November 7, 2013: Daredevil, an asteroid, roast beef sandwiches, and a story about pomegranates

1.

A very unusual asteroid has been spotted off between Mars and Jupiter. “Instead of appearing as a small point of light, like most asteroids, this one has half a dozen comet-like dust tails radiating out like spokes on a wheel, said the report in Astrophysical Journal Letters.”

Comet

2.

Ever since I first heard that the screen rights to Daredevil might revert to Marvel (something that ended up happening several months back), I have cherished hopes of a Daredevil TV series. Daredevil is, along with Spider-Man, one of my very favorite comic book characters of all time. He is well suited to the medium of TV, with its smaller scale and more serialized story-telling format.

Where the Guardians of the Galaxy operate on a galactic scale, the Avengers on a global scale, and Spider-Man’s terrain is the whole of New York, Daredevil has always been about his neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. His powers, his enemies, his problems are of a smaller scope than those of the big guys, but there’s very rich material to work with, as the title has been blessed over the years with an impressive number of great writers and artists, creating great stories. He is blind, and a lawyer by trade, with a shlubby partner and friendships and romances with the likes of Spider-Man, Black Widow, and Electra. There is a great depth to him, and a huge range of stories to mine for material between his cases, his background, his friends, and the villains he confronts. His stories are more about human crimes and concerns than mutants and aliens, and it wouldn’t take a huge effects budget to produce.

Today a partnership between Marvel and Netflix was announced, one that will produce a number of series, starting with one for Daredevil. Don’t let me down, Marvel. Do right by the Man Without Fear.

Daredevil

3.

So, around Boston, there are quite a few restaurants that pretty much just make roast beef sandwiches, the most famous of them being Kelly’s at Revere Beach. At some point, it occurred to me that that’s kind of an oddly specific thing for a whole restaurant to be about, let alone a whole bunch of restaurants, and chances are, that’s not a thing everywhere. So I’m guessing…just Massachusetts?

Roast Beef

4.

A pomegranate was maybe not the most practical thing I could have brought for lunch today, but it was certainly the most delicious. And anything that sends me off into flights of fancy about mythology while I’m eating it – Persephone sitting in the dark deeps of Hades, ruby-red pomegranate seeds shining out to tempt her – is always a win.

Persephone

When I was a preschool teacher, we did a harvest theme for the curriculum one November, and I brought in different fruits and vegetables for the kids to try at snack time throughout the month. Three and four-year-olds are not generally known for being adventurous eaters, but I always encouraged them to try a bite of each new thing (allowing them to abandon it after that if they chose). I knew pomegranates would be a tough sell, but I brought a couple in, pulled them apart into sections, and encouraged the kids to each try at least a seed or two.

Most of them tried a seed and no more, but two of them fell in love with the fruit. M. and C. sat at the table long after snack time was technically over and all of the other kids were at free play, concentrating mightily, little hands and wrists and faces stained red with the juice, carefully picking through each winding chamber of those pomegranates to glean every last seed. M., who always worked so hard at everything though her parents barely had time to notice, tiny and grave, pale face intent, digging for the little jewels. C., a sweet boy, so thoughtful for a child of that age when self-centeredness is a fact of development, delicately plucking seeds from their housings one by one. It’s a moment that has stayed with me.

Pomegranate

CTRL-C. CTRL-V. Learn nothing. Change nothing.

Template for mass shootings, with customizable modules:

  1. Choose your setting: workplace , public area, private residences, or school.
  2. Select a motivation: religious, racial, personal, professional, or random.
  3. In what ratios would you like lax gun laws, poor family support systems, and the broken social safety net to factor in the killer’s motivation and ability to execute his plans?
  4. Should the victims be mostly adults, or children?

All of these customizations will work within the basic template.

Template for response:

  1. Mix together healthy portions of uneducated commentary, poor information, corrected information, blame, counter-blame, political posturing, and sanctimonious lecturing.
  2. Hold 1-3 candlelight vigils.
  3. Build a memorial using your chosen amounts of the following materials: white crosses, flowers wrapped in cellophane, images of the deceased within plastic covers, stuffed animals (increase the number of based on how many children are among the victims), and hand-written messages and signs of prayer, solidarity, and condolence.
  4. If your mass shooting is high-profile enough, add phone calls to survivors and a public speech from the President.
  5. Set up a memorial fund. Sell wristbands.
  6. Commemorate liberally.

Learn nothing. Change nothing.

April 20, 1999: Columbine, CO

Columbine

15 dead, 24 wounded

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July 29, 1999: Atlanta, GA

OFFICE SHOOTING

9 dead, 13 wounded

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September 15, 1999: Fort Worth, TX

Wedgewood

8 dead, 7 wounded

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December 26, 2000: Wakefield, MA

Edgewater

7 dead, 0 wounded

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July 8, 2003: Meridian, MS

LOCKHEED SHOOTINGS

7 dead, 8 wounded

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December 8, 2004: Columbus, OH

Damageplan

5 dead, 7 wounded

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March 12, 2005: Brookfield, WI

Living Church

7 dead, 4 injured

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March 21, 2005: Red Lake, MN

Red Lake

10 dead, 5 wounded

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January 30, 2006: Goleta, CA

Goleta

8 dead, 0 wounded

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March 25, 2006: Seattle, WA

Huff

7 dead, 2 wounded

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October 2, 2006: Lancaster, PA

Amish

6 dead, 5 wounded

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February 12, 2007: Salt Lake City, UT

Trolley Square

6 dead, 4 wounded

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April 16, 2007: Blacksburg, VA

VA Tech

33 dead, 23 wounded

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October 7, 2007: Crandon, WI

Crandon

6 dead, 1 wounded

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December 5, 2007: Omaha, NE

Omaha

9 dead, 4 wounded

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February 7, 2008: Kirkwood, MO

Kirkwood

6 dead, 2 wounded

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February 14, 2008: DeKalb, IL

Northern Illinois

6 dead, 21 wounded

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June 5, 2008: Henderson, KY

Atlantis

6 dead, 1 wounded

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March 29, 2009: Carthage, NC

Pine Lake

8 dead, 3 wounded

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April 3, 2009: Binghamton, NY

Binghamton

14 dead, 4 wounded

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November 5, 2009: Fort Hood, TX

Fort Hood

13 dead, 30 wounded

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November 29, 2009: Parkland, WA

Lakewood

4 dead, 1 wounded

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August 3, 2010: Manchester, CT

Hartford Beer

9 dead, 2 wounded

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January 8, 2011: Tucson, AZ

Giffords

6 dead, 13 wounded

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September 6, 2011: Carson City, NV

IHOP

5 dead, 7 wounded

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October 14, 2011: Seal Beach, CA

Salon Meritage

8 killed, 1 wounded

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February 22, 2012: Norcross, GA

Norcross police officers cordon off the Su Jung Health Sauna spa where five people died in a murder-suicide on late Tuesday night in Norcross

5 dead, 0 wounded

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February 27, 2012: Chardon, OH

Chardon

3 dead, 3 wounded

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April 2, 2012: Oakland, CA

Oikos

7 dead, 3 wounded

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April 6, 2012: Tulsa, OK

Tulsa

3 dead, 2 wounded

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May 29, 2012: Seattle, WA

Cafe Racer

6 dead, 1 wounded

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July 20, 2012: Aurora, CO

Aurora Shooting Memorial

12 dead, 58 wounded

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August 5, 2012: Oak Creek, WI

Sikh Temple

7 dead, 3 wounded

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September 27, 2012: Minneapolis, MN

Accent Signage

7 dead, 1 wounded

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December 11, 2012: Clackamas Town Center, OR

Clackamas

2 dead, 1 wounded

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December 14, 2012: Newtown, CT

Sandy Hook

28 dead, 2 wounded

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March 13, 2013: Herkimer County, NY

Herkimer

5 dead, 2 wounded

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April 21, 2013: Federal Way, WA

Pinewood

5 dead, 0 wounded

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June 7, 2013: Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica

6 dead, 3 wounded

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July 26, 2013: Hialeah, FL

Hialeah

7 dead, 0 wounded

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September 16, 2013: Washington, DC

Navy Yard

13 dead, 8 wounded (as of posting)

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Learn nothing. Change nothing.

***

Many thanks to Mother Jones and Think Progress for the data for this partial list (yep, only partial) of mass shootings since Columbine. 

The dead, when the dying is done

When I dream about Syria, and last night when I dreamt of Egypt, these are the images I see: rows of white cocoons from which nothing will ever emerge. Tied off and lined up, they sit in morgues or mosques or courtyards, unadorned save maybe a bloodstain or a name sharpied in hasty Arabic script.

dead 1

It’s not an image of fear, or horror, just sorrow deep as the holes left behind in families and communities and futures.

dead 2

If Assad’s Instagram account was honest

This past week, we all learned that Syrian “President” Bashar al Assad has a new Instagram account, one from an imaginary world where it’s all about Asma being kind to poor people and men being really happy to see Bashar. This is my take on what an honest account – one based in reality – might look like.

Warning: a few of these are somewhat graphic; all are pretty much heartbreaking.

Original Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Original Photo: Shaam News Network/AFP/Getty Images

Original Photo: AFP/HO/Shaam News Network

Original Photo: Bulent Kilic/Getty Images

Original Photo: Reuters

Original Photo: Reuters

Original Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP

Original Photo: AP

Original Photo: AP/Aleppo Media Center

Original Photo: Reuters/Shaam News Network

Original Photo: Reuters

Original Photo: Abdullah al-Yassin/AP

Original Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

Original Photo: Shaam News Network

Original Photo: AP/Aleppo Media Center

Original Photos: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Things you will and will not find in a lead coffin inside a stone coffin

So it turns out Richard III had an interesting neighbor in that parking area…one who was clearly sealed away quite purposefully, one imagines at great cost, to protect the world from death and devastation. Or so we must conclude based on every horror movie, television show, scary book, and world myth ever. Here is my handy guide to lead coffins you find inside stone coffins:

OddsEnds3-3

OddsEnds3-2

Stand by for reports of strange doings and mysterious deaths at University of Leicester.

 

 

July 9

1.

My illustratable tweet of the day comes from @JimmySky. He and @adamweinstein went on some flights of fancy this morning sparked by stories based on the Abbottabad Commission reports which revealed, among many other things, that bin Laden would sometimes wear a cowboy hat in an attempt to avoid detection by U.S. drones. Their banter ended up here:

OddsEnds2-1 12.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Boston is all about high-profile crimes lately. We’ve got Aaron Hernandez, world’s dumbest? (most arrogant?) murderer – the court released information on a bunch of evidence today. Then, tomorrow, Dzokhar Tsarnaev is being arraigned at the Federal Courthouse for charges relating to the Marathon bombings, just one courtroom over from where the Whitey Bulger trial has been going on.

Have you been following the Bulger trial? Because it is BANANAS. I have to admit, I’ve been sucked in by it, and not just because I have a surprising number of personal connections to the case. (Boston’s a small town). The last couple of days have been taken up by the testimony of Bulger associate/protege Kevin Weeks, and if half of what he has described showed up in a gangster movie you’d dismiss it as being too over-the-top. Drug deals, extortion, brutal murders, disposal of corpses, and one very testy exchange with Bulger himself, but the most surreal tidbit? Bulger wanted to kill Herald “reporter” Howie Carr by putting a basketball full of C4 in his driveway.

 

OddsEnds2-2

One interesting element of the coverage of the Bulger trial is that with cameras not allowed in the courtroom, the only live coverage is coming via Twitter. Reporters have to listen carefully, type quickly, and compose pithily and expressively. WBZ’s Jim Armstrong has been dynamite, covering everything accurately, in detail, and with personality.

Force feeding with comfort and respect

Tree

I’m sure at least some of the officials involved truly mean well, but there is some seriously tone-deaf messaging on the Guantanamo hunger strikes.

There are now reportedly 45 men (of 106 total hunger strikers) being force fed in Guantanamo.

It goes like this: the prisoner refuses to eat; he is strapped to a chair; a nurse puts a tube through his nose, down his throat, through his esophagus, and into his stomach, where it stays for two hours or so until the feeding is done. Prisoners have reported the tube as being painful, causing a burning feeling, and making them feel nauseated or like they are choking.

BUT  the chairs (to which the prisoners are strapped before tubes are inserted through their noses and throats into their esophogi and then stomachs) are “ergonomically designed for the detainees’ comfort and protection, with a padded seat and padded back support.”

And during Ramadan, force feedings will only be conducted at night, out of respect for the prisoners’ religion.

Nothing against comfy chairs, but I’m thinking appropriate lumbar support would be the last thing on my mind if I’m spending a few hours fighting off a choking, burning feeling from my nose to my gut. And I’m all for respecting the religions of others, but I don’t think I’d give out any points for remembering Ramadan to the people who are violating my basic human rights.

I’m super glad you’ve taken such good care of that tree, Ranger Rick, but do you think maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the rest of the forest is on fire? Forest Fire

Five Things: July 2

5. The Penguin/Random House merger continues.

I still think they missed an opportunity by not naming the merged publisher Random Penguin.

OddsEnds1-1

4.  Admit it. You want to meet Buttercup, too.

 

 

OddsEnds1-2

3. Memento Mori

A 200-year-old fish was caught (and killed) recently off the coast of Alaska.

OddsEnds1-4

2. Irony is dead.

Imagine if you will spending 12+ hours sitting in the sun on a muggy, 90-degree+ day. Now imagine you have your kids with you, and you can only bring two liters of water, in a plastic bottle. It seem that celebrating freedom isn’t free.

OddsEnds1-3
That word bubble is an actual quote from the Globe story.

1. Please Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em.

Egypt’s Pres. Morsi gave another speech today on the eve of the army’s ultimatum deadline. He used the word “legitimate” A LOT.

OddsEnds1-5
Can’t touch this.

 

Syria notes

I.

This many dead by beating, stabbing, shooting, shelling, torture, crushing, explosion, et al. (conservative end of the estimate)*:

93,000

=

meh

This many dead by chemical weapons (generous end of the estimate):

150

=

RED LINES! RED LINES! ARM THE REBELS! (Well. The nice ones).

II.

Anyone who claims to believe that we can decide who gets to use weapons once we hand them over, or where they will end up in the long run, is a liar or a fool.

III.

If we are, as stated, only providing small arms and no further military assistance, what do we hope to achieve? In theory, you would think that if we are throwing support behind the rebels, it would mean we want them to win out over Assad, but if we really want them to win out, wouldn’t we be doing more than supplying some light arms and ammo to select groups? (The cynical view says that the game has tipped too much to Assad in recent days, and this move is just one to restore balance, to intentionally return the conflict to a bloody stalemate). Is this really about 100-150 killed by chemical weapons? Or about the danger to Aleppo? Or Hizballah’s involvement in Qusayr? Or our decreasing influence on events? Or to send a message to Russia in advance of next week’s G8 summit? Maybe it’s because we’ve been called to jihad?

IV.

I still have no good answers. The situation in Syria is human suffering on a scale that is hard to even imagine. It is also a snarl of interests so varied and tangled that it’s impossible to know where to step to avoid making an already staggeringly awful situation worse. Military intervention is a blunt instrument; it would be naive to think that it would necessarily save more lives than it would cost. Would it make things better, or worse? Standing by while thousands and tens of thousands die is excruciating, but is there something we could be doing that we can be relatively confident would make things better? Or at least, not make them worse?

*Never mind the number tortured, maimed, raped, displaced, or otherwise injured in the conflict.

Boiled Frogs

Boiled Frog 4 1We’ve all heard the one about how to boil a frog, right? If you put a frog into boiling water, the idea goes, he’ll hop out; but if you put him into cool water and slowly boil it, he won’t realize he’s in trouble until it’s too late. 

Boiled Frog 1

In the last 12 years, we have capitulated to the trauma of 9/11 in ways both large and small. The USA PATRIOT Act was not universally lauded, but it enjoyed widespread public support and near-universal congressional backing when it was introduced. It has been renewed with wide majorities twice since then, and is just one glaring example of the changes we’ve wrought and allowed to be wrought in our way of life in the name of national security in that time. Even in the least cynical of interpretations, we have brought a range of things into our lives running the gamut from minor inconveniences to targeted killing in the quest for impossibly perfect security. We have limited people’s access to freedom, and limited the freedom there is to access.

Boiled Frog 3Boiled Frog 2The government has wiretapped phones without warrants; the NYPD has spied on Muslims just because they were Muslims; we take off our shoes when we go through airport security, and leave our water bottles and shampoo bottles over three ounces behind when we pass through; Americans are killed in drone strikes with no access to due process; lawmakers publicly endorse the summary stripping of rights from Americans in the custody of American law enforcement; now we learn that the NSA is collecting metadata from our phone calls and all manner of data from our internet usage.

In the pursuit of perfect security, our wars have spread across the world while the principles we are meant to be fighting for slowly die at home. Is there still time to jump out? Or are we already boiled?

Boiled Frog 5

h/t to Katherine Maher for getting me thinking about the boiling frogs

Related reading:

The Washington Post and Guardian stories mentioned above tell you what you need to know about the current scandal.

Ben Smith talked about how we acclimated to surveillance in a  ’first they came for the Muslims…‘ way.

Finally, Joshua Foust has a can’t-miss piece on how our government got the power to do all this stuff in the first place.