Sunday, March 25, 2018


I am thinking about solutions--to the horrific problem of extreme gun violence in our country.

My primary interest is not the right to possess guns. Actually, the Second Amendment says--keep and bear arms. And in that amendment ARMS are not defined. There are some weapons you can't have--NCBR weapons (yes, I had to look it up; it means Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Radiation).

So right there a limitation has been made.

What I want to offer brief comments on some of the types of solutions that have been advanced to solve the problem of gun massacres in schools.

Here's a sampling:
Stockpile rocks in classrooms so if a shooter bursts into the room, students can throw rocks at him (or her) rather than passively waiting to be shot.I am speechless at this suggestion. If someone held a gun and was intent on killing people and someone threw a rock, what do you think the shooter would do? 

Teach students first aid, so they can spring to the rescue of their fallen classmates and teachers.  And do what? Recent articles have detailed the horrific internal damage an AR-15 wreaks on the human body. The Atlantic magazine described it this way: "One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. Nothing was left to repair—and utterly, devastatingly, nothing could be done to fix the problem."

But, sure, go ahead, teach first aid.

Arm teachers. A proposal has been widely floated to arm teachers--maybe every teacher or some teachers specially trained. So they could?  So they could return fire.In a wonderfully delicious ironic way, there have been a few recent incidents where teachers DID have a gun in the classroom.  And... (drum roll) ... in one instance the teacher inadvertently shot himself; in another the gun accidentally discharged, hitting the ceiling and dislodging some tile which fell on a student below, thereby injuring that student.

Yeah, arming teachers sounds like a terrific idea. Oh, do you want teachers to also -- teach?  baby-sit your children at times? make sure the children learn everything? prep the students for mandatory test?  buy school supplies because public school funding is diminishing? work long hours at school and then long hours at home, prepping or grading papers? 

Improve security in schools presumably so that EVERYONE entering a school has to go through security including metal detectors.  I can understand why this suggestion has appeal. In fact one of those recommending it was the father of a Parkland student who was killed.  But I think we need to examine the sheer numbers.

Well, now--let's see: in 2013-14 there were 98,271 public schools in the U.S. (In a delicious irony, that stat comes from the U.S. Department of Education website...but don't tell Betsy DeVos...)

How many public school students are there? Again, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education we know there are 50.7 million students who enrolled in the fall of 2017.  So, let's see--using airport security as a model, for improved security in public schools you would need metal detectors in every school, and at every entrance if the school has more than one entrance. You would need trained security personnel to screen the backpacks that are being put through scanners.  You would need to keep that security in place ALL DAY LONG, and evenings too when there are after school activities.    

Oh, what about outdoor athletic events?  

Do you want to hazard a guess as to how much time would be chewed up just getting kids into school?  If you assume that each student can be cleared in 5 minutes (how long does it take you to get through airport security?) then the total time would be 5,700,000 minutes or 95,000 hours.  Obviously that's not every school, but if you know the number of students in your public schools in elementary and secondary schools, you can do your own multiplier.  The school district where I live has 11,059 students. So each day, assuming a 5 minutes clearance time, my school district would be using 95,000 minutes to make schools more secure.

Food for thought--how much less complicated would gun control be? (Please note the phrase is CONTROL, not BAN.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Two More! (Movies, that is)

We may have started late, but we have now watched two more...

  • Darkest Hour
  • The Shape of Water

The nominees for best picture are--The Shape of Water; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Get Out; The Post; Call Me By Your Name; Phantom Thread and Lady Bird. As you know The Shape of Water won.

The ones in bold are the ones we saw.

Here's my rundown on which I thought was the best picture.  In order of best, better, good...

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Darkest Hour
  • The Post

Of course, this ranking is forced and COMPLETELY unfair. I loved each of these movies--for different reasons.

The Post was like watching the history that shaped my formative years in terms of my political sensitivities. I would be curious to know how Gen Xers of Millenials reacted to this movie. For me it was like watching history unfold. And it was painfully apropos to the madness coming out of Washington, DC these days.

The Shape of Water was fascinating, creative, dreamy, a touch scary (not really for me), and a touch historical as it invokes the Soviet arms race of the Cold War. I loved the characters--especially Maude, the lead female character who is mute, and the creature. As some friends of mine who had seen the movie indicated--it is a very sensual movie. Please note that is not the same as sexual...unless you are attracted to inter-species sex.

Dunkirk was a tour-de-force movie, capturing and recreating with a critical moment in the early days of World War II. The evacuation at Dunkirk is told in a chaotic way, focusing on various characters to highlight the complexity and sweep of the evacuation.  Our daughter, who lives in London, told me that this moment in British history is still one recalled with pride.  The movie helps you see why.

Darkest Hour also draws on a moment in British history, also in the early days of World War II. Watching this movie and Dunkirk would give you a primer on how grave the situation was at the outset of the war. Darkest Hour centers on Winston Churchill's becoming prime minister, and some of the internal battles that were raging as he began to lead. Since we know how things turned (hint: the Allies won) it might be tempting to think the outcome was never in doubt. Darkest Hour and Dunkirk help you see how tenuous the outcome was. And how grateful we all should be that the Allies prevailed. And how cautious we should be before throwing our liberty away. (Hint: think the current enamorment with Russia exhibited by certain politicians.)

Call Me By Your Name is an achingly sweet story of first romance. I can only speak for myself--but I can vividly recall a "summer romance" I had when was a teen. It was the most important thing in my life...up to that point..and I thought I would not survive the romance ending. Call Me By Your Name captures that and adds to it the dimension of a young boy coming to terms with his own sexuality. The movie ends with the camera focused on the face of Elio, the young boy. No words are spoken, but his face registers all the emotions. It is a haunting scene.

Finally, my vote for best movie would go to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  The movie tells a compelling multi-layered story. The characters are complex. The acting is superb. This movie gets my vote for best movie of 2018 because it gets SO many elements right. In my opinion, of course.  AND I don't get to vote.

P.S. In fairness, I know there are three movies we did not my opinion is just that--an opinion.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

FOUR--I'm up to four!

Make that four of the movies nominated for best picture for the 2018 Academy Awards...aka the Oscar.

Last time I wrote about "the movies" I had only seen Dunkirk.

Well, with the televised Oscars tonight (March 4, 2018)--we suddenly got busy. And over the space of two days, we saw three movies.

First we watched (via satellite) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing. Wonderfully acted.
The story line is coherent--you understand what is happening, and as the movie goes along--why.
Frances McDormand is utterly believable as a mother consumed with rage and grief after her daughter has been killed, and the crime not yet solved. It's no secret to tell you that she expresses this rage by having three billboards that stand just outside of town covered with a sequence of signs challenging the town police chief for his failure.

Woody Harrelson is the police chief. He is flummoxed, at first seems ineffective, and nasty. But you soon learn he has his own troubles--which play a significant part in the story.

Finally, there is Sam Rockwell who is a dumb-ass policeman--at least that's how he starts out. And then...
Nope, not gonna tell you. Go see the movie! 
It's a tour de force of good acting, compelling story, and deeply felt human emotion.

Next we went to the movie theater--you know, that old fashioned place where you pay exorbitant prices to be overwhelmed with a popcorn smell for which you pay prices WAY too high, and then get to sit in comfy seats, watch 15 minutes of commercials, a few previews of movies you wouldn't want to see--and THEN the feature.
This one was The Post

This movie is SO topical, even though it is about the publishing of the Pentagon papers during the Vietnam war. That was in 1971, so that was 47 years ago! And the events may likely not even be known about by Gen X or Millenials. But those of us who lived through the years of Vietnam, and were part of the Baby Boomers certainly remember.

What is at stake in the movie is not only abrogation of power in the most arrogant and tragic ways, but also what it means to have a First Amendment, and what it takes to preserve freedom of speech.

It is impossible to cover everything the movie covers--but with two sterling actors--Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks heading up an equally sterling cast--the movie is a sheer joy to watch. And at the same time a cautionary tale. Timely, eh?

Finally, last evening we watched (via a download on to a computer) Call Me By Your Name
I have had some friends tell me how much they loved this movie--how beautiful a movie it is.
And it is.

The scenery alone is worth watching.  Northern Italy--charming towns, lovely countryside, breathtaking mountains. But the scenery is only a backdrop to an achingly wonderful story of a young man's coming of age. 

The young man is played by Timothée Hal Chalamet. His performance as Elio is so perfect. At times awkward, at times obnoxious, at times deeply enamored, and at times fully sexual.
The other lead part of a young university intern, Oliver, is played by Armie Hammer.

The plot--well, a few words summarize it...the two of them have a summer affair--but that is NOT nearly adequate as a description of this complex, multi-layered, singular story.

My advice--go see it. Go see all of these.

Now, on to more viewing...