Friday, February 16, 2018

gun control word vomit

I posted this on Facebook this morning, but I wanted to keep these thoughts handy so I can reflect later. And in a few weeks, any hope of finding this post again would be relegated to lots and lots of scrolling, unless I wait 365 days from today and let it show up on TimeHop.

Addressing the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The following is what I call "gun control word vomit", several paragraphs loosely held together with one very tragic common thread.

As a very right wing conservative, I have been trying for two days to understand why asking for universal background checks is a bad idea.

I am all for the 2nd amendment, and even though I personally do not like guns, I support your right to own as many as you want, if obtained and operated legally. I support your right to own as many unnecessarily big guns, bazookas, tanks and the like, as long as you fall under the laws as set for by your state and our federal government.

But I also believe that there needs to be a paper trail for every gun owned in our country. There should be an age minimum for purchasing a gun -- 18, maybe even 21 (though its hard to argue you can die for our country in a firefight overseas at 18 and not be allowed to purchase until 21 here). Is that hard to do? You betcha. But if someone does what happened the other day, I want to know where that gun came from and if it should have been on the streets. And maybe with 300 million firearms in the country, its a task that retroactively isn't even feasible to attempt.

Which brings us to background checks. I'm for them. All of them. Anyone who sells a gun to someone needs to know who they are selling them too. Those convicted of violent crimes should not have the right to possess a weapon. Those charged and/or convicted with stalking, abuse and the like should not, at least temporarily, have the right to possess a weapon. Those who are diagnosed with certain mental illnesses should not be able to own a gun.

Personally, I don't think you can just walk into a gun shop, plunk down $150 and immediately walk out with a firearm. And I'm not sure it's all that easy at a gun show.

I don't think there are mile-wide loopholes at gun shows as portrayed by the anti-gun lobby, but I do think there are enough to be addresses. And I'm willing to adjust my opinion on all of this if someone gives me something that makes me think "Oh yeah, that's why universal background checks are not a great idea..."

My conservative friends will tell me this goes too far. My liberal friends will tell me this doesn't go far enough.

All of that said... none of this would have prevented what happened in Parkland. None of it. Perhaps this kid being unable to legally purchase a gun would have made it harder, but I have no doubt that he would have procured a weapon in another manner... when you are hellbent on the revenge you think you are owed, few things can stop you.

Finally, this falls on one person. That 19 year old punk jackwagon who decided to shoot up a school. This isnt Trump's fault, unless you want to fault him for not doing enough to stem the unmonitored purchase of guns. If so, then you can also blame Obama, George W and Clinton, as all had legislation that addressed gun show loop holes come up in their admin, and all died before a vote -- and at various times, Congress was controlled by both sides of the aisle.

Also, this isn't an NRA problem. Ben Shapiro reported that the NRA donated 200 million to their causes from 1998 to 2017 -- and likely most of that was for Republican causes. Unions donated almost 2 billion in the 2016 election, and nearly all of that was for Democratic causes. None of these shooters were members of the NRA, and the NRA didn't put the guns in their hands.

So here's my position. Stop the yelling at people about how the GOP only cares about babies before they were born, and stop using the Democratic line "There have been 18 school shootings this year alone!". The former is an incredibly stupid position to take, and the latter is an incredibly stupid talking point that has no basis (The Washington Post of all places debunked it, though I gave 15 minutes of research to it and knew half the story before they printed).

But also understand that Dems (at least most of them) aren't seeking to take away the 2nd Amendment, and many of them understand that banning guns is a completely impossible task.

Stop with the "rest of the world doesn't have this problem because they banned guns!" rhetoric. Many other countries also throw gay people off of roofs and throw acid in women's faces for speaking up about being raped, so I think our country of 330 million is doing okay in that manner.

Finally, banning the AR-15 does nothing. Because another gun will take its place. Oh, by the way, I also discovered that AR doesn't stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for ArmaLite, which is a brand name. The AR-15 isn't much different from a standard rifle, even though it looks like a machine gun. Its the (likely illegal) modifications made on such guns that cause the rapid fire, otherwise the shooter would be pulling the trigger on each shot, and would probably wear out from fatigue much faster.

If a GOP or Dem talking point looks funny, or unbelievable, look it up. Read a little and learn, which is the best way to formulate any argument.

This is my gun control word vomit, and will be so until someone gives me facts that make me think otherwise.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

the top ten books of 2017

A few weeks ago... well, 10 days ago... which is shocking, because I feel like I'm at a pace where I'm putting a winter solstice between posts, but recently, I listed the books I read in 2017, giving a brief synopsis and recommending most of them... not all of them, thought (I'm looking at you, "The Circle") but most.

My favorite book of 2014, a book I think
everyone should read. Its life changing.
But there were ten books that I wanted to mention in this post, which are my Top Ten Books of 2017.  The ones I enjoyed the most, relished as I read, put them away mentally for a possible re-read later, or that actually made me aware of how dusty it is in this room.  Seriously, two books did that for me.

So, what book will join the list of Fave Books of the Year, a list that includes Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" (my fave book of 2013)... Carlos Whittaker's "Moment Maker" (my fave book of 2014)... Andy Weir's "The Martian" (my fave book of 2015)... and Michael Lewis' "The Big Short" (my fave book of 2016)? 

First, folow @TheDaveofPop  on Instagram for nearly daily book and movie reviews, where all of these books were originally reviewed after being read.

Now let's see the list and find out the list, shall we?

My 10th Favorite Book of 2017
"The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute" by Zac Bissonnette. Yes, this book is about the origins and business of those little plush animals with the red, heart shaped tag, those same ones that were supposed to be insanely valuable now and would pay your way through college. This was one of those books I circled for a while, and finally landed on, and it was delightful in the weirdest way. It chronicles the rise, fall and sort of rise of Ty Warner, founder of the Ty Company, and... well, how he's a total jackwagon. To everyone. That tag line of "Mass Delusion..." fits this journey perfectly. (it's also got another subtitle in some places, that being "The Amazing Story of How America Lost It's Mind Over a Plush Toy--And the Eccentric Genius Behind it")

My 9th Favorite Book of 2017
"Reasons to Be Pretty" by Neil LaBute.  This is a stage play written by one of my two favorite playwrights (David Mamet being the other), and right at the top, we learn that Greg has said something fairly stupid to his girlfriend Steph.  But we also learn that Steph has a flair for the overdramatic, which means she fits perfectly with their best friends Kent and Carly, two people also deeply flawed for various reasons. The sequel is called "Reasons to Be Happy", which I enjoyed, but I loved how this book/play unfolded.

My 8th Favorite Book of 2017
"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler.  When I read Tina Fey's "Bossypants", I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book as much. I mean, "Bossypants" is hilarious, and Tina is smoking hot (two things that can potentially draw me to a book) so how could Amy compete?  She did. And more. This book is absolutely hysterical, riffing on everything from celebrity, to SNL to motherhood and marriage and life on Parks & Rec and life in general, and with her reading the audiobook, her delivery is nearly perfect. So good.

Available in paperback or Kindle. Quick
read, too... less than 200 pages

My 7th Favorite Book of 2017
"Catch Somewhere" by Megan Hall. This is the sweet story of a young lady named Kinsley who faces what so many girls do -- heartache in high school. Kins, as she's nicknamed, takes her pain out in other ways, however, through an addiction that is all too common, but having never been a 15 year old girl (nor playing one on TV), its something I don't understand. Megan Hall writes in a "dramedy" sort of manner, with a few funny pop culture references, but the story shines through the characters Hall puts around Kinsley, including a best friend and a Bible study coed. I'm not in the audience demo, but I enjoyed this very much and even found myself a little misty eyed at the "reunion" towards the end.  Got me right in the feels. Full disclosure, Megan is a friend of mine, but I can truthfully say that I wouldn't have put her book on this list had I not felt it deserving.  Also... I really like where the title comes in. It's... it's... pure.

My 6th Favorite Book of 2017
"I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved The Romantic Comedy" by Erin Carlson.  My favorite movie of all time is "You've Got Mail", so how could I resist a book that takes you behind the scenes of not just that, but "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle".  You get untold stories of casting, anecdotes from the set, and everyone from Meg Ryan to Rob Reiner to Tom Hanks to Billy Crystal and more giving their stories and insight.  Director Nora Ephron led a complicated life, and this book doesn't shy away from talking about that either, as she had plenty of personal crises during the making of each of these modern day classics. I loved the intimacy of  this book, and I recommend it for movie fans.

My 5th Favorite Book of 2017
You can read this without the others, but
I would highly recommend Start above any of
the four. 
"Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done" by Jon Acuff.  This is the final book in the Acuff Career Quadrology (which includes "Quitter", "Start" and "Do Over"), and this book is exactly what it sounds like -- getting stuff done. The whole idea is that it's easy to "Start" something, and it's even somewhat to just do-over... but finishing is the hardest part without just throwing your hands up, becoming a "Quitter".  (Hey Acuff -- see what I did there? Eh? You can email me to set up a time to be on your podcast).  Whether its a goal of losing weight or finishing a book or starting a book or getting your career in some facsimile of order, or maybe even getting your personal life figured out, this book will give you the guidance and encouragement needed.  And it's pretty funny, especially the audiobook.

My 4th Favorite Book of 2017
"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio.  Another book that I had picked up and set back on the shelf about 70 times before I decided to give it a whirl -- which I only did because my Dear Friend Janna has a cute kid who recommended it to me.  And honestly, I didn't want it to end. Little Auggie Pullman suffers from a severe facial deformity and is headed to public school for the first time. Of course, he faces the harsh reality of cruel kids around him, but also the warmth of a few random kids who decide to stand by him. We see the school year not just from his eyes, but also from his neglected sister Via, his best friend Jack Will (one of my favorite characters in this or any book in a long time), and Via's former BFF Miranda, who's perspective is very surprising. And when the "honor guard" is mentioned at the end... I mean... I wanted to openly weep. I'm a dad, so it hit me. I cannot recommend this book enough not just to kids and young adults, but anyone.  Also, see the movie.  It's not as in-depth as the book, but its wonderful too.

My 3rd Favorite Book of 2017
"The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero. The title doesn't lie here... "The Room" is one of the greatest bad movies ever made... and when I say "bad", it's not like "Employee of the Month" Dane Cook bad... nay, its bad. I mean horrendously awful bad. And its written and directed by Tommy Wisseau, a man who believes he truly belongs in the Hollywood elite. Sestero was Tommy's closest friend for many years, and starred in the movie with Tommy, and this book is a great glimpse into the insanity of the film's production -- a film where the writing, the acting, the plots make no sense, weirdly named characters like "Chris-R" shows up for no reason to start a plot point that never pays off, or a mom's mentioning having cancer only to never be brought up again.  This book is maddening and nuts and hysterical, all at the same time. (Also, the movies is pretty great too... my 3rd fave film of 2017)

My 2nd Favorite Book of 2017
"David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" by Malcolm Gladwell.  This guy is a great writer, and he does something that many books likes this fail to do -- challenge me and my opinions without belittling those very opinions I hold.  This is the story of the underdog, and how decisions made by "the little guy" can affect how the stack up against "the big guy". There is a story of the student who makes the decision to go to an Ivy League school instead of a lesser, but still great, school -- and the consequences it causes. There's a great look at the "three strikes law" in California and why it might be a bad idea, and a great take on the Biblical story of David & Goliath -- and why David actually matched up to the giant better than most people thing. Loved it.

There's just so much about this book that
is awesome -- but its got some language
and a non-PC culture throughout. 
And finally, My Favorite Book of 2017  
"Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream" by Buzz Bissenger. This is the book that begat the movie that begat the TV show, all of which are classics now. Texas considers Friday night football not just a rite of passage, but darn near a religion, much like it is throughout the South.  Bissinger moved into Odessa, Texas, and spent a year there among the people, including the staff, coaches and football players of Permian High School, home of the Permian Panthers. The book chronicles the lives of a handful of players, from the tragic injury to Boobie Miles (until then, a near sure thing for college and NFL) to the good but not great QB Mike Winchell to the player who seeks to become a pastor, Ivory Christian to the embattled coach, Gary Gaines. It takes place in the 1988 season, which is just recent enough to make Odessa a modern town but still not recent enough to shed the racism and poverty which pervades the town. This is an amazing book, beautifully, if not toe-steppingly written, and it unfolds game by game, as the Panthers seek a return to the title game, living a "championship or bust" mentality the entire year.  Loved this book.

So there's my Top Ten of last year.  I've got a goal of 50 books this year, and I'm already way behind, as Stephen & Owen King's "Sleeping Beauties" was a 28 hour listen, and I'm in the midst of another 28 hour listen, "Live from New York", the oral history of Saturday Night Live by James A Miller and Tom Shales.

But I can recommend to you "One of Us is Lying" by Karen McManus -- a smart, funny, and clever whodunit with a Breakfast Club setting.

Now... back to the books.

Monday, February 05, 2018

the not top ten books of 2017

One of the things I started doing in 2013 was keeping a list of books read... or "read", I should say, as there is some question as to whether "audiobooks" is considered reading.  But you could also contest if graphic novels or plays would count as books (I count those too), so each person really has to come up with their own qualifications and rules. 

If you count the books I read (but didn't officially list) in 2012, in six years, I've managed to get through 204 books.  That's nothing compared to some of my friends, like Jessica Jobes, who reads 150 books a year or something.  But 204 is a big deal to me! 

Also, in six years, I've clocked 1773 hours and 42 minutes of read time, meaning I could reread everything I've read starting tonight, and it would take me until April 17th to finish.  I impress myself.  Again, there are those who see these numbers, shake their head and know they've already done 200 books since the beginning of the year, but for someone who didn't read much of anything from 1995 to 2012, I'll take it.  

So I will be posting my Top Ten Books of 2017, but I wanted to give a quick rundown of all the other books I read last year as well.

These are in no particular order:

"Free Prize Inside" by Seth GodinThe sorta sequel to "Purple Cow", its all about outside the box marketing. Its a great read for business. 

"29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life" by Cami Walker. The author was 33 when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She then sought to give 29 gifts in 29 days, and you can follow along here.

"Without You" by Anthony Rapp I like Rapp's work in "Adventures in Babysitting", "Rent" and other projects, but I found this memoir to be... well, boring. I hate to say that about someone else's story, as mine would likely be boring too, but it just wasn't for me. 

"The Princess Diarist" by Carrie Fisher. Fisher's final book before her death dives into the 1977 production of "Star Wars", or the stories behind it, including her love of Harrison Ford. Won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word, and though I wasn't crazy about all of it, I enjoyed it. 

"The Best In the World (at what I have no idea)" by Chris Jericho. Tons of WWE backstage stories, including the accident that gave Undertaker 3rd degree burns on his chest before he went into a steel cage match. 

"My Seinfeld Year" by Fred Stoller. He was a writer on Seinfeld and he tells a few stories. Meh. 

"Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk (and other truths about being creative) by Danielle Krysa. This book isn't targeted to me, its targeted to crafty women. Like, literally knitting and creative women. 

"Scribe" by Bob Ryan. He's been around the Boston sports scene for decades, and sports in general, and this isn't so much a memoir as it is a collection of stories from his life in it. Tales of Red Sox, Bobby Knight, Patriots, Celtics, the 92 Dream Team, his love for John Havlicek and more. Honestly, I enjoyed Al Michael's memoir more, but "Scribe" is also great for sports fans. 

"Skeleton Crew" by Stephen King. A short story collection that was a slog to get through. Some stories were solid, many were tedious. 

"The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower" by Stephen King. I put this off for a long time, knowing that if I liked it, I would be sucked into the other 7 Dark Tower books -- books that are 25 and 30 hour commitments each. Thankfully, I didn't care for this book at all, so there goes any thought of me having to read the rest of them. 

"Gwendy's Button Box" by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar.  Another case of "does it count?", with this being a novella. And yes, I counted it because you can purchase it as a standalone book. Its a fun story that will end up leaving you with more questions than answers. 

"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser. If you don't want to know where your food comes from, about the gross mistreatment of some farmers, the political side of fast food franchising or the history of food additives, stay away from this book. Otherwise, its a fascinating read. 

"Powerhouse CAA: The Untold History of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency" by James Andrew Miller. I'm a sucker for a good oral history, and for 75% of this book, I was completely riveted. It tells the story of the formation and rise of CAA, a huge talent agency in Hollywood, and its key driver, Michael Ovitz.  Dozens of stars like Tom Hanks and Bill Murray share their opinions and experiences as well, and it was great... but when Ovitz left, the book just kind of tailspins into a revolving door of people coming and going at CAA and it loses something.  The first 20 hours would make my 2017 Top Ten. The last 5 keeps it from the list. 

"Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes. This book was actually pretty funny, and I believe it a darn site more than I do Michael Wolff's Trump book.  Why?  Because even Wolff has disputed the accuracy of his own book, while very few have come out against "Shattered" on the DNC side. Hillary's campaign was a mess, and this book tells why.

"The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients Lives" by Theresa Brown, RN.  Chronicling one night in the shift of a nurse who has been in the profession a long time and has seen a lot. Tells the stories of four patients in various stages of emergencies (not everyone makes it out alive). Enjoyable. 

"When to Rob a Bank... and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well Intended Rants" by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner.  The Freakonomics guys gathered their decades worth of newspaper articles and essays they wrote and compiled some of the best into this volume. Why does KFC run out of chicken? Why flight attendants don't get tipped? How do you curb gun deaths? Should there by a sex tax? This is a great read, but know that you are wading literally 132 essays. 

"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Patriots" by David Fisher. I've found the "Legends & Liars" series to be really great, and this collection of little known stories and anecdotes from the Revolutionary War was awesome. 

"Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Liars: The Civil War" by David Fisher. Everything I just said about "The Patriots", except about the Civil War. 

"The Shadow of the Matterhorn" by David W. Smith. If your uncle told you stories of his cool job he used to have, and kept referring to chicks he hooked up with at his job, that's this book.  A former cast member dishes on his time at Disneyland, and while some of it is kinda fun, much of it is awkward and random. 

"The Circle" by Dave Eggers. I hated this book. I hated everyone in the book. I didn't care what happened to anyone.  The movie was just as bad. 

"Camino Island" by John Grisham. A departure from his courtroom dramas, this is a book about stolen rare manuscripts, slick bookstore owners and a chick undercover trying to solve the case. A quick and fun read.

"Rooster Bar" by John Grisham. While I liked the story itself, the main problem I had with it was seeing the three protagonists -- the "heroes" of our story -- shirk all of their responsibilities, which include paying back their student loans because they went to a crappy college. Proceed with caution, you may not like anyone in this book. 

"Hollow World" by Nick Pobursky. Disney World fiction with lots of violence, death, hostages, language and a fat crime boss.  Count me in!! 

"A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning" by Lemony Snicket. Another series that I wanted to read, letting the first book determine if I was going to continue.  Though I enjoyed this more than the Dark Tower, it still wasn't enough to push me to read the other books. I looked up the plots on Wikipedia, and am happy with that. 

"Good Girl" by Mary Kubica. Mia Dennett is abducted early in this novel, and we are treated to various perspectives of the story, including lead investigator Detective Hoffman, Mia's mom, and the kidnapper himself. Though not as brutal as "Gone Girl", its in the same vein. I guessed the ending about 1/2 way through the book, but it was still a fun resolution. 

"I'm Your Biggest Fan" by Kate Coyne. A celebrity writer dishes on stories about George Michael, Wynonna Judd, Tom Cruise and stalking Mariska Hargitay.  I really liked the pop cultureyness of this. 

"As If! The Oral History of Clueless" by Jen Cheney. This is the book about the movie Clueless that you didn't know you needed. From screenwriting to pitching it to studios to casting to filming to the movie's release, this is the story of the movie as told by director Amy Heckerling, Jeremy Sisto,  Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Stacey Dash, and of course, Alicia Silverstone, as well as many more. The best parts include detailed looked at the best, most iconic scenes of the movies, including the Rollin' with the Homies, the freeway scene, the kiss at the end, the Bosstones party, the origins of "cake boy" and much more. 

"Steel Magnolias" by Robert Harling. Love reading plays, and this one was super familiar because I love the movie. Of course, the play takes place entirely in Truvy's Beauty Shop, but overall is pretty close to the film. 

"Barefoot in the Park" by Neil Simon. The classic about Paul and Corie, newlyweds who immediately run into problems days after the wedding. It's warm and sweet and super fun. 

"Biloxi Blues" by Neil Simon. The story is narrated by Eugene (the play itself is the second in the "Eugene Trilogy", which includes "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Broadway Bound" - both read in early 2018) but really centers around the conflict between Pvt Epstein and the brash Sgt Toomey, in basic training amidst WWII.  Reminded me of the Matthew Broderick movie. 

 "Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama" from NPR.  Does this count as a book? Its the drama as played on National Public Radio. It was great. I count it. Sue me.

"Reasons to be Happy" by Neil LaBute. I'm a big LaBute fan, and this book picks up after the previous "Reasons to be Pretty", with the lives of Greg, Steph, Kent and Carly, all in different places, trying to carry on after the events of the first one. 

"The Money Shot" by Neil LaBute.  The story of 2 actors who's fame has dimmed, and are being forced to tell their significant others about a very intimate scene they have to film for a movie that will supposedly reignite their careers. Funny, if not darkly funny, but full of language, as many LaBute plays are.

And the re-reads:
"102 Minutes" by Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn. The best 9/11 book I've ever read.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King. I re-read this after seeing the meh mini-series on Hulu, and discovered I didn't like this book as much as I did the first time. Without spoiling the ending, you'll find the story comes to a very unsatisfactory ending.

"'Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. I love this book so much, mostly for how it slowly unfolds for lead character Ben Mears, who is returning to his childhood town to write a book. And the dark house  that overlooks the town, suddenly rented by two very mysterious figures. Great characters, and its 12 through the book before you understand what is truly happening to the town.  

So that's 35 books down. I'll list my Ten Favorites of the year in a day or two, when I write the post. 

If you want to follow along with books read, movies watched, TV seen and Amy Adams pictures inserted at random, check out @TheDaveofPop on instagram!