerns, I want the feel of the old smoke engine. Yes, I can read about that, but it’s a lot more fun to try it out myself. And no book can tell your nose what burning powder smells like. (O.K., it’s bad eggs, but you just have to smell it.) But the best part is the thuder. It’s not a crack or a bang. It’s a deep bass boom. All in all, this revolver lets me add realism to my stories of the Old West.

At least, that’s my excuse. It’s research, you see.

Syria No Fly Zone Would Be Costly And Difficult, White House Says

The problem is that we have a disjointed foreign policy. We talk up support for Egyptians, give aid to Libyans, and draw meaningless redlines across Syria. Our message to the world? Asking for our help is a crap shoot.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

News! News!

Regular readers of this weblog know that I have a good many opinions on a wide variety of topics. Occasionally, I’m even well informed on the subject. But it’s been brought to my attention that as a writer who is trying to get my work sold, some of what I put here may give offense to my readers. In fact, I can just about guarantee that something will offend everyone.

Now don’t get worried. I’m not going to change my ways. I’m just expanding–something like a Japanese conglomerate. Instead of making cars, cameras, and assorted crap, I’m adding a new weblog to my portfolio. Here’s where to find it:

English 301: Reading and Writing

The focus of that site will be exactly what the name suggests. I’ll discuss books that I’m reading, work that I’m writing, matters of grammar and style, and other such things. I may drift into music and movies, since I have no wish to be organized about it. In fact, it will be a lot like the composition classes that I teach, only freer in form. Politics, guns, silliness in the news, and all the other matters that catch my attention will continue here. Being free form, there’s likely to be some overlap, since I write about guns and enquire into the language about them and since English continues to be abused in public.

My hope is that my readers–you few, you happy few–will read and comment on both weblogs, but now you get a choice. There’s more of me, and who wouldn’t want that?

(The shifting in the Earth’s axis of rotation was from the collective raising of hands. . .)

Book For Sale

It’s time for some crass capitalism on this site. The Frontier Tales Anthology is now for sale. Therein you may read the best stories from the first year of Frontier It requires no batteries. It will never go off line. When you cite it in your essays, you won’t have to include the date of reading, since the words will be the same now and forever. You can take it to the outhouse with you without an extension cord. It–O.K., enough of my Luddite tendencies. I note in passing that one of its stories is mine, “Windward Rock,” a rootin’, tootin’, rip roarin’ tale of friendship, revenge, and bad guy shootin’.

The price? $15.00 plus postage. Leave a comment to this article with your e-mail address in the appropriate blank, and I’ll get in touch with you for the details. If you don’t buy it today, you’ll have to live with the pain and shame of buying it tomorrow.

(There’s a reason that no one has hired me for an advertising job. . .)

If You Desire a Darwin Award. . .

When I get the chance, I take myself to the shooting range. It’s an opportunity to keep my eye in, some time with a few of my favorite things, and a period of pleasant strum und drang. The range that I go to is more than an hour from my home, so going is a committment. This one has no range officer, so those of us who are shooting have to keep an eye on each other. Most shooters check with the others about when the range is hot and when it’s cold (live fire in progress or not), but there are a few who pay no attention. They wander down range while others are shooting, and they pay no mind to the rest of us who make it obvious that we wish to go down range ourselves. This has several possible responses:

1. I could leave. But as I said, the drive one way is over an hour, and I’ve already invested the time to pack up everything to go and will have to spend time later cleaning my guns.

2. I could continue shooting. But I have no wish to shoot anyone. Now, it’s true that the range has a wide field, so these knuckleheads are at some distance from me, but things do go awry. Bullets bounce or ricochet; sometimes the fools spread out across the grass, and so forth.

3. I can use the opportunity for situational awareness. This means that even though I’m practicing my aiming and holding, I also get the chance to practice being aware of what’s around me while I’m shooting. This is a less that completely satisfactory answer, though, since I did mention that I’m practicing. I’m generally aware of what’s happening in my area when I’m shooting, but every once in a while, I get the shock of seeing someone at a target angle of less than ninety degrees and well out into the zone where bullets are flying and landing.

4. I can hold fire until the idiots leave. That’s the one that I most often choose. I go over my chronograph results, reload empty guns, check my telephone for messages, or eat a snack.

What do we learn from all of this? There are some people in this world who will do silly things. As the saying goes, ignorance can be educated, but you can’t fix stupid. The best lesson, though, is staying aware of what’s going on around us.

Freedom Scorecard for the States

The Brady Campagin loves to score states according to its opinions regarding gun laws. It’s high time for those of us who love our rights to respond. With that in mind, I’m creating my own scorecard. Feel free to give your state’s score or to suggest changes in the items counted or in the scoring method.

Legal Weapons:

Places no limits on firearms that may be sold in the state, beyond what the Federal government requires: +5
Limits or bans any type of firearm on its own: -5

Category score:

Handgun Carry Laws:

Issues licenses for the purpose of reciprocity, but otherwise places no restrictions on the carrying of handguns for legitimate purposes, including self defense: +5
Places no restrictions on the carrying of handguns for legitimate purposes, including self defense: +4
Has a shall-issue system for issuing concealed carry licenses: +3
Has a may-issue system for issuing concealed carry licenses: 0
Does not allow carry of handguns: -5

Category score:

Carry Reciprocity:

Give the number of states and territories whose carry licenses your state recognizes:

Category score:

This category will be removed if the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill becomes law.

Places Where Carry Is Permitted:

No restriction on where it is legal to carry a handgun, with the exception of high security facilities or private property (not including businesses open to the public): +10

Subtract one point for every place that one is barred from carrying a handgun.

Category score:

License to Own:

No license to purchase or own any class of firearm, beyond Federal requirements: +5
License required to purchase or own a given type of firearm: -5

Category score:

Record Keeping:

Requires no microstamping or ballistic fingerprinting and does not keep records of purchases or ownership, beyond those required by Federal law: +5
Requires a record of sales: 0
Requires microstamping or ballistic fingerprinting or requires registration of owners: -5

Category score:

At present, the top possible score is 86. Of course, several U.S. territories and one state (Illinois) do not issue carry licenses of any kind, but your state could pass a law that would recognize a license if it existed, so no excuses. Here’s Arkansas’s score:

Handgun carry laws: +3
Carry reciprocity: +40
Places Where Carry Is Permitted: +1
License to Own: +5
Record Keeping: +5

Score: 54

That’s a 63%, Arkansas. If we grade on the curve, it’s a good number, but I think that we can do better. How does your state rank?

In Memoriam

According to news reports, Peter Falk died yesterday (Thursday, 23 June 2011). It’s hard to write an obituary of Falk without thinking that Lt. Columbo has also died. He was an example for me of someone who didn’t care what others thought of him. He drove a beat up car, wore a rumpled coat, smoked cigars and ate chili (with or without beans), pulled bits of food out of his pockets and drank cold coffee when he was summoned in a hurry to a crime scene, and walked around with a goofy basset hound named Dog.

As much as I wish that the man who made the character were still with us to ask just one more question, we’ll have to muddle our way on without him. Rest in peace, Peter Falk.

How Deep Is Your Pacifism?

The Dalai Lama visited the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville this week to participate in a discussion of non-violence, along with other activities. Non-violence as a principle is interesting to debate, but I have to note that aspects of the Dalai Lama’s own life question its practicality.

For one thing, the event took place under the protection of university police and extra officials, according to the news accounts. Those guards were presumably armed and would have used lethal force, if that had been needed, to protect the audience and guests. But this is not the only use of force in the Dalai Lama’s life. In 1959, a special operations team from the CIA extracted him from Tibet, after having provided the Tibetan people weapons to fight the Chinese invaders.

I respect pacifism as a consistent philosophy, even though I don’t accept it. I respect the approach of non-violence, while also recognizing that it doesn’t work in all circumstances, nor does it appeal to me emotionally. If I may quote Ice Station Zebra, as Colonel Ostrovsky said, “Although I’m under strict orders to avoid violence if possible, my personal nature is a violent one. I’m experiencing grave difficulties as it is in restraining myself. . .” But the question of whether violence or non-violence is better is a debate for another time. If the Dalai Lama merely was holding an academic discussion, then he is under no obligation to practice the philosophy, but if he is advocating non-violence as a superior way of behaving, it is fair for us to ask that the moral system can be followed in the real world.

A Dog’s Life

Once again, it’s the point in the semester when many of my students have realized that their grades are at stake, so I’m wading through essays and tests. The posts have been a bit thin lately, but I’ll get back to more frequent posting as soon as possible.

That being said, I do have to cry Shame! on my neighbors. They have four dogs that live in their yard. One of them, a largish white with reddish accents dog that I call Ginger, is a sweet creature. I’m the only one who spends any time with her. Her owners rarely let her in, even during the coldest part of winter, and never spend time with her, so I go to the fence and commune with Ginger now and then.

So why am I writing about this now? Those of you who live here in northwest Arkansas or who have been watching the weather news are aware of the heavy rain that we’ve had for days. The four dogs were left out in that rain with no shelter. I looked out my window to see Ginger looking ill while she was being drenched.

I generally believe that people ought to be allowed to do what they want with their property, but with animals, there have to be limits. I called animal control, only to find out that taking care of abused animals apparently isn’t part of their job description. I imagine that law enforcement would do something if I were to rescue the dogs, though.

One version of a just world would have the animals in our lives gather to judge us after we die. In such a reality, my neighbors would find themselves in cast into outer darkness. Except, of course, that Ginger is such a sweetie that she might just forgive them.