Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Nature of Life and Death

A dharma talk by the late John Daido Loori

Michael Moore on the Santa Barbara Tragedy

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill, and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol.  
While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?" 
Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?  
Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." 
Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon. 
- Michael Moore

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


For those of you keeping score at home, today marks the 10th year anniversary of Water Dissolves Water.
Everything is unique, nothing happens more than once in a lifetime. The physical pleasure which a certain woman gave you at a certain moment, the exquisite dish which you ate on a certain day - you will never meet either again. Nothing is repeated, and everything is unparalleled.
- The Goncourt Brothers
A decade.  That's a long time to be doing anything, and as you've probably noticed by now, I've just about run out of things to say.  Meanwhile, the internet in general and social media in particular have made a lot of progress since I've started this blog, rendering this effort if not unnecessary, at least somewhat, well, quaint. The world's moved on from blogging since 2004.  I'm not going so far as to say that I'll stop posting here altogether, but from here on in, I'll probably only be posting when I feel there's something more important to be said than maintaining silence, and besides, those interested can always reach me on a more timely, intimate basis on Facebook, or can peruse my photographs on Flickr or downloaded pictures and other miscellania on Tumbler, or can follow my music-related posts elsewhere on Blogger.  And I'm just getting started on Instagram

Or we can just sit in silent reflection as the universe unfolds around us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014



"There's a crack in everything - that's how the light gets in."  - Leonard Cohen





Sunday, May 18, 2014

Point Blank

Writing in The Huffington Post last Friday, Qudsia Raja, the Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety for the YWCA (my old job, as Bill Mahar would say), pointed out that "If you're a woman in the U.S., you're more likely to die at the hands of a gun than in any other developed nation in the world." 

Let that sink in for a minute.  Of any modern country in the world, the U.S. is the least safe for women.  Lest that sound like mere liberal hyperbole, the source of this sobering fact is an academic, peer-reviewed, 2011 article by Erin Richardson and David Hemenway in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States with Other High-Income Countries; vol. 70, pgs. 238-42).  If, like me, you're not a regular reader of the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, the salient points of the article are:
  • The U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in other high-income countries, driven by firearm homicide rates that are 19.5 times higher. 
  • For 15- to 24-year-olds, firearm homicide rates in the U.S. are 42.7 times higher than in other countries. 
  • For U.S. males, firearm homicide rates are 22 times higher, and for U.S. females, firearm homicide rates are 11.4 times higher. 
  • The U.S. firearm suicide rates are 5.8 times higher than in the other countries, although overall suicide rates are 30% lower. 
  • The U.S. unintentional firearm deaths are 5.2 times higher than in the other countries. 
Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occur in the United States, 86% of all women killed by firearms are American women, and 87% of all children aged 0 to 14 killed by firearms are American children.

"Forty-six women are shot to death each month by a current or former partner in domestic violence-related homicides," Ms. Raja continues.
"These women are friends, mothers, neighbors and daughters, and nearly one in five of them had previously obtained protective orders against their abusers. Yet those orders were insufficient to save their lives. 
Intimate partner homicides account for nearly half of all women killed each year in the U.S., with three women murdered every day. Of these homicides, more than half are attributed to firearm use. This is a public health issue, and it is preventable."

Do guns keep women safe, as the NRA and Congress (both Republicans and a majority of Democrats) would have you believe?  No.  In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

Fact: The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases five-fold the risk of homicide for women (Source: J.C. Campbell, D.W .Webster, J. Koziol-McLain, et al., 2003, Risk factors for femicide within physically abusive intimate relationships: results from a multi-site case control study; American Journal of Public Health, vol. 93, pgs. 1089-1097).  

The authors of the Public Health study considered the possibility that access to a gun by the victim could plausibly have reduced her risk of being killed.  However, they could find no clear statistical evidence of any protective benefits.

Fact: In most cases of self-defense, no shots are fired at all (Source: David Hemenway and D. Azrael, The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses, Results From a National Survey; Violence and Victims, vol. 15. no. 3, pgs 257-272).  However, the Public Health study found that the victims’ risk of being killed by their partner did become lower when they lived apart from the abuser and had sole access to a firearm.  In other words, women were safer when the gun was out of the hands of their partner.

So what can be done?  Although a perpetrator’s access to firearms increases homicide risk, banning of firearms infringes on U.S. Second Amendment rights, and besides, there were already 270 million firearms in civilian hands in 2007, or nearly one per person.  With the proliferation of guns already in the hands of Americans, other solutions have to be considered.

"Our analysis and those of others," the Public Health authors note, "suggest that increasing employment opportunities, preventing substance abuse, and restricting abusers’ access to guns can potentially reduce both overall rates of homicide and rates of intimate partner femicide."

Access to firearms and use of illicit drugs by the perpetrator are strongly associated with the likelihood of domestic homicide. Neither alcohol abuse nor drug use by the victim was associated with her risk of being killed.

The strongest risk factor for domestic homicide was the perpetrator’s lack of employment. Instances in which the perpetrator had a college education (vs. a high-school education) decrease the likelihood of homicide, as were instances in which the perpetrator had a college degree and was unemployed but looking for work. Race and ethnicity of abusers and victims were not independently associated with domestic homicide risk after control for other demographic factors.

So here's my solution to this crisis:  In addition to tightening laws to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and users of illicit drugs, as well as confiscating firearms from convicted domestic abusers, as a nation we should provide low-interest (or no interest, or free) higher education to as many Americans as possible.

This would not only lower the risk of homicide associated with a lack of higher education, it could also plausibly lower unemployment, provided there were jobs available.  In addition, illicit drug use would be expected to decrease among an educated, employed work force.

Henry fucking Rollins. . utt' s mai. ishii) itit.. t.. either nah an . , ll and ii warm win " , (flty j, -IAH " henry Hollens. A country with no low level laborers is impossible. So, most of your whip-crack smart kids will be filling low level jobs, and the time necessary for college wo

Therefore, the second part of my solution would be to stimulate job creation, including a Federal jobs program to repair and upgrade the nation's aging infrastructure, not only roads and bridges, but airports, inter-modal transport and shipping facilities, telecommunications, and a free, open, high-speed internet system.

Would this be expensive? You bet.  Would this help the deficit?  Maybe not in the short term, but the consumer demand of a newly educated, employed middle class, along with the benefits of an improved national infrastructure, could plausibly increase revenue in the long term to offset the expense of the program in the short term.

And it's better than standing by and doing nothing while American women are being killed.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Coming back into consciousness, the first thing that I recognized were faces, and not only faces, but the emotions, sincerity, and trustworthiness of those faces.  

Faces are incredibly informative - a single glance reveals much about a person’s identity, gender, ethnicity, emotion, and truthfulness.  Babies are instinctively drawn to look at faces, and by four months of age are already processing faces as distinct objects. 

Different parts of the brain process perception of faces than process our perception of other objects, although some research suggests that the fusiform face area of the human brain can process other perceptions as well.   

Unlike birds, chairs, or cars, which we identify mostly by category, we perceive every face as unique. In addition, once we have seen a face, we can recognize it under many conditions, whether it’s obscured in shadow, displaying some extreme facial expression, or even a caricature.

Coming back into consciousness, I was aware of faces before I was even aware of my own situation.

Monday, May 12, 2014

View From Atlantic Station


My whole life has been leading up to last weekend in the city.







For those of you who don't understand (Hi, Mom!), these past several days have been cityscapes and outtakes from my pictures of last weekend's Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta.  No hidden message or meaning, except, of course, what your own mind puts into it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014






It is not the wind or the flag that moves, but your mind that moves.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Don't have anything particular to say today, other than all of my life has been leading up to this moment of staring cluelessly at the keyboard.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

This Is It, Folks!

This is it.  It's all been leading up to this.

Your whole life, from birth through growing up, from toilet training to however far you've taken your education, has been leading up to this.  Your hopes, your dreams, your ambitions, your struggles, have all been for this one moment.

When you think about it, everything you've ever known, ever been, and ever dreamed has been leading up to this moment right now.  From when you started reading this post up until right this very second, your whole life has been leading up to now - your reading of this sentence, this clause, this very word. 

And now it's all been leading up to whatever it is you choose to do next.