Guns in School: a Short Short Story

The headlines were announcing it.  Teachers in the school would take arms training and have guns available in the classroom.  At first they said the guns would not be in the classroom with children until someone figured out that a teacher would have no time to run to an armory if a gunman had entered the classroom with an assault rifle and a 30-round clip.  The story begins:

Johnny:  Psst, Bobby.

Bobby:  Yeah.  What is it?

Johnny:  Mrs. English just left the room.  Let’s look at her gun.

Bobby:  Oh, she always keeps it locked up in her desk.

Johnny:  Yeah, but I saw her put something in the gun drawer and she forgot to lock it up.

Bobby:  Really?  But what if she comes back and finds us with the gun?

Johnny:  Don’t be stupid.  She won’t say anything.  She’d be in a world of trouble if they found out she

                left the room with her gun drawer unlocked.

Bobby:  I guess you’re right.  Okay, let’s look at it.  I’ve always wanted to see it up close.

Johnny and Bobby go to the drawer and take out the pistol.

Johnny:  Wow, look at that!  It’s a Glock.  My Dad has one just like it.

Bobby:  Let me hold it, Johnny.

Johnny hands the pistol to Bobby.

Bobby:  It’s not loaded.  What good is an unloaded gun if a bad guy comes in and starts shooting?

Johnny:  Here.  Give it to me.  She’s got some bullets in here, too.  I know how my Dad loads his.

Johnny loads the pistol and hands it back to Bobby.

Bobby:  I wish we could shoot it.

Johnny:  Me, too.  But it’d make too much noise.  Let’s put it up before Mrs. English gets back.

The gun is pointed directly at Johnny’s chest as Bobby returns it.  Johnny gives it a tug.

 Bobby’s finger is still on the trigger.  The gun fires.  Johnny is dead.

Let’s not be naïve.  If there is a gun in the classroom, some child is going to get his hands on it sooner or later.  If the gun is not in the classroom and readily available to the teacher, what’s the point?  The intruder shoots open the locked classroom door and comes in to strafe the room full of innocent children.  The bottom line is that putting weapons in the classroom is an accident waiting to happen.

Internet scam almost believable

Think it can’t happen to you?

 Well, it almost happened to be this week if my brain hadn’t clicked on before it was too late.  I’m talking about an internet scam so smooth I almost fell for it.  I know, admitting it makes me look like a complete nerd, but I’d like to think that my ‘fessing up will prevent someone else from walking in the same slime.

 It all started when I put some photo equipment for sale on Craig’s List.  Right away I got an offer to buy the equipment.  Great!  I’d just sold a camera that someone drove 100 miles to come pay for and pick up.  Now I was about to make another big sale.  The buyer named Nick was in a hurry, too.  He wanted it shipped out that same day to his cousin.  Right then I should have smelled internet scam.  But I didn’t.  He wanted it sent out by USPS Express mail and said he’d pay the postage.  Reasonable enough.  Maybe it was the cousin’s birthday or something.  He asked for my Paypal account name and said he’d pay right away and I would get a email from Paypal telling me the money had been deposited.

 Sure enough.  The email came in including $100 for postage.  Time was running out to get to the PO before closing time if I were to get the package mailed that same day.  Clue number 2 missed.  Why the rush?  It was beginning to smell more like internet scam, but I didn’t have time to think about it.  That is until I got in my truck and headed for the PO.  Clue number 3 hit me between the eyes as I was driving along and thinking if the $100 postage would be enough.  You see, the package was to go to Nairobi, the mother of all internet scam locations. 

 Quick U-turn and go home.  I ran into the house and pulled up my Paypal account.  No money had been deposited at all.  That was the rush.  Get me to send off the goods before I had time to really check my account.  “You’re a scum bag,” I thought, “but you’re good.”  I fired him off a not-too-polite email just to let him know that I had his number.

 So, here are the clues to watch out for:

  1.  The buyer is in a hurry and wants the item/s/ shipped to a third address.
  2.  The buyer says he/she will deposit money into your Paypal Account and that you’ll get a confirmation email from Paypal when it has been done.
  3. The “receipt” from Paypal looks official, complete with the Paypal logo.
  4. The buyer finally gives you the mailing address just before you run out the door.
  5. Biggest of all—it’s going to NAIROBI!  Duh!

 Right after that I got another email from a guy who called himself Hammed.  Is it still for sale?  If so, he wanted to buy it for his “cousin.”  I emailed him that he could take his scam to a place where the weather is consistently hot.

 

Jimmy Kimmel and late night TV

With the opening of Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show in its new time slot, it confirmed what we might have all been suspecting all along.  Late night TV is in serious need of an overhaul.  For someone who can recall the glory days of Dave Garroway, Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson, like the old gray mare, late night TV just ain’t what it used to be.  Kimmel’s show started off with an amusing “on the street” video of people caught on “Lie Witness News” gushing on about seeing things on TV they obviously had not watched.  It is mildly funny to see people make utter fools out of themselves. 

From there, the show disintegrated into slapstick poorly played by Jennifer Aniston as she demolished Kimmel’s set of observably worn out used furniture.  Even the audience failed to respond to the contrived apologies of Aniston who said she thought that was old furniture and was only making way for the new stuff.  Yeah, right.  Too bad she didn’t demolish the two old filthy chairs on the set as well.

Then Kimmel and Aniston droned on with inside jokes that were as funny as watching paint dry.  Jimmy Kimmel Live was more like Jimmy Kimmel dead.  But it’s not Kimmel’s fault.  He is actually very funny comedian.  No, the problem is simply that the old formulas for late night TV have worn themselves out like the fake furniture on Kimmel’s opening show.

Late night TV reached its pinnacle with the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.  His show was always amusing and put a lot of new comedians and singers on the map. And who can forget Johnny’s classic double takes as he allowed guests and Ed McMahan to make him the butt of their own jokes?  The closest thing to that in recent late night fare is Leno’s use of American Idol rejects.  Both he and Letterman have slipped into laughing at their own jokes.  At least someone’s laughing.  Conan O’Brien came as close as anyone to capturing the feel of the old Tonight Show, but we all know how ignominiously that came to a sudden end.

To be frank, TV in general is struggling right now.  NBC’s Today Show has been totally eclipsed by ABC’s Good Morning America with a feel good factor that helps start the viewers’ day.  Sit coms have become more inane trying to outdo one another in edgy content.  The best two on the air now are Last Man Standing and Malibu Country

The fact is, however, that while most of commercial TV badly needs an overhaul, nowhere is it more obvious than in late night TV fare.  Come on, networks, Garroway, Allen, Paar, and Carson were trend setters in their day.  Stop trying to duplicate old formulas and come up with something new that will make it worth viewer’s time to stay up late.

 

The Hobbit: more is less

Although I am an avid reader, the only books beside the bible that I have read multiple times are J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Ring Trilogy.  I never cease to be amazed by Tolkien’s imagination.  Every time I’ve read his books I find something new I had missed before.  I have the complete set of The Ring Trilogy on DVD which I have also watched multiple times.  So, with glee in my heart I set off to see The Hobbit yesterday afternoon.

During the first half hour of the film, I actually fell asleep.  There was actually no need to introduce the film by referencing the events leading up to The Lord of the Ring.  It has no bearing on the prequel story of Bilbo Baggins.  If that were an attempt to revive interest in The Ring Trilogy, it was at best clumsy.  No attempt was made at hiding the fact that Joshua Wood is now a foot taller than when he played Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew.

Nevertheless, what kills The Hobbit is the overdone CGI.  In the earlier movies, the special effects were spectacular.  In The Hobbit they are a disaster.  At various times during the film, the proportions between Gandalf and the hobbit and dwarves vary noticeably.  At times Bilbo stands at Gandalf’s waist while at others he appears eyeball to eyeball.  The dwarves size fluctuates like they were made of putty.  The Orks are fairly consistent except in the battle scenes but the hounds suffer from inconsistency of size.  And Gollum fluctuates in size so noticeably that one wonders why his character could not have been portrayed as well as it was in The Ring Trilogy.

The eternal battle between the good guys and the goblins is interminable and too busy with so much going on in the background that the actual fight is lost in the hubbub.  More, in this case, is less.  It is just too confusing to see what is going on and on and on.  Just because it is possible to do incredible things with CGI doesn’t mean it should be done to the extent it was used in making The Hobbit.

The worst part of this movie going experience is the realization that the audience has been had.  This movie is actually the half-hobbit.  It ends abruptly right in the middle of the story which goes on to tell the struggles Bilbo has with managing the power of the ring.  There has to be a sequel planned or this is possibly the worst adaptation from a novel ever put on film.  If the three books of The Ring Trilogy could be put entirely in one movie each, then there is no reason that The Hobbit could not have enjoyed that same treatment.  The problem, it appears, is that too much time was spent on needless special effects and not enough on capturing the essence of the story.  When they come out with the sequel, I may chance wasting another three hours. . .then again, I may just re-read the book.

Find out more about j hamilton at

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Sandy Hook, gun control, and common sense

A little six-year-old girl I know does not know why I have grown so attentive to her.  She is not family, though she is the daughter of acquaintances.  She has no idea that when I see her now I see the twenty Sandy Hook Elementary children exactly her age whose lives were taken from them by a madman with an assault rifle.  My immediate reaction after that horrifying event was “get rid of assault rifles.”  I had to get past the super-charged emotion to realize that the suggestion of such action is a pipe dream.  There are millions of those semi-automatic rifles already in the hands of American citizens.  Only in a totalitarian state would armed militia go from house to house collecting those weapons.  No one on either side of the gun control debate would want to see that happen.

A couple of days ago I had a conversation with a man who told me that the assault rifles sold to the public were modified so that only one round is fired when the trigger is pulled.  This morning I saw an ad on TV from a local gun dealer.  In the ad a man was shooting one of those rifles.  When he pulled the trigger it fired a volley of shots.  There seems to be a lot of misinformation going around as the issue of gun control becomes mainstream conversation.  Well, it appears to me that anyone wanting an assault rifle would certainly want it to fire several rounds with one pull of the trigger.  Otherwise what’s the point?

Common sense says to stop marketing those assault weapons.  That will not diminish the ones already in the hands of the public.  It is, however a start.  Common sense says that no one really needs a weapon like that for hunting wild game.  And common sense says to do away with “gun shows” where deadly weapons can be sold without having to run a background check on the purchaser.  It has been argued that doing away with these shows would put some people out of business.  When their business becomes a threat to the general public safety, why does it not need to be curtailed?  Is that not why we strive to put drug dealers out of business?

Some have suggested (and some are already doing it) to have armed administrators and teachers in the classroom.  Common sense says that is a formula for disaster.  It is bad enough that kids accidentally kill or maim family members by finding and playing with loaded weapons in the home.  Does anyone want that to happen in our schools?

One thing that has been suggested in the Sandy Hook situation is that the shooter’s mother was possibly intimidated by the presumed stigma of having a mentally ill son and might not have sought medical help because of it.  Common sense says that it is time we got over that medieval idea.  We say we love our relatives (children especially) but real love should motivate us to get help for those who show signs of mental illness.  It has happened in my family and the youngster in question is well cared for in a facility trained for dealing with such mental disorders.  There are resources available for such situations.

Banning gun ownership and fortifying our schools are ridiculous ideas.  Common sense says that diligence and information are the best possible deterrents to unthinkable horrors like those at Sandy Hook.   

When people started getting killed by drivers who texted while driving, we did not even suggest that we ban cell phones and cars.  That is preposterous.  What we did do is disseminate information to let people become aware of the dangers.  Let us be as diligent in publicizing the resources available for treating and helping mentally ill family members.  Let us never ignore “red flags” that portend a serious calamity like that at Sandy Hook. 

Newtown nightmare

Coincidentally, my amazing kindergarten grandson showed up with his mom and dad yesterday quite unexpectedly.  While I was hugging him and enjoying his lively spirit, a monster was murdering little kids just like him in Newtown, Connecticut.  Had I known that was going on at the time, I would have held him even tighter.

I am in Texas, but I suffer grief over such a tragic loss.  When I close my eyes I imagine what the brave first responders must have seen when they entered the school building.  Nobody should ever have to witness something like that.  Little children.  And it is happening all over the world.  Slaughter of the innocents. 

All kids want is to be loved and protected.  We are not doing a very good job of that, are we?  We overlook children as though they do not matter.  We care more for our lethal weapons than we do of our precious children.  We care more for our pleasure than we do for children.

We should not rely on children like Mala from Pakistan to be heroes.  Why should an eleven-year-old girl get shot in the head by the Taliban simply for wanting to go to school?  Why are adults not standing up for children like her?

In my community there is a woman recently indicted for locking up her small children in a bedroom while she allegedly was having an extra marital affair.  One of the children died in that room of dehydration and malnutrition, her little body scalded by her own bodily waste.  Her two sisters had to be hospitalized and brought back from near death.

What is the world coming to when children suffer needlessly or get slaughtered by madmen?  Why should small children be murdered by African rebels or, maybe even worse, conscripted into an outlaw militia to be human shields?  There is no sane answer to those questions.  How many children have been wounded or killed in Syria because adults struggle for power?

I hope we do not just grieve for the children, but get busy to protect them.  The pessimist in me fears that in a few days some other shocking news will become headlines and once again we will forget the children.

Republicans, Democrats didn’t get it

Well, here we go again.  It looked like for a while the two political parties might just work together.  Republicans will budge a little provided lots of cuts are made to so-called “entitlements.”  Democrats will budge a little so long as tax for the wealthy increases.  Democrats offer a plan and Republicans laugh.  Republicans offer a plan and Democrats say “it ain’t enough!”  And all of this tomfoolery going on as we inch toward what you’re calling the “fiscal cliff.”

Well, ladies and gentlemen of Congress it is enough–enough of you.  You’re not pulling the wool over our eyes–it’s all about power and who wins.  This is no laughing matter, folks.  We sent you a message in November, but apparently you didn’t get it.  We want something done.  Now.  And we don’t want to see children go hungry, families without medical insurance, or the elderly living in fear that their Social Security might be messed with.

If we go over the so-called fiscal cliff, the stock market crashes again, and middle income Americans’ taxes go up, we might just have a cliff for you come November of 2014.  Come on Republicans and Democrats, start doing what we sent you to Washington to do. 

Rich and poor divide

The other day on TV there was one of those gimmicks so fondly presented on talk shows.  Two women walked onto the set dressed almost identically.  Both women were attractive and dressed appropriately for the most formal restaurant in New York City.  But there was a big difference between them.  The woman on the right was wearing designer clothes priced at thousands of dollars while the woman on the left had on similar clothes priced in the low hundreds.

Without comment on the various articles of clothing the women wore, the stunner was what each of them carried—their purses.  The bargain purse was less than $50.00, but the “designer” purse came in at almost $2000!

Now I get it.  People who can afford $2000 purses can also afford to pay more in taxes to start paying down the national debt. In all fairness, they should at the very least pay the same rate of taxes that poor and middle class people pay.  This has nothing to do with “sharing the wealth.”  That’s communism and takes “fairness” to the opposite extreme. 

One thing is patently clear, however, spending money on $2000 purses, multi-million dollar houses, and other extravagances doesn’t create jobs or “trickle down” economic improvements for the middle class.

Knowledge

Many years ago when I was just a kid, I recall seeing a sign in some place of business that read, “Ve get too soon oldt, und too late schmart.”  Back then I thought the sign was funny.  Today I recognize its truth. 

Robert Ingersol identified an even greater truth when he said, “The more a man knows the more willing he is to learn–the less a man knows, the more positive he is that he knows everything.”

We are seeing this in action all over the world today among radical religionists whose credo is “I’m right, you’re wrong, and that’s all there is to it.”  Not only does such an attitude result in outright enmity and discord, it leads to the slaughter of innocent people who see things differently.  What is worse, however, is that such thinking spills over into politics, business, child rearing, and every aspect of the human condition. 

A common cliche today is that “age is just a number.”  That is only true for those who continue to learn and gather knowledge up to their last breath on earth.  Those whose minds are made up and will not be confused by facts are as old as their number which they may have reached very early in life.   

Knowledge is not a god unless it is stagnant and unwilling to learn anything different.  Real knowledge is the stuff of happiness.  It doesn’t hate (though it may be hated).  It is the understanding from the ages of 12 to 102 when lying down to sleep that “there is yet a lot to learn.”

Think green

I’ll have to admit that I’ve been on the fence about global warming, but recent NASA photos of the disappearing Arctic ice are sobering.  Image

Now they tell us that while the Arctic ice is melting, Antarctica is expanding.  What can be made of that?  To be honest, I don’t know.  It looks to my untrained eye more like a potential polar shift. 

But whether air pollution is responsible for global warming or not, one thing is certain.  Semi trucks and unkept clunkers on the roads, smog belching industries, and dozens of other sources spew out distasteful black smoke that our noses tell us cannot be good.  Just drive by a coal plant or behind a vehicle pushing black soot into the air.

Where I live there are hundreds of wind farms producing usable energy without adding anything unpleasant to the atmosphere.  I’ve been to impressive dams where energy is produced cleanly by great passages of falling water.  I’ve read about Geo-thermal methods of producing the electricity we all depend on.  Many homes and public buildings now have solar panels that provide electricity enough to meet their needs with some left over to go into the national grid.  

I recently heard of a wealthy man who wanted to help clean up the atmosphere, so he went around buying up old clunker cars, taking them off the streets and roads.  Wow, that’s a great idea.  But I can’t do it.

Some people have their own wind turbine in their back yards.  Another great idea, but I can’t do it.

I wanted to be green, but how could I do it?  In Wikipedia I read about something called renewable energy certificates.  That sounded both interesting and very expensive.  I thought again, “but I can’t do it.”  Then one day a friend told me about a program that would allow me to become involved in renewable energy.  He explained that renewable energy is defined as energy that does not deplete (i.e. there will always be wind and the power of the sun). 

I don’t know how many possible resources are out there for people like me who want to help improve the planet (save the planet?), but I found mine.  For less than $20 a month I can purchase my REC and wake up every morning knowing that I’m doing my part.  My investment in clean energy sources may help eventually do away with the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.  I like to think so, anyway.