On My Own Fascination With Guns
My therapist suggested one day that I explore the dark and foreign world of guns. She made the rather preposterous claim that it would grow my anima -- my feminine side. So I did.Since my roots are Swedish -- I am a resident alien -- I could go on here to dissect America and its love/hate relationship with guns. I could rant and rave about its violent history, its various hard-earned rights and freedoms, then wrap the whole package up in a politically correct post-Vietnam-paramilitary-culture thesis. But I'll spare you that, as what I am really interested in is my own -- rather than everyone else's -- fascination with guns. I want to break down into its constituent parts my own newfound enchantment with things that go bang! I want anatomized answers that cut deeper than contemporary sociology. I need an answer that will sort out the complex intertextuality between archetypal warrior needs, masculine icons, sex, destruction, and video games. And I don't for a minute want to give credence to the belief that shooting is related to such pastimes as tennis, cars, or computers.Nonexistent Sense of CommunityContinental Sportsman Shooting Range is located 15 minutes north of Seattle. It looks like a crash-landed barracks that lies helplessly still, like a stranded tortoise in a ill-maintained parking lot. It is open from 9am until 11pm, seven days a week. It is usually rather empty.I love the place. The building has been around since the '50s -- one of the range masters says that he used to go there as a kid to buy used 501 Levi's. You open the door by the overfilled barrel ashtray and walk through the Bulls Eye Cafe, with its small, round tables and Old West-style chairs. A TV in the background is droning on about true crime -- you hear sirens and crying people. You pass all that, deciding to save the burger for later, take a right just before the pro shop, and walk straight up to Big Mama Marla and let her show you her tattoo. If she likes you, she will call you honey. Either way, she will look at you with the eyes of a big-city taxi driver."Honey, yes, honey ... we just got back the Glocks ... try the 9mm ... would never shoot anything but a revolver myself, but you are younger, right? Right?"Right.Each lane at Continental is $9. Adding that up with the four boxes of factory .45 reloads for my Para Ordinance, Big Mama rings me up at around $70.I try thinking of Continental as something along the lines of a golf club or high-end suburban gym -- an isolated place dedicated to a single activity, catering to a single class of people. There is this great sense of community in golf-club locker rooms that turns people into "members" of this big glob of brotherhood in expensive sleeveless pullovers. That's pretty much the only reason I can see to play golf.Step into the shooting range hall, though, and you see nothing like that. Every stall on the range represents its own cause and culture. It is 8 on a Tuesday night at the Continental when I draw my automatic from its holster and set it on the stand in front of me. I feel zero sense of community. I have nothing in common, for example, with the three black men in shiny tracksuits in booth no. 3, on my left. The oldest of the three sets up an upper-body silhouette target and lets it slide out 10 feet. He laughs and tells his brothers that he often sees white trash here practicing with their targets 50 feet away. "But almost all gunfights happen at close range, you know," he says with authority. "You don't stand around, man! You don't fucking aim and shit. You shoot faster than you can think and pray your sorry ass gets through without looking like fucking Swiss cheese!"The other two nod their heads, sucking it all up.I wheel out my twin -- two-silhouetted -- IPSIC target to 25 feet and blind-fire. How would I react in a real situation? I retrieve the target, look at it, and push it out to 10 feet. I slide in a full mag and empty it by alternating between the two figures -- left, right, left, right ... 14 shots in 15 seconds, all of them in the A zone. Practicing at 10 feet is just silly. I have nothing in common with these guys.On my right is a 70-year-old man with oversized khaki pants, trying out six different revolvers. A couple of shots with that one, one step back -- scratching his shriveled and shrunken butt -- then another one. He is not very good. To his right is a female police officer in full uniform, with her target set at 10 feet, firing two fast rounds a burst. You always practice shooting two rounds, as someone getting shot doesn't just flip backwards and die like they do in the movies. In real life it is very hard to know whether or not you have hit your target. Always shoot till they fall, two at a minimum. Double tap. Shoot at the biggest area you can find -- the chest. Don't get all sophisticated and try for the head.In booth 9 is a beige-suited businessman I overheard earlier talking about mainframe computers -- a weeknight Walter Mitty with shoulder holster and Beretta .40. Same twin IPSIC targets I'm using. He alternates between the two, four rounds ... change of magazine ... another four rounds. Over and over again. I would like to ask him what he is practicing for. In booth 12, a short, pale man with a goatee takes a step back and looks me over. He is wearing an urban camouflage jacket and shiny boots. None of his fatigues carry any military insignia, but on the left sleeve there's a sewn-on T2 -- "Judgment Day" -- patch. I conclude that he represents his own one-man army. What is he practicing for? What is he expecting that the rest of us just fail to see coming? Must be a survivalist. Next to him is a giant black canvas bag, lying open. He makes no attempt to hide its contents: an AR-15 with sniper scope, a Mossberg Mariner, three semi-autos, and a blackened commando knife ... He smiles at me and asks me where I am from."Sweden."He nods but his eyes don't want to meet mine. "I traveled to Norway when I was younger -- had a women propose to me there when I was 30, but I was too young. But not today." He chuckles insecurely but leans forward to make sure I can hear through the ear-protection. "There's someone out there for everyone, you know -- you just got to find them.""So what about all this hardware?" I ask, pointing to his bag."Oh, nothing really ... could come in handy." Not wanting to talk about it, he steps back with another loud chuckle. Is he preparing for the next uprising? Or perhaps the war between those who will try to disarm the Americans and those who refuse to let the government establish firepower monopoly (Look what happened in Bosnia ... )? I should ask him where in his backyard he's got the other stuff stashed away.If you ever visit the Continental, take a field trip to the men's room. Although everyone is in there for the same reason, heads turn anxiously whenever someone new comes through the door. It's like a Wild West saloon -- everyone gets sized up. What gun? What holster? A lot of visitors walk around with loaded guns in the lobby and restaurant, where the sign above the counter demands, "ALL WEAPONS TO BE KEPT HOLSTERED AT ALL TIMES." Big Mama Marla wears a gun every day. The guys in the pro shop all wear guns -- a slight irregular bump just above the hip serving as a signal to their fellow initiates -- and they all wear a vest or loose shirt to conceal the weapon.So the world is divided into two groups: those who carry guns, and those who don't. Kind of like the division between those who play golf and those who don't. Although there is a profound difference between the Continental Sportsman and your local golf establishment: At the Continental, members carry guns to defend themselves from each other. The female police officer is preparing herself for a situation where -- hypothetically speaking, of course -- three black guys like the ones in booth 3 become unfriendly. The goateed survivalist worries about the widening sociopolitical gap between the old man and the beige-suited computer salesman, and how to survive the anarchy after the big riot between blacks and the police ends. The suit is afraid to walk out of the elevator toward his 12th-floor parking space. The old man is up at night now more than ever, walking around in his downtown apartment, convinced that all the voices down on the street in the middle of the night are up to no good.The bottom line is, you are on your own. The government can't protect you. The enemy is everywhere. Trust no one. So we have here what you might call a schizophrenic sense of community.The iconSo I went shooting a couple of times -- no big deal, right? Wrong.Although I struggled for awhile over whether I wanted to own a gun, I knew from the start where it would end. That step was taken by the impulse that drives most other human beings: simple boredom. When in doubt, buy whatever it is and see what happens.I didn't buy the first gun I brought home, however. It was lent to me. My wife, Lisa, and I lived in a pretty rowdy downtown Seattle neighborhood, just off Pioneer Square. We knew most of the bums by first name, but we also could see back-alley gang and drug-traffic stuff from our bedroom window. A Hispanic guy was shot next to our garbage can one morning.When I tell my all-American friend Carl about these matters, he sort of looks at me like I'm failing my responsibilities as a man sworn to protect his family. "Either move or get armed," he tells me. "Who do you think will protect you?" Then he lowers his voice: "I know you don't have your license yet and that you hate to fill out all the resident alien paperwork. But I'd rather you had a gun in the house. If nothing happens, no one will know. If something happens ... who cares, if it saved your life?"You can't argue with that.He brought a black Colt Detective .38 special when he came over for dinner one night. Lisa worried for awhile about the cleaning lady finding it, but we all sort of got used to having a loaded gun in the house. It wasn't anything we brought up with friends visiting -- it was just there in a drawer. Carl felt better, and I actually felt safer.When you think about it, you realize that the gun is probably not going to help much if someone breaks in in the middle of the night. The incremental feeling of security must come from having the "possibility" of defending yourself, although I know that in most situations I would pretend to be asleep, hoping that whoever is in the apartment finds something he likes and just leaves.I mean, compare the gun with the deadbolt I don't have on my door. It's not the gun and its power in themselves -- it's the gun as icon, as the representation of potential deadly force. This has nothing to do with reality in the most practical sense. An unloaded gun in your pocket while you're browsing supermarket aisles still carries a certain ... presence. Put a full magazine in your other pocket and there's even more presence. Cocked, locked, and loaded -- you just gotta love it. If you ain't packing, you're slacking.The point is, I own many things that could kill a human being in a single blow -- a large pair of scissors, a couple of fairly sharp kitchen knives -- but they just aren't designed exclusively for killing the way a handgun is. The "icon value" of a handgun is far higher. The less practical value a killing item contains, the higher its icon value.Considering guns only in this light, the icon value of a hunting rifle, while potent, is nowhere near that of a handgun. And an old, beat-up Colt .45 ranks higher than a more modern 1911 rebuilt for official competition with Aimpoint scope and full-size beavertail.I believe that one of the reasons the Colt .45 in its original design is still so popular is that it has served in many wars. Its popularity has nothing to do with proven reliability but more with the fact that this very model is known to have killed and killed and killed. Think about it: A great print ad for the Colt would read, "Has killed more humans than any other sidearm. And we guarantee it."My Own StuffI eventually got around to filling out the paperwork I needed to get a resident alien gun permit. It wasn't as bad as I expected -- the whole shebang was processed a week faster than they had promised.But I didn't wait for the permit to get my own gun. I answered a couple of ads and got in touch with a guy named Kevin who asked me what I wanted. I asked him what he had. He asked me what I wanted again. I said I wanted a 9mm Beretta. He said he had a 9mm Beretta and asked when I wanted it. I said I really didn't want to wait and agreed to pay $450 for it. He said we could meet in 20 minutes in the park next to my office if I brought cash. Fair enough.I expected Kevin to be a fat redneck, but he turned out instead to be a well-groomed guy my own age, driving a new Toyota Camry. The transaction took about five minutes -- partly because I felt like I was doing something illegal, and partly because it was illegal, but mostly because I wasn't sure what to ask. I mean, how do you know whether a gun is OK or not? I can answer that question today, but I couldn't then.My friend Carl was disappointed that a friend of his had bought a 9mm weapon, for two reasons: Bad guys and gang members choose 9mm (because they're small enough to conceal and their ammo is cheap), and real men and good guys don't carry anything less than .40 caliber. Carl talks a lot about stopping power and he refers to something he calls the endless dead-meat debate -- 9mm vs. .45. "It's a big hole at the end of the gun that rates high on the intimidation scale," he says.Do I Care?Uh ... yeah. So in search of the real thing, I soon started looking at .45s. I wanted something basic -- a no-frills Colt .45 that I decided was a necessary complement to the Beretta. I called Kevin again, and 20 minutes later I was a two-gun owner. Carl looked at me like I had come home safe and sound after a long and difficult journey. He held the Colt straight out, aimed, and dry-fired. "A model 70 ... cool!" He handed it back to me with respect. "Go to any range and they will know that you know your stuff. That gun is a classic."When in doubt, buy whatever it is and see what happens.Once a WeekWe will now dwell on the 9 mm-vs.-.45 debate. I had the debate with myself every Thursday night while shooting in the local league at Continental. The league is a poor man's version of IPSIC training. There's no drawing from holsters, no running, no shooting multiple guns. A normal relay requires 50 rounds and four targets. There are five or six shooters and a referee. A course of fire can be: Shoot one round at the left target at 25 feet in three seconds. You start with your gun resting on the bench, its safety on and your finger off the trigger. When the whistle goes off, you release the safety, raise your gun, and shoot. Another course might be two rounds fired at each side of a split target, a mandatory reload, and another two rounds at each target. It's all very relaxed ... family style! New shooters gets lots of encouragement, and couples of all ages compete in the same relay.When my turn comes, I open my bag and look at the two guns I brought: the 9mm Beretta and the Colt. 45. The power factor is not taken into account in the competition. And most people shoot better with a smaller caliber. So my choice is obvious, right? Yet when I choose my 9 mm, it feels like cheating.Think About That.Some of the Thursday-night shooters stretch the concept of cheating to include any semi-automatic gun and only count scores shot with a revolver. Revolvers just don't appeal to me, though, and certainly don't carry much icon value in my book. The revolver is too pragmatic, too much a passive defense weapon. I want offense!Others at the Thursday-night league debate guns that don't exist. Some of the disputants are disoriented propellerheads skipping the night shift at Microsoft. They're easy to spot from a distance: They travel in herds, a gaggle of nerds, and they all wear pizza-stained T-shirts promoting obscure printer drivers. They carry their guns -- all made by Glock -- in fanny packs. Walk up close to them and you hear, "No way, Jose! She nuked that alien with a plasma AR-21 ... ""Negative, it was a combat shotgun with slugs.""That's from Doom, dweeb ... you can't fire a XP-12 imploder inside a black hole! Everyone knows that!""What if you had a flame-thrower that spews heavy-water acid ... "Suddenly they all turn quiet as a girl approaches them to ask for a match.I don't feel that I belong to that category of shooters. Except for the real geeks, the Thursday-night shooters are generally an homogenous group: no paramilitary types, no survivalists, no military fatigues ... just a bunch of semi-well-off heterosexual Republicans. In order to avoid conflict, we seldom discuss politics. "We're here to have a good time."Right.The Thursday-night crowd ranks extremely low on the icon-value scale. Everything about them exudes safety and suburban morality. At least 20 percent of them are women, most of them married. The Microsoft techies don't rank any higher iconically. They don't look dangerous enough: No matter how much caffeine-crazed overtime they put in, they aren't going to put on a ski mask and go on a shooting spree in one of the company cafeterias.The Thursday-night shooters consistently choose good-guy guns. I doubt that any of them were upset when assault rifles were banned. Two S&W .40 hard-chromed frames, one 9mm Taurus -- all self-defense tools, no signs of aggression, just good-hearted sporting goods. On this Thursday, someone brought homemade brownies.Get It? Guns Don't Kill People.The lack of intimidation goes hand in hand with the lack of offense. Think about it: Take your regular Colt .45 and add a silencer. Then what you have is no longer an all-purpose defense gun but a professional killing instrument, an instrument designed for proactive use.The editors at American Handgunner, who have a feel for the dynamics of gun ownership, gave cover billing to the "hard-core .45 skull crusher, Navy SEALs custom pistol for close quarter battle (CQB)" on their August 1994 issue. To assure that we don't mistake it for something defensive, it's also called the "strike gun." It is a modified Colt Government model, with a shield in front of the muzzle to hinder someone from getting their body pressed against the slide and preventing it from shooting again, and a shroud to prevent assailants from blocking the hammer. It is ideally suited for "many of the tight situations encountered in both SWAT and HR situations." (The reader is assumed to be knowledgeable enough to know the acronyms.) The gun's prime feature is a spike below the grip, designed to cave in skulls.I give this one a high score on the icon-value scale.SEAL WannabeI thought more about my real need for guns after someone climbed up our fire escape, came in through our bedroom window, and stole a small stereo, a pearl necklace ... and my two guns. I realized that I felt naked without my firepower. Carl lent me his .38 special again to keep me afloat till I got something new. I decided to search for something with more icon value.To some extent, I felt better about my gun ownership after the burglary. The threat was real, and I wasn't just an action-movie-hero wannabe loser with disposable income.I ended up with two used guns: a Para Ordinance P-14 (with its high-capacity magazine, it ranks higher than a regular 1911) and a Heckler and Koch 9mm USP.The latter is what might be called a "purposeful" weapon. The 1994 H&K product catalog features high-tech polymer guns (called offensive handgun weapon systems) that promise the latest in applied technology, torture-tested under the most extreme weather conditions. This piece of equipment will prepare you for the ultimate challenge -- not simple self-defense, not even close-quarter-battle urban warfare will do these guns justice. The catalog declares that this equipment is designed to fight intelligent and well-organized German terrorists. (This appeals to me.) The catalog also describes add-on equipment like tactical flashlights and laser-aiming modules. And if it is minus 40 degrees Celsius and raining mud you will be the only one shooting!Moreover, if you want to train with your comrades, the back of the H&K brochure lists courses on tactical submachine gun use, firearms deployment during vehicle operations, active countermeasures, dynamic entry. ... I like this stuff. Like all men and boys, I have warrior dreams, as did all generations before me. And this is as close to being a warrior as I can get without actually risking my life and while keeping a decent-paying day job. And again: If the real shit comes down on me, I will be prepared. Being prepared for war is what being a warrior is all about! Will someone please tell me again that the threat is for real? Otherwise, I'm out another $1,200.Hype, Hype, HypeGun magazines are great for the warless warrior. Although I find all of them pathetic in both form and content, I have to admit that they are at least consistent in their promotion of the threat as real. How the threat is positioned sort of depends on where a given magazine positions itself on the paramilitary and sleaze scale. But the threat is always there, and guns -- often more than one -- are necessary for dealing with it.I pick up the September 1994 issue of Handguns, which features an article on indoor gunfights and how to survive them. It also has an article about where to keep your gun for home defense, with example after example of terrible things that have happened to real people and that could happen to you at any time. And American Handgunner has a standing column by excessive-force police-obsessed gun geek Massad Ayoob. In his October column, Massad advocates carrying a back-up gun. He describes 11 different incidents where bad guys, after being shot a couple of times, still come charging toward you, growling, "You son of a bitch, I'll kill you!" You pull your second gun from your ankle holster and save your life. Massad's stories are too crude for me.I would rather rely on my own imagination to picture the threat making gun ownership worthwhile. The last thing I want is to have my gun ownership be associated with this guy. I would rather read a detailed description of what a counter-terrorist group would do in different situations and what equipment it would use. And I wouldn't hesitate to sign up for a subscription if intelligent people started publishing a monthly gun magazine that could be what Wired is to the computer press. Do gun magazines really have to look like photocopied John Deere bro-chures? Do I really have to read another article where the overweight editor pasted black-and-white pictures of himself in a gravel pit testing the difference between a Glock and a Sigma? Do all articles really have to say good things about every gun?Daily newspapers aren't much different. I am reading about shootings at a bar near- by or a drive-by shooting two blocks down from our apartment. There have been more shootings in the last year in Pioneer Square, where we live, than in all of Sweden. So I read about that while sipping my latte at Starbucks, feeling the weight of that piece tucked in between my pants and my lower back. It's a jungle out here.Die HardPerhaps films have the same effect as newspapers. Although we know a movie is fiction, the depiction of a world where the threat is alive and well carries over into everyday living. I read somewhere that a lot of long-barreled revolvers were sold after Dirty Harry hit the screens in the mid-'70s. And a lot of Berettas were sold after Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. I don't think I will spend my Christmas in a high-rise fighting terrorists with thick accents, but depicting the gun in action does affect the image of the weapon. It adds to the icon value. And there we have the connection between film, my interest in guns, and icon value. The threat appeals to the archetypal warrior in me, and the choice of weapon changes over time.That explains why Western movies don't really grab me the way movies like Under Siege or Die Hard do. The redskin threat is no longer real -- in my neighborhood, the only way you can get hurt by an Indian is to trip over one sleeping in the back alley. The same thing goes for the Alien movies; I loved them all, but outer-space creatures just don't seem to justify the $500 expenditure for my Para-Ordinance/P-14. Nor do computer games. Fighting off 200 zombies with power tools does not help me visualize real threats. And playing games is hardly good practice for anything but epilepsy.Cocked and Locked and Shopping for XmasAt face value, my thrill with carrying a concealed gun is contradictory. I spent a year and a half doing my military service in Sweden, carrying weapons with far greater firepower than what I own today. And I considered my service for the most part to be a waste of time. And having a bazooka or a Husquarna machine gun (called Carl-Gustaf here in the US) slung over my shoulder had no more icon value than my green fatigues or my field cooking kit. The machine guns we carried were part of the system and justified by the circumstances. War has a tendency to justify a lot of weapons, and if a weapon is justified, it lacks icon value.So, there is an inverse relationship between icon value and what can be considered justified firepower. The examples brought up as horror illustrations in the gun debate take this to the extreme. A man with an assault rifle goes off on a shooting spree in a schoolyard. Kids playing cat's cradle at lunch break don't justify any firepower at all, so the icon value is maxed out.I experimented with this myself over Christmas by doing most of my late December shopping in a crowded mall with my Para-Ordinance cocked, locked, and tucked in my pants. I felt no urge to whip it out in order to demonstrate power or cause harm. But the point is, it felt different than it did to carry it after hours to and from my garage. It simply wasn't justified at the mall. A warrior without a war is nothing more than a dysfunctional sick dude with a gun.Hand to HandI now realize that my fascination with guns has to do with the ability to kill other people. I've been taking hand-to-hand combat classes given by a Jonathan Gurder at the Weapons Safety Institute (WSI), a newly opened gun range on the Eastside. Unlike Continental Sportsman, this place sports a conspicuous absence of Old West-style chairs and greasy cheeseburgers -- hence its misleading and pretentious name. I've seen Jonathan around the range before. He's a short, healthy-looking redhead with freckles and a Glock. I couldn't make time to take his regular weekend classes -- although it would have been interesting to see who attends and what they train for -- and instead dragged him out of bed at 5am to give me a private lesson at $35 an hour.We were facing each other in a white room with a padded floor on the second floor of WSI, both in jeans and T-shirts. My T-shirt reads "Microsoft Windows 95." His T-shirt reads "Los Angeles Tri-athlon: shooting, looting, running." As we went through the basic moves, I felt the same sensation I did the first time Carl took me to the shooting range. I am learning how to kill, how to survive a street fight, mano a mano. I can feel the warrior in me come forth and breathe morning air.As I got more involved in the art of hand-to-hand combat and got to work with two of the best real-world military instructors in the US, John Holschen and Ron Hasin, the conceptual part of the training took me closer to the threat warriors feed off of. The practical skills I learn turn the threat into a manageable situation where the warrior is tuned to be in control. I am playing with abstract situations of pain and death, and in the sweaty training hall I feel closer to being able to turn all that energy to my advantage in a real situation."OK, OK, now hold onto that hand all the way down and you are likely to dislocate a shoulder as the arm twists," Ron says as he lets himself be thrown to the floor. "And then kick hard to the ankle and step back. There are hundreds of bones in the foot. Kick hard, break them, and step back. Or go for the knee -- whatever is closest."Basic moves are simple: Cover your head with both arms, move in really close and strike downward toward the base of the skull with the left elbow, follow through, hit upwards against the gullet and strike downward with right elbow, then upward again. Most moves end by breaking something: an ankle, shoulder, spine, wrist, neck. ... At the end of a session my instructor looks at me and asks what else I want to learn. "Attack," I reply. Ron nods as if in approval and shows me how to tweak the basic moves, using initiative to your advantage.The training has given me something just like a gun to carry around. It's a concealed weapon. But where's the icon value in hand-to-hand combat skills? I don't know -- the key is learning how closely this ties to pulling a trigger. I now see my fascination come clearer -- it's all about killing, the ability to take life. Or to control life -- first my own, then others'. As Ron takes me further, the control aspect becomes clearer."Meet Chuck," he says after one of our short breaks. "Chuck weighs 100 pounds more than you do and will now try to strangle you." Although Chuck is big, I have no problem breaking out of his grip. I could have gone for the eyes as well, with my thumbs, but get a relaxed but firm grip of the back of his skull and twist his head as he slams into the wall behind us."That will work," Chuck says, rubbing his neck and smiling.I look at my bare hands in amazement.Poor BuggerOne summer morning when I was 7 years old, my father showed me how to shoot the family air pistol. It was a copy of the old large-frame 9mm Walter. Bang, bang. I was fascinated with the power of this gun -- for about 10 minutes. Then I got bored. Shortly after my father disappeared out of sight to go fix the fence on the other side of the house, lead pellets were flying in all directions. A bumblebee bought it big-time. And a lazy seagull skating over the clear blue sky screeched when hit amidships.I was at last the rightful ruler of my world -- making a big black beetle, crossing the lawn in front of my bare feet, beg for mercy before I double-tapped him in the forehead. What new power I possessed! How would this change the power structure and hierarchy among the neighborhood kids? And how sweet the revenge would be, I thought, when my little brother came out the verandah door with my fire truck tucked under his arm -- the little thief deserves . . ."After lunch," a gentle, fatherly voice suddenly said from behind me, "we can practice strong-hand-only shooting."Next time -- after lunch -- I expected that the seagull sitting pretty on the roof of the dock wouldn't be so lucky. With my big toe I pushed what was left of the beetle under a rock, and sighed. Poor bugger, I almost felt bad for him. I wished that the beetle could realize that his life was not taken in vain, that his death was ... ugh ... somehow necessary. Some must die. Some survive. I was in control that summer morning and knew that it was all about killing.Johan Liedgren, 33, born in Stockholm, recently left his director's position at Microsoft to write, work with his investments in small start-ups, and manage his new company, Honkworm. He lives in Seattle with his wife and son.