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Upon the Latest Shooting in America

People kill with guns they’ve stolen. People kill with guns they legally bought at a show with no background check. People kill with their parent’s legally purchased gun. People kill with guns after they went through a background check. People kill with guns given to them as presents. People kill with guns they’ve modified to shoot more and faster. People kill with guns using illegally large ammo clips. People kill with guns whether they are mentally ill or not, whether they have predetermined targets or not, whether they are familiar with the terrain or not, whether they have planned it for years or are shooting out of a temporary rage of emotion. People kill mothers with guns, they kill children in school, they kill elected officials, they kill people attending the movies, they kill people they believe have slighted them, they kill their classmates and their former workmates and they kill old women in their church basement. We pretend that policy can’t save us, but the truth is that policy has saved lives in other countries, and it would here, too.

There is no one safe from the muzzle of a gun in America, there is no good time to talk about the dead, because as soon as the NRA holds its mourning period for one shooting, another is just beginning. There are fifty-two weeks in a year on Earth, and we have just hosted our forty-fifth mass school shooting of 2015 (and 294th if you count all shootings involving four or more people). Please. If you want to see gun control, call your Congressperson today. And tomorrow. And Monday. Call them more than once. Call your Senators, both of them. Tell them: enough.

Here’s how to call your representative:

Here’s how to call your senators:

Remember, to own a dog you have to register the animal, telling the public health department where the dog resides, and ensuring you give your pet an annual rabies vaccination (there are no personal belief exemptions with this one). When we think about cars, which also account for more than 30,000 deaths a year in the US, we have collectively taken steps to reduce those deaths:

  • We regulate how cars are built, especially regarding safety design (seat belts, crash cages, placement of the gas tank, etc.)
  • We regulate how cars are driven (speed limits, road curve design, right of way laws, traffic lights, etc.)
  • We regulate how cars are maintained (inspection stations, emissions rules)
  • We regulate liability and insurance in case of an accident
  • We regulate who can drive cars (vision exams, age limits, license point systems, etc.)
  • We register every car to an owner and an address. The DMV databases are commonly used in police investigations and by crediting agencies.

And consider that deaths are something that sometimes happens with vehicle use. Killing is not the primary purpose of a car. Killing is the primary purpose of a gun. Do guns seem over-regulated with regard to other human activity that the government is compelled to oversee? Your answer should be “no.” Guns are not regulated as much as driving is, or educating our children is, or how our food is grown, or how our health care system is managed/delivered, or how our corporations’s finances are managed. All of these regulations are put in place in order to minimize harm to people and the world we live in, but for some reason the NRA would have us believe that regulating guns—and only guns—is a danger to America itself.

I dream of a day when we don’t buy that lie anymore. Please, give your elected officials a call and tell them to stand up to the NRA.

An Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic National Committee

voting box with ballotHonestly, I have a lot of other things to get to this week, and within that, a lot of other pieces to write. But I have been so ubiquitously harassed by national-level Democrats that hey, I’ll take some time out this afternoon to respond to their litany of email.

Dear Representative Pelosi—

Perhaps there was a time in my life when receiving an email from the former Speaker of the House would have been at least a little thrilling, but the bloom is off the rose now. I don’t really even think you care about me, what with all of your messages—which are too many, honestly, it’s getting embarrassing—addressed to me as <FRIEND:VALUE!>. It feels half-hearted, Representative Pelosi. I know you are well networked in the legislative scene over on Capitol Hill. I used to see you around town from time to time when I still lived there. Okay; that’s a lie, it was Dennis Kucinich whom I saw, and mostly at the Greek restaurant on Pennsylvania SE that has sadly closed down. What I don’t understand, however, is how with all of your knowledge and connections and wealthy campaign contacts, you haven’t come across anyone who has mentioned even in passing that the Democratic National Committee’s strategy on getting donations for these midterms is abysmally bad. Here are the subject lines of just a few of the HUNDREDS of messages I’ve received these past few months:

  • painful loss
  • we. fell. short.
  • Friend we’re BEGGING
  • B O E H N E R wins
  • all hope is lost

The content in the actual email isn’t any better. Read More…

Everett’s Annual Crystal Ball Predictions

I’ve made some semi-serious predictions for the past few years, often involving Sarah Palin (but not this year, darn it!). As in previous years, I’ll stick mostly to political stuff and some popular culture territory. So let me go out on a limb once again and make a few bold statements that are probably not true but whatever. Nothiing is really true on the internet, right? Except Buzzfeed.

brain in a football helmetIt’s the beginning of the end for the NFL as we know it—Between the increasing evidence that even high school football causes irreversible brain injuries, that crowds are thinning out at team stadiums because ticket prices are too high, cities pushing back against the extravagant costs of building new playing fields, and a slew of bad publicity that players and coaching staffs are mean even to each other, we could be seeing the end of the machismo of this monopoly group. Just yesterday, Jovan Belcher’s mother filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Chiefs that they knew he was ill from repeated head injuries well before Belcher killed his girlfriend and himself last year. This is not even the beginning of a wave of suits against NFL clubs, given that the NFL just settled a class-action lawsuit in 2013 (which left many people unsatisfied) for hundreds of millions a dollars, nor is it the start of gruesome violence committed by former and current players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As one NFL official put it in the recounting done by Frontline last year, “If only one mother in ten decides she won’t let her son play football, that’s the end of the NFL.” Read More…

Old Movies Young People Should Watch

I’m 42 years old. I’m staring middle age in the paunch. I refuse to have a crisis, in part because it’s a trope, but after having a crisis in my mid-30s over the whole gender shenanigans I’m hesitant to create any more angst for myself. It’s like reflecting on the 9 years I lived in Syracuse. I counted up the snowfall for all those years and determined it was 1,100 inches. That is more snow than I care to experience in this and my next lifetime (note to the reincarnation powers: please don’t stick me in a desert next time around just because I wrote that). So snow and angst have been crossed off my bucket list, great.

buddy hackettGetting older brings with it some other unfortunate awkwardness, however. I make cultural references that people under 30 don’t understand. And for me these pop culture mini-Litmus tests are even more out of date than my age would suggest they’d be, because my father was 41 years old when I was born, so he harkened back to the freaking swing era. I can make a Hoagie Carmichael mention and not even have the 50-year-olds in the room know what I’m talking about.

There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in those bygone eras from the middle of the 20th Century, for sure. And it’s a high bar to think that in our Internet age college students would spend any time paying attention to anything produced in the previous millennium, but on the other hand, we’ve never before seen such effort made to restore old film, make out of print books available again, or set up tributes to once-forgotten authors. So with the wealth of content available to us today, it’s good practice to see older stories, for the first time, or on repeat. These are some of our cultural predecessors, inspiration for the generation of writers and directors once removed from our contemporary literature and film professionals. It’s also good to retain our collective history–I see young adults all the time at the HIV nonprofit that I run, who have never before heard the evidence supporting safer sex practices. These individuals didn’t live through the advent of AIDS, didn’t lose close friends, didn’t wonder who would come down sick next, didn’t watch their government ignore them while so many people, nearly 600,000, succumbed to the virus. And there is a whole body of written and cinematic literature out there that works through that pain, and offers insight into our problems today, including and beyond AIDS.

With the rewards of such reflection in mind, I offer a list of suggestions for anyone under 35. These are movies they should see: Read More…

The Rise and Fall of TV Commitment

This originally appeared on I Fry Mine in Butter in 2010.

In a world where there were three television networks, people watched them.

Here are a few finale viewing numbers from years past:

M*A*S*H, 1983: 105.9 million viewers

Roots (mini-series), 1977: 36.38 million households

Cheers, 1993: 80.4 million viewers

Friends, 2004: 52.5 millions viewers

The Cosby Show, 1992: 44.4 million viewers

Lost finale shotLast week, Lost’s series finale garnered 13.5 million viewers, and still it seemed like everyone and their neighbor had glued their eyes to their flatscreens. It pales in comparison to most Super Bowl games and any time Michael Jackson gave an interview. And it should be noted that the season 1 finale of Lost attracted more than 20 million viewers, so the show had definitely seen a decline of its viewership. But Nielsen numbers be damned, whatever happened to cult favorites?

Jericho, the terrible post-apocalyptic, conspiracy theorist’s daydream came back to television after a fan campaign roared its demands to the network, and got a whole 7 more episodes before it was canceled again.

So color me confused that FlashForward was canceled last week due to low ratings, even as it was at least as watchable—in my humble opinion—as V. And here’s where I get a little steamed: I know we’re going to be left hanging, forever. After I’ve dedicated significant attention to Charlie and Mark and Dmitri and Lloyd, to wrapping my brain around seeing things in the future that can’t have happened without seeing them in the future, and to remembering which agent is a double agent, which strings on Mark’s board lead where, and that we still don’t really know who D. Gibbons is. Even if some of the dialogue is stilted or some of the acting a bit forced and strident, I didn’t watch the show thinking “I bet they’re all in purgatory and waiting to die.” If I want to watch that crap I’ll rent Heaven Can Wait again. Ain’t nothing like a little Dyan Cannon screaming her guilty head off. Hell, I’d even watch The Heavenly Kid over again before I’d spend 5 years combing through Lost. (For the record, I gave up on the series after a few episodes into season 2.) Read More…

Guessing the Killer

I originally wrote this for I Fry Mine in Butter in 2010.

Perry MasonWhen I get a little afraid to admit just how many hours I’ve spent watching cop shows and courtroom dramas, I just add up all the hours spent reading, which is impossible, I suppose, and then I feel better. Because even loving popular culture the way I do, I still worry that what my elementary school teachers told me is true: TV will rot my brain.

Here I am, still intact in the higher functioning way. I must still have a few capable synapses. So since I’ve made it with all these years of television viewership under my belt, I’d like to spend a little time looking at one sliver of television narrative: the giveaway shot.

I want to give some due to the camera action that does what foreshadowing did for Mary Shelley. It’s usually less than a second, sometimes is accompanied by dialogue, but mostly not. I like to think it’s something TV picked up from Alfred Hitchcock, because he really started the quick cuts and shots that we have come to expect in suspenseful storytelling. Read More…

Daniel Tosh Is Not the Problem

Daniel Tosh in some kind of dragLast week, a brouhaha erupted on the Internet after Daniel Tosh, a lackluster comic and host of Tosh.0 on Comedy Central made a joke about rape. Or rather, he attempted such a joke, knowing full well that somebody out there in the world, if not his audience, would find it unfunny and offensive. Many smart people have written about why there’s no place in comedy for jokes or comic routines on the subject of rape, others have waxed eloquent on where this moment intersects with the First Amendment, but I’d like to expand the discussion here.

The issue of what’s funny and where the boundaries of taste and appropriateness in comedy comes up often. Stephen Colbert recently apologized for likening the food industry’s infamous pink slime to transsexuals. Tracy Morgan was taken to task for saying during a stage routine that he’d kill his own son if he found out the kid was gay–when asked about the lines, he remarked:

I don’t “f*cking care if I piss off some gays, because if they can take a f*cking d**k up their ass … they can take a f*cking joke. Read More…

The Metaphor Translations: Androids Among Us

Blade Runner film still/Sean YoungI’ve been fascinated by the concept of the humanoid robot, or android, as long as I’ve been reading science fiction, and fortunately there are loads of examples out there for people who find themselves fascinated by such things. Although at first it may seem like androids make a simple statement about our humanity—or lack thereof—I think there are different ways that androids play into a commentary on our species. And in terms of narrative, they’re characters, sometimes even the protagonist, they’ve been used as themes, reflections, and on occasion are the plot itself. So with a fondness for the non-carbon community, let’s look at some messages in popular culture that come from how androids have been conceptualized. Read More…

Trans Etiquette is Everyone Etiquette

manners can be fun bookI couldn’t bring myself to title this post “Everything I Know I Learned from My Sex Change,” because I’m not a fan of Jackson Browne, but it is true that I’ve gleaned some stellar lessons through the gender transition experience, many of them “scalable” to life more generally. Here are but a few of those pointers.

When someone tells you they’ve made a major, life-changing decision, don’t poo-poo them but offer your support instead. Yes, deciding to move across the country for a new love/job/crisis/etc. is hard to hear, and yet a smile is all that is needed from you, the recipient of the news. Read More…

Why I Miss Law & Order

lenny briscoe and ed greenI do love a good police procedural. I got hooked on them somewhere around Hill Street Blues which uncoincidentally is about the same time I became addicted to hospital shows (thank you, St. Elsewhere). These were character-driven, with short arcs of crime stories interspersed with longer relationship arcs of the ensemble characters, and the latter knew to never really upstage the former. Yes, we knew all about Jessica Fletcher’s life, but we really were invested in her solving another murder. Priorities, people.

No show cast this balance better than the flagship Dick Wolf production Law & Order. We even had the episodic plots carved out for us with the now-iconic metal staccato sound. Were there plot repeats over the 19-year run for the series? Of course there were, but who would have noticed were it not for the omnipresent reruns on A&E and TNT? Read More…

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