And download the entire film from Freedom Feens (you’ll need a bit torrent client). The film is scheduled to be officially released by a distributor in spring 2011. But you can download with the blessing of the movie’s creative commons license.
The online version is NSFW due to language. The spring release will be slightly shorter and cuss-free.
In either version, you’ll see some familiar faces, or at least some freedomistas whose names you know, like Sheriff Richard Mack and our own MamaLiberty, who first alerted me to the film’s existence then sent me a copy.
The film is full-length, fast-moving, surprisingly funny, and chaotic enough to please its intended audience (teens and young twentysomethings) without being too chaotic for those of us who “can’t remember the 60s because we were enjoying them too much.” It’s also nicely subversive in that it begins with some eye-catchers coupled with moderate messages (e.g. pro-medical cannabis) then riots its way toward more hardcore positions. There are a lot of good lines in it but my favorite is the final line delivered by MamaLiberty.
I had the chance this week to “talk” with Dean and Vedadi by email. For your holiday pleasure, here’s Part I of that interview. The rest will be posted over the weekend. Although the interview contains mentions of scenes in the movie, there are no spoilers because … hey, it’s a documentary; there’s no plot to be spoiled.
CLAIRE WOLFE: Why did you make this film? What are you hoping to achieve with it?
MICHAEL DEAN: Well, it came from a few different directions, over a few years’ time. But it all came together very quickly once I met Neema. I had a plan five years ago to write a book called “Politics for the Rest of Us” with an uber-liberal FAR-left progressive Ivy League college professor friend of mine. (He’s in David Horowitz’s book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”) This professor played in a punk rock band with me about 25 years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. But as I became more of a vocal gun nut, he lost interest in being associated with me publicly. That book was going to be a “find the common ground” study between “left” and “right.” But as I began to see more and more that both left and right (and especially the left, lately), steal from people, I lost interest in working with him too. But some of my bullet points for that book became the basis for some parts of “Guns and Weed.”
Later I wrote a “libertarian self-help book” called “A User’s Manual for the Human Experience.” It applied the non-aggression principle to getting bad people out of your life. The politics in it weren’t quite fully formed (hey … we’re all on a journey, ya know?), but it helped a lot of people get out of abusive relationships, so that’s a good thing, and it was also a stepping stone to making this film.
Many libertarians agree 99 percent and spend a lot of energy screaming at each other about the other 1%. I got sick of weenieing with people on Internet forums, and figured it would be a more productive use of my time and skills to get off the forums and work on something that was a complete statement of my world view, wrapped inside a tasty delivery mechanism. Something I could hand to people and walk away.
I met Neema through our mutual buddy Shepard Humphries. (Shepard is in the movie, playing the team leader in the “government self-defense class” skit.) It was a wonderful, fast and true friendship. I suppose I see Neema as a smart younger brother, he’s 26 and I’m 46. He calls my wife and me his “Casper (Wyoming) parents.” But he also taught me a lot, basically taking me from minarchist to anarchist.
An interesting aspect of this film was that the entire project, as well as my and Neema’s in-person friendship, had an expiration date. He’s a TV anchor/reporter, and I knew that six months after we met, his two-year contract was up and he’d be moving out of state for a new job. We spent the first two months just hanging out, talking about liberty, me teaching him to shoot guns, and dabbling in making music together. Then we decided to make a movie and went into laser-focused overdrive and did the whole thing in four months. Neema practically lived at our house and ate dinner with my wife DJ (Debra Jean) and me most nights. Sometimes Neema and I would work in 24-hour shifts, with one of us editing while the other took catnaps, then we’d work together for eight hours, then the other guy would nap for an hour. It was a really great season and I hated to see him leave town. I actually cried when he left. “No homo.” (Inside joke with Neema.) I probably cry less than twice in the average year.
CLAIRE WOLFE: How did the idea of coupling guns and weed come to you? And why that rather than, say, taxes and sexual freedom or some other “right-left” combo?
MICHAEL DEAN: I am interested in sexual freedom. My wife and I wrote a book about BDSM under the names Dollie Llama and ThornDaddy. A basic credo in BDSM is “Safe, Sane and Consensual,” which shares some aspects with the non-aggression principle, even if you’re doing things that could seem “aggressive” if vanilla types walked in on ya. I actually thought of making a documentary film called “Sex and Guns” a few years ago. I even had the domain name sexandguns.org for a couple years, and wrote a proposal and detailed outline for that movie. But it didn’t really resonate enough to drive me to finish it. I’ve worked hard on outlines for many projects I’ve never finished. But sometimes doing a lot of work on an outline that I throw away is part of the early process for a later, better project. It’s just part of my dance.
Neema and I originally went through a few ideas for names/topics for this film before the light bulb went off and we settled on “Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom.” The list of titles is a little embarrassingly quaint, but it kind of shows the progression we went through: “Libertarianism 101,” “A Young Person’s Guide to Changing the World,” “I Own Me,” “Hustlin’ for Freedom,” “A Young Person’s Guide to Liberty,” “A Dope Guide to Liberty,” “Guns and Weed: American Freedom,” and finally “Guns and Weed: The Road to Freedom.”
My wife actually came up with the final title. Like I’ve always said, “Behind every great man is a good woman he steals all his ideas from.”
The combination was a hit with us once we figured out where the film wanted to take us. It’s a good introduction to libertarianism but we did not use the term “libertarian” anywhere in the movie.
I don’t do drugs, but I think the War on Drugs is incredibly unethical. We noticed a lot of parallels between the War on Drugs and the War on Guns, and this formed the genesis of the final product. The sheer number of topics we covered (guns, drugs, freedom, taxes, public schools, government regulation, cops, war, marriage, nanny laws, labor unions, American history, the Bill of Rights, Natural Law, non-aggression principle, self-defense and much much more) is why the movie is so long, and also why it jumps around a bit. But most people who see it think it’s solid and compelling, with a lot of variety in the presentation, which means it is not “a long movie.”
NEEMA VEDADI: In one of the first songs Michael and I collaborated on I wrote this lyric “I want my guns and my weed/who are you to say what I do or don’t need?” If you boil down the issues of guns rights and pot legalization you are left with the most fundamental and easy to grasp concepts of liberty: the right to defend yourself, and the right to own whatever you want and put whatever you want into your body. If you take that even further it boils down to simply “you are the rightful owner of yourself and are responsible for your own life.” Once you realize that, then any attempts to usurp your self-ownership are readily noticeable as immoral.
CLAIRE WOLFE: Your intended audience is obviously younger than the usual libertarian activist crowd. What techniques are you using to reach this audience?
MICHAEL DEAN: Basically we made this film as an educational primer, but also as an entertaining anti-indoctrination film. I think the weed part will make college liberal folks watch it and maybe help them realize why supporting “progressive” ideals that involve theft or aggression just might not be a good thing. It will also teach them that owning guns doesn’t make you a bad person. Both concepts undo some of the damage done by government schools (K-12 as well as state colleges), and without the weed part, victims of those schools would not likely ever watch it to find out about the gun parts and the liberty parts.
We originally thought the film would “unite the left and the right,” but that was wishful thinking. A lot of conservative Republican NRA types HATE this movie, and I’ve gotten actual threats via e-mail from them, and have seen a lot of online bashing of the movie by old gunnies, even just based on the trailer, or even just the title. They think this film is a really BAD idea and counterproductive for Second Amendment preservation. A popular rifle instructor who’s never seen a single frame of my work said “We don’t need some B-list producer promoting pothead agendas.” A moderator on CalGuns.net said of the film “Why not just have a NAMBLA cuddle-’n'-shoot event instead?”
But folks like that usually think the Bill of Rights created the Right to Bear Arms, which is just silly. And the movie explains why, culminating with the last thing I wrote and added in. It’s a line aimed directly at them, inspired by reactions to the trailer before the movie was even done. The line is “The Second Amendment did not yet exist on April 19, 1775, but the patriots at Lexington and Concord knew they didn’t need permission.”
Some older folks actually do “get” it. I got a glowing letter from a Vietnam vet yesterday who loved the movie and thanked us for making it.
So this film is really for people who think like I did when I was 20 or 21. When I was young I voted Democrat but didn’t know why. I thought guns were bad but didn’t know why. I always hated authority but still thought the government was there to help us.
If I’d seen this movie at age 20 it would have been a life-changing experience for me. We’re hoping it will have that effect on more than a few young people, and judging from early feedback, we think it will. Younger weed people like this film a lot. Older right-wing gunnies tend to hate it. A lot of them even support the War on Drugs! But anyone who hates even the IDEA of this film is beyond redemption, and they’re more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Their minds are permanently closed, so this film can’t be an eye opener for them. It’s like Boston T. Party said, “The problem isn’t Democrats. The problem is Republicans who aren’t willing to become libertarians.”
NEEMA VEDADI: I’m a young guy and I have five younger siblings. From my experience I’ve seen a lot of young people who feel something is very wrong with their world. We wanted this movie to give them a principled yet accessible viewpoint. Most kids think that guns and weed are “cool.” We wanted to say guns and weed are just things; Freedom is what’s cool.
OMG. I just learned that Aaron Zelman, founder, guiding spirit, and chief cook and bottle washer of JPFO, has died. More than a week ago.
I woke up this morning to a reader’s letter, passed along by BHM’s webmaster, Oliver. I could hardly believe it. Then I found the above-linked mini-obituary that sadly says so little of the man. There should be so much more! I hope there will soon be tributes all over the ‘Net.
Aaron and I worked together for seven years. I admired him and even though he could be crazy-making at times, he had one of the most creative minds I’ve ever encountered and he was unfailingly a gentleman and a gentle-spoken man. He created a unique niche in the gun-rights movement and I hope JPFO can continue without him.
Aaron was born with Marfan Syndrome, which can cause a host of related problems, some potentially fatal. I don’t know what he died from, but between that and his Type-A, hard-driving nature, it’s not surprising, though it’s shocking and tragic, that he died so young. Rather, I tell myself it shouldn’t be surprising. Yet Aaron was such a powerful personality, it’s hard to think of him being extinguished.
UPDATE: Please see my comment with a request from JPFO and the Zelman family below this post.
So. Do you make New Years resolutions? Or are you among the vast, world-weary crowd that considers them useless at best and possibly even an act of self-defeating folly? (“If I write down my intention to lose 20 pounds, I’ll hate myself and maybe even commit seppuku the first time I give in to a Krispy Kreme!”)
And if you do ponder and put pen (or electrons) to resolutions … what are the chances of you making progress toward keeping them?
I don’t say, “What are the chances of you keeping them?” because I suspect it really is self-defeating folly to hold ourselves to every resolve. It’s the progress part that’s most interesting.
I confess. I’m a resolution maker. And like most everybody else, not so great a resolution keeper. But years ago, I got a pretty good eye opening on the progress aspect of resolutions.
When I was young, I was shy, tongue-tied, and inarticulate. Year after year, one of my resolutions would be, “Become more articulate.”
Bad resolution. It doesn’t give any “how.” Doesn’t set any measurable goals. No milestones. Clearly a resolution doomed to failure.
Eventually, I quit resolving stuff like that — or resolving anything, for that matter because it all seemed so useless (anyhow, I was going through my Very Sophisticated period, and Very Sophisticated people don’t do anything as corny as make resolutions). Then about five years later, while throwing out old paperwork, I ran across one of those resolution lists — and realized that not only had I become more articulate; I had also achieved nearly every other long-term goal on the list. Or had at least moved in the desired direction.
Now maybe I just became more articulate because I matured. That’s part of it. But as I looked at that tattered list of wishes-mostly-come-true, I realized that, by writing them down and putting them into my own head, even if I didn’t thereafter pay conscious attention, I had gradually moved my life toward where I wanted it to be.
I expect a lot of people here get that. Maybe you want to move to an off-grid homestead, for instance. But that looks impossible from where you are right now. The money’s not there. The spouse doesn’t want to go. Your job keeps you in the city. Your health has gone way south on you (as happened to one comment-section regular), etc., etc. The prospects look dim.
But simply by keeping the goal somewhere within, you end up gradually sliding in your dream direction despite the odds — sometimes making choices that you’re unaware carry you toward the goal. A job comes up and you take it on its merits, not fully considering that it puts you near a place where real estate is more affordable. You get a divorce, and once the emotional chaos has washed over you, you realize it leaves you free to make new choices. And maybe the resulting lack of money even helps teach you needed saving and scrounging skills. Who knows? The challenges you have have to meet due to your bad health make you a stronger, more determined, maybe even more confident, person because you know you can overcome obstacles. Or maybe bad health helps you realize you need to re-scale your goal to something more attainable. A little money comes your way and instead of blowing it on a new car, as you might have in the past, you invest in preparedness. Or land. Or how-to books. And on it goes until one day you find yourself standing right next to your “impossible” goal.
Actions, decisions, and opportunities that might have seemed random turn out to have been almost frighteningly purposeful.
Call it kismet. Call it your unconscious mind at work. Call it God’s guidance. Call it what you will. But writing down the goals and writing them down again and revisiting and refining them really does make a difference in getting you where you want to go — even if it takes a long time and the path takes some pretty strange twists.
I am about to give you the two most critical tools ever created to help you achieve the life you always wanted. Whether it be financial stability, happiness in your relationships, weight control, goal achievement, you name it, these two tools are the key. These tools won’t cost you a thing and chances are that you have lots of them lying around the house in most of your drawers. You use both of them every day and yet don’t understand they make the difference in success and failure in almost every situation. I even hesitate to mention because I know the minute I do, most of you will say something like “Oh my God, he’s got to be kidding me! How ridiculous!” Okay, enough . . . here you go!
The two critical tools for success in all areas of life: pen and paper.
I know, I know. You already groaned. You think I am being overly dramatic. That’s fine with me, let’s compare results and then you can decide.
The fact is that only about three percent of people have written down goals for their lives. I didn’t say that only three percent have goals, just that only three percent bothered to write them down. Most studies tell us that the three percent with written goals achieve more than the other ninety-seven percent combined. That alone is a pretty strong testament to writing things down. But let’s keep going.
While I wish he’d linked to some of those studies, I’ve seen ‘em, too, and I believe it. I’ve lived with the strangely logical magical powers of writing since I got my first diary for my 11th birthday.
The conclusion of that article is pretty good, also: it’s not what you get, but what you give up that moves you in the right direction. Interesting thought.
Larry Winget, the author of “Two Tools,” also has a take on how to make New Year’s resolutions stick. It also starts with giving up — or rather letting go — letting go of past failures, letting go of the anxiety over not meeting our expectations for ourselves, letting go of all the things we failed to do and just getting on with getting on.
Kind of reminded me of what every teacher of meditation always says: When your mind wanders, as it will, don’t beat yourself up. Just breathe, refocus, and return your consciousness to its center. Easier said than done. But worth doing.
Winget’s take on resolutions is worth a read. And in fact is so good that I should probably just shut up here and let him have the floor. Before I do, though (yeah, I’m a writer; you can’t shut us up that easily), I want to agree but disagree with one point. His fifth tip for keeping resolutions is:
5. Keep your goals to yourself. Don’t share them with anyone. And don’t say, “He’s my buddy, I can tell him.” No. Or “She’s my wife, she will support me!” Don’t count on it! If you are a couple, set goals together but keep your personal goals to yourself. Even your most trusted confidants keep you from achieving your goals by shaking your confidence with just one negative word.
I agree with not telling anybody, though for slightly different reasons. Any smart writer knows that if she talks too much about “brilliant new ideas” before actually working on them — they die. The talk becomes a substitute for doing. The fresh new idea gets old from repetition. And pretty soon … bleah. (It’s a sure bet that if you ever meet a guy at a party who tells you all about the novel he’s writing, he’ll never finish it.) Same with your best resolutions, I suspect. I don’t think it’s your friends who are likely to torpedo your intentions with negativity (though if you have those kinds of friends, you might cultivate some different ones). I think we torpedo our own intentions by going on about them more than acting on them. By announcing them, we set ourselves up for failure.
That said, this year I’ve made some specific resolutions and I am going to tell one friend about the biggest of them. Because it turns out she and I both have resolutions that will benefit by having a support group. So we’re meeting this Friday to go over those particular aims, those self-promises. Then in the new year, she can call me up when she’s facing her temptations and I can talk to her when I’m having trouble with mine and we can remind each other why it’s worth persevering. Or how to get back on track if we’ve “fallen off the resolutions wagon.”
Sort of a Resolutions Anonymous.
And in the long run, if we do it right — a slow, rolling revolution in the course our lives take.
At the request of one of the people involved, I’ve removed yesterday’s blog about a special offer from Front Sight. I apologize — especially to all you who posted in the comments section and whose words have just been “disappeared.” But the info was originally given to me as a courtesy and the deletion needed to be done as a courtesy, also.
Somehow the local animal group has mistaken me for a tech guru, so I’ve ended up being their email contact person and webmaster.
Regarding the title of this post, we get letters. Like these. The latest arrived yesterday. I quote [almost] verbatim, changing names to protect the innocent and guilty alike:
My name is [Unspeakable] and my wife and I are facing a big transition in our life. We are suppose to adopt a baby in the next few months so we will not be able to give our 3 cats the attention they need. You see 2 of these cats are almost 12 yrs old and we’ve had them since they were kittens. The male, Lucky, is diabetic. Sniffles, the female had a very bad case of kennel cough when we got her from the SPCA so she has very bad sinuses because of it. the 3rd cat Norma Bates a little 6 yr old female who is basically a ferrel cat that lives in our house. We got her from [another group of crazy animal rescuers] but she hates any kind of interaction so we cant do anything with her.
All in all I see all 3 of these cat as unadoptable. We hate the fact that we cant keep them but we have to think about not only the welfare of our new child but their welfare as well.
Please help us during this hard time. We love these cats deeply but things are changing in our lives.
Darned funny thing. ALL would-be dumpers “care deeply” for their animals. ALL of them are getting rid of their pets SOLELY for the most altruistic reasons (or because the BAD PETS — you know, like the ones with BAD SINUSES, have driven them to it). And NONE of them ever offer a donation or even thanks. Nor are they willing to bear the responsibility of treating a chronically sick animal, training an unruly one, or euthanizing a truly psychotic “unaddoptable.” No, the cost of treatment is always too much. Training? Why, that would take both time AND money. And euthanasia? Why that would make them bad guys, and see, they’re too, too, too kindhearted to do anything so cruel. Somehow, it’s just our DUTY to take their responsibilities off their hands — and magically make the unwanteds disappear. They can then fantasize forever about how very, very GOOD they were to find their discards a Happy New Family.
I wrote back. Politely, even, thanks to some astute coaching and restraint offered by the group president. I didn’t send him a copy of this.
OTOH, I must say that I’m also doing email go-between work for the adoption of some foundling pups who were rescued from starvation and certain death. The wonderful people taking care of them and the wonderful people speaking up to offer homes for them are a great antidote to folks like Unspeakable.
The local group doesn’t have a shelter. Just overtaxed foster homes that can barely take on any more strays, let alone owned-but-unwanteds. Every once in a while, when somebody truly has to let an animal go (because they’re being transferred overseas or because they’re moving into a nursing home, for instance) the stressed-out volunteers find ways to make room for more. But also in those cases, the pet owner or that person’s family often offers to pay for the critter’s care until adopters can be found, and they’re truly regretful.
None of this, “Yeah, well I LOVE ‘em SO much and I’m such a WONDERFUL caring pet owner that I can’t wait for you to take them off my hands” crap. At least this guy didn’t threaten to dump ‘em in the woods. But what do you suppose he’s going to do if his adopted baby (assuming that’s even a true story) becomes chronically ill or develops behavioral problems?
What kind of “justice” system sends somebody to prison for years on a “he said/she said”? (And even worse when there’s ample reason to think the “she” in question is a liar). Oh. The kind of “justice” system that gets its knickers in a knot when the subject is firearms. Thank heaven for New Hampshire neighbors.
And you thought the DEA was merely an evil nuisance when it came to drugs and freedom. Here’s a little mission creep for ya: They’re becoming an evil nuisance just like the CIA.
Those last two items were via Rational Review News — which now has a new URL and a spiffy new look. It also has [UPDATE: most of] the funds it needed for this quarter — which I’m thinking might be thanks to many of you.
Some of you guys might have seen this hysterical dog story on Joel’s blog weeks ago. But since every animal person I know keeps going back to it and laughing their heads off all over again, I thought it was worth another link. Enjoy.
… Because tomorrow we get serious. It’s [drums of doom] New Years resolution time [/drums of doom].
Merry Post-Christmas! Happy Pre-New Year! I hope your holidays are being wonderful. Mine are — in large part thanks to you.
So in the belated Christmas cheer department … Serious side: Teenager Jeremy Marks, one of the most cosmically abused victims of the “don’t you dare photograph police, you scrofulous peasants” scam, was bailed out by a good Samaritan in time to spend Christmas with his family. The generous Google engineer who got him out of jail also contributed some extra money toward a Merry Christmas. Silly side: Here’s the most ghastly Christmas special of all time. I doubt there’s a human being alive (and not on some seriously mind-altering substance) who could sit through its entire two-hour length. But even if you just watch the opening and a few snippets, it’ll probably stick in your mind for the rest of your days. Um … might want to keep that in mind before you take so much as a peek at it.
No surprise: Those “safe” porno-scanners aren’t subject to any safety inspections. Or standards. And the DHS has been … the no-surprise continues … lying through its black and crooked teeth about the alleged certifications.
More on a Googler — actually a former Googler — doing good. For privacy this time.
I don’t get it . Why was this young man arrested? Isn’t that the way passengers are supposed to be treated these days? Oh. Wait. I see. It’s another case of “government hates the competition.”
While back, when I asked for ideas on what to do with defunct and crumbling stove pellets, Keith from North Idaho suggested making fire starters out of them. At the time I wasn’t inclined to do that, but when I realized how expensive those puppies have become, I changed my mind. Some of the ex-pellets will be put to other uses. But upon Googling (actually StartPaging for greater privacy), I discovered that fire starters are super-easy to make, and can be created out of all manner of materials … old crayons and candles, for instance, mixed with dryer lint or sawdust. More here and here and here.
Over this laid-back weekend I’ve been feasting on dried apricots, watching DVDs, reading, and treating the pups to sessions with their brand-new dog toys — among other things. One book I’m reading is better than I anticipated: Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian is a memoir by Avi Steinberg, a rootless young man who stumbled into a job in a Boston prison. His account is funny, heartbreaking, scary, well-written, and above all an insightful glimpse into prison life and culture. I can see why this one’s getting a lot of attention.
Next up on my reading list: The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition (thank you, D&K!). I read an earlier, less comprehensive, version years ago. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have looked better ever since. Can’t wait to delve into this expanded and beautifully crafted volume.
Finally … to do the impossible and say thank you for all the bounty that you’ve sent my way just in the last few days:
H — Those were some pretty darned big “odds & ends”! Shazam. P — Robbie says, “Arrrf, grrrrrrr, arrrf!” for his tug toy and I’m loving Judy and Kathleen. Mac — magnificent magnets. I hope you sell a zillion of ‘em. TH — The book is better than you think! I’m having a lot of fun with it. Mystery apricot givers (because once again, alas, there were no gift cards) — Mmmmmmmm! And more mmmmmmm! (and all you Secret Santas that I haven’t been able to thank in person, please speak up and say who you are). RL — You’ve made me fat and happy. And did I mention fat? BHM — You’ve made me happy and healthy. T-S and JS, thank you for your Christmas cards (and JS, what a gorgeous family).
To everybody whose gifts arrived earlier, to everybody whose gifts are still to come, to everybody who has — by their presence, their thoughtfulness, their links, their kindness, their wit, their courage, and their fellowship in freedom — been a gift to this blog and my life all year long. Thank you and may you live long and prosper. (And prosper some more. And more.)