Not So Miserable Anymore, Huh?

les mis posterI was originally going to author a New Year’s Resolution blog in this space. After examining the massiveness of that cliché, I thought better of it. That, and one of my resolutions was to actually blog once a week.

So here I am, two weeks into the new year, writing my first blog. And it has nothing to do with resolutions. Instead, let’s talk film.

The Golden Globes are happening as I type this, and we know all about the Oscar nominations from earlier this week (I’m sure there’s a great story behind the name “Oscar,” but why not something cooler – like “D’Brickshaw” or something?).

I’m not going to pretend I’ve seen all the films out there, but it’s definitely a strong class in 2013. I believe Kathryn Bigelow, based on her previous work and current media buzz, got snubbed for a Best Director nomination. I was a proponent of Flight for a Best Picture nomination. And I certainly don’t think anything will beat Wreck-It Ralph for Best Animated Feature (though who knows — those numskulls at the Hollywood Foreign Press gave the award on the Golden Globes to Brave).

Also, I have to give fair warning. You’ll be able to cover a mountain of chips with the cheese I’m about to spew in your general direction. But I sincerely mean what I’m going to say. So grab a napkin and buckle up.

Now that we got the standard conversation out of the way, let’s talk about something miserable. See what I did there?

I was familiar with the basics of the story behind Les Miserables, but didn’t really get to experience it until seeing it on stage recently in San Francisco with my theater-obsessed lady friend.

Needless to say, the theater performance was incredible. But you never know how that will translate to the big screen. That being said, I’d like to present a case for Les Miserables as Best Picture:

*Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t watched the Golden Globes yet, that’s your own fault, so don’t yell at me when i tell you this very next thing!*

Les Mis won Best Picture (Comedy or Musical) at the Golden Globes this weekend. Therefore, it was not up against Argo (which won Best Picture for Dramas), Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook. But it gives a glimmer of hope to people like me.

See, it’s not just a film. It’s a book-turned-performance-turned-film-turned-musical. And though the story is exceptionally dramatic, over the top, and depressing in most parts, it is one of the truest, purest stories of love and hope one will ever read, watch or witness.

Call me cheesy if you want, but I’m a sucker for stories that bring out emotions in people. And if you understand the narrative (it’s pretty self-explanatory, really), you would not leave that movie theater unaffected.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to sob and weep at the precision of Anne Hathaway’s version of the epic song “I Dreamed A Dream.” You don’t have to shed a tear for Russell Crowe’s internally twisted Javert. You don’t have to grab a box of tissues to get through Eponine’s sacrifice and heartbreak.

hathaway jackman les mis

Where this film differs for me from other contenders (Lincoln, Django Unchained and Argo are really the only three I can fairly make comparisons to, as they are the only other of the nine films nominated for the industry’s greatest award that I’ve seen in theaters), is in its well-rounded execution.

I was shocked into another world watching Daniel Day-Lewis, the leading candidate for Best Actor, portray Abraham Lincoln. I was left in awe of his performance and the overall technical perfection of the story and film.

And Argo was a jaw-clenching ride about a terse, political event that I also thought was extremely well put-together, and especially well-directed by Ben Affleck (one of the bigger snubs, in my opinion).

Yet where those films succeeded, so did Les Miserables. With one slight improvement.

I can praise all three films (likely, the three leading candidates for Best Picture if the Golden Globes are any indication – I assume Django, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty will all get strong consideration as well) for the story, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, and everything in between.

But one thing that Les Mis excels at is creating emotion in a viewer. Not only was it one of the most untouchable stories of all time — which, according to the girlfriend, was made into a mediocre non-musical film years ago — but it required the exclusive use of music and singing to get said story across.

Watching and listening to the story of lost hope, self-discovery, love, war, hate, revenge, regret, doubt and incredible human kindness unfold on the big screen left me feeling, as my sister said at the end of the showing, like “my heart just got ripped out of my chest.”

As unnatural as this sounds, that’s a good feeling to have after seeing a work of fiction – no, a work of art – take place in front of you. I did feel like a hole had been punched right through me, but I was beaming from the happy ending of the film and the overall dedication of the actors and characters to making their lives livable in such a desperate time.

Those are the things I reward artists for. And if I understand correctly, that is what artists live to be rewarded for. Making a difference, no matter the size, in the audience’s collective minds and hearts. oscar statue

While the other films I mentioned were not easy projects by any means, Les Mis gets my vote for its sheer power in telling the strongest, most legendary story of them all through musical theater.

Director Tom Hooper took on a monumental task, that had even the biggest Les Mis fans primed for a let down. Instead, what those theater nerds got was music that brought them to their knees, and a film that made tear glands burst.

You have to understand that for people like that — for people like my girlfriend — this film living up to the massive expectations is akin to the Dodgers going 162-0 and sweeping their way through the playoffs to a World Series title for me.

Perfection. Pure perfection. It was…no, IS, the Holy Grail of musical theater. And the fact that Hooper, Jackman, Hathaway, Crowe, and the rest of the cast did it justice at all is a feat worth celebrating.

And in this otherwise unimportant blog’s opinion, it’s worth celebrating with a shiny, gold Oscar on February 24.

Agree? Disagree? Just want to talk about your feelings? Hit Jeremy up on Twitter @Jamblinman. Thanks for reading!


Practicing What I Preach: On Newtown, CT

This is a real letter that will be put in the mail on Friday, December 21st. I decided instead of screaming via social media that “things need to change,” I’d actually send something to someone who can make things change. This serves as a petition, too – once you read through, if you feel inclined to support what I’m saying and be a part of it, comment with your first and last name (and any other comments, of course) either on this page or via Facebook/Twitter. I will add those names to this before sending an electronic copy. 

Dear President Obama,

I am writing this on a plane. I am on a cross-country flight from Chicago to San Francisco, where I live. I’ll be honest; I was always terrified of flying. I don’t like heights, and I’ve never trusted a gigantic hunk of metal, piloted by a bunch of people I am forced to trust without ever knowing, to get me safe passage to a desired destination.

Yet tonight, I’ve never felt safer. I know there are no guns on this flight. September 11th, 2001 assured me that as long as I live, airport security will be far too tight to allow such things to take place again.

The same cannot be said when I’m back on the ground. Below me, it is realistic to assume that at least six people were murdered by gunfire during my five-hour flight, somewhere in the United States.

I know this, because it’s derived from simple math. We know that ever year, there are over 10,000 murders-by-gun in this country. That is about 30 per day. In one-fifth of my day, six people have been killed.

When I land in San Francisco, I will take public transportation from the terminal to my hometown. I’ll be on a crowded train with limited security for over an hour. On my way, I will pass countless malls, two movie theaters, multiple hospitals and my own elementary school.

Those are places I once considered fun, or safe, or beneficial in some way. After the events in Newtown, CT last week, which closely followed the events in Clackamas, OR, which followed the massacre in Aurora, CO, which was one of over 50 public shooting sprees since Columbine…I no longer feel the same way.

These days, when I take my girlfriend to the mall I feel what it must be like for a gazelle in the sights of a lioness. Eyes constantly scanning, thinking worst-case scenarios and my best escape route if a psychotic surprise were to come running into the mall, guns blazing. Take the fire route to my left? Throw her down on the floor and shield her with my own body? Sprint away, and run until I can’t hear the screams anymore?

With the frequency of death-via-gun in this country I’ve always called home, I am legitimately terrified for my life on a daily basis. It’s no longer “it can’t happen to me.” In Clackamas, someone I know was working inside the mall that day. In Newtown, one of my close friends was getting ready for work, ten minutes down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In my mind, it’s no longer an impossibility. Rather, it’s a likelihood that sometime in my life, my family and friends will be threatened by a mentally disturbed, mass-murdering psychopath who wants to be thrust into twisted martyrdom like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Adam Lanza.

I don’t want to go outside anymore. I don’t WANT to go shopping, or to the movie theaters, or to a baseball game. I don’t like taking public transportation, 35 minutes each way, from home to work every day, exposed in public places. I don’t like that I’m becoming paranoid at barely 24 years old.

I don’t like, that as a young man who hopes to have a family of my own someday, that I will be forced, by the nature of a few sick people in our country and our unwillingness to fix a flawed, 200-year-old law, to home-school my children. To stream movies from a laptop, to shop online and never let them experience the joy of adventuring through San Francisco on a summer weekend, or buying my son his first suit and tie at the mall, or sending them to a midnight movie premiere.

I want to make sure my future kids receive the basic liberties – those same liberties that gun control opponents claim would be denied them if restrictions increased; liberties that the young children in Newtown had taken from them. Do some people have more of a “right” to own a gun than I have to feeling safe enough that I will survive an average day in my hometown?

Twenty kids, murdered in class would disagree. So would the six adults who were forced to play the part of hero, because our government won’t.

Sending “thoughts and prayers” is a noble deed, and much-needed. But how will the victims and their families be assured that something similar may never occur again?

Since I can’t physically prevent the violence, I’m using my greatest strength to put in my greatest contribution, in order to show how many people really, truly care about this issue.

There is desperate need for better research and support for mental health, and I surely endorse that. But there are changes that can be more immediate in a time when we really need instant impact.

What we do know as fact is that guns themselves are designed to kill – whether it be hunting, protection, law enforcement, military, or recreation, the entire point of the entity of a weapon is ultimately to make something once living, dead.

In the timeframe of one short week, we have seen a shooting at a mall, elementary school and hospital, not to mention Aurora, earlier this year. A movie theater at a midnight premiere, an elementary school, a hospital and a crowded shopping mall. Four places in which a shooter knew, regardless of mental stability, that the volume of people would be large and the ability for defense would be minimal.

If only the teachers in Newtown, CT held pistols in holsters while teaching five-year-old kids. If only the midnight movie-goers had the necessary training to unleash their weapons in the dark, see through the tear gas, and fire a fatal shot at a heavily armored psychopath before he got the chance. Where’s the logic?

I mourn for the innocent dead. I am furious at the murderous killers. I am disappointed that the greatest country in the world refuses to acknowledge a problem staring down the barrel of a gun, right in our faces. I am disappointed that we refuse to change.

So what do I want? Certainly not the complete abolishment of firearms – some people rely on rifles to put food on the table. This letter you’ve undoubtedly received by now outlines my thoughts quite nicely.

I want anyone carrying a hand gun to be doing so under extremely tight laws and certifications; even retired law enforcement officers. For example, it should take a thorough background check, a psychiatrist’s clearance, and yearly certification to buy a gun. Hell, make people take polygraph tests first.

It should cost illegal traders and buyers years in prison if caught. Every provider should be pre-cleared and regularly monitored. Make trafficking weapons a federal crime, instead of aligning it with similar punishments doled out for illegally moving livestock. Appoint a serious director to the ATF. Release relevant records to the public.

Require every citizen who carries a concealed weapons permit to renew their license once per year, demonstrating mental stability and knowledge of proper use and safety. Ban assault weapons completely – they serve no protective, recreational or non-military use for a regular citizen in the street. They are simply designed to inflict fatal damage on a large population in a short amount of time.

Continue to pull violent songs from the radio, and increase movie, television and video game ratings again. Enforce a law that requires gun owners to have their weapons locked up at all times when they aren’t being used, to help prevent accidental shootings at home. That way, nobody can break into a home or steal a gun to use in a pre-meditated manner.

Lastly, put metal detectors and trained security in every sports and concert venue, school, hospital and movie theater.

Yes, people would still find ways to get guns. Criminals would still exist. But using that as justification for not trying is absurd. Don’t wear seat belts because crashing with them on could still kill you? Surely everyone can see the flawed logic here.

We have seen the results pay off in other countries (In 14 years after a gun ban and buy-back was instituted in Australia, murder and suicide rates dropped significantly and there was not a mass shooting spree in that time). And we regulate everything else in our country – cars, food, homes, even children’s toys – so why not the most dangerous weapon in the world?

I leave you with this thought: Twenty innocent school children will never go to prom, or break curfew, or experiment with energy drinks before a college exam. They will never get a job, lose a job, attend a wedding, and have children of their own. They will never see a life-changing film, read a life-changing book, or explore a life-changing country.

Six-year-old Olivia will never get to play an angel in the school play. Six-year-old Jesse will never master the art of horseback riding. The least we can do is make sure they did not die in vain. We can work towards ensuring that no other child or adult suffers the same fate.

Please, President Obama. Prove that you care about the lives lost. Prove that you actually want this country to change. Prove that you want to try.

Everyone else: stand with me – whether you support better mental health research, gun control, or both. Even if you don’t, sign this petition and make a stand in honor of the victims of Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and prove that you are willing to sacrifice your own convenience for the possibility of preventing such horrific events in the future.

Sincerely worried,

Jeremy Dorn


I Already Know How I’m Going to Die

I didn’t pay $30 to let a crazy old lady in turban-like headgear look into a foggy, mirrored ball and tell me very generalized “predictions” about my future.

It wasn’t one of those weird flash forward instances like in every hilarious, poorly-acted Final Destination movie.

And I certainly didn’t see this in a dream (most of my sleep thoughts consist of fighting panda bears that have dragon wings and/or talking to old friends who morph into 80-year-old versions of themselves – the sad part is both scenarios really have materialized in this brain in recent nights).

For some reason, I just know. It’s a strange, uncomfortable feeling in the depth of my gut. I don’t know when it’s going to be, and definitely don’t know why. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will experience death by either plane or deer.

Yes, deer.

I’m fairly certain that the one chance fate had of ending me while airborne passed a couple of years ago, when I somehow averted the reaper by surviving 45 minutes hurtling in circles above Oakland airport in a storm that would make Zeus shake in his sandals (I’m talking lightning bolts striking just outside my window, rain causing static-like screens in my immediate vision, and unbearable turbulence).

So the more likely answer is that I will one day be killed by a freakish, vegetarian, antlered beast of the suburbs.

Please, let me explain.

I should have realized this was life’s verdict around age eight. Our neighbor used to have a shoddy little basketball court just down the street from my house. Before my family got a hoop for the driveway (always set to seven and a half feet so I can throw down monstrous dunks like THIS), I would mosey on down to the neighbor’s court and play for a while on most summer days.

Side note: For how often I shot hoops as a kid, there is no explanation for how royally I SUCK at basketball…

To provide context, my house (address not listed for security reasons – I don’t want you hooligans pulling any shenanigans like stealing my six-year old DELL, collection of NOW CD’s, or signature of Janet Evans) is also backed up to the Open Space.

In Walnut Creek, CA, the “Open Space” is a big, grassy, hilly area with flowers and wildlife and bodies of water. You know? A space…that’s open. Oh, nevermind. It’s where people go hiking and walk their dogs.

Sometimes, the woodland creatures venture down to my street from the Open Space and try to eat our apparently delicious garbage. Snap back to the basketball court with eight-year-old Jeremy ballin’ like LeBron. Before LeBron existed. Weird.

I chased an awful air ball into the bushes behind the hoop, and when I turned around there was a centaur-like buck with gargantuan antlers staring at me, furious. I had gotten too close to his sugar mama and offspring for his liking and Papa wasn’t happy.

Let’s just say my description of the animal is completely exaggerated, but he really did have antlers. And cut off my only route home. So eight-year-old me with my peach-like ego proceeded to whimper and sob in the bushes, clutching my basketball, until my dad came looking for me an hour later.

My dad scared off the mighty deer, reinforcing every young boy’s belief that his fatherly figure might be a superhero, and walked me home.

To this day, I have loathed the animal that trapped me in embarrassment for so many painful minutes. Add in the fact that they kind of resemble horses, which legitimately terrify me, and that those little puff-tailed demons shit ONLY ON MY LAWN, I’m convinced that deer have it out for me.

When I was little, I rarely thought about death. But now that I’m nearly a senior citizen (turning 24 in January) and very close to a deer-induced burial, it crosses my mind. And for whatever reason, those disgusting critters have evolved.

They are all over my neighborhood, and only come out at night. Especially when I’m driving down the street. In the rain. And they only jump out from the bushes when they recognize my car.

Fearlessness is a pretty scary trait to face in an opponent. And even though yelling and honking my horn no longer fazes them (they look up from eating, smirk, and carry on…bastards), I do have a shovel and many sharp kitchen utensils at home that are begging to be used.

See? They are out to get me. One way or another. They’re gonna find me. They’re gonna get me get me get me GET ME! Whoa…sorry.

So I don’t know when, why or how I will be killed by deer. I don’t know if it will be a hoofed kick to the heart, a mass deer-gang car jacking and beating, or a rabid buck who mistakes my neck for a delicious leaf.

I’ve accepted my fate. Remember me well, friends. But at the funeral, if you quip “Deer-ly Beloved,” my posthumous spirit will not laugh.

Maybe. I do love puns.

Mapping the Crowd: That Chubby Guy Totally Just Farted

I originally planned to only review the Allen Stone concert I went to last night when I started this blog. But observations of the crowd dominated my brain as I began typing. Therefore, it will be part review, part exposé on a groovin’, soulful, stinky, drunken crowd.

Let’s start with some good news! Mr. Stone was leaps and bounds better than advertised – from the music, to his insanely talented band, his showmanship, and of course that VOICE, it was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

The show was at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Fantastic little place, plenty of room to move around but still a sold-out crowd, and two different bars with reasonably-priced beers. The only complaint is that it’s on O’Farrell St., close to Hyde, which as the hip kids say (okay, I’m the only one who says this, but still…), is “ticklin’ the Tendy.”

That’s the Tenderloin District for you non-natives. As if you needed to look any farther than the District’s name itself, it’s not a fun place to walk around.

You’d never know it by the crowd inside the Great American Music Hall though. Mixed in among the usual suspects (we’ll get to that here soon), were 50-somethings in sparkly shirts dancing on the balconies. There were 10-year-olds sitting with their parents on the sides bobbing their heads innocently. And even some young adults who looked like they wandered in by mistake and stumbled in on a pleasant surprise.

Then of course, you had the following:

1) The awkward, making-out-all-night couple in the middle of the floor. Nothing like a sweaty hippie jammin’ about his problems on stage to get those two turned on!

2) The awkward, trying-to-be-sneaky stoner who “hides” his joint behind his ear. Dude, you didn’t sneak that past security, they just didn’t care. They are actually laughing at you right now.

3) The awkward, middle-aged man dragged here by his wife, standing with arms crossed barely bobbing his head all night. He’s paying his dues. *Men everywhere nod in mutual understanding*

4) The awkward, WAY too drunk chick spilling beers before the opening act even finishes. Granted, she’s tiny and of a race that is normally bad at drinking excessive amounts of alochol-related beverages. But damn, really? The doors opened at 7. It’s now 7:32 and you can hardly keep your eyes open? 

5) The awkward, WAY too drunk guy trying to hook up with the WAY too drunk chick, eventually just stumbling to the bathroom with her so she doesn’t puke on anyone. You’d think the fact that WAY too drunk chick can hardly hold her head up would be a stop sign for WAY too drunk guy. He shall not be denied!

6) The awkward, screamy chick who only came to see the opener (not to knock on Yuna – she was incredible!). It’s always a little bit difficult to actually hear and enjoy the music when one crazed fan is hitting the high note with her shriek through the entirety of a four-minute song.

7) The awkward, can’t-shut-up-for-more-than-30-seconds girl in the back, who fights back when the performer is playing by talking loudly enough for everyone around to hear. It doesn’t help when the guy she’s with is going “Uh-huh. Yep. Ya. Totally.” while clearly trying to shut her up to listen to the damn show he paid for.

8) The awkwardly tall dude with the fedora, who insists on swaying right into your line of vision every half second. Like, you’re already at least nine feet tall, what’s with the big hat? And how did you manage to stay in front of me, even after I moved all the way to the other side? Shouldn’t venues have a tall-only section? You know…like, against the back wall?

9) The awkward, angry guys who almost get into three fights for getting bumped into. God forbid that would happen in a crowded public space…

10) The awkward boyfriend who is embarrassed to sing or dance with his girlfriend so just does a goofy, clearly-exaggerated dance and then nods at her and laughs like “Hahaha this is so much fun, see what I’m doing, I’m being funny!” to cover at his lack of skillz (contrary to popular belief, that guy was NOT me for once).

11) The awkward guy who does the lighter-holding sway to every song, regardless of the rhythm. This is the same doofus who would hold up lighters at a hip hop concert or to Call Me Maybe.

12) The awkward, ignorant one who failed to see the approximately 376 signs on the way in that said “NO CAMERAS, FLASHES, OR RECORDING DURING SHOWS” and insists on taking a picture with his phone, flash on, until Allen Stone is legally blind.

13) The worst. The absolute worst. The short, chubby guy who thinks the more people, the less his rank ass farts will be noticed. Note to short, chubby guy – don’t eat Moroccan food before the show, and don’t look behind you every time that gaseous state erupts in a fiery death for anyone within a half mile of you.

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is everyone at the concert aside from myself, my girlfriend and the actual performers on stage, SUCKED. Just kidding. But these are very common types I have observed at multiple concerts. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less, usually there’s at least one of each.

It’s something I find entertaining (except for the last one) for the most part. It makes the concert experience complete in my mind. Luckily, there didn’t have to be any extras with Allen Stone on stage. Right, back to your regularly scheduled review now…

…you have to respect the musicians in this show for a few reasons. Allen Stone and his band clearly are madly in love with music and the opportunity they have. They were extremely open about being grateful to the crowd for paying for their show.

And we were rewarded enough with the show of a lifetime, but keeping the crowd engaged for two solid hours was a bonus. Allen split the floor in half and made us have a dance-off. He made sure we sang the choruses of a couple of songs (impressive, people, impressive). He did a birthday toast and “Happy Birthday” sing-along to his trumpet player. He let his band mates have solo time (that drummer – WHOA), and genuinely had a great time on stage the entire time.

Don’t even get me started on the way the show was set up – the keyboard player coming out as an emcee and introducing himself as “the host of the show” while the band played some soul-style beat and got the crowd pumped up for Allen to come out. Or the pianist playing a chord with his foot, while standing on top of the piano on the last song. The unbelievable Bob Marley cover…the list goes on and on.

All around, just an amazing show by Allen Stone. I highly recommend seeing him live if you ever get the chance. And if not, at least go check out a video on YouTube. The man deserves every penny we paid to get into the concert.

Oh…and just in case you wanted a visual on the crazy crowd creatures I described above? Your wish is my command (numbered for your convenience – corresponding to the numbers listed above):

Hey America! Batman Doesn’t Use Guns

What can we do to change the world?

Since when is going to a movie, paying for entertainment, watching a superhero movie a dangerous endeavor? If only Batman was real and had seen the bat signal high above the Aurora, Colorado movie theatres at his own premiere last Thursday night.

The world would be less one criminal, plus 12 innocent movie goers.

In my opinion, the answer is NOT “prayer.”

Look, I’m not religious, but I’m also not against religion. I think for people who are religious, prayer is a great way to cope and a way of sending their best regards to people affected in tragedies such as Aurora. Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Further, religion is a way for someone to direct their lives in a positive way.

That being said, praying for the victims of the Aurora shooting is not going to miraculously cure all future killing spree candidates of whatever insanity resides in their skulls.

Without stealing my friend @DanSharp‘s Facebook status outright, let me paraphrase and summarize for you, because he perfectly put the way I feel about situations such as these:

Let’s actually do something about what happened in Aurora. Whether that be stricter gun laws, gun abolishment altogether, higher security at public places…prayer won’t do it. Because when we pray, it leads to grief, acceptance and forgiveness. And how can we forgive something like this? Something unforgivable?

I’m not here to tell you that the NRA is at fault, or that Marilyn Manson inspired this man, or that movies should be less violent. But the fact that anyone with a WiFi connection, a little cash and a bad attitude can inflict so much damage on so many people is, frankly, disturbing.

The suspect in the Aurora shootings, James E. Holmes, was an honor student and scholarship winner. No matter how good he was, how smart he was, he had access to many deadly weapons, as evidenced by the sheer amount of heat he was packing upon entering the theatre.

Holmes got two handguns, a shotgun, an AK-47 rifle and two canisters of tear gas, according to police reports. How long until every kid outside the suburbs realizes they can save some allowance money and get a gun to carry around?

So…pro-gun law folk argue that if gun laws were more lenient, the people in the theatre could have potentially defended themselves. They even point out that the owner of the theatre enforced a no weapons policy inside.

Oh, the humanity! How could this owner live with himself now, knowing those patrons at the midnight premiere could have potentially defended themselves? Well, first of all. Nobody would bring a gun to a movie. That’s not even an argument.

Secondly, if anyone there could have dodged tear gas and a barrage of sprayed bullets and taken out a heavily armed gunman with a gas mask and bullet proof vest on, they should immediately be drafted into the Special Ops division of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The fact of the matter is, those people were completely helpless. And the root of the problem is not that they didn’t have guns to fire back with. The issue is that Holmes allegedly did have guns.

If gun laws were tightened up, if online purchases of firearms were more closely guarded, if punishments were stricter, if security at public places was better…if, if, IF we could actually do something to change the way our country has become, we wouldn’t have to pray for victims and their families, after the fact.

There is no coincidence that the United States has ten times as many murders by gun than any other country in the world on a yearly basis. We lose nearly TEN THOUSAND people to gun violence per year in our country.

Ten thousand. That’s everyone on my Facebook, multiplied by five. The sheer volume of human life lost at the pull of a trigger on a weapon that gives the holder power and protection and potentially, a sense of invincibility, is absolutely staggering.

According to, 83 percent of Americans will be the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime (assault, robbery, rape) at some point in their lives. People are killed in accidental shootings, petty arguments, and carefully meditated murders. So how do we bring this number down and improve the safety of the general American public?

Easy. Ditch the guns. Require metal detectors and security at all large public places (look, I created more jobs!). Increase the penalty for illegally carrying a weapon. Track online ordering of weapons as if our lives depend on it. Because they pretty much do, now.

(Womp, womp Bill of Rights yadda yadda, I know…that’s like telling me not to wash my dirty face when pimples appear because I was born with smooth, spotless skin. When things change, we need to adapt with them, and I hardly expect that our Founding Fathers were predicting nearly 10,000 deaths a year via bullet when they drafted the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise, my face will look like a battle field and everyone will hate me and I’ll die a slow, painful death. Please understand this metaphor so I don’t have to explain any further. Pimples are gross.)

So keep the prayers coming – it’s a way to cope, it’s a way to send respect. But if whatever God you pray to heard us the first million times, things would have already changed. The only people with the power to change this is the government, unfortunately.

Allow hunting rifles. Allow law enforcement officials to have weapons. But every person with a power streak does not need to have a magnum tucked into their belt line.

What will it take? I’m honestly afraid to go to my local MLB game – the Oakland A’s stadium is in a bad place. Oakland in general is one of the most dangerous places in the country. Who’s to say the next game I go to isn’t infiltrated by a crazy, bullied kid like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with a machine gun well-hidden on his person?

That would open over 25,000 people in a very confined space to the threat of immediate and lethal danger.

Unless something changes at the top, people will continue to find ways to acquire weapons. They will continue to hold grudges and take it out on hundreds of innocent citizens in movie theatres, school cafeterias, shopping malls and office buildings.

So keep the prayers coming, but don’t forget to actually take a physical stand to gun violence. Help the effort on limiting violence by writing local congressmen, using social media to attack gun laws, until the general public’s wave of fear and disappointment washes over Congress and forces a chance that will keep our country safer than it’s ever been before.

Aurora will thank you. Columbine and Oklahoma City will thank you. Most importantly, ten thousand future strangers might thank you. Victims of real, unforgivable crimes that all shapes and sizes of Gods completely ignored.

Don’t simply accept, forgive and move on from this tragedy. Because it’s unacceptable. It must be stopped.

You can be the real life superhero.

Oh Hot Damn, This is My Jammmmmm

A close (okay, so we’ve never met outside of the social media sphere but I’m assured he’s a great guy and has a fantastic attitude and general outlook on life because I’ve seen his videos on YouTube…) friend of mine once said: Music *pause* touches *pause* the human *pause* heart *don’t fughettabout the epic Brooklyn accent*. 

It’s true. I laughed first, but when you really think about it…my man @EddieMata has a point. Music really does touch the human heart.

For example…

…just this morning I was running ten minutes late to work. No time for breakfast and already low on sleep, it had the look of “one of those days.”

And like an angel from heaven, BAM: Call Me Maybe pops on to the awful radio rap station I consider a guilty pleasure because of its knack for playing crappy songs that are easy to sing along to (and apparently a knack for cheering me up?).

Oh, you already know. That car was rockin’.

That is a silly example of my main point, but valid nonetheless. How about this?

Back in high school, I was having some bonding time with my Dad one night. By that I mean we were sitting on the couch at 12:30 in the morning, eating junk food and watching South Park re-runs and trying to out-fart one another (please don’t let this very accurate portrayal of our relationship sully whatever image you have of my family).

As soon as Kenny died, we decided to flip the channel – we went where most men have never gone before. We scrolled through the single digits of basic cable. And lived to tell about it. GASP.

Thank goodness we did. Because my Dad stopped on channel 9, where a poorly-done telecast displayed a doofy-lookin’ old dude strumming a faded old guitar on stage in St. Louis in front of an exceptionally mesmerized crowd.

His name is Tommy Emmanuel, and my Dad has now seen him live four times and even had a private guitar lesson. My Dad’s guitar is signed by Tommy (one of four Certified Guitar Players in the world right now), and we have every song he’s ever recorded on our iTunes.

See, my Dad has always loved playing guitar – he worshiped the Allman Brothers as a young lad in Southern California and saw his high school classmates Van Halen play before anyone knew who they were.

So when we skipped over that channel, the only bodily function out of either of us was a weakly-managed “wow.” Tommy’s music touches my Dad’s heart, playing the strings like his very own Les Paul.

As a writer/poet/blogger/podcaster/whatever-er, I also appreciate fantastic lyrics. That’s one way that music gets me. No, we’re not flashing back to dark days in high school when I tell you that one of the bands I enjoy listening to the most for their lyrical content, story-telling ability and poetic flow is Death Cab For Cutie.

I could (and hopefully will, someday) teach an entire lyric appreciation course in schools anywhere with the curriculum centered around Death Cab songs like Crooked Teeth.

My favorite rapper is Atmosphere, because he actually rhymes about things that are relevant. No lollipops, bananas or “whistles” involved.

Words are so powerful; we’ve seen it in speeches (I HAVE A DREAM!), books (Twilight Harry Potter, for example) and music.

I’ve spent the large part of my last eight years of life writing words that I consider meaningful. Writing classes, journalistic articles, scholarly papers, poems, short stories.

And I like to think I’m pretty good at all of the above. But putting those words to a melody and rhythm is so incredibly difficult. Trust me. I’ve tried.

Even people like Taylor Swift who get flak for their song-writing from music snobs everywhere deserve major recognition.

Go write a rhyming poem that actually has meaning and tell me it was not difficult. No seriously. Go right now.

That’s what I thought.

I love to write. I love to tell stories, create characters, put pictures in people’s mind…make people feel things. My heart is on-board. And there aren’t many things that touch my heart and ignite my writing more than listening to music.

Last night, I helped celebrate my Dad’s 57th birthday. We went to a jazz lounge named after the most popular Mario Kart character (if you had to think about the name of said lounge, you clearly were one of the weirdos who chose Bowser…shame on you), and watched the California Guitar Trio.

By the end of the show, I had a brand new novel idea and was already envisioning it as an award-winning movie before we got back to the car.

There are things in life that just push people to be at their best. Music is one of the biggest; dancers are inspired to dance because of music. Singers are inspired to sing. Artists are inspired to create. And writers can be inspired to write.

In crafts like these, your heart is your work. So my boy Eddie was right. Music really does touch the human heart.

Let the music inspire you. Unless it’s Rebecca Black. In that case, go directly to your nearest zoo. Thanks.