Short film about how Australia’s total gun control (1996) works; a thriller film about a gun shop from the Twin Cities; a bio of Alex Jones

Minneapolis, 2019-9

Today, not finding much to watch on Netflix (they seem to have more series and fewer movies and keep retreading the same stuff), I stumbled across an 18-minute documentary short from Wendover Productions, “Australia Had a Mass-Shooting Problem. Here’s How it Stopped”. 

Australia’s 1996 buyback, short film

Australia, with its history and low population density (except on the coasts), certainly facilitated individualism, self-reliance, and self-defense culture.  Starting in the mid 1980s, incidents of major shootings increased, culminating in the massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996. 

The end result, after some jockeying with the legal mechanics of Australia’s own federal system, was a very strict gun control law, with a mandatory buyback over one year.  Prospective consumers had to demonstrate a “need” to own any firearm at all, and self-defense didn’t count.

Arguably, that kind of logic might work if guns are scarce enough in private hands.  In the United States, it hardly sounds feasible at all because of the volume of guns already in circulation. But it is interesting to note that most other western nations have low gun ownership, except outside of the area of conscription for military service (especially Switzerland, where gun competence is a responsibility, and now Finland, which gets interesting).

Australia (along with New Zealand), we know, as an island nation that can keep people out, wasn’t afraid to clamp down on its citizens’ freedom of movement and personal agency with strict lockdowns in 2020 (not quite as bad as China’s recently) to control COVID19 and “save lives” (in the words of Victoria’s “Dictator Dan” Andrews). Remember all the Sky News Australia videos of individuals nabbed by police for minor violations of sheltering in place.

On June 20, 2016 (a week after the Orlando Pulse bar attack – which resulted from radical Islam, not from American alt-right), Jon Stokes authored a piece in the center-left online magazine Vox “Why millions of Americans — including me — own the AR-15”.  The basic reason seems to be personal expediencey, because the AR-15 is reliable and very versatile to use (and deadlier if it hits someone).  He says it is not automatic (like the M16) unless tampered with.

My father had a 22 rifle in the basement in the 1950s, and I learned to shoot it once.  When I returned to my Drogheda in 2003 it was no longer around.  In Army Basic in 1968, I trained on the M14, which I learned to take apart and clean, and it was no big deal, and made sharpshooter on record range.  I did “requalification” at Fort Eustis in March 1969 and have never fired a weapon since.  My right ear developed tinnitus from the exposure during coaching; the ear plugs were inadequate.  The M14 would be replaced by the M16 even in Basic, but it had no Drill and Ceremonies manual.  The M16 can fire rounds automatically without tampering.

I did not really connect a lot to the Second Amendment during my own style of activism regarding “don’t ask don’t tell” in the 1990s, and I rarely talked about it in my books or essays.  I can remember a Libertarian Party weekend in Richmond VA in May 1995 when I was surprised at the amount of focus on it. 

However, I understand that for many people, their right to bear arms becomes part of their own sense of identity, which tends to be anti-tribal.  I don’t feel that way about this personally, but I can see moral parallels between the Second Amendment (interpreted as an individual right since the controversial Heller case) and my own use of the First Amendment when it is interpreted as incorporating “freedom of reach” despite potential conflicts one can cause.  However, compromising the right to defend oneself, like in the case of a home invasion (with family around) or potential exposure to kidnapping (workplace, carjacking, etc) could pose existential risks to persons if there were only an incomplete effort like Australia’s.  Note that the video discusses the success of Australia’s buyback in statistical terms. 

Let’s mention a couple other films.

At an independent film festival in Minneapolis in 2001 sponsored by IFPMSP when I lived there, I saw a curious thriller: “Bill’s Gun Shop”, from Dangerous Films, directed by Dean Lincoln Hyers, produced by J. Michael Tabor, written by Rob Nilsson, starring Scott Cooper, John Ashton, Victor Rivers, Tom Bower, James Keene, Carolyn Hauck, Sage, Jacy Dummermuth.   Again. The independent, locally produced film (this was shot on location in the Twin Cities and in southern Minnesota) imparts an urgency and tension lacking in the glitz and polish from bigger operations (and, again, why does Hollywood have to cover up real companies and real locations when small filmmakers don’t?).  In fact, the film has stunning photography (seems wide screen) and a pinpoint digital sound track.  And we identify with the 23-year old Dillon McCarty (Scott Cooper), starting out his adult life with a bit of personal schism, between being a mild-mannered (almost impotent) “good guy” and wanting to emulate his movie-star police heroes and marshals.  He goes to work for a gun shop and gradually sinks into a rather scary world.  (I didn’t know that gun shop employees are expected to wear guns going to and coming from work.)  Eventually he goes on a bounty run and has to get himself out of an impossible situation, generating a lot of rooting interest from the audience.  This film played to a full house at the Heights Theater, and comes across as a level-headed treatment of guns and self-defense for mainstream Americans (the film also covers racial tensions pointedly), and not just an activity on the rightwing fringe.

Bill’s Gun Shop trailer

On Sunday, June 11, 2022 (Pride Day in many cities), CNN aired a one hour documentary report “Megaphone for Conspiracy(link), a sketch of Alex Jones, from the founding of his media business in Austin Texas a couple decades ago, to its role during the Trump years, where Jones got banned from most social media.  Tim Pool has put Jones on his IRL show and had to collar Jones when in his “Cast Castle”, after having his own fights with YouTube over even having him on.  Toward the end of Trump fiasco leading to January 6, 2021, Jones got lost deeper and deeper in his beliefs.  He does not depend on sponsors, but seems to sell nutritional supplements enough to make a living at it.  I couldn’t do that.  He has been litigated against by the Sandy Hook victims.  He tried to attack David Hogg after the Parkland shootings, and ran into a teenager who could fight back hard.  It’s one thing to be called a crisis actor, but another to be called a centuries old reptilian alien (like from the 80’s series “V”) – as if the teen had superpowers and belonged with Marvel’s “Eternals”.  It’s really rather a compliment for Hogg.  Fox News’s  Laura Ingraham ran into the same thing.

Alex Jones bio

Now, is Hogg the most likely young adult today to become president in the future (if our democracy survives Trumpism, Putinism, and Xi-ism).

Maza interviews David Hogg

(Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)

NBC Dateline’s “Murder in Kitchen One” a better-told mystery than most fictitious movies

New Mexico caldera

NBC Dateline aired one of its best mysteries (albeit this one was just one hour), “Murder in Kitchen One”.  Here is the Dateline preview, and the NPR/AP summary

In Portland, OR, on (Saturday) June 2, 2018 (two years before the pandemic and Floyd-related unrest) a well known chef Daniel Brophy, 63, is shot dead in his culinary school SW of downtown.  He had run a commercial kitchen and cooking school for decades.

His wife, Nancy Crampton Brophy, 71 (older) had succeeded as a mystery novelist (branded novels called “The Wrong —“) and blogger (maybe following the advice of Blogtyrant).  In 2011, she had written a provocative blog post, “How to Murder Your Husband”.  The post was not allowed into evidence, but it did inspire some prosecutor questions. The video below maintains her actual writing skills and reputation were substandard.

Oddly, she also sold life insurance as an income source.  The couple had been in financial trouble yet she had purchased a lot of insurance on her husband, where she would normally have an insurable interest.

Eventually, evidence would turn up she had driven near the kitchen early that morning.  She would be convicted of second-degree murder.  Her testimony behind the stand was surprisingly dispassionate. The NBC report suggested she wanted a better lifestyle and felt hampered by her everyman husband.

An interesting aspect of the story is Nancy’s purchase of ghost gun components and being unable to assemble them herself without some kind of assistance.  This part of the story got complicated.

The report said her work was self-published.  I just checked Amazon (Site Stripes) and that is true.

The episode certainly brings up the whole question of how a self-published author succeeds in selling books as a commodity, and of writing to sell.  It’s also interesting that she could sell life insurance at the same time without there being some sort of conflict.  I was approached to do this in 2005 by two companies, did the interview with one of them (New York Life) but felt the conflict of interest would be there (even though if it was a logical sequel to having worked for a life company for the last twelve years of my IT career, through two mergers).

(Posted: Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 10 AM EDT)

CNN’s Anderson Cooper presents “A Mother’s Diary of War”, and the reality of old-fashioned aggression

Plains, KS 2022-5

Sunday night May 29, CNN aired a one hour documentary “A Mother’s Diary of War” at 8 PM EDT as an episode of Anderson Cooper’s AC360 program.

CNN is not very good about having fixed-URL stories about upcoming or past episodes, so here is one on the Global Herald.

A young mother named Olena, with a newborn and two other kids, starts videos two days before the Russians invade, when all is calm. Then Anderson visits her several times, as she recovers somewhat from the partial damage in Kyiv, which gets better when the Russians are forced to retreat to the East.  The kids can even play outside again.

The coverage of the mom’s life is punctuated by coverage of other horrors, especially Mariupol.

Her husband, who had no previous military training, was conscripted to fight and she hears from him occasionally.

Zelenskyy, as an actor and content creator whom I might have personally befriended in peace (and he had appeared in a Ukrainian series called “Servant of the People”) was very emphatic at the outset about conscription, requiring all able-bodied men 18-60 to remain and fight, and many of them have been wounded or killed – sacrifice.  This sort of invasion which treats civilians as enemy conscripts (and leads to war crimes and often violates the Geneva Convention) used to be the stuff of history, when one ruler wanted the natural resources of another; now it could be construed as zero-sum-game “strategy” in a world facing climate change.

One of the points I stressed in my three DADT books was the idea that many societies (historically) believe they must depend on men to protect women and children and make themselves fungible in the process.  That’s an idea George Gilder had discussed in his 1986 book “Men and Marriage”.  That, I said in my books, was one reason why the original military ban on gays could reinforce discrimination against them in other areas.  What is happening is forced on the people by external events. Olena’s little boy asks “Mom, why do we now have to go to war?” and she answers “Because the enemy came to our land and they had a bad president.”  Necessity undercuts liberal desires in the area of gender identity and sexuality, sometimes.   I haven’t heard what happens with trans persons in Ukraine (in the United States, those born as male have to register for Selective Service – and the gay lobby never mentions this).  But I also haven’t heard about COVID, or whether refugees, when they arrive in Poland or other countries, are being vaccinated before they are housed by “strangers” (to borrow Max Reisinger’s use of the word). In Poland, in fact, practically all refugees are being housed in homes of families or persons, not in dorms; this seems expected of Polish citizens, who see this as 1939 again.

.As a bonus, I just want to share a math video today, March 31, 2022 by Andrew’s Campfire, “Möbius Strip and Klein Bottle: A MIND-BLOWING Paradox Unlike Any You’ve Seen Before”.

There is an interesting paradigm for overcoming the Grandfather’s paradox with time travel using a Mobius strip, which sort of comports with quantum theory and maybe metaverses. Maybe this translates up to higher dimensions with the Klein Bottle. But that sort of begs the dangerous notion that you can just undo a previous wrong. Remember that line in “Gone with the Wind” where Rhett tells Scarlet that saying “I’m sorry” sometimes doesn’t cut it (and that’s not the last line of the movie).

(Posted: Monday, May 30, 2022 [Memorial Day Holiday in the U.S.}m by John W. Boushka)

“Severance”: New Apple TV series stimulates interest in what makes you “you”

Morristown, NJ 2011-7

The Apple TV series “Severance”, created by Dan Erickson and the first episode (“Good News About Hell”, started Feb. 2022) does jumpstart a discussion about the nature of human consciousness and self-awareness. (Of course, we know the usual meaning of the word is what you get paid when you get laid off from a job.)

“Severance” trailer

The series (filmed in northern New Jersey near Bell Labs, where I once interviewed in 1970) proposes an intelligence company, with a sprawling low-rise gray campus on a winter landscape in Appalachian foothills, which requires associates to go through a brain surgical procedure which causes them to forget their personal lives when at work, and vice versa.  In a sense, it makes an employee a schizophrenic with two split personalities (although no crossover voices).  Or it may be more like re-entering and leaving the same dream (at work) every day.  One thinks of films like “Dreamscape” (which I will revisit some day) and “Inception”. 

In the Pilot, the apparent protagonist Mark (Adam Scott) is promoted to team leader and he attempts to give an orientation to new prole employee Helly (Britt Lower), whose only semantic memory is the name of a state (Biden’s ‘Delaware’).

I don’t use Apple TV much.  On my Windows 10 setup, it took some tinkering to get the picture to show (after the sound played).  I had to go into my account, turn on and then turn back off account restrictions for browser playback.  The product seems to encourage watching on your HDEF TV or Apple products.  But their interests in content might overlap mu own books (given my recent pitchfest) so I ought to look into them.

 Live Stories of Old presents an analysis “Who You Are, Without Your Memories ‘ The Psychology of ‘Severance’”   (short title “Identity Without Memory“) tries to explain how you can have amnesia and be the same person.  Well, you remember how to speak and understand – that is your semantic memory.  But you have lost your “episodic” memory, which enables me to reconstruct mentally many precise moments in my childhood, like I could go back and remote-view them as if real.  The latter part of the video meanders a bit, but admits that sexual orientation and gender identity may be intrinsically part of who you are.

“Identity Without Memory”

That video mentions the 2016 documentary by Terrence Malick, “The Voyage of Time” (sometimes shown in Imax), narrated by Brad Pitt. The video seems to refer also to Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011).

“The Voyage of Time”

.I wanted to share one other item, “The Strange Science of Why We Dream”, from Be Smart, Dec. 2021.

Why we dream

Also, here is the trailer for the 1984 film “Dreamscape“, dir. Joseph Ruben, starring Dennis Quaid.

Dreamscape trailer

(Posted: Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 11 AM EDT)