I have to confess that before I watched the movie ‘Shut Up and Sing‘ I wasn’t particularly interested in the Dixie Chicks. That’s entirely forgivable on account of the fact that country music isn’t that popular here in the UK. However after thoroughly enjoying the movie I went out and bought the bands latest CD, ‘Taking the long way’, which is actually very good.
The trailer for the movie sparked my interest last year. It was supposed to be just another music film following a band on tour, but it became much more than that when, just nine days before American and British bombs rained down on Iraq amid global condemnation, lead singer Natalie Maines said on stage in London “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”
Maines comment was at the time met with cheers from her British audience. Millions of people had recently taken to the streets in the UK to protest Tony Blair’s insistence, against public will, to join America in invading Iraq and ridding it of weapons of mass destruction that turned out never to be there.
Back in the States country music stations stopped playing Dixie Chicks songs, radio stations held events where people could trash their Dixie Chicks records and CD’s, and people picketed the bands concerts with signs that said things like “If you support the Dixie Chicks you’re supporting traitors” and “Being ashamed of our President means being ashamed of our country”.
The President Bush’s approval rating was very hight at the time and very few public figures were willing to speak out against the the invasion of Iraq. The Dixie Chicks comments were viewed as a disrespectful and unpatriotic slap in the face of the President Bush, and the fact that the band was enjoying huge success in country music made the sin that much greater in the opinions of its base, the southern states, particularly Texas.
Movies that follow bands on tour are often only interesting to fans of the band in focus, but this movie manages to go far beyond that. In telling the personal story of the Dixie Chicks as they deal with the fallout of Maines comment, the film also captures the mood of America at the time and shows just how quickly that can change.
In the end the story goes full circle and returns to London at the start of a new tour. The final few moments of documentary (seen below) really connects you with the band members and their lasting friendship, and as Natalie Maines says the last words of the movie while standing once again on stage in London at what she calls the “scene of the crime”, you’re left smiling and very probably ready to get yourself a copy of the Dixie Chicks album which you might otherwise have never even looked at.
This is a movie that really is well worth watching, and more so given how opinions about the war have changed since the first bombs fell in Bagdad.
Despite the fact that my last post totally bombed (groan!) I thought I would share with you all another interesting way that weaponry has found a way to live out a somewhat greener life. Recycled bomb tables!
While looking for a picture to illustrate my last post I came upon a company in California (but of course!) called MotoArt that are recycling old bombs and turning them into tables for use in trendy bars or homes of people who aren’t worried about the damage having a bomb in your house might do to its feng shui.
The bomb tables are made out of redundant (and completely disarmed) bombs such as the MK-81 and MK-84 bombs which were used in the Vietnam war and the second world war. Various incarnations of the tables are available including ones with lights and iceboxes for keeping drinks chilled. However the high price of war is also reflected in the price of the tables which range from $799 for a small MK-81 bomb table (pictured) to $1,499 for the Mk-84 illuminated bomb tables.
Also available is the Aqua-Bomb which is a 10 gallon fish tank fabricated out of the MK-84 bomb. Costing a heart-stopping $3,950 the Aqua Bomb comes complete with pump, filter and lighting unit and is available in seven colors.
But as fun as the recycled bomb furniture might be, there are of course some who disapprove. One commenter on the treehugger website calls the bomb tables “frivolous” and a “feng shui disaster.”
“People in Iraq and Afghanistan are still getting REAL bombs in their houses.” Says ‘rworrell’. “I’d rather see the bomb shaped casings melted down and made into useful utensils with no indication of their past purpose.”
This is somewhat old news but in the light of recent gun discussions we’ve had here, I thought I might post some ‘sort-of’ good news on the weaponry front. That news being that war and weaponry will very soon be better for the environment!
Arms manufacturering giant, British Aerospace (BAE), has joined the growing number of global companies trying to show their softer side by reducing their impact on the environment.
The production of lead-free bullets and recyclable explosives are among key developments being put proposed by arms manufacturer. Other initiatives include grenades that produce less smoke, compostable explosives, and bombs that make less noise in order to reduce noise pollution.
“No company, regardless of what they make, can now just make a product, bung it out there, and then forget about it.” Said Dr. Deborah Allen, director of corporate responsibility for the company. “We all have a duty of care to ensure that from cradle to grave products are being used appropriately and do not do lasting harm.”
One industry analyst, Sarah Bentley, said that bombs made from biodegradable plastics and compostable materials would in fact play a key role in regenerating the environment that they had initially destroyed.
When I was a child I played cops and robbers like any normal little boy. Like most childhood games of this kind, cops and robbers often involved a certain amount of dressing up, running around excitedly, and much shouting, screaming, and “pow pow” gun noises as we enjoyed shooting at one another in the ongoing chase.
As a child I had a number of pistols, my favorite being a large red gun with a bright orange handle. Another was an elaborate silver rifle that doubled as a machine gun in my young imagination when the need for a machine gun arose. “Bang bang, you’re dead!” Would be followed quickly by an elaborate roll and a few moments of stillness before we leapt back to our feet to continue the game as someone who hadn’t yet been killed. Our innocent games would see us dying time and time again in the wonderfully simple world that children enjoy.
The funny thing is that ordinary British cops don’t carry guns, so in reality the cops and robbers we were playing were American, just like the ones we watched on TV in shows like CHiPs, and T.J. Hooker. A truly British version of the game would have simply involved the cop running after the robber until the robber got tired and gave up, and when you’re six there’s just no fun in that.
It would be twenty or so years later when I would get the opportunity to fire a real gun. I was at a friends house in New Hampshire where, upon learning that I had never fired a gun before and despite the late hour, her father got out a couple of his guns for me to shoot.
“Just kind of aim down the barrel, you can’t see tonight anyway, but you can see some. It’ll make a big noise” Said Karen’s father as I lifted the rifle with no real idea of what the heck I was doing. “Hit that chair over there.” He said pointing out into the darkness.
The chair survived my poor shooting, but the bang was fantastic and filled my blood with adrenalin. I had never doubted the thrill of firing a gun, and the reality of it, complete with the flash from the barrel and the ear shattering bang, was brilliantly exciting. There’s no doubt, I can see the appeal to owning and firing guns.
The post I made last week, entitled Where is the war on guncrime about America’s seemingly out of control gun crime rate, prompted hot debate receiving ten times the amount of comments I would usually expect. Curiously though, only one of those who spoke up in defense of the American ‘right to bear arms’ actually owned a gun, the others it would seem, we’re just arguing in defense of their right to have the choice to bear arms or not.
Those arguing for their right to choose to own a gun, the ‘pro-choice’ people if you will, wrongly assumed that my ‘pro-life’ stance of wanting to see “sensible gun control” meant that I wanted to ban all guns.
Just like other ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ arguments, it seems that despite the vast area of ‘middle ground’ on the issue, people feel the need to stick a flag in the ground at the far ends of the field then stand behind that flag and hurl abuse at the other side.
The problem is that when someone goes on a shooting rampage like Cho Seung-hui did last week at Virginia Tech, the gun control debate becomes entangled in emotion and then places the focus on the wrong problem. Cho Seung-hui had serious mental health problems, and no amount of gun control would have made him any less mentally troubled.
The basis of the gun control argument should not be made up of landmark events like last weeks school shootings because the fact remains that vast numbers of people die each year in the United States because of guns. Enacting tighter controls on who has access to guns and ammunition is an entirely rational way to reduce the number of people killed by guns.
Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker recently wrote “The point of lawmaking is not to act as precisely as possible, in order to punish the latest crime; it is to act as comprehensively as possible, in order to prevent the next one.”
With that in mind here are my proposals for changes to gun laws:
(Note: These are not my hard and fast set-in-stone ideas. They’re merely proposals that I think sensible people would be able to debate in the understanding that while there would be disagreement, there are surely ways in which discussion can lead to progress and improvements.)
STEP 1 : LEGALLY DEFINE EXACTLY WHAT A “WELL REGULATED MILITIA” IS, AND HOW EXACTLY THAT WILL BE REGULATED.
It seems to me that gun regulation isn’t something new but it is instead something that America has overlooked in the second amendment.
STEP 2 : BAN ALL HAND GUNS, PERIOD.
People do not need handguns. They provide an illusion of safety when in fact they are weapons designed primarily to kill. Obviously some exemptions will apply for police officers etc. But the days of buying a handgun to “protect yourself” should be over. If you really feel insecure, buy a rifle!
STEP 3 : BETTER BACKGROUND CHECKS
Cho Seung-hui was nuts, yet he was still allowed to walk into a gun shop and buy handguns despite the fact a judge also cited him as a danger to himself and others. These background checks should check criminal and mental background information.
STEP 4 : BAN ALL ASSULT WEAPONS
Again, special circumstances apply but regular citizens will not be allowed to own weapons that are designed specifically for war.
STEP 5 : START A NATIONAL FIREARM REGISTER.
This will disable people from, for example, selling there guns for $50 to some redneck yahoo who just got done serving time for beating on his wife. Guns would only be sold to people with firearms permits which would clearly state what guns the person can own and does own.
STEP 6 : INTRODUCE A 5 DAY WAIT PERIOD AFTER PURCHASING A GUN.
If you want to buy a gun, then there should be no rush. A mandatory delay between paying the the weapon and actually collecting it should pose no serious inconvenience to anyone who wants to have a gun for legitimate uses.
STEP 7 : INTRODUCE GUN CABINETS STANDARDS WHERE GUNS MUST BE KEPT.
Requiring that citizens keep their shotguns, rifles and ammunition in a safe cabinet that meets a governed standard would again pose little inconvenience to any peaceful gun owner. The cabinet would increase the security of the weapons in a burglary and fire situation to.
STEP 8 : INTRODUCE TOUGH LAWS MAKING CARRYING A GUN IN A CRIME EXTREMELY ILL ADVISED.
Mandatory minimum sentences are pretty much worthless, so while this measure seems logical I would imagine it would be the least effective of all the measures I propose. However I still believe that the punishment for going equipped to commit murder should be almost as serious as committing the murder itself.
If you think you have better proposals or if you disagree with mine then feel free to comment below.
It’s England’s national day today, Saint George’s day. So with that in mind I hope you’ll all go out tonight, wherever you are in the world, and celebrate this day in true English style.
Of course, I’m not entirely sure what ‘English style’ might be. I’m trying to think what our best cultural export is, or at least what it is we’re best known for. The Irish have music and Guinness, the Scotts have Haggis and caber tossing, the Welsh have leeks, and the English, well… we have red telephone boxes and football hooligans.
So with this in mind I think that everyone should go out to a bar tonight and in their best English accent they should aggressively engage a complete stranger with the following traditional line.
“Oi, wojafink yo’re lookin’ at?”
Don’t wait for a response. Simply wait for eye contact and a puzzled expression, at which point make a lunge forward and wallop the chosen individual right in the face making sure to knock over their drink in the process.
A good English bar brawl should involve very little actual fist contact or injury. Instead the participants should simply flounder around knocking stuff over. Ideally this should last no more than between 1 to 3 minutes before you return to your feet, fists comically at the ready while slurring obscenities and reciting traditional English verses like “Yeah, c’mon then wanka! I’ll av ya!”
The slurring obscenities should only continue for approximately the same time as the ‘fight’ lasted before you turn you back on the other person and accept the equally drunken applause of your gathered mates.
Note : Starting a fight with the same person is simply not cricket (not fair) though shooting ‘evils’ (tough looking stares) is entirely acceptable, but only for less than 10 seconds at a time.
Of course your English fight should not involve weaponry of any form, and the breaking of pub furniture for use as weapons is strictly forbidden as the publican (bar owner) is always ‘ye mate’ (and usually called Terry of Dave).
If you wish to progress to the next level of English culture then you might choose to fight over a girl. In this case the said female must always be three sizes larger than the skimpy clothes she should not ever have dreamed of wearing, and she must be wearing so much fake tan that she appears to be a giant living breathing satsuma.
Females who would like to engage in the traditional English fight are allowed to remove their high heels and beat the living shit out of one another with their heels while pulling each others hair and screaming “Ya bitch, ya bitch, ya bitch!” for the duration of the fight.
Warning : Girl fights are always far more dangerous than guy fights and will likely result in injury and possible arrest by unarmed police who simply break up the fight by saying “That’s enough ladies!”
And remember everyone, it’s not the winning that important, it’s the taking part. Have a great St. George’s day, and God save the Queen!