July 27th, 2009

CD - Zakiya: Kiya Got A Gun

Bob Shooter of the Shooting Shooters Association

Ignore the in-joke header plz.

On Saturday, Joe and I went clay pigeon shooting for our friend Aaron's birthday. Joe did some rifle work in the Air Force, but I'd never fired a gun before - heck, I'd only touched a gun once in my life. When we got to the range we were shown the trophies to be given out at the end of the day - Best Male Shooter, Best Lady Shooter and 'Turkey'. That turkey trophy was epic; a beautifully-sculpted fat golden bird. I have always been bad at sports (besides rollerskating and go-karting, it seems) and I had my eyes on it, assuming that I would probably be shite at this whole shooting dealie too.

For the practice round, I was indeed shite. For some reason, I'm so retarded I can't close my left eye. I can close my right eye just fine, but when I try to do just my left I wind up grimacing like Quasimodo. Every shot I took missed by a few feet - due to stereo vision, I was seeing two guns, and aiming with the wrong one. Then the instructor put his hand over my left eye and asked me to try again. BLAM! The clay exploded. And again, and again, every time he covered my eye.

"Of course," the instructor said, "You can't have me standing behind you grabbing at your face when you're shooting for Australia."

I could see him thinking. He took my safety glasses and handed them to an omnipresent wizened little nut-brown fella who seemed to be some sort of odd-jobs guy, and told him to put tape over the left lens. My practice turn was finished and I rejoined the others and ruefully showed off my taped-up glasses to a round of laughter. I could see a turkey trophy in my near future. A one-eyed turkey trophy.

Joe was fantastic, taking out about 80% of the clays he aimed for, and Aaron did brilliantly too. While I chilled out with the other party-goers, the boys practised shooting doubles, where both barrels of the shotgun are loaded, and a clay is fired from the left, and then the right of the field - so you don't have time to lower the gun between shots. You shoot the first clay, then quickly turn and take out the already-airborne second clay. Aaron got both on his first go, and turned around with such a massive high-watt grin I could see it from fifty meters away.

Practice was over, and the official contest began - shooting doubles as described above, which was something I hadn't practised yet. We were sorted into two teams, eight shooters per team. My team included Aaron and Joe, happily... I really, really didn't want to be the reason our team lost, so I hoped that their awesomeness would carry my weight and my performance wouldn't matter. Round one began. Aaron went out and did amazingly, only missing one clay out of ten. Joe did brilliantly too, with much the same result (ultimately he scored 17/20 in the contest!) Our team was all about team spirit, clapping for shots where the shooter scored one out of two clays, and whooping and cheering for shots where they took out both.

I was second-to-last to go out, and I could feel my heart racing. I went out feeling pretty bleak, not wanting to make a total cock of myself in front of my friends who had performed so awesomely. I put on the taped-up glasses, took the shotgun, clicked it closed. And you guys, you have no idea what a satisfying feeling that is. Also, ejecting the smoking spent cartridges is heaps fun. Pop! They go flying over your shoulder. Anyway, enough of this tangent. I raised the gun, noting that with my taped-up glasses it was just ONE gun in my vision. Lined it up. Elbow in the right position. Cheek against the wood, vision lined up straight down the long, sleek barrel. I shifted my left hand further back down the grip so my other elbow was bent too, and that kept my arm from hurting too much under the weight. Knowing my arms aren't very strong, I decided not to delay. "PULL!"

The first clay shot up into the air. My whole world dwindled down to nothing but the immense blue sky and that tiny black oval. It seemed to hang there forever. I fired. The gun kicked into my shoulder and as the clay shattered I was already turning to the right, scanning for the second clay. A moment of panic and then I spotted it, rising up into the field of blue. I pulled the trigger again and it dissolved into a cloud of dust.

I lowered the gun, amazed. Through the earplugs I dimly heard my teammates cheering. I was so flustered the instructor ejected the shells for me. "You alright?" he said.

"Fine, it's just heavy - thanks." My heart was still racing. Now the other team took their turn, and I rested my arms with the gun balanced on the stand in front of me, and figured I must have fluked it. But it had seemed so simple. So pure.

My turn again. And again, there was nothing in the world but the sky, the clay, and the barrel of the gun. I did it again. How could I not? When everything moved so slowly how could anyone ever miss?

My round ended before I knew it. I had missed at least one of the ten but I wasn't sure how many. I walked back towards my team, trying to hide a grin, feeling oddly shy and very undeserving - very lucky. Turns out I'd got 9/10.

The next round began, our team ahead. We all switched to the other side of the field. Suddenly people started performing badly, as though they'd gotten used to aiming and firing in a certain direction and the shift had messed up their perceptions. Even Aaron started missing. I got nervous again; our team couldn't be that far ahead and what if this side-switching malaise got me too?

While I waited, little-brown-nut-man walked up and handed me a tiny clay with a grin. "Get 'em to use these ones your next go."

I stared at the little orange disc and laughed. It fit neatly into the palm of my hand. "No bloody way!" I said, but I folded my fingers around it and kept it, feeling kind of proud.

My turn came up, I went out. Heart fluttering again. But the gun felt right now, stock nestling into the hollow between the triangle of ribcage, shoulder and breastbone. I know guns have evolved over hundreds of years to feel just-right but I'm not used to ANY equipment feeling just-right to me; I'm small and short and stocky, and everything is too long, or too tall, or too heavy. The gun was still heavy, certainly, but since I'd started holding it right I didn't notice anymore. Even the kick didn't bother me. Joe was turning black and blue, poor bony thing, but I'd finally found something my well-padded stocky little German-crafted frame was good at. And when the kicks came, I barely budged.

I shot and shot again, and everything I shot at moved in slow motion and exploded as cleanly and magically as though I'd willed it with my mind, and my feet moved naturally beneath me, and the instructor murmured, "You're on fire today."

And eventually, "Only two to go." He loaded the final two cartridges into the gun. I hadn't missed a single shot yet. Now I had something more than clays to aim for... I was aiming for perfection.

Those last two clays dissolved in puffs of smoke. Perfect.

Even through the earplugs I could hear my team going apeshit behind me, and I handed the gun back to the instructor, who congratulated me, and for the first time in my life, I walked towards sporting team-mates and they were cheering for me.

Long story short, I took home the "Top Lady Shooter" trophy (I like deliberately misreading that phrasing, haha.... ladykiller!) with a score of 19/20, beaten only by one guy who had been shooting before and got a perfect score. But the tropy isn't as awesome as the feeling I got while shooting - not the feeling of success afterwards, but that feeling during: pure, clean focus, the same thing I felt on the track while go-karting, or back in the day when I was an avid skater: the calm, meditative peace that comes from focusing everything in the world down to one instant when the mental and the physical meld. I am not a sportsperson but I understand more than ever why some people are, because when the clutter of noise, action, thoughts and worries of everyday life sink away, the world is a simple and beautiful place. When the rattling of the car, or the weight of the gun, or the force of the kick, or the beating of your heart all fade to a dream happening to someone else... in that moment lies peace.
Cats: Techno!

Portfolio ideas

Hi guys!

Having discussed the content of my portfolio, I want to now consider the delivery. My current portfolio is something I designed personally and coded in HTML; in other words, it's extremely simple. While a lot of people comment they like the simplicity, I want to step-up the professionalism of the design... maybe get a proper web designer to design and code it for me. The functionality could be better too. I'd like to maybe section it off somehow - a section for illustration, a section for graphic design, etc. The problem is that a lot of my previous work blurs boundaries - can character design be put under illustration? How should product design be classified? Do I have enough graphic design to warrant a seperate section? Should cartoons have their own section, seperate to design and illustration?

So it's complicated, but I want some way to target the potential clients' specific interests, so if they come in looking for illustration they don't have to bother flicking past graphic design samples. I don't wish to use one of the available template sites like the new DA portfolio, as I want my site to have a distinct and memorable identity.

I also want to include a price list (making a note of the fact that the listed price ranges are guidelines only). And something else I'd like to do is have single Illustrator illustrations - cute girls, animals and the like - which can be purchased for personal or commercial use automatically from the website.

Something like this: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/p/penguin.asp

...only with a much clearer layout. And, ahem, better art. And set up so it's easy for me to add new illustrations to the database each time I complete a new one. Preferably with some sort of tagging system so if I were to do something like the above, it could turn up under a search for 'penguin', 'cartoon', 'single-panel' or 'gag'.

I'd also like to draw up some contracts and invoices. I used these once before freelancing but I want to start afresh this time, putting to use all I've learned. That's off-topic, just thinking out loud.

Anyhow, so I know when the time comes: who here does web design? Do you do both design and coding? Are there ways to do the sort of thing I talk about above? Can you show me examples? (Preferably of your own web design work along similar lines). What sort of charge am I looking at?