Sunday, March 27, 2011

ScaryMerry Goes to the Gun Show

I am by and large the black sheep of my family. I come from a rather conservative family, both politically and morally, and I have a ridiculously redneck extended family. I'm always the odd one out at family gatherings, as I am the libertarian, gay rights supporting, cosmopolitan, nerdy college student. In comparison, my family thinks the Mexicans and "homosexuals" are ruining the country and that Obama's a Muslim out to take away their rights (and my grandpa also thinks that aliens built the pyramids and Stone Henge, but that's not necessarily redneck, I suppose). As it is, I am currently on my spring break and feel like my latest misadventure is worth sharing.

My grandpa annually has a booth selling guns, jewelry, and watches at our local yearly Gun 'n Knife Show. This year, my dad (who's also pretty conservative, but not so much of the redneck variety- that's all on my mom's side of the family) and I thought it would be funny to tag along with the rest of my redneck family for the "cultural" experience. It would be like Halloween, only we'd be the only ones in on the joke.  So we donned our best redneck attire and set out to be rednecks for the next few hours.

We did make quite a pair- my dad's a professional Santa Claus and has a pretty "sweet" beard (as the guy at the gun show entry table called it). So imagine a giant burly white guy with a great big white beard in hunting camo (no clue wear he got it)  and hiking boots. Funny, right? As for myself, I broke out my seldom worn "Dixie Girls" shirt, complete with roses and Confederate flag, that I won in an archery (or "bowhuntin'", I should say) competition a few years back (that's seriously like the only hardcore redneck thing I do, in a sad attempt to relate to the rest of my family), and my dirty cowboy boots, authentically muddied while working with horses this past summer. I've been told that I don't have much of an accent, which is kind of funny as my mom and sister sound southern as all get out, but I can turn my southern accent on when necessary. I flipped the metaphorical switch and was ready to go. My disguise was complete.

As we pulled into the convention center parking lot, I burst out laughing. This was the sign that greeted us:


That's like a sign at the beach saying "No water allowed." So effing ridiculous. 

To my immense disappointment, though, there was a sign as we approached the building banning non-convention authorized video and photography. Fuck. There goes all the super fun gag photos I was planning on taking.

Oh well.

So we enter the convention center, and after the guys at the door finish gushing over my father's beard, we take in the sight before us: guns. So many fucking guns. I've never seen so much green and camo in one place in my entire life. And I've been to bowhuntin' competitions where guys have given their trucks "redneck paintjobs", aka coating the entire vehicle in camo duct tape. When say there was a lot of green and camo at the show, I sure as hell mean it. 

Just so we're all on the same page, when I say "camo" mean this kind of print:

Comprende? Bueno. Moving on...

Browsing thought the various booths and tables, we encountered a variety of signs with pithy and catchy slogans, such as:

"Bushwackers! Conceal and Carry Weapons!"

"Got ammo?"

"Tazers 4 U!"

Delightful, no? I was actually alarmed by the amount of stuff that was for sell for concealed weapons. The local cops were actually offering a course regarding it. My personal favorite sign was for one of the various conceal and carry belts that were for sell- it featured a beautiful woman in a bikini at the beach wearing the belt and holding a hand gun. Let's examine the various fallacies present in this ad campaign:

- Why does she have a gun at the beach? Doesn't sand and saltwater ruin guns? Probably the cheapest gun I saw today still cost like $200, and her gun in the picture looked pretty nice. If you're going to risk ruining your weapon, at least don't bring your nice stuff.

- Why is she wearing a bikini if it's an ad for a conceal and carry belt? You can't conceal anything in a bikini, unless she's actually a really good drag queen with a killer tuck, but that's a whole other variety of concealed weapon...

It makes no sense at all. But don't let the sexy posters fool you- this was very much a feminist convention. I was in shock by the number of girly-colored handguns/rifles/shotguns I saw there. Shocked partly because some of the bight colors damaged my retinas, and partly because why would you buy a pink hunting rifle? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the head-to-toe camo hunting gear? Surely the deer would see this:

Or this:

Note: these aren't pictures that I took at the show, as it was banned and I didn't want to risk getting shot and/or stabbed, but I swear, I saw these exact same guns there.

Speaking of absurdly colored rifles, did you know that some people build their own? There were a lot of rifle handles on sell at the show, like unsanded and ready for people out to build their own weapon. Also, there were weirdly colored rifle handles on sell as well. Stuff like this:

Only not only in purple, but in red and blue and green all sorts of unnatural color combinations, and while some of them actually looked pretty cool, again, I don't see why anyone would go hunting with them, which leaves the disturbing question of what the hell do they do with them? Shooting ranges alone can't be that fun, can they? I don't even want to know. 

Other questionable questions:

- What is a "camo chip"? I tried one and I still don't know. It's like a pork rind crossed with a corn chip and it's weird and available in an obscene number of flavors.

- Why would you buy "baby's first rifle" (in pastel pink and baby boy blue)? I just- what? Why? Gah, I can't even. 

- Are a hundred flavors of jerky even necessary?

And though I was pleasantly surprised to find "Zombie Survival Team" gear next to the requisite table filled with various anti-Obama, pro-Republican, pro-Tea Party, and mildly crazy/paranoid bumper stickers, there was one table that downright pissed me off. Look, I took all the other stuff in stride and good humor. Crazy redneck uber-conservative stuff is simply par for the course and a gun and knife show in North Carolina. There was actually one particular aspect of the show that I was looking forward to seeing- all of the military memorabilia. I'm a history major that specializes in WWII- I'm actually working on my senior thesis right now (hence the dearth of blog posts) on the influence of music in Nazi Germany, so yeah, I love seeing old WWII stuff. So imagine my surprise when I see in addition to old American, German, and Japanese stuff, there are brand new, packaged Nazi flags.

Fuck Nazi flags. Brand-fucking-new ones. Old ones from the war itself are one thing, but new ones?


Look. It's the south. Sure, racism is a given. I'm not saying that racism is ok, but it happens when you have a whole bunch of old, white rednecks in one place. Pretending that it's not there is just naive. But also a given part of the south is a fierce sense of patriotism. Sure, I may not agree with the politics of many of my fellow southerners, but I can certainly respect their shared love of America. So riddle me this- how the hell do you get away with setting up a booth selling fucking Nazi flags across from a booth selling patches meant to honor WWII/Korean/Vietnam War veterans? 


There are free copies of the U.S. Constitution at the front of the convention center, but brand spankin' new Nazi flags at the back? No. That should have never been allowed.

Anyway. *deep calming breath* 

I didn't come away from the gun and knife show empty-handed. In addition to my dark chocolate Belgian fudge (I kid you not), I got the following shirt:

My Yankee friends from up north oughtta get a kick out of it the next time we go to our local country-western bar (which we go to for similar reasons that I went to this gun show- the kicks. It's allll for the kicks.). 

Monday, February 7, 2011

iPad vs. Kindle: No Contest

No really- there's no contest.

Hey, it's been a while. Blame school. Guess what I picked up over my winter break? A Kindle!

And back to what I was saying in the post title, ever since the iPad was announced- heck, ever since the iPad was rumored- blogs, newspapers, and people across the country have been pitting the Apple device against Amazon's Kindle. Now, as an owner of both devices, I must say that this is the most pointless rivalry that I have ever heard of. It's like pitting a tv against an iPod. Totally different devices for totally different purposes. Sure, there's some cross over- you can listen to music on a tv one way or another- but it's not really what a tv's for, nor would you want that to be your only method of music consumption. 

The same concept applies to the iPad/Kindle. Don't get me wrong- reading on the iPad really isn't that bad. I have twelve required textbooks for this semester, so naturally as tech nerd, I downloaded all of the ones that were available as ebooks. My iPad is great for textbooks. Textbooks, magazines, newspapers, internet content- it's fantastic for reading those sorts of things. Ultimately, however, for anything that I'm going to sit and read linearly for hours at a time (aka, a novel), the Kindle totally pwns. E-ink rocks. Believe the hype. Also, the iPad's weight is fine if you're using it as a netbook replacement like I am. As a book replacement, the weight sucks. The Kindle, however is the perfect weight for reading the way you would a traditional book. 

If you're someone that loves to read and reads a lot, and you're debating between getting an iPad or a Kindle, just stop. Get both. If you have the money to get an iPad, I'm sure that you could come up with the $140 for a Kindle as well. Skip McDonald's for a month or two. On that note, as to whether or not you should get the wifi-only version or the 3G, that depends on your situation. I decided to fork over the extra $50 for the 3G version because I'm still on my parents' phone plan (I'm in college, so sue me. Christmas money bought my Kindle. In a month, I'm gonna be broke.) and my dad refuses to let any of us have a data plan. The web browser on the device is nothing compared to an iPad/smartphone/computer, but it's not dreadful. It gets the job done and lets me check my e-mail when I'm on vacation and cut off from the rest of the world. Actually, the Kindle's wifi doesn't like my school's wifi network (which in its defense, you practically have to be an engineer to get the network to connect to anything for the first time), so getting the 3G was a smart life choice on my part. 

So yeah, if you don't have reliable access to a wifi network, get the 3G version. If you want free lifetime 3G data like me, get the 3G version. If you routinely have access to wifi and want to save $50, get the wifi-only version.

Anyway, here's the tldr cliffnotes of this post:
The iPad is a netbook replacement and the Kindle is a book replacement. Pitting the devices against each other is just stupid.

(P.S. Yes, I skinned my Kindle too. I love how it looks like an old piece of paper now. I also put it in an Oberon Design cover:

Oh, the things I do to make my new technology look old.)