Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Too many people have died by the hands of policeman.
And, the media narrative does seem to favor images that display the worst, scariest qualities of the people involved.
And, it wouldn't matter if the people involved were hardened criminals, with decades of murder and mayhem and bad behavior behind them, who were verbally threatening the police and trying to do harm (by all accounts, the young man recently killed had his hands up and the videos of Eric Garner's death do not show any sign of meaningful intimidation to warrant the amount of force done to him). It doesn't matter if the scariest of the scary, Anton Chigurh, is glaring down the police with the cattle gun in one hand, wearing a bomb strapped to his back, and carrying an M-16 in the other. Absolutely no one, not a single human being, should ever - ever - die because of police.
That's sort of the difference between a policeman and a soldier. They are not the same thing. The goal of the soldier is different than the goal of the police. The police should be about non-lethal and escalating levels of force to ensure that no harm comes to the community, the laws are obeyed, and people who break the law are brought to justice. The criminals should always be taken alive, and handed over to the appropriate judicial situation for what society deems is appropriate for the laws that are broken.
I cannot state this enough: Police should not kill anyone. Ever. It is the failure of our police force that so many people are killed by them. This should not be such a long list. It shouldn't be a list, at all.
Now, regarding the narrative that is created, when media reports these deaths, all too often we see images that feed into the "good guy versus bad guy" mentality by presenting young people as some kind of thug or criminal. Firstly, it doesn't matter if that young person who is killed is actually a thug or not, because ABSOLUTELY NO ONE SHOULD BE DEAD BY THE HANDS OF A POLICE OFFICER. Secondly, by creating the narrative that this person was a tough or intimidating or thuggish person, the narrative feeds into the mythic, cowboy, old west notion that good guys (the police) can and should shoot the bad guys (a.k.a. our neighbors and community members).
This is why we need to stop posting that image of the young tough or thug or intimidating person, as a national media. We should always post the images of fathers holding children, young people who graduated from school, or attended prom. We must never forget that even being a criminal does not mean you aren't a human, and does not mean a policeman should kill you if things get tough. We need to create the media narrative that everyone is a human deserving of life, and the failure of the police officer to keep someone alive is a true tragedy, and always a tragedy, and forever and ever a tragedy, regardless of any alleged crime.
One of the most successful rehabilitation systems in the criminal justice system is the witness protection program. The recidivism rate is lower than the national average. Individuals who enter this program do so with their families, and are given support to locate a new life, both inside prison and out of it, and receive training in how to survive with a normal job, a normal life. They are mentored by the US Marshalls. They do better than the young people who are just revolved through the prison system and kicked back into the same situation they came out of without support.
The percentage of people who will be criminals is exactly the same regardless of socio-economic or racial background. It doesn't matter if you are in a suburb, or an exurb, or a dense, urban downtown. Most people aren't criminals, period.
Militarizing the police, then, is responding asymmetrically and inappropriately to the problem of crime. It tends to overly punish the people with the least social power, in our impoverished areas, and does not create an increase in safety for people anywhere. What it does, though, is create an "us versus them" mindset, where people do not feel like they belong in their own society.
My proposals are simple.
1) Cops should not carry guns on their hips. Let 'em have guns in the trunk of the car, sure. Shotguns, only, and maybe long guns for the rare situation where they are up against long guns. On his physical person, cops should only be carrying non-lethal force weapons. If someone pulls a gun, the response shouldn't be a gun right then. The response should be backing off, clearing the area, and getting backup to come in and address the situation. Everyone should know that pulling a gun on a cop means the cop will leave you alone long enough for you try to get away. (And good luck with that. Cops know where you live. They know where your momma lives. They know where your friends live. They have a very long memory. They are very good at finding people that they want to find. Seriously, good luck. You're gonna need it.) The cops have numbers and data access, and that's the thing that should be used against people who pull guns. If you don't have ten to one, and bullet-proof shields and all that non-lethal defensive technology, don't take on the guy with the gun. (And, in case you didn't know, give cops about 8 minutes, and they can swarm you 10-to-1 with bullet-proof gear. Seriously, these guys are awesome, tough, brave, and very smart and very organized.)
2) People shouldn't carry guns, either. We need meaningful and deep legislative solutions about the overabundance of dangerous deadly weapons in our society. Urban and suburban communities have no need for weaponry, except as it relates to doing the job of the police. Which they shouldn't be doing. Guns should not be outside of the home, or beyond special circumstances where a special permission slip is needed for concealed carry. If you are woman trying to escape an abusive partner, you get to concealed carry. If you are a man concerned about your personal freedoms being diminished, you do not ever get to carry, ever. There are circumstances where we can discuss this. The default should never be that we get to do whatever we want with deadly and dangerous things that can kill us, and everyone around us. Bullets are generally the worst thing to bring to a crowded city street.
3) The number of bullets someone has in their guns needs to go down. No one should have magazines with hundreds of bullets. How many bullets do you need to hunt deer? How many bullets do you need to defend yourself in case a stalker is coming to get you? Certainly not the number of bullets you need to storm an elementary school and slaughter innocent children. Less bullets means less death. Even in the guns we do allow, we need less bullets. Imagine a situation of a shoot-out, which is a horrible situation, and imagine what it's like if the only guns available have small magazines that take time to reload. Our guns have way too many bullets, and it is simply too fast and easy to refill those bullets in the chamber with new bullets. Manufacturers need better regulations to slow down the flow of bullets, and reduce their number. Less bullets means less death.
4) If someone dies by the police, that police officer is done. They are no longer police. They may or may not face criminal charges, but they are no longer allowed to be a policeman. Plenty of excellent cops manage their whole careers without accidentally or intentionally killing anyone. Those are the ones who ought to stay on the force. If you cause someone's death, you are no longer permitted to wear the badge. It should be a privilege to serve the public, and that privilege needs to be revoked when the public is harmed. Again, it doesn't matter if it's Anton Chigurh, or Dylan Klebold, or Timothy McVeigh, or Osama Bin Laden. It doesn't matter who is killed, or for whatever reason. Killing someone while doing the job of the police force ought to mean that you lose your job. That should be the basest baseline of consequences upon someone's death. Creating that consequence will definitely encourage cops to try not to kill anyone a little harder than they currently do.
Now, I love seeing the police patrol my neighborhood. I feel safer because of it. I have had nothing but professional and courteous interactions with policeman. I have never felt endangered by police. I, in fact, am very appreciative and awed by what they do every day. I believe taking away the military mindset in the police force, a little bit, would only bring out the best in the officers I've encountered. I believe it will make our communities safer, and I believe it will make the job of policing safer for these dedicated men and women.
Just yesterday, I read about a family that was killed because a suspect was fleeing the police in Houston, and the suspect hit their car on the road. In many communities, police do not make chase because the accidents and danger that result are higher risk than letting the criminals run. And, again, the police know where you live. They know where your momma lives. They know where all your friends live. They know where you work. They don't need to chase you to get you. They just need to think it's worth their time, and receive the funding to do it. I'm all for that.
Public safety is more important than "catching the bad guy" and we need, as a nation, to rethink the narratives we tell about the police. We are so busy painting this as a good guy versus bad guy situation, with the pictures we choose for the victims, and the attitudes we promulgate as content creators of narratives. It is such an easy narrative.
Let's be clear: If a policeman causes someone's death, regardless of the circumstances, that policeman has done a bad thing. No one should die at the hands of the police. It is always a tragedy. Sometimes it is even a crime done by the police.
That should be the baseline of our narrative, where reporting and story-telling begin.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Co-worker had copious jujubes. He offered to bring me some. He offered to bring some more. I held him off from any more after about four pounds of the strange, rich fruits. Unfamiliar with the Chinese Date, a.k.a. Zizyphus Jujube? Here's a link..http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/jujube.html
And here's another link... http://www.texasgardener.com/pastissues/janfeb08/Jujube.html
In other words, if you like these fruits, a tree is a very easy thing to keep around. Permaculturists all over the world love them because they produce an abundance of fruit with minimal input from the farmer or gardener.
People don't always love them. They have a distinctive flavor, somewhere between an apple, a raisin, and a date. The texture is a little spongier than the crisp, juicy fruits Westerners are accustomed to eating. They also have a lot of pectin, so they make a fantastic home canning project.
I took about 3-4 pounds of jujubes, half a Meyer Lemon, peel and all, a touch of mace, a touch of cinnamon, a single clove, a single allspice, and 3/4 inch of fresh ginger. I put it in a large pot and covered it with water and about 1 1/2 cups of organic sugar.
These were whole fruits, now, with the pits and the peels and possibly some of the sticks!
I boiled them all together for about fifteen minutes, and then got out a potato masher and smashed everything up, into a thick, gloopy mass. I cooked it down a little more until I got the consistency I wanted for my "jujube butter" and then I transferred it to a large sieve. I used a plastic spoon to stir and push the mushy bits through the sieve, leaving behind the peel and the pits and extra bits. It took a while to push everything through. I kept stirring and scraping it all along the sieve, to get all that delicious pulp out and through into the bowl below. It really took a while. Maybe twenty minutes? Maybe half an hour? It was a real pain.
When I had all the thick, rich pulp I could get, with everything else left behind, I discarded the goop, and poured the pulp into prepared jars.
The canning jars had been sanitized in boiling water, and we used canning tongs to get them out.
I ended up with four jars of a superior jujube butter, that would probably beat apple butter in a side-by-side taste test. That extra richness that one gets from a jujube is exceptional.
Covered, immediately, they were processed for 10 minutes in boiling water, and left to cool on a counter.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
For those follow in at home, I jus wrote a letter to Amazon's weird e-mail. Here it is.
Got your letter. Please, leave me out of your negotiations with a company I do not work for, with whom I have no professional dealings. As a customer, I couldn't care less what results because I can still just buy the book at a store.
This really makes you look weak, by the way.
Joe M. McDermott
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
I am scheduled to do a REDDIT ASK ME ANYTHING on August 5th.
If you've ever been dying to know anything about my somewhat complex novels, now's the time. No promises that I may have forgotten what I was doing, exactly, because when I write books, I sort of try to break myself a little, and I never quite come out of them exactly how I went into them.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
For just a little bit, the short story collection WOMEN AND MONSTERS is only 99 cents on Kindle.
I know you probably already have a copy, but I thought with the current arrival of Hercules in theaters, you might want to hear about the time his wife killed him, from her point of view.
Also, I'm raising funds for a thing. I expect a Kickstarter might even appear, if I can't raise enough funds with this little promotion (which is likely!)
(Re: Kickstarter - if a potato salad can make a fortune, I might be able to do something fun, too.)
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Here are a few books I've read and enjoyed recently. I would stay and chat, but I'd prefer to be reading more books. I've become very slow since getting married. You know, these people who live with you demand, like, conversations, and housework, and shared activities. I can't just turtle into the bedroom and shut out the world!
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I have non copies of We Leave Together. This is too many. I will give away nine copies, then.
First nine comments below get one book.
I will autograph them for you if you promise to make a five dollar donation to your local library. Scott's honor.
I had some contracts to wait out a while, and I waited until they were passed.
This little collection is back, then. It includes a few stories that are hard to find, and a few things that I think are the most YA-appropriate of my work.
And, it is back in the world, if you are so inclined. I suggest Smashwords. Amazon is really acting the part of the evil empire, at the moment.
Monday, July 7, 2014
So, the really creepy thing in this picture I posted from my phone while sitting on the riverbank of the Guadalupe the other day (http://jmmcdermott.blogspot.com/2014/07/vultures-in-trees.html) is how there are no visible GIANT, HUGE OMG VULTURES in the picture.
There were at least four vultures in the frame when I clicked the button to take the picture. They were huge. They were all over the picnic and beach area. There is, maybe, one in the tree in the picture if you squint, but it has seemed to fool the camera into reducing its size and visibility. The ones that had been poking at the rocks along the tree's roots are missing, too.
And this is really creepy.
There were sweeping flocks of vultures, all over the beach and trees there. So many that I had to take a picture of them, at a dying tree along a beach.
And, there don't seem to be any in the picture.
I think Bigfoot sitings are ghost sitings. I think we are hallucinating the ghosts of an ancient Hominid, that walks the woods. I think the environment is being destroyed so quickly and so suddenly that much of the nature we see are just ghosts, memorializing migration patterns for the few living sons and daughters of the birds that remain.
The missing vultures, I didn't even notice until I checked the blog this morning to see what I had done last week, and if there was anything there worth talking about this morning.
And, there was.
Friday, July 4, 2014
Yesterday morning, because of an unplanned and unexpected day off, we spent the morning hiking.
The vultures and the drought-ravaged trees made me long for the long days and wer nights of the Pacific Northwest. But, the crows there and the vultures here both speak to the ominous presence of death no matter where we are. The carrion birds, no matter what we do, no matter where we go.
I am still trying to get the sunblock out of my beard. It whitens my hair, and I am older-looking. I can't seem to get the sunblock out. Drinking coffee, I taste it in the aftertaste, a mineral and chemical bitter that will not wash away.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
I am mystified as to how books succeed or not. I have always been suspicious that critics who praise my work also create a barrier to entry by discussing the stylistic decisions to an audience that is suspicious of such things. However, as the audience for genre books is generally suspicious of style, warning shots ahead are for the best. Writers are always suspicious that there is some mysterious force external to us that decides whether the book will suceed or not. In our neuroses, we will attach to something. In my case, I know better than to actually believe reviews don't act as a universal boon, and whatever readership I have gained, I know, comes primarily from reviews. I thank all reviewers. I mean it when I say thank you, and I ignore my own particular brand of neurotic over-analysis.I am very gtateful for all support, even as I neurotically oceranalyze when sales figures come my way. The only thing holding back the books, when they don't seem to do well, is chaos and randomness and the fickle hand of fate.
At this time, I do not have a clue how my books are doing. But, I want them to do well. And it is a fickle, chaotic business, and I have to trust the publishers to get the book "out there" in whatever form they can muster.
I have figured out something everyone can do, though, to champion our favorite authors beyond reviews.
At libraries, request books by your favorite authors. Put in a request with the librarians for ones missing from the shelves. Check them out when the books arrive. Libraries are the original Netflix for books, and cheaper than any subscription service, and a vital public good that deserves our time. Funneling favorite authors into that system with your time and energy is a boon for everyone. Presumably communities benefit from the books you love by authors you love in a shared space.
Can you do me a solid, fair reader, and request my books? MAZE and LAST DRAGON and Dogsland and all of them, wherever fine books are shared?