Saw this on twitter. Cannot be said better.
Saw this on twitter. Cannot be said better.
If you read through the arguments the "pro gun" groups like to make about concealed carry and allowing people to carry their weapons into various places like schools, churches, and other public venues, you realize they're - and the people who agree with them - thinking that it'll be like this:
Yes, everyone is going to be like Dirty Harry. Leaving aside that it's…
Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female…
Man, this last day has been a vacillation between being heartbroken and enraged. I keep thinking about those families in Newtown, Connecticut, this being the silly season and all. I think about how many of those murdered children had gifts at home waiting for them. I think about the parents anticipating the looks on the children’s faces Christmas morning. I think about all the plans that were made to travel and visit family.
I think of how utterly trivial all this holiday consumer crap is in comparison to losing a child. Hell, pretty much everything else in life is trivial. Those parents would have stepped right in front of those bullets for their kids without a second’s hesitation.
Then I think about the person who killed those innocent kids and I can’t find words to describe him, or words I would utter publicly to describe what I feel about him. I won’t say his name, though. Ever. And that’s that.
What else can I say about an event so tragic, I keep forgeting that 6 innocent adults were killed as well?
The other reason I’m so worked up is because I’m so tired, as many of us are, of seeing these tragedies result in no effort whatsoever to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of another tragedy. The next bloodbath comes, and I wonder how many more of them will it take before we realize that we bear the responsibility of preventing this? I mean we can’t keep our kindergarteners safe.
So in my furor, I took to the twitter-verse looking for a fight with every lobotomized ideologue dumb enough to defend gun rights. I was surprised and encouraged to see that a lot of like-minded people were doing the same.
The mainstream media was doing the same as well (well, some of it). To my more encouraged surprise, no one on my side of the argument appeared to be biting on the typical right wing talking points and fallacies (now is not the time; it’s an attack on the 2nd Amendment, etc.). People were pissed. The situation was too grave. And when the sane people pushed, the loons quickly found that the ice beneath their feat was not only thin but cracking.
Maybe America is finally ready to to do something about gun control.
That’s not fair, a majority of us have been ready for years. But maybe now there are enough of us, sufficiently motivated, to spur the politicians to act. I wrote every representative I have, Democrat and Republican.
Because our current system is not just untenable, it’s illogical, immoral, and unjust. It’s easily demonstrable. Instead of scoffing at the gun nuts clamoring for even more firearms, play those scenarios out. What would really happen if you were working or out running some random errand, and all of sudden shots start firing? You pull out your gun and you see someone with their gun out firing shots. Are they the shooter? Is that just another well-armed citizen like you? What if they turn their gun on you? Do you shoot first? Do you hesitate and put yourself at risk? It’s goofy. The fact is the status quo is failing, miserably and absolutely. We cannot continue to let the defenders of that status quo control–or better, stifle–the conversation.
The first step is to not fall for the rhetoric, which is working so far (though it’s only the 1st day). The second is to maintain a sense of context. This specific case may not have been preventable with simple gun control laws, but that doesn’t mean at least some of the 10,000 gun deaths we have every year in this country weren’t preventable. Gun control is about the epidemic not the one event.
There are sensible measure we can take right away that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with, such as closing loopholes and doing background checks on everyone looking to buy a gun. Even a majority of NRA members support that. Then there are things we need to investigate and discuss further; like ways to better identify potentially dangerous people who shouldn’t have access to guns. Additionally, we should consider that peripheral issues such as improved mental healthcare might do considerable good.
We live in an “ocean of guns” in the U.S (89 guns for every 100 people, highest in the world). It’s too easy for just anyone to get a gun legally. The NRA is hellbent on putting as many guns into as many hands as possible, while simultaneously giving us greater legislative freedom to use them against one another. They are behind crazy laws like stand your ground, which has led to a substantially increased number of penalty-free murders by moving the goalpost on what’s considered self-defense. They pushed for legislation allowing people on the Terror Watch-list to purchase guns and for loopholes that have created an environment where 40% of firearms are purchased without any background check (mostly over the interwebs). And they oppose, with bookoo lobbying dollars, basic, common sense gun control laws that even the NRA membership supports.
This is because the NRA is really just a lobbying organization for the gun manufacturers. That’s who gives the NRA most of its funding. The NRA works for arms dealers who sell guns to our military and to the people our military fights. Those arms manufacturers have sold–directly–some of the very guns that have killed our troops. So they’re not morally above creating an environment where everyone feels they have to have a gun.
You’ll hear the gun nuts arguing for this like it’s a good thing. We should’ve armed teachers (the same ones they think are overpaid by the way). After that it’s waitresses, I suppose…then cashiers, office managers, doctors, and finally the clergy. They won’t be happy until they see every pastor and priest standing before their congregation wearing a Kevlar vest.
We also need to study the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, what the Founding Fathers wrote and said about it ( here’s a hint; they meant militia literally), and what the subsequent court decisions have interpreted the Amendment to mean. Because that’s the actual process of determining Constitutionality. We do this for the 1st Amendment, which is why you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater or accuse someone of rape without proof. The 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right but we need to have an understanding of what that right is and what it’s meant to be.
Finally, we’ve got to have the resolve to see this through. Once the sting of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary wears off, it will be easy to fall back into old habits until the next tragedy rekindles the outrage. At that point, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. And a lot of bloody hands to wash clean.
I had an awful dream last night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a nightmare–I could have mined it for story ideas. No, this bad dream was about something that actually happened.
Awhile ago, the only girl I’ve ever been in love with asked me to go away with her. She was going to grad school on the east coast. That whole last year together, she’d been dropping unsubtle offers for me to go with her. To her credit, she made the whole thing lighthearted. It would be awesome if you came with me. As if she was suggesting we get an ice cream sundae after dinner.
The incident in my dream transpired during one of our goofy–but absolutely perfect–conversations, this time about Method Man’s Release Yo Delf (she thought the song said “bitches by homicide!” which makes no sense. The actual line is “being chased by homicide”). And for the first time she pushed the issue. She really wanted me to come with her. She thought I could do well back east. I could further my education. Find a better job. And I could still work on my art.
I stood my ground.
I was going to San Diego. My favorite studio was there. My utterly stupid notion of an ideal life was there. Besides, I couldn’t leave California and my friends and my family and my life.
Of course it was none of those reasons at all that kept me from going with her. I didn’t go because I was an idiot. I was chickenshit. I took for granted how much I loved her. So I let the best thing that ever happened to me walk right out of my life. And now, my subconscious mind was rooting through that misery for reasons only Providence could possibly know (Damn to hell whatever it was that connected those dots, by the way).
I didn’t realize how serious she was about the move until she stopped trying to convince me. She had this exasperated look on her face. That’s the image that’s been stuck in my brain since I woke up. God, how could I have been so stupid?
We officially broke up about two weeks later. But the die had already been cast; from that day on, our relationship was palpably different. She was starting the process of letting go.
It seems that was about the time when my life kind of got…stuck. As far as relationships, I took my hat out of the ring. At first because of heartbreak. Then because it became comfortable to not take the risk. I mean, sure, I dabbled. But I’m an odd cookie. I’m black, but the world I live in is not. I know it doesn’t sound like a thing. Maybe it wasn’t. But in my head it was. I mean, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian…cleaned up they sort of jibe. But then there’s this 6-foot-4 black dude lumbering around in the mix; I would sometimes feel…out of place. Of course, neither of my brothers has a problem with that, so it probably was me. Still, I was living in a new city; I didn’t know a lot of people. And hitting on women cold has never been my forte. (I got laughed at once. Laughed at. Let that stew in your noodle a bit.) So i didn’t really go out all that much. I’ve never been the rock out with your cock out type. Unless we’re talking pancakes, I typically favor quality over quantity, particularly with interpersonal relationships. And I’m not a toad, but unless it’s the DMV, I’m rarely the best looking guy in the room. I’ve never really made a lot of money, had particularly cool jobs, nice cars, or “dripped swag.”
To top it off, I’ve been raised almost exclusively by women, so I have a great deal of respect for women, which means I’m a nice guy, which I have learned–the hard way–is poison to the romantic interest of the vast majority of women. I’m talking forever friendzoned.
While we’re running the litany, I’m prone to bouts of depression. They don’t necessarily manifest as sadness so much as withdrawal from social interaction. Sometimes months go by when I feel wholly disinterested in doing anything. Oh, and I have a potentially fatal heart condition. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and I have never taken an illicit drug in my life. But I do love junk food. I wouldn’t say it’s killed me, but it definitely has it’s hooks in. If I was betting on which way I’m gonna go, I’m putting the house on the ticker.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’ve had a bad life or anything. I don’t seek pity (before now). I’m not waiting for death. In fact, I find that entire mindset absurd and counterproductive.
I have plenty of amazing people in my life who love me and care about my well being. I’ve typically been well liked and well respected by most of the people with whom I’ve interacted. My passions are writing and drawing and I do one or the other pretty much every day. And I have had relationships…just fewer than I would like (I’m probably with the majority in that regard). I’ve even been in love. Requited love. I fully expect the day will come when I earn my entire living with my art. I don’t believe in soul mates or anything but I know there are people out there with whom I’m compatible. I just have to get re-acclimated with putting myself out there. A la George Costanza, I’m like a commercial jingle (do they have those anymore?); initially I may go unnoticed, I might even be annoying, but you’ll be humming my tune by the end of the day.
I’m perpetually optimistic. I mean, it’s the only thing that makes sense to me. You’re stuck with what you’ve got. You can spend your time getting worked up about your circumstances or you can try to make things better. Tomorrow’s coming either way. It’s like that quote that says something along the lines of, optimists are realist; they know how bad a place the world can be. It’s pessimists who keep relearning it every day…or something to that effect. Personally, I think optimism, when applied, looks a lot like determination; and as an ideal, it’s the next best thing to happiness.
Anyway, my point, at the beginning of all this, was about my dream about this girl I loved and how my life would have been profoundly different if I would have just gone away with her. Would it have been better? Possibly. Okay, probably. But perfect? Obviously not.
I was just haunted by the vividness of that look on her face. It dredged up every bad thing that’s happened in my life since. I had to vent. But even as I thought about the bad stuff, I started thinking about the good. That says something, right?
I finally saw The Hunger Games. I feel duped.
All the political controversy, hype (bolstered by some opinions I trust), and box office success–along with one of the better trailers for a mainstream movie this year–led me to believe that the blockbuster film adaptation would be worth the time.
Hell, I was looking forward to it.
The previews focused, to my pleasant surprise, on story elements rather than special effects and explosions. Little did I know, those same story elements would play out in the movie without any further development than the trailer. The characters are all contrived and manifest as either generic or ridiculous with nothing in-between. The world lacks detail and credulity. The dangers feel manufactured. Nothing is genuine. It’s a representational telling of an unoriginal idea.
Based on Suzanne Collins’ ‘tweener novel of the same name, The Hunger Games explores a dystopian future in the fictional nation of Panem whose rich and powerful leadership caste requires that the poor, starving masses submit 2 children from each of the 12 districts to compete in a fight to the death. Only 1 child can emerge victorious. The winner is bestowed with riches and notoriety. It is the only upward mobility available to the lower classes.
There is nothing in The Hunger Games that we haven’t seen or read in Lord of the Flies, The Running Man, the Mad Max series, The Truman Show, Gladiator, The Most Dangerous Game, or a dozen other books, t.v. shows, and movies–or that Kinji Fukusaku’s Battle Royale didn’t do better in every conceivable way.
Still, I don’t actually fault Hunger Games for its lack of originality; the idea has been explored so often because it’s a good one. It has inherent themes of self-reliance, hope, perseverance, and self-sacrifice. The Hunger Games is simply one of the more unremarkable examinations of the concept.
The film assumes that the audience will accept its premise…even though the premise is outlandish. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to buy in, but I still needed at least some effort toward the suspension of my disbelief. Call me nit-picky, but I have to be convinced that a society would revel in the murder of children. Moreover, I have to be convinced that parents would allow this to happen. Every parent I know would have to be stone dead before their child could be subjected to such a ghastly fate. In the movie, the only parental outburst occurs after a father’s 12-year old daughter is killed. It’s just not believable.
Additionally, this is supposedly the 74th hunger games, yet there seems to be no active cultural impact. No one is secretly training their kids or openly embracing the games as the only viable way to escape poverty. The rich celebrate it; the poor bear it stoically. In fact, the “bad kids” are the ones honestly trying to win the games rather than just running and hiding. The nihilism that would inevitably firestorm out of such oppressive circumstances is ignored–apparently in the interest of convenience. I mean, you don’t have to show kids killing themselves or going postal on the rich (that would obviously be far too compelling), but at least show how these potential dangers are quelled. Conversely, a kind of cultural Stockholm Syndrome is not implausible either. Honestly, I’d have accepted anything demonstrating that someone wondered what a world like this might actually be like.
We are also introduced to a Twilight-style love triangle that will indefensibly be explored in the upcoming sequels. It makes me angry just thinking about it.
As for the cast, Jennifer Lawrence is given just enough material to mold a type, but clearly not enough to craft a 3-dimensional character out of our heroine, Katniss Everdeen. However, Lawrence’s portrayal of Ree Dolly–who comes from almost identical circumstances as Katniss–in the indie noir film Winter’s Bone proves the actress is fully capable both nuance and gravitas. So I will give her the benefit of the doubt that neither the script nor the book gave her what she needed to breathe life into Katniss. The character is dull and incomplete. She inexplicably sees the world from today’s perspective, with today’s values of life and death. Her only redeeming quality is that she volunteered to go to the games in her sister’s stead. It’s surely no small sacrifice, but that only makes her nominally more sympathetic than the other children being forced to murder each other on t.v.
Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks (both actors I find to be consistently good, even when their projects aren’t) play patently absurd characters that undermine the gravity of the story while simultaneously providing no levity to it.
Donald Sutherland, who is always either heavy-handed or brilliant, here finds himself in the former playing laughably asinine Panem president Coriolanus Snow, who gilds his trees while pontificating villainously about oppression via “a little hope.” Pure and utter tripe. He’d be satire if he wasn’t such a joke. Why not have him twirling his mustache and laughing maniacally? That would have been equally devastating to my evening’s enjoyment.
Stanley Tucci actually managed to not piss me off despite his character’s valiant and constant efforts. Tucci is known for his ability to grace a featured role and he works his mojo to the hilt here only to draw even–at best–with his wholly unlikeable Caesar Flickerman.
Wes Bentley, who has struggled to find challenging roles since American Beauty, neither is given nor offers anything whatsoever as Seneca Crane…except maybe to provide Adam Levine with grooming ideas for the next Maroon 5 outing.
I forgot Lenny Kravitz was in the movie until I saw his name on Wikipedia just now. He wears gold eyeliner in the film and gives out multiple hugs.
My biggest disappointment with this hot mess was that it was helmed/enabled by Gary Ross, writer and director of such dramedy classics as Big, Dave, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit (he jokes that his entire career can be summed up in four words). Ross is one of my personal favorites. It’s doubly odd because where The Hunger Games is weakest is where Gary Ross is typically strongest. Of course, in those other films he’s resurrecting the spirit of Americana rather than trying to create a dystopian mood. I guess I just assumed that sci-fi world-building was within his wheelhouse. The Hunger Games is yet another reminder of what happens when we do that.
This is by far the best political song parody I’ve seen in quite some time. The song (and video) was made by a group called JustNew Productions (?) based on Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. It’s a pretty well written parody and I think it’s accurate about how a lot–a LOT–of people feel about Barack Obama.
Probably why the video is going viral.
Well, maybe that and the creative body painting.
(BTW, does Weird Al Yankovic still do parodies? I don’t know. Anyhow…)
Money out of politics.
There’s this guy I know…
He’s the younger brother of a high school friend. He now lives somewhere in the general vicinity of where I live. He’s fallen on hard times since our school days. He’s usually high, drunk, or stinking of booze whenever we bump into each other. Nevertheless, we’re cordial, though I haven’t talked to him for longer than 5 minutes at any one time in my life. He’s the proverbial “hello” around the neighborhood.
Anyways, I was just on a walkabout in crappy ass Fresno, corralling my thoughts, when I ran into said acquaintance. As I was walking past a nearby convenience store parking lot, he was pulling into it–driving the most beat-to-shit early 1990′s Honda Accord I’ve seen in quite some time. He got out, said hello; we shook hands…then he saw an overfilled garbage bag–like a homeless dude would have–sitting amongst sparse bushes under the convenience store sign. He abruptly strode over, took the bag, and put it in the back seat of his car. Then he nonchalantly entered the store, leaving me standing there without so much as a farewell.
What just happened?
What was in the bag? Drugs? Money? Garbage? Some poor homeless guy’s stuff?
I wouldn’t trust my acquaintance with my product if I was a dealer…of any kind. Besides, who would leave anything of value just sitting out there like that?
Was he expecting that bag to be there? Did he just see it and think, “ZOMG, I could use one of those!”
Baffling. I’ll have to remember to ask him about it the next time I run into him.
Anyway, it was weird. Just thought I’d share.
I was gonna go postal in a blog (still might) about this but The young Turks once again handled it much better than I ever could.
For those without time to watch the video–and if you haven’t heard–the short version is that Yovany Gonzalez is suing Wells Fargo bank because he believes they fired him 3 days before his daughter, Mackenzie, was scheduled to have cancer surgery. Gonzalez alleges that the financial conglomerate and their insurance provider, United Healthcare, fired him for the express purpose of not having to pay for the expensive medical procedure. (He was not offered his government mandated COBRA coverage until after 90-days…when he was no longer eligible.)
Mackenzie died of cancer in March 2011.
Germane here is the point that corporations are inherently devoid of morality. By design, corporations are meant to, within the scope of the prevalent laws and regulations, generate profits and alleviate personal risk. They can be either good or bad as profit and their executive leadership dictates. Now these amoral “constructs” have assumed overwhelming influence in the U.S. because of our corrupt political system.
A prime example of this manifest corruption is the lack of gun restrictions–hell, there isn’t even talk of restricting access to guns, even after the Aurora, Colorado, Tayvon Martin, Gabby Giffords, and Virginia Tech shootings. Gun restrictions very well might have saved lives in all of these instances. America averages roughly 20 mass shootings a year. Most just don’t make national news. In fact, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States is 8 times higher than in economically similar nations.
Yet it is political anathema to even consider any gun restrictions–even though a vast majority of Americans think more restrictions are needed. There are even some gun regulations that a majority of NRA members agree with, such as:
1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 87 percent of non-NRA gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.
2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.
3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.
4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.
5. Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.
A majority–in most case a super-majority–of Americans, a of gun owners, and of NRA members support these reasonable and very commons sense gun controls. Still, no gun regulations get passed because lawmakers fear the power of the NRA and gun manufacturers. Apparently the NRA members don’t matter.
Meanwhile Conservative–and establishment–propaganda has many people convinced that the government–the only body with the authority to check the power of these corporations–is an even greater evil. This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as our government is now in the hands of corporate machines with no conscience.
We are in dire need of a political revolution that puts power back into the hands of the people. But with people being being allowed to die in the name of profit, access to opportunity shriveling on the vine, more and more advantages being stacked in favor of the rich, and the voice of the people being increasingly ignored, I’m not sure how much longer the window for political change will stay open.
After that, the only option will be violent revolution. In modern times. With modern weapons. No sane person could possibly want that. But given the human inclination to not act, even on our own behalves, until absolutely forced, I dread that large scale violence is becoming increasingly inevitable in the long run.
It is our Constitutional Right to not just be heard, but represented. Despite all the other problems we face, getting money out of politics–ending the purchase of political office–has to be our first and foremost priority.
We need a Constitutional Amendment revoking the corporate personhood which allows business interests to use their dollars as “political speech”. We need strict, draconian campaign finance reform (I would prefer 100%publicly funded elections). Take away the means of buying politicians.
Forget party affiliation. Forget campaign promises.
Crush the corruption.
Get money out of politics. If not for ourselves, for Mackenzie Gonzalez and those like her yet to come.