Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Hey Bubba, I have a question for you: Who exactly is the “they” that gun nuts enthusiasts like you always refer to right after yet another senseless act of violence, one exacerbated by the presence of assault weapons and/or mentally unstable shooters? As in “every time one of these incidents happens, the first thing they want to do is take all our guns away.” It’s usually the second sentence out of your mouth. (The first one being “Now is not the time to politicize this.”)

For the record, I don’t want to take your guns away. Heck, I couldn’t even if I tried. There are more than 393 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people. I don’t think they’d all fit in the Rubbermaid storage bins in my basement. And it’s not like I could melt them all down and use the metal to repair the crumbling bridges in the U.S. (Or could I? It seems like a win-win….)

Sorry, I’ll stay on message. I don’t want to take your guns away. Got it? Good. Now let’s get in to the nitty gritty of this problem. You know, the issue that reared its ugly head in Indianapolis. Or was it Boulder? Or Atlanta? (It was all three, and dozens more, but you already knew that.)

If you think a handgun will help you protect yourself, sure, have one. Wait, what’s that you say? You need more than one? Oh, OK, but unless you’re some sort of Hindu goddess… or you’re especially dexterous with your feet… two should be sufficient, right? One for each hand?

And of course it goes without saying that you’ll be a responsible gun owner, right? So you’ll have no problem demonstrating that responsibility by taking a safety course, and purchasing your guns legally, right? And because you’re a sensible gun owner, you’ll want to make sure that gun owners don’t get a bad rep from a few “bad apples” who are mentally ill or have a history of violence, so you’d obviously be in favor of universal background checks and waiting periods. You’d also want to shut down gun shows, because buying a gun shouldn’t be easier than casting a vote in a democratic election. Right?

“It’s not a slippery slope if we don’t let it become one. Remember when they instituted the 55 mph speed limit? Yeah, we’re not all standing still on the freeway now, are we?”

The always-brilliant Rickey Dobbs in this great post about the gun issue on his Hitting the Trifecta blog.

By the way, people who report “firearm access” are at twice the risk of homicide and more than three times the risk of suicide compared to those who do not own or have access to firearms. (Source) So tell me, how are your handguns helping you “protect yourself”?

OK, let’s move on to hunting rifles. Sure, if you’re a “sportsman” then by all means have a hunting rifle too. Same deal, right? Safety course, legally purchased after background checks, ideally stored in a locked safe when you’re not out in the field going eye-to-eye and toe-to-toe with all manner of fierce animals.

So now we’re up to assault weapons. They were made for the battlefield, so I think they should be relegated to the battlefield. Want to shoot one? Join the National Guard. (After all, the Second Amendment that you hold so dear is really about arming folks who are willing to perform soldier-like duties , not everyday civilians. Look it up… I’ll wait.)

You know what, in the spirit of compromise (look that one up too, I’ll wait), how about this: if you get your jollies firing off six bullets per second and shooting 154 rounds in less than five minutes, then you can own an assault rifle. But you have to store it at a licensed indoor shooting range that’s locked up tighter than Fort Knox. You can swing by anytime and shoot “The Tick Licker”* but you can’t take it home. Or to the FedEx facility. Or to the grocery store. Or to the spa.

*That’s what ol’ Daniel Boone called his rifle… it was not a semi-automatic but somehow he managed.

By the way, if you think my reference to 154 rounds in less than five minutes was eerily specific, that’s because those numbers match the stats when a 20-year-old with significant mental health issues gunned down 20 first-graders and 6 school staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut back in 2012. Lest we forget.

What’s that? You find indoor shooting ranges to be too sterile? OK, taking a page from Jonathan Swift, I have A Modest Proposal of my own. Because gun violence is estimated to cost the U.S. $280 billion a year in hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs and the loss of productivity, perhaps the vast majority of Americans (roughly 2 out of every 3 people) who favor greater restrictions on gun ownership can all chip in and purchase a plot of land in an isolated area in every state in the union. And you and your assault weapon pals can grab your guns (from the biometric gun safes on premises) and shoot them there — and only there — to your hearts’ content. Speaking of hearts and other vital organs, there will be a lot of lead flying through the air at these sylvan shooting sanctuaries. But hey, if you happen to get hit by a stray bullet or three, that’s just the price you pay for living in a free society… right?

(Please spend some time here. And then consider backing up your thoughts and prayers with some common sense action.)

The Write Stuff

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, had to psyche himself up about writing .

“Writing isn’t so bad really when you get through the worry. Forget about the worry, just press on. Don’t be embarrassed about the bad bits. Don’t strain at them… Writing can be good. You attack it, don’t let it attack you. You can get pleasure out of it. You can certainly do very well for yourself with it!”

Douglas Adams

It’s great advice for any writer. This blog may be 99% “bad bits” but still we press on.

The note above and other Douglas Adams archival content will be published in a forthcoming book called 42. Read more in this article from The Guardian.

A standing Ovation for great art

My friend Keith Neltner was featured in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer. The online version of the article is here. He created the artwork for a mural that will be in the green room of PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation, a new music venue in Northern Kentucky. Now he and his friends are bringing the mural to life.

L to R: Nathan Dye, Stacey Vallerie Meyer, Chris Dye, Keith Neltner Photo credit: Kyle Eli Ebersole

The artwork pays tribute to three local musicians who first rose to fame via their work on the King Records label, which was based in Cincinnati. Philip Paul was a session drummer. Otis Williams was a doo-wop artist. Bootsy Collins got his start playing with James Brown, and is widely regarded as one of the best bass players in this or any universe.

Bootsy Collins, Philip Paul and Otis Williams Photo credit: Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer

“So many people were influenced by the music that these guys created, and they have no idea that there’s a vacant building on Brewster where it all happened.”

Keith Neltner, in the Cincinnati Enquirer article linked above

The fact that they are Black musicians is significant, because that’s a big part of the King Records legacy. In King Records’ heyday in the 50s and 60s, King had an integrated workforce – not just the recording artists on the label, but also the session musicians, the A&R folks, the engineers, the workers at the pressing plant, the office staff.

This M.O. of King Records owner Syd Nathan was driven less by noble intentions and more by capitalism: he didn’t see black and white, he only saw the color of money. But to his enduring credit, he created a mini-meritocracy and a bastion of diversity in an era when most were blinded by prejudice, and helped launch the careers of performers from marginalized communities – both African-American and “hillbilly.”

Sidebar: Check out the book King of the Queen City by John Hartley Fox for the full story about King Records, one of the most important, successful and influential record companies in the history of modern music, and one whose role is often overlooked.

I’m sure the mural artwork is fantastic (I’ve written about Keith Nelter’s artistic genius before – it’s on full display on his website.) And it’s great that it will drop some King Records knowledge on the touring artists who play the venue.

“King Records was a big deal back in the day. It’s going to be a great thing when artists come to town and they can learn about King Records.”

Scott Stienecker of PromoWest, as quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer article about the mural

But because the mural is in the green room of a music venue that will hold 2,700 indoor fans, or 7,000 outdoors, the only way I’ll get to fully appreciate it is if I join a successful rock band… or become a groupie!

The Paris of the Midwest (according to a Mighty Duck)

Emilio Estevez is living in Cincinnati… and loving it!

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Emilio Estevez, 1985, (c) Universal Pictures

In a recent interview in Vanity Fair, here’s what he had to say about my adopted hometown:

That’s mighty high praise from Mr. Mighty Ducks. We’ll take it. We’ll also take the #11 slot in the Travel + Leisure list of The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2021. Here’s what they have to say about Cincy:

The first clues that the Queen City — a Rust Belt capital that was hard hit by the decline of American manufacturing — was poised for a comeback started a few years ago, when tech startups and small businesses moved into disused Over-the-Rhine warehouses, filmmakers flocked in to take advantage of tax breaks and early-20th-century architecture, and historic spaces like the city’s Music Hall got a much-needed polish. Now, the urban revival is official — but sneak in a 2021 visit and you can still claim to be a trendsetter. Check into the Kinley, which opened its doors in downtown Cincy in October with a much-buzzed-about restaurant from chefs Kevin Ashworth and Edward Lee. While you’re in town, dine at restaurant standouts Please and Goose & Elder, explore new outdoor installations at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and pay a visit the lauded Cincinnati Zoo, whose animal dispatches on social media are the only reasonable justification for keeping your Twitter account. —Lila Battis

#1 in the Estevez Index, and #11 for Travel… not too shabby. Better watch your back, real Paris!

Step into my office

I’m know I’m one of the lucky ones – I managed to remain gainfully employed during the pandemic (much to the astonishment of my co-workers). And I’m luckier still to be able to work from home. But after a full year of toiling away in my basement, it was time for a change of scenery.

Yes, Peter Brady taught all of us that when it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange. And I went for a major change of venue. Now that Spring has sprung and the weather is warmer, I’ve set up camp on an outdoor, second floor deck at our house. It’s covered, so rain isn’t an issue.

Far left: watchdog. Left screen: a picture of my blog on my blog (it’s very Escher). Right screen: trying to add to my collection of George “Goober” Lindsey memorabilia.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes being surrounded by nature. Watching the peach tree blossoms come in. Checking out the birds as they chow down on the bird seed that my wife puts in the feeders… and watching those sneaky squirrels always manage to get into the feeders, so matter how “squirrel-proof” they claim to be.

I even enjoy listening to my neighbors chickens. (Yep, she’s got about 12 hens… makes me feel like I’m back in rural Arkansas.)

According to the eyeball experts, one of the best ways to prevent digital eyestrain is the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. That was really tough to do when I was stuck starting a a basement wall. It’s super-easy to do now. And the fresh air is working wonders for my brain. I’m no longer a half-wit, I’m now easily a 55% wit.

Even when I’m in, I’m out.

Now if only I could get the solar panels on our roof to power my laptop…

Finding the Beauty

It’s easier to feel positive, to feel optimistic, now that Spring has arrived.

But even in our darkest hours, the beauty of the world has always been there, as these two short audio clips from recording artists remind us.

Here’s Valerie June from the Broken Record podcast:

“Just being here on earth and the magic of us being here… this stuff is really a gift.”

And here’s Kelli Scarr on NPR’s All Songs Considered talking about the inspiration for her new song “Eve of Spring”

“In this historic period of loss and reflection, Spring arrives as a reminder that renewal is always available to us.”

Here’s Kelli Scarr’s song:

And here’s the entire Broken Record podcast episode featuring Valerie June talking about her new album The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers:

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width="100%"></iframe>

Don’t Peel Back The Onion

March Madness begins in earnest today. I took the day off from work to turn on (multiple TVs), tune in (CBS, TNT, TruTV and TBS) and drop out (of the Bracket Challenge).

It’s always fun to watch the games. But try not to think about how the players – who are the “content” for the $900 million that the NCAA will rake in during the tourney – aren’t getting a nickel.

According to the reports coming out of the Indianapolis area this week, players are being fed fast food, given free deodorant as a perk, provided with puzzles in the rooms they must isolate, and, on occasion, being given warm breakfast foods that have long since gone cold and no utensils to eat that with. In essence, college age kids are being shut in a hotel and given conditions that would make the average middle aged traveler lodge an endless series of complaints and demands to talk to the manager.

From this post on Banners on the Parkway

“It’s become clear to even the biggest NCAA apologist that we are playing this tournament primarily to deliver content to media rights partners,” said ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a former Duke player. “That’s what this season was about.“

Source: Indianapolis Star article

Enjoy the “redemption” story of Rick Pitino, who has taken his fifth team to the tournament. Pay no attention to the facts about why he left his previous coaching gig at the University of Louisville.

In June 2017, the NCAA suspended Pitino for five games of the 2017–18 season for his lack of oversight in an escort sex scandal at the University of Louisville involving recruits. Louisville’s national championship from 2013 was eventually vacated as well. In September, Pitino was implicated in a federal investigation involving bribes to recruits, which resulted in Louisville firing him for cause.

Wikipedia

Watch #8 seed LSU take to the court tomorrow afternoon, led by guard Ja’Vonte Smart. Don’t think about how LSU Head Coach Will Wade was recorded on a wiretap, talking about making payments to Smart.

I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”

ESPN had reported Dawkins had at least three calls with a number belong to Wade between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017. Smart announced his commitment on June 30.

“Dude. I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong,” he said. “The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

Source

Enjoy the games. But don’t peel back too many layers of the NCAA onion, because it’ll make you cry.

Lost & Found

On March 13th, 2020, I was in a large crowd. Working in an office with 800+ other people, and attending the monthly all-company meeting – 200+ people in the same large room. Then everything changed.

On March 13th, 2021, I was in a large crowd. Lined up with dozens of other folks at Cincinnati’s downtown Convention Center. We were six feet apart, and wearing masks, as we waited to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Things are changing again, but this time for the better.

photo credit: WLWT-TV

We lost a lot during our “lost year”: family members, friends, neighbors. In-person events went by the wayside too: church services, concerts, sporting events. Everyday tasks like grocery shopping became fraught with potential peril. The unseen monster was always lurking… around every corner, inside every stranger.

We lost a lot, but I hope we’ve also gained a bit of perspective during our long lockdown. The old saw that “if you have your health, you have everything” has more impact now. We’ve rediscovered the simple joy of a walk outdoors. We’ve found new ways of staying connected despite social distancing. And perhaps most important of all, we’ve realized that what happens half a world a way can have a huge impact on our daily lives. We’re all connected on this big blue marble that we share. Maybe we should start acting like it.

Royal Flush

I’ve never understood the fascination with the British royal family. The only Queen from England that I’ve ever been even mildly interested in was the one that played “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

I take great pride in NOT knowing the names of the babies that have been born into “The Firm.” Honestly, I still get William and Harry mixed up, because I really could not care less.

Part of it is my lifelong aversion to pomp. And the Royal Family is all about that pomp. They have different giant, garish hats for every day of the year.

Whereas I’m more in this hat camp:

But I just don’t get why one family that inherited a bunch of real estate gets to rule the entire country… then again, I suppose we just went through four years of that in the U.S. of A. too, with King Donald.

Whereas I’m more in this King Don camp:

Mmm, rich chocolate and creamy filling… where was I? Oh, yeah, bitching about the British folks with the wacky hats. This article from the Irish Times really hits the nail on the head. I love the lede:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic?

Funny… and true. But these two sentences cut to the heart of my issues with the entire concept of a “royal family”:

The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. 

That’s it – enshrining classism. Sorry, if you’re trying to sell me a fairytale that says you’re better than me, and you get to reign over me because your great-great-grandpappy was a bigwig back in the day, I ain’t buying it. And I’m sure as heck not bowing down in front of you, or forking over my hard-earned cash to pay for your Disney-fied wedding. Go find a sorcerer to transform a pumpkin like everyone else does!

The Royal Family is a concept that’s played out. Time to shut down the circus and send the clowns away.

Winter walks help you chill

From “Winter Woods,” an essay in the book Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Better hurry, your time for a winter walk in the woods is coming to an end…

But Spring woods are nice too!

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