Category Archives: entertainment

A Nation of Grinning, Gun-Loving Fools

For almost anyone, anywhere in our country, a gun is easier to get than treatment for mental illness…

(CNN) — The gunman who killed two others before police ended his life in a shootout near Texas A&M University had been battling mental health issues on and off for years, his mother said.

Police say Thomas Caffall, known to his family as “Tres,” killed a constable and a bystander and injured four others Monday before police fatally shot him.

His mother, Linda Weaver, said the family became worried after Caffall quit his job in January and announced that he would never work again.

“We had been very concerned about him,” Weaver told CNN.

Caffall had withdrawn from the family, and the fear was that he might attempt suicide, his mother said.

There are many parents who fear for a child who can’t get help anywhere. It’s rightly difficult to involuntarily commit a person who refuses treatment, and the abuses of the past are something we shouldn’t repeat. But the bar to help is more financial than legal. Decades of cuts to health care have reduced the options for people with mental illness and strained the organizations that offer help.

On the other hand, decades of lobbying by the NRA have removed restrictions, such as the assault weapons ban, from anyone who wants to be their own loose-cannon militia.

Jesus’ General, a satirical site that tracks the extreme right, posts page views from Thomas Caffall’s Facebook page. Did anyone who knew him see this and figure out where he was headed? It’s all too clear now.

Where are we headed, a nation served violent images– real and dramatized– every day from every screen. We’re promised war without sacrifice, where the volunteer military suffers the wounds and our smart weapons kill only the ones who deserve it.

We’re at a point where stay at home spectators get to play war games on a new reality show– a concept so imperial that a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates have petitioned NBC to cancel this embarrassment…

Signers of an open letter to the network include Nobelists Desmond Tutu, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu and Betty Williams.

“That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies,” the Nobelists’ letter explains. “But ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts ‘the fast-paced competition’ as ‘pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.’

“It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon brings back some journalistic cautions from the Iraq War, and the circular relationship between bombs and ratings. And a voice from the past…

Experiencing great fun and pulsating entertainment from sending one’s military off to war is hardly unique to our time. Adam Smith lamented this warped dynamic back in 1776 in his Wealth of Nations:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.

Now even the taxes don’t inconvenience us, unless we are of the class that is taxed by cuts in ‘entitlements’ like disability, education, and, yes, mental health.

‘Stars Earn Stripes’ cynically pretends to be a tribute to ‘our troops’. It’s better for ratings to have a celebrity wave a gun than to interview a veteran, as
Nicholas D. Kristof does in this past Sunday’s New York Times…

IT would be so much easier, Maj. Ben Richards says, if he had just lost a leg in Iraq.

A car bomb in Iraq in May 2007 left Ben Richards, then a captain, with a severe concussion. A second concussion left him with debilitating injuries.

Instead, he finds himself losing his mind, or at least a part of it. And if you want to understand how America is failing its soldiers and veterans, honoring them with lip service and ceremonies but breaking faith with them on all that matters most, listen to the story of Major Richards.

For starters, he’s brilliant. (Or at least he was.) He speaks Chinese and taught at West Point, and his medical evaluations suggest that until his recent problems he had an I.Q. of about 148. After he graduated from West Point, in 2000, he received glowing reviews.

“Ben Richards is one of the best military officers I have worked with in 13 years of service,” noted an evaluation, one of many military and medical documents he shared with me.

Yet Richards’s intellect almost exacerbates his suffering, for it better equips him to monitor his mental deterioration — and the failings of the Army that he has revered since he was a young boy.

The fact that ‘homeless veteran’ is a cliche says a lot about how we support our troops.

Just like the war tax went under the radar to be exacted in the most destructive way– eroding the foundation of social equality– the cost of war falls on a volunteer military. Traumatic brain injury is the signature wound, mental illness the invisible scar. And every year less help and more guns.

For anyone who follows the links, Salon and Jesus’ General,the picture of gun-waving celebrities grinning like fools is interchangeable with Thomas Caffall’s Facebook page. These violent outbreaks are not random and not unexplainable.

Cranking up the fear helps to sell guns, helps to build walls, helps hate groups and extremists justify their invitation to circle the wagons and retreat from a free and open public life.

Whether there’s intention, or toxic philosophies growing in a toxic spin of addiction to violence, we need truth tellers to remind us that it is a violation to put a bullet into a human being, and that war is not glorious for those who know firsthand the cost.

This is So Wrong

Okay, back to snark. I’m bunking church and having a second cup of coffee with the New York Times. On page 1 of today’s Arts & Leisure section is a review of the movie, ‘Hunger Games’ titled ‘A Radical Female Hero From Dystopia’.

I remember when the world was new, and all I had was ‘Lord of the Rings’. It was fun, but clearly Middle Earth passed away because there were not enough females to carry on any of the races. Today’s Times has a gallery of female heroes on page 8, including my favorite, Sigourney Weaver in ‘Alien’.

We are social beings, and how we see ourselves and our choices in life is influenced by how others reflect us. Even in madness, we are rarely 100% original. One reason the female hero is so compelling is because she goes counter to patterns of female helplessness and selflessness that are taught to us in countless ways, most often subtle. I think about the impossible expectations put on girls, and the liberating power of the right idea at the right time as I browse through the film reviews.

On page 13 I spill my coffee. This is so wrong.

Krysten Ritter, model/actress co-wrote the script for a light comedy called ‘Life Happens’ about a single girl dealing with unplanned pregnancy and motherhood. Not that the situation stretches credibility, but look at the setup–

In the opening moments of the low-budget girlfriend comedy “L!fe Happens,” then, Ms. Ritter seems to be plowing familiar ground as Kim, a single gal who loses a tug-of-war with her roommate Deena (Kate Bosworth) over the last condom in the house. The reveal of the next scene — that Kim’s night of unprotected sex has resulted in a baby — is what turns her party-girl character, and the rest of the movie, on its ear.

Like, where do I start? Like pregnancy just happens to women? Like sex is mandatory? Like our spunky heroine couldn’t send stud-muffin to the pharmacy? Like they couldn’t express their affection in a non-procreative way? Like $40 for Plan B is not a good investment in this case? Like a woman doesn’t have a choice, and a man doesn’t have a responsibility? Like a woman doesn’t have a responsibility to think long and hard about whether having a baby is the right thing to do, whether she is prepared to be a mother?

So it stands to reason that the movie gives Ms. Ritter 101 minutes to show off greater range, projecting sad-eyed vulnerability, enacting a slouchy weariness and maneuvering the human prop that is an arm-straining 1-year-old, who cries, vomits and repels would-be suitors.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bullying what is clearly a lightweight Indy comedy, but enough already with this. I never quite got over standing in the Piccolo Mundo bakery on Atwells, hearing a pre-teen girl in line behind me singing Madonna’s ‘Keeping My Baby’. I always thought that anyway, Diana Ross’ ‘Love Child’ had much more soul. The social condemnation Ross sings about, thankfully, is not visited on innocent children the way it was then, but it’s still tough to be a single parent.

I’m just weary of women who have benefited from the gains of feminism using their art to re-create hapless chicks who get themselves pregnant– just so they can do comedy around the sudden responsibility of a baby. Yes, it’s funny, but do you have to make your women so helpless?

I got the same sinking feeling reading this that I got when I heard an interview with Tina Fay on NPR. They played a clip from ’30 Rock’ where a character got drunk and thought she was pregnant, started picking out colors for the nursery, etc. But incredibly, it turned out to be a false alarm. How nice, how neat, how cute and scatterbrained.

I happen to be working on a script right now, I’m hoping Sigourney Weaver will give it a look. It’s called, ‘Adorable Alien’.

In this story, Kim, a single gal, loses a tug of war with her roommate about who takes out the trash. Kim loses, and almost trips over a basket left on her back doorstep. Inside is a baby, who is an illegal alien. Sigourney Weaver, Kim’s mother and retired ICE agent is so taken with the chance to be a grandmother that she colludes in hiding the adorable tyke from the Feds. Kim’s boyfriend dumps her due to Kim being no fun since she is occupied all the time with diapers and cleaning up baby spit, but Kim meets a much better guy when she joins Occupy Wall Street. I think they all eventually end up in Canada, I’m still working on that part.

Hey, I dream a world where the female heroines can be heroic in ways that don’t involve brandishing weapons. I’ll bet we all meet those kinds of heroines in real life. I’m glad a young woman can write a movie script and get it on the screen. Next step– to tell a new story.

A Goofy Anniversary

Before the tragic and horrifying events of September 11, 2001 came to pass and made that date infamous, 9/11 was no more or less remarkable than most days out of the year. Historically, various lesser-known events have marked this day. In 1773, Benjamin Franklin published a satirical essay entitled “Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One.” In 1847, Stephen Foster’s well-known song, Oh! Susanna, was first performed—at a saloon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1903, the Milwaukee Mile, which is the oldest operating motor speedway in the world, held its very first automobile race. In 1941, ground was broken for the construction of The Pentagon. In 1985, baseball’s Pete Rose collected his 4,192nd hit to break Ty Cobb’s all-time record.

September 11 has also been noteworthy as the birthdate of a number of renowned individuals, including short-story writer O. Henry (in 1862), English novelist D.H. Lawrence (in 1885), college football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant (in 1913), film director Brian De Palma (in 1940), singer Harry Connick, Jr. (in 1967), Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (in 1983), et al. One other who was born on this date (in 1892) that bears mentioning is “Pinto” Colvig, who is best known as having been the voice of Disney’s Goofy for more than three decades. To honor the memory of this man—and the lost innocence of this day—here is a 1950 video of Goofy in all his amusing glory:

A Matter of Perspective

It helps to have proper perspective, to view the world and oneself with clarity and in context. Unfortunately, perspective is sometimes lost or misplaced. Like my eyeglasses. On occasion, I absentmindedly put the darned things down somewhere and then cannot locate them. My squinty-eyed search is rife with irony. I need the glasses to look for the glasses, but, if I had them, I would not need to look for them. Similarly, it can be hard to find perspective when you lack perspective.

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a great many Americans are angry and unhappy with the republic. In a recent Pew Research Center poll, 66% of respondents voiced dissatisfaction with the way things are going in this country. The blame game is in full swing. In a recent Gallup poll, 46% of respondents expressed disapproval of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President. That’s not too abysmal, when compared to ratings of the legislative branch. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month, 71% of respondents disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job. The only folks less popular right now are Wall Street bankers, Internet spammers, and Sandra Bullock’s cheating spouse.

While there is ample reason for discontent and worry, I believe that many Americans have lost perspective. Our elected leaders are viewed as both the cause and the solution for this country’s ills. They broke it, and they’re gonna fix it. Except “it”…is us. America does not belong to Barack Obama. It does not belong to Congress. It does not belong to the faceless plutocrats in their mahogany-paneled boardrooms. It belongs to us. We, the citizens, are America. The fate of this nation and its constituent communities rests in our collective hands. It is our responsibility. We would do well to forsake blame and dependency and show some gumption. We have become far too flabby. Democracy must be exercised more than once every couple of years in November.

Similarly, we ought to look elsewhere for celebrity-worship. Turn off Entertainment Tonight. Cast aside Us Weekly. Take a gander around you. That’s not Brad Pitt tinkering with live wires atop the telephone pole out back; that’s a utility worker. That’s not Angelina Jolie strolling up the walk with a heavy bag slung over her shoulder; that’s the mail carrier. That’s certainly not Lindsey Lohan collecting the trash; that’s a sanitation worker. These and others in your community—teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, et al.—are the true stars. They are much more worthy of your devotion (and gratitude) than strangers graced by fame and fortune.

The same might be said of the clergy. There are many who toil in obscurity, whether in your neighborhood parish or in places like the Sudan, while the religious aristocracy garners the lion’s share of attention. It seems wrong. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times appears to agree:

Maybe the Catholic Church should be turned upside down.

Jesus wasn’t known for pontificating from palaces, covering up scandals, or issuing Paleolithic edicts on social issues. Does anyone think he would have protected clergymen who raped children?

Yet if the top of the church has strayed from its roots, much of its base is still deeply inspiring. I came here to impoverished southern Sudan to write about Sudanese problems, not the Catholic Church’s. Yet once again, I am awed that so many of the selfless people serving the world’s neediest are lowly nuns and priests — notable not for the grandeur of their vestments but for the grandness of their compassion.

As I’ve noted before, there seem to be two Catholic Churches, the old boys’ club of the Vatican and the grass-roots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan. The Vatican certainly supports many charitable efforts, and some bishops and cardinals are exemplary, but overwhelmingly it’s at the grass roots that I find the great soul of the Catholic Church. [link]

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Ah, there are my eyeglasses.

Family Values

You know, I have a superstition that any couple who enjoys a successful marriage and decides to cash in on that by becoming celebrity marriage counselors is cruising for a flaming public divorce. But the Man from Mars is still married to the Woman from Venus, so maybe I’m wrong.

I haven’t read ‘Going Rough’, I mean ‘Going Rouge’, I mean… whatever. It’s not on the shelf at the Rochambeau Library yet, but when it is I’ll check it out. Does that make me a socialist freeloading off the communal space? Let’s cut out the middleman, Sarah. Tell me what your percentage is and I’ll mail it to you.

There’s a gothic novel, or maybe a long-running soap opera like Dark Shadows, in the drama of the Palin in-laws. That is, her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper, who is deeply hurt by how he is portrayed in the book.

The Palin out-law will be found baring his soul in Playgirl. They never have that magazine at Rochambeau, and the kid’s got nothing I ain’t seen before so I’m not wasting five bucks. I’m more interested in what he says, but you can read that for free on the net.

Park Theater to Premier “Lumberjacking”

Many of us have been waiting looooooong time for the restoration of the Park Cinema, and now it has finally come to fruition.

From the Projo:

CRANSTON, R.I. – The newly renovated and renamed Park Cinema (now the Rhode Island Center for Performing Arts at the Historic Park Theater) will present its first film premier on Saturday, Nov. 28.

The newly opened Cranston landmark in Rolfe Square will screen “Lumberjacking” an independent feature comedy that was filmed in Rhode Island. It was made by Rich Camp, Frank Iacobucci, Joe Agresti and Matt Zuena. The movie is about a lumberjack in the 1960s who refuses to give up his axe for a chainsaw, a kind of “Paul Bunyan” story.

The cast and crew will be attending the event at the center, which now includes a restaurant, a lounge, a cybercafé and a 1,150-seat theater.

The show begins at 8 p.m. For tickets, $10, visit lumberjackmovie.com. The movie is not recommended for those younger than 13.

I Hate it When That Happens

Lindsay Lohan’s house got a surprise visit from the police…

An alarm company notified police that someone tripped an alarm at the house around 3 p.m. in Hollywood. Police determined no one entered the home and nothing was stolen, but the mess inside the starlet’s home prompted officers to ask, “Is it normally like this, or did the intruders do it?” said Los Angeles police Officer Karen Rayner.

You know you need a homemaker when the police mistake your house for a crime scene.

To be fair, she wasn’t expecting guests.

Budlong Pool Opens for the Season

The Budlong pool is now open, and today is a beautiful day to go test the waters. I hear they’re reliably cold as the season opens. A little background from the Cranston Wikipedia page, for those who don’t know:

Cranston is home to the Budlong Pool, one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the country. Built in the 1950s as a Works Progress Administration project, it is a staple of the community.

With all the outdoor water parks that have sprung up in the past few years, I wonder if Budlong is still one of the largest. Nevertheless, it is a great place to hang out with the kids for the summer. See you there!

America’s First Blow for Freedom

Do you know what “America’s First Blow for Freedom� was? If you’re like most Rhode Islanders, who live outside of Cranston and Warwick, then the answer more likely or not is no. That’s sad because it means that the majority of Rhode Islanders are unaware of the important role that Rhode Island played in the colonies’ fight for independence from England prior to the American Revolution.

In 1772, the HMS Gaspee patrolled the waters of Narragansett Bay to enforce the Stamp Act. On June 9, the Hannah lured the Gaspee onto a sandbar off of what is now Gaspee Point and while it was stranded, a group of colonists burned the Gaspee. For a more detailed synopsis of the events, visit: http://gaspee.org/BurningGaspee.html

I grew up in the Gaspee Plateau area of Warwick and my neighborhood was located right on Narragansett Bay directly across from Gaspee Point, where the burning of the Gaspee transpired in 1772. Each Memorial Day weekend, my brothers, friends and I would visit the Gaspee Days Arts & Crafts Festival at least two of the three days (sometimes more) and eagerly await the Gaspee Days Parade which is held the second Saturday in June. I can document stages of my childhood from pictures taken at the parade; from my first parade at 10 months old, to when I was a four year old who talked my father into buying me a painter’s cap from Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ tour (my mother was less than pleased), to my teenage years and this year we’ll hopefully get some photos of my son at his first parade.

If you’ve never been to any of the Gaspee Days events, I encourage you to attend the Arts & Crafts Festival, Fireworks at Salter’s Grove, reenactment of the Burning of the Gaspee and of course, the Parade. The Events calendar can be found here: http://gaspee.com/GaspeeDaysEvents.htm. The Gaspee Days’ season has always been a part of my life and I hope to continue that tradition with my son, and even though we don’t live right on the parade route, fortunately, Gramma and Grandpa do!

Gonna Watch Some TV

On Sunday night, at 9pm on HBO. I want to see ‘Recount’ because I saw the trailer and it looks good. Laura Dern as Katherine Harris with a Southern accent! I saw Dern in ‘Citizen Ruth’, a very cynical movie about abortion. She played a glue-sniffing pregnant woman. She was great.

I always regarded the 2000 elections as a coup and a national disgrace. Like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the damage is largely unrepaired, with gaping holes in voting security, fairness and organization.

I’ll stay up past my bedtime for this. Just wish I could say to myself that ‘it’s only a movie’.

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