Saturday, June 25, 2016

When a Man Loves a Woman (and She Ditches Him)

" ... Most women in the U.S. who are murdered are killed by men they are familiar with, usually boyfriends, husbands or exes, but also coworkers, neighbors and friends. In 2013, more than 1,600 U.S. women were murdered by men. Of them, 94 percent were killed by someone they knew. Let that number sink in. 
"And often these tragic crimes are committed in the wake of a breakup — specifically breakups where the woman has chosen to end the relationship. Experts believe this pattern exists because, in cases of abusive relationships, men escalate the use of violence when they feel like they’re losing control."

--Melissa Jeltsen, senior reporter (here

Guns, of course play a big part in this carnage. According to (here), "Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force. Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm." According to one study, guns "were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005."

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that 117,000 Americans are shot every year. That is more people than live in Roanoke (by 20,000), more people than fit into the largest college football stadium in the country.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (here) tells it this way:
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. 
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of ... physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
  • 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon.
  • Only 34 percent of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Crackerjack New Book from Darrell Laurant

Darrell Laurant teaching at the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

My old friend Darrell Laurant has been busy in his retirement, mostly trying to help other writers make a living; directing his efforts from his new home in New York (his home state). Darrell was the metro columnist for the Lynchburg News & Advance for a quarter century and was the founder of the Sedalia Writers Conference, which inspired the founding (by me) of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference more than nine years ago. 

Here is a review of Darrell's fourth book and, I think, his best--certainly his most important. You can order it from Amazon here and it's worth every penny you will spend.

Inspiration Street, a review

 There are plenty of famous streets in America, made notable by a wide variety of circumstances. Pierce Street in Lynchburg, named for an ignoble 19th Century president, is not one of them. It should be.
Darrell Laurant has focused his most important book, Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks That Helped Change America (Blackwell Press), on a locally historic portion of Pierce Street, one where African luminaries of the most recently completed century lived, visited, learned and taught. It is the street where Anne Spencer, the notable Lynchburg poet, lived and entertained. It is a street paved with athletic luminaries, educators, military innovators, and even the outrageous and tragic story of a Congo pygmy.

Pierce Street is the center of innovation, two blocks that made a huge difference in the perception of and state of black America. It has most recently been recognized with more historic plaques than any other street in Virginia, but it remains a quiet, placid section in the center of Old Lynchburg, housing older residents.

Laurent’s book does not dwell in sentiment. He is long enough in the tooth and veteran enough in his profession to avoid that, sticking with the story, letting the good ones tell themselves. And this is a good one, an important one, one you should read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The News Media's Massive Failure

" ...There is little happening in the mainstream news that has any real connection to news integrity today. Maybe it’s time to consider that it’s gone from watchdog to lapdog." --Penn State professor Sophia McClennen in Salon (here

This is a growing complaint from all sides of the political spectrum and it has increasing validity. Corporate news is a failure, a complete and utter failure. The news business has always depended on advertising revenue to survive and that is still true, but it is true on steroids today. Corporate ownership of our major outlets (six corporations own more than 90 percent of them) has bent the game, distorted the news, created new truths and discarded legitimate neutral reporting.

It is a failure at every level. Would you, for example, expect the Berkshire-Hathaway-owned Roanoke Times to give you more and better news than the old Fishburn family-owned Roanoke Times & World News?

The Fishburns lived here, played a crucial role in the development of Western Virginia and cared about us. Berkshire Hathaway, which has a policy of not giving raises (at least in the Roanoke Valley, though I believe it is corporate) is not in the business of going to the Lion's Club, coaching Little League, holding a chili festival or supporting our community in any way that doesn't result in company profits. It is not unusual among latter-day news outlets. Profit first, last and always.

The Times and its corporate brothers and sisters across Virginia share news stories, rather than having their own representatives in, say Richmond or Charlottesville. It's cheaper. OK, so it's more like Clear Channel radio than it is responsible journalism, but, hey, Clear Channel pays.

Nationally, as Ms. McClennen strongly points out, the media has influenced this primary election season in ways that are new. It created Donald Trump and clearly dismissed Bernie Sanders, until it couldn't. It crowned Hillary Clinton long before she won and probably influenced the voting in doing so.

My thought is that locally, newspapers (and The Times is but one of a host of local papers, most weekly) don't cover politics except on the surface. We have two highly controversial House members in this region (Goodlatte and Griffith) who receive almost no coverage that they don't want or don't generate. Neither belongs in congress, but neither is regularly covered as to why that is the case.

Like so many of you, I am fed up. I don't watch TV news and I don't subscribe to the local paper. I would do both or either if there were a reason to. But there is not.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why Elizabeth Warren Won't Be VP

Elizabeth Warren: VP? Nope.
I suggested earlier today that Elizabeth Warren appears to be running pretty hard to become Hillary Clinton's vice presidential candidate and that brought some pretty good argument to the fore--most of which I agree with.

Warren--to many of us--is a much more attractive presidential candidate than either Clinton or Sanders (forget Trump; an orangutan is a more attractive candidate than he), but she does not yet have the resume. You will argue that her resume is about what Obama's was when he was elected initially, but Obama was not a woman. Obama did not follow a black person or a woman in office.

Some years ago, Mary Sue Terry stepped up to take her turn as Virginia's Democratic governor. She would follow Doug Wilder, the first black governor in the commonwealth since Reconstruction (maybe ever). Terry began the campaign against young backbench Republican House member George Allen with a huge lead, something like 21 points. He was thought not to have a chance against an insider who had paid her dues.

But then the second thoughts began to slide in and Allen's people planted the "lesbian" seed. She sunk like a rock. White men were dying for a reason not to vote for her and there they had it.

James Glass responded to my post this morning with the following, which makes a lot of sense: "The patriarchy won't allow two women in the most powerful office[es] just yet. The dying patriarchy will accept this woman[Clinton] because she's a Republican Lite and because a man is in the back up position [Bill Clinton]. Clinton is no fool--she's savvy, clever, and fully aware that her VP pick must be male to appease the unwashed masses."

All that leads me to reconsider. Clinton is probably closer to appointing a former Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, in a lively irony, than appointing Warren. Glass suggested Warren would be a good Secretary of State. I think she makes a better senator than VP or Secretary of State. Let's just leave where she is doing a world of good. 

Maybe a Supreme Court spot would be best, eventually.

Think Jocks Get Special Treatment? Check This Out

Alabama football: Prosecution proof. Smoke on, boys.

“I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m [dropping charges against two football players] is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning,”--Ouachita Parish, La., District Attorney Jerry Jones (story here)

OK, there it is in black and white and stupid. A local DA has said what we all know: elite athletes--these University of Alabama football players--don't face the criminal scrutiny the rest of us would because ... well ... they are elite athletes and they work hard. The rest of us aren't and we don't. Case closed.

Two 'Bama players were busted for possession of marijuana and an illegal handgun, which isn't exactly mass murder, but it isn't a parking violation, either. It represents two different crimes that at least need to go to trial. We might discover there that the kids are completely innocent of any wrong-doing, that the grass and the gun were planted by Islamic terrorists who want to do in the 'Bama program.

But probably not.

The DA has done us all a favor and the next time charges are dropped against a high-level athlete, just point to the 'Bama boys.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Where Are All the Good Guys With Guns?

A lot of gun owners see themselves this way.
The Violence Policy Center accumulated some stats from 2012--the last year for which they are available, but little has changed since then--that tell us there were a meager 259 justifiable gun-related killings (homicides, it calls them) ruled as self-defense.

That year, there were  1.2 million violent crimes, "defined as murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault."  According to my handy-dandy calculator, that's .0025 percent or two and a half self-defense killings per 10,000 incidents where people are killed by guns.

That same year, there were "8,342 criminal homicides using guns, 20,666 suicides with guns, and 548 fatal unintentional [accidental] shootings," according to the story in the L.A. Times (here) a year ago. Half of all suicides are committed with guns (70 percent among men). I repeat this information because it is jaw-dropping and should not be forgotten.

I think most of us on the anti-gun side know that use of guns for bad far, far outweighs employing guns for what some would call good (shooting criminals), but a ratio of 38-1 is absurd. "Good guys with guns" aren't quite on every corner every day even though there are 300 million guns in the U.S. (owned by a third of our citizens).

As the article concludes, it is time to concentrate on the part of the 2nd Amendment that talks about a "well-regulated" group of gun owners, since we have almost none and gun killings have been completely out of hand for some time.


Press Responsibility: Interview Representative People on Both Sides

Not everybody loves Wayne LaPierre.
I have been reading complaints in the last couple of days from people who believe national news organizations should consciously and intentionally avoid interviews with people like NRA president Wayne LaPierre (who, by the way, is from Roanoke).

I detest everything LaPierre stands for, but I don't agree with censoring coverage of him. Respectable news outlets (a few remain) have a responsibility to tell the legitimate sides of a story and LaPierre has several million American followers. However, he is not representative of the bulk of gun owners.

The NRA membership among gun owners is 5-7 percent, so it would seem to me that somebody other than the NRA would need to be consulted as representative of the overwhelming majority of owners, whose opinions are most often ignored. The NRA has a lot of money and has made itself a spokesman for what it considers to be the "prevailing opinion" among gun owners. Money again.

It is up to legit news outlets to question who the NRA represents and to seek out other opinions. The NRA represents the extreme conservative opinion, just as I would represent the extreme liberal position (ban all guns everywhere and melt the damn things). I would not expect CBS to talk to me and I think it could easily find an organization that makes sense--most gun owners share the opinion that we don't need AR15s, for example, and that background checks are just fine--to represent gun owners. 

A lazy reporter and editor, though, will take the easy way out. That is not good for the reporter, the reader or our country. And the editor needs to do his damn job.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Plans A, B and C for a Pop's Day Lunch

Sam Snead's Tavern in Hot Springs: No lunch here.
Late yesterday afternoon, noting, I suppose, that neither of my kids was around to help recognize Father's Day, Margie said, "I'd like to take you to lunch tomorrow. Is that OK with you? Anywhere you want to go. It's for Father's day."

The proof.
It took me one second. "Sam Snead's Tavern in Hot Springs," I said, grinning. "The spinach salad with bacon vinaigrette dressing will make you weep."

We were on.

So, today, we took off at about 10:30 a.m., hoping to make it to Hot Springs, about 100 miles north of here, by noon. We did. Right on time. We discovered, however, that Sam Snead's is no longer open for lunch.

Plan B. Lindsay's Roost, just down the street. Doesn't take credit cards. Plan C. Couldn't find a suitable alternative (because we didn't know about the wonderful outdoor cafe at the Homestead), but a lady in one of the boutiques said there was an ATM at the bank next door. That worked.

We ate at the Roost. Good Philly cheese steak and BBQ sandwiches. Noisy kids sounded like they were playing camp games.

Lindsay's Roost: Oh, honey, sit down.
Next up: see if we could get a piece of legendary key lime pie at the Homestead, across the street. I had told Margie about it. She was pumped. And I thought, "That should be easy."

Nope. Seems French Chef Michel Finel has retired and been replaced by an Italian chef. Italian chefs don't make key lime pie. Plan B. We went down to the outdoor cafe on the lawn and asked the Jamaican waitress if we could get some dessert. Earlier, she had said she didn't think the hotel had key lime pie any longer, but directed us to the main dining room to check. It, of course, was closed, but a menu suggested no pie and a maid told us the story.

Back at the small bistro, we were being seated when I noticed my old friend Nancy Agee at a table with her lovely husband Steve, and Mary Ellen Goodlatte with her Republican husband, Bob. We chatted amiably, studiously avoiding politics, and they suggested the pie at a restaurant called the Country Inn about two miles away. We said that would work.

Except it didn't. I left Hot Springs by the wrong road and we wound up on Virginia 39, heading somewhere unknown, until I saw a sign that said, basically, "Turn here and you can go to Douthat State Park," which Margie had never seen. I used to spend a lot of time there.

Curvy road with high sun creating a strobe light effect until we got to the lake and then it was all gorgeous, and Margie said, "We have to come back here when we can spend some time on the water." I said that'd work. Kayaks came to mind. My grandgirl will be home in 10 days and that sharpens the possibilities.

On the way up to the Homestead, just on the other side of Covington, we had stopped briefly at Falling Springs, a lovely waterfall and took a few photos.The drive was gorgeous, both ways, but the afternoon was facing and so was I, so we drove on home. Another small adventure with surprise after surprise.

Margie and me at the spa pool, where you can bathe in the Homestead's hot spring.
Another selfie, this one of the Homestead's tower.
Margie at Falling Springs.
Pampa and his Father's Day Philly Cheese Steak lunch.

Watching My Son Grow a Little

Evan and me at Nantahala Gorge, N.C. (note the raft in the background).
I have never considered myself to be much of a father, but when I look back on the fun my son and I had when he was a kid--and so was I--I think I made a very good friend.

During Evan's formative years--up until about his senior year in college, in fact--I was an active drunk. But I had days of clarity and times when I could be attentive, instructive and loving. I suspect most drunks fall into that category: good intentions.

There are a few adventures Ev and I shared that I recall now, years later in great detail. We did whitewater rafting trips down the Nantahala River (falling in together in a Class 3 waterfall at one point), rode the bumper boats in Greensboro (he nearly drowned me; at 70 pounds, he was an expert at throwing water), rode the skyride near Cherokee, attended sold-out University of Tennessee football games, went to plays (he never much liked theater unless he was acting) and argued about music.

One Saturday, Ev and I were walking down on City Market in Roanoke. He was about 12 and had been playing piano and violin since he was probably 5 or so. His mother wanted that for him. "Dad," he said, turning to me, "I don't think I want to play music any more."

"Why? I thought you loved music."

"I do, but I don't like the violin."

"If you had a choice, what would you play?"

He thought for a minute. The ball was in his court, where it was unfamiliar. "Guitar, I guess," he said, tentatively.

As good fortune would have it, we were walking by the front door of the Fret Mill, Roanoke's best music shop, at the moment. "Let's see what we can do about that," said I. About 30 minutes later, we walked out of the Fret Mill and Evan was carrying a big guitar case, filled with all he needed, and wearing a huge smile. A few years later, Ken Rattenberry, owner of the Fret Mill, proclaimed Evan "the best young musician in Roanoke."

He became quite good on the bass and now plays probably seven instruments and sings pretty well. I always felt good about that hour or two on City Market.

One other good Dad moment came when Evan was about 15 and was trying out for the brand new lacrosse team at Patrick Henry High. The kids didn't know the game and all of them were struggling with the fundamentals. I was showing up at practice taking pictures and--in my mind--showing support. One Thursday, I was there, but Evan wasn't. The coach didn't know where he was. I went to his mom's house looking for him. I found him in the living room watching TV.

"I'm not any good," he explained to me.

"Evan," I said, "when I was in high school, I once quit the football team because I had taken a nasty beating the day before and didn't want any more. My friend Jerry Turbyfill called me the next morning telling me he'd meet me at practice. I told him I wasn't going back. He said, 'Oh, yes you are. The two of us have some getting even to do and I ain't doin' it without you.' We showed up, kicked ass and stuck it out."

Evan stayed with the team, enjoyed and learned and grew up a lot. I was happy about that.

Open Carry: The Right To Be a Bully

Armed in America: A normal day downtown.
My good friend Roland Lazenby, one of the finest newsmen I've ever known and author of about five dozen books, wrote the following short essay on open carry for guns this morning and he reflects my sentiment exactly. I present it to you as a Father's Day gift, hoping you live to see the next one and that some gun nut doesn't consider you a bad guy.

"Was watching a music show in Blacksburg ... last night when I noticed a young man standing up front with a big ol' handgun strapped to his hip. He kept looking around nervously as if he was checking to see who was noticing him. I immediately perceived him as a major threat.

"Now, I know you open-carry folks are all about your freedom to carry weapons of death into a peaceful crowd. But basically what that becomes is a freedom to feel superior over everyone else, to enjoy the intimidation it brings. That freedom treads all over my freedom, my right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness. 

"Open carry is a power trip employed by people who need and enjoy flaunting their power and danger over the public. The person carrying that gun may have a license (actually the idiot legislature in Virginia doesn't even require a permit for open carry), but that means nothing to me. The government that issues any license has no real sense of the mental health of the person it has authorized to be armed. 

"If you are such a person, full of blather about your open carry rights, you are severely limiting my general freedom. Worse, you are a power tripper, using a gun to intimidate people around you. The very act of you carrying a weapon and flaunting it publicly suggests you may well be mentally unstable and a serious threat to my health. 

"I'm still quite angry today over this smart ass from last night. So you open carry proponents are a bunch of bullies, in my humble opinion. You can take your permits and shove 'em where the sun don't shine. 

"And if you're a politician who gave in to the gun lobby and voted for open carry laws, you are a coward who lacks good sense and should be removed from office."

Well said, my friend.  


For the Love of a Little Girl

The (misspelled) signature is probably by my mother.
My daughter  put this up on her Facebook page this morning and it brought up so much stuff for me. Jenniffer, was about two and a half at the time this was made, and she was spending most of her time with Mom. Jennie's mom, Eva, and I had divorced and I was left with a baby, not being much more than a baby myself. Mom rushed to the rescue.

Jennie and Mom were always close and Mom treated her like her own ninth child. In this card, Mom cut out the photo, a smidge unevenly, and misspelled Jenniffer's name, making the natural mistake of spelling it correctly.

The evening Jennie was born, I couldn't stand the pressure and strain of sitting with her mother for 18 hours of labor and rushed off to a bar, loading up. When I got back to the hospital, Jennie was a newborn and the nurse held her out to me.

"What is it?" I asked the nurse.

"A beautiful little girl," she said.

"I meant the species," I cracked.

The nurse took on a dark look, scrunched her brow and said, "Mr. Smith, this is not a joke. You are now a father."

I proceeded, in my unstable state, to misspell Jennie's name on the birth certificate and set the bar for fatherhood, which I have never exceeded. I have never been a good dad and I regret that.

Jennie and I, over the years, have always had a tempestuous relationship, mostly because I never learned to behave. Even these days, when I believe all our differences to be behind us, I do things I seriously regret. Jennie owns five dogs that she loves. I complain about barking dogs. She raises horses. I grumble that farm waste is ruining our water supply. She used to drive a long-haul truck. I talked constantly about how intimidating truckers were on the road. And our politics. I won't even go into that.

Truth is, though, that I love Jenniffer Christine Smith and will until the day I die. I just wish I could have shown it better over the years.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Getting Lost in Lynchburg--As Usual

Margie and me on Lynchburg City Market. I'm the one on the left.
You know, I've said for years that driving in Lynchburg--or on the outskirts--is like driving without a map (or GPS) in a European city where I don't know the language, can't read the signs and have no idea what to do next because nothing fits.

Lynchburg's signs are the worst I know of. They get you halfway to where you are going, then abandon you. I know residents who make the same complaint. So today, I took Margie to the Hill City for the first time and ... promptly got lost. For an hour. I couldn't find downtown. I know where downtown is. I was involved with a woman in Lynchburg for two years and know how to get there. I thought. I told Margie today that the city fathers had either moved downtown or moved the access roads. One of those is right.

Took me an hour to find the "Historic Downtown" and by then, one of the reasons we went--to eat breakfast at this wonderful place in the Lynchburg City Market building that is run by two aging black women--had run out of time. Lunch was being served.

We discovered we had gone to the 'Burg on the Saturday when the Batteau Festival wis underway. But we missed it kickoff and, thus, missed it. Initially, the idea was to visit Point of Honor, the famous home that has for so long been an historic focal point for Lynchburg. Margie read on the 'net that POH had a display of medical devices from the 18th and 19th centuries and, since she is a nurse, she was interested. Me, too.

We took the tour, didn't see any medical devices and asked the tour guide what had happened. Seems she forgot to show us that room ... and it was only one room. Or part of one room. Talk about overselling a display. Anyhow, it was a pleasant enough tour.

Perhaps the highlight of this mini-road trip was the City Market, which--in my opinion--is better than Roanoke's in some areas. Its vegetable vendors are almost all organic and local. Its inside restaurants are excellent. It rests inside an active and interesting downtown with great shops and sits two or three blocks from the James River and the Blackwater Trail (biking, walking). I bought a few veggies and we ate lunch. It was quite nice.

Oh, and did I mention that I lost my camera. Thought I'd left it at either Point of Honor or City Market. When we got back home--and I'd given up on finding it--we were unloading the car and there it was. I think somebody in Lynchburg threw it in the floor, after painting some misdirection signs. "You know," I said to Margie at one point, "I think Lynchburg wants us to go home. The signs I keep seeing say 'Roanoke.'"

Internet News Has More Employees Than Newspapers

Jeezy-Peezy, this is like a death in the family: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to The Washington Examiner online news (here), had revealed that "newspaper employment, as of March, 2016, had dropped to 183,200, compared with 197,800 working in internet publishing and broadcasting."

Since 1990, the "dawn of the internet age,"  newspaper employment is down 60 percent. It was at a peak of 457,800 in 1990.

If you're wondering why your local daily (or weekly) didn't cover the event you consider important, the likelihood is that it didn't have the staff to do so. If it did cover that event, take a look at the by-line and see for yourself if it was covered by a staffer or a free "citizen journalist."

Friday, June 17, 2016

God of Hell: Tough Political Tale from OTR

Sam Shepard's "The God of Hell" has the political subtlety of a bullhorn at a Donald Trump rally in Texas.

This 2004 play, written during the darkest days of the Bush II Administration when torture and the Patriot Act were accepted government policy, is being presented by Off the Rails Theatre (OTR) at Community High School through through the next two weekends. It is worth your 72 minutes to absorb its horror, but don't expected to be pleased.

Government by totalitarian regimes is rarely less than threatening to Americans.

"The God of Hell," tightly directed by Patrick Kennerly, is the story of Wisconsin dairy farmers Emma (Maryjean Levin) and Frank (Robert Smith) who receive a visit from Haynes, a longtime friend of Frank's (De'Shawn Riley), who has a secret. His visit is followed shortly by that of a "government man," the menacing Welch (Owen Merritt).

This one develops slowly and there are periods when I was wondering what the hell they were getting at, but in the last 30 minutes, we know that they are getting at us--a nation that has fallen under their spell of right wing control. It's not pretty.

Merritt, who can be annoying with his pitch-precise diction and his shrill delivery upon occasion, nails the dark Welch. At one point, Margie (my gal) said, "I hate him" and I didn't have to ask why. It was because Merritt had become the character.

Veteran Maryjean Levin is solid as the midwest housewife who is bewildered by it all and Robert Smith plays a clueless Frank, caught up in feeding his heifers. De'Shawn Riley, who recently shown in "Rent" with Showtimers, had his moments as Haynes.

Let me caution you that this play is overtly political and the right is shown as an evil fascist regime, hell bent on re-forming America. If that is your politics, you might want to opt for "Little Miss Sunshine" because this one won't do at all.

Working Around the Insurance Company

A couple of weeks ago, while Margie and I were on vacation in Savannah, we were hit by a drunk driver leaving a festival and it knocked the mirror off Margie's car. The drunk went on down the street and plowed into two more cars. He fled the rental car (Hertz) and as far as we know, has not been caught. The boys in the car with him said they didn't know him; just caught a ride. Likely story.

In any case, the mirror on Margie's 2006 Honda Accord is not just a mirror. It is a system. Electric, heated, etc., like so many other parts that are prone to breaking. Hertz is self-insured and has been dragging its feet on paying for the mirror. The Savannah police department has not sent Margie an accident report and said it might take a month. Margie's insurance company has tried to cooperate, but it's been a chore.

So, she is left with a car with no driver's-side mirror and not much prospect of having one in the near future. I estimated it would cost around $600 to replace and a couple of mechanics I know said that was "high, but you will be surprised at how much it can cost."

I took the Honda to Salem Imports, which is owned by my friend Mark Dearing. He takes care of Daisy, my VW bug. Mark called around, found a mirror (aftermarket), told me to bring the car by and had the mirror on in a couple of hours. His bill is about $150.

Sometimes, it's best to just go around the insurance companies. Margie has invested the equivalent of a lot more than $150 at this point arguing with insurance people and getting frustrated. I think Mark gave her a great deal all the way around.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Showing What a Small Camera Can Do

This is the cartoon version of me in my boat.
This is the watercolor.
My good friend Susan asked me to pose for some experimental shots the other day, so she could show me just what her Sony CyberShot was capable of. I own one, but have never learned to use it the way she can.

Susan tends to work things out, experiment, read, learn. I just pick up a camera and start shooting, rarely considering the potential of a given piece of equipment.

These shots were all edited within the camera, using special features built in. You simply set the camera and shoot. I can replicate each of them with PhotoShop, but it is an extra step that is unnecessary, if you know what you want to represent with a given photo.

This is not an endorsement of the CyberShot, though I like mine because it is inexpensive (about $75), light, portable, of nice quality and not a major disaster if I just happen to drop it in the water. I've lost three that way.

Anyhow, take a look. The shots are quite good, I think (and the model is great!).

Saturated color for a neon glow.
Dark surround emphasizes the portrait.
Center-spot portrait filter.
Point out that it's in black and white.

In Defense of Owning a Gun

Karen Prior is in the blue blouse here on the PBS panel.
My friend Karen Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, a fine writer and author and a national figure in the conservative Christian movement, recently wrote a personal piece defending her ownership of a handgun. It was a gun her husband gave her for Christmas, following a series of threatening incidents she experienced on her daily runs.

I will not argue the irony of giving a gun as a present on the birthday of the Prince of Peace.

Running alone in the country can be dangerous.
As you know, I am strongly anti-gun (I'd love to see every damn one of them melted and plowshares made of the metal), but I also respect Karen and people like her who are reasonable, calm and intelligent (unlike moi). Her 2012 piece (here) appeared in the huge national magazine Christianity Today and led to her appearance on a panel about gun ownership on the PBS program "Armed In America: Faith & Guns" (here).

Karen wrote that "as a Christian I try to cultivate my willingness to lay down my life for the sake of the gospel or for the life of another, I don't believe I'm supposed to risk my life for a would-be rapist. To me, being pro-life means protecting my own life, too."

Another irony I find in so many pro-gun arguments is that the arguer is "pro-life," but also pro gun. Guns have one use: to shoot living things, generally with the intent of killing them. I don't know how that squares with being "pro-life."

Karen also explains that she is not opposed to gun regulation, but that it must take into consideration individuals' desire to protect themselves from the violent America we have become. As much as I despise guns, I can't argue with her convincingly about that point. I know a lot of quite reasonable who own guns, who treat them with a combination of respect and fear and who believe they are safer because of that ownership. I don't believe they are safer--and the statistics are strongly on my side--but perception is a strong part of any belief system.

I believe Karen makes a reasonable--if not unusual--argument in favor of owning a gun, but I do not agree with it. I believe there are many alternatives to guns that will leave an attacker unable to follow through with violence (if the user of, say, pepper spray is trained, as any gun owner should be). We don't have to kill or threaten death in order to be safe. But we probably do need to be trained in self-defense--again, as we should be even if that self defense is with a gun. 

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