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Archive for January, 2013

A little video I made for my song “Ford 632.”

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“The Ice Divorce”

A Poem

By Eric Rasmussen

 

Hoar ice splinters rattle,

Around the turkey warrens

Off the saltbox barn

In the Green Mountain, pumpkin vines

Smashed reds and yellows

Under the tongue

Of new frost

 

An alert nostril

Discerns the paper birch trees

The city dweller

Cold on his ice chains

Searching to find the brazen keys

A finger snaps against the icy thumb

Bone fraternal snow flakes

You pantomime old age

And slowly go inside,

make a cup,

vermouth, Old Tom gin and rye.

 

His wife removes his boots.

While outside the window

A marten fighting for bread with a weasel.

Cheap doggerel growls

A comic burlesque

Across the wood tableau

and the coffee on his desk

 

Spring doesn’t come early

Nature never shows its pettifrock too soon

No pout of cleavage, no flash of gam

 

Man walks in

Logs alight,

Effervesced and drinking,

Popping from the gold and green splits

While fast green grouses and big hearted tits

Remember how segmented ants bullied the tree

Sea, air and land,

Grass, grove and lea

 

Remember when she walked these halls

And rolled the cat mint into balls

Washed your ears and skimmed the soup

for winter’s necessity

 

Would the wood come

Closer

And open her yet again

Would she be a five or an eight or a ten

How many yards of night

Do you walk

To reach yourself again?

 

Her damp you will inherit tonight

But not ever keep;

Without the softness to fight

Or the strength to weep

 

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What were some of the highlights of the 2013 Golden Globe Awards?

–*Jodie Foster took 50 years and what seemed like 10 minutes to come out of the closet.

–*In her speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award, Foster begged for privacy and then said she was lonely and single and went into excruciating detail about how she liked her lesbian sex.

–*E! Entertainment television’s pre-show noted that the red carpet was thick with highly glamorous possible flu carriers.

–*Salma Hayek’s and Paul Rudd’s inability to improvise during a teleprompter gaffe cost millions of dollars in precious air seconds, time that they must pay back with their lives!

–*To get a Steven Spielberg movie made about him, Abraham Lincoln had to pay for it … with his life!

–*Former president Bill Clinton came to introduce the film Lincoln, about America’s controversial 16th president whose record is very mixed among historians.

–*Lena Dunham proves with her show Girls that if you’re naked a lot, on some level you can’t really be insufferably coy.

–*As we honor President Abraham Lincoln at an awards show, we must wonder if his last thought might have also been, “Hey, this is a pretty good show!”

–*Lena Dunham made a joke about the 2000 Oscars, which means she’s been watching these shows since she was 2.

–*Kanye West breathed a sigh of relief when he saw how badly Taylor Swift can behave at an awards show.

–*Tony Mendez, the hero of the film Argo, made a speech onstage about his Iran mission in very hushed tones, far away from his microphone, leading one to ask: “Did anyone tell Mendez the mission was declassified? They made a movie about it!”

–*”Adele!”

–*Kevin Costner once carried the moral authority of the masculine American on the big screen. But now everybody’s gay and we all think he’s a douche bag.

–*Tommy Lee Jones is a star. But he is a distant star, and when he laughs at a joke, unfortunately we will not see it for 2.5 million years.

–*Tina Fey and Amy Poehler show that when you insult Americans you better be an American, Ricky Gervais.

–*Look, we know Sacha Baron Cohen is making fun of us. The real surprise and delight comes from figuring out how he’s making fun of us. This can take days to work out.

–*Argo proves that Ben Affleck is no fluke as a director. His acting career, however, continues to be a fluke.

–*Zero Dark Thirty has been called controversial by those who say it implicitly supports the American policy of torture. Torture among teenagers is already up 30%, says a worried Ed Asner.

–*Meryl Streep couldn’t be here tonight because being lauded so much has finally made her physically ill.

–*Really, I don’t think I was kidding about that Kanye West thing. If he had a football right now, he’d be spiking it!

–*The Golden Globes has people hotly anticipating the Oscar race now that people know how many good movies accidentally got made last year.

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Dear Beauty is Imperfection Reader,

I wrote this article three days after the shooting at Newtown, Conn., but never posted it. At first I wanted to be respectful. Then I wanted to perfect the article, but I never did before going on vacation to see my family (some of whom would likely strongly disagree with the piece). It’s still something worth posting, though, since the backlash by gun rights advocates has begun and I believe to be silent in the face of people who are dangerously mistaken is to be partly to blame for this tragedy.

Dec. 17, 2012:

I keep hearing this week that now is the time to discuss gun control. No. The time was years ago. Before the Virginia Tech shooting, before the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, maybe even before the Columbine massacre. Gun love in the U.S. has been a sickness for a lot longer than two days. The recent taking of 27 lives in Connecticut, 20 of those elementary school children’s, in the second-most deadly mass shooting in history reminds us that it’s too late to have the discussion.

There are those who still don’t want to have the discussion, of course. They will say that people who point out this public health threat are “politicizing” the issue. In other words, be silent or else. Do not criticize the people who are responsible–those who defended the sickness and those who were silent as it continued. And that’s the problem. To be silent is an abdication. It is to watch somebody being attacked and to do nothing.

After every massacre, we’ve had to listen to every false comparison, misapplication of logic, ignorance of basic statistics and misleading twisting of numbers. We’ve all had to conveniently ignore the fact that some of the nation’s worst mass shooting deaths occurred after an assault weapons ban in the 90s was allowed to expire. We are not allowed to say that closed loopholes might have stopped the Columbine killers. We are not allowed to say that the Second Amendment allows 30 round magazine clips about as well as it allows enriched uranium. We are not allowed to discuss the fact that the REAL studies show that gun proliferation equals more gun violence and never the other way around. We are not allowed to call libertarians who defend rampant gun ownership what they are: hypocrites blasting one idealism while actually hawking another, a world of pure theory. We are not allowed to even study gun violence in this country anymore. Not because the other side has overpowering arguments but because our facts are an insult to a pervasive American value system. And if values can’t live in sunlight, they don’t deserve to live.

Now it’s time to take the arguments apart, like wings off a fly. It’s too late to discuss gun control and now it’s time to tell the gun fans how they are wrong on practically everything, including their home pea shooters. They gave up their chance to be rational a long time ago. They have lost their chance to show that responsibility wins out. They have shown too often a willingness to lie and use sub-freshman rhetoric. Not that they need it. Their lobby has used its money to buy congressmen and make sure our children are unsafe.

There will be those who say that mine is an emotional reaction: that the deaths of children might be causing me, a parent, to be irrational in the face of happy statistics: that mass shooting deaths are actually statistically down. That household gun ownership is actually down. I will turn around the bad logic: We people who have always been knowledgeable about the still awfully large high gun death rates in the country, the bloody, bloody statistics and the success of gun ban programs elsewhere, have been forced into silence because the gun lovers were … emotional. They love guns. They think their guns are protecting them from criminals when it is true mostly in exceptions and outliers. Repeatedly, fair-minded statistics show them that they are far more likely to kill themselves or innocent people than defend themselves against criminals with a gun. If you need any more proof that the emotional problems are theirs, you need look only at the arguments: the rage, the insipid rhetoric, the regular statistic manipulation and the pictures of eagles. I dare say that the once-endangered eagle has had his revenge mostly by his presence in ubiquitous NRA Internet memes.

We can start with some of the more obvious fallacies I heard last Friday, as details about Sandy Hook and the rampage there were still unfolding. Earlier the same day, a maniac had rampaged in China, wounding 20 children with a knife. This was immediately seized on by gun rights activists, who said that terrible tragedies happen regardless of guns and we would have to extend the logic to knives. Oh! Snap! Right? Actually, such writers didn’t realize as they were putting fingers to keyboard that they were also putting their faces into a fan: the deaths of 20 children had not happened in China because there was no gun on hand.

But such people share kidneys with another type of plaintiff–he who claims guns are inanimate objects, and thus it is ridiculous to ban them. I have never been quite sure what the aim of this argument is except to mute opponents with its brazen silliness. Grenades are objects. Cocaine is an object. The centrifuges we denied Saddam Hussein were objects. That this particular object, a gun, is something you would not give loaded to a toddler, that this object is something that can turn a disagreement into a bloodbath, that this object can help grease the skids for a racist turning into a murderer (something that has happened in Florida from time to time), is the easiest way of thousands to counter the insipid statement. But logic is disallowed by those for whom make an ecclesiastical judgment that violence starts and ends in the human vessel. Putting aside a few extreme libertarians, I would be willing to bet that a fair number of these same people have supported the banning of PCP, a drug that causes schizophrenic symptoms. Or supported banning uranium for Iran. If so, their arguments are dead.

Guns amplify violence in ways knives don’t. A woman who is domestically abused is three times as likely to die if there’s a gun in the house. A person is much more likely to shoot an innocent bystander or shoot the wall than stop a mad gunman in progress (the person who always has two advantages, including the element of surprise).

People are more likely to be killed by a gun if there is a gun in their house. And when weapons are banned, again, there is a direct decrease in violent crime–facts supported by empirical evidence in other countries. These are facts. They are not subverted or rendered irrelevant by knife deaths. Or bomb deaths. They are also not easily violated with fuzzy math. I was recently unfriended by somebody on Facebook; after I proferred the statistic about domestic violence, he said glibly that it didn’t hold up because that would mean five guns made murders 15 times more likely. I simply reminded him that only the one gun was needed for the math to work, and suggested that he was trying to flip a 15 pennies instead of one trying to change the unhappy fact that penny flipping will always give you a 50-50 heads-tails ratio. He could not argue. He unfriended. A nice illustration of how the fight or flight gland works in the gun lobby.

Of course, you are much more likely to confront violence in your life when it comes from somebody you know, not strangers. That means the people who know you can also use your defense against you. David Frum (a Republican) tries to cut up some of the vigilante hero numbers here and point out how silly they are. For such efforts, he’s lately been made a punching bag. Such is the fate of the intellectually curious person, who has no place in the world of pure theory that defines gun rights activists.

The other statistics gun activists like to point out are either misapplied logic or outright lies. In the former case, they’ll say you’re also very likely to die in an auto death, and thus cars would also have to be outlawed, as if the prevalence of one gruesome statistic somehow erases another. In the latter case, you often hear fabrications like the fact that baseball bats kill more people than guns. That’s a lie. A gun lobbyist’s lie.

When the math fails the gun zealot, then comes the rhetoric. Guns offer power to the people, says the bespectacled theorist, and protect them against the tyranny of oppressors. (Read: the government.) This pure theory has been used to defend assault weapons, since a person must have something strong enough to defend himself against a very well armed government. This was the addle-pated argument of a woman on Piers Morgan who not only lied by saying the principle was written in the Constitution, but also lied by saying it was next to the word “musket,” which also wasn’t in the Constitution.

But I’ll vet her underlying idea in a simple declarative sentence: We must all have targets on our children’s’ backs to unshackle the one individual who thinks he can make a run against the U.S. Army. Sound stupid? It is. But it’s EXACTLY what the poor woman said. I might take the extra step now to remind such a person that it is the very opposite of patriotism to make the government your main foe and makes you automatically a member of the Weather Underground and a fellow traveler with Bill Ayers. If Republicans continue to push this argument, they all owe Ayers an apology, since he was carrying out his attacks on empty buildings at a time when the government was flagrantly assassinating domestic political opponents.

The NRA argument is that those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither. Thanks for a platitude. Here’s a counterargument: We are told perforce we must give up our own and our children’s safety for your false sense of security (from guns that statistics agree are not helping you)  and a false sense of liberty (against a country that is not attacking you unless you provoke it into sending an army you can’t possibly defeat). In other words, your gun is mainly a vainglorious, empty symbol of your freedom until you use it to deny freedom to somebody else. Gun brandishers insist they can help during a shooting. That, too, is shown to be untrue, both in statistics and anecdotes (Gabby Giffords was in the presence of at least two gun holders when she and 9 others were shot in early 2011. The only fortunate news that day was that the gun carriers did not shoot each other–though it came damn close to happening. The person who tackled Jared Lee Loughner was unarmed.) Nor could gun carriers have likely made quick decisions in the dark theater in Aurora, Colo. last summer. Nor would giving guns to every kid in that Newton, Conn. classroom made any difference whatsoever. The reason is simple: shooters always have the element of surprise. NRA fans say banning guns won’t stop a determined shooter, but having guns on hand will not stop a determined shooter either except mostly in fantasy. Yet there’s a much better chance of a determined shooter not committing a crime in the first place if the guns are removed from the scene. The only way to surprise a mad shooter is to deny him his gun in the first place.

Australia showed us that. Britain showed us, too. (Just stats.)

The contrarians say it’s too late to discuss gun control because there are too many guns. So the response of a paralyzed intelligentsia is a shrug. “Guns are here to stay, there are too many to regulate.” So this is what we do for the victims of Newtown–the children of Newtown: We shrug at them. We let them know that we, the species that unraveled the genome and split the atom and landed on the moon, can do nothing about a plague of violence because we are unwilling to correct a bullying minority of people who broadly misread the Constitution, who use false statistics, who make Supreme Court decisions based on false statistics and who make us unsafe to give themselves a false sense of safety.

Yes, it’s difficult to tell 80 million people they are wrong.

But they’re wrong.

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Happy New Year

Also, I owe Jesus a belated happy birthday. I just spent the week in Oklahoma with relatives, and did not post much about my trip. It’s enough to say that Xander had a great time reuniting with his relatives, and shopping in OKC. I spent the flight home yesterday contending with a stomach bug while my toddler kicked me in the belly. A less-than-auspicious end to a wonderful trip.

I hope that you all have a wonderful New Year. I am sorry again for my slack postings, and I’m happy that a handful of you have chosen to keep coming back here, whether it’s for my poems or my Xander photos or just to learn the definition of the word “decathect.” (According to my counter, this post won me more viewings this year than any other article I wrote. That should let you know what the Web community’s priorities are. They not only want to see cat videos and spread political gossip, but they refuse to be one-upped by their friends when it comes to the Word of the Day calendar.)

I’ve mostly had a wonderful year, if a busy one, readjusting to life as a parent while trying to continue living the life of a writer. Before Xander learned to walk, I had completed some seven screenplays since his birth. Since June, however, that number has fallen to zero. Xander has only left me enough time to edit some old novels I wrote, and though I hoped to publish these on Kindle in 2012, it’s now looking like I’ll have to hold off a bit longer. I’ll try to keep you updated on my progress, but suffice it to say that my blog will likely suffer as a result. I’ll just let you imagine what you are missing: Had I been writing every day for the past two weeks, you would have heard nothing but ranting about gun proliferation, the evil of the NRA, and the rank stupidity of defending assault weapon ownership. So, just imagine all that.

I’m going to be entering 2013 the same way I entered 2012: with a whimper. I’ll be with my family, thanking God I’ve got it so good. I’ll be thinking of the victims of the Newtown shooting. If I didn’t say it enough here, let me be clear: It devastated me.  If you’re reading this tonight, don’t take it for granted: Be very happy you are alive.

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