Monday, December 30, 2013

How I Went from Being Arrested for DUI to Being the Designated Driver in a Span of Two Hours

I've noticed something funny recently and I'm not being critical. Many years ago "Kissing Suzy Kolber" threatened to post pictures of Peter King's children on their site if he didn't stop talking about them in MMQB. Now, Big Daddy Drew (Drew Magary) is writing books about his children. I notice these things and they are neither good or bad. So at a certain point during success writers find (or believe) that their audience is interested in them as people. It's a tough balance. Good stories or lessons can be mined from a person's personal life, while if you do too much personal life writing then you end up like Rick Reilly at some point. That's bad.

That's why I started this separate blog from BotB. It gives options to those who still like my style of writing or want to hear boring/interesting/funny/disturbing stories from time-to-time. I like telling stories, though usually they are over a few beers, so I figure I would tell a good one today about beer. It's about me (almost) getting a DUI. Yes, it is hilarity about a DUI, and no, DUI's are not funny. The situation was funny in retrospect, especially since after I was arrested and when released the police officer demanded I be the designated driver for my friends. It's a serious life lesson, but a pretty funny one as to how it went down. If you think less of me after hearing the story, I do understand. There are certain turning points in a person's life and this was one of my turning points. Turning points aren't always the most uplifting stories.

So in May of 2002 I was still in college and was an idiot. I went to school in a small college town so the bars usually weren't far from where I live so sad to say, my friends and I didn't plan a cab ride or exactly who would drive prior to going out on the town drinking. Usually the next day started with me searching the parking lot of my apartment for my car trying to remember how I got home. It's not glorious, it was the state of affairs. Someone driving home drunk or pretty drunk was how I got home many times and there is a list a mile long of things I deserved for taking part in such irresponsible actions. My friends and I had a designated driver, a 19 year old friend of ours who would get drunk before going out to the bar and then sobered up by the time we got back from the bar. It didn't always work out that she was around though.

What's weird is that from the time I could drink in May of 2001 until the very next year I never once thought, "There could be serious issues for me if I get caught driving home from Concord, NC semi-drunk or drive home even a mile down the road after hitting the college bars." I thought about it, but more as a "I'm probably not going to get caught and there will be no ramifications for this decision"-type thing. The fact nothing ever happened to me or I didn't kill myself/someone else was very fortunate. The more my friends and I drove in a non-legal fashion like this, the more it empowered us that we could do it. I was even more enpowered after one drive home in the summer of 2001. One time I went to Charlotte to watch a movie and have dinner with a friend. One beer turned to way more than one beer and then it turned into the the fact we were going to see "Scary Movie 2" very drunk. It was a grand time. After the movie, I drove home and most likely over the legal limit and it turns out there was a DUI checkpoint at the exit I was supposed to get off on. Bad luck, but deserved, right?

So I pull up to the police officer who is "checking licenses" (i.e. checking to see how many drunk people he can catch by giving himself the probable cause to stop my car he otherwise would not have had) and hand him my license. Now mind you, "Scary Movie 2" was not a long movie and I was still pretty tipsy. I was wearing an Atlanta Braves hat low-ish on my head and smoking a cigarette. Yes, I didn't put my cigarette out to speak with the police officer. Why would I? That would show a concern for my situation and a respect for the authority of the police officer. I had just lit the cigarette up though, so there's no sense in wasting a perfectly good cigarette (Yes, I used to smoke, and yes I run. Yes, I used to run three miles and then light up a cigarette on the way to the car. Yes, I threw up in the parking lot one time after doing this). I was basically a DUI commercial waiting to happen. We talked about the Braves prospects to win the World Series for 10 seconds as he searched my car not-so-covertly with a flashlight, handed me my license, I explained to him I was coming back from watching a movie in Concord and then I drove off. Lucky me...or unlucky me that my evetual wake-up call didn't come in a town where my family didn't know a lot of attorneys, I knew the county police chief fairly well, and my dad didn't know the city police chief very well. If the following story had happened in my hometown it would have been no less embarrassing, but I would have probably been less nervous because I had more connections in my hometown. So actually, it probably was a good thing I got the shit scared out of me in Boone, North Carolina because it taught me (and my friends) a very important lesson. You know sometimes your purpose in life is to serve as an example to others? That's me. I'm the example.

My point of that non-funny story is that I was brazened by the fact I thought I was good at acting non-drunk. I took a International Economics exam one time still drunk from Halloween the night before. I definitely lacked maturity in the whole area of "Do people know I'm drunk?" awareness. I got a B on that exam, which of course only further brazened me to believe drunk or sober I'm smarter than most others either way. So fast forward back to May 2002 and my friends and I are going out to a bar to celebrate the last day of exams. The night started innocently enough. I convinced my roommate who never went out anymore to go out to the bar with me and we would be meeting five other friends at the bar to share a couple pitchers of beer. I was the designated driver, which meant I wasn't going to get very drunk (but yes, I would be drinking), and would be responsible for shuttling people back to their homes at the end of the night. No big deal. We get to the bar, have a couple of pitchers of beer, and then my roommate announces I need to take him home. Well, I have had a few beers and wasn't planning on stopping drinking quite yet. I figured we would close the bar down and I would be sober enough to drive home in a bit. I disagree that he is leaving and he disagrees with me disagreeing with him leaving. The conversation (and our first argument...ever) went like this:

(Me) "No. We are staying for at least another hour."

(Him) "I'm leaving, you can stay. Give me the keys to your car."

(Me) "No, I am driving my car because you are in no shape to be driving, much less driving my damn car."

(Him) "Give me your keys. I'll come get you guys when you call me."

(Me) "You will be asleep as soon as you get back and then we will be stranded. Fuck that, let's go (I start fast-walking out to my car with my keys)."

(We approach my car and he says) "You are being a pussy about this. Let me drive the fucking car home and I will come get you later."

(I throw my keys on the ground and say) "No way, I'm driving and when I get a DUI I will be sure to tell you all about. I'll wake you up and tell you about how your insistence on going home at 11:30pm got me a DUI (clearly the fact it was my idea to drive him home didn't stop me from blaming him for my decision)."

So we drove home angry and I dropped him off. After leaving our apartment to go back to the bar I got a really weird feeling something wasn't right. I thought at the time it was the fact we had gotten in a fight over something silly, but I was REALLY nervous driving back to the bar. I wasn't sloppy drunk, but I also should not have been driving a car at that point. I make it all the way to the road that the bar is on, about a half mile away from the bar...and let's play a game and decide what I do at this point:

A. I keep my eye on the rearview mirror and think I just have a few more feet to go before I can get out of my car. Just hold steady and keep driving.

B. I stop the car on the side of the road and call a cab to take me the rest of the way.

C. I decide in the next 30 seconds I will be in the car I need to listen to new music and decide to change out the CD.

Guess what? I chose C. Sure, I'm going to be in the car for 30 more seconds, but I NEED NEW MUSIC DAMMIT! So I pull a CD out and it drops on the floor. At this point, I am approaching the last curve of the road before the bar comes up on the left so what I do I decide to do?:

A. Let the CD go and keep driving while listening to the radio.

B. I stop the car on the side of the road and call a cab or walk the rest of the way.

C. I need to pick up this fucking CD immediately.

I chose C. I leaned over to pick up the CD and my car drifts over the double yellow line briefly. I grab the CD and then gently (and I did gently do this) put the car entirely on the right side of the double yellow line. I barely even knew I had crossed the double yellow line. I see blue lights flash in my rearview mirror and I know that's not something I want to see. So I pull into the parking lot of the bar I am trying to go back to. Yes, I was AT THE BAR when I got pulled over on this huge incline. To call this incline on the way into the bar huge would be an understatement. It was at a pretty steep angle and I already had my game plan prepared for the road sobriety tests I knew I was about to take.

Quick aside: I was friends with a lot of guys who were Criminal Justice majors looking to go into law enforcement. A lot. So at parties I had drunkenly taken most field tests as administered by amateur police officers and felt pretty good about taking them drunk. Again, I'm a brazen asshole. I know this. So upon knowing I would have to take these field tests I wasn't worried. I figured if I could get to even ground I would at least show the cops I was in the parking lot of the bar where my friends are and I am trustworthy enough to walk in the door and not drink anymore. Unfortunately, if getting pulled for DUI was "Double Dare" then I was well-prepared to take the physical challenge part of the game, but I didn't realize I had not been quizzed on the question-and-answer portion of the sobriety field test. That's the part that failed me.

So I stop by car and wait for the policeman to walk up to my door. He does get to my door and then asks the general question we all get asked when we get pulled over, except it sounded like it came from the voice of Darth Vader, not a Boone policeman.

"Do you know why I stopped you?"

I was in a full blown panic at this point because I knew at this moment this wasn't a DUI checkpoint and I had been pulled for cause and I had never been pulled for anything. Nothing. Not a ticket. Not a tail light out. Nothing. This is my first time ever speaking to a policeman where I was obviously suspected of doing something wrong and not just a guy in a car. The question fucked me up. It was like he asked me,

"Explain every action you have ever taken and how it impacts who you are as a person."

I was mind-fucked. I was in a panic and it wasn't stopping. I rarely panic, but once I start panicking I usually don't get my bearings quickly. I wasn't being cool under pressure and I was realizing we wouldn't move wordlessly to a safe, level area where he would marvel at my ability to perform the field sobriety tests and then videotape me to show how his fellow officers how adept I was at passing field sobriety tests. He wanted me to talk to him and I (believe it or not) didn't expect this. I guess I expected us to play an extended game of charades where he would motion me to perform the field sobriety tests and he wouldn't want a question-and-answer session with me.

I told him I thought I might have gone across the double yellow line briefly and that's why I am guessing he stopped me. It went something like this:

(Me) "I dropped my CD and foolishly decided to pick it up. I drifted a bit. Is that why?"

(Cop) "Sir, can you remove your hat?"

(Me) "My hat? No, it was a CD that fell on the floor. It had nothing to do with my hat (again, I wasn't being smart with him, but I was panicking and wanted him to know the full story) falling."

(Cop) "Take the hat off (I took it off and put it on the seat beside me). Where were you coming from? Have you been drinking?"

(Me) "Yes, I have been drinking. I am the designated driver and I just got back from taking my roommate home. He is a Criminal Justice major ('he's just like you!') and couldn't afford to get a DUI so I drove him home (because see, I CAN afford to get a DUI)."

(Cop in the Darth Vader voice again) "How much did you have to drink tonight?"*

*I gave what may be the worst response ever given to a police officer. Ever. I started off lying to him because I didn't know the answer, then went back to what I thought may be the truth, and then told him the real truth.

(Me) "I had one beer, I think (I'm an expert liar)."

(Cop) "Why are you lying?"

(Me) "Maybe I had two beers or possibly three beers. I don't know how much I have had because we had a pitcher and my drink kept getting filled up, so I don't have an accurate count. I do know I feel fine to drive though."*

*Oh, you feel fine to drive. Well then, case closed. Let's move on and you are free to go.

(Cop) "We are going to run through some tests. Can you say your alphabet please?"

At this point, what do you think I did? Did I:

A. Say my alphabet as any 3.40 student majoring in Economics would be able to do?

B. Ask for an attorney and then run into the bar? 

C. Offer to blow into a field Breathalyzer?

D. Say my alphabet and SCREW MY DAMN ALPHABET UP?

I did C...then when I was told there wasn't a need for that I said my alphabet and skipped the letter "Q." Yes, I screwed up the alphabet, because why not? No, I wasn't asked to do the alphabet backwards, but forwards, and I messed it up. Like any good student I offered to do it again, because you know, maybe he is grading on a curve.

(Cop smiles and says) "Can you give your hat to me please and then step out of the car?"

(Me) "Can I leave my hat in the car?"*

*It's funny what you latch onto. I loved my Braves hat and let no one but me wear it. I wore it everywhere and at this point I wanted that hat IN MY CAR and not with the policeman. I'm about to perform field sobriety tests after failing to say my alphabet correctly and I am worried about where my hat may go. Trust me, my latching onto the hat doesn't end here. It's my Wilson (of "Cast Away" fame) during this entire adventure. I probably will skip over times I asked for my hat or was concerned about my hat. The Braves hat = life.

(Cop) "No, I want it. Please give it to me."

(I gave him my hat and stepped out of the car...fortunately I was not smoking a cigarette at this point, so maybe I had learned something from running into a DUI checkpoint the previous summer)

(Cop) "Stand here then and stand on one leg while trying to touch your nose with your opposite hand."*

*This may have been his directions, I'm not sure. I was like a pitcher who had just given up back-to-back-to-back home runs and there is no one warming up in the bullpen. I need to be pulled from the game immediately, but it isn't happening.

(Me) "Can I go to the level ground because I don't feel like this will accurately represent my ability to balance right now. I have terrible balance."*

*At the time I didn't realize through the chain of events of lying about how much I had to drink, not wanting to give up my hat and now dictating the terms of the sobriety test I was antagonizing the cop. Sadly, I didn't think about this at the time. Again, these are things you learn from.

(Cop) "I think it's fine to do it here."

(I stand on one leg while touching my nose for maybe two seconds and then can't stand much longer)

(Cop) "Now follow this light with your eyes."

(Me losing my mind completely...I would have been better off calling him a pig and insinuating I slept with his wife then what I said next...say) "Well, this test isn't admissible in court anyway, but I'll do it."*

**I'll do it! See how nice I was being? You can't arrest a guy who does what the police tell him to do can you? I am now dictating the field sobriety tests and telling the police officer even though I know he can't use this in court, I will humor him. I also realize I am not coming off well here. So be it. I was insanely nervous and desperately trying to grab a hold of the situation like the control freak I am. Dammit, I needed control and was failing. I was also failing at doing anything to help my case to not end up in handcuffs shortly.

(Cop) "Just do it."

(I follow the light and probably failed this as well because my eyes are usually a little red)

(Cop) "Now, close your eyes and touch your nose with your fingers."

(Me) "Can I please go do this over on level ground?"

(Cop) "We're almost done, so just hang here."

(I perfectly touch my fingers on my nose as I expected I would. Always choose the physical challenge, that's the rule...if I had just been briefed about the question-and-answer session things could have gone differently)

(The cop goes back to his car and a Sheriff's car pulls up. Being the intuitive person I am, I took this as a not-good sign. At least I was right about something on this night. It wasn't a good sign.)

(The cop talks to the sheriff's deputy, then walks back to me and handcuffs me) "Sir, you are under arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol..."*

*I don't remember the rest, I just know I got handcuffed and it was a terrible, terrible feeling. He could have offered me a chance to run away during his speech if I said the magic word and I wouldn't have known. I wasn't listening and was thinking about how I would explain this to my parents.

Then the cop put me in his car, with the passenger window down, and the sheriff's deputy comes by and starts talking to me. To this day I won't forget what he said, because well, fuck this guy. I was clearly a scared college kid (granted, who also happened to be under arrest for a fairly major vehicular crime) and he antagonized me. Yes, I was in the wrong, but the amount of antagonism for how much my head was hanging always seemed disproportionate to me. I clearly wasn't being aggressive.

(Sheriff's deputy) "You been doing some drinking tonight?"

(Me) "Yes, it seems that way. Can I please take a breathalyzer or can you please go into the bar and tell my friends they will have to find a cab home. I am their ride. They are going to be worried about me when I don't answer my cell phone and they are going to drive home at the end of the night. Please allow me to call one of them to come out here and explain the situation."

(Sheriff's deputy laughs) "They'll get the message when you don't show up to get them."

(Me) "Okay, that's fine. They are going to be worried."

(Sheriff's deputy) "Maybe they'll come visit you in jail tomorrow to get you out."

(Me getting irritated) "If they don't know I am there, they probably won't know how to find me."

(Sheriff's deputy laughs again) "Enjoy your night and your lesson. Hopefully your friends won't make the same mistake."

(Me talking to him as he walks away) "But they are going to drive if they don't know to get a cab and can't get a hold of me."*

*At this point, in my "Star Wars" analogy if the cop was Darth Vader then this sheriff's deputy was the Emperor telling me my weakness was I had too much faith in my friends. And yes, Luke Skywalker was a good guy and I was the bad guy in this situation. I get it. I also got the Sheriff's deputy's car number implanted in my brain for future reference. I didn't like his attitude.

So the cop got back in the car and I again pleaded with him to allow me to call my friends and leave a voice message as to where I am or give me a field breathalyzer. He declined because he is good at his job and I was just some drunk guy. On the way back I asked the police officer a series of questions and got the following answers:

-Yes, I am officially under arrest.

-No, I won't be able to get bailed out of jail that night. I will have to be in the drunk tank and wait until morning.

-No, I can't have my Braves hat with me in the drunk tank.

-No, I really can't have the Braves hat to use as a pillow in the drunk tank.*

*Even to this day I don't regret wanting my Braves hat. It was my only Braves hat and I was very unclear on how I would retrieve it. Would I get it in a box after I left the drunk tank the next morning like I see in movies? Would I never get it back and then one day see a person wearing That hat became my binky and I wanted my hat. At the time, it was very important to control something, anything.

Then I said,

"My dad is going to kill me."

The cop got agitated and looked at me angrily saying,

"Who is your dad? What does he do?"

I told the cop my dad wasn't anyone special (to him) and he would just be mad at me. To this day, his agitated reaction surprises me. I guess a lot of kids drop their parent's name for effect. I was much too worried about the status of my Braves hat to name drop.

We got to the jail and I took all of my belongings out of my pocket to take the breathalyzer. I ask the policeman if I can please go pee before I take the breathalyzer. He agrees and takes me to the restroom, taking my handcuffs off so I can open my fly. I pee and it was a fantastic feeling since I figured I would be in a drunk tank in about 10 more minutes.

So now the time had come. I was going to take the breathalyzer to see how drunk I was and I really believed I was drunk. Actually I KNEW I should not have been driving. If I had not mentioned it before, I was fucked, and knew it. The legal limit in North Carolina is 0.08, which is probably too high, but that's the legal limit. My Braves hat was in front of me, my phone said I had missed 17 phone calls in the last hour, and now I was going to see how long I was losing my license for. It's going to be hard to go to law school four hours away from home in the middle of nowhere without a license to drive around. I deserved it all and it wasn't a good feeling. So the cop and I sat down at the breathalyzer.

This is what happened next,

(Cop) "Blow gently into the breathalyzer, please."

I lean forward and blow gently into the breathalyzer wondering if I am going to lose my license for a year, two years, or if I could get a good attorney to at least allow me to keep my license while paying a hefty fine. All of this is ricocheting in my mind that I don't notice what the breathalyzer says. It says 0.07.

(Me) "What the hell?"*

*Yes, I said that. I failed three out of four sobriety tests and knew I couldn't drive, so I didn't expect it to come to under 0.08. I was simply asking for the field breathalyzer back at the bar in the hopes the beer I had just drank 30 minutes before would not hit my bloodstream yet. I figured the longer I waited to take a breathalyzer, the better the chance of a higher test result. While I was busy fucking up the alphabet I had a plan to minimize my breathalyzer result. It's like I was a general in the army and had the perfect plan of action on how to attack the enemy, but forgot to bring the guns to attack the enemy with.

(Cop look stunned) "Blow again, please. Do it a little more forcefully."

I blew a 0.07 again.

(Cop looking at my phone as it rings for the 18th missed call, he's clearly getting pissed off at me and his bad fortune to not have busted me for drunk driving) "One more time."

I blew a 0.07 again. At this point, I am about to break the handcuffs off with pure joy. I had dodged a bullet and knew it. Life began again. I had no idea what would happen next, but I knew I was below the legal limit. DUI was off the table. So the cop then informed me he was writing me up for going left of center, which apparently isn't as strict of a violation as getting a DUI, but does carry quite a few points on your insurance. My parents would be less than thrilled about this obviously.

I ask him what "left of center" means and he explained it to me. It was a very complicated term and it meant I went left of the yellow center line while driving. Again, it was a very complicated term. At this point, the cop takes the handcuffs off me and he gives me the ticket (I think...everything is a blur because I was so happy I wasn't going to spend a night in jail). I ended up getting a ticket, I saw a magistrate, there may have been a polar bear playing checkers in the corner...who knows? I wasn't paying attention because I had just dodged a bullet. Then the cop and I walk out to his police car and he begins to drive me back to the bar where he had originally pulled me over. On the way back, we had a conversation that went something like this,

(Me) "Once I get back to the bar, how do you propose I get home? I certainly don't want to drive."

(Cop) "I want to go back to the bar and drive all of your friends home at the end of the night. They are still there drinking, right?"

(Me laughing softly) "Well, I think so. I know I missed a few calls from them, so I don't know exactly where they are right now."

(Cop) "They had better hope they aren't driving."

(I was thinking that I could have avoided them driving if he had simply allowed me to tell them where I was at and that they need to call a cab) "Okay, I hope so too. Can I ask you a question and I'm not being funny..."

(Cop) "Yep, go for it."

(Me) "If I drive my car, are you going to pull me over on my way home or are you fine with me being the designated driver for my friends?"

(Cop laughs...I'm just kidding, he didn't laugh because he was humorless and I thought hated me because he had just spent an hour on an arrest he would never get to make) "I am requesting you do so."

(Me) "Sounds good." (Secretly, I couldn't wait to tell the story of how I got arrested for DUI and then the cop asked that I drive all my friends home)

So we had boring banter (even more boring than this story) after that and he dropped me off at the bar. I moved my car to a parking space. Yes, my car was just sitting at the entrance to the parking lot. If I had spent the night in jail I'm assuming it would have been towed or just sat there...who knows? Then I walk into the bar and my friends are very, very drunk. I go over to their table and they act like I had been gone for years. They ask where I had been and I slapped the left of center ticket down on the table, showed them the mark from the handcuffs, poured myself a beer (just for effect mind you...fine, I did have a couple sips) and said "I got taken into the police station under suspicion of DUI after taking Matt home."

(Friend) "Where did you get pulled over?"

(Me pointing outside the bar) "Right, motherfucking there. I almost made it." 

(Friend) "You should have jumped out of your car and run in here."

(Me) "Trust me, that did cross my mind."

Of course they didn't believe me at first, except I'm a wiggly person and did have handcuffs on my wrist, plus I still looked pale and they probably figured I wasn't lying after I told the story. It also helps I don't lie. Reality is so much crazier than a lie many times anyway. After I told them what I blew on the breathalyzer my friend pointed at me and said "I'm calling you 007 from now on. 007!" Then he proceeded to give me a high-five and that nickname stuck for no one else but him for the next few years. Though ironically he got pulled after leaving a bar in 2004 under suspicion of DUI and he blew a 0.07 on the breathalyzer. The "007" nickname sort of got dropped by him after that. See, reality is so much more crazy than a lie.

So I drove everyone home and then we all went up to my apartment and we woke up my roommate up (I KNEW he would be asleep. I was right) by turning the light on quickly, which in retrospect wasn't a great decision because had did have a gun he stowed under his bed. You just don't want to startle a guy with a gun under his bed, even if it isn't loaded. He thought I was completely kidding when I told him I got taken to the police station, even after I showed him the cuff marks on my wrist, and even quizzed me the next day on whether I was lying. He was eventually convinced by logic. I really enjoyed going out and drinking, so would I really leave all my friends at a bar for an hour and a half on the last day of classes to pull a prank? No, I would not. I would go where the friends and beer went. Plus, I did have that "left of center" ticket.

I tell this story so much better in person, but I've always enjoyed how I went from being arrested under suspicion of DUI to being a designated driver in a span of two hours. To this day, I will not drive a car if I have had more than two drinks and I will not get in the car with a person I feel has had too much to drink. Someday I will probably tell my kids this story and I will be embarrassed by it, but it's good to serve as an example others can't follow I guess. I'm not a walking PSA or anything like that, but a dropped CD is what ultimately put me in the position to be in handcuffs. Well, that and not knowing the alphabet. Eventually the "left of center" violation was removed from my license and my parent's car insurance did not go up. It cost more money than I would have liked in court appearances for the attorney to get this done, but it did get done. It also helped the police officer told the judge I was cooperative and polite. Yeah, I wasn't very cooperative and polite in my opinion.

Two denouncements to this story. First, I forever disliked that sheriff's deputy for the way he seemed to taunt me in the car. Yes, I may have deserved it, but I was pretty contrite at the time and wasn't being hostile. I felt his words towards me were a little too taunting as compared to my behavior. I have friends who disagreed and said I deserved a little taunting. Perhaps. Well, I remembered his car number and during the Summer of 2002 I found his empty sheriff's car outside of a restaurant while walking home from a bar. I took the liberty of watering his back tire for him. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have done this. Maturity isn't something that comes overnight I guess. But hey, I'm sure he is still haunted to this day by the smell of urine on the back tire of his police car (if he was even driving that same car at that point).

Second, I was on my way home from attending a football game at my undergraduate alma mater going back to my grad school when I got pulled over for doing 53 mph in a 35 mph zone. It was a speed trap and I got caught in it. When the police officer came to my window he asked why I was going so fast. I told him I just didn't slow down fast enough when it went from 55 mph to 35 mph and left it at that. Then he asked for my license and registration, so I pulled my glovebox open.

Out spilled six or seven airplane bottles that I had purchased that weekend and was saving for the next football game. When they fell to the floor of my car I yelled, "Son of a bitch! Seriously?" Then I quickly told the cop that I had not been drinking nor was I drunk and at that point probably became the first person to ever voluntarily subject himself to a breathalyzer test at 4:30pm on a Sunday when there was never even a question posed by the police officer whether that person had been drinking or not. The cop declined and actually laughed at my reaction. I was obviously still scarred from my DUI adventure a few summers before. He took my license and registration and went back to his car. After about three minutes he came back to my car, chuckled again, and said "You have an absolutely clean driving record, you just have to learn to slow down there. Also, keep the airplane bottles somewhere other than the glove compartment. It looks bad." I told him "thanks" and drove on. I like to pretend my lack of poise got me out of that ticket.

I have friends who have gotten a DUI in their lifetime and feel very fortunate I narrowly avoided being one of those people. At 21 years old, you aren't always thinking straight. That's never an excuse, but to this day I get nervous if I had 1-2 drinks and I pass a police car. Sometimes the best lesson is to get scared straight.

10 Bands/Artists I Don't Like As Much as I Thought I Liked Them

I have an external hard drive full of music. Really, really full of music. It has probably almost 180 GB of music on it. There's no way I will ever get to listen to all of that music, but I have an obsession with music and collecting music, so onward the march continues. I collect more music and then more and more frustrated I can't listen to all the music I have. In about 10 years I will be locked inside a padded cell with only Windows Media Player and my external hard drive desperately trying to get through all of my music before I die.

So once or twice (FINE! Three times in the past six months...quit shining the bright light in my eyes) a year I go through my external hard drive and make a list of all the music I may want to get rid of that I simply don't enjoy or music by an artist I simply had no listened to in order to see if I wanted to keep the music or not. So I make the list of artists (which usually comes to about 75-100 artists, and no, I have not been officially diagnosed with OCD) and then listen to every album I have on my external hard drive by that artist. It takes forever, but is really fun to listen to music I didn't know I would like but apparently owned. Of course, then there are the artists or bands I remember really liking and they are just simply not good. It's a letdown, like being 18 years old again and finally going on a date with a girl you wanted to go out with, but then it turns out she likes the "Twilight" movies, texts her friends all the time while you are talking to her, and has to get home in time to watch a television show on the CW with her friends. So I figured I would make a list of the 10 artists or bands that were total letdowns for me and I had to remove all traces (or come close) of this artists music from my external hard drive and possibly my memory.

1. Alison Krauss with or without Union Station 

Let me defend my having Alison Krauss on my external hard drive first. Yes, I have previously stated I do not like bluegrass at all. Yes, Alison Krauss is a bluegrass/country artist. I had a couple of her more popular albums and a greatest hits album in my collection. I had them because I figured I would enjoy them. I worked an Alison Krauss concert in college and was amazed at the connection she had with her audience. It wasn't exactly an exciting concert, but the audience was really hanging on what she was singing. I got to meet her after the concert and got an autograph for my father. So I had a couple of albums and a greatest hits in my collection...

Then I listened to the music. I don't mind depressing music or slow music or music that is slow so it sounds depressing. It doesn't bother me, but Alison Krauss' music was so slow and so dreary I thought I was going to fall asleep while listening to it. I struggled getting through it and about the time I got to a song on her greatest hits (a duet with James Taylor) called "How's the World Treating You?" my only answer was this. Everyone has music they like and don't like. The great musicianship and the nice voice Alison Krauss has did not make up for the fact her albums sounded dull, boring, and didn't move me. So it's pretty much official. I don't like bluegrass. I almost kept one of the albums so I could have "When You Say Nothing at All," but then I realized her version was dull and I preferred the Keith Whitley version anyway.

2. Nas

Whenever someone would ask me to list my favorite rappers I would always list Nas in there because I had Stillmatic and Illmatic, plus other tracks from his other albums. He was great in my opinion. So about a year ago I collected every album he ever released and was very happy I had his full collection...then I listened to the music (notice a trend?). Everything other than Illmatic and Stillmatic isn't great and a lot of Stillmatic is Nas saying, "Hey, remember that album I wrote almost decade ago? How good was that?" On "I Am..." he sampled himself (yes, himself) not once, not twice, but on three separate tracks. Not that he was lacking for creativity at the time of course. I find his albums to not be bad, but to work really well if you make a greatest hits out of them, which I did.

3. Rufus Wainwright/Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright's music just simply fell under the category of "I heard it was good, so I got some of it and then I decided it was only supposed to be good because people kept saying it was supposed to be good." So I deleted all I had by him.

Now Rufus Wainwright...that's a different story. Somehow through my entire life I had only heard his songs that didn't suck. I don't know how I managed to do this, but I did. So I made a greatest hits album out of all the Rufus Wainwright albums I had...and it totaled five songs. I kept it at five songs because it seemed appropriate. I'm sure 99% of you haven't heard every Rufus Wainwright album, well I haven't either. I quit around "Want Two" because his albums and singing style reminded me of a teenager who was told repeatedly he is a good singer and so that teenager starts to believe it and then writes music he feels is really, really deep. He sings in the most baroque and chamber-pop fashion possible. It's like listening to Frank Sinatra if he took all of the fun out of his songs and started to write songs that are basically inside jokes to himself. I'll pass...except for those five songs of course.

4. Weezer

I loved Weezer when "The Blue Album" came out. I stopped loving Weezer when "Pinkerton" was released. It sucked the joy out of their music and I just wanted Rivers Cuomo to shut up about his angst and write "The Blue Album" again. Time has made me realize "Pinkerton" is actually a pretty good album, save for any type of weird love songs to underage Japanese fans of course (on an album where Cuomo complains about sex with groupies he writes a love song to a underage groupie of sorts). So after collecting all of Weezer's albums and listening to them all, I decided to just pretend the band broke up after "The Green Album" and then released one last album called "MalaMakeBelievedroit" where all of the crappy songs on this albums are removed and the good songs are left.

Don't pretend there aren't bad songs on those two albums either. The last half of "Maladroit" is unlistenable at times and "Make Believe" somehow has the distinction of the first two singles managing to be the worst two songs on the album. Then there is "The Red Album," "Ratitude," "Hurley," and "Death to False Metal" which taught me the important lesson of never trusting a review of an album. They are brutally bad, despite the fact they don't exist of course. I could not remove these albums from my external hard drive fast enough.

5. Jane's Addiction

I like "Jane Says" and "Been Caught Stealing." The 90's grunge part of me wants to like the rest of their greatest hits, but I can't even do that. I thought I liked Jane's Addiction and I don't. It's not them, it's me. Well, it is them. Perry Ferrell's voice gets irritating after a while and the music kind of got grating.

6. Spoon's Early Albums

When I first started dating my wife she made a crazy amount of albums by bands that she felt I needed to listen to. I worked hard to like Spoon because I didn't really get their music at first, but eventually I enjoyed their music and thought "Girls Can Tell" through "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" was a really strong period of four albums. In fact, "Girls Can Tell" is probably one of my favorite albums of all-time. When I heard their three albums prior to "Girls Can Tell" I was a bit surprised because I didn't think it sounded like Spoon at all. In fact, "Telephono" doesn't even sound like music the best that I can tell. "A Series of Sneaks" was a bit better and "Soft Effects" wasn't really that much better. I thought there would be something redeemable on those first three albums or some indication of the band that put out four great albums in the 2000's, except there wasn't. Those three albums got deleted pretty quickly.

7. Local Natives

This band was suggested to me by my sister-in-law who usually has good taste in music. She lives in an area that actually has independent radio where the stations idea of playing indie rock isn't playing a song by The Shins every couple of hours. I got their first album and then when they released another album I got that one as well. The problem (and again, this is a trend) is I didn't listen to these albums. There are moments of really good songs on their two albums, well mostly on "Gorilla Manor," but overall it's pretty disappointing. They became on of those bands I felt like I was supposed to like, but the music was too difficult for me. It was like hearing the Beach Boys singing three-part harmony over a backdrop of monkey's (not The Monkees") banged on instruments. Okay, maybe that's overstating the case a bit. Still, this is a band that I'm sure that is good, but I couldn't handle the songs or the sound they favored.

8. TV on the Radio

Forget what I said about all of the other bands, this is the band that was the most disappointing. I saw "Dear Science" at the very top of end-of-the-year best albums lists and also knew their other albums were well-thought of as well. I have no idea why. Again, there was listenable songs, but there was also really bad music on there. Maybe it's me. Maybe I can't stand post-punk/electro music. I don't think that's it, but I TV on the Radio is one of those bands that I needed to listen if I enjoyed music. That's how I felt. Apparently I don't like music.

9. Son Volt

I like Uncle Tupelo and I like Wilco. Son Volt, outside of "Trace," which is a must-have album is just not a very good band in my opinion. A lot of the music sounds fairly similar and I just don't feel the passion in the songwriting that I feel when I hear "Trace" or any of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco songs. This is another band I just assumed I would like because I like music similar to it, but I have found alt-country (as it is called) is pretty hit or miss for me. I love the Old '97s and they really aren't that different from Son Volt, but I enjoy the Old 97's music more. I listened to every album I had by Son Volt and just had to get rid of them. It's hard to get into an album when the tracks all feel mid-tempo and uninspired compared to other music I listen to.

10. Maroon 5

Okay, I'm lying. I don't have any music by Maroon 5. They are just terrible. That's all.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movember and a Lack of Awareness

This is the second year I have participated in Movember. If you don't know what it is then check it out here. Basically men grow a mustache during the month of November to raise awareness for men's health issues, like prostate cancer. I feel strongly about men getting checked for prostate cancer and my growing a mustache is just a thing I do to help raise awareness. And yes, growing a mustache doesn't do much other than make a statement, so I'm not a huge pioneer and realize this. Let me clear up two things about my mustache.

1. I can't really grow a mustache. I can, but it goes slowly and I don't get a sufficient amount of hair in the middle (about 1/3 of an inch is what I have trouble growing) of the mustache, so I look like I am growing the world's laziest pornstache. So I grow a beard for a few weeks and then the plan is to shave it into a mustache.

2. Last year I participated in Movember and then because I got so many smart-ass comments and questions about my beard I just shaved it after two weeks because I was fed up with the questions and comments. As you can probably tell, people wear me down after a while, plus my face got itchy.

This year I am not doing that and I don't give a shit what people say about my facial hair. Oh, and people are saying things. Therein lies my problem.

Men's health issues aren't as cool and fun to talk about as women's health issues. It's fun to make up a play on words about a woman's boobs to support breast cancer research, because women love their boobs (for the most part) and men love their boobs. It's a fan favorite. Cancer of the ass and cancer of the balls is funny. It sounds funny, and while it isn't really funny, it's hard to get people behind an effort to save a man's prostate. It's just not sexy. Football players won't wear a special color to support prostate cancer and you won't see "Save a man's prostate" bumper sticker when driving along the road.

So there is an overwhelming lack of awareness about Movember and I understand that. So I shouldn't be bothered by the comments about my facial hair and when someone makes a smart comment to me I tell them to do a search for Movember. Of course no one will, but that's okay, I tried. It's November 6th and I have gotten several smart-ass comments about "forgetting my razor" and someone even told me my facial hair looked "disgusting." Definitely not a compliment to me, but I don't care how I look. That's the point, right?

It bothers me though, this lack of awareness. I know those who are making comments to me don't know, but would they say someone who shaves their head to support a family member with cancer looked "silly" or "like Lex Luthor"? I guess not knowing the context it is possible someone would, but even when I tell them why I am choosing to have facial hair there is a noticeable lack of caring or apology for their comment. By the way, most of the comments so far have been from women...for what that's worth. I would imagine the same women would be pretty fucking pissed off at me if I told them their pink ribbons looked stupid during the month of October. But that's okay because men's health issues are funny and there is a lack of awareness that results in these comments.

I've written this before, but every male on my dad's side of the family has gotten prostate cancer. My grandfather, two of my uncles, and my father. I will probably get it and my son will probably get it. Oh, and my dad and one of my uncles had the severe kind you always hear doctors and medical journals say is so rare. Good times for everyone. I can't wait to have that conversation with my son about based on the small sample size of our family history either he or I will get the same aggressive form of prostate cancer that killed the grandfather he never met. I'm losing my point. My point is that I can't be the only one who has such a family history and it makes me upset that there is this lack of awareness about men's health issues. Awareness of men's health issues, and especially prostate cancer, should be something everyone worries about, just like everyone worries about sufficient funding for breast cancer research.

I waver between getting angry about the comments and being angry about the lack of awareness. Sometimes if someone is growing a beard, shaving their head or going with a dramatic physical look maybe it's best to just keep your fucking mouth shut, because you don't know why they do it. Who would tell someone, even a co-worker, their beard looks "disgusting" though? Would it be okay if I told a co-worker her new haircut "made her look like a dyke" or the few pounds she has gained "has really fattened her face up"? I would be marched up to Human Resources and get to have a conversation I didn't want to have if I made those comments. So even if a person didn't know what my beard was for, it's probably not best to comment on my appearance.

Regardless, I am probably too sensitive to this issue, but the complete lack of caring when I explain what the beard is for also gets me annoyed. I was mildly chastised in October for not wearing pink on a certain day that I was supposed to wear pink but wasn't aware of this. I told the two people who chastised me if they grew a beard in Movember I would wear pink for an entire week in October. Of course one person was a woman, so that probably wasn't the best suggestion. Still, I'm supposed to fully participate in creating awareness for another form of cancer but I can't even get a response other than "Oh" when I explain why I forgot my razor. Such is life and the state of Movember. I hope this changes over time.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Slow, Steady, Painfully Obvious Decline of "Dexter" and the Awful Series Finale

I could make this post 20,000 words long. There are so many low points of "Dexter" over the past---well, pretty much the entire run of the show except for the first season (which not coincidentally was the only season based nearly entirely on the source material in the books). I think most "Dexter" fans (if fans is even a word to use) would call this the low point of the series. What Tom Hanks has in acting chops, Colin Hanks lacked in that scene. "Dexter" has declined over the past eight seasons in nearly every aspect a television show can decline. The writing, creativity of the storylines, ability to surprise the audience, acting, and plot developments all declined dramatically. What's inexplicable to me is the audience did not decline dramatically. "Dexter" kept picking up new viewers even as the show continues to grow shittier and shittier. I say this, but week after week I watched the show and comment on just how much the show is declining, so I guess I am partially to blame. If you don't watch the show, Dexter is a serial killer who kills serial killers and is also a forensic tech for Miami Metro Police Department. If you didn't watch the show, just know that and move on with your life. I tend to get the seasons of "Dexter" confused since they all pretty much have the exact same formula of (spoilers to follow through the rest of the column), which I attribute to lazy writing:

1. We are introduced to someone who is a serial killer.

2. Dexter kills a person(s) who meet his "code" while investigating the serial killer. The "code" doesn't matter really other than to allow Dexter's dead father to show up periodically and ask idiotic questions and narrate what the viewer can already see is happening on-screen. Apparently if you die and come back as a ghost, you come back as a really stupid ghost that only communicates through exposition and serves only the purpose of stating the obvious.

3. The serial killer starts to slowly focus on Dexter and Dexter begins to wonder what intellectually and morality-wise separates him from the serial killer.

4. Someone at Miami Metro may possibly, sort of, but not really suspect Dexter of being a serial killer. Alas, the writers find a way for this person to not suspect him. More than likely, this person will be killed.

5. Dexter meets someone who likes to kill people or has a super-dark secret. He finds companionship in this person and this person is totally cool with Dexter being a serial killer because he only kills bad guys...except that one time Dexter didn't kill a bad guy...well and the two policeman that Dexter directly or indirectly killed who dared to out Dexter as a serial killer. 

6. A lot of boring shit happens that delays the inevitable showdown between Dexter and the big bad serial killer which results in the season being wrapped up in a nice little neat bow with none of the guest stars on that season coming back for the next season, except in very rare situations like when Hannah McKay was brought back since the writers were totally out of creative ideas for Season 8.

I don't know of a better way of detailing "Dexter's" decline other than to go season-by-season and rehash the plot and point out where the writing has declined and where the writing went horribly wrong. If I get the details about a season wrong, I'm sorry, but the seasons really start to run together for me. The very bottom line is this was a show about a serial killer who only kills bad people. Viewers love an anti-hero and a "good" serial killer is ripe for a good anti-hero where the writers and viewers can explore ethical nuances of being a "good" serial killer.

"But fuck that," said the creative team, "let's not raise and ethical nuances and just make Dexter an outright hero and always try to redeem him while treating all the normal people around him, whose lives he ruins like they are the scum of the Earth they are, in a shitty fashion. In fact, let's not even flesh out the supporting characters over 8 seasons. Good deal? Break! (claps hands together)"

The writers worship the character of Dexter and it ruined the show. He does no wrong, even when he is doing wrong. You can't take an anti-hero who kills people for pleasure and turn him into an outright hero. It just doesn't work. Every season the writers take pleasure in eliminating anyone who suspects Dexter of being a serial killer, whether by giving them amnesia (but not really giving them amnesia, they just sort of forget they suspected Dexter of being a serial killer) or killing them off. It reaches a point where the stakes aren't high because I know the writing team won't do anything negative to Dexter's character. If a show isn't going to be strong in terms of plot, it should at least be fun to watch. Unfortunately "Dexter" became neither.

Season 1:

This is without a doubt the best season of "Dexter." I remember first watching the show and really enjoying the mystery of who the Ice Truck Killer was (it was Dexter's brother), while also trying to figure out how I could cheer for a serial killer to save the day. The writing is tight, it makes sense as much as writing on television makes sense, and the mystery is compelling. The idea of a serial killer trying to make a life with a completely normal woman, Rita Bennett, while also being a completely abnormal person devoid of any humanity or ability to have human feelings for another person (outside of his sister Debra) was interesting to watch. Dexter Morgan is a really weird guy trying to navigate his way through the world. We learn more about Dexter and the code that was created by his father (and we later learn someone else contributed too, but this was one of many plot points on this show that just didn't matter) as to who Dexter should kill and avoid getting caught. This is a season where many of the supporting characters are actually given something to do that doesn't revolve around Dexter. For seemingly the rest of the series the characters have no important plot line that doesn't directly involve Dexter, which is one of the weaknesses of the series. So good job Season 1! You were a season that started with a universe around the main character and then that universe was severely reduced down to a universe of one character with a bunch of orbiting characters who only exist to further the one character's need.

Season 2:

This season focuses on Dexter's relationship with Rita, his affair with a lunatic (which will be the first of four times I am counting over the 8 seasons when Dexter has an affair with a lunatic...gotta keep going to that well if you are the writers) named Lila, and how Miami Metro was searching for the Bay Harbor Butcher who is none other than Dexter himself. Bodies were found in the ocean where Dexter dumped his victims (and then he continued to dump his victims in the ocean for the rest of the series despite the fact it was clear that was the Bay Harbor Butcher's m.o.---it doesn't fucking matter I guess, but it would just make sense that Dexter changed his method in disposing of bodies to avoid getting caught...which is something that would never happen because the writers can't accept Dexter being seen as wrong in his actions and therefore wouldn't dare have him get caught) and Miami Metro was searching for the person doing these killings.

At the time, I was a little disappointed in Season 2 of Dexter, but in retrospect it was one of the better seasons in the series. It does have a lot of the hallmarks that would later plague the series, mainly leaving supporting characters with very little to do. The exception to this rule was Debra, who always ended up traumatized by something Dexter had done, and basically just had to get over it because the writing team certainly didn't have time to look into any moral ambiguities about how Dexter lives his life. Sergeant Doakes suspected Dexter of being the Bay Harbor Butcher.  Frank Lundy was an FBI agent who specialized in serial killers and he was brought in. I liked his character, but of course much like any other character with an IQ above 94 he had the chance to eventually suspect Dexter of being a serial killer so he had to eventually die. I'm not asking for realism. It's a television show and isn't realistic simply because of that. I simply get frustrated when any character who gets in the way of Dexter's ultimate goal or would present an obstacle to Dexter never changing as a person is eliminated by the writing staff.

So Season 2 wasn't bad, though the ending still feels like a clusterfuck to me. Sergeant Doakes is killed while investigating Dexter, though not by Dexter because that would make Dexter a bad person and that can not happen. He is killed by Dexter's lover, Lila, who is killed by Dexter after serving her purpose to the plot of killing Doakes. LaGuerta (ANOTHER character who is killed in the process of showing the world Dexter is a serial killer) vows that Doakes is not the Bay Harbor Butcher as he was framed to be and vows she will get to the bottom of this...which she does five seasons later.

Season 3:

This is where the series started to go downhill and the "Villain of the Season" arc started to show some wear. This year "The Skinner" was the main antagonist and he was fairly forgettable. What I remember best about him is that he skinned people (there's a shock) and he attacked Debra's jazz boyfriend. Also, Dexter got married and found out he will be a father, both of which sound like really exciting premises the show could explore until the writing staff decided it's no fun to ground Dexter to the real world and seeing the effect of his actions on his family might make the audience not like Dexter, which meant Rita (Dexter's wife) had to die eventually and Dexter's son (Harrison) would essentially become an orphan, passed around to whoever was willing to take care of him so Dexter could continue murdering people.

Oh, and Jimmy Smits was on this season and became the annual "Person who finds out Dexter is a serial killer and doesn't give a shit and doesn't let it slip because then Dexter would have to account for his actions." Needless to say, to keep Dexter's secret Jimmy Smits' character had to die at Dexter's hand. But it's okay, because Smits' character liked killing which made him a bad person and it was all right for him to die. This is not to be confused with Dexter, who likes killing, but he's not a bad person because the writers don't want him to be. 

Season 4:

This is a redeemable season with a pretty generic bad guy played by the excellent John Lithgow. This is one of the few instances where excellent acting has overcome the increasingly horrendous writing on the show. Lithgow played "The Trinity Killer" who Dexter originally befriended (in a rare attempt by the writers to maintain tension throughout a season...what a concept!) and then Trinity figured out who Dexter was and that Dexter was a killer too, which of course meant despite the fact Trinity was an excellent character who could provide an antagonist popping up every once in a while to torment Dexter, he had to die. Plus, there is a rule in the writing room of "Dexter" that no antagonist can survive from one season to the next. The "Dexter" writers are so dedicated to keeping Dexter a character who is redeemable and wonderful, they even forsake pursing exciting and entertaining plot points so they don't ruin their hero main character. Of course, Dexter is an anti-hero to everyone who watches the show, but who cares about the viewers of "Dexter" and fuck them.

I would sum up what happens with the supporting characters, but they don't matter on "Dexter" and are only there to be increasingly stupid and ignore the fact everyone around Dexter dies a violent death. One exception is the writers brought back Frank Lundy from Season 2. Lundy was played by Keith Carradine and was a smart, interesting character. Naturally, because he is smart, he would have figured out Dexter was a serial killer so he had to die. See how these writers work? Smart people die because otherwise they would figure out Dexter for who he is and THAT CAN NEVER HAPPEN. Nothing bad can ever happen to Dexter. Everyone around him has to suffer, but at no point should Dexter be forced to look on his own actions and how they hurt those around him.

(Just as a note, I enjoyed "Dexter" until Season 6, at which point I kept watching because I had already invested so much time in the show. Many of these revelations and comments I am making are a result of taking in the series as a whole, so I didn't have these feelings at the original time I watched the show...though I did notice a drop in quality)

Season 5:

Now that Dexter has been freed from the chains of having a wife (though he still has those pesky step-children and Harrison, his child with Rita), the show doesn't have to worry about character development for Dexter anymore. This is the season where Quinn, Debra's sometimes boyfriend when the plot called for it, suspected Dexter of Rita's death. Then, of course, Quinn drops it and never suspects Dexter again of being a killer. By the way, Quinn is a detective. Like he works for the police as a detective. He finds evidence, follows the evidence, and then is supposed to find out who is responsible for a crime. Quinn thinks Dexter knew the Trinity Killer and then drops it despite the fact the Trinity Killer is never found and a witness says a guy who looks a lot like Dexter was hanging out with the Trinity Killer. So yeah, a serial killer was on the loose, and Miami Metro Homicide lets it drop because no other killings match the Trinity Killer's m.o. and then one of the detectives suspects Dexter, then doesn't suspect Dexter because that's how the writers wrote the script. Damn logic.

Oh, in this season Julia Stiles was raped by a group of guys and Dexter helps her get revenge. She finds out who Dexter really is and then has to leave town in the finale because that's what the script called for. It's pretty forgettable. I am skipping parts for the supporting cast because there's very rarely anything notable to discuss. The "Dexter" writers are like parents who have a favorite child and they will not allow their other children to get in the way of their favorite.

Season 6:

This was the worst season of "Dexter." The only notable things to come out of this season, other than plot twists everyone saw coming, is the following:

1. Colin Hanks is not as good of a dramatic actor as his father.

2. Debra gets promoted to lieutenant and LaGuerta isn't happy about this, because LaGuerta's role on the show is to not be happy about things and then die once she finds out Dexter is a serial killer.

3. Debra sees Dexter kill the main antagonist of this season and finds out her brother (Dexter) is a serial killer.

4. Mos Def appeared. He was an interesting character that could have played a role in the series as an angel on Dexter's shoulder or caused him to question his life where he commits murders at a rapid pace. Needless to say the writers were not happy with a moral character who would in any way question Dexter, so Mos Def had to die, which made Dexter really, really sad until he was no longer sad and moved on with his life.

5. A forensics tech who is obsessed with serial killers starts working at Miami Metro. He could be the main villain for Dexter the next season since he seems to know Dexter's brother was the Ice Truck Killer in Season 1. He's smart and always one step ahead of Dexter. Then Dexter kills the tech in the first episode of Season 7 because fuck dramatic tension. 

Season 7:

This season started off promising after Debra found out that Dexter was a serial killer. She struggled to accept it, but eventually the writers got tired of Dexter not being the hero they wanted him to be and decided they would get back to their "Villain of the season" arc. This season the villain was a Ukrainian mob boss and Hannah McKay, a female serial killer who Dexter falls in love with. This is the season where LaGuerta decided she wanted to avenge Doakes death in Season 2 because she found a blood slide at a crime scene similar to a blood slide the Bay Harbor Butcher used (it was found near to where Dexter had killed Colin Hanks' character) and this reminded her to avenge Doakes' death.

Anyway, Dexter becomes friends (more like they were brief frienemies) with the Ukrainian mob boss and Hannah McKay eventually skips town. Then LaGuerta figures out Dexter is a serial killer and the Bay Harbor Butcher, which means she has to die. She is killed because Debra shoots her. One would think the next season (which was the final season) would be a season of soul-searching for Dexter about how his actions have caused his sister to kill a policewoman in cold blood, while Miami Metro desperately searches for who really killed LaGuerta. One would be wrong. Miami Metro builds a bench to honor LaGuerta and then forgets about her completely because if they remembered LaGuerta and investigated her death then they could figure out Dexter is a serial killer, and again, THIS CAN NOT HAPPEN. Not even in the final season. It's a tough position for the writers to be in. How to create dramatic tension when they have no interest in creating dramatic tension that could negatively affect Dexter.

Season 8:

Debra is sad about killing LaGuerta. She has quit as a policeman and is now a private investigator. Batista (have I even mentioned him yet? He's a character who spent 8 seasons on the show and didn't really do much of importance) quit to open a restaurant and has magically sold his restaurant and is back on the police force. It all doesn't matter because this season could have been wrapped up in a two hour finale and covered as much material as the twelve episodes did. Let me talk about the series finale, which was the worst season finale I have ever seen. Easily the worst. The writing was just so unbelievably bad and somehow the finale made me feel stupid for watching the rest of the series. In fact, the entire last season which moved slow, had no dramatic tension, no developments that entice viewers to keep watching, just sort of rambled to an end. Season 8 was a "fuck you" to the fans of "Dexter" for watching the show. A series finale is supposed to be one last chance to see the characters you have been watching for a few seasons and to see what happens to them. A good series finale leaves you satisfied and sad the show is over with hints about the world of the show once the viewer leaves it ("The Wire"), a great series finale does that by ratcheting up the tension and making the show thrilling to the end ("The Sopranos," "The Shield," and "Breaking Bad") and a great series finale that doesn't require tension still causes you to miss the characters and gives you a reason to keep watching because you care so much about the characters and rewards you for caring ("Six Feet Under"). The series finale should leave a viewer saying, "I'm really, really glad I watched that show." "Dexter" did the exact opposite of that for me. The viewer didn't get to see what happened to the supporting cast after the series ended. I mean, the writers gave supporting characters season-long arcs and then just dropped them in the finale because that's how bad the writing was. So who knows what happened to Masuka and his newfound daughter? Why would the viewers care about a character they have watched for eight seasons when that character's arc is simply dropped in the finale?

(As a note, the last six minutes of "Six Feet Under" absolutely nailed how that series should have ended. If you have seen the show, go back and watch the last six minutes again. That last six minutes messed me up for a while, but in a good way. At the two minute mark I realized "Oh fuck, they are doing this aren't they?" It was brutal, but again, in a good way. I mean, Nate running to catch up with the car...that was a pretty strong small part in itself but only led to a stronger set of scenes, like David seeing Keith know, I'm going to move on now...)

So Hannah McKay has come back to town in the finale and she and Dexter are leaving with Harrison to move to Argentina. Except Dexter won't leave until he has killed "The Brain Surgeon," (he was the big bad for Season 8) despite the fact "The Brain Surgeon" confronted Dexter and said, "Leave me alone and I will leave you alone." This sounds like a great idea considering Dexter was moving to fucking Argentina, but because the plot required it, Dexter stayed in town (and a hurricane is coming because weather is scary) to kill him. Dexter is ready to kill "The Brain Surgeon" when he realizes he doesn't want to kill anymore. So he leaves "The Brain Surgeon" on the table, doesn't kill him, and then has Debra arrest him (oh, she's back on the force because she is back on the force). Except a US Marshall looking for Hannah McKay lets "The Brain Surgeon" loose in the two minutes since Dexter left the room and "The Brain Surgeon" kills the Marshall and shoots Debra. That's where we are at the beginning of the finale.

Debra is okay and says it isn't Dexter's fault she got shot. Mind you, she killed a co-worker in cold blood because Dexter is a serial killer and she just got shot in the gut because her brother who has killed hundreds of people decides on a whim he is done killing, while leaving a serial killer strapped up alone in a room for Debra to arrest alone. What's the harm in killing one more person so you don't leave your sister alone with a serial killer? These are questions I would have asked Dexter if I were Debra, but she says it's not his fault she got shot, despite the fact it clearly is. The writers need us to know that Dexter is not a bad person, so his sister (who hated Dexter and tried to kill Dexter six episodes early) forgives him for getting her shot. Long story short, Debra dies eventually, but not before telling Dexter to go follow Hannah to Argentina, which Dexter doesn't do because he has decided he wants to kill "The Brain Surgeon" again. So Dexter sends Hannah and Harrison to Argentina without him so he can kill "The Brain Surgeon (TBS from now on)." At no point does Hannah say,

"Wait, so you had me stay in Miami for two extra days, while running the risk of getting caught by a US Marshall, so that you could come with us to Argentina after killing TBS? Then after spending extra days with me in hiding you decide you DON'T want to kill TBS and your sister gets shot and dies because of this. You endangered the two of the three people you claim to love to kill a guy that you decide you really don't want to kill after all? Then, as we are leaving to move to Argentina you decide you want to kill this guy again and leave me alone to go to Argentina with your son?"

Hannah doesn't ask this because it would show the shoddy writing and logic used, as well as reflect negatively on Dexter. Anyway, Dexter kills TBS in front of a camera, which Miami Metro covers up for him because they are shitty at their job already and may as well just start becoming corrupt, and then sneaks his sister's body out of the hospital. Because sneaking bodies out of a hospital is really easy when you can park your boat at the exit. Yes, Dexter parked his boat the hospital exit and then carried a dead body out of the hospital without anyone noticing. Dexter then dumps his sister's body in the ocean at the same spot he dumped the bodies of hundreds of criminals after he killed them and then drives into the storm because he realizes he has caused so many problems for people he loves and it would be better to saddle Hannah with Harrison and make Harrison an actual orphan than to continue being around them. Yes, he is self-aware he hurts others and corrects this by continuing to hurt others.

So Dexter is dead, Hannah is sad, except it turns out Dexter faked his death and we see in the final scene he became a lumberjack. Yes, Dexter became a fucking lumberjack. So the need to kill is still there presumably, he just has caused the woman he claims to love to believe he is dead while orphaning his son. This was after Dexter got his sister killed by not killing the same kind of serial killer he had killed without remorse for eight seasons. Dexter is the hero of the story by the way.

It was the worst series finale ever and made me regret watching the show. The final scene was basically the writers taking a shit all over the audience and laughing. "Dexter" is a great example of a television show whose writers fell in love with the main character and continued to coast on the ratings while providing a continuously inferior product to the viewer. The writers ignored dramatic tension and served up a rambling, mediocre last season simply because they could. Maybe the viewers are stupid for watching the show. I know I sure feel dumb for sticking through it and wish I had never watched the show from the beginning. Let's just say I am worried about Season Three of "Homeland" now. Season 2 had a dip in quality and it could very well take the same track that "Dexter" ended up taking. It takes a super-shitty show to cause a viewer to worry about the writing and content of other shows on that same network.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Remembrances of 9/11

There have been quite a few 9/11 remembrances today and for good reason. It's natural to reflect on such an important event. I'm not going to claim to be the best at remembering the events of that day with super-deep thoughts and I personally had no family ties to New York (well, I didn't at the time), but it's one of those days that goes without saying will never be forgotten. Every generation has a moment (or two or three) where they will never forget where they were and for this generation 9/11 is probably the moment most people can remember where they were. Even 12 years after I'm not entirely sure how to talk about the events that occurred.

I was on the AppalCart, which was basically a bus that took me to class everyday at Appalachian State, getting ready for a 9:30am class. We always heard music (as chosen by the bus driver) on the bus and on this day talk radio was playing. It wasn't unusual and I don't think anyone on the bus really was paying great attention to what the radio was saying. I kept hearing about an attack on New York and figured they were talking about the previous World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Quickly it became apparent as I listened to the radio this was a terrorist attack currently taking place and this wasn't a discussion of the 1993 bombing. I wasn't scared because it was around 8:50am and I didn't know it was an attack on multiple levels. It just seems a plane hit the World Trade Center. No one knew why yet. After the short ride to the business school for my 9:30am class I stayed outside for a cigarette and what struck me as odd (in retrospect of course) is how calm everyone was talking. At this point, I don't think the magnitude of what happened was completely understood. There was very little panic or sadness because all of the information wasn't known yet. There was one plane that hit the World Trade Center and even when the second plane hit I don't think it sunk in that it was a planned attack. My 9:30am class still took place and then of course everyone stood around the television after that to watch the horror as it was recapped and shown on repeat. My 12:30pm class was canceled and we were given the option of watching the news coverage as a class together, which I remember everyone in the class choosing to do.

What I remember most about 9/11, at least in my corner of the world, was the reaction my friends had to what happened. I, being who I am, wasn't that surprised that America had gotten attacked. Obviously I didn't wake up on that Tuesday morning and expect that there would be a terrorist attack, but being a somewhat history buff and having a Political Science minor, I knew other countries didn't exactly love the United States and an attack was always a possibility. There had been two prior attacks on American soil and we were only a year removed from the bombing of the USS Cole. So for me, an attack on American soil that was very successful didn't sound that out of the realm of possibility. Clearly I did not want this to happen, but I wasn't incredibly shocked, but more concerned and frustrated at the lack of immediate information.

A lot of arguments were started among my friends (mostly them arguing with me) based on my lack of what I called at the time "unbreakable faith in America being immune from the world." I'm not sure I need to explain what this means too much, but I was shocked by the outright shock that my friends had. It's not the shock of what happened, but the shock this could happen to the United States, as if the US isn't a world citizen and therefore the problems of the world would never touch American soil. I had a very vicious (and vicious was the word for it, trust me, it got personal) conversation with a friend of mine about the terrorist attacks. We were watching the coverage and I finally said, "Well, this probably was bound to happen at some point" and before I could completely finish my thought that statement pretty much sent my friend into a rage. I guess the inevitability (from my point of view) of a terrorist group or another country bringing violence against the United States came off as too smug for him. I'm not sure.

I probably was smug about it, but I thought his shock was more about "How dare they do this to us, our citizens are supposed to be immune from this type of thing" than actual sympathy and concern for the victims of the attack. I felt it was more of an arrogant attitude of American superiority that was being displayed rather than concern for what had happened. The world was interconnected and at some point all the bad shit that happened around the world had to happen in America's backyard. Heck, it already happened twice before. Of course, my friend took this to mean I didn't care about what happened and thought it was deserved for the United States meddling in affairs around the world. That couldn't have been further from the truth, but I don't think he was willing to put aside his rage for a few minutes to understand my theory of the world being interconnected and at some point the fight would be brought to American soil. I wasn't willing to put aside my smug attitude that was admittedly focused too much on the inevitability of the attack.

I would do things differently now, of course, but at the time I saw video of people jumping out of the building to their death and pointed out to my friend that terrible shit like this happens nearly everyday around the world. I wasn't trying to downplay what had happened, but point out that terrible things happen all over the world and it doesn't make logical sense for the United States to be immune simply because we are the United States.

After I pointed this out he said, and I won't forget it, "It's not supposed to happen in America. It's not right."

I responded, while pointing a finger of course, "That's the exact type of attitude that led us to this situation happening. You think we are too good for this to happen, the government thought we were too good for this to happen and this shows we aren't too good."

Again, poorly chosen words there, but I still understand what I was attempting to get at. I live in the United States and obviously I love this country and think it is the greatest country on Earth. I think 9/11 was a day where some of the naivety (for myself as well) was ripped away from America and the reality that a small group of people with funding could have a huge negative impact finally set in. Terrorist attacks can happen in America, just like terrorist attacks happen in other parts of the world. It's not fair, it's not right, but it was the new reality. I wasn't trying to be cold about it, but reality sucks and 9/11 was a huge reality check for a lot of Americans.

My remembrances of 9/11 are just a lot of confusion and the reality that I want America to be different and immune, but I knew it wasn't true. America is a part of the world and the world can be an ugly place. When you are a large country with a powerful military like the United States you tend to accumulate enemies as quickly as you accumulate friends. I'm not sure generations who weren't alive when 9/11 happened will never understand the confusion, anger and hurt that took place among American citizens on that day. Those days after the attack when America pulled together, George Bush stepped on the rubble with a megaphone, and it was clear American would bounce back with time makes me feel proud still.

I never thought this type of attack would really happen to the magnitude that it did, but at the time I was frustrated with the "we should be immune"-type attitude that some of my friends had. I don't think some of my friends understood that other countries viewed the United States in a negative light and this would make us a target for terrorist activity. There was no reason a terrorist attack couldn't happen on American soil, specifically since it had already happened at the World Trade Center and in Oklahoma City. I hated the reality of it. 9/11 is a day where we all go around remembering, while also wishing we could forget. Forgetting wouldn't do justice to the emergency responders and helpless American citizens who got trapped in the two towers or were on one of the flights on that day, so it's our responsibility to remember.

I can't imagine the feeling of being an emergency responder and having to climb stairs up one of the towers knowing full well you very well may not be coming back down the stairs. I think that's my biggest remembrance of 9/11, not the stupid fight(s) I had, not the shock about the event, but the reminder that when it all goes to shit there are heroes whose name I will never remember willing to step in and try to help save the lives of others. For me, while 9/11 is a horrible day in American history, I also remember it as a great day when the United States was tested and responded with heroism, strength, and resolve. That's how I choose to remember the day. The spirit of the nation wasn't broken even at the worst of times.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Michael Nutter Tells Us How to Stop Urban Violence

I'm not a registered Republican and I am not a registered Democrat. So I want to get that out of the way since any sort of commentary on, about, or not about Trayvon Martin turns into a political discourse where a person's position depends on his/her political party. It's obviously a tragedy that Trayvon Martin was killed, but I'm not surprised George Zimmerman was acquitted. The prosecution went for Murder 2 and that's pretty hard to prove in a case like this. They would have been better off going for Involuntary Manslaughter or another charge easier to prove, but politically they had to go for Murder 2. It's somewhat ironic the media and political focus on this case could have played a part in Zimmerman's acquittal. If the prosecution felt pressure to go for Murder 2 because of the politics and attention surrounding the case then they took the hard route. I hear some saying and writing they thought Zimmerman would be guilty of something and I think he would have been found guilty of something if there wasn't pressure to charge him with murder. That's just my opinion.

On a related note Michael Nutter, who is the current mayor of Philadelphia, writes an op-ed for "Time" where he tells us how the United States can stop urban violence. I appreciate his effort, even if it comes off as naive. Unfortunately much like solving hunger, urban violence can't be "stopped," so I think more realistic terms need to be used in the headline to this op-ed. I feel like Nutter's heart is in the right place, but he's also a little bit off in his execution to "solve" urban violence. He seems to want to talk about solutions, but ignores (what I see as) the best solution to the urban violence problem.

Why is it that African-American males are so disproportionately both the victims and the perpetrators of violence, more often than not against one another?

If you have to ask this question then you aren't paying attention. Crime is a sociological issue that can't easily be attributed to one or two factors. Crime can be attributed to income level, household life (one/two parent household) and various other factors. Obviously all African-American males who were the victim or perpetrator of violence can't be explained away by sociological factors, but it is usually a good start to explain the perpetrators of violence no matter what race that person is.

In Philadelphia, where I am mayor, 75% of our homicide victims are black men. About 80% of the people we arrest for homicide are black men.

I'm sure some racism plays a part in these black men being locked up, no doubt. A question I might have would be how many of those 80% arrested for homicide that are black men end up acquitted of the homicide charge versus the percentage of other races that are arrested and acquitted of homicide. To me, that tells me more than the percentage of black men arrested would tell me. If the result found is that more black men are arrested and then acquitted for homicide (as compared to other races) then I could probably feel good about discussing the race issue contained therein, but if the percentage of black men arrested for homicide and then acquitted is close or equal to the percentage of other races arrested and acquitted of homicide then it just shows the unfortunate possible truth that black men are arrested and found guilty of homicide by a wide percentage more than any other race/gender. I tend to like it when people are arrested for homicide and found guilty if that person is truly guilty.

Of course there is also the whole "the justice system goes against black men" and that would take me too far down the rabbit hole for what I am trying to write. It's possible the system is against black men, but simply given the statistic that 80% of people arrested for homicide are black men is a meaningless statistic without some further investigation into what percentage of these men are found to be guilty or are acquitted as compared to other races. Violent crime among black men is a social issue obviously. That is what Nutter is discussing without going into too much depth as to the legal results from these arrests, so I will skip over the legal results of these arrests for the sake of discussion. What solutions does Michael Nutter have for this issue?

Black men across the country are killing one another, yet that epidemic is rarely part of any national conversation.

Not entirely true, though I wish there was as much protesting and anger about a murder when it comes to black-on-black crime, as opposed to the over-focus on this specific Zimmerman-Martin situation. Chicago could certainly use some protesting and national recognition of the crime problem they have, but most people are too busy protesting to get justice for Trayvon Martin. The citizens of Chicago need justice too. 

With each death, the networks aren't interrupting game shows or soap operas to give you that information. We get lulled back into complacency and somehow live with the fact that we have a Newtown every day in America. And a disproportionate number of those dying are black men.

By the way, if the issue is black-on-black crime (as Michael Nutter seems focused on) then this has nothing to do with Trayvon Martin (which Nutter is writing this column as a result of the Martin trial) and George Zimmerman since that crime didn't fit into this category.

Our priorities are askew. Our leaders talk a lot about international terrorism. I often talk about domestic terrorists, by which I mean not foreign nationals plotting violence on these shores but the day-to-day crime that is even more devastating to our cities than the episodic threats from overseas.

Let me be honest here. The United States could greatly curb crime on the local level, but this would turn parts of the United States into a police state. I'm not sure anyone wants that. Americans are known for craving freedom and liberty, while doing more to curb crime in American cities would require more of the invasive police techniques and suspicions of normal people going about their day in order to curb crime. This isn't the kind of thing people like Michael Nutter want to hear though. He wants more of a focus on preventing crime, but he also wants less harassing and racial profiling of individuals. Frankly, I want less harassing, invasive monitoring and racial profiling of individuals too. But to try extreme methods to curb violence when 80% of murders are committed by black men would require some police racially profiling of black men (and other races) in order to prevent this crime. It's only logical it would work this way for three reasons:

1. The intent is to do more to curb violent crime at the city level.

2. To curb this violent crime the city would need to find out who is committing the violent crime and statistically it says black men are committing 80% of the homicides.

3. In order to best curb the crime of homicide, cities should pay more attention to black men who are acting suspiciously in and around society. 

Obviously black men would not be the only members of society racially profiled, but unless American cities get exponentially at crime prevention the best solution to curb crime at the police level is to make sure the authorities catch a crime before it occurs. And remember, if America really wants to prioritize curbing domestic terrorism (as Nutter calls it) stronger and more invasive tactics would need to be used. Of course Michael Nutter and myself don't want stronger and more invasive tactics to be used, so prioritized efforts to curb crime would really have to start before the individual is about to commit the crime. I will get to what where I believe these efforts should start in a minute, but this early effort is what Michael Nutter conveniently skips over when discussing how to curb (or "stop" as the headline says) urban violence. So the United States could prioritize the occurrence of violent crime on the local police level, but it will take a larger police presence and some sense of profiling. I don't want this, but a stronger police state could significantly curb violent crime.

(Also if anyone reads this and thinks I'm saying the best way to curb crime is to profile African American men then you are an idiot and stop reading now please. I'm saying if the United States wanted to treat domestic terrorism the way they treat international terrorism there would be need to be an increased focus on stopping crime before it starts, which much like is required in preventing international terrorism requires a certain amount of profiling of individuals. If 80% of those arrested for homicide for black men then the city police would be wise to keep a larger eye on these certain individuals. Obviously this is an extreme way to prevent crime, and though I don't doubt it would be somewhat successful, it is also a violation of civil liberties and racist too. I don't recommend this method, but am merely saying how the United States treats international terrorism isn't a transferable to domestic terrorism because of the whole "civil liberties" issue. It's always beaten around the bush on how local police need to do more to prevent violent crime, but then no one rightfully wants their civil liberties disrupted, so the police end up in a more reactionary position in regard to preventing crime. No certain race should be profiled ever.)

The United States could be turned into a police state and cities could start to get more aggressive in trying to prevent crime, but along with this aggressive prevention will come the violation of civil rights and profiling that so many people absolutely hate and had become an issue in the Trayvon Martin situation. Airports are good at preventing terrorists from getting on the plane because they treat every person as a terrorist suspect and (secretly of course) keep an eye on certain individuals. I'm not advocating racial profiling, but simply stating the truth as I see it, that if America really, really wants to curb violent crime in cities then there will have to be a little bend to the civil liberties Americans are used to. It's an option that I don't like.

My focus comes from my experiences and the buildup of living all my life in West Philadelphia and Wynnefield, and as a city-council member and then later as mayor, attending numerous funerals and talking to moms and dads who have lost their children and other loved ones to senseless acts of violence.

No offense, but attending funerals and talking to the loved ones of victims doesn't make you an expert on crime. If so, funeral directors would be the police chief. 

What's missing are the fundamentals. It's about jobs. It's about education. It's about economic investment and job retraining.

Here's where Michael Nutter and I diverge. What's missing is all of those things, but he leaves out the most important one. Responsibility. I'm not going to give a high-and-mighty lecture, but Nutter leaves out the parental responsibility in not raising a little shithead child who ends up living a life of crime. That's the biggest discussion I consistently see missing from this issue. Responsibility and how parents and relatives need to take responsibility in raising their children in the best way possible and giving that child good role models to look up to. Having a job, education, and economic retraining will work well with a person who wants to make something of himself and not live a life of violence. 

It's about getting benefits to people who need them. We know that in Philadelphia, thousands of people are not even signing up for the available benefits to take care of themselves and their families.

How silly of me. I didn't know the key to stopping urban violence was to make sure families were relying on welfare opportunities or getting involved with government programs that may not fix the core of what is the cause of violent crime. Again, we are missing the responsibility portion of the discussion. I understand how signing up for available benefits and non-violent programs can help a family, but I'm missing how this is going to help a child not head towards a life of violence. A kid has a hand full of food stamps or spends 10% of his week at a community outreach so he won't join a gang? What about the 90% of the time he spends at home or at school? Won't that affect the child's current and future behavior?

We know clearly that there are a few things that work: investing more in Head Start programs, summer jobs and programs for teens and community-development block grants for cities to put people to work.

Great idea. Got money? 

Also, where are the parents at in this discussion? Not once does Michael Nutter mention parental involvement and that shows me his priorities are askew. America is so afraid to criticize a person's parents for how a child was raised or the life of violence the child may have led. I'm not saying a parent is at fault every time a murder is committed, but there needs to be dedication to ensuring kids growing up get a great opportunity to look up to successful people and have a support system to help them achieve their goals in life. Curbing violence is about giving people a chance to choose a life outside of violence and an example that this type of life is fulfilling. That's just my opinion.

Those three areas have been cut significantly over the past few years. The U.S. seems to be more invested in nation building in other countries around the world, Iraq and Afghanistan in particular, than in nation building--or rebuilding--here at home.

Not a terrible point by Michael Nutter. I can see where domestic concerns take precedence over nation building.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and I co-lead an effort called Cities United. We now have close to 50 mayors signed up. It's specifically focused on reducing the violence affecting African-American men and boys across the country.

It's fine if Latino kids kill each other of course. Who cares about them?

The first step is getting municipal leaders to acknowledge these challenges and then deciding on the best practices for addressing them. What are some programs and services we can provide?

Ah yes, throw money at the problem. Provide the kids with programs and services and other taxpayer subsidized solutions. I'm all for spending money when it works, but as we have learned in regard to the war on drugs, parts of the education system, and various other pet projects Congress has had through the years, throwing money at the issue isn't always the best option. 

It disturbs me that programs and services are recommended rather than a focus be on the home life and what the parents can do to raise their children to where the child has the option of choosing a non-violent lifestyle. It doesn't always take a village to care for a child, sometimes it takes family members that give a shit. If as a parent you are relying on programs and services or a mentor to help instill the proper values and direction in life then you are doing parenting incorrectly. 

I've done stupid shit in my life and I managed to make these stupid things I have done into a short detour from where I want to be as opposed to a new direction I want my life to go. I was fortunate to have parents who could show me an example of where I want to go in life and the kind of person I want to be. I've been accused of stealing twice in my life because a convenience store clerk and a bookstore clerk didn't like the way I looked (or for some reason they thought I was stealing, I'm not sure). I've had a knife pulled on me once at a McDonald's because I had the wrong color shirt on. These aren't obviously situations I intentionally chose to put myself into and good people can get into bad situations, but it's easy to go down the wrong path without having role models or mentors. What better people than your parent(s)? I don't like this part of the discussion on how to stop urban violence is missing from the discussion entirely. 

If we get this right, everyone would be involved. We need a partnership among cities, states and federal agencies; the corporate community; the philanthropic community; the religious community; the social-advocacy community--all working toward helping African-American men and boys.

Sounds great and yet it means very little if African-American boys and men go home to a shitty household that doesn't support and encourage him. All of this hard work will go down the drain if buy-in from parents isn't obtained. There can be a great partnership of every community thought of, but if an African-American boy is surrounded by a bad group of people I venture to say these programs won't be successful. 

I know that President Obama cares about these issues, but as powerful as the President of the United States is, he will need a lot of folks to rally with him to work toward solutions

The most powerful man in the free world can't do anything. Got it. It's a team effort, but any sports fan knows one team effort can be undermined by one bad apple who doesn't buy into the team concept.

It will require folks to have open minds and open hearts and, more than anything, to be dedicated to change.

I don't even know what this means. I don't see why anyone wouldn't be dedicated to changing violence and death. Quite frankly, this all sounds like a lot of talk and talk about future action with no action.

The question is, are we ready to do it? Are we willing to set ego aside, be vulnerable and hear things that none of us necessarily want to hear?

Like what? You are the author, so tell me what don't we necessarily want to hear?

Spoiler alert: Michael Nutter never tells us. I would venture to say he can't give examples of what we don't want to hear and is just writing in generalities. 

It sounds to me like Michael Nutter doesn't want to hear that real change starts at home. He knows if he starts blaming the parents who can vote for him then he won't get re-elected. If he thrills us all by creating a plan of future action and talking in general about the community getting involved then no one person gets offended and it feels like it is on all of us to curb the epidemic of violence. It is on all of us to curb the violence, but on a micro-level as well as a macro-level. By not calling out shitty and uncaring parents no one feels responsible and no one gets offended. Michael Nutter gets votes. 

We have to try right now, because our children are dying in the streets every day.

You write "our kids" but not much can happen if the people who really can claim these children as "our kids" don't take action and do what they can to ensure their children head away from violence. No mention of the responsibility of the parents means Michael Nutter's plan is doomed to fail.

One last thing. On my local FOX news Sunday night they showed a "Justice for Trayvon Martin" rally that had taken place in Raleigh. The very next news story was about the police searching for a suspect who robbed and killed a convenience store clerk near Greensboro, North Carolina. The police were asking for the public's help to identify the man who killed the convenience store clerk and then the local FOX news showed the suspect's picture from the store video tape. The suspect who killed the clerk had done so while wearing what looked like either a white or gray hoodie, but you couldn't see his race or any of his features due to the hoodie being over his head. I don't think it was intentional and it certainly doesn't prove George Zimmerman was right to "stand his ground," but I thought it was interesting. The stories went from a kid who was suspected of being up to no good because he was wearing a hoodie to a person who really was up to no good and happened to be wearing a hoodie.

As someone who has worked at a store that was robbed at gunpoint I have to admit that if I am in a convenience store over the next week and see a guy walk up to the counter in a white or gray hoodie I am going to remember a guy wearing a white or gray hoodie robbed and killed a convenience store clerk recently. Obviously I won't immediately shoot this guy because he happens to be wearing a hoodie, but my enjoyment of living would at least remind me in that moment there was a murder committed by a guy wearing a white and gray hoodie and I have no idea what the guy who committed the murder looked like. There is a clear difference in the hypothetical situation as I just presented and the events surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin. I found it interesting the news transitioned from the Trayvon Martin protests to this story of a murder committed in a convenience store.