America Has Become a Vigilante Country

There was a time in this country in which adults dealt with conflict (hopefully) like adults. Whatever the issue was, it was resolved in a mature and reasonable manner. These days, resolution comes via a gun and killing innocent people.

Last Friday, a man in Cleveland, Texas was asked to stop shooting his rifle outside because his neighbors were trying to get their baby to go to sleep. He could have done the decent thing by waiting until Saturday morning. Instead, he knocked on their door and killed 5 people. Among the dead is an eight-year-old boy.

Instead of consoling the family and using his power to find the accused killer, Governor Greg Abbott accused the victims of being “illegal immigrants“. Regardless of whether they are citizens or crossed the border yesterday, his comments were insensitive, hurtful, and racist. The sad irony is that the suspect is himself in the country illegally.

Then, on Sunday, police were called to a house party in Bay St. Louis, Mississipi. A young man has been charged with murdering two of his peers and injuring four others. Those in attendance were there for a post-prom party. Instead of enjoying their last few weeks of high school, the lives of all affected have been forever changed.

And finally, authorities in Atlanta captured a suspected shooter who opened fire in a medical facility earlier today. One woman was killed and four were injured. His reason was that he was unhappy with the treatment he was receiving. He could have gone through the proper channels. Instead, he chose to resolve the problem with a firearm.

I don’t know what it is going to take for us to enact sensible gun control laws. This is not about removing or devaluing the 2nd Amendment. It is meant to save lives. But until some politicians decide that American lives are just as important as freedom, these senseless deaths will continue.

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Throwback Thursday: Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (2018)

The pyramid that is the social structure of the high school experience is a difficult one. Where one lands sometimes determine how they are treated by their peers.

The 2018 Netflix film, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is based on Cyrano de Bergerac. Sierra (Shannon Purser) is a band nerd who is looked down on by her classmates. Veronica (Kristine Froseth) is a popular girl who uses Sierra as verbal target practice. In order to avoid speaking to Jamey (Noah Centineo), a football player from another high school, Veronica gives him Sierra’s number.

But Jamey does not know that he is talking not talking to Veronica. Nor does he know that in return for tutoring Veronica, Sierra agrees to continue the conversation. As Jamey and Sierra begin to talk, they develop a connection.

Both girls know that the truth will have to come out eventually. The question is, when will it be brought to light and what will be the consequences?

Though the narrative is built on cliches, there is still room for the story to breathe. This tale has been seen before: the plus-sized protagonist who is smart and determined, but not seen for who they are; the conventionally attractive love interest, and the thin and bitchy antagonist who is basically a Regina George copycat.

It’s cute, funny, and skillfully blends the original text with the high school movie genre.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is available for streaming on Netflix.

Florida Republican Fuckery II: Banning Books & Tracking Girls Periods is Priority. Saving Lives via Sensible Gun Control is Not.

When someone says who they are (specifically in politics), we should believe them. Whether we believe it or not, they hold our collective future in their hands.

The recent Republican fuckery from Florida is as follows:

There is a debate going around as to whether or not high school-age female student-athletes should be required to provide details about their menstrual cycles. Aside from the anti-transgender laws, the consequences of the potential loss of a woman’s right to privacy cannot be ignored. Whether it is a question of the ending of an unintended pregnancy or forced birth (a la The Handmaid’s Tale), we should not be looking away.

Adding insult to injury, teachers in the state are being forced to make a choice that no educator should be forced into. They can either remove books from their shelf/curriculum that have been labeled as “woke”. If they choose to ignore the law, they face a possible jail sentence of five years. And then, there is the proposed legislation to allow anyone to buy a gun without requiring permits.

I don’t know about you, but DeSantis’s priorities are seriously screwed up.

I am going to end this post with two Instagram posts from Danielle Moodie (co-host of The New Abnormal podcast) and actor Leslie Jones.

Warning: Moodie is not above using the F-Bomb.

Throwback Thursday: Brokedown Palace (1999)

A vacation is supposed to be a time to relax, take a breather, and enjoy ourselves. It should not be a time to worry about entanglement with law enforcement.

In the 1999 film Brokedown Palace, Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) are best friends. To celebrate their high school graduation, they decide that a trip to Thailand is in order. Their party grows from two to three when they meet Nick Parks (Daniel Lapaine), a handsome and charming Australian.

Nick convinces the girls to extend their trip by going to Hong Kong before heading home. At the airport, drugs are found in their luggage and they are detained. Sentenced to three decades in jail, their only way out is American lawyer Hank Greene (Bill Pullman). Hank can get Alice and Darlene out of prison and on their way home, for a price.

This is an interesting coming-of-age tale. Most of the narratives within this genre are usually romances. But this is different. It is about friendship, the loss of innocence, and the decisions that are made during difficult times.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: Only the Strong (1993)

When we are young, there is nothing like an adult who believes in us. That experience has the potential to positively affect the rest of our lives.

In the 1993 film Only the Strong, Louis Stevens (Mark Dacascos) has been out of the country for the last few years, serving in the military. When he returns to his former Florida high school, he discovers that it has become a hotbed of drugs and violence.

Using the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, Louis is determined to help the worst of the worst of the student body turn their lives around. While the students regain a sense of self and purpose, the local druglord Silverio (Paco Christian Prieto) is not pleased with this change. He will do anything to take back what Louis took away from him.

And of course, there is the romantic relationship that Louis has with Dianna (Stacey Travis).

On Rotten Tomatoes, the reviewer’s score is 8%. It’s a fair score.

Though it has a similar narrative to Lean on Me (1989), it lacks to the originality and force of the movie. The story is almost too predictable. There is nothing wrong with a predictable tale, but a littl originality goes a long way. Though adding the element of capoeira does help, it does little to make it stand out.

What gets me is that there is only one female, and as is expected, she is the love interest. She has nothing else to do other than being the one who walks off into the sunset with the hero at the end. Adding insult to injury, Dianna isn’t even given a last name.

Do I recommend it? No.

Throwback Thursday: Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006)

Moving, especially as a teenager, is never fun or easy.

Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006) is the third movie in the Bring It On film franchise. Britney (Hayden Panettiere) is a high school senior who is at the top of the social food chain. She is both the captain of the cheerleading team and dating the star quarterback. Everything changes when her family moves to the “rougher” side of town.

Britney would love to join the cheerleading team at her new school. But she has two problems. The first is the captain of the team (Solange). If she does again put on the uniform, she is going to compete against her friends and former classmates.

Though it tries to bring back some of the equity and racial issues of the first film, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Though it is direct to video and rises slightly above Bring It On Again (2004), the narrative is still just a little too paint-by-numbers for my taste.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

My Two Elaines: Learning Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Book Review

To say that it is difficult to lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s is an understatement. The slow destruction of their mind is painful beyond words. It is an experience that I know all too well.

The new memoir, My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, by Martin J. Schreiber and Cathy Breitenbucher, was published in June. Schreiber was Governor of Wisconsin in the late 1970s. He was also the caregiver of his late wife, Elaine. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 2000s, he spent the last 18 years taking care of her.

The book tells the story of her disease and their life together. Meeting in high school, they married young and had four children. Martin would eventually get into politics while Elaine took on the traditional roles of wife and mother. She was also his biggest cheerleader and actively campaigned for him.

When it became apparent that something was off, Martin did everything he could to support her.

The best way to describe the book is part love story, part memoir, and part advice column. In between the story of their life together is guidance and information on how to deal with slow and painful mental decline.

What made the narrative stick for me were two distinct elements. The first is reading Elaine’s own words. The second is Martin’s perspective as the male caregiver. Normally, this role is fulfilled by a female, whether she is his wife, family member, or an aide who has been hired out from an agency.

The most important part for me (as a family member of someone who has the illness), is how important mental health is for the person who is taking care of their loved one. Taking time for themselves provides a much needed break from the stress that comes with this experience.

In providing his perspective, he shows that this experience is universal, regardless of gender. It also shows how powerful love can be, even during challenging times.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver is available wherever books are sold.

We Send Our Kids to School to Learn, Not to Die

When I was younger and in school, the purpose of the experience was to receive an education. It was not to be target practice for someone who had no business having access to firearms.

On Tuesday, a young man walked into a high school in St. Louis and started shooting. Two lives were lost, a teacher and a fifteen-year-old student. The shooter was killed by police.

The family of this boy claims that they did everything when it came to his mental health problems.

The point, as I see it, has once more been proven. Did this boy have a mental illness? The evidence, as we have it so far, points to yes. However, that does not preclude the fact that this tragedy and others of its ilk are and were preventable.

I would love to know why a civilian needs access to an AR-15. This is why we need common-sense gun control laws. If this child has not been able to get his hands on that weapon, then both of his victims would still be alive.

May their memories be a blessing. Z”L.

P.S. The girl who was killed was less than a month away from her 16th birthday. For anyone who thinks that we do not need to legislate against gun violence should consider this fact before stating that there is no need for measures of this kind.

Never Change Book Review

Not everyone is meant to have a happily ever after. While some may mourn the lack of a spouse and children, others accept their fate.

Never Change, by Elizabeth Berg, was published in August. Romance was never in the cards for Myra Lipinski. As a child, she did not socialize with her peers. Now, as a middle-aged adult, she limits her social life to the patients she works with as a visiting nurse.

Her newest assignment is Chip Reardon. Back in the day, Chip was BMOC. Every girl in her high school had a crush on him, Myra included. But he never gave her the time of day. After being given the diagnosis of incurable brain cancer that will take his life, she becomes more than his nurse. They start off as friends and slowly drift into something more.

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To say that I was disappointed with this book is an understatement. I connected with Myra from the first page. I understood who she was and why she made the choices she did.

I had two issues: the first was that the proverbial editor’s pen kept appearing in my mind. I hate when I am reading a book and I feel the need to play editor. That is relatively minor compared to the second issue. Whatever romantic chemistry that should exist between Myra and Chip was non-existent. I did not feel it at all. I wanted to, but I couldnt.

Do I recommend it? No.

Never Change is available wherever books are sold.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey Book Review

Coming out is not as simple as stating your truth. For many, it takes years, if not decades to gather the courage to reveal who they really are. Built-in, (which goes without saying) is the fear of rejection from family and friends.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey, by Jo Ivester, was published in 2020. It is the story of her transgender son, Jeremy, and his journey to becoming his true self. Given the name Emily at birth, he never felt right in his body as a child. As soon as he hit puberty and junior high/high school, the issues became magnified due to the natural difficulties of the age.

As he grew into an adult, he slowly began to accept who he was and go through physical changes (medical procedures included) to match his outsides to his insides. The narrative is told from multiple perspectives: Jeremy, Jo, his father, and his siblings. It is more than the fight for his identity, it is his right to be respected as he is by society and the law.

This book is fantastic and different from other memoirs about this subject. What makes it unusual is the multiple perspectives. It gives the reader a 180 view of what it is like to come out as a transgender person and the multiple ripples this revelation creates.

I also very much appreciate the political action Jo took. She became an advocate not just for her son, but for the millions of LGBTQ Americans who are being discriminated against simply because of who they are.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey is available wherever books are sold.

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