Shelter in Place

photoIt’s been a crazy week, hasn’t it? It’s hard to think about posting the type of banal stuff that usually goes on here, what with national events in Boston and Texas, and I figured the last thing the world needs is another person trying to say something profound about something that pretty much all of us feel the same way about anyway. So I’ve avoided that.

Still, it was surreal to wake up this morning, pick up my phone, and see all the news alerts that had accumulated over the last few hours related to the shootout, pursuit, and manhunt in Boston. It’s eery to see a city of that size shut down as it has been, and the cynical side of me finds that very unnerving. I also wonder at the stress of the various departments of law enforcement involved in tracking down this suspect, especially when practically every person they encounter has a camera or phone held up to shoot pictures and video. It only takes one shaky instant for a soldier to mistake that as a gun, and then the shit really hits the fan. Tense, tense hours, no doubt.

I turned the TV on when I got up to see what was going on. I had pointed out earlier this week to Julia that this is the first time we’ve actually had a television during one of these huge events. I tuned to CNN but only lasted about 15 minutes before shutting it off. The coverage was horrible. Tons of speculation, copious talking heads flapping their lips just to fill air time. No wonder people are stressed out and fearful — this kind of media blitz can’t be good for anyone. Hell, even no less a personage than God said via his twitter account, “When CNN says they’re ‘breaking news’ they are, in a sense, right.”

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Julia had it right, surfing the ‘net from her perch in bed, coffee at her elbow. “Until they have more actual facts to give me, I’m just going to keep reading about the proper way to wear leggings in class,” she said.

Speaking of God and his twitter page. As it relates to all this and religion, I don’t mind too much the people that feel compelled to announce to the world that they are praying for whoever or wherever. Some overdue it, sure, but a lot of people feel compelled to announce to the world every time they get a sniffle or feel a little doughy, so it’s no surprise. But the people urging me to pray for anyone are about to compel me into full-on atheism. That drives me insane. And I wonder how many of the folks so urgently and vociferously praying and urging to prayer actually even pray? All that feels like just another version of a stupid yellow ribbon magnet on the back of your car. Don’t tell me how to deal with my concerns, thank you very much.

Twitter has been very interesting to follow. Yeah, there is a lot of bullshit there; not so bad as Facebook, but it’s there. But find one or two legit journalists or magazines that are getting it right and it can be a fantastic source of info. The tweets and retweets coming from the likes of David Grann (who wrote one of my favorite books a couple years ago) and Mother Jones have been all I need to keep up to pace. Television pretty much sucks. It may be a new world, but smart, professional journalists are still where it’s at. Let’s hope we can continue to find a way to keep them employed.

Some things don’t change. Remember when this happened on this date in 1995? There was no concept of social media back then, but that didn’t stop people from wildly disseminating false info as to who had done the deed. I remember the plant manager where I was working at the time telling everyone she had just heard on the news that “two cars with men in turbans were seen speeding away from the scene!” Whether she’d actually heard that or was just pulling it out of her ass, who knows, but stuff like this tends to bring out both the best, and the worst, in all of us.

Here’s to hoping it gets sorted out quickly, with no more deaths, and that the actions of a few loonies don’t further constrict the liberties of the rest of us.

 

Killing: The Great American Hypocrisy

About the tragedy: A week ago I had just left the Danbury/Newtown, CT, area, after spending a few days there for work. The people I worked with were kind and generous with suggestions of how I might spend my hours alone, easy to work with, and made me feel welcome. It makes this entire tragedy all the more personal to me. As a parent; hell, just as a human being, I can’t imagine anything worse than what is being endured by the poor people trying to live through the aftermath of what has happened there. Certainly some of those folks I worked with have been affected, if not directly, then a degree or two removed. If I were a praying man, they would certainly be in them.

I’m a gun owner. I know many reasonable people who love their kids and their neighbors and also own guns. I am acquainted with some folks who also have permits to carry guns, which they do. Generally those folks creep me out, but I give the folks I know the benefit of the doubt. Most of the people I see around here carrying also seem caught up in the image of it with their camo-themed clothing and various other tactical gear hanging off their belts. Those dudes scare me, and I give them a wide berth. They are pretty much all middle-aged white guys too.

When it comes to an armed citizenry, the last thing I want if someone pulls a gun is to have a bunch of other jackasses pull theirs and start slinging lead. So even though I believe in the right to keep arms, you can still sign me up as one of the people who do believe that something needs to be done. For an excellent essay on the subject that I agree 100% with, I’d direct you to my writing and Instagram pal Neliza Drew’s blog, HERE. An excerpt:

I need a license to drive my car. It’s big (compared to a human) and it’s dangerous when used improperly. I had to take a class. I have to follow rules. I have to renew the license. I have to carry insurance. I have to have a title showing I bought it from somewhere – even if it was my cousin and I paid him a dollar (note: where do I find such a cousin?). If it turns out there’s a problem, like my cousin stole the car from his neighbor, his dad, the mall parking lot, he either won’t have a title to give me (red flag not to buy) or what he’ll give me is a forgery, which can be tracked back to him).

You have a gun? Sure. Where’s your license? The title? This thing came from a reputable seller, not some kid on the corner, right? You have a permit to purchase ammo? Sure. No, sir, I can’t sell you rounds for a gun you don’t legally own. No, sir, I can’t sell you 100,000 rounds at one time. No, sir, there’s no reason for you to need an automatic weapon or an assault rifle. If you think you need one of those to hunt deer or wild boar or pheasant, you’re not a very good hunter and should probably stay indoors for the safety of all involved.

She says what I would say, so I don’t need to say more. Well done, Neliza.

I will add that there is a knee-jerk political side to all this that I find depressing, and equally sickening. I have seen this quote, or variations of it, a couple different times both on Facebook and via Twitter:

“4.3 million NRA members hold 312 million Americans hostage.”

That is utter bullshit. The reason we don’t have more gun control is because Americans really don’t want it. If those 312 million people really want to do something about it, it is only their own apathy stopping them. We have the laws we’ve allowed. We have the government full of millionaires we’ve elected. We have the media we prefer (the media being another target of much self-righteous twit-book postings). We live in the nation we’ve created and actively allow to continue. Enough with the “Someone needs to do something!” stuff. This from another excellent little commentary I read today:

It reminded me of the dichotomy between the two sides of this argument regarding gun rights. There’s a world full of people who just want to live their lives, not hurt anyone, and just be honest and sincere. Then there’s the world where a corporation wants to sell you whatever it’s making by any means necessary. This is where the NRA operates.

I can tell you this—most of the people I’ve met from the NRA don’t believe the bullshit they’re selling. Their ethos conforms to whomever pays their salary. That’s a trap much bigger than most of us bother to notice. But let’s take this small bite as we talk about how to keep people from shooting up kindergarten classrooms. Gun lobbyists, the guys drawing the big checks, aren’t nutjobs and they don’t love the Constitution any more than you do. They’re Americans in it for a buck. They’ve taken a profitable position selling a lifestyle to frightened people who buy that lifestyle, ironically enough, from the very industry that funds their fear. They’re not fanatics; they’re just capitalists. Don’t be afraid of them.

Like everything else in the USA, it’s about money and attention spans. The vast majority of people raving about gun control and cursing the NRA will have forgotten all about it by New Years. One of the funniest little social commentary one-liners I saw on the lead up to this last election was this: “If the Republicans win, does that mean Democrats will be anti-war again?”

My heart breaks for the deaths of innocent people. No more for the families in Connecticut, though, than it does for those people in Pakistan who are under a constant and deadly barrage of drone attacks that have killed far more innocents than the murderer in Newtown did, courtesy of the American taxpayer. So when I see these Obama sycophants drop comments like, “Thank you so much for the heartfelt message President Obama!” I want to puke. Until those people step up and hold their guy as accountable for mindless slaughter in our name as they did when Bush was president, or that they would if some other Republican were in charge, then all their finger-pointing at the NRA is only so much hypocritical posturing. Fuck those people. Their hands are no less bloody than those of the folks who oppose gun control.

Stopping the war is an act of social change in which we’ve failed. I predict gun control will be the same thing. This country has made changes in the past, but they are expensive in time and energy and will. I question how willing most of us are to carry these kinds of efforts out anymore, because it is so easy to point across a line and blame someone else.

There needs to be common ground on issues like this. When it comes to guns and indiscriminate murder, you’re either for killing, or you’re against it. You can’t give “your guy” a pass in one arena while pointing your fingers at the “other guy” in another one.

 

 

This is Not About Sarah

After a week straight of probably engaging in too much political reading, I’m going to stay away from anything election or convention-related (except to maybe quote NWA: “Fuck the Police!”). But someone else’s inability to refrain from railing against the potential next Vice President of the USA actually inspired this post. Matt, my friend Rebecca’s partner over at Sporky.net, posted this awesome picture:

Me being something of an occasional comic geek, I loved this image. In fact, it’s probably my favorite political image of the year. It made me do a search on the guy who made the image, Derek Chatwood. He’s a Seattle-based video game designer, illustrator, artist, etc. Like everyone else, he also has a flickr page. He’s done some other great stuff. In particular I urge you to look at the Beginner’s Bible Coloring Book.

One of the more poignant pieces he did is an image of Heath Ledger as The Joker. He writes an accompanying piece that talks about the death of Brandon Lee during the filming of The Crow contrasted with Ledger’s death just before the release of The Dark Knight. It’s awesome, and well worth reading — check it out.

I haven’t watched The Crow in a long time, but I will rectify that soon. I think what Chatwood says about the nature of that story, and its impact on subsequent “superhero” movies, is dead on. I’m sure the angsty, doomed hero aspect is a big part of what we endure now re: the Hot Topic youth culture, but it doesn’t take anything away from it as a source.

I do remember the sequel to the movie, The Crow – City of Angels, wasn’t nearly as good. If I recall, Iggy Pop was in that movie. But goddamn did I have the hots for Mia Kirshner after seeing that flick. I think the only other movie I ever saw her in was Exotica, which I remember as being okay. Wonder what she’s up to these days?

For those of you interested in such things, Chatwood also entered an Obama T-shirt Design contest you might want to look at. Some of the designs are cool. Many are awful. Some of them look too much like those horrific Nascar t-shirts I see all over. Blech.

I’ve been in a funk the last few days over how boring music has become, my own included. So when I get to browsing and looking at other art forms, and things other people are doing with graphic designs, brushes, photography — anything, really — I’m always blown away by just how many magnificently talented people there are out in the world. Why is there not more worth assigned to that than to those who have mastered the art of being a dick via blackberry? I don’t know. I want to get a brand new, high-powered mac and start learning how to do some of this shit, but I can’t really justify the expense at this point. Even so, I’d probably only end up doing Photoshop tricks like this:

It’d be a start, though.

Highland, Illinois

Spent a day in airports and on jets to get to Highland, IL (about 25 miles or so from St. Louis, MO). Not an illustrious place to travel to, from what I’ve seen so far. I guess it can’t always be San Diego. I wish I’d had my camera in hand taking off from Missoula this morning, as the climb out, and across Montana, was stunning. Clear and sunny, and the snow on all the mountains . . . it was magnificent. I haven’t quite gotten this part down yet about always having the camera ready. As a taker of pictures (I’d never refer to myself as a photographer) I’m kinda lame. If I get good ones, it’s pure luck.

I fly Northwest more often than not, and given how much I travel I always get bumped to first class. That is pretty damn sweet. I haven’t slept much the last couple nights, and it felt great to stretch out and luxuriate a little bit. The only bummer is I finished The Freedom Manifesto, which was one of those books I wished would go on forever. It’s nice to read someone who, for the most part, thinks like I do. Thanks to kitcarson (whoever that is, though I think I could guess who she is) for tipping me off to it. Those people over at S&Co are like crack dealers.

Now I’m at that point when I travel where I feel gross. The first day out I always eat horribly, and it sucks. I even broke one of my primary rules of travel: Always Avoid Restaurants That Bill Themselves as Family Restaurants. They almost always suck. Here is tonight’s example, as viewed from my window:

This one actually wasn’t that bad, but not great either. This is one of those towns that on first glance doesn’t seem to offer a whole lot — Pizza Hut, DQ, Ponderosa, etc. — so I just held my nose and walked over there. I’ve always thought to make these trips interesting I should road-ready my acoustic and find hole-in-the-wall bars to busk in. I should seriously pursue that one of these days. I know I’m not the first guy in the world who would follow up a butchering of a Hank Williams tune with a decent rendition of a Sex Pistols tune, but I bet there hasn’t been a lot of that done in a place like Highland, IL. I have these fantasies of both being able to make some extra cash on the side on these trips, or coming back with a story about how I had to fight my way out of some hostile roadhouse with a rusty Pabst Blue Ribbon sign out front (listen to me, the tough guy: I’ve never been in a fight (though Jimmy and I did square off and find victory against about 50 guys one time) in my life!)

Speaking of PBR — has the demographic for that beer changed or what? You drive through rural Wisconsin as I have done frequently over the past few years, and most places have battered old PBR signs hanging over the doors, or Old Milwaukee, or some other swill like that. These are blue collar beers, the kind that guys with bellies hanging over their work pants would throw back after a day out in the fields. Nowadays, PBR is the hipster/indie rocker beer of choice. I remember it from the Jay’s Upstairs days, when bands essentially drank for free, and it was always PBR on tap. Blue collar guys would hate the people their beer is being marketed to. If a crew of the modern PBR generation swaggered into one of those Wisconsin small town bars, they’d get laughed at our beaten out of the place. Only nowadays, instead of getting harassed about having long hair they’d get urged to “Pull your fucking pants up!”

That’s another part of the problem with rock these days. Hardcore rockers are supposed to be anti-establishment, sticking it to the man, right? That isn’t something you get from Hot Topic in the mall, you get it by performing deeds that could potentially run you afoul of the law. How the hell are you going to run from the cops with your pants falling down around your knees? I tell you, this world is made up of half-ass amateurs. . . .

Two paragraphs ago I was reminded of Jay’s Upstairs, and how I get a tumbler’s worth of bile crawling up my throat at the thought of what that space has become. Even now my rage is beginning to spike, which ain’t pretty. Julia and I attended this birthday party/preview opening thing for what is going to be a dance studio in Missoula, that occupies the space where Jay’s Downstairs used to be. I can’t remember the woman’s name who is doing it (she is a friend of Julia’s), but she’s the one who does the salsa dance lesson things at The Badlander (update: Heather Adams is her name). Anyway, it was weird to be in there, see where the staircase up the back used to be where we had to haul gear, etc. But having that ritzy club overhead . . . I wanted to tear the old washing machine from downstairs (which is still there) and throw it through the window overhead. Argh, I hate that stuff!

In closing this rambling post that no one has probably made it this far on, I’d like to pose this question: What is it about NASCAR that seems to make its fans unaware that their garish-tshirt-of-choice is only flying about half mast, so that a good six inches of triumphant belly (aka gut) is displayed for all to ogle? Maybe the guy I saw today intended to cover his gut with the NASCAR jacket he was wearing, only it didn’t appear that thing has been closeable for at least 5 or 6 years (which is about the same time frame that had seemingly elapsed since its last washing as well).

Think this lovely lass is a NASCAR fan? I wouldn’t bet against it. Note that the PBR is what she’s drinking, and is merely . . . cooling herself . . . with the High Life.

Realization: After viewing this post, I realized that most of the people who read this blog are female, if you measure it by the comments I’ve gotten. So, odds are, you women may not realize that the person I am referring to is the woman in the middle of the shot, not that delicious hunk of manflesh grinning in an “I will be toothless someday” fashion to her immediate right. That dude is one barbed-wire armband tattoo away from godhood, isn’t he? I’m guessing the armband is probably on the arm outside of the frame.